July 10, 1942

PRIVATE BILLS COMMITTEE


Fourth report of standing committee on miscellaneous private bills.-Mr. Donnelly.


DEFENCE OF CANADA REGULATIONS

ANNOUNCEMENT OP WITHDRAWAL OF CHAR0ES AGAINST COLONEL GEORGE DREW


On the orders of the day: Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Minister of Justice): I desire to inform the house that the proceedings against Mr. George Drew of Toronto for an alleged breach of the defence of Canada regulations, based on a statement given to the public press by him on June 5 last, relating to the report of the commissioner who inquired into the dispatch of the Canadian expeditionary force to Hong Kong, were instituted on the advice of Mr. D. L. McCarthy, K.C., of Toronto, retained as special counsel in that connection by the Department of Justice. This advice had been concurred in by the legal officers of the department. Mr. McCarthy has since recommended that, in the light of subsequent developments, these proceedings be withdrawn, for reasons which he has set out in a letter to me of the 9th instant. This further recommendation has also been concurred in by the legal officers, and I have accepted it and authorized Mr. McCarthy to discontinue the proceedings accordingly. I desire to table Mr. McCarthy's letter, together with the concurrence therein of the deputy minister of justice.


?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Read it.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: If hon. members desire that the letter be read, it is as follows:

Defence oj Canada Regulations

Honourable Louis S. St. Laurent, K.C.,

Minister of Justice,

Ottawa, Ontario.

Dear Mr. Minister:

Re: Prosecution of George A. Drew.

When advising as to the prosecution of Mr. George A. Drew in reference to the statements made by him to the public press on the 5th day of June last, the following facts and circumstances particularly impressed me:

(1) That this statement or utterance must be considered in its effect on others in the light of existing circumstances;

(2) That it alleged that the findings of the commissioner were not based upon the evidence; and further, that findings were made without evidence;

(3) That it alleged that secrecy was purposely imposed to hide from the public evidence of inexcusable blundering, confusion and incompetence;

(4) That it alleged that there were bloodcurdling facts which the commissioner suppressed and which should have been made public;

(5) That it alleged that the government withheld information upon which a finding could be made;

(6) That the accused was a party to the inquiry having been appointed as counsel at the instance of the Hon. R. B. Hanson, the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons;

(7) That the accused is an ex-army officer and must be aware of the necessity of secrecy in war time;

(8) That he impugned the bona fides of the commissioner in holding the inquiry in secret.

In my view, the clear meaning of the statement is that the commissioner was corrupt or incompetent and that he suppressed or misconstrued the facts.

The commissioner is the Chief Justice of Canada and a member of the judicial committee of the privy council. Having regard to his long and honoured career on the bench and his well known ability to weigh facts, and his wide experience in the conducting of public inquiries extending over many years, it is quite unthinkable that he should be corrupt, incompetent or unmindful of all the facts presented before him.

In peace time these statements, while serious, have not the same effect as in war time. There was no doubt in my mind that under the circumstances, and considering the author of the statement, and the nation-wide publicity which the statement wras given, it would be likely to prejudice recruiting in this country and the efficient prosecution of the war.

As I have already said, the statement was given to the press, obviously for wide circulation throughout this country, and in fact reached the press in the United States of America.

The report in question is unquestionably a report on matters in which the public have great interest; and particularly the relatives of those in the armed forces.

Since first advising in this case, matters have developed which in my opinion are of paramount importance, and which must be weighed along with the considerations which influenced me in advising a prosecution. There has been a widespread demand by members of parliament and the public and the press for a full and free debate and discussion of the commissioner's report. That these discussions, either in parliament, by the public, or in the public press cannot be freely and fairly carried on, while these proceedings are in progress, is obvious.

This is well illustrated by a report in this morning's press. While discussing the Prime Minister's promise that facilities for debating this question w'ould be afforded to the house, the leader of the opposition, the Honourable R. B. Hanson, took the position that "the government has taken every means in its power to frustrate debate by withholding evidence and from time to time resorting to an alleged rule that a certain inquiry is sub judice".

No doubt the inquiry referred to is the preliminary inquiry that is pending as a result of the information that has been laid in this case. That is true that it is sub judice. It is a well-established and traditional principle of British law that there should be no comment on or discussion of matters relating to judicial proceedings while they are pending. It is plain that if the commissioner's report is to be fully discussed in parliament and in the press, as it should be, this principle of British law must inevitably be violated. Events that have taken place since the information was laid more than justify this conclusion.

On the one hand it is unfair to the public, members of parliament and the press that they should be put in the position at this time either to refrain from discussion of this important public matter, or to run the risk of committing a contempt of court, which is itself a breach of lawr. On the other hand, if these judicial proceedings are carried on while the debate in parliament and public discussion is taking place, it is obvious that the prosecution cannot continue in that freedom and independence that is so essential in our administration of justice.

Therefore, weighing the importance of free parliamentary debate and public discussion as against the continuance of this prosecution, at a time when matters affecting the carrying on of the war are of such vital and immediate importance, I am bound to come to the conclusion that it is in the public interest that this prosecution should be withdrawn and I so advise.

I am,

Yours very truly,

D. L. McCarthy.

Then there is a memorandum dated July 10, 1942, as follows:

For the reasons given by special counsel for the Attorney General of Canada, I concur in the opinion that the charge against Mr. George Drew under the defence of Canada regulations should be withdrawn.

F. P. Varcoe,

Deputy Minister of Justice.

Topic:   DEFENCE OF CANADA REGULATIONS
Subtopic:   ANNOUNCEMENT OP WITHDRAWAL OF CHAR0ES AGAINST COLONEL GEORGE DREW
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition):

I desire to make just a few

brief observations with reference to the statement just made by the Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent), but before doing so I

Shipping Losses

should like to express to him my appreciation of his courtesy in sending me a copy of the statement and the letter which he has just read.

As to what took place in the court proceedings to-day, I have no comment to make, but I do assert that the reasons given for the withdrawal are untenable. The reasons given in the McCarthy letter perpetuate the allegations against Colonel Drew. That is unfair to Colonel Drew and the public will resent it. The fact of the matter is that the government made a grave mistake in starting this prosecution. An excuse for its withdrawal had to be found, and one excuse is just as good as another.

Topic:   DEFENCE OF CANADA REGULATIONS
Subtopic:   ANNOUNCEMENT OP WITHDRAWAL OF CHAR0ES AGAINST COLONEL GEORGE DREW
Permalink
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

I wish to express my appreciation to the minister of his forwarding to me a copy of this communication, although I have not really had time to read it, because I have only just received it. The defence of Canada regulations are now before a committee of the house. This case, like others, was based upon the expression "likely to prejudice recruiting" or words to that effect. On several occasions I have tried to point out to this house that that is too wide a power for any government or any department to have. I hope the committee will consider the recommendation to the effect that the regulations be amended so that we may not have any more of these regrettable incidents.

Topic:   DEFENCE OF CANADA REGULATIONS
Subtopic:   ANNOUNCEMENT OP WITHDRAWAL OF CHAR0ES AGAINST COLONEL GEORGE DREW
Permalink

SHIPPING LOSSES

SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION


On the orders of the day:


IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. J. S. ROY (Gaspe):

Mr. Speaker, I

should like to direct a question to the government on a very urgent matter. According to information received from my constituency there have been some more ships sunk by enemy submarines since the time of the first attack on May 11 and 12 last. Still three more ships forming part of a fourteen ship convoy were torpedoed last Sunday night opposite Cap Chat in the St. Lawrence river. Is the minister disposed to make a statement to the house or to arrange for a secret sitting to inform the people's representatives as to the seriousness of the situation?

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I believe the hon. member was in the house when the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) made a statement as to the policy that will be followed wTith regard to the disclosure of any sinkings that might occur in the vicinity of Canada or in the St. Lawrence.

The minister made it quite clear that there would be a proper time for the government to make an announcement of any event of the kind, but that premature announcements were only serving the ends of the enemy and would not help the ends of Canada's defence. If the hon. member will allow me to say so, I think he should have conferred with the minister before bringing a matter of this kind up in the way he has. The minister does not happen to be be in the house at the moment, but I may say to my hon. friend that any statement that has to be made in regard to this matter will be made by the minister at a time which he thinks will best serve the public interest.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I rise to a question of privilege. I am most unwilling to disclose anything that might help our enemies. However, I think my constituents have a right to be protected. They are confronted with danger every day.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
Permalink
LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
Permalink
IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I respectfully submit that I should be allowed to make my position clear. It will take only a few words.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
Permalink
LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member has put his question and the Prime Minister has replied. I do not think the hon. member should enlarge upon a question which has already been answered.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   SINKING OF SHIPS IN ST. LAWRENCE RIVER AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION
Permalink

FOOD AND DRUGS ACT

OIN-REFERENCE TO RETURNS BROUGHT DOWN IN ANSWER TO QUESTIONS


On the orders of the day: Mr. JEAN-FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata): I should like to refer to sessional paper 303-E of November 3, 1941, which deals' with the requests and suggestions of a large number of temperance societies, organizations and leagues of various denominations and located in the various provinces. I do not know whether some of the letters I hold in my hand are accurate, and I ask the minister if he will kindly have them checked. If they are, I would ask him kindly to have the file completed and returned. I refer also to return 303-D of June 5, 1941. It has been stated by the department that it is not permissible to advertise John de Kuyper's compound gin as gin. Here are seven clippings from various French and English papers which show this product being advertised as gin, contrary to. the law. I shall send the return with the clippings to the minister and I hope that action will be taken. Hon. IAN A. MACKENZIE (Minister of Pensions and National Health): I shall be very glad to make an investigation of this favourite topic of my hon. friend. Morale Building Campaign BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE MILITARY SERVICE


July 10, 1942