Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (acting Solicitor General) :
Mr. Speaker, in reply to the
hon. member (Mr. Casgrain) who has brought this matter to the attention of the House, may I be permitted to say at the outset that it is my duty to absolve the Minister of Justice (Mr. Doherty) from all knowledge and responsibility in connection with the matter? As a matter of fact, I think that the Minister of Justice was not in Canada at the time action was decided upon in connection with this case. My hon. friend who has moved the motion is fully aware of the practice which has obtained in this Parliament, I suppose I am safe in saying, since the days of Confederation down to the present time, namely, that
documents are not laid before Parliament relating to criminal cases where clemency is sought, or in cases where clemency has been exercised by the Crown. It has been stated, and I believe the statement is accurate, that only in three cases since Confederation- very important and outstanding cases-has Parliament seen fit to order that papers be produced. The reports made in connection with such cases are of a highly confidential nature. If they were not treated with the strictest confidence it is very doubtful whether reports could be obtained in many instances.
Now, in the particular case under consideration, representations were made that cast very serious doubt upon this man's guilt in connection with the charge upon which he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of thirty years. The crime was a most revolting and abominable one. Certain public bodies in the city of Montreal took action in the matter, among others the Salvation Army, which, I suppose, was the most active of the participants in this case. The man's two sons, who had served nobly in France, one of them wounded, and the other coming back without a leg, on their return to Canada also took a deep interest in the case. The chief witness, in fact the only witness in the case, absolutely withdrew the whole evidence given at the trial upon which the man was convicted. This evidence was withdrawn in a sworn statement by the only witness in the prosecution. Explanations were given as to why the original evidence had been given in the prosecution against this man, and one very prominent body in Montreal, as I have said, the Salvation Army, went fully into the matter, making an elaborate report, and the officers of the department likewise investigated the case as exhaustively as possible, with the result that there is very grave doubt as to whether the man was actually guilty of the crime with which he had been charged. He had served, including remission earned under our law, some seven years of his term in penitentiary, a very substantial period. His conduct had been good, grave doubt existed as to his guilt and under all the circumstances it was considered a proper case in which to make a recommendation to his Excellency the Governor General, that he be granted a ticket of leave-not that he be free, but that he be permitted to serve the rest of his sentence under the ticket of leave system, which imposes upon him very strict conditions with which he must comply for the next twenty-three years of his life; otherwise, he is liable at any time to be rearrested and made to serve the rest of his term.
My hon. friend's motion asks that this man be rearrested and sent back to penitentiary. When ticket of leave is granted under the Ticket of Leave Act, it is absolutely forfeited and the man must go back to jail if he commits any indictable offence. An indictable offence involves absolute forfeiture of ticket of leave. Revocation of his ticket of leave takes place upon his conviction of an offence punishable on summary conviction under this or any other Act. If he commits an indictable offence, forfeiture takes place immediately; if he commits a minor offence, revocation may take place forthwith; and, in either case, he goes back to prison. But in addition to these facts, if he violates any of the conditions of his ticket of leave, he is liable to go and serve the balance of his term. In connection with all tickets of leave granted, the following conditions are imposed:
1. The holder shall preserve his license and produce it when called upon to do so by a magistrate or a peace officer.
2. He shall abstain from any violation of
the law. ...
3. He shall not habitually associate with notoriously bad characters, such as reputed thieves and prostitutes.
4. He shall not lead an idle and dissolute life without visible means of obtaining an honest livelihood.
And he must comply with any other conditions which His Excellency the Governor General may impose. Then there is the other clause of the statute referred to by my hon. friend, which imposes further conditions. Section 12, subsection 2, provides as follows:
If it appears from the facts proved before the justice-
That is, in the event of the man being rearrested or charged with any offence.
that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the convict so brought before him is getting his livelihood by dishonest means, such convict shall be deemed guilty of an offence against this Act, and his license shall be forfeited.
The law is particularly plain upon this point, and the procedure in such cases is exceedingly simple. If the man whose case is now under discussion is guilty of getting his livelihood by dishonest means, his ticket of leave is forfeited and he goes back to prison. But the fact that he is living dishonestly must be established. From what I have learned from the statement of my hon. friend who moved this motion, this man seems to have been a money lender
who holds certain judgments against certain debtors. They are apparently judgments of the court, and so long as they stand I assume they are valid judgments; and I do not think that any one would suggest that a creditor in pursuing his rights under a judgment could be held to be getting his livelihood by dishonest means. I know nothing of the circumstances or conditions in regard to the debts which led up to the judgments. All that my hon. friend has to say on that score may be absolutely true, but this is the question that confronts us: Is the man living a
life in accordance with his ticket of leave or his license? Is he free from crime? If he is he will not be molested. Is he obtaining his living by dishonest means? If he is, he will be arrested. There are courts in the city of Montreal competent to try such matters and reach a proper conclusion: I am sure the House is not
such a tribunal.
My hon. friend's motion simply asks that the license, or ticket of leave, granted to this man be set aside, and that he be arrested and sent back to the penitentiary to finish his term. The motion asks us to do something in this House contrary to the plain meaning and effect of the Ticket of Leave Act. The Act declares-that is, this Parliament has said-that under these conditions this man shall be permitted to serve the balance of his sentence at large so long as he lives up to the conditions imposed upon him under his ticket of leave and under the Act of Parliament. My hon. friend's motion seeks practically to set aside the provisions of this Act of Parliament, and the license granted under that Act, and re-arrest this man. I think when the matter is clearly placed before my hon. friend, he will see that the position which he has taken is hardly a sound one, much room as there may be for comment upon the actual condition which exists in regard to this matter in Montreal. I know nothing of these facts, but from my hon. friend's statement I take it that the man has obtained judgments in respect of debt against some people in that city, that he is a pretty ardent creditor and is pursuing the debtors unduly or with great vigour as the case may be. But the law gives him that right. If the judgments are wrong they will be set aside in the civil courts. If he is breaking the law, bring him before the magistrate and have him re-committed; but so long as he lives up to the license that has been granted him
under the Act of Parliament that man should not be molested.