May 26, 1919 (13th Parliament, 2nd Session)


John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal


They were court martialled and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. I suppose they are serving their sentence; at least we have not
been told anything to the contrary. That may be all right-I do not know. It looks to me like very severe punishment. But admitting- that it was all right, what was done to the commanding officer of the Hoche-laga, Lieut. Robert D. Legate? He was in charge, and his orders were to destroy submarines. He saw a submarine at sea, but instead of attempting to destroy it, he turned tail and made for harbour. He was court-martialled. And what was his sentence? He was dismissed from the service. Now, those seven boys would have been very easily punished if they had been simply dismissed from the service. Perhaps that would have suited them very well. At any rate, this officer was simply dismissed from the service and not punished at all.
The minister said that if these seven sailors had been in the British navy and had got their just deserts under the laws of war they would have been court-martialled and shot. Under the naval laws of Great Britain would Commander Legate not have been court-martialled and shot too? If so, why was he not punished? I am informed that this is the first time in the history of naval warfare that the white ensign ran away from an enemy; I do not think such another case is recorded in British history. Why does this man go scot-free? Why were these sailors sentenced to eighteen months in prison while the commander of the Hochelaga was simply dismissed from the service, although his offence was much more serious than that committed by the seven sailors? That is the point which was made by the member for Lunenburg in his first speech, and it has not yet been answered. It ought to be answered by the minister before we go any further in voting salaries for his officers. The question was asked some days ago in the House whether the Canadian haval Department had
10 p.m. the power to punish this man, and the answer was in the affirmative, though no indication was given as to why they did not do it. Will the minister give us that information? If not we shall have to come to the conclusion that in the Canadian Naval Service there is one law for sailors and another for officers.
The character of the ships employed in the service has been referred to several times in this discussion. The minister has not told us very much about the character of the ships. In the naval discussion we had a few years ago the late Liberal Govern-men was reproached for what was described as a proposal to build a " tin-pot navy." The present political associates of the minis-

ter objected at that time to fast cruisers of the Bristol type. Ships like the' Sydney, which did such splendid work in the war. This was the class of ships that was proposed to be built by the Government then in power, but the minister's friends objected to that class of vessel. Nothing short of dreadnoughts would suit them; Bristol cruisers they christened " tin pot." But if ever a navy deserved to be called a " tin-pot navy," it was the navy constructed by the department of my hon. friend. The only ships that were any good in this navy were the ones that were there prior to 1911.
No one can deny that there was a great *deal of discontent in Halifax. Discontent prevailed in many places along the coast, hut chiefly at Halifax. If, as the minister says, everything was rosy, where did all this trouble come from? Why were there eo many complaints at Halifax? The fact that the Halifax Herald, though ia strong (supporter of the present Government, attacked the Government on this question, ought to be proof to the minister that there was something wrong. I suppose the Government was never so severely attacked as it was in connection with naval affairs by the Halifax Herald during the war. The Herald does not blame the officers at Halifax; it traces the trouble to the Naval Department at Ottawa; it blames the heads of the department here and it must be admitted that the contention of the Herald with regard to the inefficiency of the department was well founded. I do not expect the minister to give orders in regard to warfare or to naval affairs, and I do not throw the blame upon him. But the minister is responsible if he fails to surround himself with competent men. If he finds that his staff is incompetent and fails to take prompt measures, then we have to throw the responsibility on him.
The member for Lunenburg has been reading from the Halifax Herald; let me read a few extracts from the Halifax Mail. The Mail is the evening edition of the Hemld; both papers are owned by a prominent gentleman in the other Chamber, Senator Dennis. In dealing with this matter the Mail opened its columns to complaints, and they came in so fast that the Mail did not know what to do with them. They had a 'special editor whose duty it was to answer complaints of all kinds, but these complaints poured in at such a rate [DOT]that the editor was overwhelmed with them and admits that he could not answer them. But he makes a list of them in the paper [DOT]day by day, and here are some of them:

Question No. 1662-Why were the ratings on T. R. 30 court martialled in the Canadian navy last summer for refusing duty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, when several so-called skippers and mates positively refused to take boats overseas last winter and were not court martialled or punished in any way? (2) How can discipline he maintained in the service, when such work is allowed to go unpunished? (3) Is there one law for officers and another for ratings under the present management of the Canadian navy? (I) Can you give the names of the officers comprising the court martial before whom the ratings on T. R. 30 were tried, and are they still in the service? (5) Had the officer in command of T. R. 30, at the time these ratings refused duty, sufficient experience to command men and was he a Canadian? (6) Is there any truth in the report of the wholesale discrimination against Canadians in the Canadian naval service? (7) Will there toe a fair, impartial investigation toy a committee of the House of Commons at the next session of Parliament into the naval affairs of Canada during the war, with full power to go into all matters of expenditure, promotions, granting of commissions, etc.? (S) Who, on behalf of the Government, looked after the building of tooats known as C. D's? (9) Who accepted these boats from the builders as being fit for service?
: Then the paper goes on to say:
Answer-Here are nine questions on a matter of which we have no paiticular information. The only place where you can be effective in eliciting replies is in the House of Commons. The n'avy make a rule not to answer questions, as attempts on our part have fully demonstrated. Hundreds of questions are received every week concerning the navy, the majority of them asking the questions put toy our correspondent as above. It is evidently not a very happy or united family.
The above is an extract from a leading paper in Halifax, a supporter of the Government, published during the time these transactions were going on. I submit that the minister should answer them.
The only way in which they can adequately be answered is by granting the request of the hon. member for Lunenburg and giving an investigation. Let us take another extract from the same paper:
Note.-Questions continue to pour in concerning naval affairs. Many concern the men of T. R. 30, who are in prison for, it is alleged, refusing to go to sea in a craft unseaworthy. Others relate to P. V. 5 which it is alleged is in an unseaworthy condition. They say she is leaking aft around the rudder and also in her starboard bunker and the statement is further made that they were pumping from three to four tons of water per hour from her, that the conditions on board are unbearable. There is no getting away from the fact that there is seething discontent in the service. One correspondent says it is caused by "racial" distinction. He says he is a Canadian, wants to be a Canadian man-of-war sailor, but objects to be designated as a "native." The complaints may not all be founded on fact, but where there is scr much smoke, there must surely be some fire. The imprisoning of the boys on T. R.

30, seems to be causing considerable indignation. The complainants all lay stress on the statement that the boys should not have been sent to prison for refusing to go to sea on an unseaworthy craft, when captains of other boats, who refused to go to sea on the same plea were passed over without a reprimand. It is impossible to And room for all the letters. We would advise the complainants to take the matter up with the secretary of the Navy "League. The league has a paper of its own with 'a big circulation and is quite sympathetic to the men who have grievances. It is stated that out of 4,000 men in the service during the war, only a baker's dozen, when asked the question, if they desired to go on the reserve, answered "yes." If the service has become so unpopular, that men will not enter it unless by force, something drastic must be done at once.
That is the opinion of the chief organ supporting the Government in Nova Scotia, and I submit to the minister that it does raise a question for an investigation. If the officers at the head of the Canadian Navy are incompetent and inefficient, something ought to be done by the minister to see that this state of affairs is remedied. We are all anxious that the navy shall he properly managed and shall be such as all citizens of Canada may be justly proud of, and it is the duty of the minister to make this possible. I am sure he would be carrying out the will of the members of this Parliament and of the people of this country if he took decided steps in that direction, and I am quite sure he would have the support of every hon. member on this side of the House in such action. 1 am not here for the purpose of unduly criticising the minister, but it is my duty to ask him to take this question up seriously and make an investigation into the conditions of his department. And if he finds that there is truth in the allegations and that the officers responsible for the management of affairs in the Naval Department are inefficient, then it is his duty to see that they are dismissed and efficient men are appointed in their stead; if we are to spend millions of dollars in an endeavour to build up a Canadian Navy, let us have a navy in which the people of Canada can take a pride.

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