Has the minister any knowledge as to whether or not the alleged offence was committed within the territorial waters of the country referred to, or was it committed on the high seas ? I think that is a very important question.
We have no means of ascertaining that, but the information we have is from the lawyer defending this captain, who says that the accusation is not founded ; but, as I have stated, the case has not been tried, except that preliminary objections have been argued but not adjudicated upon by the judge owing to his absence. Of course, I understand perfectly well the unfairness and injustice of the case, but we have no means at our disposal to ascertain the facts precisely. The captain, of course, contends that he is not guilty of the offence as charged against him, hut I suppose the authorities there say that he is. They say that they are going to try him for that offence.
There is a British consul there. It does not seem to me that we should depend on the information of the attorney for the captain as to whether or not there has been a breach of the law if there is a British consul there. I would think the British consul would report to the home office as to whether there has or has not been a breach of any law in existence. Of course, there may be explanatory circumstances in connection with this case, but it seems to me that if ever there was a case in which a man had a very serious grievance, this captain, who has been confined in a South American prison for six months, has a grievance. I have no doubt that the government are paying the best attention they can to the matter, but it seems to me that if nothing has been done it would be well to very quickly ask the Home Office to move in the matter. It is the boast of British citizenship that wherever we are, wherever the sun shines, we will be defended by British power. If a Canadian, who is as much a British subject as a man in England, is not defended in a South American republic and is wrongfully detained in a South American jail, the sooner we in Canada find it out the better. I really think that the circumstances of this case, as we have them before us, justify very much harsher language than I am using, but I understand that there may be explanatory circumstances which might make us regret using any stronger language. As the case stands before us now, it is a matter of serious hardship, and it does not make for the betterment of the relations of the empire to have such a condition of affairs exist.
The correspondence which we have had with the British consul at Montevideo I will place before the House as I stated, and the committee will see that no time has been lost by the department in trying to get to the bottom of the case and to come to the relief of the captain and the crew. We are in constant communication with the Home Office with regard to this matter, and the answers that we have received were, of course, unsatis-factors7, because they did not mean that these men would be discharged, except that the crew was released, as I stated. The department has done all it can do in the matter. Another despatch was sent last week, and we are waiting for an answer to that despatch. [DOT]
The leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden) asked the circumstances of this case. The captain of this vessel is a constituent of mine, a native of Bras d'Or, in the vicinity of North Sydney, and I am in direct communication with him. He writes me that the vessel was under full sail, moving along slowly in a light breeze with all her boats aboard and all hands aboard. No fishing of any kind was being done. There were no seals caught, nothing whatever could be found, nothing was there to be found and there vs ns no offence on the part of the vessel. She was captured four miles off the coast and therefore, I suppose, on the high seas. Not a particle of evidence of any kind could be gathered either on board or anywhere else to show that there was an infraction of any law' even if there had been any law. These are the circumstances and I wish to give them for the benefit of the hon. leader of the opposition in view of what he says. Isothing has since been discovered and there is nothing to discover. These are the facts. There is nothing further that can be found out about it. I am sorry to say to the House that the captain complains very bitterly of the conduct of the British consul at that place wffio seems to take very little interest in his case and to do very little about it. He is also very strry that the matter has been received with such indifference on the other side of the wmter. I am very pleased to find that such an interest is taken in the case by both sides of the House, and I hope that the question will be speedily dealt wntk, because the situation of these men is a serious one. There are 19 or 20 men dowm there out of work. They cannot come home, they have no money, their vessel is gone and hon. gentlemen will understand what the condition of these men must be. They have no money, they are in a strange land and they have no way of getting home. I think this matter is as serious as anything that could possibly come before the House and it should certainly receive the prompt attention of the government.
The hon. gentleman will see by the correspondence that we have on record that there is nothing to show' that the British consul was negligent in the matter. He is paralyzed to a certain extent, because these men are detained there pending inquiry into the case.
If it is clear that an unlawful act has been committed within territorial w'aters that is another thing. However, if the government of Uruguay should undertake to pass laws and regulations permitting British vessels to be seized near the coast outside of its territorial w'aters we would have exactly the same class of cases as those which arose in connection with the Behring sea seizures when the United States government claimed jurisdiction in Behring sea on the ground that it was a mare clausum, because it was practically surrounded by their territory. Of course that contention was not made good and eventually there w'as an inquiry as to the damages sustained. If the facts are as my hon. friend from Cape Breton (Mr. McKenzie) states, there should not be much doubt as to what should be done. It is a very serious act for an armed vessel of any country to seize a ship carrying the Pag of another country on the high seas outside of territorial waters and I quite agree with those who have spoken on the subject that this is a matter which might w'ell engage the attention of the House when we have seen the correspondence w'hich the hon. gentleman promises to bring down.
1 suppose that statute was passed some years ago and I assume that rhe hon. minister will require a better qualification and a higher grade of certificate in these advanced times. Are we to understand that the gentleman who was appointed Inst year w-as appointed with the same qualification as w'as called for by the statute passed many years ago ?
The same qualification. The rules are changed from time to time according to the improvements that sue going on. For instance, last year w'e amended the statute. We provided in that for the inspection of boats propelled by oil gasoline, electricity and so on. As modifications and improvements are made in the construction of boats and in machinery the rules are changed and made more strict to meet the changed circumstances. Everyone who is appointed passes a very rigid examination, one of the severest examinations possible. He is examined by the chairman of the board assisted by tw'o other inspectors and a great many kaVe failed to pass the examination. I know many w'ho are unable after two or three trials to pass the examination.