May 8, 1950



Fifth report of standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines.-Mr. McCulloch.




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. Winters be substituted for that of Mr. McCann on the special committee on radio broadcasting.

That the name of Mr. Hatfield be substituted for that of Mr. Brooks on the special committee on the Dominion Elections Act.


Motion agreed to.




Howard Waldemar Winkler


Mr. H. W. Winkler (Lisgar) moved

that the third report of the standing committee on miscellaneous private bills, presented to the house on Thursday, May 4, be concurred in.


Motion agreed to. FIRE AND FLOOD DAMAGE .



Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, this last week end has been one of great anxiety, even suffering and distress, for a large number of our fellow citizens, especially in two separate areas of this country. When I heard yesterday of the terrible fire that was raging at Rimou-ski I sent telegrams to the mayor and to the archbishop, which perhaps I might read, because I feel sure that all hon. members would like to be associated with the sentiments I expressed in these telegrams.

The telegram to the mayor was as follows:

A Son Honneur le Maire Victor Lepage Rimouski, Que.

Je suis horrific d'apprendre l'etendue du sinistre que vient de subir la ville de Rimouski. A la population de votre ville et en particulier aux families, aux institutions et aux rr.aisons d'affaires si durement eprouvees, vous voudrez bien trans-mettre l'assurance de ma plus entiere sympathie.

Louis-S. St-Laurent

The telegram to the archbishop reads as follows:

A Son Excellence Mgr Courchesne, ArchevSque de Rimouski,

Rimouski. Que.

La nouvelle de la tragique conflagration de Rimouski me cause un vif chagrin. Je tiens a vous adresser, a vous, ainsi qu'aux autorites du semi-naire et des autres institutions religieuses qui ont etd eprouvees, 1'assurance de ma tres vive sympathie. *

Louis-S. St-Laurent

In this morning's Montreal Gazette the message to Mayor Lepage is translated as follows:

I am horrified to learn the extent of the disaster Rimouski has suffered. To the population of your city, and especially to the families, the institutions and the business firms so badly affected, I would ask you to convey the assurance of my deepest sympathy.

The message to Archbishop Courchesne is translated as follows:

The news of the tragic conflagration at Rimouski causes me deep sorrow. I would wish to extend to you and to the authorities of the seminary and of the other religious institutions which have suffered losses the assurance of my deepest sympathy.

Some hours earlier we learned that flood conditions in the Red river valley had taken a turn for the worse. Last Saturday I gave the following statement to the press:

From end to end of Canada, the people are deeply concerned about the anxiety of their fellow citizens in Winnipeg and the Red river valley. We are all anxious to have done whatever can be done to relieve the distress and suffering of those whose homes have been invaded by the floods. All agencies of all governments, as well as the Red Cross and other voluntary organizations, are doing all they can to help, and we all hope that the disastrous conditions may soon be ended.

Over the week end the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) went to Winnipeg to see that everything that could be done Ijy agencies of the federal government was being done. He returned this morning and brought the following letter to me from the premier of Manitoba:

May 7, 1950

Right Hon. Louis S. St. Laurent, P.C., K.C.,

Prime Minister of Canada,

Ottawa, Canada.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

As you will know by reports that have already reached you, our flood situation, which we had hoped would by now have passed its peak, is becoming increasingly serious. Recent heavy rains throughout most of the Red river valley area have added tremendously to the volume of water, the area of flooding and resulting damage. For two or

Fire and Flood Damage three days during the worst of the rain and following it, extremely high winds caused still further damage, making relief activities very difficult and in some cases impossible. From the international boundary north to lake Winnipeg, an area some seventy miles long and varying in width from five to thirty miles is now covered with flood waters. This area includes many towns and villages, greater Winnipeg and the city of St. Boniface. In greater Winnipeg itself, in spite of emergency diking operations, several areas containing not only a large number of residences but three large hospitals and other public buildings, already have been in large part evacuated.

The situation took such a sudden turn for the worse late last Friday afternoon as to indicate the necessity of immediate action to evacuate two hospitals and two large residential areas; I therefore convened late that night an emergent meeting of representatives of some of the organizations most active in flood relief, including representatives of the army, the Manitoba Red Cross Society and of the police, engineering and health departments of the city of Winnipeg.

Hon. Stuart Garson, Minister of Justice, had just come to the city for the purpose of investigating the flood situation and conferring with our government regarding it, so we were fortunate in being able to have him sit in at this emergency conference.

Following a full discussion at this meeting, it was unanimously agreed that the situation had become so serious that all flood relief efforts should be centralized immediately. Acting on this advice, with the meeting still in progress, and with the approval of everyone present, I asked the army to take charge of the co-ordinating operation, it being understood that all other organizations and individuals would continue to give their full co-operation and assistance. Your colleague, the Minister of Defence, was good enough to approve of the army under Brigadier R. E. A. Morton acting in this capacity.

As you are aware, the province of Manitoba already has been receiving all the federal aid which we have asked for and that is a great deal. Practically a month ago army headquarters here and I had discussed the possibility of a flood this spring and had made full arrangements regarding the circumstances in which the army would be called upon to assist. The actual document covering this agreement was signed by me on April 13 last. Similarly, the navy and the air force, though not operating under a specific agreement, have extended to the province and to all other agencies at work on flood relief, the utmost co-operation. The

R.C.M.P., in which of course both the federal and provincial governments are interested, has also given us service and co-operation, leaving nothing to be desired. It is unnecessary for me to mention other federal assistance, such as district engineers, department officials, and by no means least of all, your own two ministers, Mr. Claxton and Mr. Garson, having done everything possible to help in this emergency. I would like, therefore, to express to you our deep appreciation of the wholehearted assistance that has been so readily forthcoming from all federal agencies. Exactly the same is true, I am glad to say, of the municipalities, local and volunteer organizations throughout the area and the province.

In spite of all this effort, however, the situation became not only serious but critical last Friday, resulting, as mentioned, in my declaring a state of emergency, and asking the army to assume overall charge of all flood relief activity. It is still critical, and I feel that its effects are so great as to require in many cases expenditures so large that they are beyond the capacity of individuals, organizations, municipalities and even the provincial government, to assume.

Under these circumstances, and again assuring you that this province greatly appreciates the assistance already given, I would request that you formally recognize this situation as a national emergency and let us have your assurance of federal financial assistance commensurate with our needs. I am unable at present to state what these will ultimately be. All the people best qualified to prepare an estimate have been, and still are, too busy with the emergency of the flood for me to ask them to given even a casual estimate. In fairness to them, I feel that they should not attempt a considered estimate until the floods have subsided. Several of my cabinet colleagues, departmental officials and others have, however, along with me, conferred with Hon. Stuart Garson during his much appreciated three days here. We feel that he has a good understanding of our position in this matter. What I would request at the present time is that you give us the assurance that assistance will be forthcoming from the federal government. My officials and I will be glad to meet with your government's representatives in order to discuss details of the arrangement.

I wish to thank you in advance for the consideration that I know you will give to this request from the province of Manitoba which has had the misfortune to suffer such a catastrophe at this 1950 flood.

Yours sincerely,

Douglas Campbell

On receipt of this communication from the premier of Manitoba I immediately called a special meeting of council. Following the meeting I dispatched to the premier of Manitoba by telegram the following reply:

Ottawa, May, 8, 1950

Hon. D. L. Campbell, M.L.A.,

Premier of Manitoba,

Winnipeg, Man.

Immediately upon his return to Ottawa, Hon. Stuart Garson delivered to me your letter of May 7, 1950, outlining the present position with regard to the serious floods in the Red river valley in your province. We are glad that all of the federal agencies and authorities in your province have been extending to you any assistance which you required since this is what they had been instructed to do.

We have been following the development of this flood closely from the beginning. We felt that the heavy snowfall in the Red river valley, especially in the American part of it, coupled with the late spring break-up, was bound to create some measure of flooding on the Canadian side. The transformation of this serious condition into one of really critical proportions by the untimely and heavy rains and winds of the past few days is a misfortune of the first order.

In view of the serious news which comes out of the United States part of the Red river valley to the effect that heavy rains there may possibly create another flood crest, we entirely agree with you that the immediate efforts of your government and our own in this matter should be directed towards meeting this physical threat of flooding. But we can assure you that as soon as you feel free to open up the question of federal financial assistance, upon the basis of this being beyond your capacity to deal with alone, we shall be glad indeed to discuss it with you.

No doubt you will want to know now in general terms upon what basis financial assistance to you will be considered. Until the extent of your misfortune is determined, no one can be specific, but I

can say in general terms that in arriving at the amount of our assistance to you, we shall apply the same principles as those upon which our assistance to the British Columbia government in connection with the Fraser river valley floods was determined.

Louis S. St. Laurent

In the case of the disastrous fire at Rimouski, the federal government has taken precisely the same kind of immediate action that was taken at the very beginning of the flood in the Red river valley and that has been taken in respect to other disasters. The special facilities of the armed forces and all other federal agencies in the area were made available at once to assist in emergency action and the provision of emergency relief.

I merely want to repeat that I am sure all the people of Canada sympathize with those who have had the misfortune to be overtaken by these catastrophic events.


George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I am sure all hon. members of this house will join with the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), in the expression of sympathy he has conveyed to the citizens of Rimouski in the appalling disaster that struck that community during the past week end. We all regard that expression of sympathy as voiced not only on behalf of the members of this house, but on behalf of the people of Canada, following one of the worst and most tragic disasters that have occurred in this country.

Hon. members also will be pleased to learn of the steps that have been taken with respect to the situation in Manitoba, though I believe there is room for further comment on another occasion as to the way in which certain things might have been done, which this tragic event will emphasize.

These disasters bring vividly and dramatically to our attention the fact that any community in this country, large or small, may be visited some time by a calamity far beyond the power of municipal facilities to cope with, and far beyond the ability of the citizens of that community to deal with effectively. Rimouski is already looking to the future and seeing what may be done to repair the damage that has been done; it has been estimated locally that it will require at least a quarter of a century to do it.

There is still great emergency in Manitoba. These events, entirely different in character, nevertheless demonstrate the need in every community of some voluntary civilian organization to deal with emergencies of this kind.

For some years since the end of the war the need for civilian defence forces has been under consideration. These tragedies might well suggest to us that we should not limit

Fire and Flood Damage our thinking in that connection to situations of a military or semi-military character, but should recognize that without warning a disaster as great as that resulting from war itself may call for the immediate well-organized efforts of the citizens of that community, of the surrounding countryside, or even of the whole country. So it would seem that these two events, having regard to their magnitude and the agony which has accompanied them, should impress upon all of us the desirability of creating the kind of organization that has been so clearly and ably suggested from time to time by General Worthington-not merely in order to deal with the direct or indirect effects of war but in order to deal with any emergency that may arise.

Both in Rimouski and in Winnipeg there are stories .of the magnificent heroism of people who have risked everything, not only to save their own families and their own homes, but to help others; and in so doing they have been actuated by the most unselfish motives and worked to the point of utter exhaustion. But no matter how wholehearted and unselfish may have been their effort, the inescapable fact remains that no integrated municipal or community organization existed for this purpose.

As we extend our sympathy and the offer of the support and assistance of the people of Canada on this occasion, I would strongly urge hon. members to think of the lesson these tragedies have brought home, and consider the advisability of the early organization of voluntary civilian forces to deal with any such occurrence in the future.


Major James William Coldwell

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we wish to join with all hon. members in expressing our sympathy to those who have suffered in these great disasters of the past few days. The sudden and overwhelming fire in Rimouski, bringing loss and tragedy, I think has pointed up the innumerable smaller catastrophies affecting many others in this country which we have suffered from time to time, particularly in recent months. This is one phase of the disaster at Rimouski that should cause us to think of fire protection and precautions against fire all across Canada, in order that property and human life may be saved.

I hope the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) will take the same steps with respect to Rimouski that he proposes to take in regard to the flood in the Red river valley. Those of us who know what was done in the Fraser valley in British Columbia under similar circumstances are glad to know that the government contemplates the same pattern of relief for the Red river valley. I hope that

Fire and Flood Damage similar and generous assistance may also be extended to the citizens of Rimouski.

In mentioning Rimouski, may I say how much I regret that the member for Rimouski (Mr. Belzile) is lying gravely ill in a hospital in this city. His personal loss in the destruction of his home, and the fact that he is unable to speak to his constituency at this time, are circumstances which we deeply regret.

So far as the flood in Manitoba is concerned, I hope that steps will be taken immediately by the governments of Canada and the United States to ensure that disasters like those which have occurred in the Red river valley within the last century and a half will be prevented in the days to come.

We wish to express our sympathy to the people of the Red river valley, and to those who have suffered devastation and loss as a result of the Are in Rimouski.



J. G. Léopold Langlois


Mr. J. G. L. Langlois (Gaspe):

Mr. Speaker, as representative of a lower St. Lawrence constituency almost adjoining that of Rimouski, I heartily echo the. feelings of sympathy which the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the C.C.F. party have expressed for the people of Rimouski.

I was passing through Quebec yesterday when I heard of the catastrophe. I immediately got in touch with localities in the vicinity of Rimouski in order to find out about the situation and to make sure that the good people of the stricken city received the assistance they required.

I also contacted federal authorities, especially the Prime Minister's secretary in Ottawa. It was reassuring to learn that the Prime Minister himself was already giving personal attention to the Rimouski disaster.

This tragedy affects me all the more since for more than five years I had the honour of attending the seminary of Rimouski which was partially destroyed by the fire.

In addition I was pleased to see the dispatch with which, considering the lack of communications, the military authorities answered the appeal for help that had come from Rimouski, in order to provide every possible assistance, under the circumstances, to these people in distress. The Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) also placed the services of his department at the disposal of local authorities. The Montreal and Quebec divisions of the Red Cross dispatched relief groups with amazing rapidity.

I should like also to congratulate the civil and religious authorities of Rimouski for organizing relief squads and providing valuable assistance and help to the stricken people.

Early yesterday, both on my own behalf and in the name of my constituents, I offered my sympathy to His Excellency Monsignor Courchesne, archbishop of Rimouski, to the civic authorities-the mayor and aldermen of the city-and I also offered to place myself at their disposal and to substitute for, if possible, their doughty representative (Mr. Belzile) who, as was pointed out a few moments ago by the leader of the C.C.F. party, is confined to the hospital by a serious illness.

I repeat the offer of service I made to my fellow citizens from Rimouski and assure them of my entire devotion in this respect.

And now, to His Excellency Monsignor Courchesne, to the mayor and aldermen of the city of Rimouski, to the authorities of my alma mater, to the clergy and the people of this prosperous lower St. Lawrence city, I once again express my most sincere sympathy.



Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, I was inclined to express by applause that those who preceded me had said all I thought should be said or could be said on an occasion of this kind. On further thought, I would not want this opportunity to pass without expressing our sympathy, both to the people in the devastated Red river valley and to those who met with such a tragic experience in yesterday's fire at Rimouski. I compliment the government on the action that they have taken. I think that the faith I expressed last week in them and in their sense of fairness in this respect has been vindicated. I just want to say that we stand ready to back the, government in advancing any financial assistance that may be required to relieve the situation, both in the Red river valley and in Rimouski, Quebec.

I was particularly happy to hear from the Prime Minister's own lips that the pattern of assistance established between this government and the government of British Columbia in respect to floods in that province would be used to assist the people in Manitoba and Quebec. We endorse that wholeheartedly, and extend our sympathies to those who have suffered.


Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)


Mr. L. A. Mutch (Winnipeg South):

Mr. Speaker, as one who comes from the Red river valley area, where for weeks the hearts of the people have been filled with anxiety, I want to say that the people in

that area will find some relief in the recognition that, when they have dealt with the situation that confronts them at the moment, there will be assistance to begin again. While there will be gratitude, and appreciation of all that is done to compensate for the situation as it now exists, the persisting anxiety will be in relation to co-operation in the future to see to it that, so far as may be humanly possible, this thing does not occur again. But for the moment the thought that will be in the minds of my people, and of the people of the other constituencies in the Red river valley, will be gratitude for recognition of their problem, and for some assurance for the immediate future. The long-range hope will be that it may not stop at that.


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

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, may I have the privilege of joining in the sentiment just expressed by the member for Winnipeg South (Mr. Mutch), as well as the sentiments expressed by those who spoke earlier? It is not unknown for me to be critical of the government, -but on this occasion I merely want to say, as one from Manitoba, that we appreciate the action the government has taken, and the assurance that the same pattern as that followed in British Columbia two years ago will be followed in the Red river valley and in the city of Winnipeg and its suburbs with respect to federal financial assistance.

I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) that this is no time to attempt to assess the actual amount to be offered, but I am sure I speak for the people back home when I say it will mean a great deal to their morale to have this assurance from the Prime Minister.

I have one or two questions to ask about this matter, and if Your Honour will permit them now, I would not have to ask them when the orders of the day are called. I am in your hands.


Some hon. Members:

Orders of the day.


May 8, 1950