June 13, 1934

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

There were no private arrangements.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

This is one of the most disgraceful incidents that have occurred in my recollection in this house,- parties coming together to frame a bill of this importance without consulting a group in this corner who very shortly will be the government of this country.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

The loud laugh bespeaks the vacant mind.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

William Richard Motherwell

Liberal

Mr. MOTHERWELL:

That is an old chestnut.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

I submit that both parties, had they desired that unanimity and cooperation expressed in the opening words of the Minister of Justice, would have been well advised at least to have extended to us the courtesy of refusing, if we were mad or stupid enough to do such a

Franchise Act

thing. I can assure the government that we are always willing at any time to cooperate with them in the consideration of any measure which they may propose to bring before the house. I think it is an affront to the intelligence of the house itself that this sort of thing has been going on, and it is certainly an insult to the people whom we represent here.

I have this further word to say. If the principle that violation of the law is cause for disfranchisement laid down by the Minister of Justice is to be binding, or is to become a precedent for subsequent extension, then I warn the minister and the government that they are stepping into very dangerous ground which some day will bring trouble upon them and upon the country. Remember, I am not objecting to the disfranchisement of persons guilty of particular and specified . types of crime, but if this thing is to be done as the result of a violation of the law, it will be unjust. I submit the thought, Mr. Chairman, for your consideration and that of the house, that if violation of laws is to disfranchise people, the only supporters in the country of a political party would probably be those behind ourselves in this group. That is rather a consideration that might enter into the minds of hon. gentlemen.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

What immodesty.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

It is not immodesty; it is a fact. And if hon. gentlemen would read with more earnestness the evidence given before the Stevens committee they might be convinced that what I have said has a large measure of truth behind it. This matter has been utterly unfair from the beginning. I knew nothing whatever about these conferences; I heard nothing about them, and if there has been any exchange of bills between the government and the opposition, it surely should have been a matter of courtesy on the part of the government to have given us a copy. And since the leader of the opposition is such a lover of liberty and equality, I should imagine that he would have suggested the thought to the government, since they had not volunteered to extend us that courtesy. It is not fair, nor is it calculated to stimulate that spirit of good will and cooperation in the house which is certainly desirable.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am sure the hon. member for Bow River will hardly think it was part of my duty or privilege to extend him any invitations on behalf of the government. My duty consisted in either accepting or refusing-

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

I made myself very clear.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The hon.

gentleman said he thought that I ought to have preferred certain requests. I felt that if any invitations were being issued, and inasmuch as the government was issuing them my responsibility consisted in either accepting or refusing the invitation extended. As regards the question of the hon. gentleman not having had any knowledge of the matter, as I have already pointed out, the Prime Minister's statement was made in this house -and it appears in Hansard-that he was sending a copy of the bill to myself.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I said it twice.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

As to my being an advocate of liberty, I have always felt, so far as the C.C.F. is concerned, that from the point of view of liberty they would prefer to make their own requests rather than have me make any on their behalf.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I desire to corroborate,

if corroboration is necessary, the statement made by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) as to what transpired in connection with this bill. I stated in this chamber that I proposed to give him a copy of it. I later indicated to him in this chamber again that I proposed to do so, and' I did so. I did that because he is the only leader of the opposition recognized by law at the present moment. Which leader was I to select other than the official leader of the opposition? He occupies a statutory position; he is recognized as such, and is provided with certain emoluments as a minister of the crown. Now, which leader of the other oppositions was one to select? The hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Gardiner) has been perfectly fair; he spoke of four or five parties. Was I to send an invitation to the hon. member for Acadia, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland), the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa), or ithe hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail) ? And I was forgetting the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill).

I did what I fancy any leader of a government would have done under similar circumstances, and I may say to my hon. friends in the southeast corner that the very reason I did it publicly in this house was to afford an opportunity for any statement to be made, if that was thought desirable, by others representing other sections or parties.

_ I confess that as to the number of parties in this house I have no clear understanding.

394S

Franchise Act

In my capacity I know only the official leader of the opposition, who appears in the statute and is provided f-or therein, and I must treat him as such. And I do. But when you ask me to deal with the hon. member for Acadia to-day, and peradventure the hon. member for Bow River to-morrow, and possibly the member for Labelle or the member for Comox-Alberni as leaders of parties, I find it a little difficult to understand where I am at. Under these circumstances I did what any member in this house in my position would have done.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

The bill is still before the house.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am coming to that.

I stood in my place twice and said that I proposed to give a copy to the leader of the opposition, and no observations having been made, no suggestions, as sometimes has been the case in other matters, I thought that probably, for reasons that have been stated to-day, hon. gentlemen did not desire to participate in any discussions of the bill. At any rate, that is the fact.

The difficulties that we have had in dealing with this matter have been accentuated by statements that have appeared in the press. I did make a statement in the house with respect to what had appeared in one of the local papers. I have not yet ascertained the source of that paper's information, but that was based upon what we call our typewritten statement of points that had to be considered, which was subsequently set up in type, in the form these matters have always taken. We did not direct the form; it came to us in the form of a bill. That first one we had before us, and there were other points being pressed upon us.

The draftsman of the bill was asked to deal with all the points that might arise for consideration. Two of them were embodied as clauses not in the bill that it is proposed to submit to the house but in the rough draft of a bill that was discussed at a conference between the leader of the opposition and the Minister of Justice and his associates. The unfortunate telegrams that were sent to western Canada I cannot think were calculated to advance the interests of democracy. In one instance the correspondent of the paper alleged that his information came from official sources. In the other instance he quoted a section of what he said was a bill. There is only one way in which a document becomes a bill and that is on its introduction into the house as such. Since I have been in office I have found drafts of bills that

were considered and thought of but that never saw the light of day. I know one many years old that is in the privy council office. These bills were outlines of ideas that were in the minds of some ministers *who thought those ideas might be adopted. But until they are introduced into the house, they are not bills in the exact sense of the term. When at this time the government had a draft bill ready which it proposed to introduce, that was made use of to create passions and prejudices in certain quarters against the government and against certain candidates in an election in Saskatchewan. We can, however, eliminate that for the moment; the explanation has been made and it is not necessary to deal with the matter further.

But I have had some difficulty personally with regard to one phase of this question and I think it is a phase to which the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland) has just referred: that is, under this legislation shall a body of lawbreakers who have successfully flouted the law be dealt with when it comes to a question of the franchise? One hesitates to deal with this by name because it is undesirable to mention by name. How are we to use terms so general as to be able to meet the situation? There was no intention of dealing with any sect within any province other than those in British Columbia. The difficulty is that we have for the first time in this country a successful and open defiance of the law, because it was successful, I am sorry to say. I now relate to the committee what I have not done before. When the census was being taken it gave His Majesty's ministers and council a great many hours of difficulty to determine how we were going to deal with this situation. It is very wrong to let people think they can openly and successfully flout the law of Canada; on the other hand, is it worth while to send an armed force of police and others at great expense and with much publicity to overcome this resistance? In the next place, if you overcome their resistance you cannot compel them to give you the accurate information that the census returns require. Finally, we secured the best estimate we could as to the numbers of men, women and children comprised in the colonies and as hon. members know, the house gave to the minister the necessary financial support to establish a special penitentiary on the Pacific coast where there are now, I believe, upwards of five hundred incarcerated.

Just what language should he used and whether such a provision should be made at all, is a matter that has been up for consideration and has been carefully studied, and I

Franchise Act

say frankly that we have not yet been able to arrive at an adequate solution. The problem is a very difficult one. At one time I thought of asking my colleague the Minister of Justice to leave a blank clause and to indicate what had to be dealt with, but as he very properly pointed out to me, that is not a sound way to introduce legislation. The matter is still giving us much thought and we are meeting to-night for the purpose of trying to arrive at some method with which to deal with it. I have very frankly, without any restraint, given the committee the facts regarding this problem.

With regard to the other point about which so much political capital has been made in some parts of the country, I suppose it must be within the knowledge of many members that we have had many and great difficulties in our courts. The Minister of Justice referred to his difficulty in reading reports of cases. There is the difficulty of securing an interpreter who is conversant with both English and the language of the person who is before the court in either criminal or civil proceedings. As the Naturalization Act provides that the granting of a certificate is predicated upon an adequate knowledge of either English or French, the question has been put to me and, I fancy, to many members on the other side as to what method should be adopted. The draftsman drew that clause for the purpose of having it discussed.

I may say that when I handed the proposed bill to the leader of the opposition I had not even read it in detail; it has not been before council and the bill was not before council until after the discussion in conference took place. It was agreed that council alone could not deal with it, but I say to the committee that it raises a problem of very considerable magnitude. If people go about and try to raise passions and prejudices by saying that parliament is endeavouring to take away from persons the rights and privileges they enjoy, that argues ill for democracy and for its future. If the fact that an effort is made to ensure that there shall be some understanding of the country's institutions, proceedings and matters of that kind by those who exercise the right of franchise, is to be made the reason for arousing prejudices against the government, then of course you do not get very far with improving conditions; that is all there is about that. That is how that matter came up. I fancy there are in western Canada very few lawyers who have not had at some time or another a judge speak to them about this question. At times it has been found a little difficult to proceed because of inability to 74726-250

secure an interpreter who would be able with sufficient mastery of English and the language of the settler to place the matter properly before the court. It must be remembered that these people are British subjects under the naturalization law. Sometimes when we express opinions with regard to some of these matters we are not quite familiar with all circumstances and difficulties with which we have to deal. Those were two problems that were mentioned to the draftsman as having been pressed upon the attention of the government. He made the notation on them in the manner in which the committee has it and it was dealt with at the little conference in the way indicated.

With respect to the matter mentioned by the leader of the opposition as to the two enumerators, I quite appreciate the force of his observation and of his argument with regard to an appeal to a judge. I do not think there will be any difficulty in that connection. The only reason it was left in the form in which it is, that is that it was not dealt with at all, is this: there were two considerations that should be brought to the attention of the committee before it is finally disposed of. One is the question of time; there must be no undue delay with respect to the matter, otherwise there would never be finality with regard to the lists; the other was to provide for simplicity of appeal, if possible without expense. Those two factors must be borne in mind and in addition, if there is a considerable body of appeals, you have the civil business of the district or county court judge to deal with in considering matters of this kind. I speak feelingly about this because under our present statute it became necessary to take appeals on several occasions; there was one instance in which I was interested and the delays were so considerable as to cause great difficulty to members of the house. The effort here-not the effort of the government only but the effort of this house, if they receive the measure which the Minister of Justice will submit to them-the collective effort of this house, without the government having any fixed ideas as to what is best, but hoping that the house itself will express its opinion as to what is best, will be to secure an honest expression of public opinion with respect to matters that are submitted to them at a general or by-election as the case may be. Now, I know the difficulties; I have not run in as many elections as I have without knowing the intolerable expense that candidates are put to in checking up existing lists under present conditions. A few hundred dollars would pay a candidate's entire election expenses in

Franchise Act

my constituency of West Calgary except for this. But in the last election checking up those lists literally cost me thousands of dollars. It is an exceedingly difficult thing. And I fancy that experience in a big city confirms that. One of my friends told me that in one of the large cities the cost was absolutely prohibitive. Those are the factors that we have in mind. The plan of having the elector sign his or her name was suggested to the House of Commons in 1917 or thereabouts-I am not sure whether to the house or to the government-but it was felt at that time that that would be too cumbersome a thing, and nothing was done. British Columbia adopted that plan and found it worked satisfactorily, because there is room on the sheet signed by the elector for him or her to sign again, so that the question of impersonation can be settled at once by comparison of the two signatures. What the right hon. gentleman has said as to the desirability, nay the necessity of the authenticity of the first signature being established is beyond question.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (Outremont):

Has that

clause been effective in British Columbia?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am told that it has

rendered almost insignificant the number of cases in which it had to be used, because they knew it was there.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Peter John Veniot

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

It scared them.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, the fact of it being there had a deterrent effect. That is my information. I think Hon. Mr. Oliver put it on the statute book. I recall discussions that have taken place with many public men on both sides of politics at various times as to how this situation could be met, and this is the method we have adopted. I but state what is known to many people; I remember being told by a friend of mine that he had seen someone off on the train who had voted forty-seven times that day.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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June 13, 1934