February 25, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Levi Thomson


Mr. LEVI THOMSON (Qu'Appelle) :

Mr. Speaker, if I do not take the same time in congratulating the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Meighen) upon his accession to office at so early a period in life as other speakers have, I trust he will not consider it any reflection upon him. I hope he will permit me to say that the remarks that have been made with respect to him by gentlemen of the group angularly opposite, as he calls it, are vdry heartily reciprocated by me. We are very pleased indeed that the right hon. gentleman has scored such a success in public life, and we wish him a happy future whether it be as leader of the Government or leader of the Opposition. It is customary in this debate to refer to various subjects, and I trust I may be excused if I make reference very briefly to a few matters that have not been dwelt upon by hon. gentlemen who have preceded me.
I want to" refer first to a subject that has been frequently discussed in this House in the past and which will undoubtedly be frequently discussed in the future until it is settled in a different way from what we have attempted so far; that is the question of our obligations to our citizen soldiers who served so well in the great war. No other body of Canadians at any time in our history have done so much to bring honour to Canada or to raise her name so high in the esteem of the world. We paid our privates in the trenches considerably less than we paid inexperienced labourers at home. This cannot be allowed to be the final disposition of this matter, and it will never be settled until it is settled in the right way.
In discussing this matter with one man and another, I find that the financial position of the country is always raised as an
objection to doing anything further for our returned men. Well, I am glad to say that Canada is able to pay her debts, and there is at least a moral debt due in this case, and we will have to settle it some time or other, the sooner the better. I noticed that when hon. members asked for an increased indemnity last session the financial situation of the country was not allowed to stand in the way of granting their request. I think there was an obligation on the country to increase the sessional indemnity, but I think there was and still is a greater moral obligation to give something further to our returned men than they have yet received.
Fortunately they have a strong and active organization in the Great War Veterans Association of Canada. The sanity and reasonableness of our returned men generally-I do not speak of a few exceptional cases-is well exemplified by the style of men that they send here as central officers.
I believe that some settlement inust be made with our returned men that will be satisfactory to the Great War Veterans' Association, and it seems to me that in any settlement the association should be consulted, and an arrangement concluded which will be final and satisfactory.
I am sorry that my hon. friend from East Algoma (Mr. Nicholson) when he speaks on this question, seems to think it necessary to make some very offensive remarks to those hon. members who looked on the question of conscription in a different way from what he and I x'egarded it.
I had as much interest as my hon. friend from East Algoma in the conscription issue and I sacrificed quite as much, I thought as he did in my desire to see that the men at the front were supported to the utmost. But I cannot forget that many others who took a different view of 'the question were just as conscientious and just as much interested as I was. For instance, the hon. gentleman who used to represent a constituency in Quebec-I refer to Mr. Power-opposed conscription as strongly as I supported it. But he had three sons fighting in the battle line. I have no right to say that he was not as sincere in his desire to help the men in the trenches as I was, and neither has the hon. member for East Algoma any right to pass such reflections. The sooner we drop that sort of talk the better it will be for the credit and honour of this House and the country at large.
The hon. member dealt generally with another matter which was more particularly discussed by the hon. member for Centre

Vancouver (Mr. Stevens). It seems that some hon. gentlemen deem it their duty to sling all the mud they can at the United Grain Growers, Limited; but if he and other hon. gentlemen would stop to consider what is influencing certain people to urge hon. members to make these ridiculous charges they would soon drop them unless they were the paid agents of the big interests which have been interfered with by that organization.

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