Mr. Chairman, the committee is carrying on under some difficulties, with no recess for lunch and members having to bob in and out to get something to eat as I did just prior to the opening of these estimates. Some members also have to leave for duty on committees that are still sitting. Then, too, with the very long hours we are sitting, members have to return to their offices to deal with correspondence.
I am sure, however, regardless of that, there is no one who does not consider that these are very important estimates which should receive very careful and considered attention by the committee. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if we all co-operate and work hard at these estimates we could give them substantial attention and get through by six o'clock tomorrow evening. I just make that as a suggestion, and appeal to all members to co-operate on that basis.
I am sure the introduction of these estimates always brings back memories to many of the old codgers amongst the veterans in the house, memories of common service and comradeship in previous wars. To all those who served in any of the wars in which the armed forces of Canada have participated this brings back memories; to some of Ypres, the Somme, Vimy; to others of D-day, Normandy, Italy and of other areas in the world and on the seas and Korea. I believe that the veterans amongst the members of this house, regardless of the party to which they belong, reflect that spirit of comradeship in their concern for the problems of veterans and their dependents. I am sure that members of the house get a common satisfaction out of
dealing with legislation that is for the benefit of veterans and their dependents, and all of us derive some happiness in dealing with the personal problems that are brought to our attention and then brought to the attention of the minister or the appropriate officials. I feel there is a particular satisfaction in doing something for the men who served this country, and their dependents.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I want to say that the members of this group appreciate the attention the minister gives to correspondence, to complaints and problems brought to his attention by members. He is very prompt in attending to them within the ambit of the law and regulations-I have had several experiences in this connection-does what he can to solve the problem or satisfy the complaint. I should like to express also the same note of appreciation of the deputy minister, the senior officials in Ottawa and the district officials throughout Canada, and also my appreciation to the members of the Canadian pension commission. I am sure some of them who are present will be fully conscious of the fact that I land my problems on their doorstep and say, "Now, it is up to you." I have found their assistance very helpful. These remarks apply also to the members of the war veterans allowance board and the staff in general throughout the country.
At this time, Mr. Chairman, I wrote, on behalf of this group, to mention the fact that Colonel Garneau, the chairman of the war veterans allowance board, has retired. He first became a member of the board in 1930, and has been its chairman since 1945. We appreciate the service he has rendered to the war veterans and their dependents in his position as a member of the war veterans allowance board and in his position as chairman of that board. On behalf of this group I wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.
I now want to say a few words about the standing committee on veterans affairs. I send the minutes of proceedings of the standing committee on veterans affairs to Legion branches, to the secretaries of ladies' auxiliaries and to other interested persons in my constituency and across Canada. They are read very closely by the secretaries of Legion branches, and various tidbits are brought to the attention of members at meetings. However, I find they are read even more closely by the members of the ladies' auxiliaries, who follow things up very carefully indeed, and by others. Some have made a point of picking out a number of matters in the minutes which have come to their notice between meetings; they are read to the meetings, and there are
various conversations and debates on the questions and sometimes they produce resolutions.
I often address ladies' auxiliaries. As a matter of fact I am rather fond of addressing the Legion ladies' auxiliaries. I now have a standard lecture that I give once a year. It is entitled "The Law With Respect to Veterans and the Men Behind the Scenes". They are always interested in the law and changes in the law and the regulations, and they are interested in knowing about the men behind the scenes. I have spent many an hour at meetings of ladies' auxiliaries describing the various officials, including the ministers and deputy ministers, parliamentary assistants- particularly in recent years-members of the Canadian pension commission and others. I should like to say this. In the language of modern advertising I have done my best to build up a glamorous image of the men behind the scenes, and I trust they will appreciate what I have done. After that I usually have an interesting question period. All this procedure adds to their knowledge of the legislation and their understanding of what the department and the officials are trying to do.
I must say that all the members of the committee were satisfied indeed with the work of the chairman. He was most fair in dealing with the problems that came before the steering committee and any problems that came before the committee itself. I was a member of the steering committee and I must say, and I do so willingly, that I found him to be most objective in dealing with the problems that come before the chairman of a committee such as the standing committee on veterans affairs.
I might say that in mentioning the various officers I forgot to mention the parliamentary secretary. I intended to say about the parliamentary secretary the same kind things that I said about the other persons during my brief remarks.
I am a great admirer of a group that comes to Ottawa once a year, namely the representatives of the Canadian non-pensioned veterans widows. Most of the members are admirers of this fine group. Four or five of them come here every year and put on a national show, as it were. They stay here for a few days and visit the minister, his parliamentary secretary and various officials. The previous parliamentary secretary took a great interest in the problems of widows. In replying to the letters they write I always say this: I advise you to write to the hon. member for Brandon, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, who I know
Supply-Veterans Affairs will be particularly delighted to deal with any problems that widows may bring to his attention.
The committee did very well this year in a detailed examination of the estimates, and I presume it will not be necessary for this committee to go into another detailed examination of the mechanics of the department today. I am sure hon. members will have questions that arise from problems in their constituency or from some lack of understanding of the administration of the department. However, there was a good examination of the estimates and we heard from the various senior officials, from the deputy minister down, as to the administration of the department in all sections of Canada and in all its aspects and phases. I have no hesitation in saying that the people of Canada have every right to be proud of the Department of Veterans Affairs as a department with a heart administering excellent legislation.
Before passing on I want to deal just briefly with the second report of the committee to the house, in which it was mentioned that representations and briefs were heard and received from the following organizations: Canadian non-pensioned veterans'
widows association; Canadian chiropractic association; war amputations of Canada-dominion council; Newfoundland overseas forestry association; Canadian war disability pensioners' association; Canadian corps association-dominion command; national council of veterans associations in Canada. I now quote one paragraph from this report. That paragraph reads as follows:
The value of the existence of a standing committee on veterans affairs was once again demonstrated by the continued interest shown by veterans' organizations in the submission of briefs, and the appearance before the committee of delegates who put forth their organizations' views . ..
The views of these organizations as expressed to the committee now form a part of the printed record, and your committee is confident that they will be of valuable assistance to the government in its review of policies affecting veterans legislation.
First of all, I say again that there is no question but that the Legion branches, veterans organizations, ladies auxiliaries and all those interested in veterans problems recognize the value of the standing committee on veterans affairs. I trust the government and the minister particularly will have read the representations made to the committee by the organizations I have mentioned, as we are confident they will be of valuable assistance in assessing the need for amendment of the legislation under the veterans charter.
The position of the C.C.F. party during the years has been this with respect to
Supply-Veterans Affairs veterans legislation. We have always been of the opinion that national veterans organizations in close contact with veterans problems are the ones that should best understand the needs of veterans and their dependents and the type of amendments best suited to meet that need. Therefore, in so far as legislation relating to the veterans charter is concerned, the C.C.F. has always taken the position that it supported the representations of the Legion, the national council of veterans and any other national veterans organization in Canada for improvements to the veterans charter and all legislation that comes under it.
Quite recently a convention of the Canadian Legion was held in Windsor. I believe it was the 35th convention. On occasion the minister has referred to Legion conventions as the veterans parliament, and it is recognized as such. It is a large gathering of representatives of Legion branches throughout Canada. I was able to attend the last convention for a couple of days. Keen disappointment was expressed, by the delegates and in resolutions, at the failure of the government to amend the Pension Act, particularly, and the War Veterans Allowance Act. Evidence of that disappointment was found in the resolutions adopted by the convention, where for the first time within my knowledge, in reading convention resolutions, the Legion instead of using the word "request" uses the word "demand". Following the preamble, the resolution of the Legion goes on to say this:
Be it resolved that this convention expresses its displeasure at the lack of action on the part of the government, and demands that the Canadian Pension Act be amended at the present session of parliament in accordance with Legion representations.
That is the first time in Canadian history to my knowledge, or in the history of the Legion, that the word "request" has been replaced by the word "demand". I am not going to deal at length with this question. We shall have something to say on the items as they come before the committee. We all know that the minister's heart is in the right place, and I am sure no one in this house was more disappointed than the minister when he found it was not possible to secure government agreement to an amendment of the Pension Act. I am sure he was disappointed at the check rein put on expenditures of this department by, no doubt, the treasury board and the Minister of Finance which prevented him from introducing amendments to the Pension Act which he believes are necessary.
The representations made by the organizations I have mentioned before the standing
committee on veterans affairs, and the resolutions passed at the national convention of the Canadian Legion which are included in the July issue of The Legionary clearly indicate that the Legion recognizes the need for certain amendments to veterans legislation, and I think this is also indicated by the conversations and correspondence I have had with a good many veterans and their dependants.
Before I conclude I want to put this important question into focus. The government of Canada is called upon to spend a great deal of money on behalf of many important sections of the Canadian people. It has spent very large sums of money in assisting a good number of other people, and rightly so. But we must not forget that a very great responsibility is owed to the veterans of Canada and their dependants, and in order to focus attention on their position in the Canadian scheme of things I wish to quote briefly from an address by Colonel C. P. Stacey, the official historian of the Canadian army, to a gathering of veterans some three or four years ago. I quote his remarks because what he has to say is not very generally known or appreciated in these days when there is an inclination to forget what these men have done on behalf of our country. He said this, in part:
I think most of them would be willing to admit that those who really won for Canada her new position in the commonwealth was the Canadian fighting man. The statesmen have simply consolidated the ground he took. It was the deeds of the old Canadian corps that put strength into Sir Robert Borden's arm that enabled him to insist on a new national status for this country, in the days of the Paris peace conference. It was the men who fought under Byng and Currie who set Canada's feet on the road that led to the statute of Westminster and future independence within the commonwealth.
Future generations of Canadians, if they read their history aright, will count these men among the founding fathers of this country.
In addition to that, in the light of recent events I would say that those who in the second world war served in Europe and other theatres of war, on the high seas and in the air, and more recently in Korea, and more recently still with the United Nations expeditionary force in the Middle East, have also made their contribution toward establishing Canada's place as a country of importance in the world, and also have laid the foundation for Canada's voice in international affairs being listened to with greater and greater respect at the United Nations and other organizations. I just mention these facts so that we all may realize the debt we owe these veterans and their dependants
on account of the services rendered in the armed forces of this country throughout the years.
When the minister was introducing his estimates he gave an interesting review of some of the work and developments of his department. I listened to this with interest because my ear is always attuned to catch that hint of the future, of things to come. Although I was disappointed and saddened by the recent failure of the government to respond to the representations of the Canadian Legion, I was somewhat heartened when I heard the minister say that he looked forward to a year of progress. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that this means the representations of the Canadian Legion and other veterans organizations are going to receive favourable consideration by this government at the coming session of parliament.
Before completing my remarks on this item I must also express the support of this group for the representations made on behalf of the Newfoundland forestry unit. We urge this government to recognize the members of this unit as veterans in every sense of the word and according to the terms of the veterans charter, even if it has to be slightly amended to do so. The Canadian Legion at its biennial convention in Windsor quite recently discussed this question thoroughly. A committee studied it, and finally a resolution was adopted entitling these men to membership in the Canadian Legion as veterans. I support wholeheartedly the representations of the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo on behalf of this forestry unit, and I trust that the government's decision will be influenced by the action of the Canadian Legion.
Mr. Chairman, that is all I have to say at this time. I want to bring up some other matters under particular items and deal in detail with some of the things I have lightly touched upon in my few remarks under this main item, but I again appeal to the committee to give close attention to the estimates of the minister so that we can conclude our consideration of them by 6 p.m. tomorrow evening.