Mr. T. CHASE CASGRAIN (Montmorency).
Mr. Speaker, before the Orders of the Day are proceeded with, I desire to call the attention of the House to a matter that is both serious and of a pressing nature. The rumour has circulated from time to time -in fact it was announced to the House- that a commission would be appointed to
investigate the granting of concessions in the Yukon Territory, and, amongst others, the Treadgold concession. Since then the rumour has been consistent that Mr. Justice Britton, of the High Court of Justice of Ontario, has been appointed a commissioner to make inquiry into these matters. It is also stated that a gentleman who is a civil engineer will be associated with Mr. Justice Britton to conduct the inquiry, and that Mr. Lacombe, a member of the legislature of Quebec, will be, or has been, appointed secretary of the commission in question. I shall put myself in order by moving at the end of my remarks that the House do. now adjourn. This morning the papers announced that Mr. Justice Britton has actually left Kingston on his way to Dawson. Now, it seems to me that this is a most extraordinary way for the government to treat the House. Here we are in session ; this matter was discussed in the House the other day ; the announcement was made, as I said a moment ago, that a commission would be appointed to investigate; and now, all at once, we learn, not from the ministry, but through the public press, that the appointment has actually been made and that Mr. Justice Britton, with another gentleman, will carry on the investigation. It seems to me that it was the duty of the government, first of all, to inform this House of the appointment of the commission, of the names of the gentlemen who would be charged with this difficult and important investigation, and also to submit to the House-as I think was almost promised some time ago-the terms of the commission under which Mr. Justice Britton and the other gentlemen would act. This matter is of a grave nature, and I take it that the members of this House have a right to know what were the instructions to be given to Mr. Justice Britton. These instructions should have been submitted to us, so that we could have seen whether or not in our judgment they were sufficient and covered sufficient ground. .
Now, this matter is of more importance than the ordinary mortal would believe at first sight. Not wishing at all to refer to a debate which has already taken place in this House, let me simply call attention to the fact that the principal denunciation of what took place in the Yukon in regard to these hydraulic concessions was brought to the notice of the government by the government's own friends. When the member for the Yukon went before the electors the very first questions which were put to him were whether he would have the Treadgold concessions cancelled, and whether he would have the other, or the hydraulic, concessions cancelled also. Let me read to the House-because they will bear repetition-some of the questions which were put to him at the time when he went' before the people as the government candidate in the Yukon. One of the questions was this :
Will you agree to advocate for and insist upon the cancellation of the Treadgold concessions ?
Will you pledge yourself to advocate and insist upon the punishment and exposure of officials both in Dawson and Ottawa by whose fraud or culpable negligence or inefficiency those concessions were granted in the first instance, or are now continued in force after the same by their terms should be cancelled ?
Will you support the appointment of a commission of five persons of whom two shall he nominated by the premier, two by the leader of the opposition and one by yourself to inquire into the administration of the Yukon country, both local and federal in all departments and report ?
I believe the member for the Yukon was not present at the time in Dawson city, or near Dawson city, and he could not answer these questions ; but a gentleman well known to this House, a high official of the government, the Gold Commissioner for the Yukon, Mr. Congdou, wrote in answer to the questions as follows :
Dawson, November 4, 1902. Sir,-I beg to say that your questions were received and forwarded to Mr. Boss at too late a date for it to be possible for him to have answered them by this time. I know the views of Mr. Ross as well as any one can and have no doubt he will advocate the course of action you suggest in your questions.
Now let me call the attention of the House further to the fact that it is requested in these questions that there should be punishment and exposure of the officials, both in Dawson and Ottawa by whose fraud or culpable negligence and inefficiency these concessions were granted ; and to this the member for the Yukon, by his agent, by his friend, by his right hand man in that territory, answered that he would see to it that this commission was appointed, not a commission of one man or of two men, but an absolutely Impartial and independent commission, the members of which were to be appointed by the premier, by the leader of the opposition and by the member for the Yukon himself. Now, Sir, that is not all. When the member for the Yukon was nominated by the Liberal convention, here are the resolutions which were put to him :
.Resolved that the government be requested Immediately to make careful examination and obtain reports upon the subject with a view of cancelling forthwith the Treadgold concession, and undertaking such supply as a national enterprise.
Resolved, that in the opinion of this convention many of the concessions now held were obtained by fraud and Imposition ; that it Is in the interest of this territory that such concessions should be annulled, and to that end that inquiry should be set on foot to ascertain the circumstances of such fraud and Imposition, and action taken by the Attorney General of Canada in the premises.
And the member for the Yukon, in a letter in answer to the resolutions which
were passed at that convention nominating him, wrote as follows :
With this in view I shall advocate the reduction of fees, &c. . . . the thorough investigation of the charges of fraud made in respect to the manner in which certain concessions are alleged to have been obtained, and if such fraud is established the immediate commencement of such proceedings as may be required to vacate the grants, and the enforcement of strict compliance vyith the conditions embodied in all crown grants In the Yukon.
And furthermore, at a meeting of the Liberal club, held at Dawson, this resolution was passed :
That an inquiry may be set on foot to ascertain the circumstances under which the leading hydraulic concessions were obtained, in order that action may be taken by the Attorney General of Canada in the premises.
Now, Sir, it will be seen that, not members of the opposition, not gentlemen in any way connected with the party which we represent in this House, but the very friends of the government allege that the Treadgold concessions and the other concessions were obtained by fraud, by false representations, and that the government was, as it were, imposed upon by certain parties, and they asked that a thorough investigation be made of this fraud, not, as I said before, by any body who would be open to the least bit of suspicion, but by an independent and impartial tribunal. Sir, I do not wish to say anything in disparagement of the character of Sir. Justice Britton. We knew him here in the House, he was a very estimable member of the House, until some time after the last general election, when he was appointed to the bench, either in 1900 or 1901. Now it seems to me that Sir. Justice Britton was not a fit and proper person under the circumstances to be charged with this most important inquiry. He comes, as it were, from the very hotbed of politics, he is fresh from the political arena ; and although he may be upright and honest, he is like every one of us, a man, and he must have his political leanings. Now I ask, is it fair to Sir. Justice Britton himself, is it fair to those who have brought these accusations of fraud and misrepresentation against the government, against officials of the government, and against ministers themselves, is it fair that an inquiry of this nature should be put into the hands of Sir. Justice Britton, and that Sir. Justice Britton should be put into this position, that he is between the fulfilment of his duty which lie will swear to accomplish, and his political leanings ? Because, Sir, although, as I said before, he may be perfectly honest, he may be perfectly upright, he cannot fail, like every one of us, to have his political leanings: and having been associated so long with bon. gentlemen on the other side of the House, having been a devoted supporter and partisan of theirs, having been appointed only lately to the bench, is it possible they can have in him that confidence Mr. CASGRAIN. .
they would have in such an independent and impartial tribunal as was suggested to the member for the Yukon by the Liberal convention. Why, Sir, it is well known-and this is not in disparagement of the character of Air. Justice Britton, I take it-it is well known that when he was a member of this House during the last parliament and a part of the present parliament, the government had no more ardent and no more active supporter than the judge himself. When an investigation was asked for and a committee a [.'pointed to investigate matters pertaining to the administration of the affairs of the country by the government, for instance, into that question of military rations for South Africa, and I believe also in the question of the West Huron and Brockville elections, Air. Justice Britton was appointed by the government as the best man they could probably get to defend the government in those two matters.
That is not all. If we look at the ' Hansard ' what do we find '! AVe find that upon these very questions of the administration of the Yukon, Mr. Justice Britton expressed bis opinion on several occasions. AVe all know that when a judge has expressed his opinion upon a matter that afterwards comes before him, or upon a matter similar to one which afterwards comes before him to be adjudicated upon in his official capacity, the judge recuses himself by his own motion, or if he does not, he is recused by the parties interested. On tile 13th of April,
1899, my hon. friend for West Toronto (Mr. Clarke) moved an amendment to the Address to His Excellency with regard to the maladministration of the Yukon. Air. Bertram, who then sat in this House, moved ail amendment to the amendment expressing satisfaction at the prompt action taken by the government with respect to this maladministration. Air. Justice Britton, then a member of this House, voted in favour of the amendment of Mr. Bertram. Again on the 28th of June, 1899, Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, the senior member for Picton, moved a resolution with respect to the maladministration of the Yukon. A vote was taken on the 29th of June. It is true that Air. Justice Britton did not vote on that occasion, but he was paired for the government with a member on this side of the House. On the 31st of May, 1900, the senior member for Pictou moved another resolution respecting the maladministration in the Yukon, and Air. Justice Britton spoke upon the motion in opposition to the arguments which had been given to the House by the senior member for Pictou. At this time also lie did not vote, but he was paired again for the government. On the 28th of June,
1900, the junior member for Pictou (Air. Bell) moved a resolution upon the same question, and again Air. Justice Britton spoke in defence of the government upon this resolution, and voted with the government against the resolution.
Now, Sir, it seems to me that under the circumstances the choice of Mr. Justice Britton as a commissioner to investigate these serious frauds which are charged by supporters of the government is an unfortunate choice, unfortunate for this House, unfortunate for the country and unfortunate for Mr. Justice Britton himself. I would like to know what the terms of the commission are under which Mr. Justice Britton is acting. Have counsel been appointed to conduct the investigation, because we all know it is a complicated matter, it is a matter which requires a good deal of study and preparation, and such an involved case as this, without saying anything against gentlemen who do not belong to the legal profession, is a matter that should be placed in the hands of counsel so that a prepared brief could be made up and an effort made to get at the bottom of facts as to the manner in which these concessions were granted. Where is this commission going to sit ? We have seen it in the papers that Mr. Justice Britton is leaving Kingston for Dawson and that he expects to get there in twelve days. I remember that some time ago a challenge was thrown down to us here by the hon. Postmaster General (Hon. Sir William Mulock) to go before this commission, make our accusations and try and support those accusations with evidence. Are we to leave our duties here while this House is in session and go to the Yukon at our own expense ? Are we to lose our time and not to perform the duties which are imposed upon us as members of this House and go to the Yukon to conduct this investigation or to lay our charges before the commission ? What opportunity is given us of conducting an investigation into these very serious matters ? It seems to me, that, parliament being in session, that this House being now met for the discussion of the affairs of the country, the proper course to have taken would have been to appoint a parliamentary commission to investigate these matters. If a parliamentary commission had been appointed during this session we could certainly have brought witnesses down from the Yukon territory at less expense than it would have cost us to go up there and conduct the investigation. And besides, as I mentioned when I read the questions put to the hon. member for the Yukon (Mr. Ross), this alleged fraud was committed not only in Dawson but also here in Ottawa. Then, it becomes, of course, the duty of Mr. Justice Britton and of this commission to sit also in Ottawa, but iif this commission is to sit in Dawson and Ottawa also, certainly, that is another argument in favour of the appointment of a parliamentary commission which could go fully into this matter and report to the House, so that the House during this session would see whether or not any charges which have been brought against the government and the ministers are well founded and whether or not any of the hydraulic concessions
were, as the resolution of the Liberal Club said, obtained by fraud and misrepresentation. Let me tell the House that there are ugly rumours afloat about the granting of this concession. I am not repeating anything that is not said on the street every day. I am not repeating anything that is not said in the corridors of this House, and it is constantly repeated that large sums of money have passed between the grantees of this concession and certain gentlemen in authority. These are questions which should, in the interests of this government be investigated also. If these rumours are not true, if these rumours are ill-founded, then, so much the better for the credit of the government and tile credit of the country. I stand here as a member of this House wishing that the government for the credit of the country shall wash its hands completely of these accusations which have been brought constantly and persistently against the members of the administration. I beg, Mr. Speaker, to move the adjournment of the House.