Hon. JAMES CALDER (Minister of Immigration and Colonization) moved:
That the report of the Special Committee appointed on the 18th day of September last, to which was referred Bill No. 10, to amend the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment Act and the Orders in Council relative to the work of the Department of Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment which were laid on the table of the House on the 16th day of September for the consideration thereof, and of all matters pertaining thereto, which was presented to the House on the 31st day of October last, be received, and that the expenditure recommended therein, or which would be required for carrying out the recommendations therein, be commended to the consideration of the Government.
For full text of the report of the Special Committee see House of Commons Journals Addendum to Votes and Proceedings, No. 43, of date Friday, October 31, 1919.
He said: The report which was tabled last Friday is a somewhat lengthy one, probably an unusually lengthy one for a document of this kind. I am sure, however, that all the members of the House recognize that the special committee appointed to consider Bill No. 10, had a very difficult and complex problem to deal with. In any event, after the committee had completed its work, it came to the decision that, owing to the nature of the problem and the widespread interest that is taken in it, it would be advisable for the committee to set forth its views and find-
ings at length in order that the members of the House as well as those in the country who are interested in the problem, might be able to get a fairly comprehensive grasp of the subject under consideration. I think the House will agree that in that, respect the committee took the proper course.
At the outset of my remarks, I desire to clear up a certain misapprehension that exists, not in this House but outside of it. The view was represented to us in the committee on several occasions that this matter would not come before Parliament; that the committee would itself decide the problem that was under consideration. The returned men who are interested in this question which the House must consider, are not acquainted with Parliamentary procedure, and they had an idea that because this problem had been referred to a committee, the finding of that committee would be final and decisive, and binding upon Parliament. For the information not of the House, but of those outside of the House who are interested in this question, I wish merely to state what every hon. member knows, namely, that the report or the committee is not binding in any sense upon Parliament. The committee was simply appointed to inquire into the question that was referred to us by Parliament for a report to Parliament. That we have done. We have come to our conclusions; the findings and recommendations of the committee are contained in the report, and it is now for Parliament itself to decide whether or not the recommendations which we make shall be approved.
Those who approached us on behalf of the men were very desirous that this question should be threshed out in Parliament, and that an opportunity should be given for every member of the House to express his views. That, of course, is being done by this motion which I have moved, which will give every hon. member the right to express his views on this question; and if such be deemed necessary 'by any member of Parliament, the resolution itself may be voted upon, suggestions may be made as to amending our report, the report itself may be rejected and should it be deemed [DOT] advisable, the House may recommit the report to the committee in order that it may consider any other phase of this question or any decision that has been reached, in any way that Parliament thinks fit.
As regards the committee itself, there was no inclination upon the part of any member to shirk his responsibility. All the
members of the committee approached the problem which we had under consideration,
I think I may say, earnestly, sincerely and fearlessly. They had but one end in view, and that was to get at the facts as far as it was humanly possible to do so; to place their views before Parliament; to give to Parliament the results of all their deliberations and considerations, and to leave to Parliament itself the ultimate decision as to what should be done in connection with the various suggestions that came to us regarding the problem of the re-establishment of the returned soldier in civil life.
The Government itself is not without re sponsibility; it has in connection with this certain responsibilities which it must assume, and it cannot shirk those responsibilities. Before we are through with this discussion, the Government, as a government, must state to Parliament very distinctly and clearly what its position is in reference to the matters of policy which will1, be under consideration. The Government must do that, and it must take the responsibility for any decision which it may reach.
As regards what may be considered as the main finding of the committee, that is that there should be no further general distribution of grants or gratuities, the Government has come to a very definite conclusion, and that is: that it does not agree to any proposal that there should be a further general distribution of grants or gratuities. If the majority of the members of this House think otherwise, if it is the view of this Parliament that there should be a further general distribution of grants or gratuities to all of the ex-members of the forces, then there i3 but one thing for Parliament to do, and that is to say so very clearly and plainly. And if Parliament comes to that conclusion, then there is only one course, and that is that some other administration must carry on.
I am not saying that as a threat; I am not saying it to influence any member in this House or to affect his vote in the slightest degree. This is an important question of policy upon which the Government has had to come to a conclusion. If the majority of the members of the House think that that position is not right, there is but one course to follow and that is to have placed in power an Administration that will carry out the will of Parliament in that regard. I wish to make that perfectly clear in order that there shall be no misund e rstanding.
In speaking to the motion I shall endeavour to speak clearly and plainly. I do-
not wish to sidestep in any way or to camouflage the issue. As chairman of the committee, I consider it my duty to place the problem fairly and squarely before Parliament in order that Parliament may be in a position to reach whatever decision is in its judgment the proper one in connection with the problems, we have under consideration. Although I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible, I am afraid that on account of the character and complexity of the problem and the mass of evidence we took my statement will be a somewhat lengthy one, and I must therefore ask the House to be indulgent while I explain the situation as concisely as possible.
With regard to the reference to the committee, only a word need be said. It will be found on page 3 of the report. One of the first things the committee had to decide was whether the reference was wide enough to enable us to consider any and all suggestions that came to us with regard to the problem of re-establishment. Finally, the committee came to the conclusion that the reference was sufficiently wide for that purpose, and as a result we stood ready and prepared at all times to receive any suggestions from any quarter that would enable us to deal intelligently with the problem of the re-establishment of the soldier in civil life. Regardless of the actual wording of the' reference, I am certain the House will agree that the committee came to the proper conclusion in that regard. If there had been any attempt at blocking evidence or shutting out suggestions of any kind, I think it would have been most unfortunate. I am certain that Parliament will agree that we did the proper thing in widening the inquiry in order that any returned man, any association or organization throughout the country, and any member of Parliament could appear before the committee and place before it any suggestions they desired to make in connection with the problem under consideration. [DOT]
Just a word with regard to the work of the committee. It was anticipated that Parliament would have prorogued some two or three weeks ago. Consequently we felt it was our duty to have the inquiry completed in good time without, however, shutting out any evidence or suggestions from any quarter, in order that Parliament would have ample time to discuss the report. For that reason, in the early stages of the inquiry the committee sat practically continuously, morning, afternoon and night. We had in all something like fifty sessions and we even were obliged to sit on the Sabbath 1 *
once or twice in order to get our work completed. About seventy witnesses were called, and the printed evidence comprises something like a thousand pages. We had a stream of telegrams, petitions, resolutions and letters from all over the country, all of which had to be considered and dealt with by the committee. From what I have been told, I doubt very much if there has been any Parliamentary committee in recent years that has had such a volume of work thrown upon it in such a short time. I mention this mainly for the purpose of thanking, as chairman, the members of the committee who attended so regularly and gave their very best attention to the work. All the members of the committee were in constant attendance, and I think all who followed our proceedings will agree that ou-work was carried on harmoniously and without any friction.
As to the report itself, it was deemed advisable to arrange it in convenient form for Parliament. It will be found to contain eleven parts, and an appendix containing four parts. These various parts have their headings and subheadings, and the paragraphs have been numbered for easy reference. The first ten parts of the report set out in detail the problems that confront the committee. They indicate the scope and character of the inquiry, and include the facts upon which the findings of the committee were based. All of our recommendations and the findings will be found in Part XI. As to the appendix, the first part sets out just as it was presented to the committee the general plan of re-establishment submitted to us by a committee representing the Great War Veterans' Association. The second part contains the financial statements submitted to the committee by the Deputy Minister of Finance and Mr. Breadner, Chief Commissioner of Taxation of the Finance Department. The third part contains two very interesting documents. We finally found it necessary to write officially to the Minister of Finance asking him to place before us definitely and clearly the financial commitments of the Government for the present year and the probable commitments for the next financial year. That will be found in Part III of the appendix. It was also deemed advisable by the committee to include in the appendix the evidence in toto given by Sir Thomas White, who acted as Minister of Finance during the entire war period.
I must ask the indulgence of the House while I run briefly through the first ten parts of the report. I do this because I take it for granted that all th; members of
the House have not probably read the report as closely as they may later, because it has only been available for a day or so and we have been very busy in this IJouse during the last twenty-four hours. Part I which contains the reference to the committee, I need not dwell upon. Part II, which gives a list of the witnesses called, and the various soldiers and organizations that appeared before us, and so forth, tells its own story.
The members of the House will find Part III exceedingly interesting because it endeavours to set forth briefly and concisely the work of re-establishment carried on in the past by the various departments of the Government.
I venture to s.ay that members of Parliament have very little conception of the work that has been done in the line of civil re-establishment during the past two or three years and of the cost of that work. At any tate, it was a revelation to many of the members of the committee. As I say, this part describes somewhat in detail the character and volume of that work, and I would commend to every member of the House this section of the report in order that he may make himself familiar with what has already been done and what is to be done.
Part IV describes at length the proposed post-war work of the Patriotic Fund, which was an organization created during the earlier stages of the war. It collected in various ways from the people of Canada sums of money aggregating in the neighbourhood of $48,000,000, and when the armistice came it had on hand somewhere about seven and a half million dollars. It will be remembered that at the last session of Parliament a Bill was introduced to amend the Patriotic Fund Act, in order that it might carry on certain classes of p>ost-war work, and in this section of the report will be found a description of the work proposed to be carried on by that body. That work is confined to assisting the families of the returned men; not-the soldiers themselves but their dependents. I shall not take up the time of the House now in any attempt to describe it, because it. is fully set out in this part of the report. The nature of the work to be carried on is indicated, as are also the various classes to be assisted, the conditions under which such assistance is to be given, and the amount, of assistance in each case.
Part V of the report is also very interesting, as it sums up all the suggestions that reached the committee in reference to
improvements in or extensions of work now being carried on by various departments of the Government. These suggestions have reference to the vocational work carried on by the Department of Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment, such as the treatment of men who have been discharged and who are in hospitals or other institutions under the care of that department, There were certain suggestions as to modifications or ^extensions in the provisions made in the past in regard to certain gratuities. Suggestions were made as to pay allowances by the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment, the question of giving free clothing to certain patients, and other details of that character.
Part VI will be found to contain another series of suggestions that reached the committee with reference to new benefits which the ex-soldiers do not now receive-new classes of work to be undertaken, such as making provision whereby returned men may receive loans or grants for housing, apart from the general provision that was made for housing last session by which loans were made to the provinces. There were also suggestions as regards life insurance, loans for one-man businesses, grants to university students, and in regard to new schemes that are not being undertaken by any of the departments at the present time.
Now we come to part VII, which is a very important section of the report. It will be found to contain three general schemes for re-establishment that reached the eommi'tr tee. Throughout our whole inquiry those who represented the, soldiers' organizations before us maintained that any policy adopted for re-establishment should he of such a character as to reach every member of the forces. I think I am stating the situation squarely and fairly. I am speaking now of the three general plans for re-establishment- that reached our committee, and I repeat that throughout our whole inquiry it was held that any plan that would not practically reach every one of the men would not be satisfactory.
Subtopic: MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE.