May 14, 1929

IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

I have adopted this procedure because it seems to be the only one which can bring results. To refer the bill back to the committee of the whole house would simply mean that we would rehash the debate of last night, but I understand that the select standing committee could call for other witnesses; and one of the reasons why I ask that this bill be referred back is, as I have just explained, because I consider that the evidence adduced is not such as would be received in a court of law.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

What can be done with regard to the children by referring the matter back to the committee?

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

That applies to several

bills; but suppose the committee made a test case in connection with one of these bills where children are involved and called for carefully considered legal opinions from the Department of Justice and perhaps others on the question of whether or not parliament can do anything for the care of the children.

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LAB
IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Yes, and there are others. There is the question of the children, there is the question of evidence, and there is besides the broad question of principle upon which I have touched in my previous remarks on the subject.

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CON

Newton Manley Young

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. N. M. YOUNG (Toronto Northeast):

As the sponsor of this bill perhaps I should say a word or two. The evidence in support of this case has been understated. There is such a thing in law as res ipsa loquitur-the thing speaks for itself. This man had venereal disease, and no one would deny that that is a reason for divorce. As far as the children are concerned, whether this house has jurisdiction or not there is in the province where the petitioner resides jurisdiction to grant the custody of the children, and there are institutions to look after these' children if the

Procedure Respecting Divorce

parents are unable to dlo so. I do not think it becomes us to give any petitioner coming before this house more relief than is asked for. There is no relief asked for in this case so far as the children are concerned, and I am prepared to take the responsibility of saying that institutions in Ontario will provide sufficient protection for the children either at the behest of or in'spite of their parents.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

I wonder if the Minister

of Justice would be prepared to express to the house his view whether there is any jurisdiction in parliament to make an order in respect to the children.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

No. I have already

stated in another case that I believe there is none. It is purely a provincial matter.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

But divorce might be refused on account of the position of the children.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

Of course parliament has the right to refuse the divorce for that or any other reason.

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MINERVA ELLIOTT


Mr. N. M. YOUNG (Toronto Northeast) moved the third reading of Bill No. 88, for the relief of Minerva Elliott.


IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. HENRI BOURASSA (Labelle):

Mr. Speaker, this is the second bill with respect to which I gave notice of motion. My object in asking for the reference of this bill to the committee is that the evidence be reconsidered. The three witnesses in the case are police agents in the city of Montreal hired by the petitioner or on her behalf. Yesterday I proved conclusively that the testimony of at least one of these witnesses is not acceptable. Here is a police agent living in the city of Montreal, who states, among other things, that he followed the accused party, who left his car in front of the Place Viger station "on Bleury street" -a street half a mile distant from the Place Viger. I pointed out last night that in any court of law where the two parties were represented, or where there was somebody acting in the public interest-the king's proctor in England-immediately the testimony of this witness would be rejected, because it is manifest that either he did not reflect for a moment on his statement or took it for

Procedure Respecting Divorce

granted that the five judges in the case-I mean the five members of the senate committee-not knowing anything about Montreal, would swallow anything. Here in the evidence is a statement that a car was parked in front of a station which as a matter of fact is situated about a quarter or half a mile distant from the street indicated as that on which the station is. That is one point. Then two other witnesses like himself shadowed the man; they followed him. There is not a tittle of evidence by any of the witnesses that they followed the man into any . room or saw through the door or the window, or saw in any way whatever into that room. The whole thing is based simply on presumption. My object in asking to have the bill referred to the committee is to find out whether in that committee there are some rules of evidence. If they have no rules in the committee of the house surely that committee should inquire from the committee of the senate whether that body is governed by some rules of evidence.

Looking through May's Parliamentary Practice, 12th edition, 1917-it is quite recent -I find that in the House of Lords in England there is the following standing order:

No petition for any bill of divorce shall be presented to this house unless an official copy of the proceedings taken or had in the court having jurisdiction over matrimonial causes at the .place of his domicile or residence, or in some other court having jurisdiction in that behalf, at the suit of the party desirous to present such petition, be delivered upon oath at the bar of this house at the same time.

I understood that the object of this rule is to have some kind of evidence taken in a judicial manner in order to enlighten the committee of the House of Lords. Here we have nothing of the kind.

I am informed by people who know that there are now both in Toronto and Montreal, but in Toronto especially-I do not say this in any disparaging sense but simply because most divorce cases come from that city or its surroundings-special agencies who make these cases. The most respectable detective agencies, private agencies, do not wish to have anything more to do with such cases; some of the agents of respectable agencies are not prepared to make cases with as much ease as others do. Now the granting of divorce is becoming the most important business of parliament; parliament is passing more divorce bills every session than all public and other private measures put together; and it seems to me that we have reached the point where we shall either slaughter public business in order, as has been frequently said, to do iustice to the parties concerned in these di-

vorce cases, or go on at an increasing rate granting divorces on evidence collected and presented to a- committee of the house, under apparently no rules such as obtain in ordinary tribunals, or at least without a sufficient study of the various points of law that may be raised. In these circumstances it is about time, especially in a case where it is obvious that the ordinary rules of evidence have not been observed, that we discovered whether or not we are guided by some definite procedure. In this case it is clear that the testimony of one witness at least is not admissible, and the whole evidence is such that no man could be convicted on the strength of it in any court of law.

Are we going to countenance this? Are we going to discharge our responsibility by merely saying that there is a committee which has taken the proper precaution? The committee has not taken that precaution, and it is precisely because I desire to have the committee reconsider the matter that I suggest that the case be referred back in order to find out whether or not the evidence can be corroborated by genuine witnesses. It is becoming important also to ascertain the standing of these detective agencies who are now making a trade of the manufacture of evidence in divorce cases. Just by way of illustration I may observe, in connection with another case which has now been disposed of, that one of the agents testified, when asked why he had not gone further in the gathering of evidence, that there was not sufficient money in it. He said there was not much money in the case and he was in a hurry. That agent was candid enough to admit that when they are not sufficiently well paid they content themselves with what flmsy evidence they can ge>t hold of, relying probably upon the complacency of parliament to overlook such discrepancies as there may be in the evidence. Are we going to encourage that sort of trade? Is it to be known that parliament is putting a premium on organizations of police such as every civilized country is stamping out and forbidding to operate?

Topic:   MINERVA ELLIOTT
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UFA

Henry Elvins Spencer

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPENCER:

To what police agencies is my hon. friend referring? Are they city police?

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

In the case of Bill No. 88 the whole evidence is made by three police agents of Montreal.

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UFA
IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Yes, all of them are private-private investigators, private detectives. If my hon. friend will look through

Procedure Respecting Divorce

some of the records he will see that there are very few policemen-in fact, I have not noticed any this year-of either a municipal or a provincial force giving evidence. They are hired agents, just like some secret agents who are hired to locate smugglers and who receive from the government a share of the fines collected. That may be excused on the ground of public policy in view of the sad necessity of collecting revenue. But is it allowable in civil life? In a so-called civilized country which boasts of having a system of justice and a police so far superior to the system of justice and 'the police in the country to the south of us, is it allowable that parliament should lend its authority to the carrying on of that sort of trade, which apparently is beyond the control of any public body, municipal, provincial or federal?

My object in asking that the bill be referred back to the committee is to have these questions looked into more carefully. I am sure the members of the committee will be glad to have their attention called to the anomaly; and members of the high court of justice on the other side will also be pleased no doubt to have occasion to put themselves right in the eyes of the people of this country. If they are politically irresponsible, I do not think they are without a sense of moral responsibility. I believe they realize their moral responsibility in this matter and would like to do the right thing. This action would enable them to find out the real status of these police agencies. It would also save them from being imposed upon in the future as they have been heretofore. The committee should call before them witnesses who would testify just as they would before an ordinary court of law. In court such testimony would be brought to the attention of the crown prosecutor and action would be taken for perjury. What has been done in this case, and what will be done? It is to secure that information that I have asked the house to refer this bill back to the committee.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Is the house ready for the question? Those in favour of the amendment will kindly say aye; those opposed will kindly say nay.

The members having been called in:

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hour for private bills being exhausted the house will now revert to consideration of the resolution concerning the Canadian National Railways.

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CON

Peter McGibbon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McGIBBON:

I would draw attention to the fact that the vote already has been called, and must be completed.

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May 14, 1929