I was especially
interested in the ministers department, the Royal Canadian Air Force. For four years before coming to this house I watched each spring the very cream of our graduating class of the school from which I come joining the air force. That school has now one thousand of its graduates in the forces. By far the majority of them are in the air force; and as I hear from a considerable number of those boys from time to time, I am particularly delighted with the statements made by the minister this afternoon. I join with others in congratulating him upon the force which he has succeeded in building up and in the contribution which that force has made to the cause of democracy.
The minister is asking in these estimates for something more than one billion dollars for the air force. I am confident there is no hon. member who will criticize that expenditure on behalf of that force, particularly ' that part of the estimates pertaining to pay and allowances, to personnel supplies, or any other provision which touches the lives of the
men and women in the force. As a matter of fact, I am sure the committee would be prepared to increase that amount had the minister asked for more and the country would support us in voting a still larger amount than that for which the minister asked. Had the minister asked for an additional amount to reduce the transportation costs of travelling expenses of the men going to and from leave, as hon. members have already suggested, I am confident that the money would have been voted. Had he chosen to increase the amount in order that the leave granted might be exclusive of the days occupied in travelling to and from home, I am confident we would have voted that amount. Had he chosen to provide in these estimates money which would permit those of the groundcrews serving in England and overseas and others to be given leave of absence to visit their homes after absence from home for years, that, too, would have been forthcoming.
I should like to refer for a moment to what the minister had to say regarding the question of rehabilitation. He very properly called attention to the difficulty which would arise and the problems which would have to be confronted after the war, particularly if those boys were to be kept in uniform and in barracks and given continued drill and training after they returned from the war. That may be true, but I wish to emphasize the fact that, regardless of when these men may be discharged, there should be no period between the time of their return and the time of their rehabilitation in civil life when they should receive less than they are now receiving in pay and allowances. I am quite confident that this country does not expect those men who have served so valiantly to spend a long interval between the time of their return to Canada and the time of their rehabilitation on a mere pittance or on any pay less than that which they are receiving for pay and allowance while in the service.
I' was pleased to hear the reference of the minister to education. Certainly there is no branch of the service which would be more concerned with the educational opportunities that are offered them after the war than those who are in the air force. These young people-for the most part they are boys and girls-went into the air force, as I mentioned before, from high school, from college. Thousands of them had not completed their education. Thousands of them would have proceeded from high school to university had times been normal. Many of them found their studies interrupted in the midst of their university course. Others, probably, had just
War Appropriation-Air Services
begun their high school course, having been for various reasons late in getting through. I suggest that every possible means be taken to furnish these youth with education for whatever career they choose to follow on their return from the war. We should be particularly careful that the regulations are not too restrictive. The regulations must be so elastic and broad that any man-and the same applies to women-returning from the R.C.A.F. will receive assistance in making up for the time he has lost in gaining or completing his education. On that matter I am not yet quite clear whether the provisions we have made for educational opportunities for Canadians who have enlisted in the Canadian forces will be equally available to those serving in the British army and the Royal Air Force. I am thinking particularly of the boys who enlisted in the R.A.F. in days before the R.C.A.F. could take them, the days before the war, and I am not certain whether the educational opportunities we have provided for the men returning from the war will be available in all cases to those who enlisted earlier in the R.A.F. The minister himself was not quite certain a year ago when this question was under discussion, and it is one of the points on which I should like to have him make a statement at this time.
There are one or two other matters I would call to the minister's attention. I presume item No. 1 is the item on which they can be brought up. I am not sure whether the minister has any connection with the wartime bureau of technical personnel. I suppose all three branches of the force are concerned with that bureau. This is what I have in mind. I know personally a considerable number of young men who are science graduates of a year ago. These men are held responsible to that wartime bureau. They have tried to enlist and some of them have had preliminary training for the air force. They tried to enlist as aircrew. They are physically fit and in every way suitable, but they cannot be taken as aircrew except as technical personnel, and apparently there are no positions of that kind vacant. Consequently they are now serving around in various industrial plants at the beck and call of the bureau. The strange thing is that while these same men cannot enlist in either army, navy or air force, they are subject to draft and have been drafted, and they have had to apply, or their employers have had to apply for deferment for them. It seems a strange situation where men specially trained as graduates in science are willing or anxious to enlist in the air force or the army, are no permitted to enlist, and yet they are liable to draft and every six months
must get deferment granted. Moreover, I am told that they must stay where they are. They dare not inquire about finding another position, no matter how small the pay may be in the job in which they are placed. There is a $500 fine, I am told, if they are caught looking for another job that may improve their position. There is a $500 fine, I am told, for the employer who tries to employ them. I have seen letters from the bureau to that effect. I presume the minister and his department are interested inasmuch as some of these are air force personnel or have had air force training.
There is one other matter. I have a letter from a boy whom I taught before he went into the air force and who is now in service with the R.A.F. in India. In his letter he tells me:
We single Canadians now stationed in India are required to do four years out here and our service overseas in Britain does not count. The four years is the normal Indian tour of duty for all single R.A.F. personnel. This is not right, and we are very much dissatisfied about it. As far as wre are concerned out here, any advantages except pay that may come from being a member of the Canadian forces are null and void.
I submit these suggestions to the minister and trust that when he has information he will make a statement.