June 3, 1929


The house in committee on Bill No. 296, for the relief of Charles Edwin AValker- Mr. Sanderson-Mr. Power in the chair. On section 1-Marriage dissolved.


LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

This is a bill to

which the attention of the private bills committee should be especially called. The respondent denies that she is guilty. There are several corespondents named in this case. As I understand it, at the present time the respondent is in receipt of a separation allowance. She believes that this is simply a " frame-up" in order to relieve her husband of the responsibility of paying this separation allowance. In this case, as in a number of others, there is no notification given to the respondent before she comes to the divorce committee of the Senate as to what charges she is to meet. When she appears before the committee charges are introduced of which she has no knowledge whatever, and hence she is not able to produce witnesses in refutation of those charges. Further, only a limited amount of money is granted to her in order that she may make good her defence, and this allowance is not sufficient for her to call the witnesses necessary when several corespondents are named. I call these allegations to the attention of the private bills committee in order that this particular bill may receive careful consideration there. If not, I am afraid we shall have to take it up in detail and ask for rhe evidence here on the floor of the house.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Mr. Chairman, I feel somewhat the same way as my hon. friend. When the charge of adultery is brought against a woman she should have full particulars and ample time to prepare her defence. When she goes before the divorce committee and swears positively that she has not committed that offence, I give great weight to her evidence, because my experience is that in civil cases a woman hesitates very much before she perjures herself. I think a great deal is to be said in favour of this bill being reheard

by the private bills committee, or at least being postponed for further consideration by this house.

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LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Aye.

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LIB
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Nay.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Power):

In my

opinion the "nays" have it.

(Mr. BOYS: Mr. Chairman, I should like to know whether anybody appeared on behalf of the respondent when the bill was before the private bills committee. I do not know what the proceedings were there; I have not the record before me. One would almost imagine that if the respondent denied Ihe charge, and asked for an opportunity of calling evidence to prove the falsity of the allegation by the petitioner, her request would have been granted. I do not know whether she asked for the opportunity or not, but there is one sure thing, if she asked for it, and it was refused, there was no reason in the world why she Should not have appeared before the private bills committee when they had the bill under consideration and given some indication of her evidence and asked permission to call witnesses. From my knowledge of the atmosphere in the private bills committee this session, had that been done I have no doubt full opportunity would have been given her. If no such request was made of the committee why now should we be asked to send the bill back? I certainly do not want to stand against any woman wrongly accused, but it does seem to me there should be some finality to these proceedings. I am in accord wdth what has been said that perhaps the opportunities given to the respondents in these cases are more or less insufficient. There is nothing in the petition except the allegation that a certain woman has committed a certain offence with a certain man on divers occasions. Perhaps that procedure should be amended. But that is not before us at the present time. The divorce committee dealt with this bill. I think we ought to be told whether the request that I have referred to was madte. If it was made and refused, why did not the respondent through her counsel, or through my hon. friend, if he is interested-as he has been in other cases

Procedure Respecting Divorce

and taken action and well taken it-appear before the private bills committee instead of waiting until we get to the last days of the session before raising this point? It does not seem to me to be fair to the other side-and there are two sides to this question. I think before we send this bill back to the private bills committee, somebody with knowledge of the situation should acquaint us with the proceedings before the divorce committee and before the private bills committee when the bill was under consideration there.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Mr. Chairman, personally I know nothing with regard to the evidence in this case. It is some two weeks ago since I had a letter from the respondent asking that something be done for her protection.

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CON

William Alves Boys

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYS:

Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order. I think the time has come when>

some stand should be taken by this house as to what right any member has to introduce and place upon Hansard letters written to him privately by one of the parties to a divorce action, which letter could never be admitted before a committee of this house or any court of justice.

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LAB
CON
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Power):

The member for Simeoe has the floor on a point of order. The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will please sit down.

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CON

William Alves Boys

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYS:

My point of order is that no member of this house has a right to quote from a private letter he received from one of the parties to a divorce suit, which letter would not be admitted before either the divorce committee or the private bills committee or any court of justice.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Power):

With all respelct to the judgment of the hon. member for Simeoe, I am inclined to think that his point of order is not well taken. In my view any member of this house has a right in debate to quote any document if he will produce it.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Mr. Chairman, I am very glad to have that ruling. But it may relieve the mind of the hon. member for Simeoe if I tell him that I had no idea of reading a letter. He complained that this matter ought to have been brought to the attention of the house at an earlier stage. I stated that several weeks ago I had a letter from the respondent urging that something be done in the case. Now-

7S594-200

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CON
LAB

June 3, 1929