Yes; re-establishment credits. I am now thinking about a case which the minister and I have been writing about. It is that of a nurse who served during the war, came back to Canada and ultimately landed over in the United States. She still has her rehabilitation credits. I got in touch with the minister to find out whether those credits could be paid outside of Canada. The answer was no. In the second place, he advised me that those credits could be converted only by using them as payment on an annuity or on insurance through the government. That was a few months ago; the matter has not been settled yet.
Under present regulations that is the only alternative the minister can offer; but I say that is wrong. That money belongs to that particular woman. It was granted by the Canadian government for the purpose of rehabilitation. She located in British Columbia. Both she and her husband found that, in order properly to set themselves up in life, there were greater opportunities in their professions in the United States; and like hundreds of other Canadians they shifted to where they could do the best for themselves.
Supply-Veterans Affairs They are young people. That was where they could do the best job of rehabilitating themselves, so they went to the United States. The government, by law, said that was their money. If the legislation prohibits payment of that money outside of the country, I think the law should be amended. If these people could better set themselves up in life and do a better job of rehabilitating themselves elsewhere, then I think that money should have been given to them. However, that lady is prepared to convert that money into a government annuity if and when she gets the necessary information as to how to go about it. We are hoping that the information will come soon.
The second case that has been brought to my attention is that of a former captain in the army. He lived in my part of the country, then went to Saskatchewan and lived there for some time. He still nursed his gratuity credits. He visited home about a year ago. His father at this time is in receipt of the old age security pension. But there is the old homestead there, and when the boy visited his home he said, "This place looks as though it needs to be fixed up." He was born there. He said to his father, "Go ahead and fix it up. This is going to be my home in the future. Fix it up, renovate it, and the amount which I have in gratuity credits I will pass on to you; I will draw it and use it for the purpose of building up the home I am going to live in in the future". Then he went back to Saskatchewan and, unfortunately, a few days after going back, he lost his life in a fire. But in the meantime the father had undertaken the obligation of carrying out the boy's wishes and had started the renovation of the home.
I carried on a considerable amount of correspondence with the department as to whether in a case of that kind, the credits could not be considered as part of the boy's estate and be passed on to his next of kin as such. Apparently there is some latitude in the administration of these regulations if the parents were considered to be wholly dependent. I drew up a fairly strong case of dependency. It was admitted by the department that at the time of his death that particular boy was contributing approximately $40 a month toward the maintenance of his parents, and that all during his period of service he did contribute to the maintenance of his parents. But in this particular case the last decision I obtained was that, despite all the factors that had been presented to the department, the parents could not be considered as being* wholly dependent on the boy at the time of
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Supply-Veterans Affairs his death; and so his rehabilitation credits accrue to the crown. .
I do not think any law should be as firm as that. Certainly in this case, and in several others like it, there are extenuating circumstances. I realize that the lawyers who draft the legislation do so from the legal point of view, and that they make it as airtight as possible. But I think even in this case there is flexibility, and that the question of "wholly dependent" is a matter of interpretation. The fact that that boy was renovating the home in which he figured he would live in the later years of his life, and the fact that at his request the parents undertook the obligation of renovating that home at some considerable expense should, I believe, be taken into consideration.
In this particular case I think the department made a mistake. In my opinion those who interpreted that "wholly dependent" could have granted the rehabilitation credits as part of that boy's estate. I hope the minister will take a look at that case some time.
I am not blaming anybody. As I said when I started, the departmental officials can go only as far as the legislation will permit them to go. But in this particular case I think someone should take a look at it and see whether something could not be done to carry out the last wishes of that boy as expressed the last time he was home.
All this adds up to the fact that I agree with the hon. member for Fraser Valley, the hon. member for Royal and many others who over the past couple of years have said that a standing committee of the House of Commons should be set up to deal with veterans affairs.
Since 1945 the House of Commons committee on veterans affairs has not been a committee of this house on veterans affairs. It has been a committee appointed for the purpose of examining legislation, not to study and recommend but to examine legislation drafted and referred to it, which is a completely different thing. In 1940 when the committee was first set up for the purpose of opening up the old legislation and relating the new forces to it, we did not just go in and study the bills; we went in there and examined the whole question. Out of the deliberations and studies of that committee came a whole lot of the legislation that is contained in the veterans charter. But in the past few years the committee has been examining proposals that were already drafted, upon which it had not been con. suited.
The minister and the government are making a mistake. If we had a standing
committee whose job it would be to watch and follow the trend of veterans' legislation or the necessity for changes, the biggest asset that the minister and the department could have would be 25 or 30 veteran members of this house. They could sit down out of the realm of politics and make a study of what they thought was fair and reasonable, and the minister could check it from time to time. In that way he could be getting a large group of members of this house to share responsibility with him for veterans' legislation, and many times he would find the members of that committee on his side in controversial matters which arise in the house because the average member has not an opportunity to study the material. I refer to such matters as we have been discussing tonight, namely softening up the legislation that prevents departmental officials from making a reasonable decision where there are extenuating circumstances with respect to such questions as rehabilitation credits as part of the estates of persons such as those I have been talking about. There are complaints that cannot be anticipated by the average person who sits down and writes legislation.
Then with respect to the veterans allowance and all these changes that we have been talking about, instead of it just coming up at a moment's notice and all hon. members expressing individual opinions, the committee would have a chance to debate these things through and have a general understanding of them. They could consult with the Legion from time to time, and out of these discussions and deliberations would come recommendations on problems that arise in the country.
As I said when I opened my remarks, this is social legislation for the person who has become handicapped through his war service. There is no finality to it. It is going on, and we might as well realize that the best way of handling it and keeping it within reason is by having study going on all the time by men who are veterans themselves, who are members of the Legion and of the House of Commons, and who would rather work with the minister on finding a solution to these problems than have to fight with him from time to time.
Subtopic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic: DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS