Mr. Chairman, usually I do not take up much time in speaking and seldom do I speak on a resolution preceding a bill. This may be owing to the fact that I would rather sit back and listen to others express their ideas from which I may learn. But I do feel I should say a few words on this resolution. One reason is that at the time the amendments to the Pension Act were before the house several members-I do not refer to opposition members in particular- rather implied afterwards that I was not in favour of granting increases to those recipients of war veterans allowance. This is quite wrong and is one reason why I felt I should say something on the resolution stage.
I suppose my trouble at the time, and it always has been, and I hear a great deal about it, is that these are two distinct acts. The people who are in receipt of a disability pension have always claimed to me that they felt they earned it. Those members who are
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War Veterans Allowance Act on the veterans affairs committee and were fortunate enough to be at the committee hearing the other day know that we had a delegation before us. The spokesman for that delegation made it very clear to us that those veterans who were in receipt of disability pensions really felt that they earned those pensions a little bit more than other veterans have earned theirs.
There may be an element of boastfulness in that feeling and I suppose that is the way I felt in expressing myself at the time we were dealing with that legislation. Now we are dealing with an act which provides assistance for a group of veterans who, regardless of their service, deserve assistance. The group to which this legislation applies is that group of men who at one time in their lives were willing to take the chances of any other soldier. Many of them were fortunate enough to go through the first world war and the second world war without catching a "blighty" as we used to say in the first world war or without incurring any disability that was disclosed by an examination, and these men did not receive a pension. While they were fortunate, there is no doubt that if men spend two or three years in the service, especially in strenuous positions in the front lines, there is a deterioration and disability does exist to some extent.
In any case, the veterans allowance legislation was brought into being to help those veterans who, probably through no fault of their own, found it difficult to re-establish themselves or who encountered sickness or trouble. In many cases they lacked education and some of them suffered from unfortunate circumstances such as may happen to all of us. These people arrive at a time in life when they cannot fit into a position where they can make a living. This legislation is for that group of people. I should like to say, and I mean it, that my heart goes out to all people, whether or not they are veterans, who find themselves in such a condition in the later years of their lives. These people have got to receive assistance from the rest of us who are fortunate enough to be able to maintain ourselves, pay our taxes and possibly lay a little bit aside.
As far as the veterans are concerned, as other members have said this evening I think they deserve special attention. I remember that in 1955, I believe, the then minister of veterans affairs initiated a thorough review of this act. The principle was established that a man who had seen service was aged ten years and provision was made to pay him the old age pension ten years earlier. As time has gone by and more consideration has been given to these veterans, benefits have been added until we have reached the point where
an unmarried man or woman is allowed to have an income up to $1,000 including the war veterans allowance.
It was brought very forcibly to the attention of members of the committee and to all members of the house no doubt for the first time that in the vicinity of 13,000 veterans who had been receiving both a disability pension and the veterans allowance would get no benefit if the two acts were not amended in the same year. I know that all members of the committee felt the same way regardless of the party to which they belonged. They felt that we must endeavour to have the War Veterans Allowance Act amended this year so that those who had been in receipt of benefits under both acts would still be able to receive these benefits.
As others have done, I should like to pay my compliments to the minister because I know he has worked hard to get these amendments before the house. I am very glad they have been brought forward. I do not really think it is necessary for me to correct any impression that people may have got from the attitude they thought I had, but I really believe that war veterans allowance recipients deserve benefits far more than some disability pensioners because the disability pensioners do have a preference so far as many things are concerned. This group of veterans does not get a preference.
I suppose this is not the right place to mention it but 1 hope I am here when the amendments to the Civil Service Act are brought forward. A case involving a veteran brought this situation very forcibly to my attention. A man with some four years service in the second world war returned from service and he was fortunate in that he was not wounded. He was not disabled in any way and therefore he received no benefits. He came back, married and started a family and had a nice home. Through an unfortunate accident involving a tractor he was killed. The widow was left with three small children, the oldest being about 12 years of age now. She has to go out and work. She is a secretary and, all other things being equal, I think that as the widow of a veteran she should have some preference in civil service examinations.
This is the first time this matter has come to our attention. I can see no reason why a widow of a veteran who is responsible for educating three children and has no other income than that which she can earn should not be given every chance when she wants to go out and work. When she takes a civil service examination she has no preference. She has to take her chance with all the other
secretaries. I just mention that at this time because it does have something to do with veterans.
I should also like to join other members in paying my compliments to the officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs with whom I have come in contact. I really think that some of the speeches that were made on the amendments to the other act, to which I know I probably should not refer, did have some effect. I know of some pensions that have been granted in various parts of the country under section 70 where there had been difficulty in securing a pension before, and that is all to the good. As one member has said, there are many veterans in receipt of the veterans allowance who should be drawing nearly a full pension under the Pension Act but their cases could never be thoroughly established.
There is one other point I wish to mention. I have not made any particular study of the problem but I am inclined to think that the time is coming when those men who volunteered to serve in world war I should be permitted to draw war veterans allowance even though they did not get overseas. Actually, I think I could make a list of about 30 cases myself of men who would have given their right arm to get overseas in the second world war. They were kept in camps in Canada because they were good staff men. I do not believe these men should be penalized. I am not making this plea on behalf of the second world war men because a good many of them made good and they are not interested in this measure. However, I do believe that the men who volunteered to serve in world war I and who never got out of Canada should be brought under the War Veterans Allowance Act.
I do not believe there are any other points I wish to mention at this time. However, there may be some points I want to mention when I see the bill. Nearly every member has mentioned gaps in the legislation which he hopes will be covered. I do not look for too much. This act and the Pension Act have to be reviewed and brought up to date every few years. I do not know to what extent these amendments will satisfy hon. members. No doubt they will not satisfy me any more than they will satisfy anyone else. We are always going to want something more in the act.
It seems to me there will be something for the veterans affairs committee to study every year. A delegation appeared before our committee this morning to present several resolutions. Just as we started the representative said that he was going to remove some of the resolutions because he understood that legislation which had been passed or was
War Veterans Allowance Act before the house met some of the points referred to in their representations. I feel this is a rather encouraging sign to find that resolutions which were drawn by organizations four or five months ago have already been covered by legislation. I believe the disability pensioners in my area are fairly happy. I think the war veterans allowance group will be happy too. There will be some veterans who will not be covered by this measure unless there is some change in the period necessary for qualification. Those veterans who did not get in enough time overseas are going to be disappointed. The department, the minister and the government, in their wisdom will have to decide just what extension can be given. I think we must be thankful for what we do get for the veterans. I am sure the veterans who will be in receipt of these increases will be thankful. However, we will go on fighting for more if we do not get enough.
Topic: WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS TO INCREASE RATES OF ALLOWANCES AND INCOME CEILINGS, ETC.