June 26, 1948

PRIVATE BILLS

THIRD REPORT OF STANDING COMMITTEE


Third report of standing committee on miscellaneous private bills.-Mr. Maybank.


DIVORCE BILL-MOTION FOR REFERENCE BACK TO COMMITTEE

PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. RUSSELL BOUCHER (Carleton):

In accordance with standing order 25, Mr. Speaker, Beauchesne, second edition, I should like to move, seconded by the hon. member for Saint John-Albert (Mr. Hazen):

That Bill No. 301, an act for the relief of Aldoria Rodier ddt St. Martin, referred to in the third report of the standing committee on private bills, presented to this house this day, be referred back to the standing committee for further consideration and report.

This is a bill for divorce which was brought before the senate committee, where evidence was taken therein in full. After the applicant had presented his ease, counsel for the respondent stated that they had no evidence to adduce in rebuttal of the allegation made by the applicant. The committee of the other house agreed to the divorce and recommended that it be granted. On presentation of the bill a few days ago to the miscellaneous private bills committee of the House of Commons, there appeared the evidence taken in the senate, the recommendations of the senate committee, and, although the counsel for the respondent had stated before that committee that they had no evidence to offer in rebuttal of the evidence of the applicant, a letter from the respondent herself was, I submit, wrongly admitted into evidence by the committee of this house. By virtue of that letter, objecting to certain procedures and certain evidence given, the committee of the House of Commons I believe rejected the bill.

My point is this. A committee of the upper house sitting as a court, having gone into the evidence in detail, having passed upon it, having had witnesses before it who were examined and cross-examined, and counsel for the respondent having stated that there was no defence to offer, I think it was improper and unjust that a letter should be received from the respondent, taken into consideration and

dealt with by the committee of the House of Commons without opportunity of cross-examination, without evidence being given under oath, and in actual repudiation of the findings of the committee of the upper house. The committee of this house saw fit to give a decision contrary to that of the upper house. This is surely a grave miscarriage of justice.

I think any member of this house who has practised in a court of law will realize the great danger there is in accepting evidence by way of letter, after the case has been closed following a full formal hearing, and taking the weight of that evidence into consideration in deciding upon the disposition of any matter previously considered by a court. Any man with legal experience would realize that it is very improper to receive a letter of that kind anywhere, whether it be a committee of inquiry or a court of any kind. I think it is not only a reflection upon the findings of a very able committee of the other place to overrule a considered opinion reached upon evidence properly adduced and subject to examination and cross-examination; it is an aspersion upon the upper house to have a committee of this house take this action in view of the good work being done in the other place in connection with divorce matters. I believe this would be a dangerous precedent for this house to establish, and it would be doing a grave injustice to a citizen of this country who has taken the only legal recourse available.

Therefore I urge the house, though we are practically at the last day of the session, to adopt the motion and give this applicant the right to a proper hearing and a proper disposition of a proper application to these houses of parliament.

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PC

Douglas King Hazen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. D. KING HAZEN (Saint John-Albert):

I rise to support the motion that has been moved by the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Boucher). I am a member of the committee on miscellaneous private bills which dealt with this matter a day or two ago. Petitions for bills of divorce are heard by a committee of the other place, who sit as a court and hear the evidence of the petitioner and his or her witnesses, and the evidence of the witnesses for the defence, if any. If justice is to be done in these cases-

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but if he will look

Private Bill-Divorce

at standing order 38, which sets out the motions which are debatable and those which are not debatable, he will see that a motion of this kind is not subject to debate. I permitted the hon. member for Carleton, the mover of the motion, to make an explanation, but I do not think a debate would be proper. If it is the wish of the house that a representative of the committee should be permitted to give a further explanation, however, I believe that would be proper.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

Am I to understand that half an hour of the time of the house is to be taken up on a silly divorce case, when I am not allowed to speak about flood conditions?

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PC

Douglas King Hazen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HAZEN:

Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that I am not to be permitted to say anything on this matter, in which I believe a great injustice has been done?

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member should realize that I have no choice in the matter; the standing order says a motion of this kind is not debatable. If the hon. gentleman believes he should give some explanation, I will permit him to do so, but I would ask him to be as brief as possible.

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PC

Douglas King Hazen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HAZEN:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I shall endeavour to be brief. I do not wish to make a long speech, but there are certain matters which should be brought to the attention of the members of this house in connection with this case. As I was saying, petitions for divorce come before a committee of the other place. That committee sits as a court. It hears the evidence of the parties, and then arrives at a decision. If justice is to be done in these matters the principles of justice must be observed and the rules of evidence must be followed.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. member must realize that he is not giving an explanation. Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?

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LIB

Ralph Maybank (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. MAYBANK:

I am not sure that I heard your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I understood you to say some explanation could be given by a member of the committee. If that is so, as chairman of the committee I should like an opportunity to speak, but of course without endeavouring to prevent any other member from speaking. I believe there are some things that should be said.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I believe it would be only fair to give the hon. member, who is chairman

of the committee, an opportunity to explain the matter, but I would ask him to be as brief as possible.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

May I talk about the floods for the same length of time?

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PC

Douglas King Hazen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HAZEN:

Surely if the chairman of the committee is to have the right to speak I should have the opportunity to speak first, because I wish to censure the committee-

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. If the house does not agree, I shall have to apply the rule as it is. Motions of this kind are not debatable. Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?

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PC

Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. LENNARD:

I was paired with the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

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PC

Harry Rutherford Jackman

Progressive Conservative

Mr. JACKMAN:

I was paired with the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Marier). Had I voted 1 would have voted for the motion.

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PC

Clayton Wesley Hodgson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HODGSON:

il was paired with the hon. member for York North (Mr. Smith). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

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June 26, 1948