February 6, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


James Davis Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)


Some of these officers had attended several schools, as the former Minister of Militia reminds me. Now, what would have been said of this Government if the moment these highly trained officers arrived in London they were told: " Since you cannot go forward with your battalion, you had better go straight home?" Then 'we should have had a political scandal. -
As to unemployment in London, as to the presence of officers in hotels in London, I wonder where these hon. gentlemen get their information. During the two months I spent in the Old Country, I was in London, I suppose, five or six times. On every occasion when I was there I had been sent for by an officer of higher command in London for some specific business. My visits there, I suppose, were generally for two days at a time-'business starting to-day and finishing to-morrow. As these hon. gentlemen see it, I was one of the officers, " crowding the hotels in London." I saw no officers there during my time who were not properly there. The majority of them were on leave from the front, the few weeks' leave that the officer gets after a great many months of service. The minority were of my class, officers who had come to England with the bona fide intention of going to the front, and who bad not achieved their ambition. I do not think a large percentage of these officers were in what we would call an idle class, or that by their presence or their actions they constituted a reflection upon the Canadian military service. It seemed to me they were an exceptionally fine body of men. We are 'asked why they spent months there instead of coming home. I had an illustration. I will not mention names, because to do so would be like advertising that the officer to whom I refer had spent so many months idle. I found in a camp to which I went in England one of the very finest officers in British Columbia, a man,
perhaps, fifteen or twenty years my junior, trained in every respect, who had brought over a battalion equal in merit to any battalion that had left our province, but a battalion that, like my own, was broken up on arrival there. That man had come across with no other idea than that of serving at the front. He had closed all hi's affairs in Canada. He was not even a member of Parliament, and could not have a member of Parliament's excuse-these hon. gentlemen seem to think it is 'an excuse-d,o come back to Canada. He waited for employment- He got employment the day I left England, that is, nine months after arrival there. He got the remnant of his own battalion, the remnant of my battalion, and the remnant of the 158th Battalion of Vancouver, to be under hi's command as the 1st British Columbia Training Battalion. And a fine training officer he is. Why should we criticise that officer for .having -been compelled to wait that time? These hon. gentlemen speak, in connection with this, as in connection with all other military subjects we have heard discussed in the House, as if they were the discoverers of something which, if they were the Government, would be done, but which is not done by this seemingly neglectful Administration.
We are told that the administration in London should grapple with the question of unemployment. These gentlemen opposite must know-because they have read it in their own press, paragraph after paragraph-that the subject is being grappled with. They know that about two months ago a board was appointed to examine in detail into the standing of every officer not in serious employment in England; that this board visited every Canadian camp in England, questioned all the officers, as well as men of other ranks, as to their capacity and as to whether they could profitably take up military service other than what they had gone to England to do. The men were then divided into three categories: those who could advantageously be sent to the front and be replaced in England by others returning from the front; those who could do nothing at the front or in England, but might with advantage be given permission to return to Canada-because you cannot return without permission-and those who could profitably continue to be employed in London or in other parts of England. The question was dealt with in the most serious manner at that time by a board of very competent officers, several of whom

had seen service at the front, some of whom had served with distinction there and, having come back to London, found themselves temporarily unemployed. If an abuse had crept in, they were instructed to see that that abuse was discontinued, and they were inspired with a desire that it should be discontinued. No doubt as a result of the report of that board, officers have returned, opportunity has been found to send officers to France, and every opportunity has been taken to substitute the services of returned soldiers for services that had been performed in the Old Country by Canadians who had not been to the front. When the officers are moved on under these circumstances, I do not think they should be pilloried as having been driven to do something that they were unwilling to do. I prefer to take the view that the officers who go there, do so in good faith, ready to lay themselves on the altar of their country and to make whatever sacrifices they may be called upon to make. Do these hon. gentlemen opposite realize for a moment that soldiering is not eight hours' work a day during .six days of the week? Do they realize that there are a great many soldiers in England and in France who are not in the firing line; that there are a great many private soldiers who are unemployed in quite as wide a sense as these officers are unemployed, and that it is absolutely true that these men are serving their country efficiently and nobly? We have millions of soldiers in reserve in England and France who are not working every day, or six days a week, just the same as we have some idle officers. These soldiers are kept for the great drive which we all anticipate, and which only can change the condition from that of apparent stalemate now prevailing. Are they to be pilloried as men who are eating the bread of idleness in England? Is it .fair to our soldiers who remain in Canada, hawing been trained here, that they should be pilloried, as is the custom to-day, not only occasionally in the House, but also in the party press? Are they not just as useful to us in reserve in Canada, waiting to go to England and. France when they 'are sent for, as they would be if we got them out of our sight by sending them to England or to France? Are we improving the cause of the war by having nothing but criticism-small-souled, mean-spirited criticism, if I may use the expression-of those who try to serve the Empire, but who are not permitted to dlo so to the extent that
they desire? It seems to me, as an officer who has, had much experience in recruiting, that more harm has been done to the cause of recruiting in Canada by the state-(inemts made this .session from the other side of the House .and widely diesemimaited as they have been, for political purposes iby the party press-the fountainheads of the poisoned political gas in this country- than by any possible combination of errors on the part of the Government.

Topic:   WAR LOAN-$500,000,000.
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