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.