May 20, 1930

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Three officials.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   PENSION ACT AMENDMENT
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?

John Warwick King

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

Yes. In addition to that there have been important amendments made in regard to widows. This is a question which has been before the pensions committee on various occasions. Previous committees and the committee which sat this session have reported regarding pensions to widows. They have also dealt with those returned men who commuted their pensions, and there is a section in the bill which will restore the pension to the former pensioner. This is generally accepted as a proper procedure. In addition to that there has been an amendment discussed in this house and before various special committees as to the benefit of the doubt; that question also was discussed before the committee which sat this session. This section in particular is well drawn; it is liberal in its scope and I believe if accepted by parliament will prove advantageous to the soldiery, and will do much to ease the situation which has existed in this regard.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I would like to join with the hon. the Minister of Pensions in congratulating the committee on the service it has rendered to the ex-service men. It has brought to bear upon the problem submitted to it patient consideration and a wealth of learning, a portion of which at least arises from experience and expert knowledge derived not only from experience but from observation. The committee has therefore been able to deal with this very complex problem in a manner which enables the house to offer its most sincere congratulation to every member who sat on the committee. We thank the members of that committee for the untiring zeal and devotion which they have shown. I am sure we on this side of the house most heartily join with the minister in making that observation. I have

always felt that we on this side have been particularly fortunate in the personnel of our membership on the pensions committee.

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Subtopic:   PENSION ACT AMENDMENT
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?

John Warwick King

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

We on this side

feel the same way.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They have been service

men with wide experience; some of them have had very considerable administrative experience, and they knew at first hand not only the problems of the service men but also something of the psychology of the situation, which, to the inexperienced, is not easy to appreciate. In the main the same may be said with regard to those who represented the government on the committee. The chairman, in particular, has been indefatigable in his efforts and his endeavours have not been limited in any sense by political consideration but his zeal had been prompted by an earnest desire to advance the interests of those who are so fairly entitled to this measure of consideration. One might refer in equally laudatory terms to the membership of the committee chosen from those who sit to my left.

My observation has taught me to believe that there is no difference of opinion amongst the Canadian people when it comes to dealing with problems of this nature. There is a frank recognition of the difficulties in attaining administrative perfection. It is not easy to set up machinery which will accomplish what all the people would like to accomplish, namely, a measure of generous consideration for all those who have risked their lives for this country as well as the widows and) dependents of those who are no more. I think that statement can be made with certainty That being so, the problem is a simple one. From the standpoint of administration the problem is merely to set up the machinery which will enable the end to be attained; the complexity of the problem arises, however, in providing the details for the working of the machinery. The problem would seem to be how we can best attain the objective, and how in detail we can manage to deal with every set of conditions which may arise. We must decide how we can best meet the many difficulties that arise in connection with determining the cause of disability.

No doubt this bill will bring satisfaction to those whom it is intended to assist. As far as I have been able to learn from reading, from listening to the minister and from what I have been told, the measure deals with all those cases which experience has taught have not been adequately dealt with under existing legislation. Where the existing legislation has

Pension Act Amendment

been unsatisfactory it has been repealed and satisfactory provisions have been substituted. So far as the general principle of giving the applicant for pension the benefit of the douibt is concerned, it will be observed that the section clears up the difficulty, so far as the matter lends itself to reasonable legislative enactment. The benefit of the doubt is, of course, a difficult term to define; it has never been defined easily. In cases which have engaged the attention of civil courts the judges in charging juries have pointed out the circumstances of particular cases, and they have laid down the principle that if there be doubt upon the evidence such doubt must be resolved according to certain rules dictated by the judges. In this particular instance the circumstances, evidence and medical opinions are to be considered by the tribunal set up by the bill. Where there is reasonable certainty in the minds of the tribunal, where they can point to certain definite circumstances, and to medical opinions and the other evidence presented before them, they may be in a position to state clearly that there is no doubt as to the cause of the disability or of the right of the applicant to pension. On the other hand, where there is wavering uncertainty as to whether or not the evidence to which I have alluded warrants a definite conclusion, then there is difficulty. To my mind that is the most distinctive section of the measure before us and I think it will meet with universal approval; the psychological value of it is not less than the monetary advantage that may result. Psychologically it will tend to bring a state of satisfaction which to the minds of applicants has heretofore been lacking; it will convince those applicants that after all the country is behind them solidly and that the only difficulty has been the setting up of machinery to enable the people of Canada to express themselves in concrete terms through the medium of a statute. It will prove to those returned men that Canada is prepared to bring relief to those who, through their service, are no longer able to cope with the difficulties of life and carry on as they had done 'before they engaged in the conflict.

On behalf of those associated with me in this house I am happy to think that a measure of this character has not received partisan consideration; it has not been a party matter in any sense but on the contrary it represents the labour of a committee which has worked upon the problem with the one purpose in mind of securing a result which would bring happiness and contentment and such a measure

of compensation as the circumstances warrant to those who by reason of their service have found themselves no longer physically able to carry on as before. I again desire to associate myself with the minister in congratulating the members of the pensions committee upon the wholly impartial, honest and honourable manner in which free from party bias or prejudice they approached the consideration of and found a solution for a great problem, which will without doubt give satisfaction to every man and woman in the country.

Sections 1 to 7 inclusive agreed to.

On section S-Compassionate pension.

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CON

Peter McGibbon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McGIBBON:

Might I draw your

attention to the fact that apparently these bills are not properly printed?

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Subtopic:   PENSION ACT AMENDMENT
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

These are all amendments

to section 10.

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LIB

John Frederick Johnston (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Section 6 will be found on page 4 of the bill.

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Section agreed to. Sections 9 and 10 agreed to. On section 11-Widow of pensioner.


CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

I wanted to ask the minister a question with respect to this section. This section provides, in short, that the widows of pensioners who draw pension during a period not exceeding ten years shall receive pension, but if the period is longer than ten years the widow does not receive a pension. Phis affects about 174 blind people and the more seriously disabled cases drawing 80 per cent pension and over.

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LIB
CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

Because that is the class

under this section. I understand-and I have this information also from parties in different parts of the country-that the soldiers' representative body, the Canadian Legion, desired to have that principle extended to a period longer than ten years, and it seems to me that once the principle is established- as it properly should be established-of granting a pension to the widows, it should not be cut off at the period of ten years. There is no good reason that I can see why, if a man lives and draws his 80 per cent pension for nine years and nine months, his widow should get a pension, while if he lives for ten years and one 'month his widow does not get a pension. I am going to suggest to the minister and to the committee that the principle should be extended for a longer period, and

Pension Act Amendment

I do that in the same spirit that has characterized this whole question and raised it above the level of party politics.

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John Warwick King

Mr. KING (Kootenay) :

If my hon. friend does not object I should like to have the chairman of the special committee discuss this point. He is familiar with the discussion which took place when the matter came before the committee and I should like to have him give the views expressed in the committee on this question.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

The suggestion made by my hon. friend was placed before the committee and throughly discussed. At the present time under section 32 (2) of the act, the widow of a pensioner who has died and who at the date of his death was in receipt of a pension in any of the classes 1 to 5 mentioned in schedule A, that is, in receipt of a pension of from 80 per cent to 100 par cent, or who, except for the provisions of subsection one of section 29 of the act, would have been in receipt of a pension in one of the said classes, shall be entitled to a pension ,as if he had died on service whether his death was attributable to his service or not, provided that the death occurs within ten years after the date of retirement or discharge or the date of commencement of pension.

This section was introduced quite a number of years ago largely to cover the cases of amputations. It was felt at that time, shortly after the war, that men who as a result of their war disabilities had to suffer amputation were under a certain handicap in the ordinary affairs of civilian life. That is, they were more apt to meet with an accident such as being run over by a motor oar or a street car, or that kind of thing, than the ordinary pensioner. The soldier organizations at that time made a strong plea to the committee, and this section was inserted in the act. Since that time it has been felt that these men have been able now to find their feet, so to speak, and to get about better than they could earlier in their civilian experience, and it has not been thought necessary to extend the provisions.

However, under this present legislation we have gone this far: We date the ten years during which limitation does not lie from the time this pension of 80 per cent or more has been granted. Perhaps I might explain that a little further. A case arose in which a man had obtained a pension on a basis of, we will say, 15 per cent for an injured foot. Much later on he obtained a pension of 80 per cent or 90 per cent on account of some other

(Mr. Ladner.]

disability or disease. He died, and when his widow came to claim pension, the board- wrongly and improperly I think-dated the beginning of his pension from the 15 per cent pension, and ruled that his widow was not entitled to any pension at all. It is in order to make that point clear that we have proposed the amendment now being discussed, but we have not touched the provision which existed in section 25, subsection 2, up to the present time.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Although there would be very few who would come under that now?

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LIB

Section agreed to. On section 12-Pension to widow.


IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

I should like to make a

comment, not upon this particlular section but in order to express a suggestion which might well be drawn to the attention of the government. This section reads as follows:

Subsection one of section thirtydwo of the said act, as enacted by section twenty-four of chapter thirty-eight of the statutes of 1928, is amended by striking out paragraphs (i) and (ii) and by substituting therefor the following as section 32a:

I have no objection to that particular amendment or to any of the amendments; this is a good bill, but this is what I should like to point out: It is highly desirable that these amendments, these new rights which are given to the soldiers, should be communicated to them as soon as possible. When we go home in a few days or a week or two, the men naturally will come to us wanting to know what has been done, and if we give them this bill how can they understand what are their rights? They will have to look up the revised statutes of 1927; then they will have to follow the sections into the amendments of 1928 and then piece them out with the aid of these amendments we are passing to-night. I only want to suggest that we cannot carry around the revised statutes; the men do not have those statutes, and I would suggest that although it is too late now to have the bill entirely reprinted, I think the department might, at the very earliest possible date, print what is called a consolidated office copy and distribute it as soon as possible not only to soldier organizations but also to the members; because it will greatly facilitate the men getting to know what are their rights, which is all-important.

Pension Act Amendment

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John Warwick King

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

I think that is an excellent suggestion, and it will be acted upon.

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Section agreed to. Sections 13 to 16 inclusive agreed to. On section 17-Coming into force.


May 20, 1930