July 3, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Chairman, as sponsor of the resolution urging that action be taken at this session to grant pensions to the blind, I am very sorry indeed that the government has not seen fit to take action this session to give these much needed pensions to the blind people of this country. That resolution stood on the order paper during the session of 1934 and was never reached or discussed at that session. The resolution again stood on the order paper all during this session. Various opportunities to discuss this matter have presented themselves and the blind people were led more or less to believe that some action would be taken at this session. Pensions for the blind are being paid in practically every civilized country and all countries in the British empire pay pensions to the blind or provide other goverment assistance. When this resolution was introduced there was no opposition from any quarter of the house and the press of the country was unanimous in its support of the proposal. As far as my information goes there was not a single editorial unfavourable to pensions for the blind.
We have about 8,000 blind people in Canada and had this resolution been adopted and a bill enacted it would have involved an expenditure by this government for the coming year of about $125,000 to $135,000. The total expenditure in the country would have been between $500,000 and $600,000. I contrast this with what has taken place in the United States during the recent session of congress. A federal bill was brought down which will involve an expenditure of about $3,000,000 in providing assistance to the blind. Some 25 or 30 states have blind legislation at the present time and where there is such legislation the federal government proposes to increase the pensions paid to the extent of $15 per month. Where no pensions are being paid the government will provide $15 per month towards the assistance of the blind and the maintenance of blind institutes. In the state of Massachusetts alone there are about 4.500 blind people receiving about $750,000 per annum in pensions. During the last twelve years this govcrnmnet has granted in aid of our 8,000 blind people about $158,000. I think it is a sad commentary upon the people of this country that they have been able to

assist the blind during the last twelve years only to the extent of $158,000. The provinces have contributed something in the neighbourhood of $100,000 to blind institutes. The supplementary estimates contain some large votes for different purposes. During the last five years this government has voted as federal assistance to the unemployed something like $160,000,000. This money was granted to people who have their sight, who have their hands and feet and are able to help themselves and yet we do not seem to be able to find half a million dollars to take care of blind people between the ages of 40 and 70 years. It is a sad commentary upon this House of Commons that we have seen fit to allow this resolution to remain upon the order paper during the session and then at the last moment decide that no action can be taken and that the matter must be shelved until some future date. The 'blind have suffered a great deal and they are considerably disappointed that something has not been done at this session.

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