Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to see how bipartisan the veterans policy is. Like most hon. members, I too am a veteran and in the past I have been very proud of the part that the Department of Veterans Affairs has played in the welfare of our returned people. On most occasions it has been bipartisan, and we are pleased to see that it is so today. Of course, I think a committee could be set up to study veterans' affairs. I do not think the fact that we pass this legislation will take away the need for setting up such a committee to discuss further the problems of veterans that are not settled by this resolution.
I should like to congratulate Mr. Burgess, the dominion president of the Canadian Legion, on the presentation that they made and the able manner in which the work has been done which has gone into that presentation.
In my particular area the Canadian Legion has always played a prominent part in veterans affairs. From my reading of the
brief and from the knowledge that I have of veterans problems-it may be small-I think the Minister of Veterans Affairs might have given more consideration to increasing the amounts which are being increased to bring them up to the 33i per cent which has been asked for by the Canadian Legion. At all times I have found the Legion moderate in the extreme. They have always tended to be on the conservative side, with a small "c". At no time have their demands been anything other than reasonable.
I should like to bring to the attention of the minister the fact that at the present time there are people working in the House of Commons who are veterans of the British armed forces. When they applied for jobs here they were instructed that they did not come under the veterans preference. That is a matter that could be taken into consideration and perhaps some thought given to it.
I have found on many occasions that persons reporting to the pension board for their annual check-up-I have been in that position myself-have been instructed by the doctors sitting on the board and dealing with the review of pension cases that they have looked in the files and found no entries, no medical evidence that the pensioner had needed attention since the last time they saw him. I think some consideration should be given to this problem in those instances where medical plans are in operation. A doctor may be working continuously in an area under a medical plan and in many cases he does not see fit to fill out the forms for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Therefore, even though the man may be treated once a week, once a month or at irregular intervals, there is no record of such treatment, and when he comes before the board for the annual review there is no record of any medical service having been given to that particular pensioner. The obvious conclusion drawn from the blank record for that year is that he has not needed any treatment.
I am not sure what amount doctors are paid for calls involving pensioners but it may be that the rate is not sufficiently high to warrant the doctor filling out the form. He may find it is much more profitable to use the medical plan in that particular area.
There are also a number of cases, including one in particular about which I can speak with some authority, where the veteran comes before a pension board in a small community and there are no specialists attached to the review board with the result that the pensioner is sent somewhere else to see a specialist. In some cases I think the pensioner is legitimately justified in saying that when he is sent to a private practitioner
he should only be sent there for examination and should not be compelled to take treatment, treatment that would only serve to put a few dollars in the pocket of the particular specialist and would have no bearing whatsoever on the pension review being undertaken.
In the particular case I have in mind the person's pension was cut because he had refused the treatment, and he had simply been sent to the specialist for an examination and not for treatment. If these matters are brought to the minister's attention I am quite sure he will take cognizance of them and it will not be necessary to say any more about them.
On occasion we have had problems with a type of veteran who does not appear to be covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. There are a number, some of whom I know personally, who served in the merchant navy, saw action and were wounded by shells or torpedoes and are unable to get any type of pension. It seems that originally there was a pension for merchant seamen and that when the war began that pension was discontinued. A period of time elapsed before the pension plan under which they were then brought was put into effect. One particular chap I know lost an arm and was badly shot up, but there is no coverage for him. I believe this matter has been raised in the house on a number of occasions. This person has never received any pension, and I think it can be legitimately argued that he was serving in a very active field of hostilities.
In talking to soldiers, airmen and navy personnel recently I was most surprised to find that they do not come under what we would have considered the protection of the Department of Veterans Affairs while we were service personnel. It is true that while they are on duty for their eight hours a day they would be covered in case of accidents when working at the job they are supposed to be doing. I am not going to repeat a number of cases that have been mentioned. There was one discussed at some length in 1956, an accident where a man was killed while still under the orders of his superior officer. But because what he was doing was considered to be outside the line of duty his wife received no pension.
However, it would appear to me that in such cases we could reasonably ask the government to provide and pay for an insurance plan that would at least supply some of the necessities for the widows and dependants of these service personnel who at the present time are serving their country not only in Canada but in foreign lands. It does not
appear to me that there would be much satisfaction involved for some lady, whose husband had been killed on the streets of Paris, being told that he was not on duty at that particular time and that nothing could be done about it. There has always been a certain honour and pride in serving in the forces of Canada and I think we should protect that at least with insurance which would cover these people in the hours when they are considered not to be working. I think that rates could be arranged whereby insurance of $20,000 or $25,000 would not be prohibitive in cost and I believe such a move would be very favourably received by the armed services.
Finally, I should like to leave the thought with the minister that some consideration be given to setting aside November 11 as a national holiday. Every person in Canada has had some close friend or relative who gave their life in the service of Canada. Indeed, many of us have had hundreds. The least I think we can do for them is to set aside one day on which to honour their memory.
Topic: S16 HOUSE OF COMMONS