April 28, 1941 (19th Parliament, 2nd Session)


James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)


Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, I know that what my hon. friend has said is not debatable. I intended at some time to say a few words regarding it-I think it was the last subject I discussed before the house adjourned. But since my hon. friend has said what-he has, perhaps I might be permitted to remove at least some misapprehension which he seems to have regarding the situation and regarding the matter of recruiting and man-power.
Let me say to him and to the house that in this matter of man-power we have at the present time practically 70,000 men outside of Canada and in Canada about 118,000 for overseas service. And those were from voluntary enlistments, aggregating almost 200,000 men.
My hon. friend mentioned a recruiting campaign. He will realize that as yet in Canada during this war there never has been put on a recruiting compaign, so-called. Last July I spoke to the people of Canada and told them that we needed 40,000 men, and the 40,000 men came forward within two months without any recruiting campaign of any kind. From time to time quotas were asked for to supply wastage, and I think up to October or November those quotas were supplied. But we stopped asking for men in any large numbers, and I know my hon. friend and some other hon. gentlemen in this house felt that it was a mistake to do so. We stopped asking for large numbers of men because-this is a matter of public knowledge now, I think, so that there is no reason for not mentioning it-there were not ships to take men overseas, and also because there were practically no war casualties. We did not start asking for men in any large numbers until, I think, February. At that time we sent out a quota to the districts, a comparatively small quota in order to take care of wastage-that is to say, men who had been discharged for medical reasons or because they were not regarded as likely to make efficient soldiers.
Parallel with the recruiting of those reinforcements, however, there was the filling up of new units. Units were gradually being built up in order to fulfil the commitments that we had made when I was overseas; that is, the commitment with regard to the third division, the commitment with regard to the army tank brigade, the commitment with regard to the fourth division, and the commitment with regard to the armoured division. Those units were gradually built up. There was very little difficulty about that, because
the units were built up by the system of mobilizing the militia units. It is true that not one hundred per cent of the personnel in the militia units volunteered for overseas service, but generally speaking the units were filled up fairly quickly. So that on the one hand the quota was being gone on with for the purpose of reinforcements, and on the other hand the filling up of these units was being gone on with by means of the reserve units. The February quota was nearly filled,
I think, but the March quota was not filled; as a matter of fact that quota was increased somewhat. There seemed to be some tightness in the matter of recruiting, and we indicated to the reserve units that we thought those units in the various districts ought to regard as their first responsibility the provision of reinforcements for overseas service. Then the situation arose to which my hon. friend has referred.
I do not know to what particular reserve unit the man belonged to whom he was speaking, but it was reported to us by the reserve units that they found difficulty in getting their men to volunteer for overseas service. Why? Not because of the fact that there was not compulsory mobilization for overseas service, but because of the fact that the men who had enlisted in the reserve units generally speaking were of the type who could not immediately go overseas, who were not medically fit to go overseas', who had enlisted for the purpose of being ready to do their bit in case of an emergency, occupying a place somewhat similar to that occupied by the home guard in England; or they were business men who had certain responsibilities in connection with their work and who felt that the time had not come for them to go. That is to say, they were not the rank and file of ordinary young men in these reserve units; many of their men regarded themselves as more or less fulfilling the role taken in England by the home guard. That is by no means true in all cases; some very striking instances of reserve units supplying reinforcements come to my mind, which I need not mention this afternoon. Generally speaking, however, that was the attitude; and' in an endeavour to meet their obligation the reserve units were going onto the streets and asking men directly to come in and enlist, that is, men who had not been members of the reserve units at all. The result was that we found these quotas were not being completely filled.
I think I indicated to the house that there was a shortage in the March quota, but it must be remembered that this quota was primarily for the purpose of providing the normal requirements in regard to reinforcements from the point of view of wastage'.
Hyde Park Declaration

But something else occurred to increase the *quota, as I explained to the house before the adjournment. That something else was this: our units overseas, and particularly the artillery units, the signal units, the army service 'Corps units and the ordnance units, to mention four-not the infantry-had their establishment changed. That is to say, it was thought that larger numbers should be on the establishment of these units. The British had changed their establishment, and the result was that the Canadian war establishment was [DOT]changed similarly, which meant that men in the holding units in England, maintained for the purpose of reinforcements, were used to Build up these establishments. Remember, Mr. :Speaker, that right along we have had overseas in the holding units three months' reinforcements for these various units, and in 'Canada we have had a certain proportion of reinforcements as well, a certain percentage having regard to each arm of the service, that percentage being higher in regard to one arm than in regard to another because the casualties are likely to be higher. Men were taken from these holding units in order to increase the establishment, which meant that the monthly quota became larger. The March quota was not completely filled, and the deficiency in that monthly quota had to be added to the next monthly quota, which meant that this was increased to that extent, plus the increase which came about because of the fact that we had to provide other men to take the places of those who had been taken from the holding units.
There was no recruiting campaign of any kind; this recruiting was being done through the districts, but even at that fifty per cent more men, in numbers, were enlisted in the March quota, the one which was being filled when the house adjourned, than were enlisted >in -the first quota. The deficiency was due to the fact that the quota itself had been Increased, though more men actually enlisted *voluntarily for the third quota than for the first one.

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