July 22, 1960

LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I must say I have a little sympathy for the minister when he is accused of shuffling off his responsibility because he

has not given a grant to a private organization which has not asked for it. It must be a rare experience for a minister to be accused of that, but I did not rise for this purpose but to add my voice to those which have already been raised in tribute to and praise of the work that the Legion has been doing over the years.

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CCF

Harold Edward Winch

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

Mr. Winch:

And the army, navy and air force veterans organizations.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

And the army, navy and air force veterans, and the other veterans organizations in this country. We are very fortunate in Canada that the interests of our veterans have been so steadily, continuously and responsibly advanced by veterans organizations. They have made requests, of course, to the government but those requests have always been made with a sense of responsibility and without the kind of pressurized lobbying which goes on perhaps more across the line than we are accustomed to in this country. Therefore, I thought this would be a suitable opportunity for me to add my voice to those which have been raised in praise of the Legion-

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CCF

Harold Edward Winch

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

Mr. Winch:

And the army, navy and air force veterans organizations.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

And the army, navy and air force veterans organizations-I am most grateful to my hon. friend-and every other veterans organization in this country, including the imperial veterans whose case has been raised today, and with which I have a particular sympathy because I served with the imperial army for three years or so in the first war.

I have not participated in the discussion of those estimates previously and I do not desire to prolong the discussion-for one thing, I am a veteran suffering at the moment from a civilian form of battle fatigue for which we are not compensated-but I should like to pay my tribute also to the work of the department and, indeed, if I may, without being misunderstood, to the work of the minister. It was suggested by someone on my right earlier in the afternoon that the minister might perhaps be resigning one of these days if some of the things he is advocating are not done by the government. I do not like to associate myself with that suggestion because while I am doing my best to see that one day he will have to resign, as long as the government is in power I hope the minister will continue to function as Minister of Veterans Affairs in the way in which he has been functioning and, of course, that certainly goes for the department as well. All I can say about the department is that the requests I have had to make to them

on behalf of veterans in my constituency have been received and acted on in exactly the same courteous and efficient way now as they were when I was a minister of the crown.

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Item agreed to. Canadian pension commission- 472. Administration expenses, $2,496,755.


LIB

Chesley William Carter

Liberal

Mr. Carter:

Earlier today reference was

made to the reduction of $2,500,000 in pensions. The minister explained that that was due to the fact that the savings from world war I pensioners who are deceased offset the additional pensions for world war II veterans; but there might be another factor in this, however slight an influence it might have. I refer to what I consider to be legitimate complaints on the part of many veterans who feel they are not getting the benefit of doubt. If those veterans were getting the benefit of doubt perhaps this reduction would not be quite as large.

I can understand the pension commission's position when a medical examiner has arrived at a verdict and they have to accept it. No doubt there are many cases where the medical practitioner who examines the veteran can be certain that the pensioner's condition is not related to his military service, or was not aggravated during his military service. When it comes to assessing the amount of aggravation that a veteran may suffer because of his war service I find it very difficult to understand, with all due respect to the medical profession, how they can be certain in some cases that no aggravation actually occurred during service. We all know of cases which have been turned down with the diagnosis that a veteran has a certain condition; that it was pre-enlistment and not aggravated.

The more advances we make in medical science the more we understand how little we really know about the human body and diseases and the physical effects of work, stress and strain. Therefore, the less certain we should be about cases like this. Where a veteran had a certain condition before he enlisted and it troubles him later on in life, the assumption must be that the work and duties performed by the veteran while in the service would have had the same effect on his physical being as the civilian duties which he would have been doing had he not been in the service. We all know that argument does not stand up because veterans, or people who are in the armed services, have to undergo severe training. They have to do sentry duty; they have 79951-0-427J

Supply-Veterans Affairs to do long route marches and very often they undergo exposure which is not experienced in civilian life.

Some of those people are taken into the service with physical disabilities such as one foot shorter than the other, or one leg longer than the other, and they all underwent that sort of training, performed those duties, and endured certain hardships. The duties they performed while in the service certainly must have a different effect upon the body from those the veteran would have experienced had he just lived a normal life and just attended to his every day duties, perhaps sitting in an office or just doing routine work, at which he could take care of himself and rest when his condition required it, and where he certainly would not be subject to the same exposure. I am not satisfied that the pension commission or the medical practitioners who examine veterans who apply for pensions are giving the applicants the full benefit of doubt in this type of case.

I refer to the type of case where the veteran had the condition previous to his enlistment. I do not believe any person in this world can be certain, in many cases, that no aggravation actually took place during his service, and that is the basis upon which the pension is granted. I should like to ask the commissioners to take a little more lenient attitude when they are processing these cases which concern the aggravation of a pre-enlistment condition during service.

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CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

I rise briefly to say a word or two on this item and to support the remarks made by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo with respect to this very difficult problem. It has been before the pension commission for years and has come before the veterans affairs committee over a number of years. I think any fair-minded person realizes that it is a difficult problem with many obscure facets, as it were. However, I think it is one that has to be given more consideration than has been given in the past if the commission is going to render judgments which in the opinion of the many who are making applications consider just.

I should like to say a brief word or two on the representations made to the committee by a number of veterans organizations and the discussions that took place in the convention of the Canadian Legion with respect to the amendments to the Canadian Pension Act. Of course, the primary one was the raising by 33J per cent of the disability pension. This matter of the amendment of the Canadian Pension Act and the necessity for a review of it is of such importance and

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Supply-Veterans Affairs of such concern to veterans generally across Canada that the convention passed 13 resolutions dealing with amendments to the Canadian Pension Act. The minister, no doubt, has read the resolutions since they were adopted and he will hear later representations from the Canadian Legion, I trust prior to Remembrance day. No doubt, the Canadian Legion will appear before the veterans affairs committee next year. I am not going to take the time of the committee to deal with these resolutions in detail. I simply urge upon the minister and the government the necessity for giving very serious consideration to these representations which reflect the views of the parliament of veterans in Canada, so that when the next session arrives we can look forward to a satisfactory adjustment of the problems that still remain.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Okanagan-Revelsloke):

I

should like to support what the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo said as well as the hon. member for Kootenay West, and the suggestions they have made with respect to the benefit of the doubt being given during consideration of applications for pensions by veterans of both wars. I do so because I have had very close connection with two cases over a period of seven years now where no pen-sionability has been established and no pension has been granted. In the one case there has been a continuous history of illness and disability since 1919, and in the other case a history of illness almost continuous since 1943.

I recognize that in both of these cases, as in most cases of this kind, it is extremely difficult to establish a direct connection between war service and the man's health or disability at the present time. This is particularly true of cases arising from the first world war because medical records do not exist in relation to the exact condition from which the veteran now suffers. The only possibility of relief is that his present condition dates from his war service, and that his illness has been consistent for something more than 40 years. At the time of discharge in one case, the veteran was 19 years of age and there was no prior history of illness such as that from which he has suffered since his war service. It seems to me that the only possibility of providing the veteran in this case with any kind of just recompense is to consider the history of his illness rather than the exact origin of it.

I feel that this is a difficult problem with which the pension commission is faced, a most complex problem. Perhaps if a further extension of the benefit is not going to meet the situation the pension commission, on the

basis of its years of experience in dealing with such cases, could make recommendations to the minister through the standing committee on veterans affairs for providing an alternative method of dealing with such cases as I have in mind. I agree that a strict relationship between the war service and the veteran's condition is perhaps not establishable, but the fact of the matter is that the illness has been persistent and continuous since the completion of his service. This is true of the other case which I have in mind, and I know there must be many others. Some form of assistance for veterans who find themselves in this situation is essential and there are no provisions in our veterans legislation now covering these particular difficulties.

I should like also to mention very briefly the reference which was made this afternoon to the fact that our veterans legislation is part of our over-all social legislative program. I hope we never get to the point where we consider veterans legislation as simply an adjunct to social welfare legislation. Veterans legislation, in my opinion, came into being as the result of the discharge of a specific duty to specific individuals for services rendered. I hope that the government will always be motivated by the realization that veterans legislation is the result of a discharge of a duty for services rendered, and not simply an adjunct to social welfare legislation.

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PC

Murray Lincoln McFarlane

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McFarlane:

I should like to add a word at this point on this item. I should like also to support the previous speakers in connection with this matter. I am a little disturbed by the receipt of so many letters from veterans who are suffering from physical disabilities. The latest one I received was this morning and I should like to refer to part of it. He says he has received treatment at numerous civilian hospitals and also army hospitals without any satisfactory results. During August, 1959 he had an unsuccessful operation on his feet at Shaughnessy hospital, as well as treatment at other hospitals. At the present time he is receiving a pension of $22.50 per month, which is certainly insufficient to give him a living. He is unable to walk and as a result of the difficulty is unable to handle any work.

I realize that investigation of matters of this nature is more than necessary. I feel that the department is handling veterans pensions well, within the limits of the act, but I should like to suggest to the minister that some action be taken in connection with matters of this nature. I have received quite a number of letters since I have been a member, and most of them have come from veterans who are physically unable to accept work. Their pensions are very small and in view of the high

cost of living these days I do not see how they can possibly even manage to exist. This is especially true of the pension of $22.50 per month I just mentioned. There is a large number of these pensioners who are just getting by and not maintaining any kind of a standard of living. I should like to have the minister give this matter serious consideration.

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Item agreed to. 474. Gallantry awards-world war II and special force, $21,000.


LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I wonder if the minister would explain what this item is? I suppose I should know, but I should like to know particularly whether or not it includes awards made to holders of the Victoria Cross.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

Yes, the Victoria Cross winners of the second world war receive $300 a year, and those of the first world war receive an award from the imperial government. The amount was $60 prior to a short time ago. By order in council it was increased to $300. I think that is included as a supplementary estimate.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

It is a fact, then, that Canadian holders of the Victoria Cross in the first world war still get their awards from the United Kingdom?

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PC
LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I know this procedure has been going on for a long time, and I am not making this suggestion in any controversial or political sense. However, does the minister not think it would probably be a more dignified position for Canada to adopt if she were to pay the award made to Canadians who have won the Victoria Cross in the Canadian army rather than have them continue to be paid by the United Kingdom government?

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

Yes, I think that is correct. I was greatly surprised that the former government, when it decided to take on the costs of gallantry awards for the second world war, did not at that time make arrangements to take on the awards that were being paid by the imperial government for world war I. There have been negotiations with the imperial government toward the end of having this matter adjusted. The matter is under consideration now and I hope that it may be finalized at a not too distant date in the future.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

When the change mentioned by the minister was made I think there were discussions with the United Kingdom, as he has suggested. I am glad they are continuing. I may be wrong but I believe at that time

Supply-Veterans Affairs the United Kingdom showed some reluctance to giving up this responsibility. They felt they had accepted it at the beginning. The Canadian forces in world war I were under British military control. For that reason and perhaps others they wished to continue to discharge that responsibility. But if that responsibility could be taken over by us at this date in 1960, I think it would be a useful thing to do.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

I might point out to the Leader of the Opposition that there is still a reluctance on the part of the British government; and what applies to Canada applies to every other part of the commonwealth. The matter will require a great deal of adjustment. Two years ago when I was in London I took the matter up with the minister of pensions there. We both agreed that it was a splendid thing to have accomplished but at that time we just did not see how it could be done. However, we have carried on correspondence since then and I hope some solution may be found.

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Item agreed to. Soldier settlement and Veterans' Land Act- 475. Administration of Veterans' Land Act; soldier settlement and British family settlement, $5,152,000.


July 22, 1960