June 24, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday last a
committee of the government met eight representatives of the so-called marchers at Regina. The spokesman was one Arthur H. Evans. The other seven admitted that they were not born in Canada. Evans was the only Canadian-born of the eight. He himself has a criminal record. He was apprehended in 1922 at Drumheller for gambling and was dismissed, as Arthur H. Evans. On January 16, 1923, at Drumheller, he was charged with forgery. His bail of $500 was estreated, the warrant having been issued at Calgary. In January 16, 1924, he was tried at Calgary for fraudulent conversion, which I may say under the criminal code is theft, and he was sentenced to three years in Saskatchewan penitentiary as Arthur H. Evans, No. 1042. On March 18, 1925, he was released on ticket of leave. On September 15, 1933, at Vernon, B.C., he was sentenced to one year in the provincial gaol.
The delegation made certain demands upon the government which I think beyond question it was realized were incapable of being granted by any government in whole at least. It was apparent from what Mr. Evans said that he represented what he called the Unity League and various other organizations the purpose of which was to destroy constituted authority. The government has given a very great deal of anxious thought to the situation that has thus been created. It is a
situation in which propaganda which is not confined to Canada is being carried on by well organized forces. The ends they have in mind are well known and they do not hesitate to express them, and their last threat was to call upon those whom they control to resist to the full any effort to maintain law and order.
The government realizes that a number of younger men of no evil disposition who have been taken from these camps and induced to believe that they were the victims of hardship and of wrong on the part of the government of the country have been misled. I endeavoured to point out to this delegation that the appeal to human sympathy is still very strong in a country such as this, and that these men more than any others knew that they were taking men who were inexperienced and young and exploiting them for the purpose of advancing their sinister purposes.
It is well perhaps for me to state to this house, in order that there may be no misapprehension, that the camps to which reference has been made have won the warm support and approval of those who have inspected them, including people well able to arrive at conclusions how single, homeless, unemployed men might be cared for, and some of the most distinguished social workers from other countries have expressed warm approval of the action that has been taken.
I endeavoured to explain to the delegation that these camps were in no sense regarded as permanent camps; that they were temporary institutions created to supply shelter, clothing and food to single homeless, unemployed men. They were not under discipline, and the only restraint imposed on them was that of good conduct. They were not compelled to work, but work was provided for them, and they were paid a very small sum, not as charity, but to enable them if they so desired to purchase small comforts. They received twenty cents per day. The amount paid in the province of Manitoba I think by the provincial authorities to tihe men in their camps is ten cents.
The Department of National Defence provided the administration-the administration of the commissariat and the supervision and the general administration connected with the maintenance of the camps. I myself have visited two of these camps unannounced, and I venture to say, as I said to the delegation on Saturday, that many, many Canadians who are living to-day on farms and others living in cities and towns are not nearly so well provided for as those who are living in these camps. Listening to the appeals made to them, the men left the
B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

camps. One of the representatives of the second group who admitted that his business was to agitate and to organize the forces of these men, and who had formerly been a resident of Glasgow, was a very well spoken man, and he had no hesitancy in stating what his purpose was.
We therefore made it quite clear that so far as the government was concerned it accepted its responsibility and that the challenge to organized society which these gentlemen had made would be met, and we asked as I now do that all good citizens in this country who believe in the maintenance of law and order shall use their influence and their power and their authority to that end.
The government is not unmindful of the difficulties that have arisen by reason of these men having moved as far east as they ' have. The eight who met me gave their residence as Vancouver but I take it that they meant that was the last place at which they had been. I think that was quite clear when they explained that they were not born in Canada and some of them had been here but a limited length of time. I endeavoured to explain to them what must be known to all the house, that to trespass upon railway property in large numbers, taking possession of cars and trains and moving eastward, endangered in t'he numbers that were gathered together not only human life, the carriage of the mails and the transportation of freight but the property of the railway companies. It was apparent that at the camp at Dundurn not far from Saskatoon, there had been a measurable amount -I shall endeavour to be very low in my estimation-of, shall I say comfort and satisfaction enjoyed by those who were at that camp. They had shown no disposition to leave the camp but when these agitators had finished with them they marched down and joined the others at Regina. Apparently word had been sent ahead to other men because a considerable number left other camps in Alberta, augmenting those from British Columbia by several hundreds. That being so, we explained to them as reasonably as we could that the challenge to government involved in that conduct would be met and that the organized forces to maintain society would endeavour to preserve law and public safety and human life and the property of the public utilities which I have mentioned.
The government also realizes that the numbers at Regina will have to be dealt with. I told the delegation that the men would be permitted to return to their camps assuming that that meant, as they understood, that the

agitators would neither want to go nor would go back to the camps. The government realized that something should be done in the way of making immediate provision for these men who were congregated at Regina. We suggested that we would establish under the auspices of Mr. Burgess, who represents the Department of Labour, a temporary camp at some point in the vicinity of Regina where the strike marchers may go if they so desire and where they will receive necessary food and shelter until their final destination is determined. Under the arrangement made by the Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Manion) and the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) with a committee of the strike leaders at Regina last week, the marchers will continue to be fed at the expense of the government until Wednesday forenoon of this week; after that, the marchers will be permitted to go into the temporary camp which will be established on Wednesday next, where food and shelter will be afforded. The government further desires that it be clearly known that consideration will be given to the wishes of the marchers who enter the temporary camp and who desire to return to the camps from whence they came or to other camps of a similar kind in western Canada. The cases of individuals who have homes to which they may go in other parts of Canada will be considered on the basis of assistance in transportation to enable them to reach their homes.
I desire to make known in the clearest terms I am capable of uttering that this movement in Canada is neither national nor continental, it is international. I regret to make that statement. I should like to quote a cable which I received from Paris, as follows:
We sharply protest police terror against striking seamen dockers in Vancouver.
Demand withdrawal police from strike area and assurance of right to strike.
International of Seamen and Harbourworkers.
The hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Mackenzie) is familiar with the conditions which exist in that city and the mayor of Vancouver has declared the purposes of those in charge of this breach of the law. I was somewhat surprised to receive that cable from Paris but in view of what has happened in other parts of this continent in connection with these matters I do not know that I should have been surprised.
I desire to inform this House of Commons and I hope the country, that the government is fully seized of the seriousness of the situation and it believes as firmly as it is possible to believe that the present movement of these

Supply Bill
marchers upon Ottawa in defiance of the law is in reality an organized effort on the part of the various communists organizations throughout Canada to effect the overthrow of constituted authority in defiance of the laws of the land. The government is determined to maintain law and order by all the means within its power and calls upon all law abiding citizens to assist to that end. Definite instructions have been given to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Regina to assist the officials of both railways in preventing further trespasses upon railway property or upon railway trains and the marchers have been notified that they will not be permitted to continue their eastward journey by the unlawful use of railway transportation.

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