January 26, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


John Gillanders Turriff



Perhaps. My hon.
friends are starting in now recruiting from the Civil Service, and I want to say just one word on that. If you are going to recruit from the Civil Service let it be genuine all through, let there be the same 'treatment to everybody. Why, in the House of Commons here, have we so many young able-bodied men, single men, between the ages of twenty and twenty-five? Why are those men hired by the House of Commons for the session when they ought to be at the front, fighting for their country? And they would be if they had the blood of men in them. But, if you are going to recruit from the Civil Service, let it be fair all round. I know the case of one Minister who has a man working for him who wanted to go, but the Minister says he cannot be spared. I understand that in the recruiting that is taking place now in the Civil Service, the chief clerk

in a department has the right to say what men ean go and what men cannot. Is that fair? Does anyone mean to tell me that there is any man in the Civil Service, or any man in this Government, or in this House, who cannot be spared? I never knew a man yet so big that he could not be replaced. So, if the Government wants to get the Civil Service to recruit, they should make the lecruiting fair and even all round, and not have one taken and the other left, because one has a little bit of influence.
I had intended to speak on the high cost or living and also of what is going to happen when the war is over and three hundred thousand soldiers and four hundred thousand munition workers are discharged. I was also going to speak of the Ross rifle, and I will say one word on that. Mr. Speaker, I have talked to men who have come back from the trenches, and those men have told me with tears in their eyes that on several occasions when they were in the trenches and the Germans made attacks on them, they were there in the trenches with the Ross rifles jammed, and they could not get a cartridge in or out and could not use the rifles, and the Germans came right up to the edge of the trench and shot them in the trenches with the useless guns in their hands-and them cursing because they could not retaliate and kill some of their enemies. The Government and my hon. friend the Solicitor General said that they were bound by the contract that was made by the Liberal Government, the contract that provided that no change could be made inside of a year. But Sir Charles Ross has said that he never insisted on that part of the contract, but was always ready to make any changes, and Ross has challenged my hon. friend to say what he means by this statement. My hon. friend has kept a judicious silence ever since.
Another returned soldier told me of one battle that he was in where his battalion made an advance and were able to dig shallow trenches about a foot deep, in which they were lying protected to a certain extent from the German bullets. After firing a few shots their rifles jammed, and they could not get the bolts to work. In their eagerness to do some execution against the enemy, they would rise up on one hand and their knees and take the other hand to get a crack at the bolt in order to force it back so as to be able to insert a cartridge, and as they would rise up six
inches or a foot above the ground, they would fall over dead or wounded by the scores and by the hundred-and the fathers and mothers of this country have a right to know from this Government what they meant by continuing the use of that rifle for a year after they knew that it was no good for war purposes, a year after the commander at the front had to withdraw a division of Canadian soldiers because of the arm they carried, and knew that thousands of our men had discarded the Ross rifle and stood around the dressing stations to grab a Lee-Enfield rifle whenever one was dropped by a wounded British soldier. This Government is responsible. I do not hold them responsible at the first, but when they found out that the rifle would not work in war, I say this Government is absolutely and directly responsible for the death of hundreds and thousands of our Canadian boys who were killed because of the uselessness of the rifle that they had in their hands.
If they had had a good rifle they would have put the enemy out of business, and fewer of them would have been killed. At this hour of the night I have not time to take this matter up-I have spoken too long-but we intend to take it up and to hold the Government responsible. My hon. friend the Solicitor General has a good deal to do yet before he can make good his claim that the Government were bound by the contract made by their predecessors with the Roes Rifle Company. That contract was for a rifle agreed to by the Government, a rifle which could be' changed at any time; and what is more, Sir Charles Ross himself pointed out the defects of the rifle a year before they stopped manufacturing. What are the Government doing now? They are buying thousands and tens of thousands, yes, hundreds of thousands of uniforms more then they neied, but they have not ordered any more rifles. Why, I do not know, but they have not, and it is up to them to. eixplain. I will not say anything further about the Ross rifle in the meantime.
I had intended to take up the question of nickel. My hon. friend the Solicitor General did some fancy skating around that matter last year, but it looks pretty poor stuff in view of the information, that has come out during the past year. These are things that will have to- be taken up. The men and women of Canada who have sent their sons to the front want to know, about how the Government have handled the nickel, the Ross rifle, and other things;

but they will keep until after the adjournment^ until the Prime Minister comes back, and then we will take them up and discuss them with our friends opposite.

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