John Wesley BRIEN

BRIEN, John Wesley, M.D.

Parliamentary Career

December 17, 1917 - October 4, 1921
  Essex South (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 3)

April 26, 1920


This .subclause 1 of clause 5A deals in its latter part with the amount

of the license fee to be charged, and it staJtes that the fee shall not exceed the sum of $25 for any license that may he granted under the Act. The question of the amount of that fee is one that will be affected by the further amendment which it is proposed to make under the notice contained in Friday's Hansard. Under the law a manufacturer who is manufacturing preparations containing less than the quantity of scheduled drugs permitted under the proposed amendment will, under the Act, be liable to pay a fee up to $25; but under the provisions of the exception contained in the further proposed amendment, .a retail druggist may manufacture his own remedies containing the 'permitted quantities of scheduled drugs, and as the Act now reads he would be liable to pay the same license fee as the manufacturer. Surely, a retail druggist who may manufacture a very limited number and quantity of his own remedies should not be liable to pay as large ia fee as a manufacturer who manufactures many lines and in very large quantities. The matter, of course, is, under the provisions of the clause as it reads now, within the discretion of the minister. All that the clause does is to limit the amount of the fee Ito $25. The suggestion, however, is that there should be one fee and that there would be no difference between the case of a manufacturer and that of a retail druggist. What is the intention of the department with reference to the license fee?

Full View Permalink

November 4, 1919

Mr. J. W. BRIEN (Essex South):

I concur in the remarks that have been made by those who have spoken before me. I was not approached by any one and I did not know that I was on the committee until the (personnel of the committee had been announced.

Subtopic:   MIDDLEBRO.
Full View Permalink

June 25, 1919

Mr. JOHN WESLEY BRIEN (South Essex):

Mr. Speaker, before going into Supply, I wish to bring before the House a matter of very great importance to the constituency which I have the honour of representing, and to the country generally. I refer to the removal of sand and gravel by American and Canadian companies from the west end of Lake Erie in the vicinity of Pelee island and Point Pelee, which is causing extreme erosion oi the shores of the island and also the point, carrying away the natural protection and threatening the destruction of both the island and the point. Notwithstanding that petitions from the municipality and from private parties have been sent in to the Government during a period extending back over four or five years, yet this nuisance is going on unabated.

In the first place let me give some idea of the location of this island and this point. Pelee island is not only the most southern point of South Essex, but also the southernmost point of the Dominion of Canada, situated about thirty miles southeast of

the mouth of the Detroit river and about sixteen miles from the mainland of Canada. Formed in the course of ages by a small upheaval of rock and by the rich alluvial deposits brought down by the swirling waters of the Great Lakes as they turn their course eastward towards the Gulf oi St. Lawrence, it is one of the few places in Canada which can boast of prehistoric habitation. In ancient days the Mound Builders reared on it their structures foi defence, for memorials to their dead, and for worship. It is now the peaceful abode of eight hundred patriotic and loyal British subjects. It has an area of sixteen square miles and consists of about ten thousand acres of the most fertile soil in the Dominion of Canada, of which 9,800 acres are under cultivation. For many years it was renowned for its great harvest of grapes and the excellent native wine produced from them. It is now particularly noted for its enormous crops of fall wheat, corn and tobacco. The excise revenue collected on tobacco from Pelee island alone amounts to over $100,000 per annum.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1919


The American company

controls the sandbar off the Island and the Canadian company the sandbar off the Point. The method in operation is to use large steam <. barges, equipped with sandsucking apparatus, which have a capacity of from 500 to 800 cubic yards, and can be loaded in two hours. This sand and gravel is carried to the ports of Detroit, Toledo, Sandusky and Cleveland, in the United States and Windsor, Ontario. The cost of operation is about 27 cents a cubic yard and I believe the material is selling at the present time, and has been for some years, at the pmds mentioned, for $1.50 to $1.80 "per cubic yard.

When we consider that millions of yards are carried away every year, some little idea can be gained of how profitable a business it is. They begin their operations at the earliest date that navigation opens and continue until the latest date in the fall. They work night and day, Sundays included. I refer now to the American companies; the Canadians are not allowed to work on Sundays. The profit from the business in which these sandsuckers, as they are commonly known down there, are engaged is about 600 per cent on the actual cost. And, let me repeat, this country is getting nothing in return.

The result is that the sandbar to the south of the Island has almost vanished. From a

quarter of a mile to half a mile of the southern part of the Island has disappeared, and the sloping breakwaters that protected both the Island and the Point at all times have also disappeared, and to-day in many places the sand embankments have given way and the water has swept in on the reclaimed lands; also the greater part of the sandbar to the south of Point Pelee and at least a quarter of a mile of the Point itself, which was originally well timbered, have been carried away.

On April 28 last I received a telegram from Mr. F. C. Barnes, a member of the Municipal Council of Pelee Island, as follows;

Lake has broken into marsh in several places through loss of natural protection hy the removal of sand and gravel.

un May 6 I received the following letter from him:

Received your letter in reply to telegram that I sent you and am pleased to see that you are taking much interest in our troubles. Mr. Brien, if,something is not done, and done quick, our island will be gone, as the sand and natural protections are mostly all gone and the waves are cutting the shores all to pieces and breaking through in several places to which we have to put logs, stones and anything we can get to save the marsh lands from flooding, and if said lands flood, the island is surely gone, as you understand the value of our rich fertile soil in the marsh which is about one-half of the island. Now, Mr. Brien, I feel assured, and I am satisfied that the rest of the council do, that you are doing all you can in our behalf. But have we got to be wiped off the map simply to fill some American people's pockets? Are we not British subjects and our island British territory? I feel assured that there is a way. If the Government will not stop it outright, why cannot there be an export duty put on so high that it will be impossible for them to take it away? As it is, our island is going and no one, not even the Government, is receiving anything except the American people. How long would Canadians go into American waters and take sand and gravel? Might also say that the United States Government will not allow sand and gravel to be taken only in harbours and such places, which saves dredging operation for their Government. If our Government could only see and understand things as we do and as they really are, surely they would stop operations at once, as there are about 800 good British subjects on this island that must sooner or later lose their homes and all. It is a very serious matter. As to operations on Fishing Point, they have been busy night and day since about March 2iSth, and also Sundays. This is another matter that should be taken up, this Sunday work. Our Canadian boats cannot load or unload on Sunday, but those sandsuckers have been working every Sunday as much as week days. Will you kindly let us know if they can operate on the Sabbath day?

At six o'clock the House took recess.

After Recess.

The House resumed at eight o'clock.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1919

Mr. BRIEN (Resuming):

Mr. Speaker, when the House rose at 6 o'clock, I was reading a letter from a member of the Municipal Council of Pelee island setting forth the tremendous amount of erosion that was taking place on the shores of Pelee island and the great destruction of property resulting. I have also a letter which was addressed to me on June 7 last by a man who is very much interested in Point Pelee. It says: .

Dear Sir,-I want to advise you that the sand-suckers are having a fine time. They come and go at their own sweet will, and seem to have received no instructions to the contrary. The laxity of the Government in this matter is going to drive the .people into revolution, because it means to the people interested in Point Pelee lands a loss of a great many thousands of dollars, and it will not be very long before this loss or damage will be sustained by them. I am interested to a very large sum, and I must confess that I feel that almost any proceedings will be justified in defence of our property, and if the Government who are elected to look after the interests of the people will not do so, why should the people not take the law into their own hands? This "passing the buck" by the Dominion Government over to the provincial and by the provincial piass-ing it back to the Dominion is so apparently a design on their part to avoid taking action that we are led to no other conclusion than that they are influenced to take no action.

I wish to state here that the Federal Government is interested in Point Pelee to the extent of having established there a national park or bird sanctuary. I have here a letter from the superintendent of that park, which reads as follows:

Dear .Sir.-Sandsuckers were operating all last week, close in to the end of the land at Point Pelee, two and three in number. Those cargoes are lifted in three hours' time and comprise approximately seventy-five carloads of gravel. The outer line of bars are now all gone and these vandals are steadily creeping head on to the land's end. The first mate of one of these ponderous crafts landed at the Point last week and openly boasted of the continuation that would last all the summer of 11919. The action of the lake's currents here conveys the gravel and sand from both sides of the Point to less than three-quarters of a mile out from the terminal. The operations last season have proven disastrous to the Point, jeopardizing its safety and the continuation this season will certainly ruin and wreck this old historic landmark. All this gravel is going to the United States ports and the people are swearing vengeance here. The shores on both sides of the Point north of Point Pelee are already barren of sand and gravel, and it does appear that our Government has given little heed to our people that esteem this place as a heritage. I presume it will not be necessary to report further in this transaction.

P. H. Conover.

Repeated protests have been made to the Government since 1914 against the carrying on of these operations. On February 28, 1914, a petition signed by about one hundred ratepayers of Pelee island was addressed to the reeve and councillors of the municipality of Pelee, and through them sent to the Acting Premier and other members of the Government of Ontario. The petition set forth:

1. The importance of the island by reason of its large production.

2. The large expenditure of the municipality to bring the marsh lands to a very high state of .cultivation.

3. The great erosion of the shores imperilling the extensive drainage systems constructed.

4. The cause of the increased erosion has been tremendously increased by the removal of sand and gravel from the shores and beaches of the island.

5. The effect of the holes and depressions made by the removal of the sand and gravel is to cause the erosion of the shores to he brought down by the action of wind and water to fill these depressions.

6. The necessity of speedy action by the Government of the province of Ontario, or incalculable injury would be done to the island and the drainage system thereon.

Following this petition, a large deputation from Pelee island waited upon the Minister of Lands, Forests and Mines, who issued instructions on March 9, 1914, for an examination of the matters complained of 'by their representatives. A report was made to the Minister of Lands, Forests and Mines by James Hutoheon, engineer of ihat department, on May 2, 1914, wherein he refers to the serious erosion of the shores, especially on the west side south of the west dock; that the gravel beach claimed by the first owners as having protected this west shore was not then in existence; that the old road on the west shore was entirely cut away, and that the stone-filled timber cribs which were built for shore protection in 1907 were now 50 feet out in the lake, which was the amount of erosion in seven years. IHle also states that north of the west dock on the west .side there was a good gravel Ibeaoh and little or no erosion. (This beach has all disappeared since then.) He also stated that the erosion of the shore at the points indicated was a serious matter to the municipality, and that adequate shore protection at that time was beyond the means of the municipality, and also that the safety of the drainage work was not seriously affected as the erosion

was going on at points where the land was high and not at that time along the drainage embankments. I may say that since that time, which means within five years, the erosion has carried away nearly all the sand embankments protecting the drainage area, and the water now in almost any storm is breaking over into the reclaimed land. The embankments have given way; no sand and gravel are to be found at that particular place.

The understanding is that the 'Government engineers at different times have reported to the departments of both the local and the Federal Governments that the removal of the sand was not causing any greater than natural erosion. As evidence of this, I submit the following letter received by me from Mr. K. M. Cameron, assistant chief engineer, Department of Public Works, Ottawa, under date of March 26th, 1919:

Tour letter of the 24th instant to the department concerning sand and gravel operations off Point Pelee, Ontario, has been referred to me as I was directly charged during the past season with the examination into this matter. A. very extensive examination was made and I beg to state that it is believed the continuance of the dredging under the regulations as laid down last season will not he a factor in the erosion of Point Pelee. The erosion which is going on, and which has been going on for a very 'great number of years, is entirely a natural one. I have recommended that our observations be continued for a further season and that dredging be allowed under the regulations as laid down last year. If, as a result of our further observations, we find it necessary to further restrict or discontinue dredging operations altogether, the matter will then be referred to the Department of Justice for atten-tton- (Bgd.) K. M. Cameron.

On April 10, 1918, Mr. J. L. Morris, civil engineer of Pembroke, Ontario, in company with Mr. James Hutcheon, engineer for the Department of Lands, Forests and Mines of Ontario, went to Pelee island and made a very thorough examination and investigation of conditions as they then existed. The substance of his report was that there had been no great erosion of the shores of the island previous to the excessive removal of sand, but that in recent years the erosion on certain parts of the island has been at the rate of about ten feet per annum. He stated that in front of lot 30, judging by the municipal plan made by Mr. Alex. Baird, C.E., of Leamington, Ontario, in 1912, there has been an erosion of more than 100 feet, which erosion occurred between the years 1912 and 1918; and judging from data compiled by Engineer Hutcheon in 1916 and comparing with conditions as he found them in 1918, 105 feet of Fishing point, at the south end of the island, covered with

timber, had been washed away during the two seasons, and from the east side of the point 100 feet of timbered land had been washed away. At this time there was no sandbar to the south of the island. He also stated that Mr. Guy (McCormick, an old resident of Pelee island, had related to him that within his recollection the sandbar from Fishing point reached from the timber growth out into the lake one and a half miles towards Middle island, and that with the exception of a narrow channel through the sandbar he could walk from Fishing Point to the end of the bar, a distance of one and a half miles out in the lake.

He stated that during the season of 1913, 1,930 boat loads of sand and gravel were removed from around the south end of the island, and that during the season of 1917 they had reported taking 1,872 loads. As these loads average 500 cubic yards each, and as no record can be got of the total amount removed, as they work at night as well as during the day, it is a safe estimate to state that millions of yards of gravel were removed every year from in and around this vicinity. I wish also to state that this is only one company which is operating off the south end of the island, while another company is operating off the south end of the Point Pelee bar, carrying away sand, which company has fully as many boats and is working just as constantly as the other. These engineers, while claiming that damage was done, seem to recommend the building of protecting groins, etc., in order to protect the shores, instead of recommending the removal of the cause. In fact, the general opinion is that the departmental engineers advise their departments that the removal of the sand is not the direct cause of the excessive damage that is being done to both the island and the point.

On December 4, 1917, the council of the county of Essex, in session assembled, passed a resolution, copies of which were forwarded to the Minister of Lands, Forests and Mines of Ontario, and to the local representatives of North and South Essex. It set forth the great danger to Pelee island owing to the action of the sandsuckers in removing sand and gravel from the bar projecting from Fishing point, and asked that there shall be no further continuance of licenses granted by the province of Ontario to companies to remove sand or gravel from the waters of lake Erie, and that any such rights he cancelled at once and thus prevent any further destruction of Pelee island. It is inferred from this resolution that the County Council of Essex

believes that the excavation outside of Fishing point was wholly responsible for the increased erosion of the banks of Pelee island. It- is also the opinion of all local engineers, as well as of every individual who has witnessed the destruction going on, that the removal of the sand is totally responsible for the destruction that has occurred. Appeals have been made to the Ontario Government, and also to the Dominion Government, at different times, not only through representatives and solicitors, but through deputations from both Pelee island and the mainland, and at all times the answer received was that their engineers' reports were to the effect that the removal of the sand and gravel was not the cause of the excessive erosion going on, but that it was due wholly to natural causes.

In the meantime, however, all leases have been cancelled, and to-day there remain the two patented water lots, one of which- namely, the one at the south end of Pelee island-is owned and controlled by an American company known as the Sandusky Sand Company, managed by a firm called Homegardner & Hendrickson. This lot is partly land above water and partly under water. The other is on the bar projecting out from Point Pelee. The difficulty now seems to be that the Ontario Government cannot cancel these patents, as they are owned outright, and the only thing that can be done is for the municipality or the Government, who are being damaged, to take action through the courts to restrain further operations and to obtain redress for damages done. A letter under date of March 27, 1919, written to me by Mr. J. G. Kerr, of Chatham, Ontario, solicitor for the municipality of Pelee island, explains the position the island is in with regard to this matter, as follows:

I am writing you at the request of the council of the township of Pelee. The reeve and clerk and Mr. Barnes, one of the councillors, have been in consultation with me for some time today with regard to the litigation that the island is having with the parties who are dredging for gravel at the south of the island. I started an action for the township with the approval of the Attorney-General for Ontario about a month ago, and so that you may understand exactly what is in question, I am sending you herewith a copy of the statement of claim that has been filed and served in that action. The defendants have not yet put in their statement of defence, but from correspondence that I have had with their solicitors, it is quite plain to me now that I cannot force them to a trial this spring. The council is very much concerned about the matter. It is one of life and death in so far as Pelee island is concerned. The menace is growing and al-readv on several occasions the water has

broken over the drainage embankments and the islanders are convinced that unless they get some protection and get it shortly there is going to be some very great damage done in the near future. It is apparent to me that even if the island succeeds in the litigation it is still going to be necessary to construct some artificial protection along the shore. This has been reported on from time to time by Government engineers and township engineers, but there is a report made by the district engineer at Windsor in 1915 on file in the Public Works Department in which there are some specific recommendations by that engineer along the line of construction of groins. I think the engineer in his report goes extensively into the enormous profits that these gravel operators are making and suggests that by taxation they could be made to bear a substantial part of any expense incurred by the Government. The islanders are not inclined to concede anything to these gravel operators as they are absolutely convinced that the erosion has been very greatly increased by their operations. They have excavated a great basin to the south of the island so that now where formerly there were sand banks and accumulations of sand that were really dry land nearly the year round there is from ten to thirty feet of water. A great many acres of dry land have already been washed away and the erosion is going on at such a rate that unless something is done there is no question but what Pelee island will be in the course of a few years reduced to just those parts of the island which consist of rock formation and that would mean practically the destruction of the island. The district engineer in the report that I have mentioned strongly recommends works of protection and further points out that it is the duty of the Government to do these works. For some reason or another, the matter was not followed up in 19ft'5. But the council feels now that a determined effort ought to be made to get the Government to take some action.

There are two lines upon which the Dominion Government can act. The one would be to stop the gravel operations and the other would be to construct works of protection. I understand that the United iStates Government has put a stop long ago to all similar operations in their part of lake Erie and the council would like to press upon the Government the necessity of stopping these excavations, either by some express act of the Government or by imposing such an export tax upon gravel as to make the business unprofitable. You probably know who the men are that are conducting these operations. They are German Americans in Sandusky and they are making enormous profits, and neither the Dominion Government nor the Ontario Government nor the township of Pelee are deriving any revenue from them. They, of course, have plenty of money and will no doubt be able to get engineers to contend that the dredging operations are not the cause of the trouble. They can show, of course, that erosion is going on elsewhere but the men on the island know that since these dredging operations have assumed the large scale they have that the erosion on the island is doubling in force and in intensity. They know that since these dredging operations began all the natural protection which formerly existed has been swept away. It is almost self-evident that the construction of a huge basin at the south of the island would gather to it all the loose material from the shores of the island, the currents on both the east and west shores being from the

north to the south, so that the sand hanks that formerly existed paralleling the shores and which formerly took the most of the weight of the wave action are now gone and the waves allowed to break directly upon the shore. This is what is causing the more rapid erosion and the islanders feel that they must fight and fight to a finish and that if they cannot succeed now in getting protection and in stopping these excavations they might as well give up the idea of any permanent home or property on the island.

I wrote some days ago to the Public Works Department for a copy of the District Engineer's report and also for copies of certain other reports with regard to similar operations near Point Pelee. I would like to have these reports so that I could go over them carefully with the council, and then we would like to come to Ottawa and interview with you the Minister of Public Works and also, if possible, the Acting Premier, Sir Thomas White, so that we could discuss both the engineering problem and the question of either stopping the export of gravel from the vicinity of the island or imposing an export tax upon It.

The council tell me that you are personally familiar with the whole matter and anxious to assist them, and I therefore feel encouraged to lay the matter before you at this length. The council would like an appointment at an early date as they will soon toe very busy with their farming operations, but as their telephone cable is not working it usually takes a couple of days at least to communicate with them, so please let me know' as far ahead as possible and by telegram what date the minister fixes for the interview. J. G. Kerr.

I wish to state here that Mr. Kerr has been only recently engaged by the municipality of Pelee island as their solicitor; they having tried many others during the past years in their attempts to get results through the process of law.

Full View Permalink