July 25, 1955

QUESTIONS

AGRICULTURE AND COLONIZATION COMMITTEE

FARM BRIEFS PRESENTED

CCF

Mr. Zaplilny:

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

1. Since January 1, 1955, what farm organizations presented briefs to the standing committee on agriculture and colonization?

2. What was the opening date on which each such brief was presented?

Topic:   AGRICULTURE AND COLONIZATION COMMITTEE
Subtopic:   FARM BRIEFS PRESENTED
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I might inform the house that I have had a conversation with the hon. member for Dauphin and he has agreed that this question be dropped.

Question dropped.

Topic:   AGRICULTURE AND COLONIZATION COMMITTEE
Subtopic:   FARM BRIEFS PRESENTED
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*POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT

ALLEGED

LIB

Mr. Gauthier (Portneuf):

Liberal

1. (a) Did the member for Quebec West bring to the attention of the Acting Postmaster General alleged irregularities in the Post Office Department? (b) If so, on what dates?

2. (a) Did an investigator of the Post Office Department accompany one Marcel Belair to Seven Islands? (b) If so, for what purpose?

3. Did either of the two thieves convicted in connection with theft at the Cabano post office in the fall of 1953 implicate Belair in any way?

4. (a) Did one Marcel Belair turn over to postal officials $28,000 worth of stamps stolen from the Notre Dame de Grace post office in February, 1954? (b) If so, under what circumstances? (c) were charges laid? (d) If not, for what reason?

5. Has the acting postmaster general any further information regarding the alleged irregularities in the Post Office Department, brought to his attention by the member for Quebec West?

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Speaker, this question calls for an oral answer. Part 1 of the question reads:

1. (a) Did the member for Quebec West bring to the attention of the Acting Postmaster General alleged irregularities in the Post Office Department? (b) If so, on what dates?

The answer to that question, sir, is as follows: The hon. member for Quebec West stated that several times he had attempted to bring serious irregularities to the attention of the acting postmaster general. The truth is that the only occasion on which the hon. member discussed any alleged irregularities in the Post Office Department with me was about the middle of June, after he had put a series of questions on the order paper about a man named Marcel Belair.

As soon as the answers had been prepared, I asked the hon. member for Quebec West to come to see me in my office where I explained that I felt it would be preferable not to have the answers given in the house because the questions related to a police investigation which had not been completed; and the answers might give information, which they did not already possess, to some of the suspects.

I added, however, that I would give the answers if the hon. member insisted. The hon. member replied that he would like to have the answers put on the record and he added that the information could be of no value to the thieves because this man Belair was no longer at the place where he had been taken by the post office investigators. The hon. member also stated that Belair was being protected by certain investigators of the Post Office Department. I asked him at once if he had given any information he had to the police, or if he would give it to me so that I might have an immediate investigation made. He replied that he had not given the information to the police and declined to give it to me. The hon. member added that he might decide to make accusations in the house but undertook before doing so to advise me. Despite this voluntary promise, I heard nothing more about the matter from the hon. member for Quebec West.

Immediately after this interview, I told the deputy postmaster general what the hon. member had said to me and asked whether the action taken by the postal investigators in arranging employment for Belair at Seven Islands was taken with the knowledge and approval of the police. The deputy minister informed me that the action was taken at the request of the police and that the postal investigators had co-operated throughout with the police. As the hon. member for Quebec West had given me no information on which I could base any further investigation, there was nothing more I could do.

Despite the undertaking he had given me, I was not surprised, however, when I was informed by the press, while I was in Newfoundland, that the hon. member had made certain accusations in the house in my absence from Ottawa.

The second question reads:

2. (a) Did an investigator of the Post Office Department accompany one Marcel Belair to Seven Islands? (b) If so, for what purpose?

Questions

The answer, sir, is as follows: The hon. member for Quebec West stated in the house that an investigator of the Post Office Department accompanied Marcel Belair to Seven Islands for the purpose of hiding him from justice. It is true that an investigator did accompany Belair to Seven Islands and arrange for his employment under an assumed name. I so informed the house on June 20 last in answer to a question by the hon. member for Quebec West.

I have read the report made to the Post Office Department on this incident by the post office investigator, Mr. Fernand Vil-leneuve of Montreal. The report is dated September 22, 1954. According to this report, Belair had been held in custody for some time by the provincial police as a material witness in a case being prepared against another suspected thief. As neither the police nor the department had evidence against Belair on which they felt they were justified in prosecuting, Mr. Justice Wilfrid Lazure, of the court of queen's bench, authorized his release on September 16, 1954. Belair was in custody in Quebec city. Mr. Fernand Villeneuve was instructed to go to Quebec and to arrange for Belair's release with the crown prosecutor's office in Quebec.

On his arrival in Quebec, Mr. Villeneuve got in touch with the crown prosecutor's office and the provincial police and was informed that it had been arranged that Belair would be released and taken to Seven Islands by a member of the provincial police force, who was to arrange for his employment under an assumed name so that he would be available as a witness whenever it might become possible to proceed with the prosecution in which his testimony was required. This arrangement had been agreed to voluntarily by Belair.

Mr. Villeneuve was about to return to Montreal when he was called back to the office of the provincial police and informed that the police felt it would be preferable to have Belair accompanied to Seven Islands by Mr. Villeneuve rather than a provincial policeman. The police provided Mr. Villeneuve with an air ticket and he accompanied Belair to Seven Islands and made arrangements for his employment and for unemployment insurance under the name of Arthur St. Jean. Mr. Villeneuve also bought some work clothes for Belair and gave him $10 to meet his expenses until he began to earn some wages. Before Mr. Villeneuve left Seven Islands, Belair gave his assurance that he would stay there as long as his employer would keep him, but in fact he disappeared a few days later.

Such action had become necessary because of the disappearance of one Lucien Gagnon,

[Mr. Pickersgill.l

now a disbarred Montreal lawyer, who was accused of receiving unemployment insurance stamps stolen from the Ville St. Laurent post office. Belair was a material witness against Gagnon, who, according to the crown prosecutor, had previously succeeded in preventing Belair from giving testimony against him at the preliminary hearing. Belair was taken to Seven Islands with the approval of Mr. Noel Dorion, Q.C., special crown attorney in the case, in order to prevent Gagnon and his friends from subverting Belair again before the trial. I agree with Mr. Dorion that this action was taken in the interests of the proper administration of justice.

That would seem to dispose of the hon. member's accusation that a post office investigator accompanied Marcel Belair to Seven Islands for the purpose of hiding him from justice.

The third question is:

Did either of the two thieves convicted in connection with theft at the Cabano post office in the fall of 1953 implicate Belair in any way?

The answer is: The hon. member for

Quebec West stated in the house that Belair was never troubled by the police in connection with the burglary at Cabano, although in the written confession made under oath by one of the accused men Belair was implicated in the theft.

The records of the Post Office Department indicate that information was obtained some time in October, 1953, which led to the arrest of two persons suspected of robbing the post office at Cabano on September 16, 1953. Both suspects were questioned at length by the provincial police and by post office investigators. Though the two men pleaded guilty themselves, they did not give the name of any accomplice, and the investigators of the Post Office Department know of no verbal or written statement furnished by either of these suspects which implicated Belair in this burglary. I am informed that, when questioned by Mr. Fortin and Mr. Villeneuve, investigators of the Post Office Department, Belair did say that he knew about the burglary at Cabano but he never admitted having taken part in it and the Post Office Department has never had any evidence of his complicity.

The fourth question is:

(a) Did one Marcel Belair turn over to postal officials $28,000 worth of stamps stolen from the Notre Dame de Grace post office in February, 1954? (b) If so, under what circumstances?

(c) Were charges laid? (d) If not, for what reason.

The answer is: The hon. member for Quebec West stated that the post office investigators learned that their friend, Belair, was in possession of $28,000 worth of stamps

Questions

stolen from the post office at Notre Dame de The question of laying charges against him Grace and that they did not call the Mont- was discussed with the police but it was real police who would have been forced to felt that, in view of the lack of evidence, it arrest Belair and bring him into court. I am would be useless to lay a charge of burglary informed by the postal investigators in and that it was preferable to keep Belair question, Mr. Fortin and Mr. Villeneuve, that available as a witness rather than lay a the provincial police apprehended four sus- charge of receiving stolen goods, pects, one of whom was Marcel Belair, in That, of course, was a decision which was

connection with another robbery. All four made by the police with the full approval of had lengthy police records. The suspects the crown prosecutor in the province of refused to talk and were about to be released Quebec. The fifth question, sir, is:

for lack of evidence when Mr. Villeneuve was called in to question them. After some questioning, Belair told Mr. Villeneuve that, if he was released, he would try to recover the postage stamps and unemployment insurance stamps stolen from the Notre Dame de Grace postal station. On this occasion Belair gave Mr. Villeneuve valuable information regarding other post office thefts, which information led to the arrest of Lucien Gagnon, a Montreal barrister, on a charge of receiving stolen goods. Mr. Villeneuve at once informed both the provincial and municipal police of the offer made by Belair to find the stamps and they agreed to release Belair and to keep the other three suspects in custody.

Mr. Villeneuve reports that Belair made no condition except that Mr. Villeneuve should accompany him and that they should not be followed by anyone. They went to an address on St. Denis street in Montreal the first day and waited for some time, but did not get the stamps. Mr. Villeneuve and Belair met again the following day and this time went to Belair's mother's house which Belair entered alone. When he came out he told Mr. Villeneuve to go into the lane and pick up a suitcase and a parcel. These two articles were taken by Mr. Villeneuve to Mr. Fortin and other officials. On investigation, it was found that the parcel contained $1,900 worth of stamps and the suitcase contained some torches.

Both the provincial and the municipal police were notified at once. Mr. Villeneuve got in touch with Belair again and told him what he had found in the suitcase. Belair appeared surprised and said there must have been a mistake and promised to get the stamps the next day. The following day Mr. Villeneuve accompanied Belair to a private house in the north end of the city. They went into a front room and Belair told Mr. Villeneuve to open a valise they found there. The valise was full of stamps. The recovery of the stamps was at once reported to Mr. Fortin and to the provincial and municipal police.

Belair never at any time admitted taking part in the Notre Dame de Grace robbery.

Has the Acting Postmaster General any further information regarding the alleged irregularities in the Post Office Department, brought to his attention by the member for Quebec West?

The answer, sir, is: As soon as I returned from Newfoundland on Thursday evening, July 21, I got in touch with the deputy postmaster general, who had already arranged to have Mr. Villeneuve, one of the investigators of the Post Office Department, as well as other postal officials available to meet me. The deputy minister informed me that Mr. Villeneuve had reported to the department on the evening of July 18 concerning an interview he had had with one Gerard Gagnon, of Quebec, who had informed Mr. Villeneuve that certain accusations were going to be made in the House of Commons the next day. This information was passed on to the deputy minister who instructed Mr. Villeneuve to make a sworn statement of what had taken place in this interview. In view of the character of this statement, I shall not attempt to paraphrase it but shall read it exactly as it was handed to me by Mr. Villeneuve on Thursday evening.

The sworn statement reads as follows:

I, Fernand Villeneuve, of 11805 Filion street, Ville St-Laurent, in the county of Montreal 9, province of Quebec, do solemnly declare that

In the forenoon of July 19, Miss Thibault of the office of the regional director, phoned me concerning a telephone call she had received from a Mr. Gerard Gagnon of Quebec city who wanted to speak to Mr. Fortin for a very important matter and when told that Mr. Fortin was out of town, he asked to speak to me. Miss Thibault gave him my phone number and Mr. Gagnon called me around 11 a.m. on July 19, 1955.

Mr. Gagnon made an appointment to meet me at the office of the investigations division on the same day around 3 p.m. He said that it was something very important.

He did not come at the time expected and around 4 p.m. he called me, excused himself and asked me at what time I could see him. 1 told him that I was at his disposition even after the office hours. He then said that it was preferable that I see him at his room in view of the nature of the case he had to discuss with me.

I made arrangements to meet him at his room No. 581 at the Queen's hotel.

In view of the fact that he had asked to speak to Mr. Fortin and then to myself, I suspected that it was concerning Lucien Gagnon and before going to his room, I went to check with the house officer of the Queen's hotel, the records of room 581.

Questions

The records showed that Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Gagnon of Quebec city had registered on that day. To the records was attached a business card of Gagnon Transport Limitee of Quebec and Montreal.

Gerard Gagnon did not arrive until 6 p.m. When I went in, his wife was on the phone and he told me that he would wait until she was finished as he wanted to be alone to discuss what he had to say.

While his wife was on the phone, he showed me a piece of paper on which were different remarks concerning Lucien Gagnon and Marcel Belair. He took this paper back but from what I can recollect, the remarks were something as follows: "Lucien Gagnon is staying in New York city. Marcel Belair is also in the states and he would have lately been suspected of having taken part in a burglary. Marcel Belair had registered at Seven Islands under a false name. A postal investigator paid with his personal cheque goods purchased for Belair. A postal investigator connected with Marcel Belair has been promoted."

Mr. Gerard Gagnon then asked his wife to leave which she did, and after her departure, Mr. Gagnon told me "You know now what I wanted to see you for?" I answered in the affirmative. He first began to tell me that he was not related in any way to Lucien Gagnon and that he was not a friend of him but he was interested concerning a very important transaction involving over $100,000 and that in order to have this transaction go through, it would be necessary to have Lucien Gagnon in Montreal, that this could not be done if Lucien Gagnon was behind the bars. He then asked me if it would be possible for Lucien Gagnon to obtain bail should he present himself. I told Mr. Gerard Gagnon that it was up to the department of the attorney general to decide. Mr. Gagnon then said that the attorney general would need the consent of post office officials since the charge had been laid by post office investigators.

Mr. Gerard Gagnon was told that as far as I was concerned, I could not give my consent. Mr. Gagnon then repeated that he was not interested about the case of Lucien Gagnon but only concerning the transaction and added he saw no reason why I would not give my consent. I then told him that I would contact the authorities but that I doubted very much if they would give their approbation.

I related to Mr. Gerard Gagnon what Judge Lazure had said when one of the lawyers of Lucien Gagnon had made a request for bail. Judge Lazure had then informed that he would not grant bail even if they would offer one for a million dollars.

Mr. Gagnon then told me that serious accusations would be made in the House of Commons, very y the following day concerning Fortin and Villeneuve that a member of parliament had a number of affidavits signed by Marcel Belair and others and that mention would be made concerning promotion of a high official who had been closely connected with this case. I cannot of course remember all what Mr. Gagnon said, but he did make allusion of an officer having been seen often in a night club with Marcel Belair and that the same officer was the owner of a bad house where post office officials used to meet.

I told Mr. Gagnon that I was perfectly at ease and that everything that was done concerning this case was in the interest of justice and that we had nothing to hide.

Mr. Gagnon then said that even if what will be said against Fortin and myself is not all true, there is always something left and that it would of course be preferable not to have anything of the kind mentioned.

tMr. Pickersgill.]

Gerard Gagnon then spoke again of Lucien Gagnon and told me that he knew he was in New York and added that he would see lawyer Noel Dorion, Q.C. crown prosecutor in this case and he then asked me to take the matter over. I told him that if I could contact the authorities, particularly Mr. Fortin, I would call him up.

Around noon on July 20th, I tried to reach him (G. Gagnon) to advise him that I would not be able to see Mr. Fortin before the end of the week, but could not contact him.

I have not heard from Gerard Gagnon since.

The same evening, that is, July 19th, I informed Mr. Pageau-

Who is an official of the Post Office Department, I might interject.

-who is presently in Montreal, of the result of the interview I had with Mr. Gerard Gagnon, and after having discussed the case over again, the following morning, it was then agreed to inform the deputy postmaster general which was done at 12 p.m. by Mr. Pageau in my presence.

I had never met nor heard of this Gerard Gagnon before and found very strange, the request he made and all he had told me about the accusations that were to be made.

AND I MAKE this solemn declaration conscientiously believing it to be true, and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act.

DECLARED before me at Montreal in the county of in the province of Quebec

this 21st day of July, 1955

f (Sgd.) Fernand Villeneuve

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I do not know how many supplementary questions may be asked, but it might be more regular to have these questions asked when we reach the orders of the day.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise one point. The minister has read two statutory declarations. I presume that those original statutory declarations will be tabled?

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I shall be very happy to do that if it is within the rules of the house.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is there unanimous consent that these documents be tabled and that we revert to motions for this purpose?

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

[Later.'l

On the orders of the day:

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. Wilfrid Dufresne (Quebec West):

Does the Acting Postmaster General remember that I told him before leaving his office on the afternoon of June 17 that he should investigate the great friendship existing between some Montreal post office investigators and Marcel Belair? The minister has referred to names, and I will mention some names- Mr. Maurice Fortin and Mr. Fernand Villeneuve.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Hon. J. W. Pickersgill (Acting Postmaster General):

I do not know whether there would be any particular profit in the hon. gentleman and myself exchanging recollections of that conversation. I might say, however, in direct answer to his question, that I do not recollect his mentioning the names of any specific investigators.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

It cannot be useful to the minister in recollecting that conversation.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Perhaps the hon. gentleman would permit me to reply without being interrupted. I certainly did not interrupt him when he made his statements the other day-

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

You were far away.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

-statements which he promised he would not make without previously advising me.

Topic:   *POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Subtopic:   ALLEGED
Sub-subtopic:   IRREGULARITIES
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July 25, 1955