April 3, 1945 (19th Parliament, 6th Session)


Leslie Alexander Mutch


Mr. L. A. MUTCH (Winnipeg South):

Mr. Speaker, the turn which this debate has taken toward matters affecting the reestablishment and rehabilitation of our service personnel prompts me to say a few words, because in the nature of things I have had fairly close association with the rehabilitation programme as it is being carried out in connection with the more or less piecemeal demobilization now taking place. It seems to me that if we approach the problem of the rehabilitation of
our service men from the point of view that the rehabilitation legislation is an attempt to reward those who have had active service, no matter what we do we shall fall far short of what would be the natural objective of those who understand and appreciate the contribution to our safety, indeed to our very existence, which these serving personnel have made.
Consequently I think the members of all parties, as well as the government, who share in the responsibility to the returned service personnel would be on sounder ground if they would regard all rehabilitation efforts and legislation, not in the nature of a reward for service but rather as something designed to help the service personnel who are to be demobilized to help themselves.
I have made some study of the rehabilitation legislation which is currently on the statute books and which is currently being put into effect in connection with those returning from active service. I am satisfied that the one idea which runs through it all is a desire to assist those, who have made a sacrifice for which we cannot presume to pay, to drop back into their place in the community with the least possible further sacrifice as a result of their service. When you come to look at the actual legislation you realize -that, designedly no doubt since it is so consistent, it does achieve that objective.
To begin with, when the soldier returns after having served overseas he is given a month leave of absence as quickly as he can be moved from the depot in order to provide him with some little period of time in which he can adjust himself to family and civilian conditions before it is necessary to make anything in the nature of a decision as to just what his place in civilian society will be. Under the present set-up, on his return there are facilities, within the Department of National Defence itself, to make him fully aware of the opportunities which lie before him. Every inducement is made to help him understand his own capabilities. In few, if any instances, is there an attempt made to shuffle him off to the first available job at the first opportunity -Rather there is a desire to encourage him to seek to go back into civilian life, not on the basis of something as good as he had before, but on the basis of what his capabilities show he will have a chance to achieve.
Those of us who went through the last war and the period of rehabilitation afterward will remember the disadvantages suffered by all returned service personnel when they came back into civilian society. Where the returned man had to enter into competition with a man who had been working at his trade throughout the period of the war he was at a
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disadvantage in that he had, perhaps, lost something of his skill. If he had had no opportunity to accumulate savings, if he had gone away as a boy and came back as a man he found it almost impossible to assume the obligations of a home, in many instances for years to come.
The personnel returning at the present time have an advantage, first of all, by reason of the fact that their gratuity is paid out in periods varying on the average from four to seven months. They are thus able to seek the place in society where they desire to be without having to make a hasty decision. If they have lost skill during the period of their service they may take a refresher course and thus be able to go back into their trade on a competitive basis with men whose service has been rendered at home.
If they have been married during the period of their service or if they desire to marry shortly after coming home they have the advantage, if employed in an insurable trade, of having their unemployment insurance taken care of as though they had been working. Within a couple of months they will have the advantage of the family allowances. Both of these pieces of legislation tend, not to reward them for what they have done, but to reduce the discrepancies between their position in society and the position of those men whose service has been given at home.
Under the provisions of the insurance legislation it is possible for a soldier who has suffered some disability in service to secure the same degree of protection for his family by taking insurance and at more reasonable rates than his more fortunate brother has been able to secure during the period of his service in civilian occupation.
Members of parliament are fully aware of the legislation designed to protect the man who desires to return to the job he left before he enlisted. They know also of the training being provided for those who had no jobs before they went to war but who have shown some aptitude for a particular job or trade and desire to fit themselves for some specific occupation.
Most of the complaints which have been made with respect to vocational training have arisen because to a considerable degree the training scheme was conceived on the basis of there being a mass demobilization. At the present time, when demobilization, extensive though it is, is only a small fraction of what it must eventually become, and before too long we hope, it is not always possible to take individuals in certain selected communities and provide for them that type of vocational training which they desire, unless it is possible for them to train on the job to which
they hope eventually to go. The facilities for vocational training have been seriously overtaxed both by civilian needs and by the use which has been made of these facilities by the armed services to train technical personnel. It is because it is realized that it is not possible to grant to every returned soldier, immediately upon discharge, the type of vocational training that he desires at the place where he desires to take it, that the legislation permits him to elect to take that training over a period of some fifteen months after his discharge or after the end of the war, whichever be the later. In the majority of instances this would not work a hardship because in almost every area in Canada to-day there are opportunities for temporary wartime employment to fill in the intervening months.
I should not like the impression to go out from the debates in this house that the somewhat vexed question of the payment of a deceased soldier's gratuity to his estate or his family has been brought to the notice of the government only by members of the opposition group. I can say with some authority that the weight of pressure upon the minister and the government to deal more generously in the matter of paying the gratuities to the families of deceased soldiers has been approximately in proportion to the percentages represented by the opposition and government groups in the house. It is not always either desirable or effective to exercise whatever weight a member may have through the medium of public debate. I know from many conversations that I have had with members of the government, the pressure that has been upon them with respect to this matter. I am aware of how helpful some of the comments of members of the opposition have been to the ministry, who realize the need of some provision of this kind. I should like to say on my own behalf that the imperfections which exist and which we shall experience from time to time with new situations, are not the discoveries of individual members or individual parties, and it seems to me that the best hope of achieving those changes which from time to time will be necessary, lies in the type of cooperative and explanatory discussion which has taken place so far in this debate.
There is in the minds of some people throughout the country, and it is implied in the expressions of some members of the house, a consuming fear that we shall again run into problems of rehabilitation paralleling those which occurred not immediately after the last war but which accumulated with varying intensities in the ten or twelve years following

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the last war. I should like to suggest in that connection that many of us have I think been overlooking at least this one consideration which I believe will go a long way toward lightening the shock of rehabilitation which was felt after the last war. I am reminded that something over ninety-five per cent of the men and women serving in the Canadian armed forces to-day are Canadian born. They come from communities throughout the length and breadth of Canada, and they will return in the first instance, at any rate, to the communities whence they came. There they have in their parents, in their families, in their friends, in the businessmen of their communities-and this has been exemplified over and over again in the activities of civilian committees throughout the country-a degree of contact which did not exist for the veterans returning from the last war because, as we remember, only about 225,000 out of some
600,000 Canadian soldiers in the last war happened to be Canadian born. Thousands of men who fought in the Canadian army and brought distinction to Canada and returned to Canada to make their contribution to this country from then on until now, were men who had been but a short time in Canada prior to the last war. They came back to a country which they knew but ill, but a country to whose glory and prestige they had contributed so much. There is a vast difference between^ going home to a community in which you have a place with your family by right of birth, and in going back, not to a home, not to a position, not to a particularly well-established place in the community, but to a country which was glad to see you but which did not have that personal interest in your welfare which the parents and families and friends of the veterans of to-day's armed services will have.
Therefore, we should look upon rehabilitation not just as something to be manufactured by members of this House of Commons, not something which is to be a governmental reward for service, but as something, once the war is out of the way, which is worthy of the greatest cooperative effort which the people of Canada can make. It seems to me that if we go forward in that spirit we do not need to be fearful of the problem of rehabilitation. But neither have we the slightest justification, because the boys and girls will be going home to their own communities to a place which is theirs by right of birth, to feel that we are absolved of responsibility. If by our speeches here or in the campaign which is to come we give or seek to give, even unconsciously, the impression that we intend entering into a competition in offering rewards, then much of
the thought and foresight which have gone into the planning and preparation of our rehabilitation programme will be undone and we , shall be in danger of creating another migrant body of dissatisfied people, this in spite of the chance we now have by cooperative effort to bring back into the communal life of this country our own sons and daughters and make them feel, not that we are rewarding them, but that we are determined that they shall not suffer further for that which they have done.
It will not be good enough to say to these people, "Here is a job which gives you economic independence." It will not be good
enough to say to them, "You went to do what was no more than your duty," because they concede that. It will not be good enough to say to them, "Now that you are back and are none the worse for it you can fend for yourselves." That will not be good enough. What is required of us in this house and in the whole country is that we keep before us what I believe the conception of the department to be, that it is the obligation, the duty and the high privilege of all of us to help these people to help themselves, to find within the structure of our community and of our social and political life their rightful place. Keeping that in mind, then I believe these inequities, inequalities and discrepancies which arise from time to time, tackled in that spirit, will not present any permanent difficulty.

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