Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to-day on a matter of personal privilege. It is, I may say, the first time in my seventeen years of membership in various public bodies that I have ever done so.
On Saturday last, March 1, the Ottawa Citizen devoted most of its editorial page to explanations of its attitude and to bitter personal attacks upon me in my capacity as a member of this house.
The first paragraph to which I wish to draw attention appears in the leading editorial on page 32 of the Evening Citizen of March 1. It states:
For saying that the lads after this war, when they come home from overseas, "may know better where to shoot than Canadian veterans did in the years of debt and privation after the last war," the Citizen has been accused in the House of Commons of inciting men in uniform when they return from overseas to use force to obtain what they were after. This twisting of the Citizen's editorial, done by the C.C.F. member for Rosetown-Biggar, M. J. Caldwell, led Mr. Lapointe to say last Thursday that he agreed with Mr. Coldwell. Mr. Lapointe said:
My honourable friend (Mr. Coldwell) sent me that article, not very long ago. It was a subversive article which was published by the Ottawa Citizen on that date, and I may tell him that they will have to answer for it before the courts of the country.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am accused of dishonesty in this house by twisting the editorial in question and thus leading the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) to say that he agreed with me. As a member of this house, as the acting house leader of this group, the accusation thus made is a grave reflection upon my personal integrity.
To say that I twisted the editorial is a charge which the editor of The Citizen makes falsely in an attempt to escape the consequences of his written word. If there has been any twisting, surely it has been on the part of the Citizen, which is trying to wriggle out of the position in which it finds itself.
The leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) speaking also in this house last Thursday, said:
I read the article and I thought it was more than a borderline case; it seemed to me that it was really an incitement to force.
The leader of the opposition, therefore, placed the same interpretation upon the article as scores of Citizen readers also did.
The article published on January 11 was the subject of press comment in other parts of the dominion. I have, for example, an article appearing in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix of February 18, commenting adversely upon it.
During all this time no explanation, modification or withdrawal of the words appeared. To my mind, no other interpretation could be placed upon an editorial, the first sentence of which was:
The real business of the Bren gun is, of course, to kill-
-and the last sentence of which was:
-When the lads come home from overseas, after some years of service at the real business end of the Bren gun, they may know better where to shoot than Canadian veterans did in the years of debt and privation after the last war.
There appeared to be no possibility of misunderstanding such plain and simple English. I therefore, Mr. Speaker, under the rules protecting members of this house against libellous accusation, bring this to your attention. I do not propose to move for the attendance of the editor of the paper in question at the bar of this house, as I am advised I have the right to do; for undoubtedly the unfounded charge of twisting the editorial in question is a false and malicious accusation of personal dishonesty which infringes upon the rights of members of parliament.
On the same page, 32, of the Evening Citizen, there also appears a reprint of an editorial which appeared in the Citizen of January 22, 1941, and which was a scurrilous attack on my personal motives in public life. Its caption is, "Mr. Coldwell in good company." This reprint was introduced with the following words:
The Citizen's editorial on "The Business End of the Bren" (reproduced in an adjoining column on this page) appeared originally last January 11. The Minister of Justice, Mr. Lapointe, stated in response to a speech by Mr. Coldwell, socialist leader in the house, last Thursday:
"My hon. friend (Mr. Coldwell) criticized the inaction of the department with respect to the article in the Ottawa Citizen. My hon. friend sent me that article, not very long ago."
"Not very long ago" would perhaps mean subsequent to the publication of the following editorial in the Citizen on January 22, with reference to some of Mr. Coldwell's recent political activities.
The suggestion is made that I drew the attention of the Minister of Justice to the Bren editorial of January 11, subsequent to January 22, and from motives of revenge because of the bitter personal attack made upon me by the Citizen on the latter date. Again they accuse me of using improperly my influence as a member of this house to seek
vengeance against the writer of the editorial in question.
Had I been governed by such motives I would not have criticized the suspension of the Canadian Tribune, which assailed me and our movement in the very last issue which I had read prior to making my speech last Thursday. Indeed, as reference to Hansard will show, in drawing the Citizen editorial to the attention of the minister I was endeavouring to secure a change in the regulations by requesting absolute impartiality in, their administration. To infer that I was actuated by motives of revenge is a scandalous breach of the privileges of this house. It is obviously false; for the editorial appeared on January 11, and I drew it to the attention of the minister by letter dated January 13-which he acknowledged personally on January 18- nine days before the Citizen's attack on myself, which appeared on January 22. Thus my action was entirely unconnected with the Citizen's attack on my personal motives and integrity.
My object in raising the matter on Thursday last was not to secure revenge, or even to force the suspension or the prosecution of the Ottawa Citizen, but merely to compare the seizure of a pamphlet consisting mainly of extracts from speeches made in this house by the hon. member for North Battleford, and the suspension of a paper with a small circulation, the Canadian Tribune, with what I considered to be the inactivity of the department in relation to statements made by a widely-read Ottawa daily. The concluding words of my speech criticizing the defence of Canada regulations in several particulars clearly defined both my purpose and intention when I said:
If we are going to have regulations let them be administered impartially, without regard to who breaks the regulations. Then we shall feel that at least an attempt at justice is being made.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared, ,as all men in public life must be, for editorial comment and criticism by newspapers that disagree with my views. But imputing unworthy motives goes beyond fair and proper comment.
In view of the statement I have just made I would expect that the Ottawa Citizen will give to it tbs same publicity which it gave to its unwarranted insinuations last Saturday.