I think it is a matter of regret that this motion has been made, that the Speaker do now leave the chair for the house to go into committee of the whole on this particular bill. This bill, as the house knows, has come to us from the senate. Tiie senate passed the bill granting the divorce. According to the usage of this house the bill came to the private bills committee of this house and that committee saw fit to report the preamble not proven. I say it is regrettable that the bill has come back to the house, and I make that statement for a number of reasons. One reason is that it is a private bill and will occupy the time of the house for an hour, thus preventing the discussion of public bills. It will hold its place on the order paper until finally disposed of. There is reason to believe that this bill will occasion a good deal of debate not only on the motion that the Speaker leave the chair but in committee of the. whole, if it should go there. I think it would be very unfortunate if we had to consider this bill on the floor of the house and discuss the evidence that was brought before the committee. It is not desirable that this should be done if it can possibly be avoided, and in what I say to-night I shall not refer, except to a very brief extent, to the evidence that was given and certainly not at all to those things which might seem to be objectionable. I shall object for certain other reasons. I repeat, it is very unfortunate that this bill has come back to this house for it will introduce on the floor of the house a matter which we might well avoid.
It will be pointed out of course that the bill has had the sanction of the senate; that is true. But it should also be pointed out that the bill when it was before the senate committee carried by a majority of four to three, and that in itself indicates that there was good ground for difference of opinion in the matter, and good ground at least for the private bills committee taking the position they did. The charge has been made that the members of the private bills committee did not familiarize themselves with the evidence, but that is not in accordance with the facts. I have reason to know that many members of the private bills committee who opposed this bill did familiarize themselves with the evidence. I think it is unfortunate
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also that a certain member of the senate committee-and I might refer to him here since he has seen fit to discuss the matter and give it publicity-has followed the course he has. 1 know that under ordinary circumstances we are not allowed to refer to what has taken place in the senate; but when the chairman of the senate committee saw fit to give an interview to a Winnipeg newspaper, throwing reflections on the members of the private bills committee-
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it does seem to me that when the chairman of the senate committee sees fit to give to a Winnipeg newspaper an interview in which he casts reflections on a committee of this house I cannot be very far out of order in referring to what he has said.
Will the hon. gentleman pardon me? I was looking at the rule when he was referring to the statement made by the chairman of the senate committee; I did not know that he was referring to an article in the press or an interview which is an entirely different matter. I was speaking of proceedings in the other house when I requested the hon. member to refrain from making any reference thereto.
I have no intention of referring to anything that was said in the senate, but I think I am in order in referring to what the chairman of the senate committee said in an interview given the press. In that interview he cast reflections on the private bills committee of this house, indicating that we had not sufficiently studied the evidence, had not been reading it, and therefore should not reverse the finding of the senate committee. Now it is a matter of procedure that seems to be accepted in this house that when these bills come from the senate and get their first and second readings they are referred to the private bills committee. That seems to be the regular procedure, and if it is not competent for the private bills committee of this house to review the evidence and pass judgment in accordance with that evidence, then the whole thing becomes a farce and we might as well drop the procedure altogether.
So far as the evidence is concerned, I can assure the house that I read it myself and I know that other members of the committee read it; and when we bear in mind the fact that the bill passed the senate committee by a majority of four to three, then there is no good ground for criticism of the private bills committee because they saw fit, by a majority of eighteen or nineteen to nine, to reverse the finding of the senate committee. As I said at the outset, I do not want at this stage to go into certain features of the evidence but I do wish to refer to one fact and that is that the evidence proved that this man who is seeking the divorce from his wife at one time connived with his wife to secure a divorce, to the extent that he obtained for her a railway pass to Reno. I think he was an employee of tlhe Canadian National Railways and he may not have bought it; anyway he got it for her. Later, realizing the position in which he had put himself by appearing to connive, he withdrew the pass and then, as I understand the matter, made a pretence of objecting to her going to Reno. This of course was a foolish procedure under any circumstances. But it indicated that he was willing to secure a divorce and that he withdrew the pass and assumed an attitude of seeming opposition only because he realized-probably on the advice of his lawyer, for all we know-that he was compromising himself and that this . would work against him when the matter came before the various bodies that had to adjudicate upon the case.
It is quite true that when the bill came before the private bills committee it was indicated that we were not allowed to bring forward new evidence. That would seem to be in harmony with the legal procedure that when a case is appealed, the appeal must be based upon the evidence already submitted. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that is the situation. There was a certain type of evidence given before the senate committee that the respondents were not in a position at the time to refute. That did not, however, and does not prevent those of us who had read and studied the particular evidence in question from considering it ourselves, judging the weight of it and recalling that in many respects it was open to objection and might easily be overthrown. If we are called upon to discuss the matter before the committee of the whole house where we have to go into the case in fuller detail, then I shall be compelled-
were thought desirable, but at this stage 1 do not think it is. That is, I would not go into it if that could possibly be avoided, and it is only because of the motion which has been forced upon us by the hon. member for Queens-Lunenburg (Mr. Ernst) that we are discussing it at all. As I have said, although the legal procedure is that we are not allowed to introduce new evidence, that does not prevent some of us at least from seeing the very weak spots in the evidence that was adduced, and probably we can base our conclusions upon the evidence as it appears to us.
I have said already that this bill has been turned down by the private bills committee, the majority who voted against the bill believing they had good grounds for rejecting the evidence that was submitted. I have pointed out already that there was abundant evidence of connivance; that it is an accepted principle that when persons come before a divorce court they must come with clean hands. It may be quite true that the plaintiff in this case was not guilty of the offence which was charged against his wife, but it was abundantly proven that he was anything but faithful to the marriage vows which he took. Therefore I express regret that the matter has been brought to the notice of the house once again, and I still further regret that we are to be compelled to go into the details of the evidence as we certainly shall be if. this motion carries and the Speaker leaves the chair for the house to go into committee of the whole.
Mr. F. J. LAFLECHE (Riehmond-Wolfe) (Translation):
Mr. Chairman, the only interest I have in this matter is my desire to see to it that the fair name of the private bills committee should remain unassailed. A few days ago, this bill was brought before the committee and it was rejected by a big majority. I therefore feel bound to protest as far as it is in my power against the procedure followed by the sponsors of this motion.
So, I urge upon those who are desirous of safeguarding the rights of the several committees established by this parliament for a number of years as well as upon the protectors of widows and orphans, to vote against the motion.
My hon. friend may make something of that point, but I do not feel about the matter exactly as he does. It is to be regretted that Quebec has not arranged that divorce cases should come before the judges of that province as they do before the judges of other provinces in this dominion, but I think it is because they do not believe in divorce. I am, always have been and always will be opposed to divorce, and if there is any evidence to justify the conclusion that in a divorce case brought before the House of Commons and the Senate the divorce should not be granted, I intend to cast my vote to that effect.
As the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) has said, the procedure in this parliament is that a divorce bill is first considered by the upper chamber. A committee of that house considers the evidence, and after it has done so, under the constitution such divorce bills are sent to this house so that they -may be considered by a special committee of the commons. In this particular case this bill was considered by the senate, and, strange as it may seem to you, sir, and to me, we found that after the bill had been considered by the senate the divorce was approved by four members of the senate committee as opposed to three. I realize with you, sir, that as a member of the House of Commons I have no right, nor has any other member a right, to criticize anything that may happen in the other chamber, but I just wish to direct the attention of hon. members to the difference between the way in which the matter was considered by the committee in the other chamber and the way in which the members of the private bills committee of this house considered it.
The bill came to the members of the private bills committee. I have the honour of being a member of that committee. And may I say that outside of myself that committee is perhaps one of the strongest in the House of Commons. The members of that committee take their duties seriously. Whether it is a divorce bill or any other bill which comes before that committee, we endeavour to give to the measure under review the best consideration possible and make our findings accordingly. Much as I, and I think perhaps I may speak for other members of the committee, dislike it, we had to deal with this particular divorce case. Like my hon. friend from Lisgar-and again I am sure I am voicing the sentiments of a number of other members of the committee-we were obliged, contrary to our inclination but as our duty to the house and to the public, to read the evidence in the
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case It is not a pleasant duty as far as I am concerned, and I cannot understand the attitude of anyone who, the committee having decided the matter to the best of their ability and agreed upon a decision practically in camera, would now compel us to discuss this thing before the public in the House of Commons.