Mr. JOS. T. SHAW (West Calgary) moved the second reading of Bill No. 4, respecting divorce.
He said: I had the opportunity and the
privilege last year of presenting to the House a resolution incorporating the provisions of this bill. The resolution was not disposed of by the House. Subsequently I introduced a bill founded on the resolution; that, however, was not disposed of either, and I now take the earliest opportunity of presenting for the consideration of the House this year a bill designed to establish equality as between husband and wife so far as the grounds for divorce are concerned. In order that the situation may be properly appreciated let me sketch very briefly something of the history of divorce in Canada.
By our federation act of 1857 the subject of divorce was assigned exclusively to the federal parliament. There was another provision in the British North America Act by which the laws in force and the courts in operation in each of the confederating provinces were to continue in force and operation until such time as they were repealed or altered by competent authority. There was a further provision by which upon the expected application of further provinces to join in the union the same provision should apply, namely, that their laws and their courts should be continued until similarly repealed or altered.
Now, having these provisions in mind, I want to sketch the situation as it existed at confederation. Previous to 1867 Ontario and Quebec had no divorce courts. Consequently as to divorce these provisions that I have mentioned had no application to these two provinces. I should say also that the Dominion government has never in any case passed any general divorce law, and the result is that Ontario and Quebec in divorce matters stand exactly in the position they were in prior to confederation.
The provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick each had divorce courts prior to 1867. These courts granted divorce to men and women on equal grounds; that is the grounds open to the husband were likewise open to the wife; there was no distinction as between the sexes. The grounds in the province of New Brunswick were adultery, impotence and consanguinity. To these three grounds which prevailed in the province of New Brunswick there was a fourth added in Nova Scotia, namely the ground of cruelty; and so the situation is that tihe divorce laws of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick which were passed prior to confederation still persist to this day, and both sexes are on a basis of absolute equality.
The first province to join confederation, was the province of Manitoba in the year 1870. Prior to its incorporation, the district of Assiniboia, of which it formed a part, had passed an ordinance that the laws of England as they existed in the year 1870 should be applicable in that area, and so the result was that when Manitoba joined confederation in 1870, the laws of England as they existed in 1870, including, of course, the law with resp.ct to divorce, applied in that province.
The province of British Columbia joined confederation in 1871. but previous to joining confederation the then colony of British Columbia had adopted the English law as it stood in 1858; so it entered the union preserving the law of England on divorce as of the year 1858.
The province of Prince Edward Island joined confederation in 1873, but previous to confederation it also had a court operating in divorce matters, and that court has been preserved, although I think but seldom used.
The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, which joined confederation in 1905, had taken the law of Engjland as it stood in the year 1870. And so, shortly, the result is this: that to-day the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have no divorce courts, while Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have each divorce courts, before all of which men and women stand exactly upon equal