February 14, 1962

LIB

Chesley William Carter

Liberal

Mr. Carter:

It would have been very surprising to me if they had, after 15 years. People do not change their habit of working overnight and again, I say, there is nothing surprising about that. That is certainly one 26207-1-55i

Civilian War Pensions

argument. I want to reply to the hon. member's question. He questioned my reply to the hon. member for Okanagan Boundary (Mr. Pugh) when I said that was the first knowledge I had. The first knowledge I had of any concerted action was around 1958. During my first session in parliament my constituents did not write to me about veterans problems. The main things they wrote to me about were provincial matters, breakwaters, wharves, and things like that. They had to get used to having elected representatives. They could not all become mainland Canadians overnight.

What I have just said applies to the population generally, but here we are speaking about a special group of veterans who did not have any knowledge of this veterans charter. It took them years and years to find out what their rights were. They did not know. The authorities got in touch with them and they accepted without question whatever decisions were handed down. It was only when I began making my own analysis on the basis of the questions which had come to my attention that I began to discover the evidence. Thus, the answer to the hon. member's question as to why we did not initiate action on our own part is that it certainly did not occur to me that the terms of union were not being carried out, in particular the provision which said that Newfoundland veterans would be treated in exactly the same way as if they had served in the Canadian forces. It took me years before I could bring myself to believe that this was not being done. These are all good reasons, and the hon. member for St. John's East (Mr. McGrath) should know these reasons. Certainly, he should be the last one in this house to be surprised.

Before I sit down I want to refer briefly to the merchant seamen, the men who are also classified here as civilians. Clause 75(1) (a) states:

For the purposes of this part "civilian" means a person who

(i) served at sea in a ship of Canadian or Newfoundland registry during world war I or world war II for a period of six months-

I do not intend to repeat what I said on previous occasions about the services of the merchant marine. All I want to put on record is one case in order to show what this legislation is doing. I know of a merchant seaman who served with such devotion to duty that he was awarded the 1939-45 defence medal, the 1939-45 war medal, the 1939-45 Atlantic star, the 1939 star, the 1939-45 Italian star and the France and Germany star. He had six medals; yet we bring out a bill which says to that man, and to men like him: You are not a veteran, you are

Civilian War Pensions

a civilian. That is why I object to the method which is being followed. We are making these men eligible for war veterans allowances-the same allowances which are available to other veterans under the War Veterans' Allowance Act. It seems to me we could achieve our object much more simply by extending the definition of the word "veteran" in the War Veterans' Allowance Act rather than by this roundabout way of bringing in an addition to the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act.

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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West):

I rise to express the support of this group for the principle and purpose of this bill. From my point of view, the principle of this bill is to make provision for certain persons who served during the war to receive the benefits of the War Veterans Allowance Act.

I quite agree with the argument put forward by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo (Mr. Carter). Throughout the years I have always been of the opinion, together with several other members of the committee, that the firefighters, the merchant seamen and the Newfoundland foresters-since I have heard about their case and heard their representations-should be considered as veterans. However, that is a matter which can be dealt with when we come to the clause in question.

We are very pleased indeed to see these persons receive the benefits of the War Veterans Allowance Act. There was a general and somewhat lengthy discussion on the resolution stage so I do not intend to say anything further at this time. Any additional remarks I may wish to make will be in the nature of questions when the bill is before us for detailed consideration.

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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. A. McGrath (St. John's East):

I also wish to rise and support the principle of the bill and to say, as I did the other night on the resolution stage, that in my opinion the surviving veterans of the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit will receive this measure with general acceptance.

Having said that, notwithstanding what had been said in this house this afternoon by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo, I think it would be appropriate at this time to place on the record certain excerpts from the report of the standing committee on veterans affairs dated March 31, 1960 to which the hon. member referred, I believe. I think this is apropos the discussion because this report states-again, notwithstanding what the hon. member said to the contrary -that repeated representations were made to the government of Canada subsequent to

union in 1949 and up to the presentation of the brief before the standing committee in 1960.

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LIB

Chesley William Carter

Liberal

Mr. Carter:

Is the hon. member suggesting I had knowledge of those representations?

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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

No. I am not questioning the validity of what the hon. member has said. He has said he had no knowledge of them and I accept that as a true statement. Nevertheless, the record speaks for itself in this regard and I intend to show where the record is not in accordance with the views of the hon. member who just resumed his seat. The witness whose statements are reported on page 105 of the report is Mr. Curran who was the president of the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit association. This is the association of the veterans of this unit in Newfoundland today-the association which presented the brief to the committee. Replying to a question asked by the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge), Mr. Curran said:

Well, sir, we were dealing until the present P.C, administration came into power with the veterans affairs branch. We were not getting very far.

The report goes on:

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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

Whom were you dealing with?

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

I cannot say offhand. I think we had correspondence with the minister and the deputy minister.

Again, as reported on page 109, the record shows the following exchanges. Mr. Curran is replying to a question asked by the hon. member for Brandon-Souris (Mr. Dinsdale).

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PC

Walter Gilbert Dinsdale (Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

Mr. Chairman, I am interested in the progress of this brief. When was it first presented to anyone?

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

It was prepared to be presented in 1952 or 1953.

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PC

Walter Gilbert Dinsdale (Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

Presented to whom?

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

I cannot say. You will have to ask our solicitor. He came up to Ottawa, he went to the Department of Veterans Affairs, I believe, and he did not get very far there so he packed up and came back home.

That was in 1952 or 1953.

Even at that time the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo was a member of this house, a supporter of the government of the day. If I am not mistaken, at that time the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate was the representative of Newfoundland in the cabinet, and I believe secretary of state. The hon. member for Grand Falls-White Bay-Labrador (Mr. Granger) was there at that time serving as executive assistant to the minister from Newfoundland.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. gentleman wishes the record to be straight. I was only elected to parliament in August of 1953 and I was not in parliament

for the greater part of the year 1953, although the hon. member for St. John's West was.

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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is clearly out of order. He was caught short. I believe he should remain seated until I have concluded my remarks.

If I may continue I would draw the attention of the house to page 113 of the report of the standing committee on veterans affairs of March 31, 1960 where there is recorded an exchange between Mr. Curran and the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo:

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LIB

Chesley William Carter

Liberal

Mr. Carter:

When you started to come before this committee you had to start to document the statements in order to back up the evidence.

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

We tried in 1949, 1950 and 1951, I believe, and got nowhere. We did not even get to first base. Then we had a change of government in 1957 so we made an approach again. We have no large amount of funds and we could not keep on pushing all the time. When we had the change of government, let us say we got to first base.

With respect to further evidence, I can only refer to the fact that these letters exist, because at the time of the presentation of the brief the premier of Newfoundland, one of the parties concerned, withheld his permission to the tabling of the correspondence. The existence of the correspondence and the dateline of the letter are, I believe, of significance to my argument. The letter is headed: Province of Newfoundland, office of the premier, July 3, 1950. It is addressed to the then minister of veterans affairs, Milton Gregg, and deals with the subject of recognition for the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit under existing legislation. In his letter the premier indicated that he was sending copies to the then prime minister and the Hon. Gordon Bradley who was the predecessor of my friend the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate. At that time Mr. Bradley was secretary of state and the representative of Newfoundland in the federal cabinet.

On the record there is also a copy of Mr. Gregg's reply which unfortunately could not be appended to the evidence because permission was not forthcoming from the premier to have the correspondence tabled. Again, however, the existence of the correspondence and the date are of significance. The communication is dated July 3, 1950.

Over the years there have been repeated representations made on behalf of these veterans to receive some form of recognition under a government which between the years 1953 and 1957 enjoyed the support of all the constituencies in Newfoundland. In that period the seven Newfoundland federal constituencies returned Liberal members. Notwithstanding this fact the pleas of this group fell on deaf ears.

Civilian War Pensions

Now that this government is showing such great interest in making provision for this worth-while group of Canadian citizens under the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act my hon. friends opposite from Newfoundland constituencies rise in this house and say the government is not going far enough. Calculating it rapidly, they are approximately 13 years late. However, the reason for their present behaviour is apparent. There are over 3,000 Newfoundland foresters resident in the constituencies of the hon. gentlemen to whom I have referred. When you include their dependants there is a substantial bloc of votes, at least 10,000, in the constituencies of Bonavista-Twillingate, Burin-Burgeo, Grand Falls-White Bay-Labrador, Trinity-Conception and Humber-St. George's. One really cannot blame hon. gentlemen opposite for their present attempt to jump on the bandwagon. However, the fact remains that again they are too late. They sat on the government side of the house for eight years and did nothing on behalf of this group. Now they are attempting to cash in on the constructive action taken by this government and the present minister.

I believe that the president of the association of the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit will take a dim view of the fact that the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo has tried to divide the house on this issue. It is evident the hon. member is going to introduce an amendment with respect to recognition of the status of this group as veterans when we reach committee stage. What does the association have to say about this matter? Nothing was said about this by the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo, and for very good reason. At page 98 of the minutes of proceedings and evidence of the standing committee on veterans affairs of March 31, 1960 is set out the brief of the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit. I quote from the preamble to the brief:

We submit with all sincerity and without fear of serious or conscientious contradiction that had there been a Canadian counterpart of the Newfoundland overseas forestry unit-that is, had the Canadian forestry corps not been in uniform- the necessary provisions would have been inserted in the veterans charter-

The next part is significant:

-or the Canadian Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act and/or they would have been covered by the Special Operators War Service Benefits Act.

That is exactly what this government has done. In accordance with the request of the association this deserving group of Canadian citizens has been included under the provisions of the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act.

Civilian War Pensions

At page 107 of the report of the standing committee the following exchange is reported as having taken place between Mr. Curran and my friend the hon. member for Pictou (Mr. MacEwan):

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PC

Howard Russell MacEwan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacEwan:

Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask Mr. Curran, I understand from the first page of your brief that your association believes that there is sufficient legislation on the books of the federal government in Canada today to cover you?

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

If the necessary amendments could be made to include us.

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PC

Howard Russell MacEwan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacEwan:

These different acts you have detailed-the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act, the Special Operators War Service Benefits Act and so on. Do you think they could be made applicable to you?

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?

George Matheson Murray

Mr. Curran:

I think so, sir. As we said in the brief, at the time the various veterans acts were formed here in Canada, there was no thought, I hope, of including Newfoundland because Newfoundland was not in confederation at that time.

The point I make here is that again Mr. Curran has referred to the fact that they would be perfectly satisfied to have recognition of their services included in the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act.

For the reasons I have outlined, I think it would be very prudent on the part of the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo not to pursue this matter further. I have indicated beyond any doubt that it is perfectly acceptable to the surviving veterans of the forestry unit. It is becoming increasingly evident that my hon. friend is trying in a narrow and partisan way to interject into this debate a division which I sincerely hope will not take place with respect to this important measure. I can only conclude that the reason my hon. friend, the learned member for Burin-Burgeo, is injecting this partisan note at this time and is trying to split hairs is that he realizes that for eight years they missed the boat and they are now trying to get on board.

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Is the house ready for the question? I must inform the house that if the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

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February 14, 1962