May 30, 1938

CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

So nervous. Jittery is a word used a great deal on the street these days, and I commend the minister to look it up in some of the slang dictionaries. I wish the minister would not go off on a tack and make remarks that are quite beside the point. Let me repeat: Far from trying

to intimidate the government, I have not even a motion to propose, and I had no idea of asking for disallowance. I stand here to

Validity of Quebec Statute

bring before the house some grievances of the people of Canada, and I think the minister-who has some streaks of Liberalism in him, anyway-will not deny me the right to do that.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

We all

have some streaks of something.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The question has

been raised as a point of order. I looked up another case away in the past having to do with this same question of the Jesuits' Estates Act, to which the leader of the opposition referred. My reference, however, has nothing to do with the famous speech of Sir John Thompson. My reference is to a subsequent debate the following year, on April 30, 1890. On the motion to go into supply Mr. Charlton said: -

Before you leave the chair, sir, I wish to place in your hands a motion of which I gave notice a few days ago, with a few slight changes in the verbiage, with reference to submitting the Jesuits' Estates Act to the Supreme Court of Canada.

After a number of whereases the motion concluded:

This house is of the opinion that the question of the constitutionality of the said act should have been submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada, in pursuance of the powers conferred by the Supreme and Exchequer Courts Act, when the question could have definitely been determined by such court.

Here you have the curious case of a member of the house, after disallowance had been refused, rising in his place the following year to bring in a motion of want of confidence in the government. This was done on going into supply in connection with a matter that had been settled already.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Quite right.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

To-night I am rising to urge upon the government that in view of a situation which exists, in view of the suffering being caused to citizens of this country, consideration should be given to these grievances. The minister says that he is not able to answer me. I am sorry if he will not answer what I have to present. All I can do is to petition the government, and it is for the government to say whether they will listen to me, whether they will say nothing in connection with the grievances which I am bringing forward. That is for the government to say. I cannot instruct the minister even in that small matter. That must be determined by his own conscience and by expediency.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

It is determined by the constitution.

fMr Woodoworth.]

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I cannot force the minister to speak, but I rather resent what he said when he referred to the house interfering in this matter. What is this house except a forum in which we can discuss the affairs of this country? Why am I sent here if not to bring grievances, if such exist, to the attention of the house?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

There is no grievance here.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The duty of this house is to guard the people's liberties. When anything affects those liberties, such as the existing arrangements in Quebec, then I have the right to defend those liberties. I would be recreant in my duty as a member of this house if I failed to do that.

I brought up this matter some fourteen months ago, and the minister promised that he would take it under consideration. Outside of asking one or two questions, we have refrained this session from bringing before the house these grievances which affect a very considerable section of the people. I do not think we should be asked to refrain any longer. All I am doing is to present the case, and the minister can choose whether he will say anything in answer. He can continue his stony silence if he likes; that is for him to decide. However, I want to make it clear from the very commencement of my remarks that I am not asking him to state whether he is going to ask for disallowance. My plea last year was not for disallowance; it was for the reference to the supreme court of a very troublesome matter.

On March 30 of last year I brought this matter to the attention of the house. I do not want to repeat the speech I made at that time, but let me quote shortly from Hansard of that date, as follows:

Premier Duplessis in introducing the bill stated, according to the Gazette of March 18, that since the parliament of Canada repealed section 98 of the criminal code, there was no means of preventing communist meetings. I submit that that statement in itself is an admission that that legislation is an indirect attempt to legislate in the field of criminal law, and as such it is in reality ultra vires. The important sections are 3 and 12. Section 3 reads:

It shall be illegal for any person, who possesses or occupies a house within the province, to use it or allow any person to make use of it to propagate communism or bolshevism by any means whatsoever.

And then section 12:

It shall be unlawful to print, to publish in any manner whatsoever or to distribute in the province any newspaper, periodical, pamphlet, circular, document or writing whatsoever propagating or tending to propagate communism or bolshevism.

Validity oj Quebec Statute

I pointed out to the minister then, and I do so again to-night, that communism was not defined in the act. In the upper house in the course of a debate one member sought to identify communism and socialism. The premier said there would be little difficulty in making decisions, for communism could be "felt." That really means that any one whom the premier does not like may be termed a communist. For example, the premier stated that Mr. Joseph Schubert was a communist. Mr. Schubert is an alderman of the city of Montreal. I pointed out at that time that there were two courses which the government could take. Either they could disallow, or they could refer the legislation to the supreme court. I drew attention to some of the evils that were likely to follow if this legislation remained on the statute books, a number of which evils have already come about. I pointed out that if this legislation remained in force, all bibles might be seized and destroyed and all ehurches padlocked.

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LIB

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. DUPUIS:

Have they been?

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Their distribution

has been prevented. I suggested that some of the passages from the writings of the early Christian fathers might not be permitted under the terms of that act. I referred to many of the reformers in Great Britain who could be termed communists under this legislation. I suggested that it might be possible to padlock McGill university. That has not been done as yet, but certain individuals have not been permitted to speak at that university. I suggested that it was indeed fortunate that this House of Commons was situated where it is because even our library might be padlocked.

The Minister of Justice did not give a very satisfactory answer at that time. Speaking as a responsible member of the government he said:

For many years the power of disallowance has not been resorted to by the government of Canada.

The minister referred to the fact that the power of disallowance of dominion legislation by the imperial parliament no longer existed. He continued:

I would not say the same condition would apply to provincial legislation, but it has often been stated by the courts that within the sphere of their own jurisdiction the provincial legislatures are sovereign. I do not think that in a federation such as this the power of disallowance could easily be exercised by the central government. I believe the provincial legislatures feel that they are still supreme and sovereign within the sphere of their jurisdiction.

He rather laughed at my suggesting that this legislation should be referred to the supreme court.

I believe that fundamentally the case which I presented some fourteen months ago still stands. At that time the Minister of Justice promised the most serious consideration of this matter. If he has been giving effect to that promise, his mental processes must be working very slowly. I suggest that they must work more rapidly if a great injustice is not to be done to still greater numbers of our Canadian citizens.

Since March of last year events have moved on, and there have been many applications of the act. The organization to which I belong has been called into question. In Le Canada of October 26 there is a report of an interview which Mr. Duplessis gave in connection with the padlock law. During that interview he said:

If the law was worthless why has the C.C.F. and other movements of communist inspiration opposed it so strenuously for the past year?

And so on. If I, a member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, am told by Premier Duplessis that this organization is of communist inspiration and I am thereby brought under this law, it is a pretty serious thing for both myself and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. I consider that I have a perfect right to bring my grievance and the grievance of this organization before this house.

Since that time there has been so much opposition to the act that a society has been formed, originating in the city of Montreal but spreading to various parts of Canada, called the Canadian Civil Liberties Union. I notice on their letterhead the names of W. D. Lighthall; Hubert Desaulniers; R. L. Calder; Raoul Trepanier; D. T. Goodwin; J. K. Mergler-not a group of foreign communists but a group of quite well known and highly respected citizens. I think that in itself gives us pause and makes us understand that the situation is a serious one. May I give a few facts gleaned from the bulletins which they send out.

The first action under the " padlock " act (passed March 24, 1937) took place November 9, 1937. Between November 9, 1937, and January 27, 1938, the act was applied fifty times. Four places were padlocked: Clarte (French weekly paper), November 9; the Artistic Print Shop, November 9; the Old Rose Print Shop, November 10; the Ukrainian Farmer and Labour Temple Association (alleged communist school), January 25.

Validity of Quebec Statute

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

The representatives of the Liberty League had a better argument than my hon. friend. He should be satisfied with them.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I want to read a few more sentences from this document:

The inhabitants of Quebec, no less than the inhabitants of other provinces of Canada, have certain constitutional rights as Canadians.

And again:

The law of sedition can stop all preaching of violence, the law of seditious libel can stop all revolutionary propaganda in newspapers, the law of unlawful assembly can prevent riotous and disorderly meetings. The padlock act in so far as it goes beyond them is itself destructive of the institutions it seeks to uphold.

And again:

The factum submitted by Your Excellency s government to the Supreme Court of Canada in the reference on the Alberta press bill says: "The authority that can impose some restriction on the freedom of the press, a freedom which is in a legal sense now complete, can impose any restriction."

There is the situation. I told the house, at the beginning of my speech, I was not asking for disallowance. But I would point out that disallowance, which was practically ruled out by the Minister of Justice a year ago, has since been made use of by this very government with regard to the Alberta legislation, and there are still some cases pending.

Surely we have not arrived at that stage in Canada when one law applies to one province and another law to another province or, more closely, when the same law can be used in one province and not used in another. I continue my quotations:

Counsel for Your Excellency's government, Mr. Geoffrion, in this ease is reported by the Canadian press as adding: "The rights of the public as well as those of the newspaper publishers had to be considered. There was a right on the part of the public to have the channels of information kept open. This right was of the essence of democracy. If the people were to pass judgment on governments, governments could not interfere with the information the people were to receive. Democratic government and a free press were inseparable. Democracy could not function without a free press, and other forms of government could not function with one. Wherever democracy fell, the freedom of the press disappeared. It was the right of the public to obtain information for which people fought in past years in both France and England. Interference with the newspapers of Alberta affected Canadians from coast to coast. People in all parts of Canada were entitled to know what was happening in every other part and what the people of other parts were saying. They were also interested in having people in other parts know what they were saying. If a province could control the newspapers at all it could establish complete control. The bill before the court,

if held good, might be a forerunner to the complete domination of the newspapers in any province by the provincial government, to the licensing and control of reporters for papers outside the province, and to the placing of policemen at provincial borders to stop information from going in or out."

The petition comments:

All this is as applicable to the padlock act as if the learned counsel had been discussing that act in set terms.

Emphasis is given to some points that I have already raised.

. . . the padlock act appears to be a clear invasion of a field of jurisdiction exclusively assigned to the dominion pai'liament. . . .

Sections 3 and 4 of the padlock act clearly create a new crime and provide a penalty for it, though the padlock act seeks to evade the provisions of the British North America Act by leaving that crime undefined. . . . Sections 12, 13 and 14 of the padlock act, in addition to creating a new crime, restrict and regulate the freedom of the press. Such legislation it is submitted, is ultra vires the province on three grounds, set forth in the factum submitted by Your Excellency's government to the Supreme Court of Canada in the reference on the Alberta press bill.

The grounds are then set out. I believe I shall not go farther with this document. It is in the hands of the minister. I wish it had been possible to put it earlier in the hands of every hon. member. All of us should know the seriousness of the situation.

May I point out that many protests against the legislation have been coming in. One came from a committee of the Canadian Bar Association. There was one from the Social Service Council of Canada. I have had scores from all kinds of labour organizations. I submit the government cannot possibly escape its responsibility in the matter.

Only a year ago the Ottawa Journal spoke in these terms:

Actually, this bill is not aimed against lawlessness. It is aimed against liberty, against liberty to write and speak, to discuss and debate. It is a vicious law because:

1. It enables an executive officer to punish a man (by padlocking his house) before any court has found him guilty.

2. It puts the burden of proof of innocence on the person thus attacked.

3. It bars any appeal from the decision of a single judge of the superior court.

4. It enables any peace officer to seize literature, not only of a communistic sort (with interpretation of what constitutes communism left to the government) but also of a sort "tending to produce communism."

Validity of Quebec Statute

The Financial Post, which is not a particularly radical paper, has this to say in an article headed, "Personal Liberty Worth Preserving" :

Communism is an economic and social theory which is offensive to a great many people. But those who believe in communism have as much right to present their point of view to the public as those who believe in capitalism, a competitive economy, or state socialism . . . There are some things worse than the propagation of new and even unpleasant and unsound doctrines. Among them are the tyranny of the state and the loss of personal liberties.

I was interested in reading an article in the Montreal Star, from which I took two or three extracts. My colleague suggests that this is another communist paper I Reference is made first of all to the situation in the United States:

Written right into the constitution of the United States is the following clause:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Great Britain has no written constitution. But she has a very definite and well understood unwritten constitution, established by usage and "broadened down from precedent to precedent." In this constitution there is no more firmly fixed principle than the freedom of the press.

Now we come to Canada:

We are the legitimate heirs of England's slowly shaped postulates of justice, of her imposing framework of court practice and legal axioms, of her many blood-bought bulwarks of liberty from Magna Charta down.

Is it not a fair inference to say that we are also the heirs of her three most signal achievements in establishing freedom within her borders, free speech, freedom of conscience and a free press? Are they not as much a part of our constitution as if they had been written into its folios?

And one sentence from the Free Press of my own city:

There is no guarantee of freedom so long as that threat exists; and in the absence of a Bill of Rights embodied in our constitution, the solution for lack of a better one rests in active and stringent use of the powers of disallowance of provincial legislation vested in the federal government.

Yes, this further one:

The responsibility that lies upon the dominion government is therefore very great. Its power of disallowance is relatively unimportant in so far as provincial laws are concerned which are merely ultra vires. In such cases there rests an adequate appeal to the courts. But it is in other fields, where the fundamental liberties of the citizens are threatened by laws legally passed by provincial legislatures, that the danger lies.

I cannot but think how different is the general indifference in this country to the passing of this kind of legislation to the keen interest shown in the motherland in preserving fundamental liberties.

Let me read a few words of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sir John Simon, upon introducing legislation which would help control the difficulties met by all governments these days. Sir John said:

If honourable members will take a broad view of the events of the last few years it will be agreed that since the war developments in Europe have tended to let loose extremist doctrines-whether doctrines of the Right or the Left does not matter-which in their application have this special quality, that are essentially intolerant and determined to browbeat and overthrow contrary doctrines. The adherents of these doctrines deny the right of others to hold different opinions. If they succeeded they would do their utmost to stop the expression of different opinions. In the meantime they are ready, if not to use, at least to display force to spread their own views. In contrast with this the great characteristic of British political life is its tolerance. All the things which we prize-freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, and freedom of meeting- are all based on our conception of political and civic toleration. . . .

I am not discussing whether it is communists who make fascists or fascists who make communists. That is not the point. The point is that we should do our best to act even-handedly in the matter and base ourselves on general principles.

That is all that I ask from this government. I am quite confident that the Minister of Justice must be stirred by an appeal to the traditions of Liberalism, but I would say to him that he cannot avoid the heavy responsibilities which are placed upon him in his position - to-day.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

He can take the

responsibility.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Well. I assume

he must! I have said that again and again. But we have had fourteen months of waiting; fourteen months during which there have been these arrests, which I think most of us would call illegal arrests; fourteen months in which there has been suppression of freedom; fourteen months in which homes have been closed; fourteen months in which people in one province in this dominion have not been allowed to exercise their inherent rights as British subjects. How much longer are we going to wait? It is said, "Let the minister decide." Of course, he will have to decide; the government will have to decide. But as I said in my opening remarks, I am here to present these facts in the parliament of Canada where I think they should be

Validity oj Quebec Statute

presented. I am here to plead with the Minister of Justice and the government, that they refer this matter to the Supreme Court of Canada and thus give relief to a numerous class of the citizens of Canada.

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LIB

Léonard-David Sweezey Tremblay

Liberal

Mr. L. D. TREMBLAY (Dorchester):

I

must express surprise at the remarks of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), who certainly has no mandate whatever to express the feeling of the province of Quebec, but who seems so much interested in something that has happened in that province. We in this house- quite a few of us-who have been elected by the citizens of the only French province in this confederation think we are authorized to speak in the name of our constituents. I realize perfectly well that I am just a young member of this house, elected for the first time in 1935. Before coming to this house I was aware that Winnipeg North Centre had a brilliant representative in parliament, but we never thought he was authorized to speak in the name of our province.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I rise to a question of privilege. I was not speaking in the name of the province of Quebec; I was speaking as a citizen of Canada.

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LIB

Léonard-David Sweezey Tremblay

Liberal

Mr. TREMBLAY:

I like to hear my hon. colleague say what he has just said, but I contend that we in the province of Quebec are certainly as much authorized to express our own feeling as is the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Quite so.

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LIB

Léonard-David Sweezey Tremblay

Liberal

Mr. TREMBLAY:

I am glad the hon.

gentleman admits that, and he is only logical in doing so. I have my own personal opinion with regard to the "padlock" law, and the hon. member has a right to his own opinion. I say, however, that after his

appeals to bonne entente, to good will among Canadians, he should not bring before the house a question that concerns exclusively the province of Quebec. If a majority of the citizens of my own province think they should oppose those who preach opinions which we do not approve in that province; if they think that we should have such a law, it is up to them because we are still living in a democracy, and while I do not think the majority should dictate, at the same time the will of the majority should prevail.

The hon. gentleman said that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) who is from the province of Quebec, should assume the responsibility. I know the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre well enough to believe he will recognize that we in the province of

Quebec 'have reasons to be proud of the Minister of Justice. Personally I am proud of the fact that in the House of Commons the majority, to whatever party individual members may belong, have recognized the merits, the knowledge and the distinction of our leader in the province of Quebec, the Minister of Justice. Only on Saturday it was my privilege to witness the way in which the Minister of Justice is appreciated on all sides. That is a satisfaction to us. Every one will admit that he has done in the past, is doing now and in the future will continue to do his duty in attempting to unify the nine provinces of the Dominion of Canada. But, in my opinion, it is wrong for an hon. member of .this house to rise in his place and discuss a question that concerns more particularly a minority, but an important minority in our great dominion.

In the province of Quebec we are different from our fellow citizens of the other provinces of this dominion. But surely no one in this house will forget that we love British institutions; we are attached to them; we owe our liberty to British institutions. But we do not like that someone outside the province should try to control the opinions of our province. I do not want to express my own opinion of the "padlock" law, but I say to this house, Please do not interfere with whatever the province of Quebec thinks. We still have more confidence in the Minister of Justice than in the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, although we appreciate him.

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May 30, 1938