June 24, 1926

LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BOIVIN:

Is it not a fact stated in evidence that the Dominion Distillery Products, Limited, could have bought the same liquor from other distilleries and did buy 60,000 gallons of it at 38 cents a gallon, two cents a gallon more than we sold the barge Tremblay alcohol for. Is it not true that the only fortune, therefore, they could possibly have been made by this purchase was two cents a gallon on the 16,000 gallons? Is it not true that if any fortune was made, it was $320 and no more.

IMr. Meighen. 1

Topic:   A. 1925.
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

And on the liquor they bought from others as denatured liquor this government should have collected the excise, because it was used for potable purposes, and the government knew it.

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LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BOIVIN:

When it is proved by my hon. friend from the evidence taken before that committee, that the liquor was used for potable purposes, this government will take the responsibility and not before.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

This government has the responsibility now. We have the evidence of Mr. George.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

We can easily adduce the evidence. Now the minister says, "This was not good liquor". And he produces a letter from the Quebec Liquor Commission addressed to Mr. Bureau written sometime in January, 1925. I listened in this House yesterday to the hon. member for North Vancouver seeking to upbraid the member for Vancouver Centre for not having proved explicitly that a certain number of files were taken from the department and destroyed. I remember the hon. member for Vancouver Centre making a statement to that effect in his speech on February 2, and I remember the minister saying that what was referred to was just the personal correspondence of Mr. Bureau and that he took such correspondence away. I think it was eight wooden boxes that he took to his home in Three Rivers. It was stated they were his personal property, not public property at all, that they were not destroyed, that they were at his home in Three Rivers, and that he was able to get whatever he had asked for up to that date. The first evidence we have of what is in that correspondence which Mr. Bureau took and still has is this letter of January 25. Will hon. members look at the letter and tell me if they see anything personal about it. If it is "personal" and "private", why is it introduced in the debate? Why, may I ask, was it not adduced in evidence? The first evidence we have of the contents is that these papers constitute documents which are the property of the people of Canada. The former minister takes the position: I will keep these eight wooden boxes here. If I can find in . them anything that will help me or the government I will give that to the Minister of Customs, but the rest I will keep as my property and nobody will know anything about it. That is the position of the eight wooden boxes. If that does not amount to destruction as regards the people of Canada,

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Customs Inquiry-Mr. Meighen

I would like to know what it is. It is worse than destruction; it enables the party who suppresses them, to use what he likes out of them and to refuse to the country the right to use the rest or any part.

I would not refer to the eight wooden boxes any more if I were a friend of the Hon. Jacques Bureau so far as this investigation goes. This letter says that the Quebec Liquor Commission have examined this liquor and it is not as good as what they buy from Canadian distilleries, although the evidence which was given at the inquiry, and which alone we are allowed to work on, declared it to be exactly the same as the liquor which the Quebec Liquor Commission had bought and on which it paid revenue tax. I can understand the minister selling liquor as denatured alcohol if it is unfitted for use as potable liquor to a private individual who does not pay anything in the way of revenue tax; but if the minister has something which can possibly be sold for use as potable liquor, it is his duty so to sell it because in that way he gets revenue for the country which he is sworn to serve. If the minister could have got a nickel for the liquor from the commission it was his duty to get it, because if the liquor was sold to that commission the revenue tax would be paid.

The only meaning of this letter is this: While they claim, although it is against the evidence, that the liquor is not as good as what they bought themselves, they would have bought it but at a very low price. If they bought it for a cent, the revenue would be paid, the $160,000 would come to this country. But the minister preferred to dispose of it to a political associate and the country lost the $160,000, although we were led to believe by the minister himself in his first speech in this House that this money was still to come into the treasury of Canada.

I want to come to the Moses Aziz case and I shall dwell on this with a little more thoroughness.

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LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BOTVIN:

I hope the right hon. gentleman will be more successful.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I hope I shall be as successful as I was on the last. The minister's success in this House appears to be in such clashing, violent contradiction of himself as has never been witnessed before in parliament and never witnessed before in the' case of a minister of his ability. Ask him to put one sentence of his speech of February 2 against any sentence of his speech of the day before yesterday and make them harmonize. Ask him in the Aziz case to put any sentence of

his evidence beside his sentences in this House the day before yesterday and make them harmonize. The minister has indu'ged in the practice Which the Prime Minister illustrated this afternoon of reserving for the committee such evidence as he thought he could safely give when subject to cross-examination and then coming to this House with the remainder and telling it here where he knows no crossexamination can take place. The minister sought to justify his course in relation to Moses Aziz by the assertion that he had not acceded to the request of the hon member for Gloucester (Mr. Robichaud).

It becomes us at this point to inquire what was the nature of the appeal made by the hon. member for Gloucester. Hon. members know it, -but its exact terms had perhaps better be on record.

Will you please consult with Hon. Mr. Lapointe about the proceedings instituted against Mr. A. M. Aziz, Caraquet, for violation of the Revenue Act. I attach the greatest importance to this affair, since ir the actual circumstances I need the help of all mj friends.

The Hon. Mr. Lapointe will give you all the neces sary information. Mr. Aziz is of the highest help fo; us during this campaign, and we cannot do withou his services.

With assurance of my highest consideration -

The appeal was this, that Moses Aziz, convicted for a second time on the prosecution of this government, convicted for the third time altogether of being a bootlegger and a violator on a Wholesale scale of the revenue laws of Canada, having been convicted and sentenced, should be kept out of gaol because he was necessary to the hon. member for Gloucester in the election then ensuing; that he was a precious help; that the hon. member could not do without his services. This was the appeal of the hon. member for Gloucester. It was characterized yesterday by his political associate the hon. member for North Vancouver-and I would not ask that a more severe characterization be applied-as such a letter that no man who had any sense of public honour could write and that the self-respect of the hon. member for North Vancouver was such that he would not attempt to defend it.

It follows that if an appeal of this dishonourable character was made to a minister, and that appeal was acceded to by the minister, the offence of the minister was greater than the offence of the appellant. The duties of the minister are bii#ier; his responsibilities to the whole public are higher and more direct. If the minister acceded to that appeal bis offence was worse than the offence of the hon. member for Gloucester. Did the min-

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Customs Inquiry-Mr. Meigheu

ister accede to the appeal or did he not? 1 put that question in the mind of all hon. members. It is always better in these matters to get down to evidence, facts and details. Let us try to understand the matter. I want now the best friend the minister has in this House to answer me when I put the question again: Did the minister accede to that dishonourable appeal or did he not? Every hon, member and none better than the minister himself knows that he did accede to that appeal, not only acceded to it at the time, but persisted in his compliance with that appeal over a space of many months.

When the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) asked the minister: Had you, at the time you answered the appeal of Mr. Robichaud, read Mr. Robi-chaudls letter? Mr. Robichaud's letter is dated the 21st September; the answer i3 dated the 28th or 29th September. The minister said that he either dictated the answer or it was ready there dictated for him when he went in. He answered the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre with the statement that he had not read the letter and that it had not been read to him. He went on to explain that he came to his office, found a large number of letters, about 150. with the answers there ready for him to sign. When he came to this he asked his secretary about the subject and his secretary said that it was an appeal from Mr. Robichaud to withhold the issuing of a summons for Moses Aziz. He asked the secretary whether Moses Aziz had been convicted. The secretary said yes. He asked him what the reason was and the secretary said that there was to be a revaluation and there was not. Then he asked him if he had power to withhold the execution of the warrant and he was told yes. Thereupon he said: Withhold it.

Speaking last night the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre said that he was very much impressed by this reply. Perhaps it animated him to move this subamendment. If the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre would associate less with those who are vitally concerned with the result of this verdict and read the evidence itself, read the former speeches of the minister, he would not be quite so much impressed with a reply of this kind. I want to point the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre to at least three answers of the minister in the evidence, when he was under oath. I believe, that he had seen that letter of Mr. Robichaud. After I have done that, I will point to something else; but before I do this, let me put a thought in the minds of hon. members. Do

they think that any private secretary should be retained for five minutes who would permit a minister to sign an answer to a letter of that kind without knowing its contents? A minister's duties are multifarious, as I ought to know; I have had charge myself of as many as three and four departments at a time. But I know, as the minister knows, that no letter of that character would ever be answered by any minister or any minister's secretary without its contents being known, and if the secretary permitted an answer to be made under such circumstances he has no business to be in the service one hour longer. Had the minister denied when giving his evidence having seen the letter or having been told about it by his secretary, then the secretary could have been called, and if he was delinquent the public of Canada who pay him would know it. But the minister reserves that assertion for parliament, at a time when he knows the secretary cannot be called nor he himself be subjected to cross-examination. The minister in his address the day before yesterday said in reference to this point, as will be found at page 4838 of Hansard:

Now what are the 'facts? Why did the minister, even at that late date, consider it advisable to hear the member representing the constituency before this man was sent to jail? There were several reasons. A letter from Mr. Stewart, the customs preventive officer at that point, whidh unfortunately was not filed, but which I have here, shows that Moses Aziz had turned king's evidence and had convicted his own brother and another person of smuggling.

The minister says that the reason he gave that answer and authorized his deputy to wire to Mr. Stewart, telling Mr. Stewart to see the magistrate and make sure that the warrant was not executed, was that he had a letter from Mr. Stewart stating that Moses Aziz had been tried in another case and had given King's evidence against his own brother, and that he had been given a vague promise by Mr. Stewart that he would be tried summarily and not on an indictable offence. This was one reason, and I ask hon. members to reflect that, to know of such reason, the minister must have examined the contents of Mr. Stewart's letter. And it is reasonable to assume that he would inquire into the contents of Mr. Stewart's letter and not acquaint himself with the contents of a letter upon the basis of which he was to take action? There is another reason also. I quote again:

That is one point.

This illustrates the mathematical definition that a point has no dimensions.

The next point is this: there is an assertion in th* record, it is read into the record in a lettor from Mr. Veniot, that the smuggling operation complained of

Customs Inquiry-Mr. Meighen

took place before the twenty-seventh day of June, 1925, the date upon which the new law was adopted. Previous to that date no jail punishment was obligatory, and the smuggling in this case had actually taken place before the new law went into force.

The minister must have known of the contents of Mr. Veniot's letter in which Mr. Veniot contended that there was an extenuating circumstance that Aziz had the liquor before the new law of 1925 went into effect. The minister proceeds to refer to the claim for revaluation:

The law, however, provides for imprisonment for a term of one year, and he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment only. The judge therefore must himself have made a mistake.

I admit that up to the point we have reached it is possible, though very highly improbable-so highly improbable that I do not think the minister should ask us to accept the suggestion-that he would make these inquiries in order to find reasons for acceding to the appeal of his fellow member from Gloucester without knowing what was contained in the letter which that member had written. It is hardly likely that he would inquire into all these other matters which, as he says, he had in mind and not inquire into the reasons given by the member himself. It is exceedingly improbable that he would not read the letter or have dt read to him. I stop here to make a few comments on these reasons advanced by the minister. The first is that there was evidence in a letter from Mr. Stewart that- Aziz, because he had turned king's evidence in another case, was given a vague promise that he would be tried summarily and not on an indictable offence. The House will be surprised when I tell them that Aziz was tried on summary, trial and not on an indictable offence. He was never tried on an indictable offence and the minister knows it.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

My hon. friend knows that under the criminal law a man may be tried for an indictable offence and elect to have a summary trial.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Yes, but will the hon.

gentleman read the charge in this case? Has he read it?

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LIB

Lucien Cannon (Solicitor General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

The nature of the offence makes no difference. Whether the trial will be summary or whether the accused will be prosecuted on an indictable offence is a matter that is left to his option.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The nature of the offence makes no difference whether it is indictable or summary? What does make a difference?

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Mr. GANNON@

A man may be tried for an indictable offence any day and have a summary trial.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Let the hon. gentleman read the offence in this case. He will find it in the evidence at page 1316. He will see that the man was tried under section 219 of the Customs Act and convicted of a summary offence. He was not tried on an indictable offence; he appeared before a magistrate. Consequently that reason wholly falls to the ground. The next reason is that there was an appeal from Mr. Veniot on the ground that the man had liquor in his possession before the new act was passed under which we are led to understand that he was tried. But I inform the House now that Aziz was not tried under anything new in the act at all; he was tried and convicted of an offence which has been in the law for decades. Again, therefore, the reason advanced by the minister falls, as appears on the record. But the House knows, just as the minister does, that even if all these circumstances existed as they have been described they were open to Aziz in his own defence. These were matters he should have pleaded; but he pleaded nothing. The fact is that with these things before him the minister must have known that there was nothing in these allegations. And he did know it; for later on, when he had nothing more before him other than he had on September 28, he said there was no reason for interference.

Now I come to the minister's evidence. In three places he states on oath that he actually had seen the letter, and although he does not swear that he read it the clear inference open to the committee was that he had read it. Surely he would not say that he had seen the letter and wish to convey the impression that he had not read it. The committee would have a right to assume, as beyond any doubt it did assume, that the minister did read the letter.

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CON
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Certainly, if that was his defence. But I will show that the minister's defence before the committee was wholly different from the defence he made in this House, both in manner and as to the facts he sought to establish. He took an entirely different position.

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LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Minister of Customs and Excise)

Liberal

Mr. BOIVIN:

I am very sorry that I did not know at that time that the committee would attach so much importance to that letter. Had I known that I would have followed

Customs Inquiry-Mr. Meighen

before the committee the same line of defence I adopted here, after becoming acquainted with the facts.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Surely the minister knew what importance the committee attached to the letter. It was made clear enough to him in the questions he was asked. Does he stand here now and suggest that he did not appreciate the importance of a communication of that kind? Can any hon. member conceive for a moment that the committee would not attach the utmost importance to a letter which the miniser had received and which is described by one of his colleagues as stamping the writer with dishonour and something no self-respecting man would defend? Of course the minister fully understood the importance of the letter. It was impressed upon him by the questions which were put to him by the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett).

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An hon. MEMBER:

He was under oath.

Mr, MEIGHEN: Yes, he was under oath. And what is more, the defence he assumed before the committee was wholly inconsistent with what he said in this House the day before yesterday. The two could not possibly be harmonized. I want to come, though, to what the minister stated in evidence. Hon. gentlemen will find it in many places, but chiefly at pages-

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LIB

June 24, 1926