June 16, 1926

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It was not competent for him to take proceedings under that act such as would secure him his seat.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

That is not the point.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It was not competent for him to take proceedings when these irregularities were discovered, because on February 24 last one Page had already brought proceedings under the act against Mr. Kennedy, and as I have already pointed two proceedings may not be brought against the same respondent with respect to the same election.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. OAHAN:

Is it not clear beyond a doubt that in no election proceedings could evidence be heard such as is now before this House in the petition? Even if the allegations were not struck out by the judge it would be impossible to place one scintilla of evidence before the court in support of the petition.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I thank my hon. friend for putting the matter so clearly. I thought I had emphasized that in answer to the right hon. Prime Minister, that had Collins brought proceedings under the Controverted Elections Act he could not produce the witnesses to prove what he proved in the criminal court, because the judge in the civil court would not receive testimony as to how men voted, that testimony could be received only in the criminal court. The Minister of Justice in his speech made that perfectly clear.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

But he could have

taken proceedings along the lines of the Saskatchewan case.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No. They were the

same form of proceedings in the Saskatchewan case, and if in that case they had endeavoured to ask how the men voted the same result would have followed. The reason they did not get anywhere in the Saskatchewan case was because the civil court had no jurisdiction, the transitional stage under the autonomy legislation not enabling that court to continue to deal with controverted elections, so they had to pass a new statute and establish a new court for that purpose. But

the law is 'as stated by the attorney general, that under the Controverted Elections Act no witnesses could be called and examined as to how they voted, and therefore the judges hearing the petition were without jurisdiction or power to award the seat to the man from whom it had been stolen.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It was quite competent for him to have taken action before Page did under the Controverted Elections Act.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It was competent, of

course, for him to do so, but he did not have his information; he did not have the evidence given by the electors and the verdict of the jury until after that date, and even if he had. those men could not have given this testimony.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The hon. gentleman is anxious to right one wrong. I would suggest that since none of this evidence was available to Mr. Kennedy at that time, he could not have proceeded until afterwards to right the wrong against himself.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am sure no one would

suggest that until the facts were investigated in the criminal court Mr. Kennedy had any real knowledge of what had happened. We have been fair enough to say that. But since the verdict was given, the conviction registered and Robb sentenced, not only Mr. Kennedy but all the world knows he holds the seat by stolen ballots. Of course any other proceedings, having regard to the fact that the electors could not say for whom they voted, would be nothing but a farce, as my hon. friend from St. Lawrence-St. George has made perfectly clear.

Now, if that be the only remedy, how are you to deal with it? I should like us this afternoon to consider ourselves not on our legislative side but on our judicial side-as the high court of parliament. I put this to every hon. member: The case of Collins may be your case and mine next year; how would you feel under similar circumstances? After all, justice is justice. It has been well said that it is an attribute of the Godhead. I admit we are all prone to have strong views, that our passions sometimes sway our reason and our prejudices destroy our judgment, but I ask every member of this House this afternoon to bear in mind that we are members of the high court of parliament, the highest tribunal in the land, the court that on its legislative side makes the criminal law, and that to deny this petition should be received and referred to the com-

Peace River Election

mittee on Privileges and Elections is to deny elemental justice to a fellow-citizen. And, Mr. Speaker, I should like to put this question to every member before he votes, as I have endeavoured to put it to myself: Would he under similar circumstances feel he was being fairly or justly dealt with if, with knowledge that his seat had been stolen from him under the conditions that prevailed in the Peace River constituency, he was not accorded the only remedy available to him, namely, the remedy of appeal to parliament? If any hon. gentleman can point out any other remedy that is available to Collins, then we have a different state of facts. But this being the only remedy, what are we to do? The hon. Minister of Justice made two or three observations in that regard that call for answer. He said: Parliament is powerless, because if we do refer the matter to the committee on Privileges and Elections, they cannot receive the testimony of witnesses, not being a criminal court. May I remind him that the mere statement carries its own answer? If it had been made by anyone less important than the Attorney General of Canada, I would use harsher words in respect to it. He said first of all: As on grounds of public policy you could not in civil proceedings receive the evidence of these witnesses as to how they voted, therefore a parliamentary committee could not. In the West Huron case a parliamentary committee received evidence and compelled witnesses to answer. Before a parliamentary committee that has been sitting during the last few weeks men have been compelled to incriminate themselves. That is the distinction between a parliamentary committee and a court of law. I remember in my first parliament seeing a man stand at the bar of this House and then sent to the tower because he had committed contempt of this high court of parliament in refusing to answer a question which he said would incriminate himself. Incrimination has nothing to do with it. Before the 'high court of parliament a man is bound to answer any question that is put to him. It cannot be used against him. In the parliamentary committee to which I have already referred men during the last few weeks have been compelled to answer questions incriminating themselves, because it was realized that it Was a committee of the high court of parliament, and therefore it could at least enforce every law that the high court of parliament could itself make. This high court of parliament has expelled men from the House, Louis Riel and others. This high court of parliament has the

right to determine whether or not Collins shall have a seat in this House, and when this matter is referred to the committee on Privileges and Elections the testimony already taken need not be taken again, the evidence was adduced before the criminal court on which his countrymen found Robb guilty. The certified evidence is there, the evidence of 111 men who went into the witness box and swore how they voted, the evidence of the ballots themselves, evidence that has been approved by the Supreme Court of Alberta on the appellate side by unanimous judgment. That judgment against Robb is predicated on the evidence of 111 witnesses. A jury of his countrymen after hearing the evidence decided that Robb was guilty. Robb himself did not dare go into the witness box. I can say that in parliament, although it could not be said by counsel for the crown in his address to the jury. Robb was convicted, and the Supreme Court of Alberta has confirmed his conviction. If parliament wants to do what was done in the Donaldson case, it can take that record with that certificate given by the Supreme Court of Alberta and read there that 111 men voted for Collins, and that their votes were marked for Rae. Then it can make a report that the Chief Electoral Officer attend at the bar of this House to amend his return and award the seat to the man who won his election as every man in this House should, by receiving the largest number of votes, but whose place is now taken by another.

Now the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, says that a committee of parliament is powerless, and therefore there is bo remedy. Daniel O'Connell once said, " Parliament is omnipotent." Parliament is supreme in this matter. If the law has failed to make provision whereby in a case of this kind the judges could hear the evidence and award the seat, then the power of this parliament-

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I do not think the Minister of Justice suggested that parliament was powerless. He simply pointed out that we could not bring before the bar of the House for punishment a man who refused to divulge the secret of the ballot box.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I think it was put in this way; I think he said that on grounds of public policy the courts had decided that under the section a man was not only not compelled to answer as to how he voted, but that he would not be permitted to say how he voted, and that the same principle would apply in the proceedings that would take place in committee. He then read the section, but surely in reading the section he

Peace River Election

must have observed that the secrecy of the ballot was limited to a legal proceeding. Therefore that argument is without strength, because it applies only to a legal proceeding and not to this parliament or any committee of parliament. In other words, the prohibition against a man saying how he voted or against his being compelled to answer is limited to legal proceedings under section 72 of the statute.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

If my hon. friend will

permit me, I understand that phase of the situation and I think the Minister of Justice understood it also. In case the Minister of Justice did not point that out may I be permitted to say that it appears to me highly improper, if not ridiculous, for the parliament of Canada to bring before the bar of this House and threaten with punishment any individual who would refuse to divulge the secret of the ballot. That is the point.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

My hon. friend has failed to observe the language of section 228.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I am not discussing the law.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Section 226 is as follows:

No person who has voted at an election shall, in any legal proceeding questioning the election or return, be required to state for whom lie voted.

Now my hon. friend says we should not compel these men to tell whether they voted for Collins or Rae or Kennedy, but he overlooked the fact that we are asking nothing more than that those men who have already told1 how they voted should come here and tell us again.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Well then, we will suppose a certain number of ballots were improperly marked as against Kennedy. Would we have the right, before taking legal proceedings in the criminal courts, to question these men before the bar of me House?

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Whatever may be the right of this parliament to make an initial investigation I am not concerned with; in my judgment parliament has that power, but in this case may I direct the attention of this tribunal to the fact that we only seek to take advantage of the proceedings of the courts of this country on behalf of the man who has been injured, the courts which condemned Robb to five years imprisonment for having stolen these ballots. That is all. These men who marked their ballots went into the witness box and told for whom they voted and having sworn that,

all we now seek to do is to permit the use of that evidence in the committee, or to call these men here -who have already sworn how they voted.

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I will just ask one more question. Will my hon. friend say that he would be prepared to move, by resolution or otherwise, that a witness be punished for refusing to answer such a question before the bar of this House?

Topic:   PEACE RIVER ELECTION
Subtopic:   MOTION THAT PETITION OF J. A. COLLINS BE READ AND RECEIVED
Permalink

June 16, 1926