May 1, 1950

LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

Pardon?

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

In order to have the record clear, may I ask if you are now referring to the matter of financial assistance?

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

I am referring to the whole situation, which of course includes the question raised by my hon. friend. That is the situation at the present time. In reply to the suggestion made by the hon. member for Provencher, may I say that we will certainly have any person necessary go there. I told the premier that I did not want to force myself on him but that if there was anything I could do to help I would be delighted to leave on a moment's notice. I am in daily contact with him, and if there is any necessity for that I am sure he will advise me. In the meantime I suggest with great deference that the government of Manitoba is doing a first-class job in dealing with the situation in its present phase. I suggest that, so far as is humanly possible, it is doing everything that can be done, and that there will be plenty of time for the two governments to consider the whole matter when we know what the complete facts are. Some of the facts of the situation will not develop until possibly a week from today. No person will know the extent of the disaster until it is completed. The disaster is only partly complete now.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

The amount has nothing to do with the principle.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

My hon. friend says that the amount has nothing to do with the principle. I should have thought that, in judging whether or not a physical disaster was one of national scope, its extent would have to be one of the factors.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

That has already been established.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

I have nothing more to say other than that, I think, with the useful discussion that has taken place, we could very well let the matter rest in the hands of the government of Manitoba with the knowledge that when the time comes that they can properly divert their attention from the emergent

matters at hand to discuss these other important questions we in the federal government will be more than happy to deal with them. ,

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I should like to join the minister in congratulating the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) on introducing this motion this afternoon. I should also like to congratulate the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) on having attempted to introduce similar motions this afternoon because I think the matter is one that should receive the attention of the government and the consideration of the house.

The minister has spoken of the floods of more recent times, but it seems to me this is a problem which has been before the country for many years. The hon. member for Provencher gave an outline of the disastrous floods that have occurred in the Red river valley for almost two centuries. Prior to 1812, when the Selkirk settlers went into the Red river valley, floods were not as disastrous as they have been subsequently. Those of us coming from other areas are very glad indeed to support the request of the province of Manitoba, if and when it is made, and of the members who have introduced the subject this afternoon, representing I believe the sentiments of the entire house, regardless of party, for the consideration of this matter as a national disaster.

When we look at the history of western Canada we find that there have been many occasions w'hen national emergencies have occurred owing to disastrous conditions, and not only floods but drought, not only fire but grasshoppers. These are indeed disasters that are national in scope. I am not necessarily talking of the grasshopper menace this year in one of the provinces of Canada, though it may reach disastrous proportions. When this motion was moved I slipped into the library for a couple of books, which I have on my desk. One is volume VII of the Oxford Historical and Literary Studies. It deals with Lord Selkirk's work in Canada, and on page 173 I find a reference to the flood of 1826 and to a series of disasters that preceded it. We are told:

The material development of the settlement during the closing years of the Selkirk regime was attended by a strange variety of calamities, both natural and artificial. In 1818, locusts-

We call them grasshoppers today.

-swarmed upon the fields to the depth of several inches, and formed for three years a "sickening and destructive plague."

And well I remember, though I do not have it before me, reading the report made by Mr. Hind, I believe in 1858, after he was sent

here by the government of the United Kingdom to look over the Hudson bay lands in western Canada. He reported that near my hon. friend's home of Souris, and I recollect the date very well, on July 2 of that year the horses refused to go forward because the grasshoppers were so thick in the air that even the horses would not face them as they were swept along by the wind. And all of us from the west, I am sure, can remember the disastrous years between 1930 and 1940, when we had to face the same conditions. I have seen the sky clouded with grasshoppers in the middle of the day. The sun was shining, but you seemed to see a mist, and when you looked up you could see countless billions of grasshoppers in the air. On the same page of this volume is this reference to the flood of 1826.

Natural reverses culminated in the disastrous flood of 1826. During the preceding winter a phenomenally heavy fall of snow drove the buffalo from the vicinity; more than thirty of the plain-rangers perished on the prairies from exposure or starvation. In the spring the river, swollen by the melting snow, rose nine feet in a single day. A few days later the stream swept over the river banks and buried the settlement beneath several feet of icy water. The flood of 1826 was considered "an extinguisher to the hope of Red River ever retaining the name of a settlement.'' When the water subsided there was a migration to the United States of the "de Meurons" and a party of Swiss who had been induced in 1821 to settle in Assiniboia. For the third time within eleven years the Scottish settlers resolved to begin anew at Red river.

During this whole century and a quarter since the great flood of 1826, and before that, there have been recurrent disasters in the Red river valley and, indeed, in some other river valleys also. Some of us can remember seeing the Assiniboine in flood at Brandon, and not many years ago the Saskatchewan overflowed its banks south of Saskatoon and did a great deal of damage, though not as much as we are witnessing at the present time. Of course I am not forgetting the great flood in the Fraser river valley, which we hope will not be repeated this year though conditions are ripe for such a disaster.

I have another volume in my hand, the story of the women of the Red river valley, which contains a very interesting letter written on May 27, 1852, by Reverend John Black, who was the first Presbyterian minister to build a church in the valley. Up to that time services had been conducted by the Anglican church. It is interesting to note that this Presbyterian minister baptized the late Archbishop Matheson into the Presbyterian communion, though later he became the Anglican Archbishop of Rupert's Land.

Manitoba Flood

I think this letter is worthy of being placed on record. Reverend John Black wrote.

On Sabbath May ninth I preached for the last time in our temporary church and had to go part of the way to it in a canoe. On Monday the tenth the flight from the Scotch part of the settlement was general. In trying to reach a place of safety, men and women were seen plunging through the water driving and carrying, while the aged and little children were conveyed in carts drawn by oxen or horses. Most of the Scotch settlers had from one hundred to three hundred bushels of wheat in lofts which they kept from year to year in case of failure, and now for this there was much anxiety. The first night we encamped on the plain without wood or shelter, saving what we erected, amid the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep, and the roaring of calves, and the squealing of pigs, and the greeting of bairns. After three days we arrived here, on a beautiful woody ridge thirteen miles from our houses. A few families are with me here, but my congregation is scattered, so that, from extreme to extreme is, I suppose, more than thirty miles. Thus the waters prevailed and spread themselves over the cultivated lands, sweeping away everything loose and much that was thought fast. Houses, barns, byres, stacks of wheat, etc., were floating down thick and fast. Not a bridge is left on the road in all the flooded district. Sometimes the wind blew very strong, and acting on the lake-like expanse of waters, agitated them like a sea, and this was very destructive to the houses of the settlers. The breadth flooded in our part of the settlement is eight or nine miles, while the ordinary width of the river is not more than one hundred and fifty yards. I have crossed this wide expanse twice to visit our people on the east side. I have now three preaching stations instead of one-all camp meetings. The water began to fall about the 21st. We hope to get home again in about two weeks.

What I am driving at is that for over a century and a quarter, ever since the Red river valley was settled, there have been these threats of flood and at times great floods, and it seems to me that long ere this the governments of the two countries should have done something about it. South of the line, from Emerson all the way down to Crookston and as far as Grand Forks, they have floods similar to those in Manitoba. Over those years it seems to me there should have been more of an attempt to prevent this kind of disaster than has been made. Indeed, I think the time has come when this country should consider conservation generally in a very big way. This particular area, of course, is not affected by the conditions that affect the Fraser valley, because the headwaters of the Fraser river come from mountainsides denuded of trees. Once trees delayed the melting of the snow, and the valleys and river courses were deep enough and wide enough to carry out the water as the snow melted in the spring. The same is true of southern Ontario, in connection with the Thames, the Grand and so on. Once upon a time this province was covered with dense forests. The melting

Manitoba Flood

of the snow was delayed, and the rivers were wide enough to carry off the waters as the snow melted.

I believe we have to tackle this problem of conservation, that we must tackle the problem of water. It is a strange thing that in some parts of our country floods at various times prevent cultivation, and also do irreparable damage to the land by carrying away the top soil, while in other parts of the country, such as the province of Saskatchewan, the great waters flowing down to the sea run wastefully through a part of the country often parched and desolate because of lack of water. The water is there to be utilized when we are prepared tc spend several hundred millions of dollars in order to conserve and use it for irrigation when that is necessary.

I remember when on February 21, 1938, I introduced into the house a resolution concerning the utilization of Saskatchewan river water for irrigation, it was stated that the cost was prohibitive. At that time an estimate had beefl given by an outstanding hydraulic engineer in this country of approximately $400 million to do a complete job right from the mountains. It would probably cost more now. When we are able to spend, because it is essential that we shall spend it, the sum of $420 million this year for defence -as I said, it is quite proper we should spend it-it seems strange that we should think an amount of $400 million to rehabilitate a whole countryside as prohibitive. So it is with this flood in the Red river valley. Whatever is necessary to protect the people of that fertile and productive region from such disasters in the future should be undertaken by our government. I also join with those who say that the people who have suffered from this very great disaster should receive compensation and assistance in order to rehabilitate their homes, their businesses and their farms. I would say the same thing about any part of the country in which a national disaster was caused by drought, by fire, by grasshoppers, by floods or by any other natural visitation of that description.

I rose to say that all of us would be glad to support the minister and the government in every step that can be undertaken to assist in this great disaster, hoping that as similar disasters arise through this or other causes the federal government will help the various provinces, as the federal parliament has often done from time to time in the past to relieve our distressed citizens from the impoverishment and difficulties subsequently experienced.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

Fernand Viau

Liberal

Mr. Fernand Viau (Si. Boniface):

I rise to take part in this debate because I intend to

second the motion presented by my colleague the member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras). I have followed the day by day reports on the flood situation which have appeared in the press. With a large portion of Manitoba threatened by this flood I feel that I should support the motion of my colleague, and in so doing I declare that the flood situation in Manitoba is a national emergency. I join with the other members who have spoken, the member for Souris (Mr. Ross), the member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), as well as other Manitoba representatives who feel that the flood situation in Manitoba is a national emergency.

The other day the mayor of Morris, Mayor Shewman, made a statement. He happens to be the Progressive Conservative member representing that constitutency in the provincial government. The deputy premier, who happens to be a Progressive Conservative representative in the provincial cabinet, agreed with the mayor's statement. I must admit that I have no sympathy for this coalition government, but nevertheless the people of Manitoba are looking for a statement from responsible authorities that will assure them of financial assistance. The premier of Manitoba has to date refused to give any assurance that assistance will be forthcoming. His reply constitutes a policy of wait and see. According to the press reports, which presumably are correct, he said that although the situation is serious it may be too early to say that, from the financial point of view, it constitutes a condition to be declared a national emergency.

As I said a moment ago, surely if this house feels it should take time to discuss this matter it has already been characterized as one of national emergency. It is quite true that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) could not make a statement to this house this afternoon, because apparently he has not discussed the matter with his colleagues. Nevertheless, since the minister took part in this debate, that is proof that it is a national emergency. The situation as it is today is far worse than it was in 1948. I delayed my return after the Easter holiday not only to view the flood situation in Manitoba, because it had then reached the peak of 1948, but also to satisfy myself that arrangements had been made by the provincial government with the Department of National Defence to assure the transportation of sandbags or troops to areas in which they may be needed. I had experience in dealing with the problem in 1948, the first time I had had to deal with such a problem since I was elected as the federal representative. Arrangements had been made to co-ordinate the aid

given by the dominion, the provincial government and the Red Cross to the different municipalities. Provision was made to cope with the situation that had existed in 1948, but now the flood has gone beyond the 1948 boundaries. We find that today we have one of the largest rivers in the world in Manitoba, since the Red river is fourteen miles wide at some parts. It covers many fine agricultural areas, as well as many of our cities and towns such as Morris, Emerson and St. Jean, all situated in the constituency of Provencher.

If the river continues to rise it may overflow into the cities of St. Boniface and Winnipeg. I must admit that the fact it has not done so already in St. Boniface might be due to the wisdom of our city fathers in placing sewer gates along the river. These are the only sewer gates in the province at the moment, and they are stopping the overflow of the river into the lower part of the city. If the water level goes beyond the 1948 mark, it is admitted that the sewer gates will not be effective. Naturally when cities the size of St. Boniface and parts of Winnipeg are flooded, the demand for relief is great. I think arrangements should be made immediately, not only by the provincial authorities but also by the federal authorities, to provide immediate relief for those who may be affected in that area. I believe a statement from the responsible officials should go forward, even though the Minister of Justice has stated that he does not feel that a responsible or honest individual in public office should make a statement until he has received all the facts concerning the amount of money which will be needed to cover the damage in the province of Manitoba; but that is not a matter which need concern the house at the present time. It is the principle that is involved, and that was my stand when I made the statement to the press last Saturday that the situation in Manitoba was one of national emergency; and I feel that I am as responsible and as intelligent as any other member of this House of Commons.

As I have said, the situation is one of national emergency; and even though I am not able to assess immediately the damage which has been caused already or which will be caused in the coming week, the federal government, in my opinion, has a great responsibility with regard to floods in Manitoba. In my research I discovered that this is the first time that the flood situation in Manitoba has been debated in the House of Commons, although we have had other floods. The largest flood was in 1916 and there was one in 1897. It is quite true that the population in southern Manitoba then

Manitoba Flood

was not as thick as it is now; but this is the first time that this situation has been brought forward from the national viewpoint.

The public works that have been done in Manitoba and the attention given by the dominion government in the past have really been shameful, I would say as a result of my research into the amount of money which has been spent for public works in my own province of Manitoba; for example with respect to the damage done by the Red river or the Seine river which is another river that crosses the city of St. Boniface and as to which every year the provincial government of Manitoba receives a report, which is always shelved for future reference without any action being taken. The present Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson), who was then premier of the province, should know something about that matter also. Those are true statements.

We ought to be able to spend some money in Manitoba if we can spend money in other parts of the country running into millions of dollars, using as an excuse, "Well, it is due to navigation," and so on, when it might have been just simply to build retaining walls in areas which have been flooded. It is true that other cities and towns might be built close to a larger river than the Red river in the province of Manitoba. Nevertheless we are a progressive province in western Canada and right now I will make this statement. I have sought in the past, and I will continue to seek from the federal authorities, greater consideration with respect to our province in western Canada, such as is given chiefly to the two great provinces of Ontario and Quebec. At times I would say that beyond the boundaries of those two provinces Canada does not exist.

The situation is grave at the present time. Without prolonging my remarks, I would say that I expect the federal government will not only assure the provincial authorities that they are willing to give financial assistance at the present time with regard to this important problem but also that they will seek from those responsible, such as the international joint commission, a permanent solution to the problem. As the minister said a little while ago, it is quite true that it is impossible to seek complete control of the waters. Nobody is asking for that. But if in Manitoba federal aid had been given for the purpose of studying the problem of the Red river, as was done on the other side by the United States authorities, who have spent over $17 million up to the present time, it is possible that the situation in Manitoba in the Red river area would not be as bad as it is today.

Manitoba Flood

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

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

Mr. William Bryce (Selkirk):

I want to support the motion made by the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) for federal aid, financial and otherwise. I also want to join with the other Manitoba members in their remarks pertaining to floods. I should also like to extend my congratulations to the Red Cross and the various organizations that have contributed help in the area that has been so badly hit by the flood; I refer to the constituency of the hon. member for Provencher. His constituency has been harder hit than any other so far.

In my own constituency I have the Red river to contend with and also the Assiniboine river. I should like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that conditions there are bad. If the Red river keeps rising and the Assiniboine river backs up, the banks there will not hold the water and you will find that thousands and thousands of acres will be inundated while the Assiniboine river will be making its way to the La Salle river. I think the Manitoba members will understand that situation fairly well, and that is what will really take place.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

It will be one big lake.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

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

Mr. Bryce:

I listened attentively to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson). I am pleased to learn that the Manitoba government benefited by their experiences of 1948 and are in some ways prepared for the flood when it comes. According to today's news, it is quite evident that the flood has not yet reached its peak at Winnipeg.

Some Manitoba members are no doubt getting letters from their constituents. I am in the position of having a constituent sitting right in the gallery here. The basement of his house in the flood area is filled with water. You can see what my worries are in this connection. It is bad enough to have people writing to you; but when you have people who can call on you and tell you about it, it is much worse. The west Kildonan district is flooded now. Basements are flooded.

I get many letters these days asking that the flood gates at St. Andrews and Lock-port be opened. I have taken that matter up with the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) and he has assured me that if it is necessary to open these flood gates they will be opened, and that his engineers are right on the job and looking after matters. In fact, when I was home at Easter I spoke to Mr. Anderson, the district engineer. He understands the situation thoroughly. From past experience I know that we can depend on the Winnipeg staff-that is, the federal staff-to do everything they can.

The hon. member for Provencher raised an important question, namely, that there will

be a great deal of wheat that will not be sown and the farmers will sow more oats and barley if the land ever gets dried up in time; and it is doubtful if it will. But assuming that it will, a great deal of oats and barley should be needed. The government should consider that matter and see to it that seed oats and barley are available so that these grains may be sown where wheat was intended to be sown.

There is no use my threshing old straw. The Manitoba members who have already spoken have covered the situation fairly well. I rose only to support them. This matter of floods affects my constituency greatly. I hope that effect will be given to what the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) said as reported at page 1981 of Hansard:

Hon. members can be assured that it is the desire of the goverment to treat every part of the country in the same way. Should there ever be in any part of the country the sort of disaster there was in the Fraser river district, the people of that section would be entitled to expect that they would be treated in the same way as the residents of the Fraser river valley were treated.

I would rather have had from some minister of the crown or from the Prime Minister himself the assurance that financial aid will be given there, because it is going to be needed. The flood is going to be much worse than it was in 1948. While the intentions of the Minister of Justice are good, having regard to what he said, I would still support the hon. member for St. Boniface (Mr. Viau), who spoke prior to me, when he said that something definite should be done, because Winnipeg and the districts surrounding it are in serious condition.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

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

Mr. Alistair Stewart (Winnipeg North):

The

member who has just spoken happens to be my member of parliament. I have complained to him, but he is really inaccurate when he points out that my basement is flooded. If it were only my basement I should be very happy indeed. This is the second time in two years we have been ren. dered homeless owing to these floods.

I listened to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) with some attention. He gave an interesting speech. But he took over half an hour to say what the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) said the other day in a sentence, namely:

We shall endeavour to ascertain what the situation is, and then determine what action, if any, should be taken.

Action is very necessary; but not action now from an engineering standpoint. Obviously that is too late. As the Minister of Justice said, the problem now is not an engineering problem; it is a matter of relief.

Of course I am not asking for relief for myself, but for those who are in far greater need of it.

The Minister of Justice spent about half an hour telling us what the Premier of Manitoba was doing. We in this house are not particularly interested in that. What we want to know is, what is the government of Canada going to do in the face of a national emergency? The Minister of Justice may disagree with the contention that there is a national emergency, but up to the present all members of parliament from Manitoba are pretty well united in the belief that this is an emergency of national proportions.

Of course these floods are not new. They have been recurring periodically on an average every eighteen years since recorded history began, but this year they happen to be the highest we have known since the year 1826, causing untold damage and devastation. In 1916 there was a similar situation, and the engineering department of the United States department of agriculture made a survey and also presented a report which I have not been able to get my hands on; nor do I know what has happened to it. I think, however, nothing was done with the report. However, in 1948, after the then serious flooding conditions had taken place, the matter was referred to the international joint commission, and we have been told that for two years they have been analysing the information which has been given to them. We have oeen told by the Minister of Justice that they .rave received four interim reports and the international joint commission is still analysing the information. When I told my wife that on Friday, after hearing it, she suggested that through the Secretary of State for External Affairs I should extend an invitation to the international joint commission to carry on their deliberations in our home and then they might come to a decision very much quicker than they would otherwise. After all, when you get water lapping around your knees it does help you to make up your mind. I am quite sure that she was speaking not only for herself but for every other woman in that part of Manitoba who has been driven out of her home.

We know the reason for these floods. Perhaps at the present time we have found no way of checking them. We do know that given a certain type of winter weather a flood is almost inevitable, that type of winter which is cold, which is dry, a winter in which there is not very much snow, a winter in which the ice on the rivers becomes very thick, and which is followed by a cold spring, where there is no run-off. Then finally we

Manitoba Flood

get a sudden thaw, and in a few weeks most precipitately we have the sort of condition that exists now.

The dangers to the health of the people are obvious. Here again I should like to pay my measure of tribute to the Red Cross for the really excellent work that it is doing, not only the Canadian Red Cross, but also the United States Red Cross. The United States and Canadian Red Cross societies are working in the closest co-operation with each other to alleviate human suffering. The municipalities of course are also doing their share in so far as the prevention of the spread of virulent diseases such as typhoid is concerned.

There has been some loss of life, which is a tragedy. There has also been a loss of property, which is not nearly so tragic, though for those who have suffered, it is a matter of great importance. There are a substantial number of people who have not yet recovered their financial feet from the floods of 1948, and now once again they find their homes, and perhaps their furniture, destroyed. These are the people for whom I think all of us speak. These are the people who need some assistance to rehabilitate themselves. One should notice that it is not they who are asking for help, but others in another position who are suggesting that this is a national disaster, and that it is the responsibility of the nation to come to the aid of those who need help.

In his remarks the Minister of Justice pointed out that nothing very much could be done in Canada alone. That I think is debatable. Here I should like to make a suggestion to the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier), because according to Mr. W. D. Hurst, the city engineer of Winnipeg, there is something which might be done to alleviate the serious consequences of flooding. As one hon. member pointed out,-I think it was the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras)-it is not the first forty feet of the flood that does the damage, it is the last two or three feet. If we could find some way of getting an increased run-off, then we might reduce that last two or three feet of flood water. Here is a suggestion, as I said, which was given by Mr. Hurst, who is the head of the engineering department of the city of Winnipeg:

From approximately Middlechurch to St. Andrews there exists in the bottom of the river, a submerged dam which is known as Lister's rapids. The extent of this dam is approximately 7 to 8 miles in length. Studies were made a number of years ago by the Manitoba drainage commission and others for the cutting of a channel through this submerged dam to pass approximately 75,000 cubic feet per second. At that time it was estimated that a million, more or less, cubic yards of rock would have to be removed in connection with the execution of this

Manitoba Flood

project. To the best of my knowledge no recent estimates have been made but undoubtedly the cost would be very high.

The cost would be so high that it would be financially impossible for the city of Winnipeg to handle it by itself. Therefore, here is something which, after it is investigated and if it is found feasible, the Department of Public Works might perhaps undertake.

Mr. Hurst goes on to say:

According to the dominion government authorities, this submerged dam is the principal control feature of the river in this area.

That being so, I hope that when the estimates are before us the Minister of Public Works will be able to give us some information on it. Once again I should like to repeat that in my opinion this is a national disaster, and it is not good enough for the Minister of Justice to say: We have to wait and see what the situation is. Many people who are already seriously affected want to know now what is going to happen to them. After all, the fact that there may be some dissension in the government of Manitoba is no excuse for our doing nothing. It may be that the deputy premier of Manitoba thinks this is a national disaster and the federal parliament must assume some responsibility, but the premier of Manitoba is sitting on the fence still waiting and seeing. I do not think that the attitude of the premier of Manitoba has much to commend it, especially from the point of view of those who have suffered very much more than people like myself. I repeat, unquestionably the magnitude of the disaster is such that it is the responsibility of the parliament of Canada to come to the aid of those who are in such dire need of help.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
Permalink
LIB

Howard Waldemar Winkler

Liberal

Mr. H. W. Winkler (Lisgar):

Last Friday night the mayor of Morris was quoted over the national hook-up as having said that nine-tenths of the ground in the town of Morris, Manitoba, was under water and that the water was steadily rising. My purpose in saying a few words this afternoon is to draw attention to the fact that for the last two weeks water has been coursing over an area considerably west of Morris, as well as in other parts, and in my constituency, which comes within four miles of Morris, lies a village called Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld was photographed from the air approximately ten or twelve days ago, and the pictures were carried in the Montreal, Toronto, and I believe in the local papers, showing that Rosenfeld then was completely under water. The water did not stay there very long. It has been gradually subsiding, and was what is known as a flash flood. Still farther south from Rosenfeld is a fairly large town, one larger

than Emerson, which was also gripped in the flood. Everything was tied up there for several days.

Still farther south on the international border is the small village of Gretna, a name known to all of us as the point at which the pipe line will leave Canada and go into the United States, towards Superior. Gretna is right on the border. Then, immediately across the border in the United States, in the state of North Dakota, is the Pembina river, which runs in an almost easterly direction from the Pembina hills and flows into the Red river not far from Emerson.

At the same time that Rosenfeld was flooded, this river overflowed its banks. The waters came across the international border and into the village of Gretna which, as a result, was quite submerged. May I also add that an ancient riverbed of the Pembina river, which appears to have left the river about ten or twelve miles west of Gretna, was also filled with a great torrent of water. This forced down toward Altona and Rosenfeld and no doubt contributed greatly to the flood which occurred there.

The town of Morden, in which I live, was also visited by a flash flood. The fire whistle blew at eleven o'clock at night. Those who were able to do so had to wade waist deep into the river to rescue people whose homes were deep in water. Of course at that hour of the night, and in the darkness, they did not realize the extent of the flood or how long it would last. Fortunately it subsided on the following day.

The conditions prevailing in the constituency of Lisgar are those which are apt to prevail in almost any part of Manitoba before this is over. I will not go as far as the last speaker has gone by stating that at this stage it is a national disaster; but it may well be. I do not think that matter is of such great importance because whether it be a national disaster or not will not make much difference here today. We know that people who are in water, people in whose homes water flows in the front door and out the back, will consider it a national disaster. It is just as wet to the man who is up against it, whether he is the only one affected, or whether there are thousands.

I do not think that at this stage we need worry about the terminology used. I believe, however, that we should lose no time, and I am inclined to take the view that the international joint commission is not losing any time, to do those things which will correct the situation.

The hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) indicated that these floods have been

coming on at an average of one in eighteen years. Well, it just happens that the last two have come within two years of one another. This one is by far the worst, and I believe will no doubt spur on those who are interested in making plans which will cope with an adequate means to protect people in the future. I doubt whether dams and dikes will be able to protect the country from floods. In the west when we have the proper conditions of frost, when the land is frozen and on top of that we have, as we had this year, a very heavy and late snowfall, and then if in the late spring we have a succession of very warm days, there is bound to be flooding, no matter how many dams or dikes are built.

Nevertheless it is well known that there is ample room for dikes and dams. As an illustration, I think it would be a very simple matter to build a dam to cope with the Pembina river when on extreme occasions its waters flow over from the United States and wash into two or three of our small towns. So far as the Pembina river itself is concerned, with a deep valley running about half its length, while it might be extravagant it would be a comparatively simple matter for engineers to construct a dam which would be adequate to hold back a great deal of the early run-off.

I am sure these matters will be taken into consideration. While I believe it is necessary that this matter be stressed as greatly as possible, nevertheless I am confident that the authorities are taking the matter under consideration. I share the view of the hon. member for St. Boniface (Mr. Viau) in my disregard for the coalition government; at the same time I am confident that they are devoting themselves to the situation, and that the federal government will be called in as much and as extensively as is necessary.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

John Sylvester Aloysius Sinnott

Liberal

Mr. J. S. Sinnott (Springfield):

Mr. Speaker, in my view the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) was quite justified in bringing this national disaster to the attention of the house this afternoon. Going home during the Easter vacation by motorcar, and traversing much of the northern country, one could easily realize that something of this nature might develop. For a thousand miles we travelled through snowbanks anywhere up to ten or twelve feet in depth. With the breaking of spring one might expect a disaster of this kind.

I join with the hon. member for Provencher in expressing thanks to the Red Cross, municipal officials, the provincial government and to everyone who has taken a hand in helping those who have suffered from this disaster. I myself had something

Manitoba Flood

to do with floods in 1942. One morning when I walked out to my barn I found fifty head of cattle in about three feet of water, and the old sow with her head sticking out and with all the young pigs floating around.

I know something about disasters of this kind.

Farmers in that area have lost thousands of bushels of grain. Some of them thought they could save themselves by moving on to ground that was safe in 1948. They moved their seed and feed and cattle to these spots, only to find that the water surged up beyond the point of the 1948 flood. Therefore all their efforts were fruitless.

I suggest that the statement of the. Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) that the dominion government would consider this matter, and give it the attention which was given the disaster in British Columbia last year, should be sufficient assurance. I know the premier of Manitoba personally and, farmer that he is, I know this disaster will receive firsthand attention from his government.

I do not agree with some hon. members, however, when they say that the dominion government should put itself on the spot as to the amount to be made available, because immediately the dominion government indicates how much it is willing to give, or how much it will contribute, what will happen? Politics will enter into the question, and the very next day we will hear, "Not enough, not enough!"

In my view the dominion government has taken the right attitude in stating that when the damage is surveyed it will be in a position to say what amount of aid should be extended. Working in conjunction with the provincial government, I am sure these people who have suffered from the disaster will be looked after by both the provincial and dominion governments.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre):

Mr. Speaker, there are one or two references I intend to make to this matter arising out of the remarks of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson). Everybody expected that he was going to make a pronouncement of importance conveying hope to the people affected by this flood that something tangible would be done. They will be disappointed with the statement he has made. After you remove from it the commendation he gave, and properly so, to the Red Cross and other relief agencies, to the rural municipalities, to the councils and to the government of Manitoba, and, with a little self-praise, to the government to which he belongs, when all these things were said and done and the constitutional issue touched on lightly by him, little in the nature of hope was held

Manitoba Flood

out to the people affected by these floods. Certainly he had his answer in the statement of the hon. member for St. Boniface (Mr. Viau), who followed him, as to whether or not this was indeed a national disaster. Without equivocation that hon. member said that it indeed was, that there was no question whatsoever of the people of the area affected by the floods finding themselves in a position of being subject to a national disaster, and that they were deserving of the promise of direct action on the part of parliament and the country.

I listened with interest to what the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) said concerning floods that have taken place in that area throughout the years. I know something of the history of 'the Selkirk settlement and of the great flood that took place in the year 1826. It was not the first flood on the Red river by any means. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, that has ever taken place was in 1776. There were two between that time and 1826. As to the latter date, the remnants of the Scottish settlement established in the Red river area in 1812 found themselves in a position where hope was gone, but they held on after the flood and in large measure by their contribution retained that great area of our western plains for the British crown.

I was looking over the records of that time as dealt with in Bryce's "Lord Selkirk's Colonists". It is very interesting reading not only from the historical standpoint but also by reason of the fact that it generally indicates the length of time floods continued on the Red river once they commenced. At page 178 I find the following: ... a worse flood than that seen by the Selkirk settlers took place fifty years before, and there were two other floods between these two. Each year, according to the tale of the old settlers, the rivers of the prairies have been becoming wider by denudation, so that each flood tends to be less.

He says that contributory conditions are:

... a very heavy snowfall during the prairie winter, a late spring in which the river ice retains its hold, and a sudden period in the springtime of very hot weather, these being modified as the years go on by the ever-widening river channel.

The winter of 1825-26 was one of the most terrific ever known in the history of the Selkirk settlement.

He goes on to set out the difficulties during the winter before, and then he says:

As the Red river flows northward, the first thaw of spring is usually south of the American international boundary line at the headwaters of the river which divides Minnesota and Dakota. In these states the floods are always, in consequence, greater than they are in Manitoba. In this year-

He is speaking of the year 1826.

-the ice held very firm up to the end of April. On the second of May, the waters from above rose

[Mr. Diefenbaker.l

and lifted the ice which still held in a mass together some nine feet above the level of the day before. Indians and whites alike were alarmed. The water overflowed its banks, and still continued to rise at Fort Garry. The governor and his family were driven to the upper story of their residence in the fort, with the water ten feet deep below that.

The whole river bank for miles was a scene of confusion and terror. Every home was an alarming scene as the flood reached it.

One sees the picture today, an actual repetition of 1826.

The first thought was to save life. Amid the crying of the children, the lowing of cattle and the howling of dogs, parents sought out all their children to see them safely removed.

Then he goes on to say they moved the wheat and oats, what little furniture they possessed, and the necessary cooking utensils. Finally he proceeds to state that floods on the Red river historically from 1826 onward, and also in the three preceding ones, did not finally reach their maximum height until seventeen days after commencement. At one point on page 182 he says:

In seventeen days from the first rise, the water reached its height, . . .

He points out that after twenty further days the settlers were able with difficulty to reach their homes. I point out that historically in these floods, to which references are made in this monumental work by Dr. Bryce on the Selkirk settlement, in every case it took from seventeen to twenty days. If that be so, having regard to the terrific damage that has already taken place to which the minister made reference, surely there should be some clear expression to these people who today find themselves driven from their homes and fearful of the immediate prospect, in addition to the expression of commendation of the Red Cross and other relief agencies. The minister was careful to convey no word of hope that any compensation would be given to these people. He was careful to clothe his words of hope in language that can never be interpreted in the future as a promise of action on the part of the dominion as a whole. Coming from the province of Saskatchewan, where on more than one occasion the country as a whole has come to its assistance, I feel that something should be done.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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AFTER RECESS The house resumed at eight o'clock.


PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Before we adjourned for dinner I had mentioned that this problem along the Red river was not new, but that for a period of two hundred years there had been cases of flooding where Winnipeg now

stands. I had referred to the Selkirk settlement. Many of those affected by this flood today are the descendants of the Selkirk settlers who in 1812, driven out of northern Ireland by the Duchess of Sutherland, found their way to Hudson bay, where they spent the winter of 1812, and thence by lake Winnipeg to the Red river. This situation and its posssibilities were revealed in 1946; and I feel that after that experience, which was but a repetition of what had happened many times before, the international joint commission should have taken speedy action.

This afternoon the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) took it upon himself to deal in a rather cavalier manner with this matter. At one time he clothed himself in the garment of sanctimoniousness and managed to imply that those who had discussed this matter had votes in mind. I am sure he would not have given that implication as far as the hon. member for Provencher (Mr. Jutras) was concerned, or as far as the hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) was concerned, or in reference to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). It is not a matter of votes; it is a matter of asking for action now, that when there is a national disaster this parliament should act. The minister says he does not know yet whether it is a national disaster. He did not advise the house just how great the damage must be before it becomes a national disaster. Where is the point of differentiation between a matter of local importance and a national disaster? When such a large area has been already threatened or flooded, when the people living in that area have requested help, whether or not those requests have come from the government of Manitoba, surely that is evidence that there is need for action to be taken now.

Can one conceive what will be the attitude of those people, driven from their homes, in many cases having lost everything, when tomorrow morning they get the message from the government of Canada, through the mouth of the Minister of Justice: "We gave you a warning; the farmers in that area were warned on April 20"? Does this mean that because they did not get out, they must suffer? The minister says they were warned. What is the meaning of those words? What is the difference whether or not they were warned; what bearing has that on whether it is a national disaster? I cannot understand the minister when he makes a statement like that. The answer coming from the mouth of the minister today is, "You were warned. I know not what your loss may be. It cannot be estimated at this time, and not being able to estimate it-"

Manitoba Flood

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Garson:

On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that, as my hon. friend must know, I never said what he is attributing to me, nor did I say anything it would be possible to construe as the hon. member is construing my remarks.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ross (Souris):

Hansard will tell the story tomorrow.

Topic:   FLOOD CONDITIONS
Subtopic:   SOUTHERN MANITOBA
Sub-subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURN- MENT UNDER STANDING ORDER 31
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May 1, 1950