Under this item I should like to ask an annual question. We find in the details that various services are included, one of which is the nutrition division. Checking through the estimates for bygone years I find that in 1951-52, $144,069 was appropriated for the nutrition division, while in 1952-53 the item was $122,358, and that this year it is $115,422.
And last year there was a decrease of $22,000. It seems to me that this is a field in which expansion might be a good idea. Why are these reductions made each year? Is the division able to carry on all the work it would like to carry on with this appropriation?
My hon. friend may be assured that the purposes of the division are not in any way affected. Last year we cut out about $6,000 of expenditure on certain educational material we did not require because we had overestimated the year before. But I can say that the general service given by the division is not in any way cut down.
I know that the licensing of dentists comes under provincial jurisdiction, but perhaps the minister would tell us what his department is doing to assist in providing dentists, or those who would work with dentists.
This could be discussed more properly under the vote for professional training. However, the problem connected with dentists in Canada is one which gives some concern. We believe there are enough doctors, if there was a proper system of distribution. One of the purposes of the radiological and laboratory service grant is to improve that condition. But there are not enough dentists to take care of the needs of the Canadian people. I can only say that in conjunction with provincial governments and universities, through our own professional training grant and assistance of that kind, we are seeking to find ways and means to improve the picture.
Mr. Chairman, I can assure hon. members who are interested in the passage of this divorce bill that I am not going to use my traditional right to prevent it passing the house, but I do have a word or two to say in regard to it because there are certain circumstances which I think should be placed before the house. In the first place,
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so far as I can judge this is one of those divorces which has been inspired by the fact that the petitioner, after a long number of years of separation, has now been compelled to pay a living allowance to his wife. Of course that has no effect upon the law of the land. I want to relate the facts of this case to emphasize the inadequacy of the divorce machinery that we have in this parliament.
This bill was contested and for that reason it held some interest for me because, as I have stated before, when a contested divorce bill comes before this parliament and no evidence in connection therewith is produced, as a matter of principle I will vote against it until I see evidence which justifies me voting for it. Perhaps these things are hurried along because we are nearly at the end of the session, but at any rate we had a notice sent to us that the committee on miscellaneous private bills would meet to consider this bill.
We did meet and there was a small attendance at the committee. I pointed out on that occasion that the evidence had not been distributed. It is true that there was one typed copy of the evidence in the hands of the clerk, but no member had received a copy nor was the evidence available to counsel who wished to plead the case. When the committee met I suggested an adjournment until we had an opportunity to study the evidence, but my wish did not prevail. Most members of the committee decided to proceed and the committee proceeded. Both counsel were invited into the committee room. The main argument of counsel who was looking after the interests of the respondent was that he had no evidence in his hands, that he had nothing to refer to and therefore had nothing to plead.
In spite of that the majority of the members of the committee decided to proceed and they did proceed. To the astonishment of some of them, when the chairman put the preamble to the committee it failed to carry. I think the vote was 7 to 5. The bill was killed by that vote. There was a bit of a stir in the committee, but I was sitting next but one to the chairman and I heard him say, "Well, that is the end of that". I assumed that that was the end of that particular divorce bill, and that the divorce was killed.
Therefore I was astonished that evening to receive another call to a meeting. I telephoned the chairman and he told me, "The purpose of this meeting is that I omitted to say to the committee when it rose this morning 'Shall I report the bill?' You are being brought back to regularize the action of the committee this morning." When we
got down to it we discovered that the situation was largely as it had been before. One member of the committee got up and moved that the committee revert to consideration of the preamble, which as hon. gentlemen know simply meant that we would reopen the whole matter. I opposed that action, but the committee decided to consider this divorce plea again. I again moved the adjournment of the committee until such time as we had the evidence and had had an opportunity to study it. This time I found my colleagues friendly to that idea. There was no doubt that the evidence would be available and they would be able to consider it next morning at ten o'clock.
We did consider the matter again next morning at ten o'clock, and I was surprised to find that many more members of the committee were taking an interest in this divorce. We had had little time to study the evidence. The evidence had come to my hand just ten minutes before dinner time, and that was why I had moved the adjournment.
We must go on to the third meeting of the committee. The evidence had been distributed. Someone had taken good care of that. Someone had even had the evidence mimeographed downstairs so no one could .say that he did not have it. By a coincidence the regular booklet of evidence came in from Toronto or from wherever it was being printed just a few minutes later, so at the final meeting of the committee we had the evidence.
I should like to point out that this error of the chairman-I do not mind using that term because he admitted it-was a particularly fortuitous omission. Of course I would never suspect the chairman of the present committee of doing anything like that deliberately but I would point out that it might be possible for a chairman who believed in the minority side in that first vote to have omitted to put that question to the committee and so force another meeting of that committee, compel it to reopen the matter and have it considered by people who were in favour of his own side of the case.
Let me make it perfectly clear that I make no such charge. My simple purpose is to show the fallacy and foolishness of this whole business of trying to handle this matter of divorce in such an inadequate way which does not do justice to anyone. You can see how the fate of individuals sometimes hangs by a thread. Here was a woman who had received news from her lawyer saying that her case was won. Then the next day she hears that the decision has been reversed. Does that look to anyone here like sensible
business, to have a decision reversed by what was largely a different group of men? It is true that there were a few who had attended the previous meeting, but on the whole it was a different group of men. It was at an entirely different meeting of the committee that the decision was reversed. This is an important case in so far as this is concerned.
And now in conclusion, for I must hurry along; I want to be democratic in the matter -as I said I know that I could have connived to hold up this divorce, but I do not think that would have been democratic procedure. At the last meeting of the committee-and it was the last one after all-it was decided that the divorce should be granted, and so be it. But I want to point out that this whole system is wrong. Incidentally, I was interested and surprised to see that some of my hon. friends from the province of Quebec, who have never before, as far as I have observed, taken part in divorce cases, were yesterday advocating the passage of this particular divorce. Let me say to them that we would by no means ever wish to force a divorce court upon any province which did not wish to have it because of religious beliefs.
However we do, as members of parliament, want to get rid of this thing, this iniquitous thing; because I believe it is that. Personally, and I know that some of my friends do not agree with me, I do not see how one's conscience would be violated any more by having a court try divorces-for instance the court across the road, the exchequer court in Ottawa-than it is by having the present procedure which makes this parliament, to all intents, a divorce court for the province of Quebec and for Newfoundland.
Another thing is that I feel, if I am to be asked to judge divorces, that I should consider the cases and give them some thought. This year we have not done so. Last year some people in this party, and it is not a party matter or a political matter, did try to examine some of these things in the house. It was simply impossible. This year we have passed three or four hundred of them- I do not know what the exact figure is- but outside of this case and one other I know of, no divorce case has been given any individual consideration.
I wrote down the length of time it took in the committee to pass 67 divorce cases, or 58 of them
I would not want to be quoted as to the number-and they were going through at the rate of half a second each. That is all right if we are not supposed to consider these cases; but it is part of our duty to decide whether or not a divorce should be granted. As far as I am concerned
I do not want to have this thing on my conscience any more.
I was reminded frequently by one of my hon. friends that I am not a lawyer. Granted; but may I suggest to him that this is not supposed to be a committee of lawyers, it is supposed to be a committee of ordinary men who represent the people of the constituencies in this country. As such a representative I admit I have no legal talent, but at least I have a certain amount of common sense.
Well, that is the situation. Each session I protest against this sort of thing but up to now, and I presume now too, I have protested without avail. That is my case. This thing should be removed from the House of Commons-apart from the particular method by which this divorce was handled, the decision made, the technical error on the part of the chairman, and the reversal of that decision.