Order. I must apologize to the committee. I apparently missed some words which were used by the hon. member for Yorkton. If I had apprehended them at the time they were used, I would have drawn them to his attention. If he referred to any group of members of this house or any committee of this house as a kangaroo court, then, having regard to the general understanding of the expression "kangaroo court", I think he must withdraw those words.
Mr. Chairman, I want to assure you that if I have used any words which may have been considered as disrespectful to the members of this house and to the members of the committee, I am quite willing to withdraw them. In substitution for the words "kangaroo court", I would say it is a court that I consider to be a most improper court.
Order. Does the hon. member wish to leave on the record of Hansard an imputation that any committee of this house is an improper court? I am sure the hon. member, on reflection, will also wish to withdraw those words. I am not going to direct him to do so because I do not think the word "improper" is unparliamentary. However, I do not believe he is showing proper respect to this house of parliament when he uses that language.
First of all I wish to thank the hon. member for Mackenzie for the fairness with which he presented his case. I do not think he presented all the evidence and weighed it as a committee of this house should have it weighed for them when dealing with this matter.
The hon. member for Yorkton used the words "impartial judge". I was almost on the point of getting to my feet to find out whether he was suggesting that I was not an impartial judge, having acted as chairman. However, on reflection I decided he did not mean that.
I think this committee should know the procedure followed by the committee on miscellaneous private bills. The petitioner and the respondent were both present. They were both represented by counsel. Both counsel had an opportunity to examine their witnesses and to cross-examine the witness on the other side. Each member of the committee was given an opportunity to ask any questions he desired of the witnesses. When the case was concluded, counsel for both sides were given a chance to sum up the evidence and make their observations and their appeal to the committee. After counsel had done that, then the committee members were given an opportunity to discuss the merits of the case and make up their own minds. This was the procedure followed, and I think it was fair and impartial.
May I say, Mr. Chairman, that as acting chairman of the committee on that occasion I made no observations whatever. I took no part in the proceedings except to rule. I did suggest to the committee that they had three alternatives to consider. First of all they could believe the evidence of the witnesses for the petitioner. Second, they could believe the witnesses for the respondent. Whichever set of witnesses they believed, that would be the judgment they would have to make. If they were in any doubt, then they should dismiss the petition.
Some suggestion has been made and I think probably there has been an implication of some unfairness to the petitioner. One of his witnesses had become pregnant while living at his home. The evidence given by both the petitioner and the respondent was that the doctor was asked to take care of her and this child. In other words the respondent asked her husband to fulfil his functions as a physician in respect to this particular witness. Then the hon. member
ior Yorkton suggested that counsel tor the petitioner ask for an adjournment. This was due to the fact that when certain evidence by way of affidavit was presented to the committee I, as chairman, thought that was unfair. The hon. member then suggested an adjournment to counsel. I pointed out to him that I did not think that was the time for an adjournment. It was his responsibility to have his witnesses there, and the fact a witness was not there was his responsibility. I did not think the committee should adjourn. It may have been that if it had gone to a vote the committee would have overruled me. At any rate, the evidence was ruled out and it was not heard.
There is some suggestion, too, about the condition in which this co-respondent was when he arrived. The fact is that the respondent herself admitted that when he came to the house she herself had given him liquor to drink.
Very definitely; she had given him beer or some other liquor. She was not sure what it was.
Then something was made of a certain bit of evidence given by one of the witnesses for the petitioner, and there was a suggestion that it was given to defame the character of the respondent. Perhaps the hon. member for Mackenzie will recall that was only brought out as an incidental. She stated why she hurried back again. A certain incident had happened before, so she thought she would come back sooner than otherwise she might have. She came back, and it was only under considerable pressure that she gave the evidence which was brought out by her counsel against my advice. I will say to the hon. member for Mackenzie that if anything could have shaken my belief in the credibility of the witness it was that fact. But on reflection I have come to the conclusion that it did not shake my credibility, and that it did not go to the root of the matter.
There was some mention about the time they were away. The two witnesses for the petitioner stated they were away at least half an hour. The respondent said they were away 20 minutes. There is no real conflict as to what took place. The co-respondent was apparently in an intoxicated or semi-intoxicated condition just at this particular time. When Mrs. Ferron was giving her evidence she said that one of the witnesses for the petitioner, the sister of the co-respondent, had tried to get him to go to bed. He was angry and fighting with her. She said she had told the two witnesses to go and find
her husband and she would try to put their brother to bed. In other words she sent everybody out of that house. They went away, and then came back.
There is no dispute about the respondent being in the bedroom with the co-respondent. She said she had her shorts on and she shoved him back on the bed. The two girls came in, the sisters of the co-respondent. The doors were not locked-and they walked in to the bedroom door and opened it, and they say they saw the respondent and co-respondent lying on the bed unclothed.
When I weighed all the evidence in my own mind I came to the conclusion that it was reasonable to conclude that adultery had been committed. If I had voted, as I said I did not vote in the committee, I would have voted for the granting of the divorce.
I would hasten to say to the hon. member for High Park that he did a good job as chairman, and if I could ask him to make all these decisions it would be quite satisfactory to me. So long as we collectively have to make the decision I think we should examine these cases very carefully.
I believe the whole point of the case was supplied to us by the hon. member for High Park, when he said that he had come to a reasonable conclusion. I have always been led to believe that if there is any possibility of doubt, then the defendant should be given the benefit of that doubt. In this one particular case I do not think any of us is able to say with any amount of certainty what actually did or did not take place. In this case the lady had been ill. I have always thought that the marriage vow to live together in sickness and in health meant what it said. I find it very difficult to give my consent to the husband's petition to be relieved from the responsibility of his marriage at a time when his wife has just passed through such a serious illness.
According to the evidence these people were married on October 7, 1944. That is not very long ago, less than 11 years. The lady has been ill for a number of years. I think all the evidence points to the fact this is a hasty move, to be already petitioning for a divorce.