March 29, 1950 (21st Parliament, 2nd Session)


Robert Henry Winters (Minister of Resources and Development)


Hon. Robert H. Winters (Minister of Resources and Development):

Mr. Speaker, on March 8 the hon. member for Peterborough West (Mr. Fraser) asked me if I intended to table the report being prepared by Messrs. J. D. Woods and Gordon on the organization and business practices of the national film board. At that time I had not received the report, and while I did not give a definite answer, I indicated that I expected to table it.
The investigation was undertaken at my request after consultation with Right Hon. Vincent Massey, chairman of the royal commission on the arts, letters and sciences. The terms of reference under which the investigation was conducted were discussed with Mr. Massey, who informed me that they would serve his purpose as well and that the resulting report would be useful to him.
The report has now been received, and I have given preliminary consideration to its recommendations, some of which are along lines on which the government and the board have already been proceeding, others of which will require special consideration by the film commissioner, the board and the government.
Meanwhile, I feel that it would be of advantage to make the report public so that hon. members and others interested may also have the opportunity of considering its recommendations and the reasons given for them. I would accordingly ask the leave
of the house to table a copy of the report. In offering to table it, I should emphasize that it is not a governmental document which there is any obligation to table, and that I should not like my action in this case to be construed in the future as a precedent which would prevent the government from securing confidential expert advice in dealing with administrative problems.
In the present case I think there is something to be gained by discussion of the problems set forth in the report and of the solutions suggested.
I am gratified, and I am sure most hon. members will be equally gratified, by the tribute paid by these experienced business consultants to the achievements of the board and to the high level of service of the board's employees.
The report indicates that where there are weaknesses in the organization and methods of the board, they are in most cases the natural outcome of a rapid period of growth under the exceptional circumstances of war. The situation was aggravated by the obviously inefficient arrangements for housing the board's activities, which were, in turn, the inevitable result of the space problem all government agencies have faced during and since the war.
I shall not attempt today to indicate how far and how rapidly the government will be able to implement the recommendations, some of which incidentally do not call for immediate action. Since I asked Messrs. J. D. Woods and Gordon to make the investigation, Mr. W. Arthur Irwin has been appointed government film commissioner, and, as the report itself suggests, the commissioner should have ample opportunity to review the organization and activities of the board before final decisions are made.
I should like to take advantage of this occasion to say a word about another matter relating to the film board. The screening of the national film board, undertaken last year in conformity with the government's established security regulations, has proceeded to the point where it was possible for me on February 21 to direct the commissioner to inform all government departments and agencies concerned that the board was in a position to undertake work of a secret nature. This of course applies to the Department of

National Film Board
National Defence, and on the same day I advised the Minister of National Defence accordingly.
The screening of all employees of the board has been completed. Action has been taken in the case of a very few employees about whose trustworthiness the board was unable to feel any definite assurance. I hope no hon. member will press for details in the house about these matters, at least not until he has discussed confidentially with me any case that may be giving him concern. The reason is the one I gave the house on December 7, and which I should now like to repeat, namely that:
It would be a grave injustice to such persons- against whom there is no charge of wrongdoing, but merely the absence of satisfactory evidence of trustworthiness-to proclaim their names publicly and thereby injure their reputations and their chances of alternative employment. What I wish to emphasize is that it is not the government which would be hurt by publicity but the men and women whose reliability and trustworthiness are under examination; and nobody wants to be unfair and unjust to individuals.
I think I should make one other point. The process of screening of government employees is a continuous one. There is the usual turnover, with new employees being taken on; but it is the earnest hope of all who have been concerned with this matter that the number of cases of untrustworthiness in the future will be as rare as they have so far proved to be.

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