January 13, 1953

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE ON TUESDAYS AND FRIDAYS ON PRIVATE AND PUBLIC BILLS

LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Perhaps I should remind the house at this time that at the last session standing order 15 was amended. In previous sessions private and public bills have been called between 8 and 9 o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays. Under the amendment, private and public bills are called between 5 and 6 o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROCEDURE ON TUESDAYS AND FRIDAYS ON PRIVATE AND PUBLIC BILLS
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FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

MEASURE TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION ON GROUNDS OF RACE, NATIONAL ORIGIN, COLOUR OR RELIGION

LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Hon. Milton F. Gregg (Minister of Labour) moved

for leave to introduce Bill No. 100, to prevent discrimination in regard to employment and membership in trade unions by reason of race, national origin, colour or religion.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

Topic:   FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION ON GROUNDS OF RACE, NATIONAL ORIGIN, COLOUR OR RELIGION
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CRIMINAL CODE


REVISION AND AMENDMENT OF EXISTING STATUTE Hon. Stuart S. Garson (Minister of Justice) moved the first reading of Bill No. 93 (from the Senate), respecting the criminal law. Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.


PRIVATE BILLS

FIRST READINGS-SENATE BILLS


Bill No. 94, for the relief of Jane Louttit Dormer.-Mr. Winkler. Bill No. 95, for the relief of Roger Loiselle. -Mr. Winkler. Bill No. 96, for the relief of William Oscar Gilbert.-Mr. Winkler. Bill No. 97, for the relief of George Magner. -Mr. Winkler. Bill No. 98, for the relief of Teodora Szablity Szentirmai.-Mr. Winkler. Bill No. 99, for the relief of Arthur Piche.- Mr. Winkler. 68108-59J


DEFENCE EXPENDITURE

APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE

LIB

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

Liberal

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

That a select committee be appointed to continue the examination of all expenditure of public moneys for national defence and all commitments for expenditure for national defence since March 31, 1950, and to report from time to time their observations and opinions thereon, and in particular, what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided by the government may be effected therein, with power to send for persons, papers and records and to examine witnesses; and that notwithstanding standing order 65. the committee shall consist of twenty-six members to be designated by the house at a later date.

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minisier of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, as I was away attending the meetings of the North Atlantic treaty council when the Currie report was presented to this house and discussed on December 15, 16 and 17 I feel that it would be the wish of hon. members, and indeed of others throughout the country, in view of the wide interest attached to this important document, that I should take advantage of the first opportunity of dealing with it on the motion to set up this committee and in the course of my remarks to indicate in support of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) the reasons why I believe this report should receive the consideration of that committee, if and when it is set up.

In the debate which took place between December 15 when the Currie report was tabled and the Christmas adjournment on December 17, reference was also made to a number of other matters relating to national defence about which I may have something to say on another occasion. But today I intend to confine what I have to say to the Currie report itself and to matters relevant to it.

Before entering into this subject I should like if I may to make a personal reference. For the affairs of the Department of National Defence and the three armed services of Canada I am responsible under the statute under which I was appointed. I have accepted and have endeavoured to discharge that responsibility to the best of my ability. I have no intention of trying to dodge that responsibility. There has not been and there will not be any effort made to find a scapegoat. When we found that there had been wrongdoing, we laid prosecutions. When it appeared, as I said in the house on April 21, that there had been "grave irregularities", I

Committee on Defence Expenditure appointed Mr. Currie to investigate the causes and to suggest some means to prevent their recurrence.

As he says, in the investigation he was given every facility. He made his report and by the time we had received it action had already been taken which anticipated the majority of his recommendations. The report shows that a good system of accounting had been worked out, approved and adopted, but was not carried fully into effect. No government department, no commercial enterprise, no large-scale undertaking can be perfect. In an operation of the magnitude of the expansion of the defence effort of Canada there are bound to be mistakes, just as by the law of averages there are bound to be some thefts and some fires. We have had these in the past and most certainly we will have them in the future. As I said in the house in 1947:

While much progress has been made, no one appreciates more than myself that there is still a lot of work to be done in reorganization before we can provide a proper organizational and administrative basis for the defence forces that we may have in the future.

Perhaps I have been overenthusiastic in the defence of the armed forces against what I felt to be unjustified charges, and sometimes I may have been overoptimistic; but it is pretty hard to work with the armed forces of Canada without having high admiration for their fine record of achievement and without having faith in their capacity to do what is expected of them.

When things happened which were wrong and when they were brought to my attention I tried to take whatever action appeared to be most likely to put matters right. As long as I have the responsibility of speaking in this house for the armed forces of Canada 1 shall try to deal promptly with wrongdoing and to correct situations that need correction; but I am not going to blame others for shortcomings unless I am satisfied that they are responsible for them.

Some confusion has arisen regarding the handling of the report itself. First of all, let me emphasize, as the Prime Minister and the Solicitor General (Mr. Campney) have done, that there was only one report, and that is the report signed by Mr. Currie himself. He did not make any other report. There was no interim report.

The only report Mr. Currie made was the report he signed. That was given to the deputy minister of national defence on Monday, December 8. Unfortunately, the fact that the signed report was dated November 26 seems to have given rise to some confusion.

LMr. Claxton.l

However, no copy of the signed report was received by the Department of National Defence prior to December 8, 1952.

Here I should point out that throughout this whole investigation Mr. Currie and those associated with him worked closely with the department and the army. Mr. Currie referred to "the ready and full co-operation" accorded to him. I am sure that he would be the first to say that a large part of the information he and his associates received came from the department and the army works services.

As regards the presentation of the report, most of the information I have was given to me by the deputy minister of national defence, Mr. C. M. Drury.

From time to time Mr. Currie's representatives, and on two occasions Mr. Currie himself, discussed with Mr. Drury the form in which the irregularities at Petawawa would be presented in the report. I believe that this was back in September or October. Mr. Davey, an associate of Mr. Currie who had been doing a large part of the investigational work, indicated to Mr. Drury that he proposed to list extracts from the R.C.M.P. files, attributing to the R.C.M.P. the information so given.

Mr. Drury was concerned as to how such information was to be handled, and this for several reasons. Its appearance might be taken to prejudice the criminal or military cases which were still pending. It might damage innocent persons, and it might compromise other police investigations. Mr. Davey showed Mr. Drury a typewritten draft showing the form in which it was proposed to present this information. Mr. Drury pointed out that the publication of R.C.M.P. investigation reports was something that the department had always endeavoured to avoid. These reports were confidential, and if they were not treated as such future police investigations might be hampered. Mr. Davey undertook to have consideration given to changing the form of presentation.

In a later discussion Mr. Davey said that changes had been made and Mr. Drury suggested to Mr. Davey that he might have a look at the revised form of presentation of the irregularities. Mr. Davey said that this was now embodied in the draft of the whole report and it was not Mr. Currie's intention that anyone review the draft before presentation of the report. Mr. Drury reported this conversation to me. I told Mr. Drury that in the interests of Mr. Currie, as well as of the department and the army, it would be desirable that the report should be as factually accurate as possible, and I thought

that he might suggest to Mr. Currie that he let him see a draft of the report to check it for factual errors.

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

What date was that?

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxion:

This would be about the 25th or 26th of November. Mr. Currie of course was perfectly free to follow that course or not as he wished. As he himself says in the letter to me of December 29:

On the 26th November, before the checking and final consideration had been completed by me here, Mr. Drury, the deputy minister, called on the telephone from Ottawa. During his telephone conversation with me, Mr. Drury mentioned the minister and went on to intimate to me that it seemed desirable that the final text of the intended report be submitted to him (before the report was actually signed and delivered) in order that purely factual matters dealt with in the report could be verified as to their accuracy. I gathered that his reason for this was that in such connection there had been instances in the Mainguy report where purely factual matters of this nature had not been properly dealt with.

While, during this conversation with Mr. Drury, I expressed some disinclination to follow such a course, the upshot was that it was understood that I would submit to him one of the two print reproduction copies above referred to, but solely for the purpose of enabling verification of factual matters and data dealt with in the report as so formulated. I decided that I would ask my partner, Mr. Cleary, to personally deliver the said copy to the deputy minister. I called Mr. Cleary, who was in Ottawa, and described the situation to him. That afternoon I had one of the two print reproduction copies which I had received from the printer mailed to Mr. Cleary, who, on the following day, the 27th November, delivered it in person to the deputy minister.

On Monday, December 1, Mr. Drury met Mr. Cleary, another of Mr. Currie's associates, and Mr. Davey, as has already been outlined by tne Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent). As a result Mr. Currie made some minor changes, signed the report and forwarded it to the deputy minister under cover of the letter dated December 8.

It has been suggested in the house that it was wrong for anyone in the department to look first at the draft of the report, and the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis), who is generally very fair, has even suggested in a radio broadcast that Mr. Currie should perhaps be blamed for showing the draft to the deputy minister. I cannot see anything wrong in what was done. I think that the suggestion that it was wrong arises from a misconception of what Mr. Currie was asked to do and what he was doing. Mr. Currie was not carrying on a criminal investigation. That was being done by the R.C.M.P., the army provost corps, and the Department of Justice. Mr. Currie was not investigating the Department of National Defence, and he was not investigating the Minister of National Defence.

Committee on Defence Expenditure

As Minister of National Defence I had asked Mr. Currie to make an investigation for me of the causes of a bad situation which had been found at Petawawa and to recommend to me how that bad situation could be cleared up. I was afraid the bad situation might be more widespread in the army works services, and that is why I asked Mr. Currie to look at that whole branch of the army right across Canada. I wanted the truth and I wanted the kind of report which nobody would question. I did not want errors of fact anywhere in the report which might discredit the whole report and make it more difficult to implement any recommendations it might make to improve the situation.

I am glad, and I am sure the house is glad, that Mr. Currie accepted Mr. Drury's correction and took out the reference to the soldier who had been accused of stealing materials and using army labour to build a cottage because that soldier had already been acquitted in the courts and it would have been unfortunate to have done him the injustice of leaving in that reference. I am sorry the report contained the reference to the Canadian National rails which turned out not to be there, and I am sorry it contained the reference to the horses, though I am glad they were not on the payroll.

At the same time I can understand why Mr. Currie did not consider it necessary to check the irregularities at Petawawa very carefully. He was not carrying on the criminal investigation. He had another job altogether, to find the causes and recommend means of preventing their recurrence. That is what the report is supposed to be about. I am glad, and I know other hon. members are glad, that Mr. Currie found no new evidence of extensive irregularities and that he felt justified in cautioning us not to blame the whole army works services for the conduct of a "handful of crooks".

I still believe that the report would be a better report if these errors of fact I have mentioned, and a number of others, had not been left in it. That was what I wanted to have prevented when I told Mr. Drury that he might suggest to Mr. Currie that a final check be made for errors of fact. Of course it was up to Mr. Currie to decide whether to have that check made, and he did decide to do so, and he did make a few changes. But they were made on his own responsibility, and Mr. Drury did not even know which of them had been made until he received the signed report on December 8.

Like other hon. members, I was astonished to find that another copy of the draft, apparently a duplicate of the copy shown to Mr. Drury,

Committee on Defence Expenditure .had got into the hands of the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) and had been referred to by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) in the house on December 15. This copy was seen by the Prime Minister and the Solicitor General (Mr. Campney) I believe on the same day. It appeared to be an exact duplicate of the report itself except that in the latter some pages had been reprinted.

The only copy of the draft received by the Department of National Defence was the copy handed to the deputy minister on November 27. That copy was returned to Mr. Currie's representative on December 8 at the same time that the signed report was presented. Consequently the draft in the hands of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre could not have reached him from the Department of National Defence. As the release to unauthorized persons of a draft of a report of this character is a matter of great concern, I wrote Mr. Currie a letter on December 22, 1952, and received from him replies dated December 24 and December 29,

1952. I wrote Mr. Currie again on January 2,

1953, and received from him a letter dated January 7, 1953. I also wrote the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre asking if Mr. Currie could see the copy of the draft received from the hon. member for Kosetown-Biggar, and I received a reply dated January 5, 1953. Meanwhile one of Mr. Currie's associates examined the copy of the draft given to the hon. member for Kosetown-Biggar and examination made it plain that this copy was in fact one of the drafts prepared by Mr. Currie's printer. Mr. Currie wrote me to this effect in his letter of January 7, 1953. In the concluding paragraph of that letter Mr. Currie said:

Everything which I have done by way of inquiry and investigation negatives the possibility that the copy in question could have got out in any stage or step between the printer's shop and my own organization and the department; but I still, of course, welcome any further investigation which the department or any other authority may deem it expedient to make from any angle or direction.

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Would the minister put that entire exchange of letters into the records?

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxion:

I would be glad to do so.

While the explanation as to how a copy got into unauthorized hands was the responsibility of Mr. Currie and remains his responsibility, it seemed to me and it seemed to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) that the theft or other improper act by which the copy got into unauthorized hands was of such a general concern that it should be followed up and the R. C. M. P. were accordingly instructed to investigate and report.

(Mr. Claxton.]

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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January 13, 1953