May 29, 1914

CON

William Folger Nickle

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NICKLE:

The question about Jack

Canuck came up also. There had appeared in the paper called Jack Canuck a very drastic and critical article in regard to the commissioners. The commissioner asked me: Do you think that the editor of Jack Canuck should be asked to attend and give his evidence?-and I replied: It is a public inquiry and as a reptitable paper has made this criticism I think that the man who wrote the article should be given an opportunity to come before the commission and give his evidence. If the hon. member for Frontenac thought that I suggested that he was unfair in any way he has quite misapprehended what I intended. I said at the beginning that he was zealous and earnest in the cause but that he did not give due weight to the tremendous good that might result from this report and that I regretted that in dragging down the commissioners he was possibly doing a great injury to the cause he desired to advance. I had no desire to be critical or in any way to reflect on what the hon. member had done, but I merely desired to direct attention to what I thought was the tremendous advantage that might redound to our criminal and convict class if steps were taken to carry out the recommendations of the report of the commission.

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

I am sure that we have all listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches delivered by the two hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House. They have pointed out the difficulties but they have not as yet suggested any remedy. My intention tonight is to give a few suggestions to the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Doherty) wherdby the remedy can be applied immediately. Some three years ago, when I first took up the question of prison reform and the abolition of capital punishment, I made the statement that the conditions in our penitentiaries were surpassed only by the black hole of Calcutta and I think that the evidence that has been id-duced in the report tonight, and the statements made by the hon. member for Kingston (Mr. Nickle) and the hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards), justify me in having made that statement. I regret very much that it is so late but I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without making a few suggestions to the Minister of Justice. I do not intend in any way to delay the passage of his Estimates but I do not think

he is asking enough in his Estimates if he is going to carry out the suggestions which I am going to make to him. I think that we should'have more time to deal with.an important question like this because it is after all a more important question than that of granting -aid to the Canadian Northern railway. In dealing with this question we should look back a little. We must necessarily retrace our steps, we must atone for the crimes of past legislation and we must amend our Criminal Code. It is necessary to amend the Criminal Code in order to undo the blunders of the past. The Government must seriously consider the reforms that are being suggested by myself and others.

In the first place, I would suggest to the honourable the minister that the management of penitentiaries and prisons, whether federal or provincial, should be taken out of politics entirely, and should be placed under a board of directors or board of control. Political appointees will never succeed or serve the purpose of reforming these poor convicts*.

I understand that the Minister of Justice has a population of somewhere between nineteen hundred and two thousand in the penitentiaries, and I really believe that at least 75 per cent of those, instead of being locked up in an, iron cage, should be out working in God's sunlight and God's fresh air. My honourable friend., the minister, I believe, will agree with me that the end in view of all punishment should be the correction of the criminal with a view of reclaiming him, and the setting of an example which will serve to deter others from the like evil. In my opinion, correction with a view to reform is certainly obtainable by carefully considering these reforms. A mother punishes her child, not for revenge, but to make it a better child. When we consider that the shutting of a man up in an iron cage deadens all the feelings of kindness implanted by nature in the breast, blunts all the finer susceptibilities of the heart, and substitutes barbarism and and vindictiveness in the heart of the poor unfortunate prisoner. I appeal to you as to men who are unfettered by the trammels of prejudice, and as being disposed to have other and better motives for your actions than the mere sanction of custom. I appeal to you on behalf of humanity and Christianity, and feel confident that the justice of the cause will ensure your zealous support, if not just at the moment, certainly at an early date. There are hundreds and thousands of acres of land in Canada that are to-day valueless, all of

which might be reclaimed just by having those prisoners doing the work.

I wish to say to the minister that in the respect of our management of prisons and prisoners, the law in Canada has always been most barbarous. We are committing mistakes to-day that in a few years hence men will point to as the most extraordinary mistakes a Government could commit, and that our reforms should be surrounded by one of the most barbarous methods which the most barbarous nations have ever employed, by shutting a poor criminal up in an iron cage instead of taking him out and putting him to work at some useful employment. What I specially wish to recommend to the Minister of Justice would be to try an experiment on the following lines: I would take a few, say 75 per cent of the very best behaved prisoners in each of the different penitentiaries and establish camps where the word 'convict5 or the idea of prison would be entirely eliminated. I would have ho cells and although there should be some guards, they should not be armed. We should put these men largely on their honour and in this case I would recommend that the guards and the men mingle together in friendly intercourse, and I would say that when their work is over in the evenings, they should enjoy themselves in baseball, cricket, music, or any other healthful amusement. These men should be selected on merit from the different penitentiaries and prisons, and there are hundreds of inmates in the penitentiaries and prisons of Canada who would be very pleased to be transferred to these camps as an opportunity and a reward for good conduct. In time I believe that these camps would not only be self-governed but also be self-supporting, and in this way, the men's labour can be paid for without cost to the country. The success of this experiment, if the hon. minister will try it, will not only mean a revolution in penology, but be a cause for rejoicing to the taxpayer from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Every human being who goes wrong should have a chance to redeem himself, to try again, and he ought to have an opportunity that is favourable. He ought not to be put in an environment where everything around him suggests the crooked, the wicked, where everything tends to arouse the brute in him, to develop the evil thing in him, the love of revenge, bitterness, hatred and to kill the good. He ought to be in an environment which would help him to forget the bad, which would

only suggest the good, the pure, the clean, suggest his divinely, not his beastly propensities, and which would hold out hope of another chance-a chance to make good. How can we expect a criminal to get back the self-respect which he has lost, by cruel treatment, by half starving him, treating) Mm like a beast instead of a man, putting him in an iron cage, away from God's light and air? There is good material, ability enough, energy, resources enough in these people we thus deprive, of liberty and life, to perform great service to humanity, as well as to themselves and their families. What right have we to deprive them at least of a chance to make good? How often the crimes we commit against our prisoners are far greater than their Crime to society.

If we wish to reform prisoners, we should try to make them self-respecting, healthy beings. Their environment should be as attractive and as normal as possible. Reform means healthful, normal conditions. The mind is in no state to improve or reform when suffering from mental depression due to the vicious, criminal, suggestive environment, where everything reminds the prisoner of his fall, or his inferiority .and everything about him tends to impress upon him that he is not a human being, but an outcast.

We have all felt the restful, restoring, renewing power of beautiful scenery, of country life. Why should we deprive a prisoner of these helps to health and normality? Nature is a great restorative, and criminals should be kept where they can get the full benefit of the sunlight, air and country life, in an environment which would suggest only the good and true, with possibilities of recovering lost manhood and starting life afresh. John Bunyan when he saw a poor unfortunate being tied behind a cart with a rope around his neck being dragged off to the place of execution, said, 'if it were not for the grace of God, there goes John Bunyan,' and, Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of truth in that.

I do not intend in any way to obstruct or delay the hon. minister's Estimates, and I would just say here that as far as the penitentiary Estimates are concerned, I do not believe he is asking any more than is absolutely necessary for the work he is undertaking, but I do wish, with his permission, to offer him what I consider a few suggestions in the direction not only of prison reform, but of reforming the prisoners. I think on this very important question we might be permitted to look backwards, and

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LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE:

Does my hon. friend know that imprisonment for life is not safe for society; that every time we condemn criminals to life imprisonment, they stxM try to kill and murder inside the walls of the prison?

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

I do not think my hon. friend is an unbiased witness in this matter, seeing that he is a crown prosecutor.

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LIB
?

Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

The Crown prosecutor and the judge and jury and the hang-

man are all interested in sentencing the poor man to prison.

I firmly believe that the life penalty as alluded to would in many eases be much more dreaded than death itself, and that incarceration would have a far more powerful and enduring effect than that produced by the frequency of executions. When we consider that the effect of public executions is to deaden the feelings of kindness and mercy implanted by nature in the breast, to blunt all the finer sensibilities of the heart, and to substitute barbarism and vindictiveness in the place of civilization and Christian forbearance, when we consider the awful consequences to the wicked, tne poor, degraded and miserable sufferer allowed so little time for repentance, distracted by the thoughts of his approaching fate, hurled from time into eternity by the hand of a being owing his existence to the same Creator as himself, shall we not conclude that man, a being weak in purpose and feeble in action, whose limited comprehension and contrasted views are daily evident to our senses, by taking away the life of man, employs a power which has not been delegated to him and usurps an authority which belongs only to our Soverign Judge?

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LIB
LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Liberal

Mr. D. A. LAFORTUNE (Translation):

I trust the House will bear with me while I offer a few remarks in answer to the statements made a moment ago by the hon. gentleman who just preceded me. It is not to be gainsaid that there is always room for improvements in the case of institutions of such importance as the penitentiaries of this country. But what puzzles me most is to hear hon. gentlemen, and especially the hon. gentleman who represents the St. Lawrence division of Montreal in this House (Mr. Bickerdike), weep over the sad fate "of those who are convicted. I may say to the hon. gentleman that if he were cognizant of the facts brought to light before our criminal courts, he would take quite a different stand. For the last eight years I have had the honour of holding in Montreal the position of Crown 2854

prosecutor. Is that sufficient ground for believing that I am wanting in judgment, humanity and good feelings? The hon. gentleman just stated that judges, Crown prosecutors, clerks of the Crown and in a general way all who take part in the administration of justice, are not to be depended upon in this connection. The hon. gentleman is mistaken; the difference is we have a wider experience than he has in matters of that kind.

Within the last eight years, I have had to deal with several cases wherein capital punishment was inflicted, and I may say that in all such cases, the whole record is forwarded by the judge who reports on the case. The Minister of Justice carefully goes into the whole matter with a view to finding out whether there is any possibility of exercising clemency. I have no hesitation in saying that under no circumstances is the sentence carried out if there exists the least doubt in favour of the convicted man. There is a eeparate examination of every case, and whenever there is any room for doubt, invariably the sentence of death is commuted.

In support of my contention, I shall quote a few instances. Vitto Micoli, sentenced to be hanged on September 28, 1908, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment on November 19, 1908. James Smith, sentenced to capital punishment on September 18, 1909, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment on December 6, 1909. Timothy Candy was executed because there was no room for doubt. He was hanged on November 18, 1910. He was the man who deliberately shot two policemen who had caught him in the act of committing burglary in the establishment of one of our colleagues, the member for St. Antoine (Mr. Ames). F. Grevola, convicted of murder, was hanged on May 26,

1911. John Cummings, sentenced to be hanged on August 9, 1912, secured a reprieve, because there was some uncertainty in his case. On October, of the same year, 1912, his sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. Silvio Yacoloff, sentenced to be hanged on September 20,

1912, secured three reprieves in succession, and ultimately, on January 31, 1913, was sentenced for life. Dominico Bifanio, sentenced to hang on September 29, 1912, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment on November 9. Antonio Ferduta was hanged. There was not the least doubt in his case. He had murdered the person he was trying to rob; the evidence in his

case was quite clear. The same might be said of Carlo Baptista, who had committed murder in cold blood, deliberately. The sentence was carried out in his case. William Campbell, convicted of murder, was executed on January 24, 1914. And the last occasion on which the penalty of capital punishment was carried out in Montreal leaves no room for any doubt.

The hon. gentleman says: let peaceful citizens be murdered freely, do not interfere, and rather have pity on those unfortunate cut-throats. Why should you hang them? Why not sentence them to penitentiary for life? Well, the penitentiary is very often the place where these murderers carry out their darkest designs and plot many a foul deed. Very often those whose sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment, have to be brought later on before the courts for murder, actual or attempted. We all remember the terrible onslaught of which the warden of the St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary was the victim. I was called upon to carry on an investigation in 1897, and I know whereof I speak when I say that those criminals spend their time plotting and enticing others to acts of insubordination. But the hon. member for St. Lawrence would have us take pity on them; he appeals to our sense of pity, and practically advocates the free murdering of citizens. I wonder if he would be of a different mind, should his wife or his children be the victims of assassins.

X cannot agree with the hon. gentleman, for it is necessary that society should protect itself. In France the death penalty was abolished, but later on it was found necessary to restore it.

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE (Translation):

It

was not capital punishment that was done away with, but merely the guillotine.

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LIB

David Arthur Lafortune

Liberal

Mr. LAFORTUNE (Translation):

It was abolished, and fifteen years later, it was found necessary to restore it. Such is the experience of other countries.

As for me, I have been practising for thirty-five years at the bar, at times acting on behalf of the accused, and at times, in capacity of prosecutor, and I say that not a man was hanged when there was the least doubt in his favour. They are dealt with in a spirit of absolute fairness. On the other hand, does the assassin give his victim the time to prepare for the supreme ordeal?

Following on the preliminary inquiry,

the accused is sent before the grand jury, who, in turn, look into the case and report on it. The accused then appears before the petty jury, and it is only after a fair trial and a verdict of guilt that he is convicted. Even that is not deemed sufficient to meet the ends of justice, as it is administered in this country. The hon. Minister of Justice in turn looks into the record to find out whether there exists the least doubt as to the guilt of the convicted person, and it is only after that has been done that the sentence is carried out, unless commutation is granted on the report of the minister.

I have eighty-six cases to submit to the Court of King's Bench sitting in Montreal, at its June term, to open on Monday next. I wish the hon. member for the St. Lawrence division of Montreal were present; he might alter his views in consequence. He considers them as unfortunate people who are rather to be pittied. But did those murderers take pity on those they assassinated? Let these cut-throats behave as honest citizens, and thus they will be sure to avoid capital punishment.

Take those Italians, whom we have in such great numbers in Montreal. In Italy the death penalty is not inflicted, and those Italians think that it is the same in Canada as in Italy, that they are free to kill, to murder right and left without fear of the executioner. The hon. member for St. Lawrence division lives in the midst of large numbers of Italians; and that accounts for his anxiety to do away with capital punishment.

Murderers crop up on all sides, at each sitting of the criminal court, five or eix of them appear. Society does not seek revenge, but it is bound to protect itself, and it must inflict punishment in order to impress on the minds of those who might be tempted to follow the example of criminals that they will suffer for it, should they yield to their impulses. As Crown prosecutor, I think I have as much humanity and love of my brethren as the hon. member for the division of St. Lawrence, and if I am unable to agree with him, it is because my experience has been wider.

When the murderer strikes, does he give his victim time to get ready to appear before the Supreme Judge? Does he not send him to his doom utterly unprepared? If there be a widow, and if there be orphans, is he not responsible for it? And we are asked to be pitiful? Did he take pity on his victim? Did he give him time to im-

plore forgiveness for his crimes? The murderer will have time to prepare for Eternity, but his victim was not so fortunate. It is all very well to exalt charity and conscience, but there are two sides to the question.

I congratulate the Minister of Justice in connection with the cases which have been . submitted to him since he occupies his high position. Each case was thoroughly gone into by him, and I am free to admit that in every instance where there was any occasion for leniency, the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment.

Reference was made to a case of error wherein the convicted person was subsequently released on the recommendation of the minister; I mean the case of Dom-inico Laetare. Well, the minister need not worry, his conscience need not trouble him. There was no judicial error committed. That man had been rightly convicted, and if ever the minister showed leniency, it was on that occasion. However, I do not grieve over it and I believe I am just as conscientious as the hon. member for the St. Lawrence division. That man had doubly incurred the death penalty, though the penalty inflicted wae only a few years' confinement within the penitentiary. When he was first tried the jury disagreed, the accused man arguing that he had not had time to get his witnesses. If only so and so were here, he pleaded, I would be able to clear myself of the charge. We granted him a second trial, we got his witnesses over at the public expense, and they were the very men who proved his guilt. So I say, Sir, that it is doubly wrong to allege judiciary error in that case, because no such error was committed, and the hon. gentleman simply did an act of grace in liberating him.

I was anxious, Sir, to make these few remarks in this House, so that neither the House nor the public might be left under the impression that our criminal law was being improperly administered; that society is not protecting itself, and is not protecting those who are brought before its courts. Here politics have their sway, but in the courts of justice there is only one weight and one measure for all; there is only one pair of scales in use in our courts for all litigants, be they Conservative or Liberal; justice is blind to the political colour or leanings of parties.

In justice to myself, I may say that the hon. member for the St. .Lawrence division is alone in believing that the views of Grown

prosecutors and in a general way of those connected with the administration of justice are biased. I cannot agree with hie contention, and I think I am right.

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Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

The hon. member cannot quite get away with that. He made a statement in reference to France that is not borne out by the facts. There are twenty-four different states and countries that have abolished capital punishment entirely. Not one of those twenty-four states has ever gone back to it.

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CON
?

Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

That is all right for New Brunswick where there is no crime, but my good friend who has just taken his seat (Mr. Lafortune) cited France. France did abolish, for a time, capital punishment, but she went further than that: France abolished religion. She drove out the priests and the bishops and the ministers of the gospel; and that was the reason and the only reason that crime increased in France. To-day, they are trying to get back the priests and the bishops and the nuns, and as soon as that hapens France will do away with the guillotine.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY :

In regard to what has been said by the hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Lemieux), and the hon. member for Kingston (Mr. Nickle), there is no doubt that they have both very eloquently pleaded for prison reform, and I quite feel that I could not expect to compete with them in that regard. I only hope it may be given to me to put into practice some of the excellent things that have been suggested.

With regard to the speech of the hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards), which dealt more specifically with the investigation that has taken place, we have the advantage of the criticism made by the hon. gentleman of the report that is before us, but, of course, I am not in a position to express any opinion as to the view he entertains of the report of the commission which he has attacked. When the Government comes to make up its mind on this question it will have before it the evidence taken by the commission, the commission's report, and the criticism of the hon. member for Frontenac and what he has pointed out as against that commission, and it will then be our duty to form a judgment and to take what action that judgment may justify.

So far as the commission- I have named is concerned, I am glad that the hon. member for Frontenac has recognized that at the time of their appointment they were moat suitable men, although he has fault to find in connection with their report. Naturally we cannot all agree as to the merits of a particular report. The hon. member for Frontenac and the hon. member for Kingston do not agree with regard to this one. For my part, I am not in a position this evening to express any judgment upon that report. I have now heard the pro and the con, and I shall endeavour to act in the consideration of that report and what has been said against it with the same impartiality that I endeavoured to act in selecting the men for this commission, and entrusting, them with the duty of carrying on an investigation under instructions that certainly implied no desire but a desire that justice should be done as between individuals. I do not think that I can with advantage add anything to what has been said upon the subject of the value of the commissioners' report, or as to whether or not the commissioners were justified in their findings. That is a matter that will have to be dealt with by council later. There is- just one other matter to which I wish to refer as the hon. member for Frontenac has mentioned it. He has referred to what looked to him to be a sudden cessation of the investigation with regard to trafficking. He made a statement which in some way left it perhaps to be inferred that the commission stopped that investigation because of the possibility of the reverend1 chaplain of the penitentiary being involved in it. In that respect I want to say that the statement of the hon. member for Kingston as1 to- why the investigation stopped in this particular instance, is quite correct. It was merely because we thought that when it came down to investigating particular cases of offences by individual guards we should not keep a commission of three gentlemen engaged on that work that could be very well done by one man alone, at a subsequent time. With regard to the reference made to the reverend chaplain I want to say that this is the first time I eveT heard any such thing intimated, and I am, therefore, not in a position to say one word more upon the subject. What 1 understand to be stated is that cheques or money orders were sent by the mother of a prisoner to this gentleman. I do not know whether or not it is intended -to be implied that he made any improper use of that money. 1

would certainly be astounded at, and more than slow to accept as well founded such a suggestion. All I know of the gentleman tends most strongly to contradict it. I shall be in a position to inquire into the circumstances and shall be guided by the result of that inquiry as to what should be done.

Upon, the general subject of the desirablity of re-form in penitentiary administration, I want to say that for my part I came to a system that I did not make. I have endeavoured to learn what that system wds and how it works by means of this investigation, for this commission was not appointed merely to investigate charges against individuals. It was appointed, and perhaps principally appointed, to make a study of penitentiary systems and to give us information upon the subject. That information was not sought without the idea of turning it to practical effect, and I hope it will prove possible for us to make a considerable improvement in the system in existence.

I only want to add that it is well in the desire for reform not to exaggerate the evils that may exist, and to avoid accepting a standpoint that might perhaps lead one only to extreme action, in regard to such modifications as may be required. While we must, no doubt, be humane, and while that is very important, w-e must not forget that this whole system is a part of the administration of justice, and that the great dominant reason that justifies us in detaining these people at all is the deterrent-effect of their punishment upon others. And if we are going to produce a deterrent effect, while we must be careful to be humane, we must also let the tempted sinner see that the man that is convicted is punished, and that people who are being punished are not having a pleasant time. For my part, I would like to say here that while I hope to do what I can to reform those institutions and while I hope that that reform will be on lines of humanity, I hold out not the slightest hope of endeavouring to try to make punishment pleasant, and there will have to be punishment if justice i-s going to be maintained.

Expenses under the pecuniary claims convention with the United States, $25,000.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

While I do not insist

this morning, I would like to get some details from the hon. gentleman concerning the awards which have been recently made in this connection.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

I shall be glad to get On motion of Mr. Reid, the House adthe information. journed at 2.35 a.m. Saturday.

To assist in suppression of the white slave traffic, $10,000.

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LIB
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

This fund is administered through the Dominion Police for the purpose of endeavouring to do what we can in the suppression of the white slave traffic.

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LIB
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

The work is largely

among immigrants. Out of this fund a grant is made to the Rev. Abbe Casgrain in connection with the care of immigrants, and we hope to make a grant also to a clergyman . of another denomination in Montreal. Apart from that there is active work carried on under Col. Sherwood in connection with the supervision of immigrants, especially young women, coming into the country.

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May 29, 1914