Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver East):
Mr. Speaker, this is an occasion on which we might derive satisfaction from saying to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) and the government, "We told you so." However, there would be no satisfaction in making that statement, even though what we told the Minister of Labour has come to pass. Only a man who was totally oblivious to what has occurred under similar circumstances in the past five years could have assumed that the situation in Vancouver would be settled without trouble of the kind that occurred yesterday. From this corner we have continued to press the Minister of Labour to act. We have taken the position that a conciliatory attitude by the government would easily overcome the existing difficulties: It
was not a question of whether the action taken by the men was right or wrong. Similar action under one set of circumstances may be right, and under another, may be wrong. The point is that these men were justified in taking almost any action whatsoever because of the condition in which they found themselves.
Almost exactly three years ago we were faced with this same problem. Men left the
city of Vancouver by boarding freight trains with the intention of coming to Ottawa to lay their grievances before the government. On various occasions at that time we tried to bring the matter to the attention of the government by a motion similar to the one moved to-day. We were unsuccessful, the government taking the position that it was not a matter of urgent public importance. However, on July 1. 1935, a riot took place in the city of Regina. The following day we moved a motion similar to the one under consideration to-day and obtained an opportunity to state our case. I have before me Hansard for that date, from which I should like to quote very briefly. At page 4130 of Hansard for 1935 the following statement was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) who was then leader of the opposition:
It was easy for the Prime Minister to arrange for the house to be moved into supply to-day, and it would have been equally easy to have adopted the same course on the other occasions. I believe the Speaker was reflecting the attitude of mind of my right hon. friend at the time when he gave his decision that the matter was not of urgent public importance. Certainly those of us who supported the motion believed it was a matter of urgent public importance, and that unless some action were taken by the government of a conciliatory character it was almost inevitable that sooner or later something in the nature of a tragedy would be the outcome of the situation of these men moving in large numbers east, regardless of what their particular views on social questions may be.
I only wish that political parties could be as wise when they are governments as when they are in opposition. Here the Prime Minister was advocating the same course that this group and other members from British Columbia have been trying to impress upon the Minister of Labour and the government, that this was a situation that could be met by a conciliatory attitude on the part of the government, if only they would realize that the men had a just grievance. To-day, when I knew this matter was coming up, I looked up the debates of 1935. I find a wire that was sent to the present leader of the opposition,
prime minister of that day, signed by James G. Gardiner, who at that time I believe was premier of the province of Saskatchewan:
I have to-day wired Premier Bennett as follows: "Yesterday morning men indicated to your representative Mr. Burgess their willingness to disband the march and return to the points from which they came. They repeated this to Mr. Burgess and representatives of the police at 2.30. Your representatives refused to have provincial representation at that meeting. The men met us at five o'clock stating that since your representatives had refused to
consider this the provincial government take responsibility for disbanding men to their original camps or homes and supply them with food in the interval. While we were considering this matter police raided public meeting to arrest leaders, precipitating a riot. Men at present in buildings at fair grounds completely surrounded by police who permit no one to enter and men to leave only in twos. Police intention to force these men to Lumsden camp or starving them into submission.
That is the very action this government is taking. The men went into the post office and the government were going to starve them into submission; but unfortunately for the government the people of Vancouver would not allow these men to starve. Then Mr. Gardiner went on:
This will end in a worse riot than last night. These men should be fed where they are and immediately disbanded and sent back to camps and homes as they request without any attempt to force them into Lumsden and this should be done within next two hours. This government has a responsibility toward its citizens to provide them with ordinary protection against this imported trouble. We would ask you to immediately withdraw orders issued affecting the liberty of individuals within this province and affecting the law and order of this province. You might assume that we are as much concerned about law and order in this country as you can be and deal with the elected representatives of this province regarding matters concerning our people instead of through an appointed political representative.
And this government is dealing through another political representative in the city of Vancouver.
We are asking you if you are going to feed these men within the next two hours and are asking you to instruct us within two hours what plans are to be made for their disbandment.
Now, these men having been driven out of the art gallery and post office, I am asking the government what provision is being made to feed them. Will the Minister of Labour tell this house if the government have a policy or a program to take care of these men in . the meantime? It must be remembered that they do not cease to be a menace to the city of Vancouver once they are removed from the post office. They are at large in the city; they are without means to support themselves. Consequently as human beings they have to find food and shelter wherever it can be found. I repeat that before this debate closes the Minister of Labour should give the house an undertaking that these men will be fed until some attempt has been made to provide them with work.
In an interview given the press this morning the Prime Minister said the governments- meaning the provincial government, the federal
government and the civic government-had been very patient; but as I see it I do not think there is any great credit due them for patience in this instance. There is no credit due the members of these governments because they are not at all in uncomfortable circumstances. They are well fed, possibly too well fed. They are well clothed. They have nice homes to go to. They have a certain amount of security, at least until the next election, so I do not see that they have been put to any very great discomfort. But here were men who for years have been deprived of all hope, of all opportunity to live as normal men should live.
The Minister of Justice regretted that there was any injury to the men in removing them from the post office. Let me say here that the physical injury to these men does not amount to anything. Physical injuries can be healed; nature will repair the hurt. The injury that has been done these men is cumulative, an injury to their mental and psychological make-up. It is an injury to the spirit, which will leave its scar on these men as long as they live. The longer we keep them in the position they are in to-day, the greater the injury to them and the greater our difficulties are going to be.
Again, the men in the art gallery offered to submit to peaceful arrest. According to the press when the men were informed by Chief Foster of the city of Vancouver, who I am told, and as stated by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil), has acted with every consideration during the troublesome period, that the police were going to use tear gas to drive them out, they offered to submit to peaceful arrest so that they might be taken to the police station. But to do that the government would have had to feed them, and as the crime was not serious enough they would not do that.
What solution has the Minister of Labour for the difficulty confronting not only these men but the people of the city of Vancouver? Where do we go from here? Where are those men going to eat to-morrow? Where are they going to find shelter? Where are they going to find the things which are necessary to enable them to become ordinary, normal citizens of Vancouver and of this dominion? Unless the Minister of Labour has some answer to those questions, let me tell him and the house that we have not heard the last of the trouble which took place in Vancouver in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Mr. E. J. POOLE (Red Deer); Mr. Speaker,
I should like to add my word of protest to those which have already been spoken
against the action taken by the government.
I think the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) made an admirable defence, and particularly when he really had a defenceless case.
He told us of the kindness of our police force. He told us what a great body of men they were, and said that the police asked the men to move. But he did not say that the police had bombs in their possession when they went to make the request. They took with them weapons of persuasion-and I am not referring to the tongue. They took clubs and bombs. A few days ago hon. members on this side of the house warned the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) as to what would happen. We said this would be a second Regina.
And so we find force politics in Canada. We have no right to criticize the Hitlers and Mussolinis while we masquerade under the name of democracy, because we are not as honest. That is why. I suppose just before the next election these men will be employed, because then they would be of use to some political party in casting their ballots. Politics has become a game of strategy, a shuffle for political advantage, a philosophy of opportunism, and a scramble to protect vested interests. The sooner we get down to those fundamental truths, and the sooner we understand what is happening in this country, the sooner people will remove obstacles in the way of security.
What do these men want? What crimes have they committed? They are the casualties resulting from the failure of this and previous governments to deal with facts. Industry has abdicated, and now takes no responsibility for employees or unemployed. And every year as the industrial machine speeds up and export markets contract more men will seek the protection of governments that they may live. When the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) said there were two laws in this country, he was not stating an untruth. That has been proved on innumerable occasions. First, let us compare the treatment of the Home Owners Security Act passed in Alberta with that accorded the padlock law of Quebec, and we find another failure of the government, so far as democracy is concerned.
We speak of democracy, that ideal which we never attained. The seed of dissension is sown in the country through governments refusing to accept responsibility. The men are turned out of industry, because industry does not want them. Those men are thrown on the market and some must go begging.
Then one hon. member on the government side asks: What constructive suggestion do you make? They look towards us. Let them ask the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie) who said, "When we are elected we will manufacture 8500,000,000 of new money." That is the gentleman who now sits on the ministerial benches. Then, the Prime Minister, speaking in 1935, said, "We will issue credit in terms of public need."
Will hon. members of the house ever know the purpose of an economic system? Will they ever learn that we produce goods so that people may use them, and so that we may bring security to the human family? Do we realize that the greatest asset of a nation is the youth of that nation?
Subtopic: MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-VANCOUVER SITUATION