November 21, 1949




Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. J. Coldwell (Roselown-Biggar):

I rise on a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker. The house will be pleased to know that once again an unique distinction has been conferred upon the constituency of Rosetown-Biggar by one of its farm residents, Mr. Albert Kessel, of Valley Centre, who not only won the silver cup for the northwest championship for his grain, but last week was awarded the world championship for his rye at the annual Royal Winter fair in Toronto. I should add that last year, Mr. Kessel won a championship ribbon and first prize for a sheaf of wheat, and a first for oats at the same winter fair.

I might say also that in 1947 Mr. Albert Robbins of Laura, in the constituency of Rosetown-Biggar, won the grand prize for oats and in 1948 a reserve championship for an exhibit of barley at the Royal Winter fair. I am sure all hon. members will join with me in congratulating these Saskatchewan farmers for their successful efforts to improve the products of the Canadian grain growing industry.




John Decore


Mr. John Decore (Vegreville):

Mr. Speaker, according to newspaper reports, one of my constituents won the world championship with his exhibits of oats and barley at the Royal Winter fair. The name of the winner is John T. Eliuk, and in winning this award he became the first such double winner in this fair. Incidentally, Mr. Eliuk was the oat king at the Chicago World fair in 1948. This is not the first time that some of my constituents engaged in farming have obtained world recognition of their ability.

It is a pleasure for me to record the congratulations of this house to Mr. Eliuk upon obtaining such a high distinction as winning this double award. The constituency which I have the honour to represent is noted not only for the richest and biggest oil field in Canada, but also for the type of farmers who are given world recognition for their efforts.


Léoda Gauthier


Mr. J. L. Gauthier (Sudbury):

Mr. Speaker, since all these farmers are being mentioned this morning, I believe I should draw the 45781-126

attention of this house to the fact that, although my constituency is one of the richest in minerals in Canada, on Friday Mr. Theo-phile Depatie of Hanmer, Ontario, Sudbury district, was crowned potato king of the world.


Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Robert Fair (Battle River):

I do not

believe it would be fair to let an occasion such as this pass without joining with the other speakers in their congratulatory messages, and I should like to extend congratulations to the district agriculturist from my home town, Mr. E. H. Buckingham, for the part he played in bringing three firsts to Alberta from the Royal Winter fair at Toronto, and in addition, the high singles in those classes. Mr. Buckingham and some of his associates came east with five young people's teams, and in taking home these three firsts has conferred quite an honour upon my fellow citizens and his associates from the province of Alberta.


Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

The people in my riding are raising Cain over the lifting of rent control.





Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)


Hon. Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works) moved:

That the name of Mr. Argue be substituted for that of Mr. Herridge in the standing committee on agriculture and colonization.


Motion agreed to.



Mr. A. J. Baler@The Battlefords

That the standing committee on agriculture and colonization be empowered to sit while the house is sitting.


Motion agreed to.



Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce)


Right Hon. C. D. Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

For the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier), I wish to give the house a summary of the report of the court of investigation into the loss of the steamship Noronic by fire on September 17 last.

The Minister of Transport informed the house that under the provisions of the Canada Shipping Act he had appointed the Hon.

5.5. Noronic

Mr. Justice Kellock, of the Supreme Court of Canada, to act as commissioner and to hold a formal investigation into the loss of that steamship. The commissioner, sitting as a court of investigation, was assisted by Captains H. S. Kane and Robert Mitchell as nautical assessors, and Mr. Neil B. Gebbie as engineer assessor.

Counsel appeared for the Department of Transport; for Canada Steamship Lines Limited, and officers; for the Attorney General of Ontario; for the attorney general of the state of Ohio; and for the Seafarers' International Union. Mr. W. K. Campbell acted as registrar of the court.

The court held hearings in the city of of Toronto on eighteen days in September, October and November, and the final sitting was held at the city of Ottawa on the 21st day of November, 1949.

Many witnesses were called to give evidence, and ample opportunity was given to everyone who had personal knowledge of the circumstances of the disaster to come forward and testify. I think I may say without fear of contradiction that the investigation was searching, impartial and thorough.

The judgment of the court was pronounced this morning in open court as follows:

Court of Investigation

5.5. Noronic

Monday, the 21st day of November, 1949.

The Honourable Mr. Justice R. L. Kellock, Commissioner

This matter, coming on for hearing before this court at its sittings held at the city of Toronto in the province of Ontario on the 28th, 29th and 30th days of September, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st days of October and the 7th day of November, 1949, and judgment having been reserved until this day and the same coming on this day for judgment:

1. This court doth order and adjudge that the certificate of William Taylor, being passenger inland waters' certificate No. 6703, be and the same is hereby suspended until and including the 21st day of November, 1950.

2. And this court doth further order and adjudge that the costs of the Department of Transport of this investigation be taxed upon the scale of the Exchequer Court of Canada and be paid by Canada Steamship Lines Limited.

3. And the court doth not see fit to make any further or other order touching the costs of the said investigation.

R. L. Kellock, Commissioner.

Hugh S. Kane Assessor R. Mitchell

Assessor Neil B. Gebbie Assessor

The commissioner's report, concurred in by the assessors, is embodied in a separate document that has been forwarded to me by the

commissioner in accordance with the provisions of the Canada Shipping Act. I now table a copy of the report, and copies will be available for all members of the house.

The report of the court of investigation is a lengthy document, as befits an investigation of major importance, and should be carefully read by all those who are concerned in preventing a recurrence of such a terrible disaster. I shall not attempt in this statement to review at length the contents of the report, but will endeavour to point out to members of the house some of the more important observations and findings of the court.

In the first part of the report the commissioner reviews the legislation and regulations to which the ship and its owners were subject. He finds that the Noronic was built in 1913 and was constructed without fire-resisting bulkheads. Under the regulations, the ship, as an existing ship, was exempted from compliance with the regulations which came into force in 1939 and which require new ships to be constructed with fire-resisting bulkheads.

The Noronic was equipped with a fire alarm system which was mechanically in good order, with fire-extinguishing equipment consisting of hydrants, hoses, fire extinguishers, pumps, smoke helmets and lamps which had been inspected by the Canadian steamship inspection service on April 23, 1949, and had been approved by the steamship inspector. The commissioner expresses the opinion that the laxity of the inspection in requiring compliance with the regulations could only induce or encourage a similar laxity on the part of the owners and officers of the ship with respect to the vital matter of preparedness for fire.

Pursuant to United States legislation, the provisions of the Canadian regulations were considered by the United States authorities as approximating those in the United States, and a certificate was issued on April 28, 1949, by the inspection office of the United States coastguard admitting the Noronic to the exemptions and benefits provided by United States statutes relating to the inspection of boilers, machinery, hull and equipment. This meant that compliance with Canadian regulations was considered sufficient.

The certificate issued by the Canadian steamship inspection service permitted the ship to carry 600 passengers and 200 crew. At the time of the casualty the ship carried 524 passengers and 171 crew.

There are no regulations applying to Canadian passenger ships on the great lakes with respect to the maintenance of any fire patrol system or as to fire drills for either passengers or crew. However, the commissioner states

that, in his opinion, it is implicit in the regulations relating to fire-extinguishing equipment that there shall be provided by the shipowner men trained to use the required apparatus and so organized that the presence of fire on shipboard may be learned at a sufficiently early stage to make the use of the required apparatus in the hands of such men effective in its control. So far as patrolling for detection of an outbreak of fire is concerned, that is a duty which, it was decided as long ago as 1910 by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of the Dominion Fish Company v. Isbester, is incumbent upon the shipowner for the protection of sleeping passengers in the case of a ship lying at dock.

In a ship equipped with neither automatic apparatus for detecting an outbreak of fire on board nor an automatic sprinkler system to extinguish it if it did break out, as was the case with the Noronic, an efficient patrol for the detection of fire at the earliest possible moment would appear to be essential. The fire patrol actually employed on the ship was inadequate for the purpose.

The report deals with the organization, or lack of it, of the officers and crew of the ship to meet a situation such as occurred. Only 15 crew members were required to be on the ship at the time of the fire, the remainder being free to go ashore.

After reviewing the evidence of certain witnesses, the commissioner finds that, in his opinion, no one in a responsible position in connection with the ship, either on the ship or ashore, had applied his mind in any serious way to the handling of a situation such as arose on the outbreak of fire on the night in question, although such an eventuality could not be considered otherwise than as one that might occur at any time. Moreover, complete complacency had descended upon both the ship's officers and the management. The fire which actually occurred found officers and crew without any organization designed to deal with such a situation.

The commissioner further states that, in his opinion, it is clear there was no training of the crew with respect to fire or its detection, or what should be done after detection, apart from what might be picked up by attendance at fire drills. The lack of any effective system of patrolling for the purpose of fire detection and the lack of any system by which, when fire was detected, the information of its presence and location could immediately be sent to some central locality, where personnel trained in methods of dealing with fire were available to be sent to the spot immediately, accounts, in the commissioner's opinion, for the loss of life which ensued.


S.S. Noronic

The commissioner points out that the outbreak of fire on a ship at a time when it has a large number of sleeping passengers on board requires of necessity a pre-arranged plan for arousing and getting them off the ship. The Noronic had no such plan. Any organization which the ship did have was designed to function in other circumstances with a complete crew on board. Accordingly the fire found the ship totally unprepared to deal with the situation. Such efforts as were made to fight the fire were scattered and ineffective, and the heavy loss of life shows clearly the failure of the crew to rouse those sleeping passengers who were unable to escape from the burning ship.

The report states that the evidence established the origin of the fire to have been in a small linen closet located just forward of the women's washroom opening onto the port corridor on "C" deck. The actual cause of the fire was not established, but there was no evidence of the fire having been deliberately set.

The procedure followed in formal investigations of this kind is for the Department of Transport to propound certain questions for the opinion of the court. The report of the commissioner sets out at the end thereof the questions raised and the answers given by the court. Following these questions and answers the commissioner makes some observations on the suspension of the master's certificate and gives reasons for awarding costs. The report concludes with certain recommendations made by the court. I should like to read the more important of the questions and answers which are found on pages 94 to 96 of the report, and which are as follows:

Question 15: When fire was discovered on the

S.S. Noronic was all possible and proper action taken to save life, to fight, control, localize, and extinguish the fire? If not, in what way and to what extent was the action taken, if any, defective or inadequate?

Answer: The action taken for the above purposes by the ordinary crew members was no doubt such action as they would be expected to take without direction in such circumstances, no officer of the ship having taken charge of the situation or having attempted to give any general directions, if such was possible at the advanced stage which the fire had reached when the alarm was given.

Question 16: If all possible and proper action was not taken or was not taken soon enough to save life, and fight, control, localize and extinguish the fire, was the master or any other person or persons on the vessel to blame? If so, whom?

Answer: After the alarm had been given the

only thing it might have been possible to do, which was not done, was for the master to have taken general charge of the situation and directed in an organized way the arousing of passengers, instead of acting himself as an ordinary sailor in such parts of the ship as he could reach.

S.S. Noronic

Question 17: Were the fire fighting appliances on board the S.S. Noronic adequate? Had they been found satisfactory and in good working order? If so, when and where were they last tested and found satisfactory and in good working order?

Answer: The fire fighting appliances on board

appear to have been satisfactory and in good working order. The last departmental inspection was on April 23, 1949. Some of the fire hydrants (probably all the outside ones, but none of those inside), and a few of the fire extinguishers had been used since that time.

Question 18: How many of the crew of the S.S. Noronic were lost or injured? How many are missing?

Answer: There were no losses among the crew.

Question 19: What was the cause of the loss of

the S.S. Noronic and the cause of the loss of life?

Answer: The loss of the S.S. Noronic and the

loss of life was due to the failure on the part of the owners and the master to have:

(a) a continuous patrol of the ship for the purpose of detecting the presence of fire, such patrol as was in existence being limited to approximately fifteen minutes out of every hour;

(b) in failing to have any organization operative when the ship was in dock with passengers on board by which information as to the outbreak of fire could be promptly dispatched to some point from which men trained in the methods of dealing with fire could be immediately dispatched to the locality;

(c) in failing to contemplate in any real sense the possibility of fire occurring at a dock, and maintaining only fifteen actually on duty out of a crew of one hundred and seventy-one, the others being free to go ashore and who might be, so far as the master or the officer on duty knew, actually on shore;

(d) in failing to have any plan for arousing and getting the passengers off the ship in the event of fire while the ship was at dock;

(e) in failing to train the crew as to the proper steps to be taken on discovery of fire or in fire fighting methods beyond giving them a knowledge of how to operate fire extinguishers and hoses.

Question 20: Was the loss of the S.S. Noronic and the loss of life caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or default of the owners, Canada Steamship Lines, Limited, the master, Captain William Taylor, or any other person or persons?

Answer: The loss of the S.S. Noronic and the loss of life was caused by the wrongful default of the owners and of the master in the respects mentioned in the answers to the last question. While it is true that the owners knew and approved of the organization, or lack of it, designed to deal with the outbreak of fire on the ship while it lay in dock with sleeping passengers on board, the master was not in any way precluded by any instructions from the owners from taking the proper steps himself.

I should like also to read the recommendations which appear at the end of the report:

While anything in the way of recommendation for the future probably arises fairly obviously upon a review of the circumstances covered by this report, it may be of value to gather them together in one place. The following are therefore submitted for consideration in connection with ships carrying more than a minimum of passengers on the major fresh waters:

1. That the provisions as to the fire resisting bulkheads in regulation XVI of the international convention for the safety of life at sea be made applicable to such ships.

2. That the provisions of regulation XLIII of the said safety convention, as to the maintenance of an efficient and continuous fire patrol system as well as an automatic fire alarm or fire-detecting system, be made applicable, but such alarm or detecting system should not be restricted to parts of the ship not accessible to the patrol system.

3. That the provisions of regulation XLIV as to muster lists and the assigning of special duties to different members of the crew in connection with the matters therein mentioned, including:

(a) the muster of passengers; (b) the extinction of fire; (c) warning of passengers; (d) assembling of passengers at muster stations; (e) keeping order in the passages and on the stairways and generally controlling the movements of passengers, be applied. This will necessarily require adequate training of the crew in methods of fire fighting, together with the setting up of and maintenance of and effective organization for dispatching men so trained to the seat of fire at the earliest possible moment.

4. That such ships be fitted with a sprinkler system protecting all enclosed parts of the vessel.

5. Muster charts should be prominently displayed in order that each member of the crew may become familiar, not only with his own duties and fire and boat stations, but with those of the crew who are to work with him.

6. That such ships be fitted with a public address system for directing passengers in an emergency, and that the proper officers be trained as to its use.

7. That ships at dock should provide adequate and more than a single means of exit to shore.

8. That passenger ships docking with the intention of remaining for any extended time be required to be connected with the local telephone system so that the aid of the local fire department may be obtained without delay.

I wish to read my colleague's conclusion, as follows:

In conclusion I wish to take this opportunity to thank publicly the commissioner and his assessors for their untiring efforts in this long and arduous investigation, and also all those who assisted the court in the discharge of their duties. The recommendations made by the court will be carefully considered by the department, and I sincerely hope that this investigation, which has been so ably carried out, will be the means of preventing disasters of this kind in the future.


Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

May I direct a question to the minister? Has the government any intention of bringing in amendments to the shipping legislation, or seeing to it that amendments are made to the shipping regulations? This was a terrible disaster. The report condemns the company very strongly, and points out that certain new regulations are required. As I understand it, the report also points out that the inspection of the dominion inspecting officer was not adequate. I do urge that there is the utmost need for a prompt and thorough revision, primarily of the regulations, but perhaps also of the Canada Shipping Act itself. Has the government in mind taking any such steps?


Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce)


Mr. Howe:

Mr. Speaker, my colleague the Minister of Transport is indisposed at the present time, and I received the report only this morning. I am sure, however, the

government will take into consideration every suggestion made by the commissioners, and I shall be surprised if my colleague does not recommend legislation to the house at an early day.

I believe that is all I can say. I shall take as notice the further remarks of the hon. member, and bring them to the attention of my colleague.




November 21, 1949