July 26, 1955

CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

Before this clause carries, we have something to say which may be of importance. Many hon. members do not appear to understand why hon. members in this group have been opposing divorce cases so vehemently. Some of them we have put on record to expose, so far as we can, the fact that injustices are being done under the present procedure.

Topic:   CLAUDE FERRON
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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Order. May I point out to the hon. member that we are discussing an act for the relief of Claude Ferron, and that we are on clause 1 thereof. We are not discussing divorce procedure, and I must ask the hon. member to adhere strictly to the rule of relevancy.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Castleden:

I am very glad to have your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I shall endeavour to show how the evidence in the Ferron case demonstrates just how unjust the procedure is, and why we think something should be done to change this sort of procedure.

The Ferron case was heard by the Senate committee in the ordinary way on May 30, and was sent forward to this house. The evidence in this case reveals a condition of affairs in connection with the handling of divorce which in my opinion lessens the prestige of parliament. The procedure followed in this case is one which I believe should not be permitted in the House of Commons. In the present instance the Senate committee recommended the granting of a divorce on evidence which was at least questionable. The charge was not substantiated, so far as the evidence was concerned.

That evidence was given by two girls, one of whom at the time of the offence was 17 years of age, and the other only 14. The offence was alleged to have been committed two or three years before the hearing before the committee. Meantime the petitioner had had opportunity to be in touch with these girls. In fact the evidence before the Senate committee showed that the petitioner, who is a doctor, had treated one of these girls for a nervous complaint, and was still treating her.

The petitioner had applied to the Quebec courts for a separation, and this had been granted. Then apparently he wished to obtain a divorce, and the evidence of these two young girls is the basis upon which he placed his application. It was proven in the

Private Bills-Divorce

Senate committee that this was so, and anyone who wishes may read it. All I wish to say in this connection is that there are about 450 of these divorce cases coming before both houses of parliament every year, and the evidence would sicken almost anyone. The type of investigation is just disgusting.

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An hon. Member:

Order.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

I shall go a little more slowly and choose my words more carefully. The older of the two girls, who gave the main evidence, was proved before the Senate committee to have committed perjury right in the court. She admitted later that the evidence she gave was wrong, and that is the only evidence we have.

The other girl was only 14 years of age. I shall read some of this evidence to the committee. I shall begin with the evidence of the doctor himself, and set out some of the bases upon which he applied for divorce. The fact that the Senate committee could recommend a divorce in such case is, so far as I am concerned, proof that the whole procedure is wrong. I turn to page 15 of the evidence where we find Senator Roebuck, chairman of the committee, saying the time had come to state exactly when it was that his wife had left. Then Mr. Riel, who was counsel, said:

They have given us an affidavit; they are here, the two girls.

Then the witness, the petitioner, said:

Well, when I realized what they told me I asked the lawyer, but-

And then, before the answer was completed, Senator Roebuck asked:

Q. By looking at the affidavits can't you tell when you learned?

A. Well, it is about a week after.

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LIB
CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Castleden:

Page 15 of the report of the Senate divorce committee. Then the report continues:

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Mr. Riel@

Shall I file these affidavits, Mr. Chairman?

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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman (Senator Roebuck);

If you have the girls here, we do not want their affidavits. It was merely to refresh his memory.

Then Mr. Riel asked:

Q. Now did you approve or condone the adultery committed by your wife?

A. No, I don't.

Q. Now, did you connive-do you understand what it means to connive-arrange with your wife to commit adultery?

A. No, I didn't.

By the Chairman (Senator Roebuck) :

Q. You did not encourage it or facilitate it?

A. In any way, sir.

By Mr. Riel:

Q. Have you forgiven your wife?

A. No, sir.

Private Bills-Divorce

Q. Are you forgiving her now?

A. No.

Q. Would you be ready to take her back?

A. No.

Q. Is there any collusion between you and your wife in order to obtain this divorce?

A. No, sir.

Q. What led up to your separation?

A. I beg your pardon, senator?

It is quite evident from the evidence that Dr. Ferron did not forgive his wife and did not wish to take her back. It is equally evident from the evidence why she was defending herself. The wife said that in no case would she take the doctor back. She denied the offence in every way. She swore she had not committed any offence.

When she was before the committee of the house we asked her what was the reason for contesting the divorce. She said, "I do not want to live with him." She wished only to protect her name against the slander and against something which was supposed to have occurred and which was not true. Her only reason for contesting the divorce was to protect her good name. I maintain, Mr. Chairman, that on the basis of the evidence given and on the basis of the fact that the lawyer for the petitioner in this case did not think it even worth while or necessary to bring in the co-respondent to give evidence in the case, an average judge anywhere in Canada would have dismissed the case on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

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LIB
CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

The whole purpose of these committees is to evaluate the evidence, I suppose, and deal with the divorce cases of people in two provinces who have no other recourse. I mention this case not because I am trying to defend either one or the other of the parties. I am trying to pick out evidence given here to show that when parliament deals with this kind of thing, justice is not being served.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Surely this is a general discussion of the subject of divorce, which is quite out of order on this bill.

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Some hon. Members:

Question.

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CCF

Alfred Claude Ellis

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

Mr. Ellis:

Read the evidence; read every word of it.

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Some hon. Members:

Question.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

After the bill came up in the Senate the case was dealt with by a committee of that house and a committee of this house, which is now regarded as a kind of legal court under amendments to the Criminal Code. If it is a court of justice, then it should act as any other court and try to give justice. One of the main requisites of a court is that it should be presided over

by an impartial judge. The committee of this house was presided over by-

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Chairman, could we have a decision on the point of order I raised?

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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Order. I did not rise before, because I thought the hon. member would come back to the clause under consideration. The minister's point of order is well taken, that these remarks are general and that discussion on this clause must be strictly relevant to the clause itself. I must ask the hon. member to observe our rule of strict relevancy in committee.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

Yes, Mr. Chairman, if that is the wish of the committee.

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LIB

July 26, 1955