Hon. RAYMOND PREFONTAINE (Minister of Marine and Fisheries).
I have no hesitation in giving an answer to the member for St. John (Mr. Daniel). The matter is a very simple one, and without going through the whole question I may say that proceedings were taken last year against certain fishermen in Gloucester county, who chiefly resided in Bathurst. The. proceedings were taken under the following circumstances : Licenses had been granted by the Dominion government to a number of these fishermen at a distance of from four to 'four and a half miles from the estuary of the river which is being exploited and is rented to a club called the Anglers' Association. On the representation of that body that licenses had been granted in previous years near to the estuary of the river, the Department of Marine and Fisheries refused to issue these licenses, and, as I have stated, issued licenses at a distance of about four and a half miles. It appears that this coast of New Brunswick is subject to very frequent storms, and that the fishermen pursue their avocation there under very great difficulty. They were instructed by the fishery overseer to lift up their nets as high as possible under the circumstances, and they followed his instructions. It appears from the documents that it is not according to the letter of the law to lift up these nets in the way they were lifted, and a gentleman of the name of Gilbert, representing the Anglers' Association, instituted proceedings in his own name against ten of these fishermen. One of the cases was brought before a magistrate of the name of O'Brien, and tried. After the evidence had been put in and the case argued, the defendant was found guilty and condemned to pay a flue of $30 and costs, which, according to the information, amounted to about $30 more. It was shown during the trial that the fishermen had followed exactly the instruc-
tions of the fishery overseer. That was proven by the overseer himself, who went before the court and swore to the facts. The convicted party, named Ronalds appealed to the Minister of Marine and Fisheries against the decision. After con-sultng the Department of Justice, and after looking into the case myself, I came to the conclusion that it would be unjust to maintain such a decision, because the department or its officers were responsible for any illegal act, if there was any, w7hich I deny, for which this party was condemned.
I considered it a case of persecution pure and simple, and decided under the circumstances the fine should be remitted. This did not satisfy Mr. Gilbert, who appealed to the Supreme Court of New Brunswick. That court maintained the decision of the Department of Marine and Fisheries. To show the spirit in which these actions have been taken against these poor fishermen, I may say that the other cases, which were suspended last year, have been taken up again this year by Mr. Gilbert, and I have in my hand a protest against these proceedings, on the part of the fishermen who were in the same position as Mr. Ronalds. The following is a telegram addressed to Mr. Turgeon, M.P.:
Geo. Gilbert has brought on postponed cases of last summer similar to one decided in our favour by Supreme Court and to-day hearing was adjourned to Monday next. Lay matter before Department of Fisheries and explain if possible that department protect us before magistrates court, as we are being prosecuted for carrying out the instructions of department officials and regulations governing salmon licenses. Please wire result of negotiations to P. J. Benoit. Decision of Supreme Court seems to have no effect on sitting magistrate.
James Armstrong, Ephraim Scott, Abel Ellis, Jane White, Louisa Jennings, Robert Miller, , Herbert Buttimer, Jos. Scott, Richard Miller, Fred. Ronalds, John Eddy.
As I have no Jtirisdiction over the magistrate, I have not interfered with this action.
It will be time for the department to intervene if the case proceeds in the same way as the Ronalds case. With regard to the point that the department was being criticised for having issued these licenses, the report says : -
It is worthy of note that on the urgent representations of the anglers, a salmon net fish- . ing license which had been issued to James , Gammon, in Bathurst Harbour during 1902, was this year refused, thus in this case meeting 1 the most extreme demands. 1
A crusade has this year been instituted ] against the net fishermen by the anglers, on i the plea that their nets are not sufficiently i raised during the weekly close time to afford a . strict compliance with the law, and the case * of the present appellant is only one of many 1 in contemplation, if not already begun.
I read these extracts from the report made 1 to me by one of the officers of the depart- i Mr. PREFONTAINE.
ment, Mr. Yenning, in order to show that everything had been done to protect the anglers of that river, and that there is no reason whatever to complain of the non-execution of the law. The fact that the judgment of the department was maintained by the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, and the other facts which I lay before the House, show that there was no ground whatever for complaint against the department, for intervening to protect these poor men who are earning their living in the fisheries. The department gave instructions, those instructions were not contrary to law, and I felt that it was the duty of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries to protect those men against a persecution of this character.