Mr. JOSEPH ARCHAMBAULT (Chambly
and Vercheres) moved:
That the second report of the Select Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections be concurred in.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in making a motion
of this kind it is customary that the chairman should give 'his views to the House regarding the proceedings and the report of -the committee. I shall do so briefly and impartially. The charge made by the hon., member for West Hastings (Mr. Porter) is as follows:
The Honourable James Muirdock, Minister of Labour, did withdraw from the Home Bank at its Ottawa branch on the 15th day of August, 1923, two days before such bank's failure, thousands of dollars on deposit therein to his credit, using certain information he had received, as such minister, of the likely immediate failure of said bank, and had received advantage and profit to 'himself to the extent of such withdrawals, contrary to his .obligations as such minister in derogation of his office and the honour, dignity and traditions of parliament.
I wish to state at the o-utset, Mr. Speaker, that I have nothing but praise for the hon. members of the committee, who throughout the proceedings of the inquiry have conducted themselves in the true spirit of the high traditions of parliament. I say this without any reservation whatsoever. The members of the committee bad to inquire into the action of one of their fellow-members, and it is to their credit that, following in -the footsteps of the hon. member for West Hastings when he made his speech in the House, they have avoided personalities and partisan feelings, and used throughout the whole proceedings a most temperate and sober tone.
Mr. Murdock and Home Bank
Tlhe committee had several meetings and summoned a number of witnesses. The report which I now beg the House to concur lin reads as follows:
The evidence taken by the committee shows that Hon. James Murdock on the 15tih of August, 1923, drew out of the Home Bank of Canada at its Ottawa Branch, the sum of $4,050, but there is no evidence to show that before so drawing out said 6um he had received information as a cabinet minister of the probable failure of said bank. The evidence also shows that the only information Mr. Murdock had of the probable failure of said bank was received as a private citizen, from Hon. G. N. Gordon, in a friendly interview on tlhe 9th of August, 1923.
The committee finds that Hon. Jas. Murdock did nothing in connection with tlhe withdrawal of such money from the Home Bank contrary to his obligation as a minister of the Crown, or in derogation of his office and the honour, dignity and traditions of parliament, and that the charge submitted to this committee for investigation, so far as it affects the honour of Mr. Murdock, is not. only not proved but entirely disproved.
Every bon. member will realize that in order to substantiate his charge, the hon. member for West Hastings had to prove three things: Firet, the withdrawal of the money
under the circumstances mentioned in the charge; second, that in doing so the Minister of Labour used information that he had received as a minister, of the likely failure of the bank; and third, that by using such information he has received advantage and profit to himself to the extent of such withdrawals, contrary to his obligation as a minister, and in derogation of his office and the honour, dignity and traditions of parliament.
May I be allowed to point out that in order to maintain the charge, not only one, but all of those three things had to be proved. May I also point out that the first two questions are questions of fact, and the third question is more a question of appreciation in the light of precedent, in the light of jurisprudence, more a doctrine or proposition than a positive fact.
Before considering the evidence on the facts, and the soundness of the third proposition in the light of the law, I wish to state that I endeavoured to conduct this inquiry in a judicial way. I based my reason for doing so first on section 2 of the Canada Evidence Act which reads as follows:
This Part shall apply to all criminal proceedings, and to all civil proceedings and other matters whatsoever respecting which the Parliament of Canada has jurisdiction in this behalf.
This seems to be clear. I followed the rules of evidence contained in this act. Secondly, I followed also the jurisprudence. I assumed that the members of the committee were the jury. The hon. member for East Toronto (Mr. Ryckman), and the hon. member for 229
York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson), speaking before the vote was taken in committee, contended that the rules of evidence at a judicial trial should not apply; that it was not for the member for West Hastings (Mr. Porter) to prove his charge but it was for the Minister of Labour to prove his innocence. The hon. member for East Toronto drew my attention to the Marconi debate in the British House of Commons in 1913 where no such rules were observed. But I wish to draw the attention of the House to this point,-the hon. member for East Toronto overlooked the fact that we were proceeding with an inquiry where all the witnesses were sworn, while in the Marconi case in the British House of Commons in 1913 it was not an inquiry. In that case there was no inquiry whatsoever; there was no charge made and referred to a committee; it was an ordinary parliamentary debate where no witnesses were heard, where members simply spoke and gave their opinion. The proposition here is quite a different one.
I may say that I was gratified to hear the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Stewart), although he voted against the report, express the opinion on this matter which he did. That opinion is to be found on page 154 of the report of the proceedings of the committee. The hon. member for Leeds, as there reported, said this:
I assume, Mr. Chairman, that this committee is here as a court of justice, that we have all thepowers, all the privileges, all the rights, all theresponsibilities, and all the duties of a court, and if that be so, then the rules of evidence must apply and we must discharge our duties as a court and notin any other capacity or from any other motives
than those which would characterize and must characterize judges and jurors in determining a question which is brought before them.
This doctrine is sound; it has been fob, lowed in every inquiry of this kind since confederation. It was followed in the Mc-Greevy inquiry in 1891; it was followed in the Lanctot inquiry in 1911; it was also followed in the Yukon inquiry presided over by the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie). I repeat, it is sound doctrine. The suggestion that the ordinary rules of evidence should not apply, that they should be put aside, that the inquiry should be conducted in a haphazard and go-as-you-please manner is a most astounding proposition. Before I leave the subject I will quote the opinion of a man who has occupied one of the highest positions in this country, whose eminent character, fine legal mind and wide knowledge are undisputed. I refer to Sir Allen Aylesworth, ex-Minister of Justice. Speaking on the Lanctot case, as reported at page 7,900 of Hansard, 1911, he said: