The minister says that some of them were up-graded. Well, I accept that, too, but I am talking about one particular type of veteran. He is the man who came out of the second world war suffering from wounds, a pension case, and in many instances he was an amputee case. Those of us who have had close contact with amputees of the second world war, for instance those in my own age group, have found a great deal to admire in those men. They lay in hospital beds for months. They had to come back into society minus one limb, minus two limbs; they had to fit themselves back among their fellow citizens as normal human beings. Those men had been away from their associations for many years. They bore not only physical scars but mental scars; and the mental habits they had formed during the years of the war had to be completely changed when they came back into the associations of civilian life.
Well, those men came out of the hospitals and, with the assistance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, were able to fit themselves back into civilian jobs. Many jobs were open to them, some of them being government jobs.
It is true that they received pensions, but the pensions came to them as a matter of right. They settled down and bought homes or built homes, and they carried on in their particular positions. Some of them, as I say, were in government jobs, and some of them were in the Department of Veterans Affairs. They carried on for a number of years after the war in their new homes, established families and conducted themselves as normal members of the community. All of a sudden they were met with this decision by the department for which they worked; they were told that the department was going to lower their standard of living, in some instances by as much as $500 a year.
Well, I suggest to the minister and to the ministers of other departments where this may happen, that the people of Canada will not begrudge to any veteran-and particularly to a veteran who is an amputee-the salary which he has come to earn by successfully rehabilitating himself into society. They will not begrudge him that salary which he has come to earn by assiduously applying himself to the particular tasks which are assigned to him by the department.
If it is necessary to carry out some measure of economy in any government department I suggest they leave the amputees alone, because there is a lot to be admired in those men. If there is to be any question of economy let it be by perhaps abolishing some position that a veteran has filled successfully for years, and let them put that man in a position in another department where he will be able to exercise his talents in a manner that will enable him to carry on as he did in his former department. Let him carry on as a member of society who is deserving not only of the ordinary credit which is due him but of a great deal more credit because of the tremendous sacrifices he has made and the tremendous amount of courage which he has demonstrated on behalf of the people of the country.
Recently I saw one of these amputees at a dinner. He was a normal sort of fellow who had a great deal of ability. He had successfully rehabilitated himself in a civilian position and he has risen to a position of responsibility whch would be the envy of any young man his age. After the dinner I saw the young man apply himself to a game of table tennis. During the course of that game he fell down about five times but, after falling down, he bounced back to his feet very quickly. Having seen that demonstration, in my mind there will always be associated with that man a particular name. I shall think of him as Mr. Guts. There are a lot
of amputees in the government service who could be described as Mr. Guts.
I think when it comes time for the government to practise economy in respect of particular positions which these men have successfully carried out for a period of ten years, exceptions should be made. Great care should be exercised by heads of departments in order to ensure that the standard of living which these men have achieved through their courage, their perseverance, and their talents should not be disturbed in any way. I do not think any citizens of the country, any good citizens, will criticize any department of government for making sure that these men have the opportunity of not only successfully rehabilitating themselves as they have done but of continuing that rehabilitation throughout their lives.
I ask the minister particularly, since his estimates are before the house, and particularly since there are a number of amputees in his department who have been affected by this review of personnel, to give some assurance to the citizens of the country as well as to the amputee veterans that their rehabilitation is not going to be disturbed.
Subtopic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS