April 20, 1950

LIB

Thomas Joseph Kickham

Liberal

Mr. T. J. Kickham (Kings):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words on the resolution as proposed by the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg). I am in full agreement with the amendment as brought before the house to extend assistance to veterans other than Canadian citizens at the time of enlistment, and especially with the provision which the minister has incorporated in the resolution, namely, to include former members of the forces of His Majesty's allies who have resided in Canada for not less than twenty years. I think that is a very fair provision.

I am thinking, Mr. Speaker, of another group of war service veterans who were Canadian citizens when they enlisted in the Canadian forces. I have had many letters appealing to me to make recommendations on their behalf. They have written to various Legion branches in some instances. I am referring now particularly to returned veterans of Prince Edward Island who fought with the Canadian forces in the two last wars. Many of these veterans have appealed to me on the ground that their appeals and requests for assistance under the War Veterans Allowance Act and the war veterans pension act have been rejected. They feel very keenly that they have not been used fairly. They feel that they have not been used as they should have been used. They also feel, as do many of their fellow citizens who are non-veterans, like myself, that those men should be accorded better treatment by the department than they have received in the past. I am not criticizing the government nor the Minister of Veterans Affairs in this connection; but I believe that many of these marginal cases that are examined by medical doctors should receive the benefit of the doubt. I do not wish to cause any alarm over the situation, but I do wish to say, as the hon. member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair) said, that the Canadian veteran has been treated as well as, and possibly better than, any other veteran in the world with the possible exception of the veterans who fought with the United States forces.

Yesterday I had a request from a veteran of the first world war. His case is conspicuous. He enlisted and was placed in category A. He was sent to England, and in preparation for training along the English channel he contracted rheumatism. He was sent before the medical officer, placed in category C and returned to Canada. On making application

20. 1950

War Veterans Allowance Act for some assistance under the War Veterans Allowance Act he was told that the expiry date for receiving such applications was in the year 1936. I am not sure of the date, but it is immaterial. This case appeals to me and I have had one or two other cases brought to my attention. One of these, for instance, was where a war veteran had died and the widow did not receive the pension after the veteran's death. I cannot see any condition that should result in such a decision by the board where, after a veteran has died leaving a widow and a small family, the pension should be discontinued.

In closing my remarks may I repeat that I am fully in accord with the resolution extending the benefits to veterans other than those who were Canadian citizens when they enlisted. But I am appealing to the minister and the government to try to satisfy those needy cases concerning veterans who were Canadian citizens when they enlisted. It would be a grave mistake in connection with the administration of the various acts of government concerned with veterans affairs if a shadow were cast over this beneficial legislation because it did not include those cases where veterans have not received what they considered justice, or received what was not considered justice by ordinary citizens.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

Douglas Scott Harkness

Progressive Conservative

Mr. D. S. Harkness (Calgary East):

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that at long last a measure of this kind has been introduced. Since I came to the House of Commons in 1945 veterans' organizations in Canada have been pressing for the inclusion of the so-called imperial veterans under the provisions of the War Veterans Allowance Act. It certainly marks a distinct step forward to have these benefits under the act thus extended.

I am sorry to see that when this is being done the benefits are not at the same time being extended to those Canadian soldiers who served only in England during the first world war. That matter has been discussed at some length already, so I shall not do more than mention it. I am also disappointed that the amount of the war veterans' allowance is not being increased to at least the amount of old age pensions.

I am glad to hear that some members on the government side of the house are in support of the idea that the allowance should be increased, and also that Canadians who served only in England should be included in the act.

I believe it was the hon. member for Park-dale (Mr. Hunter) who spoke at some length about the expense of doing this, and made the suggestion that it should not be expected that these benefits should be extended to a

War Veterans Allowance Act point where expenses would be unduly increased. May I point out to him and to any others who may have similar ideas that it is only as a result of at least five years of constant effort that the present provision has been introduced so as to extend the benefits of the act to the imperial veterans. It is only by talking constantly about these matters and urging their necessity that we make progress.

So far as the expense involved is concerned, I think it has been indicated by some hon. members already that the expense would not be great. Let me add only this, that the amount of money it would cost could be readily saved by the government's cutting out some of its expensive agencies, and the large amounts spent in travelling expenses and the like. Perhaps these decreases would have good results, even in the departments concerned, and certainly it would be beneficial for the veterans.

Let me speak briefly about the so-called increase granted a year or so ago. The general impression that went out to the country was that war veterans' allowances were being increased by $10 a month. That was not the case. As a matter of fact this $10 was a welfare allowance contingent upon a means test. So far as I know, no one in that part of the country from which I come has received the benefit of that $10; no matter how desperate his circumstances may have been, he just did not get it. How desperate people had to be to get that $10, I do not know; but I do know that three or four people who came to me, and whose cases I took up with the department, were not able to get it. How one's circumstances could be much worse than the circumstances in those cases, it is difficult to imagine.

I do not wish to discuss these matters to any great extent, but I do think a point made by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green) has some bearing in this connection, and that is that the payment of these war veterans' allowances to people who qualify under the new provisions should be made retroactive to the date on which it was first announced it should be paid. Announcements of this kind raise hopes in people's minds when they know they qualify and will subsequently come under the act. It is a bitter thing, a disappointing thing, to have the allowance promised and then to have it delayed, delayed, delayed, indefinitely. Eventually when it does come, having expected it for so long, this hope deferred has a rather bad effect. From that point of view particularly I suggest payment should be made retroactive at least to the first of this year.

I believe the decentralization feature is a good one. One of the difficulties I have

encountered in various cases which have come to my attention has been the high degree of complaint concerning the red tape involved and the length of time it takes to have the matter cleared up. In some cases an allowance is cut down. The length of time it takes to find out why it has been cut, and to have the matter reviewed, and in some cases adjusted, or some satisfactory explanation given, is in many cases quite out of proportion. Decentralization of authority in the hands of local boards who can handle these matters will get away from much of that difficulty, and make the working of the act more humane and more satisfactory to the recipients.

The desirability of having a standing committee on veterans affairs has been urged by several other hon. members, and I shall only mention it at this time. I believe a considerable number of complaints by veterans could be handled readily and with great advantage to the government and the veterans themselves through the establishment of a committee of that kind. Again I would strongly urge upon the government that such a committee be established.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Beaudoin in the chair.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

May we have some further clarification regarding the allowance which would be paid to the widows of imperial pensioners? If an imperial pensioner dies before his 20 years' residence in this country has expired, but his widow has continued to live on here and has resided in Canada for twenty years, will she or will she not be in receipt of the allowance?

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

No; if the veteran died prior to spending twenty years in Canada, then his widow would not be eligible. As I interjected before, there had to be a time somewhere as a base from which to start. That was twenty years' residence in Canada. One can go back and visualize a veteran coming from Scotland in 1920 with his wife and dying the day he arrived in Halifax. That would be an extreme case. Where between that and the 20-year period would you draw the line? In order to bring these veterans into the same position as those now receiving war veterans' allowances the 20-year residence was taken as the basic factor. If a man came to this country in 1920, lived here until 1940 and died, his wife would be eligible to apply.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

But the veteran himself must live in Canada for the 20 years?

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

That is right.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

I was urging that the widow of a veteran who had herself lived in Canada for 20 years should receive the benefits of the act.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

If she had service in her own right.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

Then she would be a veteran herself. The representations that have been made to me have been made on behalf of widows of veterans who died before the 20-year period was up. Has the minister made any inquiry as to how many such widows there are in Canada, that is, widows of imperial veterans who lived here for a certain period of time and then passed away before 20 years' residence had been completed?

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

In connection with this whole matter of war veterans' allowances and pensions, the widow as such has no rights except those from her veteran husband. In the case of old age pensions the widow would be a person in her own right. If she had never had a husband she could receive an old age pension when she reached a certain age. In this case the allowance is provided to the veteran for the wife while he is alive so that he may have more for himself, if you want to take a selfish view. We studied this matter carefully and could not see the equity of treating the widows of this group any different from those who are already in receipt of war veterans' allowances. If we made it possible for widows of veterans of this group who were in the country for only a year or two to qualify, when we were taking the 20-year period in Canada as essential for the veteran himself before he could qualify, we felt that there would be inequity. Twenty years has been taken as the basic period, both for the veteran himself and for his widow.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

It is not 20 years for the widow; it is 20 years for the veteran. It does not matter how long the widow may have lived here. After all, the widow has been in partnership with the veteran. The widow of a Canadian veteran who was eligible for war veterans' allowances is entitled to an allowance when she reaches 55 years of age.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

Yes.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

Surely the same principle should apply in this case. There does not seem to be any equity about it. Here is a woman who has lived in Canada for 20 years. If her husband had lived in Canada for 20 years she would be entitled to war veterans' allowance. Because he died, is her postiion any better? If her husband dies is her position so much better? Surely she should receive consideration if she has lived in this country for 20 years. She would have received consideration if her husband had continued to

War Veterans Allowance Act live, but if he has died her position will be more pitiful and she is deprived of the opportunity to receive the allowance that she would have got had her husband lived. We hear about equity but I do not think there is any equity about it.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

I am afraid I thanked the minister a little too readily for the interjection he made during my remarks. I certainly did not understand from what he said at that time that the interpretation was such as he has now given to the hon. member for Nanaimo.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

It is exactly the same as I gave to my hon. friend.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pearkes:

It is not.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

The interpretation may be the same, but when we get the details spelled out we run into anomalies such as the hon. member for Nanaimo has pointed out and which are going to have to be ironed out sooner or later. Certainly the widows interested in this matter thought that the statement of the parliamentary assistant on December 10 included all widows of imperial veterans that had been here 20 years. I notice the parliamentary assistant shaking his head. I know that some of these widows in Winnipeg certainly suggested that they were quite happy over the statement.

Let me take the cases of two imperial veterans who came from England in 1925, both being married. The one dies in 1944 and the other dies in 1946. I take it from what the minister has now said that the widow of the veteran who died in 1946, who had lived in Canada 21 years before he died, would qualify, whereas the widow of the veteran who had lived here only 19 years before dying would not qualify. Is that correct?

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

That is quite correct. As in everything else where there is a cut-off date there are always borderline cases. Where that cut-off date creates the effect the hon. member has indicated, the inference he makes would be correct.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

It does not answer the situation just to give a technical explanation like that. It does not seem equitable or fair. It is difficult to think up an example on the spur of the moment but I am sure there will be other cases where a widow who has not lived in Canada as long as the widow to whom I have referred will qualify because the husband could have qualified. I notice the parliamentary assistant nods his head again.

Look at the inequity of the situation. You will have a widow who has not been in Canada very long qualifying, and then on the

War Veterans Allowance Act other hand you will have the widow to whom I just referred who has been in Canada since 1925 not qualifying. Some of these widows are mothers of sons who served in the second war and yet there is no provision for them because they do not meet particular qualifications. I think the minister should think this thing through further.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Pouliot:

Before the minister answers I should like to ask him a question. We have heard a lot about the widows of imperial veterans, and Canada is generous to them.

I should like to know how many veterans of the Canadian armed services are receiving pensions in Great Britain from the British government. To my knowledge the number would be small, but I would be most interested to have some information about it.

While I am addressing you, sir, I should like to make two other observations. The first has to do with the two secretaries of the minister, Colonel Macbeth and Mr. Bosse. They are most helpful to hon. members who get in touch with them, and I take this opportunity to pay my tribute to them. I can tell you, however, that we have many difficulties with the pension commission. If the returned men were fairly dealt with by that commission there would be no need for allowances.

Topic:   WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION OF BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN FORMER
Sub-subtopic:   MEMBERS OF FORCES OTHER THAN CANADIAN
Permalink

April 20, 1950