April 15, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Andrew Thorburn Thompson


Mr. ANDREW THORBURN THOMPSON (Haldimand and Monck).

Mr. Speaker, on some future occasion I propose to deal with matters of general interest to the militia of Canada at some length, but to-day I shall be very brief indeed in my remarks in reference to the subject which is now under the notice of the House. I have listened with a great deal of interest to the instructive remarks of the hon. member for Victoria, B.C. (Hon. Mr. Prior). I am sure that his speech embalmed in ' Hansard '-if I may use that expression-will be one to which we may refer on future occasions as to a mine of valuable information. To my mind, the question is : will a retiring allowance
for the permanent force be in the best interests of the people of Canada ? To that question I give the most emphatic affirmative. It is now beyond dispute that we must have in Canada a militia ; and if we must have a militia, it should be an efficient one. The permanent force is a part of the active militia of Canada ; but the reason of its existence is not that it may serve as a garrison, because it is in numbers altogether inadequate to do so, but that it may be a training force for the rest of our active militia. I think I am within the mark when I say that no body of public servants has exerted itself more to the public advantage of this country than the permanent force. The officers of that body since its creation, have devoted themselves with untiring energy to the promotion of the efficiency of the force which they have had to instruct. I remember when the permanent force was first organized ; and I have been in the militia long enough to have seen the immense improvement which their work has brought about in the militia of the country. Only ten or twelve years ago, when I first went into camp at Niagara, I remember that almost every corps had to borrow an instructor from the per-mament force ; but to-day, if you go to that camp and pass from corps to corps, you will find in each one the officers and non-commissioned officers doing the work which formerly they had to employ others to do. That in itself is no small advantage to the country. In what respect does the permanent force differ from the civil service of Canada ? There is a marked difference. Owing to the possibility of war at any time, these men must be sound both in body and in mind, and consequently there is an age limit set to their service ; and when an officer reaches that age, it matters not how able he may be to perform his task, he must retire. In the civil service no such rule exists. and there is not the same reason for it. The result is that many men still, comparatively speaking, in their prime are cast

out of the force and left to do for themselves at an age when they are not fitted for other permanent employment. In many cases men who have been officers high in rank have been compelled to become messengers or to accept other positions of menial employment in which they are paid only from $1 to $1.50 per day, to keep themselves from actual starvation. While they are in the service we pay them enough to keep body and soul loosely together under a gay uniform, but not sufficient to enable them to provide for themselves after they retire and when they have to depend on their own resources. In asking for a retiring allowance for the permanent force our first care is not that force; it is the whole active militia. If we are to have a good active militia, we must 'iave good instructors for it ; and if we are to have good instructors in this com mercial age, we must hold out financial inducements sufficient to get men equal to the task. While in times past we have had most excellent men giving their services as permanent instructors, in the time to come, ir we have many more such examples as those I have given, of men being thrown out in their old age to get along as best they can, it will be an utter impossibility to secure good men for the permanent force of the country. Therefore, in these few words I wish to put myself on record as most strongly supporting the proposal of a retiring allowance for the permanent force of Canada.

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