May 12, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)

LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray

Liberal

Mr. GRAY:

We have listened to-day to a report of the progress of the air force under the Minister of National Defence for Air. At the close of his remarks he made an appeal for unity in this country. May I say to him as an old soldier, and speaking I believe for most of us in this chamber, that no matter where we march or where we bivouac we shall find that, under the Minister of National Defence for Air, we shall go forward in the great effort which he is making in furtherance of this project. To-day he has given us concrete evidence of what has been accomplished, beginning as it did in a very small way. To-day, as he has stated, we are on the eve of a conference of the united nations. Under his leadership this enterprise, so soundly based, the British commonwealth air training plan, is certain to develop rapidly and with increasing success.
I have only one or two remarks to add to what has already been said. I wish particularly to refer to the system of air cadet training, which has developed from one of the minister's own policies. Looking at it from the viewpoint of my own province and as I have observed it elsewhere, I feel that, once established by the department, it has been left rather in the position of an orphan. We have been loath to give these organizations the blessing of the department while we have been willing to say to them, "You go out and do it." If we are prepared to accept the air cadets in Canada, as I am sure we are from the minister's remarks and from what has been said; if we are prepared to have them established, then we should establish air cadets as part and parcel of the air scheme of the dominion. We should assist them and give them the support that is necessary and not put them on the basis of some service plan, as has been done. I believe that if the minister will look into the matter he will find that the air cadets proposal, supported by himself and promulgated

War Appropriation-Air Services
by his department, has not been given the support by the government that it should have received. If the air cadets are to be part and parcel of the air force, let us make them so. Do not let us have any half measures whereby we make them cadets for one purpose and not for another. The Minister of National Defence for Air will be the first to admit that they should be made part and parcel of the air force.
The other matter I have to urge is in connection with the air crew, to which the minister has referred. I have watched, as I have no doubt other members have watched, the graduation of air crews from various schools throughout the country. I am told that ninety schools have been established, and day after day we see men walking our streets, pilots, gunners, and observers and other members of the crews to whom the minister has referred. I want to make a plea as a man who served as an ordinary private soldier in the last war, and it is this, that these men who are worthy of wearing wings, whether they be pilots, observers, gunners or whatever they may be, should be commissioned in the air force and should not be put into the ranks as sergeant observers, sergeant pilots, or sergeant gunners, as the case may be. I urge that they be given equal rank and that they be not classed on the basis of 50 per cent of this particular class or that particular class. Those of us who have gone through schools will know that in one particular class there may be 90 per cent who may be worthy of a commission, whereas in some other class there may be only 40 per cent or 30 per cent. It is my opinion that so long as you leave it to the officers commanding the various schools there will be discrepancies that should not exist. If a man is capable of graduating from a school and worthy of his wings, whether he be pilot, observer or gunner, then he is worthy of being commissioned in his majesty's service. I urge upon the minister that this discrepancy be abolished, because I know it must have given him more than one headache. Take two buddies graduating from an air force school about to leave the country. They are on their last leave, arranging to meet at a certain port to go overseas, arranging to occupy the same quarters on the same transport. One receives word while he is at home that he has been commissioned, the other receives no such news and will go over as a sergeant pilot. You cannot expect absolute team-work under those conditions. I know the minister will agree with me that in this great service, the air force, the important thing is team-work, and you cannot get it unless you ensure that two men who are going forth in the same service shall
be in the same rank if they are doing the same job. When they graduate from a particular school they should be on the same level. It is not fair or worthy that some commanding officer should be allowed to say to one, "You shall be a commissioned pilot", and to another "You shall be a sergeant pilot". [DOT]
I urge that this question be given careful consideration at the forthcoming conference of the united nations-the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the other countries who will meet here. They will recognize the lead that Canada has given, and I hope that out of that conference there will emerge the principle of equality with regard to the men who graduate from our schools, whether they be pilots, gunners, observers, or whatever they may be. So long as they are worthy of going into the air and operating planes they should be put on an equality. We see men walking around the streets to-day and we know that this equality does not exist. This has been a source of trouble to the minister, I am sure; it has been one of the headaches from which he has suffered. I say to him that instead of cutting down 50 per cent, or 30 per cent or 20 per cent of the graduates of a class, every man who is worthy to wear the wings should be a commissioned officer in his majesty's services.

Topic:   R.C.A.F.
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