Mr. EUGENE PAQUET (L'Islet) (translation) :
Mr. Speaker, with the leave of the House, I shall speak a few words to the resolution proposed by the hon. member for South Perth (Mr. Steele). What is the aim of the resolution?
That, in the opinion of this House, the efficiency ' of the nation depends largely on the physical condition of the people, and in order that the latter may he conserved in the largest possible measure, there should he organized a separate department of the Government having supervision over all matters^ relating to the physical welfare of the Dominion.
In this morning's issue of the Ottawa Citizen, the hon. member for South Perth is reported as seeking to secure the organization of a department of public health, in order to promote the teachings of one particular school. The hon. member has already made it clear to the House that the resolution is no way concerned with the teaching of medical science or the doctrines of any particular school.
The hon. member for South Perth is entitled to the congratulations and thanks of the House. His disquisition is admirable, bearing as it does on a subject which is of interest to the whole Canadian people. It is universally acknowledged that a nation's strength and vigour depends to a great extent on the physical condition of its constituent elements. The great strides made in medical science since the wonderful discoveries of Pasteur, Koch and Lister have saved countless human lives. The results attained in scientific research and modern sanitation account for the preservation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers' lives. The health and strength of the Canadian nation largely depend on the moral, physical and mental qualities of the people and of the foreign element which is bound to come to our shores. Our first care should be to eliminate from among the British and American immigrants, who seek admission, the mentally defective. In Great Britain and the United States it is claimed that
600,000 persons suffer from mental diseases in one form or another. Immigrants should be subjected to a rigid inspection as to their mental condition by experts in disease of
the brain. At a special clinic in a Toronto hospital, it was found, as stated by the hon. member, that a large number of the weak-minded were foreigners. It behooves us then to require a more rigid examination of immigrants, so that any who later might become a menace to the vigour of the race may be refused admittance.
There is nothing in the constitution to prevent the establishment by the Federal Government of a department of public health. Since Confederation, the Federal Governments have dealt with many matters concerning public health, but the enactments of provincial legislatures in that sphere must be kept in mind. In Canada the importance of sanitation is being recognized more and more. In the province of Quebec, to speak only of my province, there is a Board of Public Health which has to deal with the problems of hygiene and to cope with epidemics. Its sphere of utility is being extended every day. In the same province there are health officers who look after hygienic conditions. Last winter, Laval University at Quebec gave lectures on public sanitation, the graduates at the end of the course being awarded a degree in hygienic science. Some of the graduates secure positions as sanitary inspectors.
I feel that the best means of developing the physical welfare of our people is by the establishment of a federal department of public health. But before working out the details of the scheme, representatives of the Provincial and Federal Governments should hold a conference to decide on a [DOT]course of action that would avoid all possible encroachment on provincial jurisdiction. Once a mutual understanding is reached, the proposed department could easily be set in operation. Public health work is extending its usefulness every day, and I have no doubt that such a department in the Federal Administration would soon prove its necessity. At the present time matters concerning the public health are divided among various departments, with no attempt at co-ordinate action, such as could be secured if they were all united under one responsible head.
I wish to call the especial attention of the Government and of the Minister of Inland Revenue to the Act concerning patent medicines. That subject is one for a public health department to consider. I have closely examined the Act and read important articles dealing with the enactment. As a result of a careful study, I should ask the Government and the House
to repeal or amend the law so as to afford a greater measure of protection to the public. It has (been said by a physician: Public health is indeed endangered, because everything, in so far as it is concerned, is done in the dark. It offers a fertile field for the operation of quackery. No doubt as to that.
I wish to congratulate heartily Dr. L. F. Dube, of Notre-Dame-du-Lac, county of Temiscouata, province of Quebec, on the lecture he delivered in the month of September, 1916, before the Commission of Sanitary Services. Whoever reads this dissertation cannot but urge ' an immediate revision of the law concerning patent medicines. With the leave of the House, I shall read the following extract from his lecture:
''When a department or a federal board of public health is established at Ottawa, it-is to be expected that it will be entrusted with the supervision, inspection and control of ail matters coming under the Act, as well as with the enforcement of the law, and control over the sale and manufacture of patent medicines. The work should be carried on under medical officers or health specialists duly authorized."
Medical associations have insisted on the repeal of the present Act, and I cannot urge too strongly the necessity for new legislation. In every department of the service there are at present to be found branches having to do with matters connected with public health, and which should properly be entrusted to one department. The result would be unity of purpose and action, which are indispensable if it is desired to reap all the fruits of modern scientific achievements.
Before resuming my seat, I wish to say a last word of commendation of the hon. member for South Perth (Mr. Steele), for having called the attention of the House and of the Government to such an important subject as that of public health.
Topic: QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS.
Subtopic: PHYSICAL WELFARE OF THE CANADIAN PEOPLE.