June 2, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Guysborough) :

should like to be permitted to associate myself with the request of my hon. friend from Lunenburg (Mr. Duff). There is no doubt that the country owes a debt of gratitude to the officers and seamen of the mercantile marine who served us so well during the war. They were really in a much worse position than the men of the navy. The latter were prepared for emergencies, it was their business to fight submarines or any other enemy they encountered; but the men of the mercantile marine were practically at the mercy of the submarines, as is evidenced by the fact that many of their ships were sunk and large numbers of seamen were drowned. No provision has been made by the Imperial authorities in regard to these cases, and it is one of the matters connected with the war where I think the Imperial Government altogether failed to do their duty. To my mind the men who manned the merchant ships during that period did their work so well and exhibited so much bravery that they should not now be forgotten. It is a remarkable fact that the Admiralty made no provision for those men. I know the case of the captain spoken of by my hon. friend from Lunenburg, because he was an employee of my own firm. The captain and his crew, after the sinking of their ship in the Mediterranean, were taken to a German prison and detained there until the armistice. On being released they came to London and were discharged, receiving only one month's wages. That was all the Admiralty gave them. The owners of the ship were not legally bound to pay them anything because they were in the employ of the Admiralty. Consequently the crew had no rights against any person for their wages and the support of their families during the eighteen months they were prisoners in Germany.
I have always thought the Government of Great Britain were very neglectful of these seamen. They should at least have the rights of the men who served us in the Canadian Navy, and I agree with my hon. friend from Lunenburg that this concession should be made to them. I do not think they are very numerous so far as Canada is concerned, because very few Canadian-owned vessels were torpedoed. I am fairly familiar with the shipping business on the Atlantic coast, and I think you will find the number of men affected would not throw any very great financial responsibility on the Government. I trust, therefore, that the request of my hon. friend from Lunenburg will be sympathetically received by the Prime Minister.

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