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


Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)



Mr. Chairman, I desire at this stage to make a very brief statement with regard to the returned soldier problem as a whole, and with relation particularly to the report of the committee of this session on pensions, insurance and reestablishment. Three sessions ago the House adopted the policy of referring the general question of re-establishment of our returned men, in all its wide and varied phases, to a special committee composed of members respecting all parties. That committee has had the power and the duty of summoning before it advocates of every kind of assistance that has been urged upon us, of weighing the evidence adduced, gathering from the various departments and from every possible source all the information required for intelligent judgment, and of then reporting to the House what in all the many and difficult circumstances surrounding us should be recommended to Parliament for adoption. I am bound to say that if Parliament has ever been indebted to committees of one class more than another it has been to the special committees on re-establishment so appointed from session to session. The first committee, I believe, was under the chairmanship of the hon. the Minister of Immigration and Colonization (Mr. Calder). To that committee were assigned duties of extraordinary difficulty, because at that time we had not had the experience or the extent of information which later became available; and the problems that then confronted us, the difficulties that we had to surmount, were even greater then than they have been since. That committee's report became almost immediately embodied in the law of the land, and I think we owe to that committee, for the hard work done by its members and the devotion to duty that was manifested, a very deep and lasting debt of gratitude. The subsequent committees have been under the charge of the hon. member for London (Mr. Cronyn). I am sure I echo the sentiments of all hon. members when I say that these two committees have lived up to the examples shown them by the first; that having regard to the extent of the assistance they have
been able to give and the good judgment they have used, the House owes to these committees the same debt of gratitude that it does to the first. It is to the credit of members of the committee, coming as they did from the various parties in the House, that they have been able, after hearing the evidence on all sides, to agree as regards what could be done. Great service has been rendered to the country by these special committees, and it was a fortunate thing that that plan of dealing with this very complicated and delicate subject was adopted-fortunate for the returned men as well as for Parliament and the country generally.
The report of this session summarizes the efforts which have been made to assist those who served so faithfully in the war, and shows what has been accomplished in the very difficult task of re-establishment. That task has been even more difficult than we had anticipated. At this time, after all the efforts that have been made, after the vast expenditures that have been devoted to the purpose, and all the care that has been exercised to see that these expenditures were along right and proper lines and that value was obtained for the money spent,- after all that, we cannot say that we do not find very considerable unemployment; that we do not find many among even the most deserving of our returned men who are still in a condition not at all satisfactory. We know, however, no matter how perfect our work, no matter how devotedly we give ourselves to it, that these consequences are inevitable. Our duty is to reduce the measure of that condition to the narrowest limits possible, and, as years go by, only by persisting in the work, by seeking improvement, by an unflagging spirit of generosity and an increasing effort to put generosity into practice, can we hope to attain the end that all Canadians of every party and every race desire shall be attained as regards these men.
The report of this session, after summarizing what has been done and the lines of work in which we are now engaged, recommends that substantial extensions be made and very material expenditures still provided in order that we may perform our task. The first recommendation is to the effect that, commencing September next, the scale of increased pensions be paid, not only to those residing in this country, but also to those residing in other countries. That involves an expenditure of about $650,000 per annum beyond previous expenditures. There are two other recom-

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