February 2, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


William James Roche (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of the Interior)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. W. J. ROCHE (Minister of the Interior) :

I am surprised at the hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) bringing this matter up on a motion to adjourn the

House, on the ground that it is a question of urgency. The question has already been dealt with by the department. The hon. gentleman is absolutely wrong in stating that the Government are imposing a hardship upon these people whose grain and chattels have been seized by their creditors. The Government has nothing to do with these seizures. Originally, as I am informed by the seed grain branch of my department, it was the practice of the Government to collect half of the indebtedness to it from those whose goods were under seizure by their creditors for other debts. Under legislation which the provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta placed upon the statute book, our loans were made a prior claim, and when seizures were made under the provincial Act by other creditors, of course the Government had to take some steps to protect the treasury. Therefore, while we could justly have claimed the right to enforce payment of the total amount of our lien, we only collected one-half the amount from those under seizure. But the Solicitor General explained the matter the other day-I was not in the House at the time-and his explanation was absolutely correct. Owing to misinterpretation by Mr. Bruce Walker of the instructions he had received, they reversed the original policy and were collecting the full amount of seed grain indebtedness where seizures were made by other creditors. This having been brought to our attention, I asked the seed grain branch this morning to furnish me with a memorandum in reply to the remarks of the hon. gentleman the other day. The hon. gentleman had not the courtesy to send me notice that he was going to bring this matter up to-day, and so I am not able to reply to him with all the information I might have brought down. However, I desire to tell him that his fears have no justification whatever. This is the information I received:
The practice was to collect one-half of the seed grain indebtedness where seizures were made. In the early part of September, on instructions from Ottawa, <this practice was departed from and collections in full were made An extract from a ruling, the original of which I have not before me but which I understand was from the Solicitor General, says:
" Whenever it is brought *to the knowledge of the department that seed grain subject to lien is seized, an officer should then at once notify the sheriff or bailiff seizing and the execution creditor, if possible, or his solicitor, of the Government's claim, and the notice should state not only that the Government had a claim and the amount of the claim and wha*t

it is for, but should set out explicitly that the grain should not be interfered with until the Governmer,*t's claim was paid."
I understand that, owing to the representations made, the original practice of collecting only one-half has been reverted to. The Solicitor General was, therefore, absolutely correct in the statement he made the other day. (Beading):
Where full payment was insisted upon, the hardship to the farmer on account of the Government's action would in many cases be more imaginary tthan real; in fact, in some cases the farmers have expressed their thanks for the Government insisting on getting full payment. Suppose a farmer's crop was valued, for ?200 and it was seized for a claim of $200 due to a machine firm, the department having a lien for $200 for seed grain and provisions; when the seizure was made, departmental officers would step in and take the full amount of its claim, leaving the machine company noth-^ ing. In the general course of events, the de-' partment would likely render some assistance to >the farmer until his next crop was gathered, so that he would in that way he in a, much better position than if the machine firm's claim had been satisfied, and the department did nothing in connection wiith his unpaid obligation to the Government.
That is the view the department has taken. As this memorandum states, we have received thanks from some of the men who were seized upon, for the Government's insisting upon its claim. But it was only in a few instances that the claim was satisfied in full before the machine or other creditors came in. The hon. gentleman asks that a telegram be despatched to-day countermanding these orders. I may say that these orders have been countermanded some days ago. If the gentleman who has informed the hon. member for Moosejaw was not in possession of that information when he sent the wire to which the hon. gentleman has referred, I do not know why he was not. At any rate, those instructions were sent out from Ottawa several days ago.
Mr. McCRANEY; May I ask the hon. minister, on whose representation was the extension of time given for the payment; one-half this year and one-half next year, of the seed grain lien, was it on the representation of farmers, of boards of trade, or of machine men, and wholesale houses.
Mr. ROCHE; It was upon representation made by different interests, largely by farmers, who stated that owing .to their other indebtedness they were not in a position to meet all their liabilities, and they asked the Government to be more lenient with them and to extend the time for payment.
I think we received requests of a similar

character from boards of trade. Having received these representations, the Government came to the conclusion that, in view of all the circumstances, it would be well to collect only one-half this year.

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