May 9, 1904

LIB

Thomas Walter Scott

Liberal

Mr. SCOTT.

Practically none at the present time. ' The bridge over the South Saskatchewan is washed away, the Qu'-Appelle valley is flooded, and there is a practical tie-up of the railway service. This has existed not only for the past week, and even the past month, but, as my hon. friend from Saskatchewan will tell the House, ever since January. He has received telegrams from Kosthern and Prince Albert, which state that consignments of freight from Winnipeg or farther east have been on the road since January and have not yet arrived. What led me to refer to this matter again to-day was the concluding sentence of the telegram that was sent to me, which said :

Reply and give us some information, that we may know what we have to face.

If the people have to face starvation, they want to know it, so, if it is necessary, they will have to take the last means available, and endeavour to get out on their feet.

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. JABEL ROBINSON.

Might I ask the hon. member if he presented this telegram to the Minister of Railways or made any effort to get the people out of their trouble ?

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LIB

Thomas Walter Scott

Liberal

Mr. SCOTT.

On the last occasion on which the matter was up, the Minister of Railways was here, and he stated that he intended to inquire into it ; but since that time I have not heard whether he has proceeded any length with his inquiry. Since that time we have received further telegrams, with further and more grievous complaints on the part of the people ; and, although the hon. member for West Toronto is not in his seat, I consider that I am well justified by the facts and the conditions in laying this matter as fully as possible and with as much force as I can command. before the people, the members of this House and the government.

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CON

Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LANCASTER.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you to direct that these letters which the hon. gentleman has read be laid on the table of the House. I am aware that he has stated that he cannot give the names of the writers, and that wihat I am asking, involves the knowledge by the members of this House that the hon. gentleman has not the permission of the writers to give their names. The hon. gentleman and the writers of the letters may have their rights, but the members of this House have their rights also ; and the veracity, I may say the honour, of an hon. member who is not present is impugned by the alleged evidence contained in these letters. The hon. member for West Toronto has made a statement of facts, and the hon. member for West Assiniboia, not contented with that statement, undertakes to contradict it by certain letters, which, as they stand now, are anonymous. I think that fact takes the letters out of the rule, under which the hon. gentleman could claim them to be private. He should have considered that before he set up the letters against the statement of an hon. gentleman who holds a seat, and holds it very worthily, in this House. The question now, is not only a question of the rights of the writers of these letters and of the hon. member for Western Assiniboia ; but it is a question of the rights of the members of this House to consider the evidence which the hon. gentleman sees fit to put before the House an which to impugn the veracity of the hon. member for West Toronto. Under these circumstances, I would ask you. Mr. Speak-ei, to rule that these letters be laid on the table of this House.

Mr;. SCOTT. I twould ask the hon. member for South Lanark, (Mr. Haggart), to whom I sent the statute a little while ago, to place that on the table. That is a public document, and might very well be placed on the table, as it has a very Mr. SCOTT.

important bearing on this matter. With regard to the letters, I have merely to repeat that I have not permission to place them on the table or to make the names of the writers public at the present time.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Do I understand my hon. friend from Lincoln (Mr. Lancaster) to raise this point as a point of order ?

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CON
LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

If it is a point of order,. I submit that it is not well taken. If a minister of the Crown reads a state document, it is his duty to place that on the table ; but if a private member reads a letter from any person, I know of no rule which compels him- to place it on the table Cf the House.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAGGART.

I know the rule of the House perfectly well. The hon. member for West Assiniboia made a statement some tjme ago. The hon. member for West Toronto contradicted that statement. The hon. member for West Assiniboia, in the absence of the hon. member for West Toronto, reads a lot of private letters contradicting the statement of the hon. member for West Toronto. According to the rules of the House, the hon. member for West Assiniboia, has no right to read those letters, even though' they may be perfectly true and a justification of his course. It is against the rules of the House for these letters to be read contradicting the statement of the hon. member for West Toronto.

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LIB

Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. SIFTON.

Then hon. gentlemen opposite should have objected when my hon. friend was reading them.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAGGART.

They did object at the time. The letters having been read by the hon. gentleman, are no longer private communications. They are letters attacking the honour of a member of this House, who has given a distinct denial of the statement of the hon. member for West Assiniboia ; yet that hon. member, knowing the rule of the House, knowing that he has no right to read a private letter contradicting the statement of the hon. member for West Toronto, gets up and reads the letter, and then refuses to give the name of the writer. I did not suppose such a case as this has ever occurred before. It never could have occurred in the House of Commons of England, because the Speaker *would have at once stopped it. But the hon. member for West Assiniboia, having once read these letters, I think that it is your duty, Mr. Speaker, to direct that he shall place them upon the table of the House.

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LIB

Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. SIFTON.

May I say a word on the point of order ? As I understand it, it is as to whether a member of the House, having read a letter addressed to himself or to somebody else, without objection been

raised to his doing so by any member of the House, can be compelled to lay the letter on the table. If hon. gentlemen opposite assert that as a principle, let them cite' their authority. I venture to say that they will not be able to cite any authority whatever. If my hon. friend from West Assiniboia, trespassed on the rule of the House in reading a communication which reflected on a member of this House, that point should have been raised and argued at the time he proposed to read the letter. The only rule there is with regard to compelling a document to be placed on the table of the House, is the well known rule that when any member of the government in debate refers to an official document, the official document must be laid on the table ; but I venture to say that my hon. friend will not be able to cite a case of a member being required to place on the table a private letter from which he has read in the course of his speech, when objection was not taken to his reading it at the time.

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CON

Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LANCASTER.

Surely my hon. friend remembers that when the hon. member for West Assiniboia was reading the letters I objected to his reading them unless he pave the names of llie writers.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

If there is anything in the objection as to the hon. members right to read the letters, the giving or not of the names, would make no difference.

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

Asking for the names is not taking an objection to the reading of the documents. If the hon gentleman had no right to read the documents-as to which I express no opinion-he could not put himself in order by giving the names. The objection was not taken to the reading of the letters.

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

My hon. friend says he did not object, but only asked for the names. The giving of the names would not make the matter better or worse, so far as the point of order is concerned. The only point now is whether the hon. gentleman is bound to lay the letters on the table.

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CON

Edward Arthur Lancaster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LANCASTER.

The hon. minister is confusing the question of waiving an objection and not taking one. I took the objection but was willing to waive it if the hon. gentleman would give us the name.

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LIB

Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. SIFTON.

What I desire to point out is this. The giving of the names would not make any difference whatever. If the hon. gentleman on the other side-I have forgotten who it was-desired to prevent the reading of the letters, either with the names or without the names, his duty was to submit his objection to you, Mr. Speaker, and ask your ruling. If he could have made

good his point, he would have prevented the reading of the letters. But not having raised that point, the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Scott) is perfectly justified in saying that he read such portions of the documents as he saw fit, that the documents were not public but private documents, and he could not be 'ordered to produce them.

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LIB

Peter Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER.

There are two rules which apply to public documents-one of which is applicable to ministers of the Crown and the other to private members. When a minister of the Crown reads a public document, he is bound to place it upon the table if asked so to do. A private member, however, can read from either a private or a public document-according to the rules in England and in the Canadian House- and is not bound to place it on the table, even if requested. If an hon. member reads anything which is a criticism upon what has been said in the House that session and the point of order is raised at the time, he would be ruled out of order. But if he is reading a criticism upon something which was said at a previous session of parliament, he is perfectly in order. The hon. gentleman, when asked to give the name affixed to a letter which he has read, is not bound to do so. The giving of it or not is a matter entirely within his own discretion.

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May 9, 1904