November 26, 1951

NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY


Canada's contribution to European defence -REFERENCE TO STATEMENT OF MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE


LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, with your permission I must refer once again to the matter of privilege raised by the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) on Wednesday last with respect to the report of a statement attributed in press dispatches to the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) at Rotterdam. Today the Montreal Gazette publishes on its first page the following explanation:

No cost figure set by Claxton. $100 million for Europe 'dromes based on estimates.

Toronto, November 25, C.P.: The $100 million

attributed to Defence Minister Claxton in a Canadian Press story from Rotterdam November 21, as the cost of airfields in western Europe, was an estimate made by Douglas How, C.P. staff correspondent. It was based, How says, on statements by Mr. Claxton in the past that a modern airfield cost $20 million or more. No specific figure was mentioned by Mr. Claxton at Rotterdam. How's original cable from Rotterdam read:

"Claxton announced Canada foot bill for four or five new airdromes-likely to cost in vicinity of $100 million-in western Europe to field eleven squadron jet air division which capable providing tactical support for full-fledged army."

Then there are parentheses, and it reads:

(It then went into Mr. Claxton's references to Canada sending arms for more European divisions, and other matters.)

As extended and backgrounded by the Canadian Press cable desk for publication the dispatch ascribed the figures between dashes to the minister as follows:

"Rotterdam, The Netherlands, November 21, C.P. -Brooke Claxton announced today that Canada will foot the bill for four or five new airdromes in western Europe to field an eleven squadron jet air division capable of providing tactical support for a full-fledged army . . .

There are three or four points of suspension, then it goes on:

"The airdromes, he said, will cost in the vicinity of $100 million."

When this story, among others, became a focal point of controversy in the House of Commons, How was messaged by his head office for confirmation of the announcement that Canada would foot the bill for the airdromes, and for clarification as to whether the estimate of cost was his own or the minister's.

He replied that according to his recollection the defence minister, in answer to a direct question, left no doubt that in the long run in one way or another, Canada would pay for the airfields in question. But that the $100 million figure was his own estimate, based on previous statements by the minister as to the cost of airfields.

Perhaps the lesson from this might be that at times statements, even by ministers of the crown as to what they have said or have not said, might be regarded as apt to be as reliable as the expanded or backgrounded reports published by news agencies.

In that connection the same issue of the Montreal Gazette has as its lead editorial one entitled, "Parliament's servant, even in Holland". The first paragraph reads:

The Claxton incident ought not to be exaggerated. Everybody makes mistakes-sometimes bad ones. But the whole matter could have been much better settled if the errors were admitted, with a reasonable expression of regret.

Well, I suppose we can take it that the Gazette's error is sufficiently admitted by the publication in the same issue of the article which I have just read. As to whether or not the writer of that article will see fit to make any expression of regret is a matter for himself to decide.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

We are, Mr. Speaker, dealing with the reports of very reliable press agencies, and I would point out that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has completely failed to deal with the fundamental issue raised both by the editorial in the Gazette to which he has referred and the report which has been issued by the Canadian Press after checking with their reporter, Mr. How. The fact is, in so far as the question of policy is concerned, it does not make any difference whether the amount involved is $1 million, $100 million, or $500 million. From a careful reading of the Canadian Press dispatch to which the Prime Minister has referred, it is quite clear that the report stands except for the figure. This is a financial detail, and a very important one, but the question of policy is whether or not a decision that Canada is to foot the bill for airfields-and may I add for barracks which were not mentioned by the Prime Minister-is to be presented to this house for consideration, or whether the hon. members of this house and the people of Canada are to learn about it for the first time through a statement made in Rotterdam or anywhere else outside of Canada.

When this statement was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister last Wednesday, he did not leave any doubt about his

North Atlantic Treaty own position and the position of the government. These are his words as reported in Hansard at page 1223:

... no such policy has been decided upon by the Canadian government.

The money, vitally important though that is, is' not the question of policy. The Prime Minister told us last Wednesday that no such policy had been decided upon by the government. The statement as checked, revised and printea today as coming from the Canadian Press headquarters in Toronto leaves the statement of policy precisely where it was last Wednesday. I return also to the question of the barracks, because the Prime Minister either has overlooked that subject or has avoided it. The members of this house will recall that from The Hague, the night before the announcement in Rotterdam, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) had announced that Canada was going to build barracks near Soest in Germany at a cost of between $5 million and $10 million, and that those barracks would be built by Germans, with the construction starting within a few months.

A new and interesting angle in connection with this matter arose as a result of another Canadian Press dispatch on Saturday-a dispatch published since this1 house last met- in which it was stated that Canadians have luxury barracks which were built during the Hitler regime. Mr. Speaker, if Canadians now have luxury barracks which were built by Hitler, I should think it would be a good thing if we continued to use those barracks. I cannot imagine a better purpose to which those barracks, originally built for the nazis, could be put than that of housing Canadians. In any event, we have as yet had no suggestion that the Minister of National Defence's statement at The Hague was not correctly reported. We are therefore still left with the statement that Canada is going to build barracks in Germany at a cost of between $5 million and $10 million.

May I repeat what was said before. I do not think anyone in this house is raising any question about our fulfilment of any obligations which we properly share as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Hut surely there are questions to discuss as to whether it is not appropriate that the contribution of some of these European nations might well be the construction of barracks or the building of airfields while we are supplying arms on a divisional scale; according to another announcement made by the Minister of National Defence, our undertaking was to complete the delivery of arms for four divisions. Surely those are questions of policy

which are not affected in principle by the amount involved.

I think the explanation given by the Canadian Press as to the way in which Mr. Douglas How arrived at the figure of $100 million is one that to most members of this house would seem to be perfectly reasonable, they being well aware of the manner in which press reports are prepared and, may I also say, well aware of the manner in which the government at times gives information to the press outside of the regular conferences. In. any event, the statement as originally raised stands, and I suggest that what has been stated by the Prime Minister and what was left unsaid about the barracks leaves this house still with no satisfactory explanation of why these policies were not announced here and why we should be left to leam of them through the press.

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Jean-Paul Stephen St-Laurent

Mr. Si. Laurent:

Mr. Speaker, I suppose the leader of the opposition is entitled to get as much consolation as he can about what he has referred to in his last remarks. But I am willing now to leave the matter on the record as it stands in Hansard. It will be remembered that the statement which was referred to about the barracks was this:

. . . the minister said the barracks will be built by Germans, the work to start in the next few months and be completed late next year.

That is no announcement of government policy, because it is not the policy of this government to announce what is going to be done by Germans.

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Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC
LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

It is sufficient for us to announce to parliament what the plans of the government are. That has been done and it will continue to be done.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker, am I to take it from the Prime Minister's remarks that the Minister of National Defence was speaking on behalf of the Germans when he made that statement?

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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent:

The hon. member can "expand and background" the statements as he sees fit; and I hope that he will not be any less successful than the Canadian Press.

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KURT MEYER

COMMITMENT TO WERL PRISON, GERMANY REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF RELEASE TO VISIT HIS HOME

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, you will be glad to learn that this is another question of privilege that I propose to raise. On October 19 last the

Minister of National Defence was asked to make a statement with regard to the status of Kurt Meyer, and he did so on October 22, as reported at page 245 of Hansard. After explaining that Kurt Meyer was being committed to Werl prison in Germany, a prison which he designated as a Canadian service prison, he went on, to say:

The answer is that Meyer is still under the control and jurisdiction of Canada.

Today we read in a Canadian Press dispatch that when, a representative of the Canadian Press called at Kurt Meyer's house on Saturday, with the expectation of seeing Mrs. Meyer-

Topic:   KURT MEYER
Subtopic:   COMMITMENT TO WERL PRISON, GERMANY REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF RELEASE TO VISIT HIS HOME
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Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I might say, Mr. Speaker, that the representative of the Canadian Press assumed that the report would be taken with sufficient seriousness that he did not find it necessary to give any other explanation of the fact that he was calling at Kurt Meyer's house, expecting to see Mrs. Kurt Meyer and to obtain from her information about her husband. He found Kurt Meyer playing with his children, explaining that he had been released from prison under an arrangement whereby the prisoners at that particular prison camp are permitted to visit their homes. Remembering that this prisoner is under Canadian jurisdiction, the question arises as to whether the Canadian government has given authority to Kurt Meyer to visit his home at regular intervals in this way.

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Subtopic:   COMMITMENT TO WERL PRISON, GERMANY REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF RELEASE TO VISIT HIS HOME
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I understood that the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of National Defence had inquired into this matter and had an answer prepared.

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LIB

Ralph Osborne Campney (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. R. O. Campney (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Kurt Meyer was transferred to a British prison at Werl in Germany-a prison which is operated for the punishment of war criminals convicted by Great Britain. While he was so transferred' for purposes of incarceration,, as the Minister of National Defence said at page 245 of Hansard, he remains under the control of the government of this country so far as sentence is concerned, and any release-that is, permanent release-would be within the jurisdiction of this government.

It is provided by section 178 of the National Defence Act that the minister may designate any prison as a service prison. As announced by the minister in the house on October 22, he so designated Werl prison as a service prison. Order in council P.C. 5596, dated October 18, 1951, was also tabled on October

Kurt Meyer

22, setting out the regulations that govern prisoners in service prisons. Section 2 of those regulations specifically provides that a prisoner who is undergoing punishment in a place designated as a service prison under the National Defence Act shall be dealt with in the same manner as other prisoners in that place, and all the rules applicable to such other prisoners shall, in so far as circumstances permit, apply to him.

The regulations governing the operation of the prison at Werl are within the jurisdiction of the British authorities, and it is presumed that all prisoners there are subject to the same regulations as provided in the order in council to which I have referred.

We have made inquiries as to the specific rules dealing with the point raised by the leader of the opposition and have not yet received information as to what the rules in the British prison are. As soon as we have that information we will give it.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I would point out that the circumstances under which General Kurt Meyer came under the control of the Canadian government are very harrowing indeed to a number of Canadian families, and they affect the sentiments of a great number of Canadians in regard to the conduct of those responsible for military action. Kurt Meyer was found guilty of the responsibility for the death of certain Canadians. Either he was guilty or he was not. If he was guilty there was a form of punishment provided. If he was not guilty he should be freed. I submit further, Mr. Speaker, that there should be no intermediate stage. I do submit that it is a very surprising thing to be informed now that although the government has full responsibility for Kurt Meyer, whom they arranged to send to Germany, they have sent him to a prison whose rules they do not know. Judging from the answer that has been given, if these rules should provide that a prisoner be absent from the prison for six months, there would be no reason why it would not apply in this case. I would assume also that if the British authorities decided to extend that privilege to General Manstein and other prisoners, including General Kesselning-General Manstein and General Kesselring occupy cells on both sides of General Kurt Meyer

under the explanation that has been given, it would apply to General Kurt Meyer as well.

This is not something that is being raised by way of simply seeking to provoke a discussion. It is a matter of very deep and grave concern to all Canadians. This goes to the conduct of the military forces with which we were engaged in the war. Most certainly, if there was one man above

Kurt Meyer

all others who should be under appropriate restraint for life-if that is the penalty-it is the man who was responsible for the death of young Canadians, and most certainly there should be no easy treatment for a man who is guilty of that offence, and guilty under the circumstances that were accepted as evidence at the trial. I can only repeat that what has happened now suggests that the house should have been informed before Kurt Meyer left Canada; but in any event, the government should have been informed as to the regulations at Werl prison before Kurt Meyer was sent there. I suggest now that this whole case be reviewed. Either Kurt Meyer is guilty or he is not. If he is guilty he should receive the punishment that goes with guilt of this kind. If he is not guilty, he should be freed.

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Subtopic:   COMMITMENT TO WERL PRISON, GERMANY REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF RELEASE TO VISIT HIS HOME
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. G. A. Cruickshank (Fraser Valley):

May I ask a supplementary question of the parliamentary assistant? As an old veteran I do not need any assistance from Winnipeg. I feel keenly about this. If, as the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) said, this man as a soldier was found guilty by the courts of the land, as we presume he was, of murdering Canadians, then by no stretch of the imagination, so far as I am concerned, should he be permitted to spend a week end visiting his wife, anybody else's wife, or anyone else. I should like to ask a question through you, Mr. Speaker. We have never yet been definitely assured of what has happened to the man who wrote "Mein Kampf", who caused ruin to this whole world. If he should turn up now, is he to be permitted to visit the little lady friend he had, for a week end or two? I want to know definitely. I feel very keenly about this. Either this man is guilty or he is not.

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Subtopic:   COMMITMENT TO WERL PRISON, GERMANY REFERENCE TO PRESS REPORT OF RELEASE TO VISIT HIS HOME
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Some hon. Members:

Order.

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November 26, 1951