May 23, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


Agar Rodney Adamson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. R. ADAMSON (York West):

Mr. Speaker, it is with great misgivings that I rise in the house for the first time, not only because of my very obvious shortcomings, but because I feel that this is an hour the seriousness of which requires action, not words. It is only because what I have to say to-night will in my view be of some assistance to the government in its very heavy task that I rise in my place and take up the time of this honourable house.
During the course of the debate on the motion it was apparent to me that each member of the government who spoke took great care to stress the fact that the government was not conducting a limited liability war. They took very great care to leave that impression, and each one of them used the word "complacency". The government "doth protest too much, methinks".
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to reopen the old sores of the campaign or to expect an explanation of many of the statements which were made at that time but which to this date have not been satisfactorily explained. However, since I have been sitting in the house, two points have been raised by my leader, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson), which have not yet been satisfactorily answered by the government. I refer first to the suggestion made by my leader that some drastic alterations of plans were
made on those three crucial days, September 3, 4 and 5. Hon. members must realize that we had and still have a very capable general staff, and I think it will be agreed that it was inconceivable that the general staff did not have some plan, some mobilization order or some scheme prepared, the orders and blue prints of which were in operation or in existence, to be used in the event of hostilities breaking out.
As I am informed, this plan called for the immediate concentration of four divisions: one at Camp Borden, one at Yalcartier, one at Sarcee, one elsewhere, and a very considerable concentration of artillery and ancillary troops at Petawawa. On September 3 the royal engineers in Toronto immediately began the purchase of large amounts of equipment, lumber and other supplies for huts and other buildings to be erected at Camp Borden. Work was carried on through the night of September 3, a Sunday, and again on the following Monday. On the Monday afternoon, that day being Labour day, a drastic change was ordered by Ottawa. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment had been ordered and sent to its destination, but nothing more was done. That equipment lay at Camp Borden for several months. The 300 carpenters who had been hired went up to Camp Borden, but were discharged shortly afterwards. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) will have to show why that plan was altered. Otherwise, the militia department must have been working under an entirely erroneous conception for those three days. I happen to have seen the material so I know of what I speak.
The present leader of the opposition brought up the matter of faulty gas masks and his statement was absolutely and categorically denied by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Rogers). As a member of this house I naturally took his word to be true, but quite by accident I happened to meet a friend of mine who had soldiered with me. In the course of a casual conversation he asked me if I had heard about the 90,000 gas masks which had to be got rid of, and I said, "No." He told me that they had had to be sent back to the manufacturer because they were not suitable for the new type of gas which had been perfected. I questioned him further about this because he had no possible opportunity of seeing Hansard. I contend that his is a statement which will require an answer from the Minister of National Defence.
I have some knowledge of chemical warfare and I understand that this new gas is one of the hydrocarbons, similar to carbon monoxide

War Appropriation-Mr. Adamson
As hon. members who have worn gas masks will know, the hydrocarbons are not filterable by an ordinary respirator. Carbon monoxide has not been used because it dissipates rapidly into the air, but apparently this new gas has been perfected. This is a matter of grave importance, and I think the Minister of National Defence should tell us whether the situation has been satisfactorily cleared up. Perhaps hon. members will be interested to know something of the pathology of these two types of gases. I should like to quote Doctor Axel Hdser, the famous Swedish expert on Experimental Pathology:
Certain poison gases specifically attack the terminal organs-
That is the nerve ganglia. He continues:
The action of phosgene on the finest ramifications of the pneumo-gastric nerves which surround the alveoli is somewhat different. The patient himself is not aware of it. By the action of the gas on the nerve extremities the walls of the alveoli, which separate the capillary vessels from the air cells, become porous and the blood serum begins to filter into the alveoli, till air can no longer penetrate to provide the red corpuscles with their oxygen.
And further:
Asphyxiating gases cause loss of oxygen by preventing the entry of air into the blood. Other gases produce the same effect differently; carbon monoxide, for instance, attacks the red corpuscles and combines with haemoglobin so as to prevent its ordinary function of absorbing oxygen and carrying it into all the organs. The patient then succumbs to internal asphyxia, the lungs remaining full of oxygen but the blood being badly provided with it. Carbon monoxide, however, owing to its low density, is only employed in special circumstances as a war gas.
As I understand it, the improvement in this hydrocarbon gas is such that new respirator filters must be employed. I should like the Minister of National Defence to clear this matter up.

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