June 30, 1943

REMARKS OP MR. LACOMBE IN DEBATE ON JUNE 25-STATEMENT OP MR. SPEAKER-MOTION FOR COMMITTEE OP INVESTIGATION

LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

In view of the widespread public interest regarding the statement which was made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains (Mr. Lacombe) as contained in

Hansard of Friday, June 25 last, at page 4042:

Nous avons dans le Gouvernement trois nouveaux millionnaires depuis la declaration de la guerre. Nous les denoncerons en temps et lieu. Les fortunes s'edifient.

Or, in English:

We have in the government three new millionaires since the declaration of war. We will denounce them at the proper time and place. Fortunes are being built up.

Privileges oj The House

And also the statement made by the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) as set forth in Hansard of June 28, at page 4072:

A moment ago my colleague the Minister of Justice drew my attention to a statement made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains which is of a very serious character. I had not up to that time observed the remarks to which my colleague referred as well as others and I was not in the house at the time they were made, but X find them in Hansard in the official report of the English translation of speeches delivered in French on the date indicated.

I wish to say that the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains has made a grave accusation against three members of the government, so grave that the implied and, it seems to me, the only meaning which can be drawn from the statement is that these three unnamed members are using their position to accumulate fortunes. Although unnamed, as the statement now stands, all and every member of the government stand accused.

No more serious accusation could be made reflecting as it does on the integrity of members of the government, especially those charged with the executive positions of government. The hon. member must have realized the import of his remarks and duly considered the disastrous effect such a charge, if unchallenged, would have on public opinion, not only in Canada but throughout the world, especially at this serious period of our national life.

The Prime Minister has challenged the statement and has asked that the hon. member should be obliged either to withdraw the statement completely or else to convert it into a specific charge to be investigated in the usual manner.

If the hon. member so challenged refuses either to withdraw the charge or make a specific charge to prove the truth of his statement, he must accept that responsibility and govern himself in accordance with the practice usually followed in such cases.

I would be loath myself to apply rigorous measures against the hon. member. I am inclined to the view that this is a matter upon which the house should decide. At this moment we are dealing with what is a question of privilege and no formal proceeding is before the Chair. I must point out, however, that I view this incident with grave misgivings not only because ministers are affected, but also because the privileges of each and every hon. member are affected.

Standing order 41 provides:

No member . . . shall use offensive words against either house or against any member thereof.

If the house so decides, a motion can be made that this question be referred to the committee on privileges and elections for investigation and report, after which the house will decide wThat action should be taken.

I take it that the house will now expect the hon. member to make a statement, and I will ask him to do so now.

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IND

Liguori Lacombe

Independent Liberal

Mr. LIGUORI LACOMBE (Laval-Two Mountains):

Mr. Speaker, I will not withdraw the words which are attributed to me in the English translation of Hansard, words which I never said, and which are attributed to me only by distorting the French text of my remarks. But first I would draw the attention of this house to the fact that the government has been delegating since the beginning of the wTar part of its power to numerous commissions where millionaires are sitting for a salary of one dollar a year. But these commissions are an integral part of the government or of the administration, which the opposition, to which I belong, has the right to criticize.

I point out to the right hon. the Prime Minister that my words were in no way directed against the members of his cabinet. According to standing order 41:

No member shall speak disrespectfully of His Majesty, nor of any of the Royal Family; nor of the governor or person administering the government of Canada; nor use offensive words against either house, or against any member thereof. No member may reflect upon any vote of the house, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.

Mr. Speaker, if I made a statement which is offensive to any member of this house, or to any member of the cabinet, I am prepared to withdraw immediately this statement, but I submit respectfully that I cannot withdraw what I never said. I repeat that if I have made any statement offensive to any member of this house or to any member of the cabinet, I withdraw it entirely and immediately.

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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 cannot see that what

the hon. member has just said in any way meets the very grave situation for which he is responsible. His words at the outset were serious enough in their reflection upon members of the cabinet. From what I read of his explanation in the press he said that "le Gouvemement" did not mean "the cabinet," that it meant the party which supported

Privileges of The House

the cabinet. I cannot say whether the hon. member said that or not, but he is reported so to have spoken to the press. At any rate he has withdrawn nothing to-day, it seems to me, which would remove the implication that some members of this House of Commons have been profiteering as a consequence of opportunities afforded by the war. That is an imputation which no member of this house can afford to have stand against either himself or any other member without the very fullest possible investigation.

I believe the quickest way to deal with this matter, Mr. Speaker, is, as you, Your Honour, have suggested, namely, to refer to the committee on privileges and elections the statement which the hon. member made as it appears in Hansard, and that the committee on privileges and elections should go very fully into the whole matter. I would therefore move, seconded by Mr. Ralston:

That Liguori Lacombe, Esquire, member representing the electoral division of Laval-Two Mountains, in the house, having declared from his seat:

"Nous avons dans le Gouvernement trois nouveaux millionnaires depuis la declaration de la guerre. Nous les denoncerons en temps et lieu. Les fortunes s'edifient." the select standing committee on privileges and elections be instructed to inquire fully into this allegation and to report in full the evidence taken together with all the procedure on this reference and the result of their inquiry for such action thereon as the house may determine.

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IND

Liguori Lacombe

Independent Liberal

Mr. LACOMBE:

Mr. Speaker, before this

motion is discussed in the house, to avoid expenses on this account, and to avoid something against the war effort, I withdraw entirely what I have stated in this house, as the right hon. the Prime Minister asked me a few moments ago.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I do not rise for the purpose of defending the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains; but in a public statement which he made, or is reported to have made, and to which the Prime Minister has alluded, the hon. member raised an issue which, I think, ought to be settled, having regard to the fact that the allegations which he is said to have made in the house are in the French language, and his assertion that the translation upon which the Prime Minister relies is not a correct translation. I am going to ask the Prime Minister if the translation which he used the other day is an absolutely correct one. If this were a matter for a court of law, and one were framing a statement of claim or a declaration for defamation in a language other thanr-in my own province-the English

language, the exact words complained of would have to be stated, and the innuendo framed thereon as to the defamatory intent.

I should like to know before this motion passes if there has been made an authoritative translation of the language alleged to have been used by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains. He has apparently challenged that both outside the house and, if I understood him correctly, inside the house to-day. While I have no brief for the hon. member, and while I abhor the hurling of these charges across the floor of the house, may I suggest to the Prime Minister that perhaps the concluding statement of the hon. member is a complete withdrawal, and that might end the incident. Perhaps he might be asked to apologize to the house. I think that would be the proper course to pursue. But I do not like to see people punished for things they may say on the spur of the moment. I suppose that if I had been punished for everything I said on the spur of the moment I would not be here at all. It seems to me that this would be a charitable view to take.

Mr. KARL K. HOMUTH (Waterloo South): Mr. Speaker, I quite concur in the motion that the Prime Minister has introduced this afternoon. Unfortunately, during the last two or three years of war, there has been built up in this country in the minds of some people the notion that certain persons are profiteering as a result of the war effort. Perhaps because I am in industry, I know something of the situation of those who are working in our war effort and doing a great deal to advance it, and I am opposed to encouraging in this country the idea that such people are taking advantage of the war to amass fortunes for themselves. I do not believe that anyone in industry to-day is in a position to make a fortune as a result of the war effort. I have never questioned the loyalty of any other Canadian; I have always felt that every one of us is in this war to fight it to a finish, it matters not at what cost. An allegation has been made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains against members of the cabinet, or members of this house. In his apology he more or less referred to the members of the House of Commons in his own translation of what he said. I think that this is unfair, and so far as I am concerned, if there is any charge at all it should be investigated to the full, because the people of Canada ought to realize that everybody in this country who is invested with any responsibility is doing all he can to prosecute the war to the fullest

Privileges oj The House

extent, without any regard to profit. But the result of the activities of a certain political party in the last two or three years has been to create the feeling that you cannot trust any man who has a responsible position in industry. I think the time has come when vve should recognize that there are people in this country, regardless of their financial standing, who do want to win this war and are doing everything they can to that end. I vehemently resent therefore the insinuation that simply because a man happens to have an industry, or occupies some position that may carry a large salary with it, his sole idea is one of profit to himself. I have never questioned the loyalty of my fellow Canadians, and I resent with all the force I can put into it the idea that simply because some man happens to own an industry or to be interested in industry his only object is to make some profit out of the war, no matter what happens. I think we should have a full investigation into the charges made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains, notwithstanding that he has withdrawn his statement. Let us go into the matter to the very bottom and show conclusively that the members of this house are certainly above any such imputation as that made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver East):

I am wondering what purpose will be served by passing the motion after the withdrawal made by the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains. If the hon. member had not withdrawn his statement that would be another matter, but in my opinion he withdrew unreservedly all references he made on the occasion in question. After Your Honour's request for a statement from the hon. member -I admit that his first explanation was not satisfactory-he did make a complete withdrawal. What can be gained by an investigation? I do not know that there are any damages or penalties that can be applied to the hon. member. We can find him guilty of making the statements and possibly he could be unseated and there would be another election. But I do not know that anything would be gained thereby. I suggest that under the circumstances, and taking into consideration also the circumstances under which the speech was made, it would be much better if the hon. member's withdrawal were accepted and the motion dropped.

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LIB

Rodolphe Leduc

Liberal

Mr. RODOLPHE LEDUC (Wright):

I was in the house on Friday afternoon when the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains delivered his speech and I can swear that the words which he used in French are the

exact words that appear in Hansard. At that time I wanted to ask the hon. member the names of the ministers, but it happened that there was a French minister sitting in his seat and I thought he would interrupt the member for Laval-Two Mountains and ask him what the names were. I cannot accept the withdrawal which the hon. member made a few minutes ago, because he declared, in withdrawing his statement, that he was willing to withdraw in order to save this country money and to save time as well. If therefore his withdrawal is accepted by the house he will be in a position to go outside this parliament and say that if he had not wanted to save the country time and money he could have proven his accusation.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

It seems to me that the hon. member withdrew without qualification the second time.

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IND

Liguori Lacombe

Independent Liberal

Mr. LACOMBE:

Mr. Speaker-

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. The hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains has already spoken. We are not in committee.

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LIB

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. VINCENT DUPUIS (Chambly-Rou-ville):

I wish to say just a few words. I completely concur in the views of the right hon. the Prime Minister. The integrity of members of this national assembly must be kept sacred, and no member of the house has the right to say anything which would diminish the reputation of any other member. The hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains made a very serious and grave charge, as Your Honour said. There may be circumstances which would not excuse, though they might explain, the language of a person, but in the criminal law it does not matter if a crime is committed while a man is not in possession of the well-balanced mind which otherwise he has. I am not here to defend the hon. gentleman, but I understand that in a case of slander, if a newspaper withdraws unconditionally what it has written there is no action in law against it and the matter is completely abandoned. The hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains did withdraw. He said, however, that he withdrew because he did not want to have this parliament go to the expense of an investigation or an inquiry. If I understood the Prime Minister correctly, he said that unless the hon. gentleman withdrew unconditionally the accusation must be referred to the committee on privileges and elections. As we are not satisfied with the declaration of the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains, is it not permissible-because we know his intent; he intends to withdraw-for Your Honour to draft a declaration which would be satisfactory

Privileges oj The House

to this house and ask the hon. member if he is ready to accept it? In those circumstances the House of Commons would be satisfied and the integrity of members of the house vindicated. I humbly submit to Your Honour that if this procedure could be followed, if you would ask the hon. member to accept such a declaration, if it were satisfactory to him, we could accept it also.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. C. E. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I am not so sure that this type of investigation would be satisfactory. When you speak of putting this case before a house committee, that cannot be compared in any sense to a court of justice, because unquestionably on a house committee the predominance would be Liberal and other parties would be represented proportionately. I do not think the question will be settled in that way. I' am very much in doubt about the translation that has been made of the statement. The Prime Minister has not yet answered the hon. member for York-Sunbury, who asked whether this was a confirmed translation. There are some of us here who do not know whether that is a proper translation.

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LIB

Maurice Lalonde

Liberal

Mr. LALONDE:

The motion is based upon the French version.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

The hon. member himself has stated that the translation into English was not a proper translation. Further, I think that what you said when you first spoke was quite proper and I agree with the stand you took. You asked the hon. member if he was prepared to withdraw his statement; if not, other means would have to be taken. When he was speaking the hon. member said definitely that if there was a charge against any member of this house or any member of the cabinet he was prepared to withdraw it. Without giving him a chance to say anything further on the question, the Prime Minister moved his motion. Then the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains made a further clarification of his former statement.

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NAT

Karl Kenneth Homuth

National Government

Mr. HOMUTH:

He just beclouded it.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

That is what you think. Perhaps an investigation might prove a whole lot more than you have in mind.

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NAT

Karl Kenneth Homuth

National Government

Mr. HOMUTH:

I have not anything in mind.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

The hon. member made a statement clarifying what he had said the first time. Without question he withdrew it unconditionally.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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June 30, 1943