April 22, 1929

LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

May we have an explanation

from the mover and seconder of this motion?

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

This bill appears in

my name and the case is a very simple one.

Procedure Respecting Divorce

The evidence can be read in about five

minutes by any hon. member. One of my hon. friends opposite asks me to explain the bill. He has before him the evidence taken before the senate committee and I think he will agree with me that this is a bill which should get its second reading and be referred to the committee on miscellaneous private bills.

Briefly, I may say for the information of my hon. friend, the petitioner is a well known physician and surgeon in a city in the province of Ontario. The respondent did not appear before the senate committee. The petitioner and the respondent were married in the city of Kingston on January 1, 1923 and the respondent was married in Lima, Ohio on October 8, 1928. As I say, the respondent did not appear before the senate committee, but the man whom she married in Lima, Ohio, was present and gave evidence. The case is not complicated; it is very simple. I am not a lawyer, but I see no room for argument over this bill. Let me say that the fact that I sponsor this bill is no indication of my attitude towards the principle of divorce. I do not consider that the principle of divorce is in question at all at the moment. As for that principle I yield to no hon. member in this house my sincere conviction, although I will not now state what it is-but will do so if the opportunity ever warrants it; I voted against the bill from the senate for a divorce court in Ontario because I thought that public sentiment in the province of Ontario did not demand the establishment of such a court. The only method which we have of granting divorces is therefore the procedure which we are following this afternoon. Whether divorce is right or wrong is apart from the question. I deplore the fact that there are SO1 many applications in Ontario, but at the same time we are bound to deal with them and this is the only machinery we have for the purpose. I would therefore ask the house to give the bill its second reading.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I note that the

senate committee on divorce, in making their report, say that the requirements of the rules of the senate have been complied with in all material respects. Will the mover of the resolution give the house some idea of the requirements of the rules of the senate?

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

No hon. gentleman

knows the requirements better than does my hon. friend, and I do not propose to enter into any argument with him.

Mr. A. E. RO'SS (Kingston City): This is the bill m regard to which it was my purpose

to say something but I understand that the evidence given will not be considered until the bill is in committee. My point is this. I believe that the house should now consider whether the requirements at present demanded for the obtaining of divorce are satisfactory. I have nothing to say on the question of divorce, but this country recognizes divorce as does the country across the line. We pay mutual respect to marriages in the two countries, and when a couple have been legitimately divorced and legitimately and legally married, then I think the question should be raised now as to whether that condition should or should not be called adultery. At present we hurl from each side of the line the epithet, at people legitimately married, that they are living in a state of adultery. This question I intend to bring up in connection with this bill in committee of the whole.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I must thank the

promoter of the bill for having given an outline of the case. It is a distinct improvement on the procedure we have had in the past. However, I would say that the question I asked has a direct bearing on the case. As yet it has not been explained to me just what are the requirements of the senate; I do not think we know exactly on what we are voting. I have been in the house some eight sessions. When a member first comes here I imagine he takes these bills as matters of routine, but as the years go on some of us begin to inquire with regard to the principles involved and I confess frankly that I do not know exactly under what rules the senate works in these matters. If I am not mistaken-and I speak subject to correction by the lawyers present- we have no statutory arrangements with regard to divorce, hence we hardly know just where we are.

I have heard it stated in this house that there is only one ground for divorce, but that is not correct; to my knowledge divorce has been granted in this house on other grounds than that of adultery, and as far as the powers of this house are concerned, I see no reason why wider grounds should not be recognized. Personally I am inclined to think that there is a danger in over-emphasizing the mere physical act of adultery in making it the only ground for divorce. The other day I came across an interesting statement in the Life and Letters of the Earl of Birkenhead;

It must be admitted 'by all the right-minded people that the duties of chastity and continence shall be insisted upon. But so to limit the causes of divorce is to ignore the fact that the spiritual and moral aspects of marriage are incomparably more important than the physical side.

Procedure Respecting Divorce

And again:

It is not to the public welfare that utter unsuitability for the marriage state whether the cause be moral, mental or physical, should not involve the same consequences.

That is the considered opinion of one of the most eminent British jurists, so I do not think we can sweep away all arguments of that kind and maintain that divorce can be granted only on one ground.

Further than that, much of this evidence would not be received in a court of law. Since these discussions began I have read a number of the cases and I find very often that the fact that the parties registered at the same hotel is considered evidence of improper relationship. I can quite readily understand that anyone desirous of securing a divorce could easily arrange a frame-up under such circumstances, and collusion might be very common. We have no information before us with regard to a situation of this character. Registration at a hotel might be accepted as evidence in a court of law, but no evidence is adduced to show whether or not the person dressed as a woman really is a woman; a man could dress as a woman and register with the man seeking a divorce, and that would be sufficient to secure a divorce.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

There is a provision for

physical examination.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The laws of evidence are there, but the practice in the senate committee does not take account of such considerations. Very often we are dependent upon the evidence of men who are professional detectives, partners at that. Such evidence may not be sufficient, and may not be fair to the respondent.

We have been assured that the people who come here seeking divorce do so as a matter of right, but I do not think that is the case either. All these bills are prefaced by a petition; these people come asking a special favour, and so in rejecting their applications it cannot be said we are doing any injustice. Each case must be judged on its merits. The promoter of this bill has joined with the Minister of Railways-

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

I object to the word " promoter." I am not the promoter of the bill; I am sponsoring the bill which stands in my name.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I should like very much to have the distinction drawn between "promoter" and "sponsor." It is hardly conceivable that the hon. gentleman should bring forward a bill and ask this house to pass it

when he is not in sympathy with it. He would throw upon us the responsibility of rejecting it, yet he says he is opposed to the principle of the bill. I submit that this is subversive of political morality.

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker; I did not say I was opposed to the principle of the bill.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The hon. member is opposed to the principle of divorce.

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

I said if the time

ever came for me to declare myself' in this house on the principle of divorce I should be very glad to do so.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Do it now.

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson

Liberal

Mr. SANDERSON:

This is not the proper time; the principle of divorce is not before us.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

My hon. friend

takes the view that the principle of divorce is not now before the house. The other day I understood the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) to take the ground that the principle of divorce was before the house in each bill, and if the principle of this bill is not the principle of divorce I do not know what it is. So here we have one hon. gentleman saying this is not the time to discuss the principle of divorce, while the leader of the opposition is strongly of the opinion that this is the time when the principle of divorce should be discussed. What are some of us ordinary members to do in the face of opinions of this kind? In any case, the hon. gentleman who seconded this motion-

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LIB
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Then I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, whether or not this motion is before the house.

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LIB

John Frederick Johnston (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

In putting the motion to the house, in accordance with the custom, I called the name of the hon. gentleman sitting next to the mover, as seconder of the motion. If I was wrong in using that name the motion is not properly 'before the house.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Then I should like to have the motion before the house in order that I may continue what I have to say.

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LIB

Mitchell Frederick Hepburn

Liberal

Mr. HEPBURN:

I am prepared to second the motion of the hon. member

Procedure Respecting Divorce

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April 22, 1929