Gerald Stairs MERRITHEW

MERRITHEW, The Hon. Gerald Stairs, P.C., C.D., B.A., B.Ed., LL.D.(Hon.)

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Saint John (New Brunswick)
Birth Date
September 23, 1931
Deceased Date
September 5, 2004
school principal, teacher

Parliamentary Career

September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Saint John (New Brunswick)
  • Minister of State (Forestry) (September 17, 1984 - June 29, 1986)
  • Minister of State (Forestry and Mines) (June 30, 1986 - September 14, 1988)
  • Minister for the purposes of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act (September 15, 1988 - January 29, 1989)
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (September 15, 1988 - December 11, 1988)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Saint John (New Brunswick)
  • Minister for the purposes of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act (September 15, 1988 - January 29, 1989)
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (September 15, 1988 - December 11, 1988)
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (December 12, 1988 - January 3, 1993)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 46)

June 10, 1992

Mr. Merrithew:

Mr. Chairman, in considering applications to the Canadian Pension Commission, in the absence of other hard evidence, the commission would have to take into consideration a statutory declaration as to the service or maybe an event that happened during the service of a veteran.

June 10, 1992

The hon. member asked what the benefit of the doubt would be. It would not affect that at all. In the case of a statutory declaration the commission would still give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran.

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June 10, 1992

Mr. Merrithew:

Mr. Speaker, this is a day when Canada's merchant mariners will be very happy indeed. Those sceptics who believed this time would never come can now abandon ship.

The legislation we are considering today will put merchant navy veterans on a par with veterans who served in uniform during World War I, World War II and in Korea. Members will note that the bill also deals with the allied resistance members and their access to the War Veterans Allowance program. I will say just a few words on this aspect of the legislation before returning to the good news for our merchant navy veterans.

What we want to do here is to return the War Veterans Allowance program to its original purpose, that being to provide income support to qualified Canadian veterans and to allied veterans having formal military service. It was never the intent of Parliament to include those having resistance service, and indeed no other country in the world provides military benefits to allied resistance members.

Our forecasts show that if we did not make these changes, the War Veterans Allowance Program would soon benefit mainly persons who had fought in the resistance.

Obviously that is not acceptable and you will realize that the great majority of veterans agree with these changes.

As I said earlier, this is a day for our merchant mariners and a day to recall their magnificent contribution to the war effort. The commemoration of the battle of the Atlantic in May reminds us once again of the debt the free world owes to those who faced the perils of the sea.

One statistic from the battle of the Atlantic says so much about the courage of those who manned our merchant fleet. During July 1942 the allies lost one ship of 10,000 tonnes or more every 10 hours, day and night, for the 31 days during the month of July 1942.

June 10, 1992

Government Orders

The mental fortitude of those who climbed aboard cargo ships in the face of those statistics was remarkable. Their courage was not a production of an adrenalin rush. They had plenty of time to consider the risks, like the fine soldiers who went over the top in the First World War and the crews of bomber command in the Second World War, our merchant mariners put duty before self.

The stoker who faced almost certain death if his vessel was struck by a torpedo volunteered to risk his life. Time and again merchant mariners signed on for danger. Canada's merchant mariners earned our gratitude. That is why I would not like it thought that the Canadian people, through their governments, were ungrateful once victory was ours.

Our merchant mariners and their families have been beneficiaries of many of the finest programs in the world. Most of the veterans' programs and benefits have been available to merchant mariners for a number of years, but not all. Neither have they had the ease of access to some benefits enjoyed by those who served in the Armed Forces.

Such unequal treatment rankled them. Merchant mariners felt it diminished the importance of their role in the war. They want to be regarded and treated as veterans. Today, we are doing just that.

Bill C-84 is more than just another piece of legislation. It is an acknowledgement of the wartime contribution of some very brave veterans. This legislation introduces the designation of merchant navy veteran. It will give them full veteran status. The omissions and the obstacles are being removed.

Let me make it perfectly clear, Bill C-84 will entitle merchant navy veterans to the benefits available to their wartime comrades in the army, navy and air force, at a cost of about $100 million over the next five years.

Who becomes eligible for the designation of merchant navy veteran? The answer is basically anyone who served in a Canadian registered ship engaged in home or foreign trade on the high seas during either of the two world wars or Korea. Any Canadian with first world war or second world war high seas service in an allied ship is included. Wartime service would normally have entailed the signing of articles of agreement.

Allow me to tell hon. members about the benefits this bill will give to our merchant mariners, because that is the important thing. That is the reason we are asking for

expeditious passing of this piece of legislation this afternoon.

I do not have to tell the House just how popular and effective our veterans' independence program is. There is no program like it in Canada, or as far as I know in the world. It is an economical and versatile way of helping veterans stay in their own homes with their families and out of institutions.

Naturally, many merchant mariners wanted to receive the veterans' independence program. However, as things stand now only merchant mariners who receive VIP because of their disability pensions are eligible. Regulatory amendments made in concert with this legislation will allow up to some 1,800 additional merchant mariners to join the veterans' independence program.

For the first time merchant navy veterans with a non-pensionable condition will be able to apply on an income tested basis, as are our uniformed veterans.

This brings them in step with the veterans of the Armed Forces. The average age of our veteran population is now over 71 years, and it is even higher for merchant mariners. Not surprisingly then, merchant mariners have long campaigned to have the same access as other veterans to care in a departmental medical facility or a contract bed in one of many institutions across the country.

Regulations being brought into force with Bill C-84 will allow merchant navy veterans the institutional access they have long sought. Other long-standing grievances will be removed with the passage of this bill this afternoon.

Take the six-month rule. In order to qualify for income support and some health care benefits merchant mariners have to show six months of wartime service at sea plus one voyage through dangerous waters. Merchant mariners have argued that the six-month qualifying period was unfair, and it will be removed for merchant navy veterans.

Another significant breakthrough contained in this legislation deals with disability pensions. Merchant mariners can now only qualify for disability pensions if they were injured as a direct result of enemy action. A sailor who suffered an injury while his vessel was at sea was out of luck as far as the present legislation is concerned. Any injury suffered away from enemy action was a matter for the merchant mariner and the shipping company he worked for.

June 10, 1992

Bill C-84 takes a different view of this. It recognizes that merchant mariners were covered for disability pension purposes from the moment they climbed aboard their vessel in port for a high seas voyage.

The removal of the enemy action provision will result in another estimated 230 merchant navy veterans, or their dependents, qualifying for disability pensions for the very first time. I am sure the House will agree that these are welcome changes. They certainly mirror the recommendations made by the House Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

I want to thank that committee under the chairmanship of the hon. member for Crowfoot, Arnold Malone, who is ill today, for the attention it has given to the concerns of merchant mariners. I might also add thanks here to all of the members who served on that committee. Some of them are present in the House today.

The committee made other recommendations that do not need legislation. I want to discuss these, however, because I want to put on the record the position of the government on these other recommendations made by the standing committee.

Merchant mariners want the names of their compatriots who were killed in wartime to be honoured in a special book of remembrance in the Peace Tower.

The government agrees that there should be a Book of Remembrance dedicated to the merchant marine and personally I would like it to be placed in the Peace Tower as soon as possible. We are now working to make this wish a reality.

Another recommendation made by the House committee is for the government to encourage the erection of a monument dedicated to those killed in the wartime merchant navy.

I certainly hope such a memorial will be built. The government cannot help financially, with the exception of the one monument we do own. That is the National War Memorial here in Ottawa. It has a long-standing policy not to get involved with war memorials.

Government Orders

The National War Memorial honours everyone who served in Canada in the World Wars I and II and Korea. Obviously, merchant mariners and merchant navy veterans are very much included with those we honour on the National War Memorial.

I might add here that this is the exact position that the major groups of veterans, like the Royal Canadian Legion and others, asked us to do.

There are many war memorials across the country. They were erected by provinces, municipalities, associations of veterans and through the subscriptions of grateful citizens. Even today war memorials are being built. I get letters from schools and other organizations proudly telling me about the memorials they recently erected with funds raised through fund raising activities and by public subscription.

Given the high esteem in which merchant mariners are held, I would think that the public would be prepared to support any campaign for a merchant navy memorial and I would certainly encourage such a campaign.

The government has given careful attention to the work of the House committee, just as we have to the recommendations of the Senate subcommittee on veterans affairs, the advice of Canada's associations of veterans and, indeed, the coalition of merchant navy organizations that worked so hard on this piece of legislation.

At my request, they got together to study the whole question. Together we gave the merchant mariner issue the most thorough policy review since the end of World War II. I am grateful for the input of all those who worked hard and intelligently to recommend solutions to the government. For the most part, the government has accepted their recommendations.

Let me say in conclusion, that it has taken 47 years for merchant mariners to get their total due. I do not intend to lay blame for that delay nor do I intend to take the blame for it. I am proud that Bill C-84 has been presented during my watch. I ask members of all parties to give this legislation speedy passage. Canadian merchant mariners have waited long enough for this day and as I said to them when we announced this in March in Halifax: "Welcome aboard".

June 10,1992

Government Orders

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June 2, 1992

Hon. Gerald S. Merrithew (Minister of Veterans Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, first of all I can say that we are indebted to CBC and the National Film Board for the fact that they put those three programs on in prime time because I think everybody in this House knows the importance of Canadians understanding the immense contribution and the sacrifice of Canadians in time of war.

Having said that, however, I can say that many veterans were unhappy at how the contribution of Canadians was portrayed in those particular episodes. They wrote me and expressed their feelings very forcefully. I can tell you they wrote to other ministers, the Prime Minister and, of course, the CBC as well as the National Film Board.

The fact of the matter is war is very often violent and destructive and unpredictable. Obviously decisions have to be made at a time of duress. While it is easy for us to criticize, it is much easier to make a comment some 50 years after the fact.

June 2, 1992

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May 13, 1992

Hon. Gerald Stairs Merrithew (Minister of Veterans Affairs):

(a) The aim of the television commercial was to inform Canadians about the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The total cost was $1,130,110;

(b) The advertising company awarded the contract, Communications Consultants Ltd., is the agency of record for the department;

May 13, 1992

Routine Proceedings

(c) The media placement cost was $1,054,000;

(d) Veterans Affairs Canada paid for the advertising;

(e) See response to (c);

(f) The production cost was $76,110.

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May 6, 1992

Hon. Gerald S. Merrithew (for the Secretary of State for External Affairs) moved

that Bill C-53, an act to provide for the imposition of special economic measures be read the third time and passed.

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