October 7, 1949

LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

I did not intend tc say anything on this item but, as a government member, a veteran, and a past president of our branch of the Legion, I do no1 want the house to be left with the impression that everything the Department of Veterans Affairs has done has been wrong. As we all know, we had grousers in the army. Sometimes the best grousers were the best fighters In this house, of course, we have an opposition and the duty of that opposition is tc criticize.

From the picture painted today people might believe that the Canadian veteran has not been well treated. I have not heard any complimentary remarks so far in this debate I have heard certain criticisms. The membei for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) has mentioned the imperial veterans. The plight of these men has been under consideration by the Legion for many years. It has also beer considered by many successive governments I do not know how far the principle is to be carried in connection with imperial veterans Those veterans were employees of the United Kingdom. They were not soldiers of Canade at the time they came to Canada. These mer realized they would receive their pensior from the British government. How far does the member for Nanaimo intend to carry that principle? Will he extend it to the veterans of other allied nations who have come to Canada? Are we to add to the pension of a French veteran because France does not pay him a large enough pension' Is the Canadian taxpayer to pay him? I: that principle to apply to the veteran of the United States who comes to Canada and wants a larger pension?

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PC

Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lennard:

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I should like to make a correction. A pension was never asked for the British imperial veteran.

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LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

You are asking for the difference between the imperial veterans pension and the Canadian pension.

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PC
LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

You are also asking for the war veteran's allowance.

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PC

Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lennard:

I say there was never a request for pensions.

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LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

At convention after convention in the past, an increased pension was requested and it was to be paid on the basis of the Canadian pension. I have heard that matter argued in Saskatchewan, and I venture to say I have been a member of the Legion longer than the hon. member who just spoke.

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PC
LIB
LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Mutch:

That makes you even.

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LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

That is all right, and I venture to say I was in France before the hon. member.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Perhaps my hon. friend would permit us to ask him where he stands on this matter?

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LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

You have not

allowed me to finish my speech. I am asking you how far you are going to carry this principle?

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PC
LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

You will be told when we get down to the estimates. You will also be told whether or not a committee will be set up. I believe the veterans will realize that the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg) will do the fair thing. I do not know what his reason is for not setting up the veterans committee as yet. As I understand it, this is a short session of the house. The business of this house is fairly plain, and that is to put through the budget. However, there will be a longer session commencing next January. I do not know what will be done as I have not talked it over with the minister.

The veterans of this house, I believe, have enough faith in the minister to have regard for his views. If he decides it is necessary to set up this committee, it will be set up. It will be for the minister to decide that. In connection with this grousing, may I say that we have a branch of the Canadian Legion at Yorkton which has a membership of over 45781-394

Supply-Veterans Affairs three hundred veterans. During the last series of meetings, I did not hear a complaint about anything. My partner is head of the grievance committee and I serve as chairman of the pension committee. Any matter we found it necessary to take up with Ottawa has been promptly and fairly dealt with. So far as I know there is not any case in that branch that has not been properly handled.

In addition, and I think this should be made known to the public by the veterans of this country to prevent a wrong impression being gained from what has been said here today, the veterans of Canada have been better treated than the veterans of any country in the world. It is all right for some to sit and grouse, but that is not the veterans' job. I believe ours is a more responsible job than that, and we should do something practical. These cases should be taken up with the minister, who has been very favourably disposed towards veterans, and some attempt be made to get action for the veterans.

The hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis) mentioned the matter of divorce. I do not know whether the member is advocating that, because our wives go down to the United States and obtain a divorce, we should be free to have a common-law wife who should be eligible for pension and allowances. If that is the intention, some of us will get rid of our wives very quickly.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Speak for yourself.

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LIB

Alan Carl Stewart

Liberal

Mr. Stewart (Yorkton):

Suiely, that is not his intention. Many complaints have been heard about housing. It is easy to stir up the veterans of this country who have, perhaps, some grievance. I believe it is the duty of some of the older veterans to exert a steadying influence so that something concrete can be done for them. I have attended meeting after meeting of veterans in different parts of my province and I have heard some complaints about the type of house the veteran is getting. Such complaints may make a popular vote-catching appeal for a certain type of politician.

I had the opportunity of visiting the Scottish branch of the Canadian Legion in Los Angeles. I viewed the housing built by the United States for the veterans at a cost of $12,000. These houses are mere shells. They do not contain proper basements, have no insulation and no heating unit. They could not compare with the houses built for our veterans. The houses built for the Canadian veterans are built to cope with Canadian weather conditions. Why is it that the veterans at the head of these organizations do not inform the boys about these things? All you do is sit around and add fuel to their

Supply-Veterans Affairs troubles. My job at Yorkton is to get more houses built and I should like to get more houses of the same type.

I do not know what you fellows did when you came back from the war and got married, but I know the type of house I secured. I had to pay for it myself. It had outside plumbing and outside everything else. But in those days we did not grouse. We happened to belong to the first division. We came back and did a job. The government did not give us much. They gave us $300 and told us we were through. Let us get a little bit more of that spirit in the country.

I am quite willing to support any reasonable request to the minister for a committee. In addition, if the minister does not appoint a committee, in order to do something constructive I am ready to join with every veteran in this house in holding meetings ourselves and bringing before the minister, and consolidating, for the sake of the veterans, something that will be of some use for them. That is a way in which I think we can do more good than by just sitting here and mentioning this case and that, and saying to the administration: you did not do so-and-so under this regulation; you changed this or that regulation. Let us be constructive. I am ready to meet with the committee of veterans at any time in this house and try to work out any of their problems, either on Saturdays or at any other time.

I think it is generally agreed that under the veterans charter, and under the policies of the government for the last eight years, the veterans of this country have been fairly dealt with. There are improvements that can be made; there is no question of that. There always are, no matter what department of the government you are dealing with. Even Rome was not built in a day. Generally speaking, however, I think the Minister of Veterans Affairs is to be complimented on the conduct of the affairs of his department since he took office; and I feel that he will give us a good deal for the veterans generally.

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CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Herridge:

In rising to make a few brief remarks on this item, Mr. Chairman, I feel that it is first of all my duty to express my appreciation and the oft-expressed appreciation of my veteran constituents of the work of this department. That includes everyone from the minister to the humblest employee. I also include the parliamentary assistant who, I must say, has been most helpful in, shall I say, those unnoticed little assistances from day to day. By and large, I think the Department of Veterans Affairs has set an example for other departments of government to follow. In my opinion, the veterans affairs

department has the best understanding of public and individual human relations of any department of government today.

I want to support the plea made by members who have preceded me for the establishment of a standing committee or a special committee on veterans affairs. Before proceeding further with my remarks in that connection, I want to assure the previous speaker that the veterans affairs committee, of which I have had the honour to be a member for three sessions, has not played party politics. Regardless of whether the members were Conservative, Liberal, C.C.F. or Social Credit,

I think I can properly say that they did not try to stir up grievances. Their whole approach was in an effort to remedy grievances in a constructive and proper manner. In view of the experience with the present legislation, in view of changing circumstances, and in view of the great importance of this department which is even this year spending approximately $217 million, I think we are justified in urging upon the minister and upon the government the re-establishment of this special or standing committee on veterans affairs.

The work of the veterans affairs committee in 1945, 1946 and 1948 was not only of value in assisting the government; in my opinion it was of even greater value than that. I do not think there ever was any committee of this house that was more able to, shall I say, focus public attention on important legislation and to bring to a greater percentage of the public an understanding of the legislation being dealt with by it from day to day.

There are several particular reasons why I think this committee should be established, Mr. Chairman. Some have been mentioned by previous speakers; therefore I am not going into details. I want to mention, however, what are in my opinion several particular reasons for the necessity for the establishment of this committee. Under the present circumstances, I think the committee should be established to deal with amendments to the War Veterans Allowance Act. I think we should now give consideration to the representations of the Canadian Legion with regard to the amounts to be paid to single and married men. This is a matter of considerable concern to the veterans across the country. Just today I received a brief from the united veterans co-ordinating committee of British Columbia which represents all veterans organizations of British Columbia. This brief sets out in full the position of these organizations in British Columbia, and describes fully the present injustice suffered by a section of the veterans of this country, I do not think that anyone can reasonably

argue that those under war veterans allowances are being treated fairly, having regard to the present scale of old age pensions in this country; and let me say here that I am glad to see those people getting the amounts they now receive, particularly those in British Columbia.

Before proceeding further, I should like to digress for a moment. I think we must be fair, Mr. Chairman. If we advocate these increases in allowances, and these necessary adjustments and increases in pensions, we must be fair enough to this government to advocate publicly a rate of taxation that will cover those increased allowances and pensions.

As to a review of Canadian pension legislation, the hon. member for Acadia dealt with two points with which I am sure we are all concerned. The general legislation is excellent, and I think it is functioning satisfactorily, except with regard to the two points raised by the hon. member for Acadia. They had to do with the clause dealing with disabilities of pre-enlistment origin, which subject I still think is far from being satisfactorily settled, and also with regard to the clause dealing with the benefit of the doubt. In making these remarks, I am casting no reflection upon the personnel of the Canadian pension commission because I think they are doing an excellent job at the present time, administering the present law and regulations.

While I am speaking about pensions, I want to make one other reference. I want to suggest to the minister that while it may mean the expenditure of a few apparently unnecessary dollars, I think it is good policy for the commission to sit as often as possible in some of the smaller places; I believe it is good policy for the commission to show the Pension Commission flag in such places. By having hearings in smaller places, an increasing number of people come to understand the operations of the Canadian pension commission and its functions.

I wish to make a few brief remarks with regard to the Veterans Land Act which, on the whole, I think is functioning well. One matter that was brought to the attention of the committee by the hon. member for Cape Breton South particularly affects hundreds of veterans in my constituency. I refer to the increase in the area required for a small holding, from half an acre to a maximum of three acres unless valued at $500 or more. That change has caused a great deal of hardship in my constituency. I believe the small holdings section of the Veterans Land Act is the best home-building legislation we have in Canada. This increase in acreage is making it impossible for hundreds and thousands of men in this country to build their own

Supply-Veterans Affairs homes; in many cases they would do so if the area were reduced to half an acre again. I know that this increase in acreage affects directly some 250 veterans who reside around the cities of Trail, Rossland and Nelson in my constituency. In that area it is impossible to get the amount of land required under the present regulations. I urge the minister and the government to give consideration to reducing the acreage required to half an acre as it was formerly.

There is one other suggestion I should like to make, particularly in view of the fact that the majority of the men wishing to settle on larger farms have now become located, and I think other British Columbia members will support me in this suggestion. We can do more to promote the settlement of veterans on provincial lands under section 35. It is one of the best sections of the act, because when a man acquires a piece of provincial land, either for a small holding or for farming purposes, he receives his credit or grant of $2,320; and has no debt to repay. Particularly in pioneer districts, if he is the right type, he is well on the road to making some headway towards re-establishment. I have discussed this matter with the minister of lands of British Columbia, with the deputy minister, with the superintendent of lands and with other officials. They are very sympathetic toward the question of assisting this government and the veterans affairs department in the settlement of veterans on provincial lands. We have a lot of land, particularly in the southeastern part of British Columbia where I come from. It is in forest reserves, and rightly so. Large areas were placed in forest reserves to protect the timber and for the growth of timber, en bloc in many cases. However, in those areas we have some land suitable for farming purposes and we have some land along the lakeshores suitable for small holdings. I am speaking now of the Arrow, Slocan, Trout and Kootenay lakes. They are beautiful lakes. I believe this government should do everything it can to see that as many of our own boys as possible who have grown up in the district, and who are working in the district, have an opportunity to acquire provincial land either for farming purposes or for small holdings and home sites along the Arrow, Kootenay and other lakes in Canada. These are marvellous sites which these young chaps should have the first opportunity to acquire. I know that the provincial government is willing to assist in every way possible. I urge the minister and his officials to give every consideration, to intensifying the settlement of veterans on provincial land in the province of British Columbia for farming and small holding purposes.

Supply-Veterans Affairs

In addition to that, there is a group of veterans who are not qualified to obtain loans or grants under the Veterans Land Act. These are war veterans who served in the first world war or veterans who have come from Great Britain since the conclusion of the war. These veterans are not entitled to receive loans or grants under the act. I suggest to the minister that the machinery of the department could be used to assist these men in getting priority in the acquisition of provincial land. Our own boys should get the first opportunity. Hundreds of other people are seeking these locations in order to settle on farms, and are also seeking provincial land for home sites. These men are not entitled to consideration under the act but I do suggest to the minister that his department and his officials should assist these men by taking up with the government of British Columbia the question of their receiving priority when they want to purchase the land as individuals.

I also think that the committee should be re-established to reconsider the Veterans Business and Professional Loans Act. I find that while the department is ready to give the qualification certificates-and they are not difficult to obtain provided the veteran has the service-yet the veterans are getting very poor service from the banks in some cases. I have met several bank managers who know next to nothing about the act and its operation. Boys go into the bank and say that they are qualified under the act to receive a loan or consideration for a loan. In some cases the bank officials have no idea of the procedure and in other cases, in my opinion, they are not very sympathetic. I have examined several cases closely and I find that the procedure that is carried out is not giving the edge to the veteran with regard to the loans to which he is entitled in view of the government guarantee behind the act.

The committee should be re-established to give some consideration to the claims of the merchant seamen. Some aspects of that question have not been definitely, finally and justly settled. The firefighters' claims should be reconsidered, as was mentioned by the hon. member for Acadia. Then there is the question of other matters which do not come definitely under the veterans charter legislation. I refer to the sale of wartime houses to veterans. All across this country there are veterans who are living as tenants in wartime houses, and who are anxious to purchase these houses in order to acquire permanent homes for themselves. This committee could be of some assistance in bringing that matter to the attention of the government. It could

deal with the problems that confront the administration in pursuing a policy for the sale of wartime houses to veterans.

I am not giving all my reasons why I think the committee should be re-established, because I am trying to be as brief as possible. I shall now touch on the question of unemployment which we shall have regardless of our veterans charter, the War Veterans Allowance Act, the old age pension and other social legislation. We have an increasing number of veterans at the age of 55 and upwards who find it difficult to obtain employment. The re-establishment of the committee would be well justified on that one item of business alone, namely, the consideration in detail of this very difficult problem which we must face, that is, the possibilities for employment for the veteran who is now finding it difficult to find employment owing to his age. These are all the remarks I wish to make at this time. I do hope the minister will give them his serious consideration.

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Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lennard:

I rise to emphasize one or two points that I think would be of benefit to this committee. I concur in what hon. members have said this afternoon in regard to the necessity of our having a standing committee on veterans affairs. What is being done in this committee this afternoon could be done in a veterans affairs committee and it would not take up the time of the house. We have had the committee on several occasions, and when the items dealt with in that committee came to the house it took only the matter of an hour or so to dispose of them. These matters could be dealt with by a standing committee on veterans affairs. They could be threshed out there and it would be more satisfactory.

One or two matters were mentioned by other hon. members, and I should like to refer to them. The hon. member for Cape Breton South and the hon. member for Nanaimo mentioned small holdings under the Veterans Land Act. I have always thought that raising the small holding from half an acre to three acres was stupid. It has been always understood that the small holding was intended for a man who was occupied in an urban centre. It gave him some land on which he could have his own garden in addition to his home. From my personal experience I know that a quarter of an acre is all the land that a man can keep clear of weeds. I have done it for years and sometimes I have not made a good job of it. A kitchen garden of a quarter of an acre is all that a man can care for unless he has a full-time market garden, and then he would require five or ten acres. Therefore I think

the small holding should be reduced to half an acre, and that would be satisfactory to the veterans.

There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. Class 5 (a) of the veterans charter reads as follows:

A former member of the forces who is in receipt of payment of pension, or who served in a theatre of actual war and was awarded pension, or who has not been awarded pension but gave meritorious service in a theatre of actual war . . .

If he is unable to look after any hospital bills on account of his financial standing, certain forms are completed, and if the man qualifies he is entitled to treatment. I am led to believe that until August 1 of this year these cases could be admitted in an emergency to civilian hospitals, if they were real emergencies, and later when they were able to travel they were transferred to Sunny-brook. I understand that on August 1 these regulations were changed. The patients could no longer be admitted to civilian hospitals except in a very great emergency and then they had to be transferred to Sunny-brook as soon as the acute stage had subsided. Previously the department provided transportation, either by train or, if necessary, by ambulance. I am informed that this has been done away with. In other words, a man has to provide transportation himself. One can readily see that a man may be taken ill in the vicinity of Sunnybrook, probably in Niagara Falls or in St. Catharines, and have an ambulance take him to Sunnybrook. That would cost in the neighbourhood of $50. Many could not afford that. I know of one instance where a man was hospitalized in a civilian hospital, and his physician thought he would not live. I understand however that his health is now improved to a point where he could be moved to Sunnybrook. The wife of this man was approached and she said they simply could not afford to have an ambulance. Under those circumstances the man would be denied the treatment he should have at that hospital.

I do not expect the minister to answer at this time. I have been in touch with the department, however, and I am assured he will give the matter every consideration. This is a hardship to which some have been subjected, and I feel they should not have been.

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Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words on this item because, if at this session there is to be no committee on veterans affairs, there may not be another opportunity to have a general review of the problems facing Canadian veterans.

In that connection my first suggestion would be to commend to the minister the recommendation made by practically every

Supply-Veterans Affairs hon. member who has spoken thus far this afternoon, namely that there should be a committee of the house. The parliament elected in 1935 had a committee on veterans affairs in only one session. If I remember correctly-and the parliamentary assistant will correct me if I am wrong-in the parliament which was elected in 1940 we had again only one committee to consider veterans affairs generally. But in the last parliament committees sat in 1945, 1946 and 1948. No committee sat last spring, but one could not quarrel with that because of the shortness of the session. I would point out however that there was a committee in the fall session of 1945.

The minister and his parliamentary assistant, and all hon. members who have served on any of these committees, know that by their work the committees have been able to accomplish a great deal for the veterans of Canada. The spirit in those committees has been excellent. I do not believe there is another committee in the House of Commons with the same esprit de corps as that of a committee on veterans affairs. The members of those committees have been veterans, and have acquired a pretty thorough knowledge of veterans' problems. By and large, in so far as has been humanly possible, those committees have functioned without political bias.

The present position is that there are over a million young Canadians who have served in the forces of this nation, and they have thousands of dependents. Those are the figures for the last war only; in addition there are several hundred thousand who have survived from the first war. It is clear, then, that a large proportion of our population are vitally interested in veterans' problems, and no other committee could have more important work.

The hon. member for Yorkton has said that Canada's veterans legislation is better than that of any other country in the world, and that statement has been made on numerous occasions. The fact is that only two nations in the world have been in a position to afford first-class veterans legislation, and those two nations have been the United States and Canada. In some ways the legislation in the United States is better than ours, while in other respects the Canadian legislation excels. Therefore it is not accurate to say that Canada's veterans legislation is the best in the world. We are all glad it is as good as it is, but we would all like to see it better.

All parties in the house have done their full share to place this legislation on the statute books. I would point out to the members that veterans' problems will be coming

Supply-Veterans Affairs up continually; they will never be settled so long as there are any veterans living. I believe that now is the time to set up a standing committee of the house on veterans affairs.

There are two or three matters which I should like to bring to the attention of the members, the first of which has to do with the manner in which veterans who have passed away are buried. A great deal of care is being taken to see that veterans have decent burials. I realize that through the Last Post fund the department is doing its best to achieve that end. Only yesterday however I received word about a veteran who had served in my own 54th Kootenay battalion; this veteran was a pensioner who died of a heart attack two or three weeks ago in Vancouver; his death occurred on Saturday, and he was buried at nine o'clock on Monday morning with only a padre, one mourner and no pallbearers in attendance.

I believe the Department of Veterans Affairs might arrange to have one of their officials at Shaughnessy hospital get information in every case respecting the death of a veteran. Such information could be passed on to the battalion association involved. If there were no association in the city in question, the information could be passed on to a branch of the Legion. I am sure no veterans organization in Canada would want to have a fellow veteran buried in that manner.

Shaughnessy hospital is well organized, and the spirit shown by the staff is excellent. I have been much impressed by the good will created in the minds of the patients there. I am sure some arrangement could be made whereby, when a veteran dies in one of the larger cities, the information could be sent at once to officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs in that city, as a result of which arrangements could be made for a proper burial. Had my own battalion association known of that death, I am sure members would have been only too happy to attend and give their comrade a decent burial.

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October 7, 1949