April 7, 1916

LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

I suppose the hon. gentleman refers to the duties that were assigned to the commission.

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LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

Yes, there was some main question that was assigned as the reason for the appointment of the commission.

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mt. ROCHE:

I might read one of the clauses under which the commission have been acting:

Until the final report of the commission is made the province shall withhold from preemption or sale any lands over which they have a disposing- power and which have been heretofore applied for by the Dominion as additional Indian reserves or whioh may during the sittings of the commission be specified by the commissioners as lands which should be reserved for Indians. If during the period prior to the commissioners' making their final report it shall be ascertained by either Government that any lands being part of an Indian reserve are required for right of way or other railway purposes, or for any Dominion or provincial or municipal public work or purpose, the matter shall be referred to the commissioners who shall thereupon dispose of the question

by an interim report, and each Government shall thereupon do everything necessary to carry the recommendations of the commissioners into effect.

The hon. gentleman no doubt knows that the British 'Columbia Government have laid claim to the reversionary interest, but the Dominion Government could. give no clear title to any of those Indian lands, and any one disposed to purchase them would have to go to the province to get a quit claim.

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LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

As I understand it, the real question was the ownership of the lands in the various Indian reserves in the province of British Columbia. The province claimed that they were the owners of those lands whereas the Dominion Government claimed that they had some right to them in the same way as they have the right or fee to other lands in western Canada. Of course, other questions have arisen in connection with the lands in the province of British 'Columbia; they may be on a somewhat different basis than the lands in other parts of western Canada. But what troubles me about the matter is not so much the question that is before this commission, as the time that it has taken to arrive at any conclusions. What the commission has been doing, I do not know. I saw reports in the papers a couple of years ago about it travelling in different parts of British 'Columbia. I do not pretend to know as much about their duties as the commissioners themselves, but it seems to me that the question to be determined was a purely legal question.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

They visited every reserve, and there are 1,100 or '1,200 reserves.

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LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

I know that there are a good many reserves, but what information could the commission get with respect to the legal ownership of lands, with respect to determining whether these lands were vested in the province or in the Dominion, by travelling to the reserves?

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

It was to determine whether or not they had enough land, and to enlarge and reduce the reserves as well.

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LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

These duties must come under some other clause than that which has been read.

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LIB
LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

Supposing that this commission wanted to investigate every Indian

in the province of British Columbia, I fail to see why they should have taken from the 12th of April, 1913, until the 7th of April, 1916, a period of three years, to carry out their investigation. There are a number of men on this commission. I do not know very many of the members personally; I presume they are well qualified. I see on the list the name of a former member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, L. H. Mac-do wall; the others I do not know. But when I look at the amounts which have been drawn from the public treasury by these men in three years, I feel certain that they would stagger the ordinary citizen in this country, particularly when he considers the money that has been spent, not only on this commission, but on other commissions appointed by this Government. I find in Hansard, on page 2144, answers to a question asked by the hon. member for Medicine Hat (Mr. Buchanan) with respect to this commission, and I see that up till the 29th February of this year Mr. N. W. White had drawn $29,545 out of the public treasury, Mr. J. P. Shaw had drawn $29,430; Mr. L. H. Macdowall, $29,730; Mr. S. Carmichael, $20,790, and Mr. J. A. J. McKenna, $22,663.76, or a total up till 29th February, 1916, of $273,367.64. It is only fair to say that the Dominion pays only a portion of that amount, but the proportion to be paid by the Dominion up to the 29th of February, 1916, is $154,722.23. It seems to me that that is a tremendous amount of money to be spent on an investigation of that kind, particularly as the main question at issue was a question of the ownership of those lands, and a question that could be determined just as well by the commission sitting in the city of Victoria or Vancouver as by going to the Indian reserves throughout the length and breadth of British Columbia. The ordinary Royal Commission consists of only one man, sometimes of two or three, but here we have five men on this commission, drawing princely salaries out of the treasury of the Dominion Government, and, I submit, not doing very much to earn the money. It seems to be another instance of extravagance on the part of the Government, and I am sorry that it is located in the department over which my hon. friend the Minister of the Interior presides. We have heard a good deal of criticism of that department, and I think it only fair to repeat that there are a great many more employees in it to-day than are needed to perform the public service at the present time. The

minister has- stated that he expects .a full report from this commission in a very few weeks. I hope that his expectations in that respect will 'be realized, and that we will have an end of this commission and have the question decided finally before very long.

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LIB
LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

I have just informed the hon. member for Regina that I expect that by the 15th of April they will have wound up their work entirely.

Indians, Yukon, $22,000.

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LIB
LIB
LIB
LIB
LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

Would the minister find it convenient to leave the last item standing, as I think there are some hon. gentlemen who would like to say something?

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

If the hon. gentleman would kindly let the rest of these items go through, there is already one item standing on which I am quite agreeable that any debate should take place.

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LIB
LIB

April 7, 1916