Hon. RODOLPHE LEMIEUX moved:
For a copy of all letters, telegrams and other documents exchanged between Mr. Henry Tucker, K.C., and the Right Hon. Sir Robert
L. Borden, K.C.M.G., P.C., the Department of Militia, the officers of the Patriotic Fund, concerning the claim of Mrs. Wineasi Zwingle.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see my I1 on. friend, the Minister of Militia and Defence (Major-General Mewburn) in his seat, because although the name of the Prime Minister is mentioned in the motion
x wish- specially to appeal to the Minister of Militia and Defence. I do not intend to be critical as to the administration of the separation allowances, but I wish to get from my hon. friend some explanation which might serve not only in this but in similar cases. My object in bringing this matter before the House is because I believe the case has been exhausted +.hrough correspondence between the hardheaded Scotch Presbyterian lawyer who acted for this unfortunate woman and the various departments of the Government. It is at the request of Mr. Henry Tucker, K.C., of Montreal, a lawyer of very high standing at the Bar, that I bring this matter up. The name of. the soldier whose wife, according to Mr. Tucker, has not been fairly treated by the Patriotic Fund is Wineas Zwingle. He joined, in the early stage of the war, tlhe 150th 'Battalion', and he is on the firing line at the present time. He left behind him a wife and four children, but previous to leaving, according to my information, he made provision for hie Wife and family: the assigned pay $20, next, the separation allowance, $20, and $24 per month was allotted by the Patriotic Fund, making a total payment of $04 per month for the wife and four little children'. This soldier also left hie wife in possession of a small candy store in Montreal. During the month of February, 1917 the assigned pay of Zwingle and the separation allowance were sent, I do not know under what regulation, to the Patriotic Fund by the Department of Militia. The Minister of Militia stated a moment ago, that both the department and the Patriotic Fund were working in close co-operation. From March 1 to the middle of August, 1917, Mrs. Zwingle received $242.75, but from the latter month until December 8, 1917, she did not receive a red cent. Remember that this woman is absolutely penniless-, with tihe exception of the candy store, and has- dependent upon her four children, the eldest of whom is only 12 yeans old. In October, 1917, Mrs. Zwingle saw her lawyer, Mr. Tucker, K.C., and 'at that time, as alleged by Mr. Tucker, she was positively starving. He inquired from the Patriotic Fund, first wih-y they out the allowance from $24 to $10 per month, and second why the assigned pay and the separation allowance had been handed over to that organization for administration. The answer Mr. Tucker received from the Patriotic Fund, and I am1 .simply quoting from' the voluminous dossier which has been handed to ime by that gentleman-was to the following effect: "This woman is
keeping what is known in common parlance as a ' blind pig ' and you had better see Recorder Semple of Montreal." Mr. Tucker, who is a very warm-hearted Scotchman, saw the woman was starving and freezing- and it is not necessary to- remind any hon. gentleman of the severity of tihe weather during the winter which has just closed- and he went to interview Recorder Semple whose statements were most favourable to Mrs. Zwingle. The recorder said he had received the complaint referred to about Mrs. Zwingle, hut had investigated it and found it to be baseless. Later on, acting on the advice of her lawyer and at the suggestion of the Patriotic Fund, Mrs. Zwingle sold her candy store for a certain sum. Remember, Mr. Speaker, I am not passing judgment on the Patriotic Fund organization. 1 am myself one of the incorporators of the fund, and one of its members, and I do not wish to pass judgment upon those who compose the organization. I know what devotion is being displayed, and what excellent work is being performed by the members of the Patriotic Fund all over the country; but sometimes, owing to misinformation or otherwise, persecution, may result which is absolutely unwarranted. In November, 1917, according to Mr- Tucker, the Department of Militia and Defence having been stirred up by the many letters written by him, sent Mrs. Zwingle a blank declaration to fill in and swear to, which declaration had to be countersigned by some officer of the Patriotic Fund. The declaration was for the purpose of determining how Mrs. Zwingle received her separation allowance and assigned pay. For one reason or another the Patriotic Fund-and I repeat that I am not criticising the organization because I am not personally aware of these facts, I am merely repeating what I was told by a very reliable counsel -refused, or rather, one of its officers refused, to countersign the blank declaration, and hence Mrs. Zwingle was once more deprived of both her separation allowance and assigned pay. In November, 1917, Mr. Tucker again complained to the department and obtained an order that the checks be paid direct to Mrs. Zwingle, but in the meantime she had been absolutely starving and freezing. On the 12th December, 1917, relief came in the form of cheques for two months from the department at Ottawa. On the 24th December, 1917, there was made against this unfortunate woman, who was evidently born under an evil star, another very serious charge, which I need not repeat, but which, according to the documents I hav* before me, absolutely
unfounded. Following this, the Militia Department order that her cheques for the assigned pay and separation allowance be paid direct to her was cancelled, and it was determined once -more that the payments should he made through the Patriotic Fund *at Montreal. What I wish to represent to the Minister of Militia-and this unquestionably is the high court of the land where all grievances can be ventilated-is that Mrs. Zwingle's husband is at the front, and she complains that she has been ill-treated, persecuted and slandered.
She claims that her husband's assigned pay and her separation allowance are her absolute property, and that the department has no control oveir thiemi. As regards the Patriotic Fund allowance, I quite agree *that according to the Act passed in 1914, the Patriotic Fund has a discretion in the matter, although the discretion should be used wisely and fairly. But as regards the assigned pay and the separation allowance, I would like to have a statement from the Minister of Militia if the department can direct the payment to he made through the Patriotic. Fund or through any other organization, or if she is not, as a matter of right, entitled' to have those moneys paid to her direct. I have brought the matter before the House after a long correspondence exchanged between Mr. Tucker, K. C., the Patriotic Fund, the /Department of Militia and Defence, and my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. 'It is a grievance, made perhaps more serious by the fact that this woman states positively that she has been persecuted, that she has been slandered, even after the allegations made against her were declared to be without foundation. I hope my hon. friend will look into this matter in the department and see that Mrs. Zwingle receives her assigned pay and her separation allowance without any /further delay.
Major-General MEWBURN: This matter has not come before me personally in the Separation Allowance Branch, and I have no desire to shield or to make excuses for any mistakes that may have occurred. Since I>
have had the honour o'f taking charge of the Department of Militia and Defence, the Separation Allowance Branch has caused us more trouble and anxiety than probably any other branch in the department. This branch deals with some 300,000 accounts, and mistakes have been made. 'Since I took charge of the department, I ha/ve endeavoured to re-organize that branch and have tried to get it down
to a proper 'business basis. I think I can say I am succeeding in that. I may go further and say that it will still be some months before it is running smoothly.
I will investigate this particular case thoroughly and find out why this woman has been treated in the way my Ihon. friend states, which statement I have no doubt is correct. I cannot understand why the money was paid over to the Patriotic Fund. There have been cases where money has been paid over to the Patriotic Fund on account of some arrangement between the Patriotic Fund and the beneficiary. The Patriotic Fund has a .committee which has made many investigations throughout the various cities of Canada. There have been cases where people have been drawing separation allowances to which they were neither legally nor morally entitled, and we have had to call upon the Patriotic Fund to make investigations. The declaration of which my hon. friend has spoken is the legal declaration which every person claiming separation allowance has to swear before a commissioner or a notary public. It is simply to get the evidence in the department so that we can have the account straightened out. If any injustice or wrong has been done to any person by an official of my department, he will cease to be employed in my department. I will make it my duty to investigate the matter fully and, if any wrong has been done, to rectify it.
Subtopic: CLAIM OF MRS. WINEAS ZWINGLE.