July 26, 1955

LIB

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

Liberal

The Chairman (Senator Roebuck):

Well, I think you are going a long way. We will hear it if you insist on it, but I think you are going a long way.

Topic:   CLAUDE FERRON
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Mr. Pager@

I may be, but it won't take me long to come back.

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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):

Go ahead, we will hear what you have to say.

By Mr. Pager:

Q. Would you mind saying what kind of treatment you were given by Dr. Ferron?

A. I am still being treated for my nerves.

Q. You had a child, did you?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Did you not testify in court that you had a child?

A. I never said any such thing.

And again:

Q. Did you see the respondent, Mrs. Ferron, intoxicated or drinking to excess at any time during that year? .

A. Yes, I did. Mrs. Ferron was always drinking; it would be easier to count the times she was sober.

That evidence is quite evidently vindictive, and the evidence we had in committee was just as vindictive. I am merely stating that before we arrive at any judgment, full evidence should be given by these persons. In fact in the committee the lawyer for the petitioner suggested that the committee should adjourn so he could bring further evidence. Every possible bit of evidence should be heard by any court, and in this case I think there has been insufficient evidence on which to pass judgment. That is why I spoke against the granting of this petition on the evidence that we have. I suggest to hon. members that this kind of petition should not be brought before the committee of either house.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. Nicholson:

Mr. Chairman, this is one of those difficult decisions which hon. members have to make, especially those who sat in

Private Bills-Divorce

the miscellaneous private bills committee. I am sure we were impressed by the fact that Dr. Ferron was a young doctor, but his wife certainly made a much better witness than was expected. When I read the evidence I suggested that the committee have a look at this case. It was alleged that Mrs. Ferron had been a drug addict and a heavy drinker. I knew nothing more about her, but I thought when she came before the committee she made a very good witness.

Both the people involved are Roman Catholics who have very definite views with regard to the desirability of divorce. When the matter was before the house previously I made some reference to the conflicting evidence which the doctor gave regarding the use of drugs in connection with the treatment of his wife. At one stage it was alleged that he was treating his wife intravenously when her father arrived. Members of the committee were interested in hearing that Mrs. Ferron had undergone a serious operation back in 1945 in one of the well known Montreal hospitals. This was the evidence her husband gave:

Q. When did the narcotics start?

A. She was operated on in Notre Dame hospital in I think around 1945, and as far as I know I think she started being a drug addict after that. They probably gave her too much narcotics while in hospital, and she took the habit out of that. I remember when I was in hospital I had to forbid the nurse to give them, because personally I thought they were giving her too much narcotics. I asked the nurse to stop them. After that I noticed once in a while there was some narcotics ampules disappearing from my case; and I found syringes and needles everywhere in the house. When I realized that I had her treated twice in hospital to try to get rid of that, but she always started back. On many occasions she signed my name on a prescription.

This unfortunate woman admitted that following her serious operation she developed the habit, but through the assistance of her husband and her father and the skilful personnel in two hospitals in Quebec she was cured. I am sure all members felt that here was a woman who deserved some encouragement from the parliament of Canada after having made a real worth-while effort to overcome this unfortunate addiction.

The evidence brought before us on which we were to base our judgment was presented by two girls who were wards of the welfare department of the province of Quebec. One girl was 14 years of age and the other 17 years of age four years ago, when this alleged incident occurred. The hon. member for Yorkton has pointed out that the girls gave conflicting evidence. I realize that a person can tell a lie, but when he admits telling falsehoods to and misleading the Senate committee by giving evidence on which judgment is to be based, that evidence should be

examined pretty carefully. The evidence given by one of these girls as to the time the brother arrived was as follows:

Q. What time did your brother arrive at the Ferron home?

A. He arrived early Saturday morning.

Q. Is it not true that he was intoxicated when he came there?

A. No, he was not.

The other girl who was 14 years of age at that time, now 18 years, testified as follows:

Q. Do you recall or remember at what time he arrived at the Ferron's home that particular date?

A. No, I didn't. It was in the afternoon.

Q. He arrived in the afternoon?

A. Yes.

While they seemed to remember some details quite clearly, other details they did not remember. It is unusual that one of them should remember so clearly that the brother arrived in the morning, while the other one said that he arrived in the afternoon. The sister was questioned as to whether the brother was intoxicated when he arrived, and I quote again from page 22:

Q. Do you remember in what state he was?

A. Yes. he was intoxicated.

Q. While he was at Mrs. Ferron's home did he have other drinks?

A. Not that I remember.

Q. When you say he was intoxicated, exactly what degree of intoxication was he in?

A. Well, he was drunk.

Q. He was drunk?

A. Yes.

Q. Was he drunk enough to have difficulties to master his language?

A. Well, yes.

Q. Do you remember at what time he left the house that day?

A. No, I don't.

I think hon. members should examine that conflicting evidence quite carefully. The hon. member for Yorkton mentioned the conflicting evidence the main witness gave in connection with the older girl. She was asked if she was being treated by the doctor while at the home:

Q. Weren't you treated at one time by Dr. Ferron?

A. Was I treated?

Then the lawyer said:

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Mr. Riel@

That was not asked in examination in chief.

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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):

It does not necessarily follow that it must come from examination in chief. I do not see any significance in it at the moment, whether the witness was or was not treated, but I am relying on counsel not to ask questions in which there is no significance. It is very easy for the witness to answer the question.

Then the chairman asked:

Q. Were you treated by Dr. Ferron?

A. While I was living there, no.

By Mr. Pager:

Q. After you left?

A. A little while later I was.

Q. Would you mind saying what kind of treatment-

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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):

Now, what is the significance?

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Mr. Pager@

Well, I will have to give testimony myself, I will have to say what I know right away. She had a child.

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Mr. Riel@

That should have been alleged in the petition.

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Mr. Pager@

We have a witness here.

Senator Barbour: Is it in connection with this child?

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Mr. Pager@

Not directly, but maybe indirectly. She may have some sort of a debt to Dr. Ferron.

Then later:

By Mr. Pager:

Q. Would you mind saying what kind of treatment you were given by Dr. Ferron?

A. I am still being treated for my nerves.

Q. You had a child, did you?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Did you not testify in court that you had a child?

A. I never said any such thing.

Q. Why did you leave the Ferron home?

A. Because I was constantly fighting with Mrs. Ferron.

Then the lawyer for the petitioner realized that this was very serious evidence, and he asked her:

Q. Witness, I don't know if you heard the question asked by Mr. Pager. He asked you if you had a child and if you had been treated by Dr. Ferron: Is that what you meant?

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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):

She denied it; I don't think there is any necessity of going over it.

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Mr. Riel@

I want to know if she understood the question.

The Chairman (Senator Roebuck) : She thoroughly understood it and answered it very emphatically. As far as this committee is concerned you don't need to go further into that matter with this witness.

By the Chairman (Senator Roebuck) :

Q. Witness, I would like to be perfectly clear about what you told Dr. Ferron about the incident you have described to us. You said this was after the separation, but can you not fix it a little more definitely than that?

A. I don't remember when it was, I know he had already started a separation.

Q. But had the separation gone through?

A. It was going through.

Later on Mr. Riel, counsel for the petitioner, said:

Before the witness leaves the stand, I should like to make a statement. The doctor is here. It is possible the question asked by Mr. Pager took her by surprise, and she is bashful about it. But the doctor treated her for a child that she had, so I think there must be some misunderstanding.

The Chairman (Senator Roebuck) : Go ahead and clear it up.

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Mr. Riel@

I want to ask this girl if she correctly understood what Mr. Pager asked her. I understand that she denied about the child. I put my question to her, and she has not answered it.

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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):

She did not answer it because I stopped her. Go ahead and clear the matter up.

By Mr. Reil:

Q. You have to state the truth even if it affects your own feelings.

A. All right, yes, I had a child, but it had nothing to do with Dr. Ferron, if that is what they are getting at.

Private Bills-Divorce

By the Chairman (Senator Roebuck):

Q. How long since did that happen?

A. Three years last January.

Q. Was that prior to your going to the Ferrons?

A. That I had the child?

Q. Yes.

A. I had the child after I left the Ferrons.

By Senator Barbour:

Q. That is shortly after you left?

A. Yes; I left in December and I had the child in January.

By Mr. Riel:

Q. You were pregnant when you were at the Ferrons?

A. Yes.

I think we all feel it is unfortunate that a medical doctor should come to parliament asking that we accept evidence that would lead to the granting of a divorce on the testimony of two girls who were so very young, and one of whom certainly did not tell the truth. She had been well coached between the time she gave evidence before the Senate and when we heard her. One of the members asked her about this statement, and she had a very clever reply that a 20-year-old girl would never think of. It was the answer a very smart lawyer would put into the girl's mouth. There was no apology whatever for having misled the Senate or for having a prepared reply. That disposed of the matter as far as that was concerned.

There are still two more matters I should like to mention. Counsel for the petitioner introduced two pieces of evidence which, in my opinion, were most unfortunate. I have not read all the evidence in connection with these Senate divorce cases, but I am sure the Senate would not have printed the language this girl used in trying to besmear Mrs. Ferron. Of course Mrs. Ferron denied the allegations completely. I thought it was unfortunate, but her lawyer consented to her introducing this evidence. I could tell from the attitude of a number of members that they thought this was most unfortunate.

The other piece of evidence which counsel tried to introduce and which was rejected by our committee-and by a very small majority of the committee-was an affidavit which counsel for the petitioner had secured a few days previously. The co-respondent named in this particular divorce case was alleged to be 19 four years ago, when this incident occurred and he has been with the air force. When the case was heard before the Senate counsel pointed out that a notice had been sent to the brother mentioning that he was being named in it, and the law of the country required that he should be informed as to what was going on. I am reading from page 32:

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Mr. Riel@

According to the practice, I have sent a registered letter to Ronald Leonard at his station of the R.C.A.F., Comox Island, B.C., notifying him that he was the respondent in this case.

Private Bills-Divorce

The Chairman (Senator Roebuck) : You mean that the case would be heard today?

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Mr. Riel@

Today, that is right-at least I do not say that in the letter. I will read the letter, if I may:

"The above mentioned Dr. Claude Ferron has petitioned the Senate of Canada and the House of Commons for the granting of a divorce law dissolving his marriage with his wife Marielle Guibord.

"The petition for the obtention of this divorce is based on an act of adultery that he alleged his wife committed with you, during a week end of August 1951, at their summer chalet in St. Eustache, province of Quebec.

"Be hereby notified of the said allegation; we do not want to bring your name in the testimony without you knowing it."

Now, Mr. Chairman, I think that it would have been much more appropriate if this young man in the air force, who apparently was in Montreal last week or the week before, had been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate when the case was being heard. I understand that in his affidavit he intimated that he could not be at the Senate hearing, but he does not know. After all, the parliament of Canada is supreme. If this parliament asks someone in the air force to appear on a given day, I am sure the Minister of National Defence is most anxious that the responsible officers in charge make it possible for any person in the Department of National Defence to be here and clear his good name. So far as the evidence is concerned, no effort was made to have the co-respondent brought either to the Senate committee or to the committee of this house.

The other detail that I think is significant is this. While this air force person was being questioned, or while an affidavit was being prepared, no effort whatsoever was made to contact counsel for the defendant so that if this evidence were submitted, counsel for the defendant would have a chance to examine and cross-examine. I think the fact that a real effort was not made to have the co-respondent appear before the Senate committee or before the House of Commons committee was quite significant.

The young girls, when they were before the Senate committee, had different evidence to give from that which they gave while they were before our committee. Again I am sorry I am not able to refer to the evidence given before our committee. I submit that next year we should make provision for stenographic reports of what is presented to our committee, because there has been a good deal of conflicting evidence presented this year. As I recall it, these girls gave conflicting evidence before the Senate committee. They said there was one girl along with them when the expedition took place to the restaurant, when they were going to

phone. Before our committee the number had increased from one to three others, to about five girls who were there.

According to the evidence the young chap was so drunk when his sister left that he had his head down on the table and was falling asleep. He was in such bad shape that she thought he should go to bed. Her bed was right nearby, apparently. But she was not able to get her brother to bed. The girls were away, one said for 20 minutes and the other said half an hour but not over half an hour; and when they returned this amazing evidence was all available.

It is extremely difficult for me to believe that this alleged incident could occur when and how it was described. However, I do not know anything about that. The members of this house must decide whether they accept the statement of this girl, who did perjure herself, and that of another youngster 14 years of age, or that of Mrs. Ferron who denied most emphatically that there was one iota of truth in it.

In view of the fact that both Dr. Ferron and his wife are Roman Catholics, and the fact that they undertook some years ago to go through life together, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, and to make a go of it, I think it would be a great pity if at this stage, when apparently Mrs. Ferron has made a real come-back, this divorce should be granted.

I see no great injustice that will be done to Dr. Ferron if we refuse to pass this divorce. If, as he alleges, his wife is not behaving as a married woman should behave, I am sure he would be able to get further evidence that might be more convincing than the evidence he brought before the Senate and House of Commons committees. I might say that we have had quite a busy year with respect to divorce. There were 407 cases. I suggest that we have a good look at those cases, and that some of those who think this bill should be carried should give some good reasons why, in their opinion, the evidence of these two girls should be accepted and the statements of Mrs. Ferron should oe rejected.

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LIB

Russell Earl Reinke

Liberal

Mr. Reinke:

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, may I say this. It is quite obvious that the C.C.F. members are talking this bill out. I should like to ask the hon. member for Yorkton a question if I may. It is this. Did he refer to the Senate subcommittee as our little kangaroo court?

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Castleden:

I was not referring to that committee. I was referring to the committee of this house that sat as a court without evidence being given.

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LIB

July 26, 1955