January 20, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Frank Oliver


Hon. FRANK OLIVER (Edmonton):

When the House adjourned la=t evening I was discussing the measures mentioned in the speech from the Throne to be brought forward by the Government in relation to the prosecution of the war. I presume, of course, that these measures will have reference to the increase of Canada's war contributions to half a million men. I desire to place before the House to the best of my ability the views I hold in regard to the best means to be followed to assure that increase of our overseas forces. I am bound to take for granted, and the House is bound to take for granted, that when the Prime Minister made the announcement that Canada's overseas forces would be increased to half a million men, and made that announcement only twelve days before the opening of Parliament, - he did so because of the recognized urgency of the proposed action. We must all recognize the propriety of the increase of Canada's overseas forces, and the immediate and urgent need of that increase. These things also we must recognize: that if increase is to be effective, it must be made for the coming summer,' and that the rate of enlistment and of preparation must be greatly accelerated throughout this Dominion or that expectation cannot be realized.
I hope that the conditions of last winter will not be repeated. At the beginning of last winter in Canada, and I am afraid throughout the allied countries, the impression was that we were winning, and the winter passed without adequate preparation for the spring campaign. On the other hand, the alliance of the central powers spent the winter in active organization and preparation, so that when they took the field in the spring the condition was absolutely changed. In the fall there was a disrupted and defeated Austria; in the spring, there was a thoroughly reorganized and effective Austria, and the combatant
forces of the central powers had been in- [DOT] creased to that extent. With the beginning of the present winter direct communication has been established between the Germanic and the Turkish allies, and we may be very sure that, as last winter was spent in reorganizing Austria, so this winter will be spent in reorganizing Turkey; and we must expect that with the spring the allied powers will have to face an enormously augmented and comparatively efficient array. It is in the last degree necessary that, we and our allies should meet that contingency, which we are certainly assured of, by adequate preparation, in the increase in the numbers of our men, in the supply of their munitions, and in the efficiency of their arms. When we recall the speeches made by 'the Minister 'Of Munitions in Britain, Lloyd George; when we recall the urgent utterances of Lord Kitchener, Minister of War, and, above all, when we refer to the apeal of the King himself to his subjects throughout the Dominions, we must realize that this is a case of the utmost urgency, and that if Canada's aid is to be effective it must be promptly rendered. I am bound to assume, therefore, that it is not the intention of the Government to continue warlike preparations at the rate that has been followed during the past months. As I said yesterday, if we'are to have this increase in our forces, we must go deep into the body of our people; we must arouse their souls as they have not yet been aroused. The campaign that has been made in the past will, in some way or other, have to be increased in effectiveness, or the promise made by the Prime Minister of Canada, without the responsibility of Parliament, will not be implemented at the time when it must he to be effective. So, Mr. Speaker, as it appears to me, it is desirable, in the discharge of the duty that every member of this House owes to his country and to the Empire, that we should freely and fully state the conditions that seem to tend against a more rapid enlistment, and, at the same time, speak on behalf of conditions that would tend towards that more rapid enlistment.
In order that my own position may be clear, I may say that I took occasion yesterday to speak of the proportion of enlistment in the province from which I come. May I be permitted to go further, and to say that, so far as my information goes, the constituency that I have the honour to-represent has sent into the overseas forces of Canada a larger number, and a larger

. number in proportion to its population, than any other in the Dominion. I spoke yesterday of some of the reasons foi this being the case so far as our new set-lers were concerned, and, for fear that I be misunderstood, may I also make mention -of the fact that whatever may be the case in other parts of the Dominion, in that constituency and vicinity the native-born population have not been behind any other section of the community in their lesponse to the call for service. Twenty and twenty-five years ago there was only a small resident population in Edmonton and vicinity, and, as is natural in the development of a new country, there have been many changes in that resident population. That part of the resident population, therefore, that was there twenty and twenty-five years ago is necessarily very limited, and of that small population I recall that six families have sent three sons each, that fifteen families have sent two sons each, and that of the handful of native-born people who are there, at least one hundred have up to date given their' services to the Empire overseas^ So that, Mr. Speaker, the House will understand that any remarks I make are not made because there has been any lack of response to the call up to the present time in that part of the country from which I come. But that response has been of such a cnara'cter that perhaps I may claim to realize more thoroughly than some other members how deep the cutting will have to be in our remaining population in order to meet the demand for another quarter of a million men. '
I was speaking yesterday of the hindrances, as I understood them, to recruiting that arose 'because of the inadequate pension list that was provided in the case of maimed or disabled soldiers. I brought to the attention of the House the opinion of a committee of very responsible men in the city of Toronto. There could be nothing more clear or distinct than their expression of opinion-an opinion that must be coincided in by every man who gives the matter fair attention. While we may use patriotic language and flamboyant expressions, we must recognize that if we call on the young man to give his prospects, his limb, possibly his life, to the cause of the country, it is only right and fair, that the country should acknowledge its share of the obligation and deal with that man liberally, fairly and ungrudgingly. I spoke of cases where maimed men had been discharged at Quebec, cut off the pay-list, not
put on the pension-list, given a discharge, a railway ticket and a few dollars to take them home, and made a charge on their friends and relatives for the time being. I hope that that condition has been remedied. It was not fair to allow that condition to exist and to have- the slur thrown upon the young men of our, country that they are not doing their duty, when,this Parliament or this Government has not done its duty by them. Let us have fair play on both sides.
In this connection let me say that I saw in the newspapers a short time ago something that was very discouraging to me. It is a fact that in a war waged as this present war is being waged, by. new means and new methods such as never were used before, there have come into existence new conditions of disablement;' and among those conditions is what is called shock, physical or mental shock, resulting in a greater or less degree of insanity. It mast be assumed that if a thoroughly robust man, as these men are thoroughly robust before they enter the service, has, by reason of temperament or special conditions suffered from mental or physical shock so that his mind is to some extent deranged, there ought surely to be every reason that under proper treatment, with fair, consideration he will in time make a complete recovery. I was astonished to read in a newspaper just the other day that it was contemplated that these men should be consigned to lunatic asylums. I hope that the Government will realize their responsibility in this, and will see that other arrangements are made than to simply treat these men as ordinary lunatics. They should not be placed in a position that, in the first place, is degrading and not warranted, and in the next olace, would in all probability prevent the ultimate recovery that under fair circumstances, may reasonably be expected.
There is no doubt that whatever pension list may be provided, in the case of helpless men who have no relatives- and we are appealing for his services to the young man who has no relatives-the country should assume the responsibility of' absolutely caring for those men in institutions properly equipped -and properly conducted. We knew nearly eighteen months ago that we were at war. It is more than a year since our men began to be maimed and killed. We have had a session of this Parliament since that time, and although at the last session of Parliament, at the suggestion of the Govern-

ment, we voted many many millions for public works in this country, so far as I am aware there was not one dollar voted for the establishment of institutions of the character I have mentioned, and which it is certain are a first necessity to meet the conditions that must arise out of war, and in some measure discharge the obligations of this country to these men who render such public service at such awful cost. The erection of such institutions would show to our young men, to whom we look for military defence, that the country recognizes sacrifice made and is prepared to deal with them honourably and generously in consideration of their sacrifice, doing the best that can be done-and even that best is but a poor return-for the sacrifice they have been called upon to make.
There is another branch of this subject with which I propose to deal, and in relation to which I may find myself not in accord with a majority of the members of the House. But I am here, on my conscience, to deal as best I can with the conditions that surround us, and I propose to. deal with that question as well. There is something that is dearer to a man than his own life or limb, dearer to him than his country, and that is his wife and children. If we were able to secure our military requirements from, amongst those of our people who have not either wife, or children, or other dependents, that would be well. We have not been able to do that in the past, and much less will we be able to do it in the future. We have had to accept the services of married men in very large proportion in order to secure the requisite number of enlistments. If we are going to call for another quarter of a million men we must certainly depend more and more greatly orr those who have the ties of wife or child. If we are asking a man who has dependents to give his services, his limb, or his life, for his country, then his country, in fairness and in common sense, is called upon to make reasonably adequate provision for those dependents. That the country has not done up to the present time. A scale of separation allowance and assigned pay has been made out, which, from the. day it was made out, was admitted to be inadequate for the purpose that was intended to be met. It never was considered to be adequate to the proper support of the dependents of the soldiers who had enlisted. From the beginning it was intended that this sum supplied by the country should be supplemented by what is called the Patriotic Fund, that is to say,
sums of money raised by public subscription. I am quite aware that the demands of the Patriotic Fund have been generously, even enthusiastically met. All credit to those who have contributed to that fund. That is not the point. It is not the individual citizen who owes the soldier the maintenance of his .dependents, but the country, and the country should discharge that debt. It should not be left to the individual citizen, his benevolence, his generosity, his patriotism, or whatever other word you may see fit to use.
I am quite aware that no matter what amount of separation allowance had been fixed, there -would always arise incidents in which there would be room for the exercise of benevolence and patriotism in assisting dependents of the soldiers who might be specially unfortunate. In cases of sickness, in cases of fire, in cases of many accidents, there would always be a call for the benevolent and patriotic to go to the assistance of dependents of the soldiers. There is, therefore, good reason why there should be a patriotic fund, but there is no good reason why the patriotic fund should have had from the very beginning to bear a definite portion of that burden which properly rests on the shoulders of the country. It is not creditable to this country that we should take that position. I have heard the hon. gentleman who is the president of the patriotic fund give reasons for that fund, stating that the scale of living was different in different provinces, and that the patriotic fund, under non-Governmental administration, permitted an elasticity that was to the benefit of all concerned. I do not agree at all that it is necessary to take the matter out of the hands of the Government in order that the allowances for dependents may be fitted to the conditions of the province in which they live. It is surely a well-known fact that the cost of living is greater in some provinces than in others. The Government is as well aware of that as any body else, because to-day in the scale of pay allowed by the Government to many of their employees, a difference is made to meet that very condition. Now, what can be done in the case of the employees of the Government can be done just as well in the distribution of maintenance allowances for dependents now undertaken by the patriotic fund.
There is a feature of this case which is difficult to deal with without possibly giving offence. I wish to be understood as not de-

siring to give any offence, but as desiring to get at the very bottom of the motives that govern men when they ^are offering their services to their country. I say, and it cannot be contradicted, that the man who leaves a wife and family is not as well satisfied to leave that wife and family partially dependent upon the benevolence, the generosity or the patriotism of the individual citizens of the country as he would be to leave them to benefit by a fixed allowance coming directly from the treasury of the country. Perhaps you think that that makes no difference; that if they get the money it makes no difference where it comes from. That is the very point, Mr. Speaker; they are not getting the money. The allowances that were fixed when the first contingent was enlisted, the allowances from the patriotic fund, and the method of distribution that was adopted when the first contingent was enlisted having, for good reason or bad, I know not, been changed, so that the man who enlisted and was told that his dependents would get a certain separation allowance from the Patriotic Fund, finds to-day that they are . not getting that amount, and that they are not getting it on the same conditions which obtained in the first place. I can only call that a breach of faith with the soldier, who, when he gave his services and signed the book, had no string attached to his service. His service had to be to death if he were called upon, and I say that the needs of his dependents should he "met according to the terms arranged at the beginning, and that there should be no withdrawal for any reason whatever. This country has the money to pay for munitions and arm's, and surely it has' the money to pay for the support of the dependents of the men who use these arms and munitions. If it has not the money, or if it has not the generosity to employ the money in that way, then we in this Parliament of Canada are not the men who should call in question the loyalty of our citizens because they do not volunteer in larger numbers.
I am suggesting, and suggesting very strongly to this House and to the Government, without desiring to make charges of any kind against the Government, or to hold them responsible particularly for what has taken place-I am pointing out to them the desirability of revising, and revising at once, the conditions in regard to allowances for the disablement of soldiers, the conditions in regard to soldiers when

they have returned from the front, and the conditions and allowances in regard to the support of the dependents of those soldiers. When they are calling for another quarter of a million of men, my suggestion to them is that the first thing they should do is to establish beyond any question the attitude of the people of this country at large as represented by the Government and by Parliament; to establish their appreciation of, and gratitude to the men they are calling upon to serve. It is not fair, Mr. Speaker, that such a large proportion of the support of dependents should rest upon benevolence, because it comes to this, that the benevolent or patriotic citizens carry the burden, and those who are not benevolent and who are less patriotic do not carry the burden. That is not fair, and that should be adjusted so that whether they will, or whether they will not, the population of Canada generally will bear their share of that burden according to their means under our system of taxation.
I have here a most illuminating document on that point. It is bulletin issued by the Canadian Patriotic Fund on October 15, and it gives a list of places in the province of Ontario that have contributed to the fund. It gives the name, the population, the amount of the contribution, and the amount per head. .1 think nothing could make it more clear that the support of the Patriotic Fund does not rest equally upon the shoulders of our people, as it should. Collingwood contributed $1.12 per head; Barrie contributed 28 cents per head; Oshawa contributed $2.63 per head, while Walkerville contributed $11.18 per head. Not to weary the House, I need only say that the variation in these contributions per head at the different points establishes beyond question the point that I make, that this is a levy absolutely unfair by which the unwilling gain, and the willing pay the cost. When we are increasing our enlistment of men so enormously as we are proposing to do, in the first place, we must change the conditions in regard 'to the Patriotic Fund or we will not get the enlistment and, in the second place, I am afraid that those who have been bearing the burden so far will become weary in well doing, and that the Patriotic Fund will, actually fail of its purpose when it is called upon to meet the enormous charge that it must necessarily be called upon to meet if this enlistment is successful.
There is another feature of the case that I think should be drawn to attention, and

it is that while nominally these contribu-tiQns are contributions of patriotism and good will, in a very large proportion of cases they are forced contributions. In a number of cases, the city or the county levies a tax upon -the people in order to raise the whole or a portion of the money that is expected from that town or county. That is fair as far' as it goes, but if it is fair for the county or the city to levy a general tax for its contribution to the Patriotic Fund, why is it not just as fair and just as right for the Parliament or the Government of Canada to levy the necessary amount by the ordinary process of taxation? There is another way in which money is raised and it is this: An employer of labour will call his men together and will say: We are called upon to make a contribution to the Patriotic Fund. The men are expected to contribute so much out of their pay. Of course, they do not have to contribute, but they can lose their positions if they do not contribute; and I am under the impression -that if this contribution from the town of Walkerville were looked into barefully it would be found to be identically, or in a large measure, of that class. Certainly there are many other cases in which this is the fact. It is not, as it is represented to be, a free contribution, the evidence of patriotism or benevolence; it is in large measure, a forced contribution and certainly it should not be levied in that way.
There is something besides the maintenance of the soldier himself or the maintenance of his dependents. There is the question of the efficiency of the soldier and of his weapons. We may enlist 500,000 men before the spring, but unless these men are adequately armed and unless they are trained in the use of the arms put into their hands, their assistance in the struggle during the coming summer will be of little value. This is a matter of the highest and greatest importance. It may be that what I desire to say will be resented and it will be said that I am giving information to the enemy. At this period of time and in this condition of affairs, it is important that we should know- what our position is. That we should see that optimism is replaced by efficiency and if there is no other way to arrive at it then inefficiency must be exposed. We have 50,000 men on the battlefield in France and Flanders, we have 60,000 men training in England, I believe, to take their places on the battlefield, and we have
120,000 men in Canada also preparing to take their places on the battlefield. Unless these men are armed and equipped and
trained in the use of their equipment and weapons they are not of value in deciding the conflict that is now in progress. It was not long after the first great battle had been fought that it became known to Canada that their men went into that battle inefficiently and insufficiently equipped as compared with their opponents. We lost an enormous number of men in the early battles in Flanders and we lost these men in large measure because they had not an adequate equipment of machine guns. The battle of Langemarck took place in April. I read in October the statement made by the right hon. the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) in the city of St. John, in which he said that machine guns which had been ordered at the beginning of the war were then being delivered, and I read shortly afterwards a statement by the hon. Minister of Defence (Sir Sam Hughes) in which he said that they were about to be delivered. Have these machine guns been delivered yet? Are our 50,000 men in the trenches in Flanders properly equipped ' with machine guns, are our 60,000 men in Britain because they have not "got machine guns to enable them to take their places in Flanders? Why is it that we have 120,000 men in Canada instead of over in Britain or Flanders? .
I spoke a little while ago of the difficulties of recruiting. Let'me say that when you appeal to the young man and you tell him that1 the fate of the Empire, in a measure, rests upon his shoulders, and you urge him to leave his employment, to enlist, to train for service, and when he sees a hundred thousand of his fellow-citizens who have left their employment, who have cut themselves off from their ordinary avocations, who are under arms, who are under orders, but who are not, as a matter of fact, doing anything for the effective decision of tha contest, he will say: I will go when you need me, and you do not need me as long as you do not need these men whom you already have under arms. There is no question about the conditions being as I have said; we have it on the statement of the Prime Minister that that is the condition. And I say that such a condition does not tend to inspire our young men with the idea of the urgent need that exists for their services and their sacrifices, and that when we call for these men to leave their avocations, to give up their prospects, to risk life and limb in our service, it is surely necessary that they should understand that they are wanted and wanted immediately. Just let me mention an occurrence in my

own constituency. Some time in the month of August last, if I remember aright, authority was issued for the raising of two battalions at Edmonton. Recruiting officers were sent to Peace river, and on the Grand prairie of Peace river, while the harvest was ripening, young men, homesteaders there,. , obeying what they believed to be the urgent call of their country, left their harvest in the field, arranged with their neighbours as best they could to take it off, and came down to Edmonton and joined the 66th Battalion. That battalion is in Edmonton yet. What occurred in the case of these men has occurred in the case of hundreds of others. It is evident, on the face of it, that when representations were made to these men, if such representations were made, and I take it that they must have been made, that they were urgently and immediately wanted, because that was the reason why they left their harvests in the field, there was no reason why these men should have been called away at that particular time, why they should not have finished- their harvesting, arranged their business, and left when the business of the season had been concluded. Now, we have the spectacle of these men, who have left their belongings, doing military drill in the city of Edmonton, putting in barrack life under conditions which are necessarily irksome to men who have be-efi taking the part of pioneers, and we cannot consider that such a method of handling the recruiting of our regiments tends to the enthusiasm necessary to secure success. There surely should be more judgment exercised in the enlistment of men to make sure that they are not called from their proper avocations unless and until they are needed, and when they are needed, then they certainly should be made use of.
I am going to make a statement now that appears to me to be a very serious one. I have spoken of the need of machine guns, but it must be admitted after all that in the wars of the present day the rifle is the weapon that finally wins. The ability to use the rifle effectively is the first necessity of the infantry soldier, and is the decisive factor in any war. This summer there were 8,000 men in camp at Calgary for brigade manoeuvres 4 p.m. and target practice. I am credibly informed that for the use of those 8,000 men at target practice there was a matter of sixty service rifle's, and that those men did not get target practice to any extent that would
reasonably tend to their efficiency in rifle shooting; that those men were armed with rifles which have not been considered suitable for active service, but which are used merely for drilling purposes, and that, as a matter of fact, those men had not at that time, and -so far as I know, they have not yet been provided with rifles suitable for active service and for target practice. There are three regiments in barracks at Edmonton to-day, and there is a rifle range at Edmonton within the limits of the corporation. I discussed with the Minister of Militia last session the use of that rifle range. There is no good reason why it should not be used; but it has not been used, and although three regiments have been there since the beginning of the winter, they have not fired a shot for the improvement of their rifle practice. Is that fair to the country? Is it fair to the soldiers that when the call does come, they are sent across the ocean and into the trenches without having had that opportunity to improve themselves in that part of their military service which is of the greatest necessity, not only to protect their own lives, but to destroy those of the enemy, which after all is the purpose of war.
I have heard it said that we are getting men as fast as we can equip them. If .that is the case, if we have not the rifles with which to arm those men, surely we ought to be busy making them or getting them made somewhere and somehow. We have had a rifle factory in Canada for many years. I do not know whether that is the only factory that is turning out rifles now or -not. I do not know what the conditions in that respect are, but I do know this: that when we enlist a man for overseas . service we should be prepared to put on his back a uniform, t.o put in his hands an effective rifle, and we should not lose a minute or an opportunity, from the day he enlists until the day he goes into the trenches, to render him proficient in the use of that rifle as well as in drill and in all military requirements. But We are not doing that, and I cannot consider it anything less than a crime against our soldiers, against our country and against our Empire, that the present condition exists.
If I am mistaken in what I have said, we are here in Parliament, and it is for those who know better to put me right and to put the country right. I shall be glad to know that what I have stated-is not correct. But, Mr. Speaker, it is correct,

Full View