March 26, 1903

?

The PRIME MINISTER.

It is no discredit to Canada ; on the contrary it is to the credit of Canada that there are so few demands for divorce. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia there are divorce courts which have existed prior to confederation, and so far as I am aware, the applications for divorce are so few and far between, that the judges of these courts have much of a sinecure. In the remaining provinces divorce must be sought by a private Bill originating in the Senate, and even in that case, I am glad to say, there has been no increase in the number of applications from year to year. The records from confederation to the present day show that the number of applications for divorce has not increased, although the country, I am glad to say, has increased in population and in many other ways. It is a testimony to the good morals of Canada that we are so free from the causes which generally lead to divorce. Public opinion as a rule has not expressed itself in favour of such a reform in our system, if reform it can be called, and I think my hon. friend (Mr. Charlton) ought to be satisfied to let well enough alone. If the time comes-which I would deplore sincerely, and which I believe will never come-when public opinion will move in this matter, and the morals of this country instead of improving would degrade to an extent so as to make the number of applications for divorce more numerous than they are now ; then my hon. friend (Mr. Charlton), holding the views which he does, might be justified in coming before parliament I speak with some diffidence on this question, because I belong to a persuasion which does not permit of divorce ; but putting aside that feature of the case altogether, and appealing to those whose views are different upon the ques-

tion ; appealing to those who believe that under certain circumstances divorce ought to be allowed, it seems to me that the argument is overwhelming that there is no necessity for the establishment of such a court, and I hope that will be the view taken by this House.

At sis o'clock, House took recess.

After Recess.

House resumed at eight o'clock.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink
?

Hon. WM@

ROSS (Victoria, N.S.) Mr. Speaker, evidently the spirit of reform is dead in this House. The representatives from Ontario used to pride themselves on being great reformers, and yet, on a question of so much importance as this they appear to be indifferent, and to be willing to leave on the records of this Dominion such a crude, I was going to say savage, way of dealing with a subject of this kind as we have at present. Why the savages do better in this manner than we do. They confine their divorces to the same cause as our Saviour did, and when they find any unfaithfulness on the part of one side or the other, particularly if the squaw is unfaithful, the Indian takes her to the camp where her people reside, and there the divorce is completed. I think there is some decency in that, compared with the way in which we deal with the matter. Let us look at it. A man may come here from the farthest part of New Ontario. He has to pay $200 ; he lias to pay all the expenses of his witnesses ; he goes before a Committee of the Senate, composed of men who perhaps have no experience or training in legal matters, they take the evidence, and that evidence is submitted to both Houses. I need not say anything about the nature of the evidence itself. It is often so filthy that the pigs would not sleep on it if it were placed before them as a bed. The charwomen who go to clean the Senate in the morning will get piles and piles of printed paper ; they take it home, they scatter it among their families, and it is read there to their moral injury. Why should not the Dominion of Canada copy the reform that has been in existence in New Brunswick, in British Columbia, and in Nova Scotia, on this matter ? In Nova Scotia the case is tried before a judge of the Supreme Court, and not a trace of the evidence is copied or goes into any of the papers. The only statement is that such and such a case has been tried before Judge Graham, and he has granted or refused the divorce, as the case may be. That is all that the world knows of the proceedings in the case. When the maritime provinces came to be united with the Dominion, we forced certain reforms on the people of Canada. At that time dual representation existed in Ontario and Quebec, but by the good example which we brought to this House, that system was abolished. Then you had elections on differ-Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

ent dates, and the strongest seats, those most likely to return men favourable to the government of the day, were contested first. We abolished that system, and induced the Dominion of Canada to accept a simultaneous polling day, which was in force in the maritime provinces. Now, I think the Dominion should go a step further and copy our method of dealing with divorces, which is the only rational one, and which does justice to the poor as well as the rich. The law as you have it now is only for rich people, and does the grossest injustice to the poor, who cannot afford to avail themselves of it. In the maritime provinces we have no distinction of that kind, and I am happy to say that I believe the number of divorces which take place in those provinces is as limited as the number in the Dominion. We can speak with pride of the high moral character of our people in that respect, although the law as it exists makes it easy for them to obtain divorces. Now, I think that a sense of justice should lead this House to see that equal justice is done to the poor as to the rich. If that were done, there are people now in the Dominion of Canada who would avail themselves of the law ; but, being poor, they cannot avail themselves of it as it exists. I am not going to say much more on this subject, but I think it is time that people who claim to be reformers should take this subject up and abolish the present system, which is crude and is certainly not found in any other civilized country in the world. The premier said there were no petitions for this change. I do not remember that there were any petitions for these other reforms which I have mentioned. I do not know that there was a single petition for the abolition of dual representation or for simultaneous polling when these measures were adopted. I do not think that is any reason at all. If my hon. friends the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding) and the Minister of Railways and Canals (Hon. Mr. Blair) were free to speak their minds, they would speak boldly and logically and effectively on this question. They do not want to offend their master who presides over them, but they know very well that the law that exists at present in Canada is one we would never think of adopting in the enlightened maritime provinces. I do not expect that anything I say on this subject will have the least influence on this House ; but I think the country will in time see the necessity of making such a change in the method of dealing with this matter as will bring about something like equal justice for the poor as well as the rich in the Dominion of Canada.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink
CON

David Tisdale

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. DAVID TISDALE (South Norfolk).

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the motion proposed by the hon. member for North Norfolk (Mr. Charlton) is one involving, much more important considerations than have

at times been attached to it in this House. In all civilized countries, I believe, the law of divorce is recognized. In respect to this divorce law Canada is unique among the civilized countries of the world. There is no judicial law of divorce in this country. There are divorce courts in several of the provinces, as the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat has so well explained. The proposition, therefore, is a broad one, and in my opinion ought not to be dismissed from serious consideration because of the fact that heretofore the hon. gentlemen who have brought it before the House have not succeeded in interesting the House in it sufficiently to make any progress with it. The hon. gentleman who last brought this subject up in the House is now a distinguished judge. I refer to Mr. Justice Britton, who when he represented Kingston in this House, brought this matter before and excited a more exhaustive discussion than my hon. friend's motion has brought forth. The result, however, was nil, and certainly in view of the position which the right hon. the Prime Minister has taken, the present motion is not likely to be any more successful. But I go with the hon. gentleman who last addressed the House (Hon. Mr. Ross).

I think with him that even if the leader of the government takes, on a matter of this kind a contrary view to that entertained by many other members of this House, that is no reason why those who are in favour of the motion should not be at perfect liberty to support it without impairing their political allegiance in any way. I am a strong Conservative, generally classed as a Tory, and I believe that although party government is the best for the well being of the country, still, unless there is a question of government involved, we should, on each side of the House, be free lances and freely express and assert ourselves on all questions beyond the pale of party discipline. This will stamp our legislation as being of a higher standard, and show the people that we are not mere automata to be freely moved at the will of the leaders on either side. The question before the House is a very broad one, to be considered from all points of view, and I must say that from what I have heard of divorce, and in view of the fact that all free civilized countries acknowledge that under certain circumstances divorce is justifiable, I am in favour of the motion before the House. I do not of course expect every one to entertain the same view, but one of the great lessons taught by free institutions, especially in a country governed by British institutions, is that we can differ in our religious faith and recognize that the views of those who differ from us are entitled to every respect, and that while we may differ in opinions, we agree that the majority must prevail and we can be very good natured and sensible over it. I am one of those who believe that divorce is a necessity, but at the same time I Have been brought up in the old school -which teaches 19

that we ought to have as little of it as possible. One of the strong objections to any change in our divorce laws is the fear entertained by the ordinary domestic people of the country that any change may lead us to fall into the other extreme of the too great freedom of divorce which prevails in the great republic to the south of us. I think myself that that feeling is merely a prejudice, but the strongest argument that could be presented against any change is that which was made by the right hon. the Prime Minister. He claimed that there was no great call for it. I agree, however with the hon. member who has just taken his seat that the fact that there are no petitions calling for this change is not a good reason for not granting it. I am not so much of a believer in petitions as I was in my younger days, because my experience has taught me that many of those petitions are the result of the agitation of some individuals, who want to make us believe that there is a great cry in the country, when in reality there is not. I am of the opinion-and I think most hon. members will agree with me-that according to the capacity which God or nature has given us we are responsible for our actions and judgments, and I am not disposed to give any heed to petitions except when there is something in them which appeals to my judgment or when they spring from something which I believe calls for action on my part. Is the right hon. the Prime Minister well founded in his statement that there is no desire in this country for a change in our divorce law ? I think he is only right to the extent of the dread to which 1 refer on the part of many people that a change would bring about too much freedom of divorce, but I submit that this parliament of Canada ought to be responsible to the public for a definition of the causes or reasons for which divorce should be granted, and I understand that my hon. friend's resolution is based upon that principle. This House ought to define these . causes and be careful not to make them too extensive. I am one of those who believe that the trying of divorce cases should be relegated to a judicial tribunal. A judicial tribunal could better take the evidence and in every way be more desirable and more competent than any committee of this parliament, and that is a strong answer, to the plea of the right hon. the First Minister that there is no call for any change. If we can devise a simpler, a better and cheaper tribunal than the one we now have, both Reformers and Conservatives must agree that it would be wise for us to do so. This question has been brought before the House within my memory several times. Long before I had the honour of being in parliament, it was introduced. It has been stated that the principal reason against the establishment of a divorce court is a religious one. Well, there is no one who respects the religious convictions of others

5 SO

more than I do. I have proved this in times, past ; when it was not in my interest politically to do so, and I am prepared to show the same spirit in the future. The religious views of every one ought to be respected, but when we come to a question of this sort, we come to a question of moral suasion, and until we learn to stand up face to face and consider it in all its phases, we will not be apt to come to any satisfactory conclusion.

And I am sure that every hon. gentleman within the sound of my voice and every Catholic that knows me or has ever heard me speak, will do me the justice to say that I am as ready to concede to them full freedom of opinion as I am to claim it from others, ready to be convinced by them, and to change my views or prejudice or whatever you call them. My claim is that, assuming that we are to have divorce, a judicial tribunal can best deal with the evidence in divorce cases. The proceedings before those tribunals will not involve the danger of injuring public morals that may attach to our present system. As my hon. friend (Mr. Charlton) has said, the evidence will be confined to a court and not be spread throughout the country by having printed copies of the evidence sent out, very much of it of a nature that we would not desire to see in the bosoms of our families. Therefore, on moral grounds it would be better to make this change. On legal grounds, there can be no question. The evidence upon questions involving the marriage tie should be taken in a court of law, for there is only one thing more solemn than the marriage tie, and that is the belief in a personal God and a future life. If these divorce cases are to go before any tribunal, they should be sent to the best and soundest tribunal. Beyond all peradventure, my hon. friend (Mr. Charlton) is right, and we should thank him for bringing this matter before us. The consideration of these grave matters relating to the very foundations of our social life must have the effect of improving, elevating and strengthening our people. We must decide these questions according to the principles of British freedom, for, under that flag, which now, I believe, is being recognized more than ever as holding the freedom of the world with other enlightened nations, there is no man, be he heathen or Christian but is assured of freedom such as no other but British institutions can secure for him. If it is necessary, as I believe it is, and as the practice of all civilized nations seems to sanction, that society should authorize the severance of the marriage relation, the bond should be unloosed only upon conditions which this parliament lays down. We should restrict as closely as possible the grounds upon which the divorce shall be allowed. But, having provided for this, we should relegate the rest to the courts of our land, which I believe are, and which history, I am glad to say. proclaims to be. in this as in other

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink
CON

David Tisdale

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. TISDALE.

British countries, the best fitted to pronounce a verdict in such matters.

Mr. HAU6HTON LENNOX (South Sim-coe). I am a little surprised to find that the House, apparently, takes no great interest in this very important question. The reason may possibly be found in the suggestion made by the hon. member for Victoria (Mr. Ross) that a number of hon. gentlemen in the House-amongst them, if I understand him, the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding)' and the Minister of Justice (Hon. Mr. Fitzpatrick)-were not free to take the stand that they would like to take in this matter. In our deliberations last session, we learned from the hon. gentleman (Mr. Charlton) who moved this resolution a good deal as to the inner workings of the Reform party, or Liberal party, as they are usually called, and from the hon. member from Victoria we are again learning to-night something more as to the tendencies of that party. The hon. gentleman tells us that Ontario, at one time, prided itself upon its reform principles. If the hon. gentleman is referring to the members who form a majority of the representation from Ontario in this House, I do not know that he has any reason to attack them upon this question, because, I am not aware that, as yet. any of them have declared themselves hostile to the resolution. But we can well understand such remarks from an hon. member who has had long experience of Liberal practices, who can look back to the day when the position of the party upon many questions was not what it is to-day, who can look back to the stand taken in this House by the Liberal opposition and to the stand taken in Ontario years ago, and contrast it with the unfortunate position occupied, for instance, by the Liberal party in Ontario to-day.

Now, as to what the hon. gentleman has suggested as to the desirability of secrecy of proceedings in these cases, we need not go into a careful discussion of that matter row. because, if it is determined by the House that it. is desirable to change the mode of procedure in obtaining a divorce in the Dominion of Canada, the details of the measure and the procedure to be fixed can be dealt with later on. I am not sure, however, that we should do wisely to revert to the old system of jurisprudence with its secret proceedings, as secrecy was then understood. There may be many things to be said in favour of the position advanced by the hon. member for Victoria as regards not transmitting the records of these proceedings in all their noisome details to the public through the newspapers. But. on the other hand, I do not understand that in Nova Scotia they have an absolutely secret tribunal such as obtained in days gone by. As to the question of lessening of costs, that, too. is a debateable subject. In the course of my practice as a lawyer, I have known many instances of parties who con-

581 moved this resolution. X had no very great desire to speak upon it because I did not feel that I could add anything to what lion, members of the House know and understand more thoroughly than I do. I felt that I could say nothing but what could be very much better said by many lion, members of this House of greater experience and ability, but I venture to say, that when an important question like this comes up it is just as well that we should have an opinion upon it one way or the other.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink
CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. C. BELL (Pictou).

Mr. Speaker,

I suppose we must acknowledge that in this case, as in several others, we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the hon. member for North Norfolk (Mr. Charlton) who is not afraid to face the indifference, or the quiet and sometimes effective inertia of the public and who has on several occasions, and in connection with a good many different subjects which are of great importance, found himself capable of taking hold of a case long before it has received popular support. It is gratifying to And that while there is not very much evidence of great interest there is a great deal of gravity and decorum about the debate so far as it has proceeded. There is no disposition to treat the subject with levity or to improve the opportunities which it affords for jocosity, but, evidently the House is disposed to regard the matter as of a somewhat serious character and of very great importance. It cannot be forgotten, in dealing with this matter, that the subject of divorce is inevitably associated with our civilized life. From the beginning of time almost, at least, from a very early date, in fact since marriage was established as an ordinance, occasional interruptions to married life have arisen from various causes. In Canada the proposition of the hon. member for North Norfolk would not materially change the position of affairs. In the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, divorce courts are established and have been established since before confederation. These give relief from time to time to those parties who find the conjugal bond one of intolerable weight and one which must impose conditions to which they can no longer comfortably submit. Divorce is a subject that must be dealt with and although the effect of the sentiment in the province of Quebec has so far and probably will perhaps for ever prevent the institution of such a court in that province, still, we find that in the absence of provisions by which married persons can secure the relief which the divorce action affords they do, in the cases of the several provinces, where divorce courts do not exist, overcome that difficulty by appealing to the law of our country which enables them by legislative enactment to procure the relief which the courts of their provinces cannot afford. The pre-Mr. LENNOX.

sumption is that the number of divorces granted would not be materially increased if the present system Were done away with and if we substituted a more easy, economical and what would be of the utmost importance, a procedure which would involve much less publicity. Reference has been made to the character of the proceedings before the Senate and of the circulation of the evidence disclosing the relations between the married persons to the action and other corespondents. Literature of this character would not be tolerated at all if circulated in our country in the ordinary way. The courts and legislatures of the country would forbid the circulation of such material as this through the mails, of such material as under our system is put out in large quantities and which finds its way by one course or another into the hands of persons who should not have access to it. It is most unsatisfactory that such must be the case and I feel some sympathy with the hon. member for West Elgin (Mr. Robinson) who really seemed to look upon it as a grave infraction of his rights that he was compelled to receive, at the hands of the Senate, communications of such a very improper character. Still, I suppose it is an infliction to which we must all be prepared to submit unless we should determine to rid ourselves of that infliction by giving our moral, our personal and our active support to the cause which the hon. member for North Norfolk has espoused. It would be utterly wrong and intolerable that we, here, as a branch of the legislature of Canada, should give our contributory action to the effecting of a divorce without acquainting ourselves with the circumstances, the grounds and the evidence upon which the petitioner relied in each case of divorce. I do not know that all the members read the evidence in every case, but, certainly, in every case it is the duty of every hon. member, representing a constituency and forming part of the legislating body of Canada. to give effect to the legislation which secures a divorce, to satisfy himself that the evidence is sufficient to warrant him in voting so as to give legal effect to the Bill which has its origin in the other Chamber adjacent to this. Now, that the subject is of considerable importance a review of the statistical record of our country in connection with it will show. Taking the figures as they appear in the last volume of the Year-book up to .Tune, 1901. we find that in the provinces of Canada which have no divorce courts, parliament has granted divorces numbering seventy-one. Seventy-one divorces have been granted by the parliament of Canada in the course of thirty-four years, not a very large number, it is true. In the province of Nova Scotia, in these thirty-four years, 102 divorces were granted by the courts. In the province of New Brunswick seventy-three divorces were granted and in British Columbia fifty-four divorces

5S5

were granted in that time. In the case of Prince Edward Island there is evidently a state of conjugal felicity which can scarcely be paralleled in any other portion of His Majesty's dominions. In that little island, the garden of the gulf, the most highly civilized, prosperous and happy under the flag of His Majesty in North America, not one single divorce has been granted in these thirty-four years. Evidently, in the province of Prince Edward Island there is an understanding of the advantages, the benefits and blessings of union that the other provinces fail to realize to the same extent as they do in that happy country. The result is that in Canada 300 divorces have been granted in thirty-four years, or almost an average of nine divorces per annum. We are told that if there were greater facilities for divorce there might be more divorces granted, and therefore, it might be argued by some that by furnishing divorce courts in the several provinces and by doing away with the present tedious, cumbersome, expensive and odious system of coming before the Senate of Canada and substituting a more convenient, more cheap and less public process of hearing applications before a judge of the Supreme Court of a province, divorces might be multiplied in number. We have no evidence of this to show this would be the case, and I do not know that any strong presumption exists that it would be. One thing that is established as a fact is, that in Canada for the last thirty-four years, three hundred divorces have been granted-six hundred married persons have secured release from the marital tie, and that is sufficient to show that there is a want of civilization and of social life as organized, which cannot be winked out of sight. Marriages are necessary to our civilization, and everything that tends to heighten and elevate and improve the condition of woman amongst us, is something that ought to receive our most anxious support. And concurrent with the institution of marriage; apparently inevitably associated with it, must be some reasonable provision by which in certain cases one party or the other who is bound by the marriage bond may secure a release when its conditions become intolerable or too irksome for them to bear. I find on further reference to the Canadian Year-book, that according to the census of 1901 there were in Canada 061 divorced persons-339 men and 322 women. That is almost exactly the number that would be supplied by our divorce courts since 1867, the year of confederation, were all the parties to these divorces still living. But manifestly a comparatively large percentage of the divorced persons who are presently living in Canada must have procured divorces elsewhere. It is utterly impossible that the 600 persons who have been divorced in Canada since 180" could now be alive. The great probability is that at least one-third of these persons

are dead. As a product of our own divoice courts and of divorce proceedings taken in the parliament of Canada, there are possibly 300 divorcees in this country, and the other 361 who are in Canada at present must have procured divorces somewhere else, or must have been divorced before they came to Canada. It is quite well known that in certain cases, in all the provinces of Canada, persons who are determined to procure divorce do go to the states of the neighbouring union and seek separation from their married partners in the courts of that country. The result is unsatisfactory, because those persons who being Canadians go to the United States and there secure a divorce, are only divorced so far as they continue residents of the United States, and they cannot return to Canada, and they cannot resume the marriage tie with another person, without practically bringing themselves within the operation of the law against bigamy, or making themselves liable to action for adulterous living. If, as I think we must grant; if there be an absolute certainty that to a certain extent-not at all to encourage, but on the other hand to be repressed and to be controlled by making the conditions onerous and the reasons for granting divorces of the most grave and serious character, limiting it so that there would be. no flying with flippant ease to this court for relief; to make the conditions so that it would be only under circumstances absolutely in the eyes and known to the neighbours and fellow-citizens of the parties concerned justifying the divorce that such a thing could be obtained-with these conditions it seems to me that it is the duty of the people of Canada not to lose sight of this question, but to consider whether or not there be not a number of fellow-citizens in our country who are entitled to receive at our hands a strictly limited opportunity to secure release from the marriage tie when circumstances render it impossible for them longer to bear it with comfort. It is very evident that this is a question which will not have many advocates in parliament. It is not a matter in respect to which any person who is personally interested could easily make himself or herself heard. It would be only on a personal appeal, and that of a very strong character, that any member of parliament could be induced to advocate such a matter. Therefore, it is all the more important that this being a question which to the most of us Is absolutely impersonal, that we should not on that account lose sight of its importance, but should rather devote ourselves to a fair and earnest consideration of it, the more so on account of the fact that it is a thing that can scarcely count on very hearty support on the part of any of the representatives of the people in this parliament. There must be to a very great extent. a large feeling of indifference in the minds of most of us here, and yet a little

58S

reflection will show that in this matter we are dealing with one of the institutions of our civilization which is inseparable from it, and one which ought to be most carefully controlled. An avenue ought be opened up through which escape may be had from the conditions of married life when they become intolerable, and at the same time every condition of secrecy, every condition of solemnity, every condition that would prevent anything like shock to the sensitiveness of the public on matters which ought to be concealed from them, ought to be attached to the process by which divorce may be procured in our country. That I believe unquestionably, to any one who gives the matter consideration, will be found to be, by applying to this parliament, not for a Bill of relief, but rather by some quiet and orderly resort to the judges of the land m whose hands we may safely leave the administration of this matter. The statistics of the provinces go to show, that where divorce courts are in operation, they have not been largely availed of. In Nova Scotia the average will be about three cases in a 3 ear, and it is quite possible that several of these cases are not of native Nova Scotians, because it is naturally to be expected that in provinces in which no divorce courts aie existent, persons who desire to procure divorce may migrate there for the timebeing. It seems to me quite probable, that either in * New Brunswick or Nova Scotia it may turn out to be the case, that many of the actions for divorce that have been commenced and concluded there, have been set up by those who really were not citizens of the province. That being the case, it is very evident that the number of divorce actions^ is not encouraged by the fact that courts in which such actions may be taken have been set up in the province, but that this is a remedy which the parliament of Canada may to a certain extent permit without any fear that it is all going to weaken the strength of the marriage bond among the citizens of our country.

The MINISTER OF FINANCE (Hon. W.

S. Fielding). My own views on this question are naturally influenced by the experience of my own province, which has been referred to by my hon. friend from Victoria, N.S. (Mr. Ross), and if it were necessary to come to a decision I would express the hope that the other provinces might adopt the method which is employed in Nova Scotia, with, as I think, success. I think however, that I am correct in stating from the tendency of the discussion here to-dav. that there is no great zeal on the part of members generally to deal with this question. The right hon. Prime Minister suggested, just before six o'clock, that perhaps the hon. member.for North Norfolk (Mr. Charlton) lad served his purpose for the" lime being by a discussion of the question, and might withdraw his motion. If he is' disposed to do that, my own judgment is Mr. BELL.

that that would be the course most satisfactory to the House. I merely make the suggestion to the hon. gentleman, but I am quite prepared to vote if the division takes place.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink
LIB

John Charlton

Liberal

Mr. CHARLTON.

Mr. Speaker, of course I did not introduce this motion for the mere purpose of taking the time of the House or leading to an inconsequential result. Still, the discussion of the motion has probably accomplished all that can be reasonably expected at the present time. It is very true, as the right hon. Prime Minister says, that the House at large does not appear to take a deep and active interest in this question. It is a matter which, I presume, will require a good deal of discussion in the country before legislative action can be secured upon it, and one which we ought to approach with due deliberation and some degree of caution. While my own wish, of course, would be to have this motion go to a vote, and have an expression of this House favourable to it, yet I am in the judgment of the House, and if it is the opinion of the House that it would be better under the circumstances to accede to the desire expressed by the leader of the government, as a matter of etiquette, I would feel disposed to do so. If I have the concurrence of the seconder of the motion, and if no objection is made by any member of the House, I am quite willing that the motion, having been discussed in so agreeable, proper and instructive a manner, should be withdrawn.

Hon. Mr. ROSS (Victoria, N.S.) As the seconder of the motion, I think the end we have in view has been served to a large extent. We have listened with a good deal of pleasure to the very excellent speeches which have been made by gentlemen on the other side of the House. Those speeches will go to the country, and in this observing age the country will by and by begin to see the necessity of adopting a different method of divorce from that which exists at present in the Dominion of Canada. I know what the law is in Nova Scotia, and I know that there is no publicity given to the evidence. The only thing stated is that the case has been tried and the judgment has been given. When the excellent speeches which have been made on the other side are sent to the country, they will perhaps effect the first change in public opinion on this subject. This is perhaps a small beginning to a great reform, but all reforms in the past commenced with small beginnings, and we must not despise the day of small things, because great things will be the result at some future day.

Motion withdrawn.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   A DIVORCE COURT.
Permalink

GOVERNMENT OFFICE BUILDINGS.

?

Mr. T. S.@

SPROULE (East Grey) moved for :

Return showing the number of buildings, or portions of buildings, rented or occupied by the government for offices or other purposes, in Ottawa, outside the departmental buildings; from whom rented, terms of lease or leases, and rent being paid for each.

He said : My object in making this motion is to ascertain the number of buildings or other apartments rented by the government and used for government purposes, from whom they are rented, the rent that is paid, and the terms of the leases. I do so because of the rumours that have been current for some time, that the government have rented many buildings or portions of buildings which are not suitable for the public requirements, that they are rented from political friends, and that exorbitant rents are being paid. I am told that there is no provision in most of these buildings for protecting valuable papers and other goods belonging to the government, from the danger of fire. I do not know how far these rumours are correct, and I make this motion so that we may get the correct information. If it is true, that we are paying very heavy rents for these buildings, and that it has cost considerable to fit them up for the needs of the government, it seems to me that it would be much better and wiser for the government to buy land and erect buildings suitable for the needs of the country. They could be made fireproof, and we would save a very heavy outlay in rents. After I get this information, if I am correctly informed, I may follow it with another motion later on. Now, I have heard it said by supporters of the government that we cannot get land in Ottawa on which to erect public buildings. Well, the longer it is put off the more difficult it will be to acquire land. It is true, the government might be obliged to pay a pretty good figure for suitable land ; but I imagine that they would pay a smaller figure now than they would be likely to do fifteen or twenty years hence. I have often thought that the time will come when it will be almost compulsory on the government, in order to provide office room, to purchase the piece of land from the Lange-vin block to O'Connor street, and fill it with one large block. It would certainly greatly enhance the appearance of the government grounds, and the buildings surrounding them. There are other places where buildings might be erected, such as Nepean Point and a portion of Major Hill Park. It is for the purpose of drawing attention to this matter and of putting ourselves in the position to be able to determine whether it would be the part of wisdom or otherwise for the government to purchase grounds on which to erect new buildings or whether it would be better that they should continue the present system of renting buildings from outside parties, that I make this motion.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT OFFICE BUILDINGS.
Permalink
?

The MINISTER OF PUBRIC WORKS. (Hon. James Sutherland).

I should be very pleased indeed to bring down the return called for by this motion. I agree with the

hon. gentleman (Mr. Sproule) that it is in the public interest that this House should be possessed of all the information obtainable on the subject. My hon. friend has referred to the splendid site obtainable on Wellington street, and I agree with him that it would be a great improvement and add greatly to the appearance of "the parliamentary grounds and buildings, that we should procure that site. But there are one or two rather serious objections raised. One is the heavy expenditure we would have to incur, owing to the valuable buildings that have been erected there within the past few years, and another and a more serious one is that unless we have the whole block from Wellington to Sparks street we would always be liable to injury from fire communicated from the other blocks and the safety of our valuable records and books would be endangered. There is also a serious objection to our taking Major's Hill Park. I doubt very much if the hon. members of this House would like to see that beautiful park covered with buildings. It is certainly a fine breathing spot for the citizens of Ottawa and visitors and members of the House. Parks are a great necessity in a growing city, besides being a great luxury to the people. However, the suggestion is well worthy of consideration. The hon. gentleman is perfectly right when he says that the time has arrived when this House must seriously consider the erection of departmental buildings so that public business may be carried on more conveniently than it is now. I have not the figures and therefore cannot make a fair estimate at present, but if it be the case, as the hon. gentleman says, that we are paying now in rents and other expenses more than the interest on capital and maintenance would cost us, if we purchased a site and erected new departmental buildings, we certainly should not hesitate doing so. I am not aware that either the previous or the present government has been guilty of paying excessive rents because buildings rented by the government happen to be owned by political friends. I think that the buildings required by some of the departments since this administration has taken office, have been rented from political opponents, and I have no doubt that the best bargain possible was made by the officials of the government. However, it is a very important and serious question, this question of the desirability of procuring property on which to put up better buildings than we now have, and I am satisfied that it is in the interests of the country that these buildings should be erected as soon as possible. This matter has in the short time that I have been in the department, received some attention from myself and my officials. During the past few weeks we have gone into it to a considerable extent in order to ascertain what properties were available and what the buildings would cost. I hope that even during this session we may be able to report some progress so

that lion, members may be in a position to give us the benefit' of their advice as to what, in their opinion, would be the best course to take. I shall have much pleasure in bringing down the papers at the very earliest possible moment.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   GOVERNMENT OFFICE BUILDINGS.
Permalink

Motion agreed to. On motion of the Minister of Finance. House adjourned at 9.20 p.m.



Ottawa, Friday, March 27, 1903.


March 26, 1903