June 5, 1914

VINEBERG DIVORCE BILL.


Mr. SAM. SHARPE presented the fifteenth report of the Select Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Private Bills, as follows: Your committee have considered the Bill No. 220 (letter U-3 of the Senate), intituled: 'An Act for the relief of Helen Vineberg,' and have agreed to report the preamble thereof not proven, on the ground that, in their opinion, sufficient evidence has not been adduced to establish the allegations set forth therein.


CON

William Thoburn

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THOBURN moved:

That the fifteenth report of the Select Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Private Bills he referred hack to the committee for further consideration.

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CON

Herménégilde Boulay

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOULAY:

Mr. Speaker, I desire to

say a few words on this question.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I would say that it is

not permissible to discuss the Bill at this stage. It is the report from the committee that is before us; the Bill is not before us; therefore hon. members cannot discuss the Bill, but can only give reasons why the report should otr should not be referred back.

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CON

Herménégilde Boulay

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOULAY:

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago I objected to the second reading of this Bill, and my objection was maintained on the ground that the proof in the case was not sufficient. We have not yet had the evidence laid before the House in French, and- we thought that the Rill would not come back to this House before the evidence was printed in that language. Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Miscellaneous Private Bills Committee, and the proceedings there strengthened my conviction that we should not proceed with this Bill. I maintain that we cannot form a sane judgment on this question without

seeing the evidence in our language. From what I have seen I am more and more convinced that this position should be maintained, and that we should have the evidence in French before any action is taken.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

When the hon. member raised his objection before, I inquired into the matter carefully and found that since 1885 the evidence on such Bills taken before the Divorce Committee of the Senate has never been printed in French. The question had been taken up in the Senate and at the request of the French members of the Divorce Committee a resolution was passed by the Senate that in future the evidence would not be printed in French. They did not think it desirable to have it printed, and from that time on the custom has continued. As to what would be required when the Bill reached this House and the Private Bills Committee of this House, that, of course, would be an entirely different matter, but I would regard the objection which the hon. member has taken as one of the strongest reasons for referring it back to the committee for further consideration, when it would be the right of any member of that committee to have the same witnesses called before it, to hear the evidence as it was given in the Senate, or to adopt any other method desired to obtain information with regard to the facts of this case.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

I do not wish to delay the House, but I am bound to take exception to a statement made. My views on divorce are well known. I am opposed to divorce, -and think it should be abolished. That is the judgment of many people in this country. But, as regards the printing of the evidence; that is a matter of principle with me. Your honour states that a decision has been reached by a committee of the Senate by which the printing of the evidence in French is not required. This decision can only bind the Senate.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

That is what I said to the House. I stated that this decision could only bind the Senate, and, as it had no effect in this House, I gave no ruling on the subject.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

There is no trouble about this. I have discussed the 'question with His Honour personally. I do not blame His Honour the Speaker for the view

he entertains. I take exception to His Honour's statement that to avoid the printing of a document in French a Bill could be referred back to the Private Bills Committee, where the hon. member for Ri-mouski (Mt. Boulay) and the other members of that committee would have a chance to have the witnesses brought before them, to hear their evidence, and to have that evidence translated into French if desired.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I said that it would be their privilege to have the evidence brought before them if they so desired, but I did not express any opinion as to the necessity of having printed in French the evidence which comes from the Senate. I simply said that this was one of the alternatives; but, as to the printing of the evidence in French, I expressed no opinion.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

I hold the view that

any document coming before this House should be printed in both languages.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

I understand that the motion is to recommit this Bill to the Private Bills Committee, which has already reported against it. There is a rule of this House, unwritten, but well understood, and I think a safe rule, that committees should toe supported by the House unless there is some very strong reason for the contrary action. Those of the denomination to which I belong do not believe in divorce, and we vote against it on religious grounds, and not upon the merits of each case. I hold as much as any one for the privileges of the French language in this House, but I do not understand the request which has been made by my hon. friend from Rimouski to have this evidence printed in French, because whatever may be the merits of the case he will vote against the Bill. There is no reason, therefore, why he should require the evidence to be printed in French. For my part, I do not read the evidence at all. It is bad enough that the English-speaking members who believe that the marriage tie can toe dissolved by Act of Parliament, and who are called upon to decide the merits of each particular case, have to read the evidence; but I am dispensed from that. Neither I nor the hon. member for Rimouski read the evidence. We shall vote against the Bill anyway, and therefore I cannot support this motion.

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CON

William Thoburn

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THOBURN:

The right hon. leader

of the Opposition says that this Bill should

not be referred back to the committee unless for very good reasons. As the mover of the resolution, I will give the reasons why I ask that the Bill be referred back. My first reason is that the member for West Hastings (Mr. Porter), who has charge of the Bill, was unable to be present at the committee yesterday, as he was attending a sitting of the Supreme Court. Another reason is that owing to the House having sat till four o'clock yesterday morning there was a very small attendance of the committee, only seventeen of the sixty-four members voting on the motion to reject the Bill, which was carried by a majority of one. Another reason is that copies of the evidence had not been properly circulated; a large number of the members were without a copy. Another reasons that the Bill passed the Senate Committee by a majority of two to one. For these reasons, I think it is not unreasonable to ask that the Bill be referred back to the committee.

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CON

Alfred Ernest Fripp

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FRIPP:

I am a member of the

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of this House I desire to protest against this Bill being referred back for the reasons mentioned by the mover of the motion. The Bill was considered by one of the largest committees we have had this year, although several meetings have been held at which the Chairman required double sight to find a quorum. This Bill occupied the attention of the committee for nearly two hours, and was discussed at great length. The whole evidence was read and considered, learned counsel appeared for both parties, and in my judgment the committee would be establishing a very pernicious and dangerous precedent to grant a divorce on the evidence of one person, who had committed perjury over her own signature. For these reasons I submit that the Bill should not be referred back to the committee.

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CON

Arthur Cyril Boyce

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYCE:

1 join with my hon. friend from Ottawa (Mr. Fripp) in protesting against the reasons that have been given by my hon. friend from Lanark (Mr. Tlioburn). The fact that the hon. member in whose name the Bill stands was not present at the committee is of no moment. He is not present this morning, and while the committee was sitting yesterday he showed so little interest in the matter that he did not trouble to attend. I agree with my hon. friend from Ottawa that it was a large and representative attendance of the

committee. Great interest, 'as shown in the proceedings, counsel for the petitioner and for the respondent were heard, and every part of the evidence was submitted and dissected by the committee, who deliberated over that Bill in all its disgusting details for an hour and a half. For what reasons does my hon. friend from Lanark move that this Bill be recommitted? Among the four reasons he gave to the House there was no hint of any new evidence, any new facts, or any new arguments. He simply expects that by some chance or mischance there may be a different attendance at the committee, larger or smaller, and hopes that there may be a different finding upon the evidence. I am not very much in love with the principle or want oi principle of divorce, but I have never voted with a clearer conscience than I did yesterday when this Bill was before the Private Bills Committee. It would be absolutely out of harmony with the principles of parliamentary procedure to recommit this Bill when it has not been shown that any injustice has been done, or that any advantage could be gained by so doing. My hon. friend from Lanark says that there was a very small attendance at the committee. Might I ask what greater attendance he expects at this stage of the session? This is Friday. If rumours are true and our expectations are realized, we shall arrive at prorogation early next week. Could a better attendance be got at the Private Bills Committee on Saturday, or on Monday, or on Tuesday, supposing the committee were to defer its sitting until then? 'There is one reason and one reason alone for the motion of my hon. friend from Lanark: it is that by a different attendance at that committee he hopes to get a different finding from the one arrived at yesterday. He says that copies of Ithe evidence .were inot cirflji-lated. Whose fault is that? If I take an interest in any Bill before a committee, as a member of that committee I am entitled to a copy of the evidence, and surely it is my fault if I do not complain; and I never heard a complaint yesterday morning in that respect- I venture to say that my hon. friend from Lanark will not -say that any complaint was made that the evidence was not circulated and in the hands of the committee.

The hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. Bradbury) says that there was too much of it circulated. Possibly there was. One reason given by the hon. member for

Lanark why the Bill should be referred back is that it has passed the Senate committee twice. Why was it referred back to the Senate committee? It was referred back for the purpose of taking further evidence, it being contended that the evidence in support of the divorce as recommended by the Senate committee was not satisfactory. It was referred back, and was considered by the Senate committee, and that fact is not an argument to be used by my hon. friend from Lanark in favour of the recommittal of the Bill. The evidence upon which it was reported by the Senate committee on two occasions is the evidence which was before the Private Bills committee of this House; upon that evidence the committee saw fit to refuse to endorse the Bill, and with that decision I entirely agree. To ask now, at this late stage of the session, for a recommital is not in accordance with the principles upon which such matters are dealt with. I shall vote against it, and I hope that other hon. gentlemen will join me in that vote.

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CON

Louis-Philippe Pelletier (Postmaster General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PELLETIER:

When the hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Lemieux) took the objection the other day that the evidence had not been printed in both languages, I was under the impression that the objection was well taken, and that the evidence should be printed in both languages. But I do think that the privilege of having two official languages recognized in this Parliament does not go so far as to have dirty . stuff printed in French for the purpose of circulation when we who belong to the Catholic faith believe it a matter of principle to vote against divorce anyway. I agree with what my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has said in that respect, that no good purpose would be served by incurring the expense of having this evidence printed in French, and I would do everything in my power to prevent it from being circulated if what I have heard as to its character is correct. I am not taking any ground on the merits of the case, because I do not know anything about it. I think the Bill should be dealt with upon its merits, and I would not insist on its being printed in French. If it were, it certainly would be excluded from the mails as matter not fit to be circulated. I will vote against the motion for recommittal, not for the reason that the evidence has not been printed in French, but because I do not believe in divorce.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN:

I do not know the merits

of this case, but it seems to me that it illus-

trates the .evils of the procedure by which divorces are brought about. As I understand this case, from the debate that took place a few days ago and from the debate this morning, the question as to whether or nf a divorce should be granted depends entirely upon the credibility of the witnesses. It further appears that all the members of the Senate committee, who heard the evidence and saw the witnesses, and the only member of the Commons who was present and heard the witness, believed those who were brought forward on behalf of the petitioner. It is usually considered that in the disposition of judicial affairs, the opportunity to see the witnesses, to hear them give their evidence, and to note their demeanour, assists in determining in a way not otherwise possible whether they are to be believed or not. Therefore, we have this remarkable condition, that those who heard the witnesses, without exception, believed the evidence of those witnesses who were called on behalf of the petitioner; and the members of the Commons committee, who, with but one exception, did not see the wit-*ppsrpr at all^ hftVA

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CON

Robert Francis Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

The fact that divorce cases are tried, as they are, by the Senate, or Tather it is owing to that circumstance that we have this situation before us this morning, is a clear illustration of the necessity of changing the method, so that our divorce cases may be heard by the judiciary. As far as divorce proceedings are concerned, I have noticed since I have had a seat in this House, they are generally, or very often, decided not upon the

evidence as it is laid before the committee, and as they would be in a court of law; but those who have the decision in their hands are canvassed from day to day as to how they shall decide upon evidence that has not at the time been submitted to them. I do not propose to take up the time of the House, and I would not have risen except for the claim that was made by the hon. member who moved this resolution (Mr. Thoburn), as to the smallness of the committee.' As a matter of curiosity, last evening, after hearing that claim put forward in the lobbies, I had the matter looked up. I may say that I agree most thoroughly with the right hon. the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) in the statement that committees of this House should be sustained and their reports upheld. That is customary, and it is good business; if we are going to quarrel with the decision reached by a committee every time a report is brought in, our work will be endless. The sitting of the committee yesterday was the largest that has taken place this year. There were twenty members present. The first meeting of the committee this year was on the 12th of February, and though there was not a quorum present, they did business. A quorum is ten, and there were eight present. The record is is follows:

Date.

No. Present.

12th February 8

24th " 14

12th March ll

,19th " 16

2nd April 10

5th May 17

20th " 15

27th " 13

29th " 9

1st June.. , 10

4th June 20

Therefore, the decision of this committee, coming from a meeting at which twenty were present, should be upheld.

Mr. SAM. SHARPE: I am a member of this committee, and it is my opinion that the Bill should be referred back for further consideration, inasmuch as many members of the committee did not have an opportunity of perusing the evidence. Members of the committee have told me that complaints were made at the sitting of the committee that the evidence had not been circulated. Since the decision of the committee, a member of it who refused to vote because he had not had an opportunity of perusing the evidence and of reaching a proper decision, told me that he had since had an opportunity of

perusing the evidence, and that, if the committee met again, he would attend and vote against the Bill. The members cannot he expected to pass upon a measure without having an opportunity of perusing the evidence. Therefore I submit that, for the reason that the evidence had not been printed and circulated amongst the members, so that they had not a full opportunity of discussing the matter and arriving at a proper decision, the Bill should be referred back for further consideration.

iMr. KYTE: We have reached a stage in this session at which all members are anxious to devote their attention to such important matters on the legislative programme as require our attention. It is rather unfortunate that at this time we are asked to refer back to the committee on Private Bills the hearing of this malodorous divorce case. We are asked to give the petitioner a retrial of her case without her being required to furnish any new evidence. With all due respect to the wisdom of the Senate Divorce Committee in their decision in favour of granting the divorce, on the ground that the witnesses appeared before them and that they had therefore a better opportunity than had the committee of this House of determining the value of that testimony. I think, inasmuch as the evidence of the chief w$-ness upon whose testimony the granting of this divorce is asked, has so discredited herself in her own testimony and by the record of her own conduct, that nothing can be added to the value of the credibility that the witnesses should be-

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June 5, 1914