August 23, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)



I would have to check the files again. I am advised that they communicated with us and asked for certain information. It is probably indicated that he was accused of action such as my hon. friend has suggested. But if the matter is of importance I can look at the files again. I do not suppose I could produce the communication, but I could probably advise the committee as to the nature of the offence. It came up after the man was removed from the army-I wish to make that perfectly clear.
The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard suggested that the reserve army should be issued with boots. I have made inquiries and I am pleased to advise that boots will be issued to all reserve army personnel.
The hon. member for Calgary East asked for a breakdown of the 10.990 other ranks as among the different branches of the service. The total strength as of August 10. 1946 was 10,990 other ranks, divided among the various branches of the service as follows: R.C.A.C., 608; R.C.A.. 960; R.C.E., 808; R.C Sigs, 596; Canadian Infantrv Corps (C.I.C.), 2.245; R.C.A.S.C, 1,415; R.C.A.M.C. 522; R.C.O.C., 1.166; R.C.E.M.E.. 1.077; R.C.A.P.C., 300;
C.D.C., 155; C.P.C., 29; C. Pro. C., 312; C. Int. C., 47; C.M.S.C., 562; general list, 26; unspecified, 162.
I know it is considered to be an unforgivable sin for a minister to hold up his own estimates; but since it may not be possible for me to be here this afternoon I thought I might add something to the question of the alleged destruction of useful boots and other types of army equipment, arising out of the dumping on the Point St. Charles dump in Montreal of certain quantities of that material.

First I want to outline the wartime policy with respect to the disposal of equipment. As to new clothing, that which had not been used and was in its original package is returned to ordnance stock for re-issue. Reconditioned clothing is given the necessary treatment to bring it up to a minimum of fifty per cent to sixty per cent of expectancy of further wear. Clothing of that kind is returned to ordnance stock for reissue. Clothing which is nonrepairable or condemned, that is, clothing which would have less than fifty to sixty per cent of wear after repair, is dealt with in the following way: It is transferred to the Indian affairs branch with no mutilation. Second, boots are issued to prisoners of war with no mutilation. In that respect, and as I think I pointed out before, the mutilating of condemned footwear was discontinued by instructions issued under date of July 29, 1941. Third, suitable cotton garments are cut up as a source of wiping rags for use in the army. Fourth, suitable woollen garments are disposed of to processing mills to rework into war clothing. This is the wartime policy that I am speaking of. Fifth, textile materials which are not usable, either for transfer to Indian affairs or, in the case of boots, to be issued to prisoners of war, were sold as scrap after mutilation. Footwear that was not usable as material to be transferred to prisoners of war was sold in the whole state after marking to indicate lawful purchase.
The reasons that necessitated that wartime policy was, first, that it was considered of the utmost importance that the largest possible percentage of clothing withdrawn from troops be reclaimed for further use in the army. Second, military clothing available to unauthorized persons during war time was a threat to the security of the country. Third, it was necessary to take measures to prevent trading in army clothing by military personnel. Fourth, wool from non-serviceable military clothing was an essential source of supply in the manufacture of cloth for uniforms, and its flow to processing mills was controlled by the. wool controller of the Department of Munitions and Supply. In addition, certain types of cotton were a vital source of wiping rags for army use which otherwise would have had to be purchased in a time of general scarcity. Finally, the Indian affairs branch of government, by its programme of alteration and reworking of condemned army clothing-under strict control for security reasons-made use of important quantities of clothing and footwear which were released at fair prices to assist in Indian relief work and craft training. That was the policy during the war.

Then as to post-war policy, the factors governing the wartime policy, some of which I have indicated, have of course now diminished in importance and the present policy for the respective categories is as follows: First, the policy with respect to new clothing is the same as it was in war time, that is, it is put back into ordnance to be reissued. Second, reconditioned clothing is handled the same as in war time, except that the standard has been raised to 70 to 80 per cent expectancy. In the case of non-repairable or condemned material, that is, that which contains less than seventy to eighty per cent of expectancy of further wear, first, the clothing and footwear is classified into generic groupings by type of garment, declared surplus and shipped to the War Assets Corporation reclamation depot for relief clothing at Valleyfield, Quebec. No mutilation is authorized. The removal of military insignia is of course necessary. Second, a certain amount of clothing, such as coveralls and other protective garments-this is the type of garment worn in garages-may be excessively damaged or soiled, and in order to prevent the soiling of clean garments or to avoid a fire hazard it is not included in shipments to Valleyfield. Such clothing is reported as pounds of scrap in its proper category without mutilation and is' disposed of by War Assets Corporation to local scrap contractors. Finally, wiping rags can be obtained by the army from War Assets Corporation, Valleyfield depot. That is an outline of the wartime and peace time policies with respect to the disposal of service clothing.
With respect to the material which was condemned in Montreal, as I said in the statement I made the other day a court of inquiry made a full and intensive investigation. There is no doubt that some of these canvas shoes had been mutilated before being sold as scrap, but it was not possible as a result of the court of inquiry to ascertain who had done the mutilating. The committee will recall that Mr. Berry in his statement to the press said that up to the time this matter was discussed it had been the policy of War Assets Corporation to mutilate canvas shoes which were considered not suitable or of no commercial value, in order that no shoes should be sold which had not been disinfected or which were in a condition which made them improper to be sold in the regular channels of sale. Since this matter was brought forward they have discontinued that mutilation. It may well be that some of these shoes were mutilated by War Assets under those conditions, and I would think quite properly.

From hearsay evidence which I have received it would appear that a certain number of shoes which appeared to be serviceable had been sold mutilated. I refer particularly to one pair of gutta percha shoes bearing the date 1942 which had been mutilated, but it is impossible to say who had done it or when it was done. However, on inquiry it was ascertained that there could have been no substantial mutilation of serviceable shoes, if in fact any serviceable shoes had been so mutilated. Of course there is always the possibility that in a large organization like the army a man may deliberately mutilate a pair of shoes in order to get a new pair, in any event, I repeat what I said when I made my statement in the house. I am glad that this matter has been brought forward because it is most important that the public should not get the impression that there is a wilful waste of public property. However, it struck me as an absurdity and I could see no rhyme or reason for a man mutilating a good pair of shoes, and that is why, to use a slang phrase, it just did not seem to tie up. I want to assure the committee that so far as the army is concerned, and I feel sure the same thing applies to War Assets Corporation, every precaution is being taken to see that no serviceable article is mutilated or sold as scrap.

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