I was not in the House on Friday last when the Estimates of the Department of Labour were under consideration, but I have read in ' Hansard ' the speeches made by members on this side of the House on that occasion, and I do not wish to go over the same ground that has been covered by them. In the few remarks that I intend to make, I wish to tell the hon. Minister of Labour very frankly exactly what the labour men think of him as a Minister of Labour.
I have read very carefully the report made by Commissioner Price. I am surprised that in that report letters of the miners from the West have been published, but very few, if any, of the letters that have been sent to the Department of Labour have been published. It would seem fair that both sides of the case should be stated in a report made by a Royal Commissioner.
It is true that I have asked for' the papers to be brought down, but the returns are very slow in coming. This may be one of the reasons why this year the Estimates of the Department of Labour have been brought down almost before those of any other department. Generally, the Estimates of the.. Department of Labour are brought up very late in the session. I am aware that I shall not get the return for which I have asked 'for, for a long time to come. Last year on the 5th of April, I asked for a return, and it was just for
a lock and key. I got the return only last week, and no look and key.
I claim that this report of Commissioner Price is not absolutely correct, and I really believe that it has been copied from a report made in 1903. It seems to me that this report was written with the intention of making the country believe that the whole fault lies with the men. I am not here to say that the men are perfect, far from it. If you want to get perfect men, whether employees or employers, you will have to go higher than the members of this House, or the public in general.
It would only be fair if both sides of the question were put before the public. I know that letters have been sent to the minister, and he will probably read some of them to the House. A letter, which I intend to read to the House, was sent to the Minister of Labour and the answer was simply: ' I will take the matter into consideration.' The Minister of Labour is still considering the matter, although it is a long time since the letter was sent. This letter, which appears in the report of the commissioner, has been sent by the miners themselves and is dated September 30, 1913:
Hon. T. W. Crothers,
Minister of Labour.
Dear Sir,-A short time ago, if you remember, in the Wilson hotel, you made the remark that if you could do anything in your power for the benefit of the workers that you would be only to pleased to do so. Now, 1 will endeavour to give you a full explanation of the trouble which we are engaged in at the present time. Our men have been openly discriminated against, and the companies refuse to give any reasons whatever. They refuse to meet our commitees, and we claim the right to Question at any time why our men are discharged.
The companies refuse to concede that right to us, and what do we find? They put us up against a lockout; our men are compelled to act on these gas committees and we can find no other reasons why they are discriminated against. Of course the companies are able to prove that they are not discriminating against our men on account of their actions on gas committees, but they do not submit any reasons why they have discharged them, and that is what we want to know-if there is any way to compel them to let us know why they are allowed to discharge our men unquestioned. That is the only question at issue. And if there is any remedy we would like to know.
Trusting you will give this question your immediate attention and that we will receive an early reply.
This letter has been replied to, but only with the statement that the letter will be taken into consideration. The ministers are still considering the question. And I am not prepared to say that the men did all that was right, but I am prepared to
[Mr. Verville. j
admit that both were right and both were wrong. But first of all I believed that when the minister took that trip to the West we expected that through his power as minister he would bring the two elements together, and, for the benefit of British Columbia as well as the country at large, would secure a settlement. It seems to me the mission of the minister was not to settle who was wrong and who was right, but to try to bring about a settlement. I have read the report. I do not pretend to know anything about mining further than to have been in a mine to see the conditions under which men have to work underground. At the same time, I think the commissioner was not justified in making this report. I do not know any better way by which I can show that than by reading to the House a letter that the minister himself received. That letter was written by Mr. Farrington. Of course, it may displease the minister, because this man happens to be an American, and I know the minister does not like to have any truck with the Americans. But he certainly is in a position to criticise the report better than I am. I hope the House will bear with me while I read this letter, for I am particularly anxious to get it on 'Hansard' so that the people in this House and outside of it may know how the criticism often levelled against the men in this case appears to one who knows exactly the mining situation in the West:
Hon. Thomas W. Crothers, K.C.,
Minister of Labour for Canada, Ottawa, Ont.
Sir,-I have Just been favoured with a copy of the official report filed with your department by Royal Commissioner Samuel Price, who, I understand, was appointed in accordance with an Act of the Dominion Parliament to investigate the coal miners' strike now existent on Vancouver Island. Because of my having charge of this strike from its inception, I think I can discuss the report with a reasonable degree of assurance that I know my subject; and as the representative of the men involved in the strike I feel that I have a license to defend them against the injustice done their cause by reason of the commissioner's manifest failure to reveal the truth. Therefore, in the absence of a personal meeting, I take this means of communicating to you the statement that the Royal Commissioner's report is neither an impartial nor a complete exposition of the situation on the Island. Much of it is composed of a quotation on an opinion written by a former commissioner in connection with the Island strike of 1903, and which opinion was virulent in tone, unwarranted by the facts and injurious to the miners of that time, but entirely foreign to the present controversy; yet it is now reproduced in Commissioner Price's report, evidently to deceive the public and
injure the men engaged in the existent strike. Moreover, as a Congressional guide the report is misleading, and worthless as an historical document, for the reason that the commissioner has given but scant consideration to the miners' side of the dispute, while he has overstepped propriety to find justification for the iniquitous attitude of the mine owners. He has given credence to rumour where rumour was damaging to the miners' ~ union, and excused the evil practices of the mine owners in the face of tangible proof of their guilt.
To those who are familiar with conditions on the Island it is clear that the Royal Commissioner has predicated his report upon the unsupported statements of the mine owners and their satellites; and, on the other hand, denied the union men the opportunity of appearing before him in defence of their position or to refute the untrue statements of these hostile agents. In view of my prominent connection with this trouble I should be expected to have much valuable matter to contribute to the investigation, and I have, yet I was given no opportunity to present it to the commissioner. In fact, I never met him but once, and then only informally, during my brief conference with you in Vancouver city the first week in July. I do not mention this because I feel slighted, but because it shows the commissioner was not anxious to have facts. Furthermore, I have made careful inquiry of the district and local officers connected with the strike, and many individuals of influence and activity among the strikers, all of whom unite in declaring they did not have the privilege of appearing before the commissioner, and none of whom were even aware of his visit to the Island; which further indicates his desire to escape rather than to find the truth.
Couple his transgression in this respect with his transparent disposition to favour the mine owners and his apparent willingness to accept and include in his report everything, no matter how flimsy, that reflects discredit upon the United Mine Workers of America, and you must agree the Royal Commissioner's report is destitute of justice to the striking miners.
The miners have been insistent in their claims that the Canadian Collieries Company are employing Orientals, in violation of the Provincial Mining Laws to break the strike. The commissioner has concealed the true conditions in this respect by making irrelevant comparisons and by failing to give an account of the number of Orientals employed during the two and one-half months intervening between the last day of May and the date of his report. However, accepting his figures as a basis for computation, we find that of all the men employed in all the coast mines during 1912 less than 20 per cent were Orientals, and that of the men employed under ground by the Canadian Collieries Company eight and one-half months after our men were locked out, or in May, 1913, the ratio of Orientals was more than 62 per cent. And had the commissioner considered the additional number employed during June and July, and up to August 14, the date of his report, the ratio would be greater than that. Yet the commissioner says:
' Statements made as to the wholesale granting of miners' certificates to Orientals, who are said not to be properly qualified, are also, I find upon careful inquiry, not correct. According to figures obtained from the Department of
Mines, only thirty-six new miners' certificates were granted to Orientals from the commencement of the trouble down to the time of the inquiry, and the examination for these was conducted in the usual way according to the requirements of the law, and the certificates were only granted after the examiners, including the Chief Inspector of Mines, were satisfied that the Orientals were qualified and entitled to receive them.'
It is a matter of common knowledge among the strikers that the men employed as strikebreakers in the Cumberland mines of the Canadian Collieries Company are being wantonly maimed and killed because of their inexperience and a lack of knowledge as to how to protect themselves against the dangers of mining. In this connection the commissioner says:
4 The allegations made as to unsafety of some of the mines are at least grossly exaggerated. The statement that the percentage of fatal accidents at the mines of the Canadian Collieries Company has increased over two hundred per cent cent from 1911 to 1912, while correct, arises from the fact that in 1911 these mines had an abnormally low percentage of fatal accidents, only 94 per 1,000. while that of the province was 2.32 per 1,000. In 1912 this company though showing as alleged, a great increase over 1911, was still very low, and little over half that for the province the exact figures being 2.12 per 1,000, while that for the province as a whole was 3.92. The official returns show that at the Extension collieries there had been no fatal accidents either in 1911 or 1912?
While admitting an increase of 200 per cent in fatalities during 1912, in the mines mentioned, he attempts to justify this sacrifice of human life by saying other companies have killed more, and points out that no fatalities occurred in the Extension mines of the same company either in 1911 or 1912; but he neglects to explain why none occured in these mines. The explanation is a simple one. During 1911 and up to the middle of September, 1912, the Extension mines were operated by experienced men, and from the middle of September to the end of 1912 they were idle because the company could not recruit enough Chinamen and other inexperienced N vagabonds to operate the mines of both Cumberland and Extension, so they herded them all into the Cumberland mines and slaughtered them there; which fact also accounts for the 200 per cent increase in the fatalities .occurring in the Cumberland mines during 1912. [DOT] Rut what of the fatalities occurring in the same mines of this company during 1913?
Almost eight months of this year had passed when the commissioner's report was rendered, yet, though dealing with fatalities, he ignored completely those occurring in that period. Why? At the end of 1912, the Cumberland mines had been closed to their former skilled employees only three and one half months, and the list of fatalities augmented 200 per cent. When the commissioner's report was rendered the former employees had been excluded for eleven months. The number of inexperienced men employed had been increased, discipline demoralized by the constant coming and going of strange men, and the safety of the mines impaired because of a lack of experienced attention. Now, do not forget that for the first eight and one half months of 1912 these mines had the advantage of being worked with prac-
to say anything about the manner in which he was received in Great Britain. I happened to meet Will Thorne, a member of the Congress and a member of the Imperial House of Commons, who was a fraternal delegate at the last Congress in Montreal. Mr. Thorne told me that the reputation of the Minister of Labour had preceded him to England and that his reception at the Trades and Labour Congress was a very cool one.
There is one thing upon which I insist, that is that the minister should give us not only the correspondence which has taken place between the Department of Labour and the miners but also the correspondence between the department and the mine operators. It must be remembered that there is still a strike there, which is a detriment to the mass of the people of this country and we are here to try and bring about conciliation as far as possible. I really believe that the minister cannot settle that strike. I believe that his lack of experience in labour matters will prevent that. There are some in this House who understand the position as clearly as I do, that it is necessary for a man to have experience in that walk of life. The mentality of men generally must develop according to their circumstances and surroundings. We cannot expect my hon. friend to be able to settle these things because he does not understand the situation. If my hon. friend from Nanaimo (Mr. Shepherd) had been a Minister of Labour, I am almost sure that he would have been able to settle that strike because he would have known how to go about it. We cannot expect that with all the intelligence of the Minister of Labour he can do that, it is impossible for him to do it. So I would say to the Prime Minister, if he were in his seat, that I am sorry to tell him he has made a great mistake in appointing the present Minister of Labour.