Mr. D. S. Harkness (Calgary North):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to add my congratulations to the many which have already been preferred to the mover (Mr. Hanna) and the seconder (Mr. Robichaud) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I am particularly pleased to do this as the mover, the hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona, comes from my own province and took advantage of his opportunity to say something about the great developments taking place in the province of Alberta.
I was very relieved when the firemen's strike on the C.P.R. ended during the first week end of the present session. The dislocation and the economic loss caused by the strike were particularly evident in southern Alberta, and in that area there was almost universal indignation that the strike had been allowed to take place. It is a matter of astonishment to me that the government did not take the action it eventually did some 10 days before, and stop the strike before it began. It could have taken such action just as well before January 2 as 10 days later, and thus have saved railway and
The Address-Mr. Harkness other workers millions in lost wages and the C.P.R. and the general economy a great many more millions.
The only reasons I can see why the government did not take action before the strike started were irresolution, weakness and timidity. The government failed to face up to its responsibility to ensure that a large part of this country should continue to have vital transportation facilities. Instead of leading the country, as is its responsibility, it quite evidently waited to follow public opinion, and follow it at a great distance. Thus I think the government is directly responsible for the loss which has taken place as a result of the strike.
On several occasions in past years I have made a plea in the house for the blind people of Canada. I have said and would like to repeat that of all our social security measures, those to help the blind are the most niggardly, considering the magnitude of the disability from which these people suffer. This year the Canadian council of the blind and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind have a one-point program for improved legislation. It is for a special allowance free of the means test to help cover the day to day cost of blindness. I urge the government most strongly to institute such an allowance at the present session.
The need for such an allowance is selfevident. There are unavoidable expenses accompanying blindness, expenses for guiding, for taxis to and from work and anywhere else that a blind person may have to go. All this places the blind person at a great disadvantage economically compared with his sighted fellow citizen. That, of course, is apart altogether from the fact that the blind person's disability bars him from employment in most fields of activity.
The matter to which I wish to devote most of my time is that of the expulsion of Indians from their reserves. I spoke at some length on it last year when amendments to the Indian Act were under consideration. At that time the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration denied that any Indians were being expelled from their reserves. He said that if anyone was being expelled he was not an Indian and thus had no right to be on the reserve. His remarks are to be found at page 5178 of Hansard of June 17 of last year, when replying to some remarks I had made. I will not take the time of the house to read them.
This is nothing more than a form of evasion as far as this matter is concerned. The hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona asked some questions this morning in connection with a large expulsion now taking place in Alberta
at the Hobbema reserve. He asked this question: "Will the minister please explain to the house why over 100 persons who have lived all their lives on the Hobbema Indian reserve... have now been notified that they must leave that reservation?"
To that question the minister replied that everything that is being done is being done under the Indian Act, thereby apparently implying that he had no responsibility. Then he went on to say that an appeal to the courts is provided for, and that the government should not take any action until the appeal is heard. Once more this is evading the question and evading the responsibility of the government in connection with the matter.
As a matter of fact, for some considerable time past the minister has been referring to the act as an excuse for not taking any action with regard to this matter. He said he was not on the committee which considered this legislation, and that he was not a member of the parliament which passed it. He said those who were on the committee and were in that parliament are the ones responsible, thus seeking to give to the Indians and to the people of Canada as a whole the general idea that any responsibility there may be for the inhumane expulsions which are now taking place is not on his shoulders, at any rate, but is in fact on other people, presumably those of us in the opposition as well as the other members of the house. He does this in spite of the fact that many of us fought vigorously to prevent the sections being written into the act under which the Indians are being expelled from the reserves.
The Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys is doing the same thing, only I would say that he is doing this even more unfairly than is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I find that he was out in Alberta not very long ago and was questioned in connection with the expulsion of these Indians from their reserves. After following the same line as that which I have indicated, saying that everything was done under the act and blaming the Indians themselves, in fact, this is what he says as reported in the Calgary Herald of January 19:
"In the first place, the government is not forcing these 118 Indians off the reserve," said the minister.
That is the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys.
"The initiative was taken by a group of Indians themselves ..."
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has followed that same line, namely that if there is any responsibility it is on the Indians, that they are at fault and that the government is not at fault. He completely neglects to say that while the action may
have been started because of protests from Indians, to begin with, it is the government which carries it through, which brings the matter up before the registrar, which signs the order expelling them and so forth.
Then in this interview the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys went on to say this, as reported in the Calgary Herald:
The minister pointed out that from 1946 to 1948 the need for changes in the Indian Act and a clear definition of the term "Indian", was studied by a joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate. Two of the Alberta members were J. H. Blackmore, Social Credit, Lethbridge, and D. S. Harkness, . . . Conservative, Calgary North.
In other words what the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys was trying to convey to the people of Alberta and the Indians was that if anybody was responsible, the hon. member for Lethbridge and myself were responsible for their plight. As I say, that is not only unfair but it is dishonest. I was going to say that I am surprised that the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys should be employing tactics of that kind, but I am not too much surprised at it because they are in keeping with the sort of tactics he has employed frequently in the past.
Som hon. Members: Oh, no.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY