April 27, 1911

LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of the Naval Service; Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BRODEUR.

(Translation.) Does the hon. member know anything against Mr. Baril?

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CON

Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

I will hand in affidavits against Mr. Baril and if I am not mistaken I can get several.

Mr. Jean Baptiste Page is foreman of painters. Mr. Arthur Lavallee, his assistant, distributes the paint for different works. Mr. Cecil Doutre is the purchasing agent.

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LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of the Naval Service; Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BRODEUR.

Mr. Doutre does not reside at Sorel.

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CON

Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

Whether he resides at Montreal or at Sorel he is supposed to form part of the staff. Mr. Oscar Champagne is time-keeper; he also prepares the pay lists. The branch dealing with the cost of construction is under the direction of Mr. Ulric Latraverse, with Mr. Albert Prud-homme as assistant. Both have books to keep; by means of statements furnished by other branches, they aTe in a position to compute the cost of all construction or other works in the Sorel shipyards. Mr. Desire Champagne is paymaster. Mr. Cuthbert Champagne is keeper of the 'punch' by means of which the men register their time. Mr. Napoleon Badeau is foreman of the wood construction. Mr. Gendron is foreman of day labourers.

There are a number of other employees whose names I will not mention. Each man working at the Sorel shipyard is given a number and every different work is also numbered. The organization cost $42,000 and it is now found defective. It was devised by one Falconer and supposed to be excellent.

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LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of the Naval Service; Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Hon. Mr. BRODEUR.

Does the hon. member contend that such a sum was spent for that organization or that Mr. Falconer appointed those employees?

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CON

Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

It cost $42,315.02 to establish a good system of book-keeping and instruct the assistants.

We find therefore at Sorel an army of employees, managers, assistants, guardians,

time-keepers, foremen who rub up and seemingly interfere with one another. All are bound to protect the property of the government and of the people at Sorel. However, in spite of this complicated machinery there -was found to be, in the year of grace 1910, a man, a lawyer by profession, who succeeded in having his house painted and by government materials, tools and men and at the cost of the government. The work was begun as soon as the house was ready to be painted, i.e. the 3rd June, 1910, and was finished only on the 21st November following.

During that period of about 23 weeks, government men and government paint *were used for that private work. Until the 21st November seven or eight men at a time worked there and were paid regularly by the government every two weeks. An extraordinary feature is that the government was officially informed of this only on the 22nd November, 1910, by a statement of the wages of painters and labourers accompanied by a cheque for $375.62, addressed to Mr. L. G. Papineau, the manager. The statement was handed in by Jean Baptiste Page, who -was not the official book-keeper but assumed those duties for the occasion.

Mr. Papineau must have been very much surprised on receiving such a statement and cheque! Until then the government was kept in the most absolute ignorance concerning the painting of this now notorious house. The cheque covered the payment of wages only and not the cost of material. The matter now being known, steps were taken to recover the cost of paint and other material, and Mr. Papineau determined the mode in which this recovery should be made. He decided to obtain the paints from a Montreal firm-the Mount Royal Colour & Varnish Company-to the amount of $81.60 and to return it in kind to the government. Mr. Papineau gave his personal cheque in payment. The goods reached Sorel on December the 12th, 1910 and were stored by the department on the 13th.

The hon. member for Richelieu repaid Mr. Papineau the amount of his personal cheque and also the cost of transportation. But how was the whole of this 'tour de force' managed? for in reality it is a 'tour de force.' Very simple and the matter as a whole shows the true value of the army of government employees at Sorel.

The hon. member for Richelieu spoke first of all to Mr. Oscar Champagne, the timekeeper, whose office is next to that of the manager, Mr. Papineau and of Mr. Terreault, the assistant manager. He said to him:-Mr. Papineau is not in his office, can you send me painters as my house is ready to be painted? With pleasure, re-Mr. NANTEL

plied Mr. Champagne. The member for Richelieu met Mr. Jean Baptiste Page, foreman painter, as he left Mr. Champagne's office, and repeated the same request; can you send me any painters? With pleasure replied Mr. Page, if Mr. Papineau consents.

Some time later, between the 15tli and the 20th May, according to some *witnesses, between the 15th and the 30th, according to others, but in any ease before the month of June, as the painting began on June 3, the member for Richelieu had asked Page for paint and material, requesting him to keep a seperate account, as all would be returned. It was not more difficult than that. That is all. Nothing was done towards seeing Mr. Papineau, although he was absent from Sorel only on the 28th and 29th May, two days in all. It was not worth while to see him or his assistant. Neither Jean Baptiste Page nor Oscar Champagne cared to see Mr. Papineau and submit the case to him.

Thus, from the 3rd June to the 21st November, government paint,, material, brushes, were abundant, painters, and even labourers flocked the house in question.

It has been attempted, in the course of the investigation, to prove that it was not possible to find painters at Sorel; but laborers at least could be obtained.

At all events, from June 3rd, all the government employees were placed at the disposal of Mr. Lanctot without anything being changed or disturbed in the routine of the yards. Painters and labourers registered each day as if working for the government, when they could; when they could not do so themselves, Cuthbert Champagne, the complainant guardian of the 'punch' registered' for them, having been so instructed by his namesake Oscar Champagne. Then Oscar Champagne, who alone with his pal Jean Baptiste Page knew what was going on, prepared his pay list regularly and, each fortnight, and painters doing the private work of the member for Richelieu, were paid by the government,

As I have said, each work bears a special number and all the employees engaged upon it are also numbered, so that it is quite possible, if the rule be observed, to compute the cost of each undertaking. The director of construction work can give, at any time, a statement of the cost of any one undertaking. In the present case that was not done. For the work in question was carried on outside of the knowledge of the manager, Mr. Papineau; it was kept secret from him and done behind his back, although his office was next to that of Oscar Champagne and the house in question a few yards away from his own residence; the whole according to a secret and collusive understanding between the hon. member for Richelieu, Oscar Champagne and Jean Baptiste Page, under the higher direction of Mr. Baril.

Nothing of this private work, conducted by two subordinate employees of the government, appeared in the regular books of the department at Sorel. J. B. Page, foreman, appears to have noted the men's work in his personal note book or on loose sheets which he handed to Oscar Champagne. The latter kept them in a private drawer and manufactured or falsified the pay lists every two months, making it appear that the men had really worked for the government. In this manner was prepared the account of $375.60 handed to L. G. Papineau on November 22nd, 1910, with a cheque for $375.60 bearing the same date, which was charged and deposited in the Federal Treasury on January 11th, 1911

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LIB

Onésiphore Ernest Talbot

Liberal

Mr. TALBOT.

Yes, because you have no right to read your speech.

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CON

Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

It is an extract from the evidence. In any case, I am in the hands of the Speaker.

At the Sorel shipyards, in order to obtain material from the stores, paint, for instance, a written requisition is required. It appears that in spite of this rule, the foreman may obtain large quantities of paint and in fact it is from what friend Jean Baptiste Page had in hand and which he had obtained for other purposes and other works, that he furnished the member for Richelieu with the material for painting his house.

J. B. Page appears to have noted on a blotter the amount of paint and material so furnished, the value of which amounted to $81.60. But, most unfortunately, the blotter was lost as soon as the account had been prepared and it has been impossible to find it. Had it been lost beforehand, what would have been the position of the member for Richelieu? It is evident that this matter of paint was not an ordinary one and that it required all the influence that a government member of parliament may exercise over government officials at the Sorel shipyards to persuade them to take the chances they did.

It will also be admitted that in computing the cost of this undertaking, the bookkeeping we have had before us is very crude and rudimentary when we reflect upon the fine organization obtaining at Sorel. Quite plainly Messrs. J. B. Page and Oscar Champagne are by no means official but rather under the circumstances officious accountants.

If they were acting in good faith and anxious to do everything openlv and above board as is their boast, why did they not proceed in the usual manner prescribed for every undertaking in the Sorel shipyards? If it was desired to paint the house of the

member for Richelieu, why *was not a special number given to the undertaking? So much paint might then have been requisitioned for and charged against the number assigned to the work. All the statements would then have been transmitted to Mr. Ulrie Latraverse, who, immediately after the completion of the work, would have stated: the cost is so much, neither more nor less. The matter would have been clear, clean and no more said.

But it is contended that this was a loan of men and of material. During the investigation, Mr. Amable Lussier told us that on a certain occasion, the department had loaned painters to repair his premises. But he paid those men himself; there was no connivance between the men and their foreman to register as if working for the government. He also paid for the material.

Mr. Napoleon Badeau, superintedent of wood construction and foreman of carpenters, also loaned men to Mr. Lanotot, but he made sure that they did not register as if working for the government.

Speaking of Mr. Badeau, do you know, Mr. Speaker, that if Mr. Badeau had not been superintending the wood construction at the Sorel shipyards, if in his place there had been a man less anxious to do his duty, less scrupulous, a man in fact of the stamp of Page and Champagne, instead of having to pay the cost of the paint only at the house in question, the carpentering and woodwork would have come in as well. If you doubt it, listen to Mr. Badeau's deposition at the investigation ; it is the evidence of an honest man. And really, had a minister of the Crown not testified therein. I would say that Mr. Napoleon Badeau is the most honest man -heard before the committee.

Here is an extract which I find at page 179 of the printed evidence: ,

Q. You knew that Mr. Lanotot was building a bouse on George Street, at Sorel, in 1910.-[DOT] A. Yes, sir.

Q. Had Mr. Lanctot previously spoken to you with a view of obtaining men from you?

Mr. Laflamme, K.C., attorney for Mr. Lanc-tot, objects to that question as non pertinent to the charges referred to the committee. _

The objection is maintained by the president.

Q. Did Mr. Lanctot go to your place and ask you to send some of your men that were working for the government, to work at his house, and did you tell him that you would send those men onlv on the order of Mr. Papineau; did Mr. Papineau give the order and did you send the men?

Objected to by Mr. Laflamme as illegal.

Allowed by the president.

A. What do you ask?

Q. Did Mr. Lanctot go to your place and ask you to send some men to work for him, and did you answer him, that you would do so only on the order of Mr. Panipeau; did Mr. Papineau give the order and did you send the men?-A. Mr. Lanctot asked me if I had

what he wanted. I told him I had it not at the time, hut that it could easily he prepared. I told him then, that to hare what he wanted, he would have to ask Mr. Papineau first.

By Hon. Mr. Bureau:

Q. On that occasion, did you send some men

at Mr.

?[DOT]-A. I heg your pardon, the men

have been paid at Mr. Lanctot's house, because I told these men not to have their tickets punched before leaving; I also told the puncher not to punch their tickets.

By Mr. Maedougal:

Q. What did he ask for?-A. He asked me to send some timber first

.

Q. Go on with your answer. What did he ask you to send, first?-A. He asked me to send some timber. I told him that I could do so only with the permission of Mr. Papineau.

Q. Did Mr. Papineau give the order, and did you send the timber?-A. I never heard about it, after that.

Q. How long after that did you send some men?-A. The men were sent about that time.

Mr. Laflamme declined to cross examine the witness.

I am surprised that we have been allowed to make that proof before the committee, because we were not given much latitude by the president and the majority of the committee. They constantly objected to all circumstantial evidence, and to every thing that could throw some light on the intentions of the people concerned. The moment we tried to bring in such a proof, we were called to order. We were not allowed to speak about anything else but paint. Every time we tried to bring in. some other subject, we were promptly brought back to the paint, under the pretense that the investigation was to be restricted to the painting of Mr. Lanctot's house.

When we offered to prove that men in the employ of the department had removed Mr. Lanctot's furniture into his new house, after it had been painted, the committee promptly closed the mouth of the witness Arthur Cayer, who had been summoned expressly to prove that charge. The question not being allowed, the witness had to withdraw.

It is true that the painting has been done in broad day light, as it is so inconvenient to paint during the night; but it is equally true, that outside of a few intimate friends, as J. B. Page and Oscar Champagne, nobody knew that the wages and the paint were paid for by the government. All were under the impression that the wages were paid regularly by the proprietor of the house, as well as the materials furnished by the' department. If Mr. Papineau had not been under that impression, if he had had the least doubt on that point, and had not put a stop to such practices, he would have proven himself to be as dishonest as J. B. Page and Oscar Champagne. Mr. Papineau became aware of the state of things, onlv when he received the bill.

Mr. NANTEL

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CON

Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

I admit that, and if the hon. member for Bellechasse's intention is to convince the House, that Mr. Papineau was looking at the skies, not to see what was going around, it is his own business.

On the timekeeper's list, exhibit No. 2, Alfred Douaire is credited with only 15 days work at Mr. Lanctot's house, during September and October, but he actually worked during July and August-48 days in all. He said so himself under oath, and the fact is corroborated by A. E. Payette, Henri Proulx and Alfred Thibodeau.

Louis Paul is credited with 20 days' work, and it has been proven that he worked one month, or 26 days. But hon. gentlemen opposite do not mind a few days more or less; they give no importance to such small matters. It is also stated at page 49, that Arthur Plante has worked for two weeks, but his name is not even mentioned in the bill.

It would appear that the paint furnished by the department only amounted to $81.60, and no charges are made for the plant. The wages paid to the painters are said to be $375.60. Mt. Lanctot admits that all the paint required for his house was taken from the workshops of the department, with the exception of the doors and windows, which had been painted the winter before with materials bought by Mr. Lanctot from Mr. Rivet. That paint cost $13, and the workmanship, $12. If you compare the two cases, you find a wide difference, But, a few pounds, more or less of paint, the brushes and all other necessary tools, what is that for our hon. friends opposite?

If the hon. member for Richelieu cannot find in the city of Sorel a single labourer to remove a telephone post, in front of his door, without making application to the government, it might seem strange to us, but for hon. gentlemen opposite, it is another small matter unworthy of notice.

In fact, the whole transaction itself is only a small affair, a common incident, such as happen every year at the department's workshops at Sorel. But the important thing is the principle implied. The gist of the inquiry is that in 1910, at Sorel, the hon. member for Richelieu succeeded in having his house painted with materials belonging to the government, by men in the employ of the government, at the expense of the government, without the knowledge of the superintendent of the workshops, by means of a secret understanding, of a conspiracy between himself and two inferior officials of the department: that the government became cognizant of the thing, only when the work was completed, by the reimbursement of part of the wages and the return of the materials by Mr. Lanctot, when com,plaints began to

be beard on every side and public opinion forced him to make restitution.

Long before that, on the 24th of September, and on the 17th of October the government had been notified that irregularities and wrong doings were going on at Sorel, and disclosure was threatened. If we had been given the least latitude before the committee all that would have been proven.

What is the name to be attached to such a transaction? Shall we call it an irregularity, a fraud, a conspiracy with intent to defraud, an abuse of influence on the part of a member of parliament, a violation of the Act on Independence of Parliament? I do not care what you call it; the transaction is there and it required to be investigated.

Was there intent to defraud, from the beginning? Naturally we were not allowed to prove any kind of intention. We have been strictly limited to the brutal fact. All the people concerned might have a conscience of a special kind, a crooked conscience, and it is possible that they said to themselves: All these things belong to

the government; we are the government; the government is ours, let us help ourselves. The orticials helped themselves, everybody helped themselves, and the member for Richelieu was given help.

But if you look closely into the matter, you can easily find ample proof that every thing was premeditated and so arranged before hand that if the member for Richelieu had been insolvent, if, for one reason or another, he had not been in a position to pay the bill, the government would have lost every cent. If such a thing had happened, what name would you put on the transaction? You would call it embezzlement; there is no other qualification for it. The cashier who takes the money of the bank for his own use and promise to return it, do not act differently.

If, at the beginning of November, before the 20th, the government had ordered an inspection of the books at Sorel, if they had sent some one to take stock at the workshops, they would have come across that painting contract at Mr. Lanctot's house. If J. B. Page and Oscar Champagne had lost their note-book before preparing their statement, what would have happened?

Such transactions would necessarily disturb the bookkeeping ' of any large establishment. What confidence can we have in the bookkeeping of the department? What guarantee have we that the cost of a boat built at those 'workshops is as stated when sufficient materials to paint a whole house can be taken away for several weeks without the knowledge of the government?

Things were so arranged before hand that all those concerned had an interest in keening the matter concealed. Return of materials and payment of wages was

sure to arose suspicion and make trouble. They were all interested in keeping the matter secret and in making no payment.

On the 6th December, when the hon. member for Richelieu wrote his letter, the paint had not been returned. It was'pretty well known all around Sorel that those faithful public servants, J. B. Page, Oscar Champagne and others, committed to the safe keeping of public property, were allowed such privileges as having a canal built on their premises, a kennel for their favourite dog, a carriage or a yacht painted and taken out of the river at the end of the season; all that with the materials belonging to the government and with men in the pay of the government. But the painting of a whole house was out of the ordinary, and it is to the hon. member for Richelieu that honour is due for the change.

Now, has the hon. member for Richelieu violated the Act of Independence of Parliament, chapter 10, R. S. of Canada, sections 14 and 15? I say yes.

A bargain, a convention, a contract has been entered into between himself and certain officials of the department, in their individual capacity, if you like, whereby the house of the hon. member was to be painted with materials belonging to the government and by men in the pay of the government. Later on, the government, in accepting the reimbursement of the wages and the return of the materials, has ratified the bargain.

Has the hon. member for Richelieu been benefited by that bargain? Has he derived from it any advantage or favour? Again, I say yes, and it- has been proven.

Could any advantage result from that transaction? Yes. Was that advantage of such a nature that the hon. member Could be influenced by it? Yes. If instead of having to pay $500 or $600 to another party, he could have that work done for $300, is that an advantage and a favour? And was not that favour of such a nature as to influence his vote in this House? If a member of parliament buys a property from the government under the real value; if he pays, say $8,000 for a property valued at $10,000, does he not derive a benefit and if such benefit does not constitute an infringement of the Act of Independence of Parliament, I am at a loss to know what it is.

Moreover our critics are not directed so much against the hon. member for Richelieu. as against the general system in vogue at the workshons of the marine department at Sorel. The investigation that we asked for, was not in the doings of the member for Richelieu, but in the general administration of the department. The first resolution that we intended to submit was asking for a general investigation ; if there is any doubt about it I can produce the original

document, but that demand would have been rejected and the hon. member himself would have been the first to 'stand in his place and tell the House that things in the workshops of Sorel were as clear and limpid as the waters of the Richelieu river. As a last resort, we decided to carry the war into Africa. .

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Wilfrid Bruno Nantel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NANTEL.

The hon. gentleman is eminently witty, but his sallies may become tiresome, in the long run, and he is apt to say things that he would not dare to repeat outside of this House. He may rest assured that I am not in the least intimidated by his more or less absurd interruptions.

We have been hampered on every side in this investigation. All circumstantial evidence has been eliminated ; we have been denied the right to prove any fact likely to throw some light on the intentions of the parties interested. The committee would not hear the witness Arthur Cayer, who was ready to say under oath that he had removed the furniture of the hon. member for Richelieu into his new house during the time he was in the employ of the government and that he was paid by the government and also that his wages had never been repaid to the government. In the course of the investigation it was incidentally disclosed that during the summer of 1910, some painters in the employ of the department, had done some work at the church of Sorel, and immediately, a motion, was made and carried by the majority to have that part of the evidence rejected.

If it had been clearly proven that high officials in Sorel, are trafficking behind the back of the government that they are selling at low prices or giving away articles taken from the stores of the department, that they are doing odd jobs for their friends and receive money or favours in exchange ; if I say, these charges had been proven, it would have required but one step further to prove the main object of the investigation.

If it had been demonstrated that in the workshops of Sorel high officials entrusted with the safekeeping of public property, are nothing else than thieves pilfering upon the government for themselves; and their friends, and if it had been demonstrated afterwards, that the hon. member for Richelieu had dealings with those thieves, it would have been in the nature of throwing light on the whole transaction and of making known the intentions of the bargainers. But we were not allowed to do it. At every step, the heavy fist of the majority would come down upon us, and restrict us to the painting of the house.

It is by mere accident that the evidence about the church, as I stated a moment ago, Mr. NANTEL

came out of the bag, in spite of the exertions of those who were keeping watch around the witness box, to see that the truth could not'escape. That witness, Napoleon Badeau, has lent some men to the hon. member for Richelieu, but he saw to it, that their tickets would not be punched, as if they had been working for the government, and he saw to it that they should be paid by the right party. That man Badeau received other requisitions from Mr. Lanc-tot. He was asked for some timber, but he insisted upon having the authorization of Mr. Papineau, and heard no more about it after that. The member for Richelieu did not bother him any more; he knew then what kind of a man he was.

Complaints about all those wrong-doing at Sorel were made long before the 24th of September. When the money was refunded the clouds were gathering and the storm was on the verge of bursting. I am informed that in other transactions, quite independent of the one we are dealing with, moneys were refunded in anticipation of an investigation. It was no use to try to prove those things to show the intention of the parties. The big fist of the majority was always there, ready to crush all effort fn that diretcion.

We are not after the head of the hon. member for Richelieu. We want a thorough cleaning of those modern Augean stables known as the Sorel workshops. We want a complete investigation by a commissioner who, instead of trying to conceal the truth, would direct all his energies and his ability to find out the truth, the whole truth.

I intend to read a few of the affidavits that I hold in my hand so that the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries, who is asleep at the present moment, can read them to-morrow in the Hansard. I will begin by the affidavit of Mr. Henri Proulx, taken before Mr. Bourgeois, on the 23rd of December last. The fifth section says:

5. That since the 20th of November last, about twenty men employed by the government, at the same dockyards, have, to my knowledge, made written declarations, charging high and low officials of the Department of Marine, at St. Joseph de Sorel, with theft of cement, iti some cases, in other cases, of timber, of paint, varnish, &c., hardwares, &c., and above all with directing the men in the employ and in the pay of the government to do different works fo'r the benefit of private citizens, and on all these charges, the public is asking an investigation.

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LIB

Gustave Adolphe Turcotte

Liberal

Mr. TURCOTTE.

I rise to a point of order. I object to the hon. gentleman reading papers that are not regularly before the House.

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LIB

James Kirkpatrick Kerr (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

The hon. gentleman has the right to read these papers.

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CON

Mr. NANTEL (reading).

Conservative (1867-1942)

6. That since- it is rumoured that there will be an investigation. I have been solicited and supplicated, night and day, by the said Mr. Adelard Lanetot, and by others; they wanted me to destroy or to handle to some party interested in their suppression, the written declarations made by myself and by others, and of which I was at the time the guardian.

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LIB

Gustave Adolphe Turcotte

Liberal

Mr. TURCOTTE.

I ask that the motion and the amendment now before the House be read, to see if these documents have any relation to the said motion or amendment.

Mr. (SPEAKER. According to the Rules of the House, the motion can be read only at the close of the debate.

wages for the time I was spending at Mr. Lanctot's place, by order of my chief, MK J. B. Page asked me one evening, about 8 o'clock, to help him to carry away a box several feet long, made in the workshop of the government, and beautifully finished; in fact, I did help him to carry the said box at his own residence, and I have never s^en it since.

6. That about the 5th October, 1910, I was ordered by I. B. Page to glaze three double doors at Mr. Adelard Lavallee's place, at Sorel; he told me then: Go and register as if you were present; get your card punched before leaving, and I done so. I was paid by the government for that work that took considerable time.

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April 27, 1911