I have no desire to
delay these estimates, Mr. Chairman, but to a certain extent I must endorse what the hon. member for Kingston City has said as to the unrest among the returned men and what they think of the treatment they have received in the past. I have been fortunate enough to have been on every pension committee appointed since the war, I think, and we have always done the best we could, but sometimes, as the hon. member has pointed out, the best does not seem to be any too good.
In the early days following the war pensions were very readily granted and the greatest trouble of hon. members of the house was that it was thrown up to them that 'George Jones and Dick Smith had pensions which they did not deserve. That was the main complaint in those days. As time passed and the memories of the war faded, however, the contrary became the case. For many years we had at the head of the pensions board a man who was almost universally disliked by the returned soldiers. He was a gentleman of whose personal integrity I have nothing to say; undoubtedly he was an honourable gentleman, but he was said to stand so upright that he was in danger of falling over and injuring the back of his neck. He does not occupy that position now.
Another complaint has been voiced by the hon. member for Kingston City, and it has been a prominent complaint on the part of returned men's organizations for some years. It is that our chief medical officer was not likely to change his opinion in favour of an applicant for pension. I feel as my hon. friend feels that the appointment of the chief medical officer as a member of the commission perhaps was not a very wise move. We all know that cases have arisen from time to time in which the decisions of the board have been entirely contrary to the purpose of the act. Section 11 of the Pension Act distinctly states that a man who went to France apparently physically fit and who saw
service in an active theatre of war should have no charge made against him with regard to his eligibility for pension. That is to say, any disease that he might have had before enlistment should not couint against him unless-and I think the hon. member for Kingston City forgot this exception-it was a case of misrepresentation or deliberate fraud. I have known men who went overseas after passing not one but perhaps two or three examinations in Canada; they passed further examinations in England and did their duty in France, and yet because a man had measles when he was only two years old he is stated to be ineligible for pension, or if in fact he is getting a pension it is reduced. One instance in particular appealed to me. I have in mind a man whom I know well and who at1 present is totally blind. He saw service in France, and has been in hospitals in Canada. He applied for a pension. The statement was made that he responded to a Wassermann test-hon. members know what that means-and that his disability was a result of venereal disease. He has taken an affidavit that he never had any disease of that kind, nor did his people so far as he knows. I believe the man is honest. He was told that if he said he had the disease he would receive a pension for aggravation, but when he says he has not he cannot get the pension. I believe there are many cases similar to the one I have described which should have the sympathetic consideration of the commission. Perhaps in this house and throughout the country there is an element who think enough has been done for the returned soldier, but I am quite sure they form only a negligible portion of our population. I believe the people desire that every returned man who is eligible for pension shall have at least that compensation to which by law he is justly entitled.