June 24, 1959

LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Or it used to be, as my leader has pointed out. But here we have, because of an arrangement, an arrangement on which the province up to five days before had every reason to believe it could rely, the Prime Minister, without any knowledge of the facts, as his previous statement shows, arrogating to himself and to his colleagues the functions of an attorney general of a province. That is what happened, because there can be no question that in the province of Quebec where they have provincial police it would not be possible for the minister to do this; but because the provincial authorities in a smaller and poorer province had made an arrangement which the minister last night said he believed to be a good one, for that reason it is deprived of its rights, deprived of the necessary instrument on which it had every right to rely in order to carry out those rights. That is what the Prime Minister's statement means and it is all that it can mean.

Then he went on to reinforce that with another sentence. I do not intend to read the whole statement unless I am asked to do so, but he went on to make this extraordinary observation, no doubt out of his vast knowledge of what was going on in Newfoundland:

I would think that the danger of disorder and violence would be very much reduced if all those concerned would agree to a cooling off period of say two weeks.

Here was a situation where a man had been killed. Here was a situation where the

whole population of an area was tense and where, if ever, there should be more than adequate police in order to make sure that the situation did not deteriorate. But what do we have from the Prime Minister? No police but just this appeal for a cooling off.

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PC
LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

If the hon. gentleman thinks that what happened afterward was the result of anything said by the Prime Minister I am afraid I would find it difficult to agree with him.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

I am sure you would, knowing you.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I want to come now to what the Minister of Justice had to say in justification. The Minister of Justice contradicted the Prime Minister. The Minister of Justice, I think, took the proper legal view. I must say, speaking personally, that I would have more respect for the legal opinion of the Minister of Justice than I would for the legal opinion of the Prime Minister, but that is a matter of personal preference and I think here the Minister of Justice was right and the Prime Minister was wrong. I want to refer to what the Minister of Justice said, dealing precisely with this point, as found at page 1960 of Hansard for March 16. He gave various reasons but I want to read first this sentence found about a quarter of the way down the second column:

It is also clear that the ultimate responsibility for the decision rests on the Attorney General of Canada.

In my view that is right. As hon. gentlemen know, I have had some experience in government myself. I was charged with the administration of certain acts of parliament that imposed certain duties upon the minister, and those duties were imposed by parliament upon the minister, not upon the government. Where they were imposed upon the minister the view that was always taken by the prime minister under whom I served was that the minister himself must take that responsibility. That did not preclude his seeking advice from his colleagues-

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Exactly.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

-but I cannot imagine any circumstances in which a duty was imposed upon a minister when Mr. St. Laurent would ever have come into the house and used words such as the Prime Minister used.

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PC

Charles Edward Rea (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Deputy Chairman:

Order. I am very sorry to have to advise the hon. member that his time has expired.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Oh, well, we are in committee.

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PC

Charles Edward Rea (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Deputy Chairman:

Does the committee give unanimous consent to the hon. member to continue?

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Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I appreciate the committee giving me the opportunity to complete my remarks in a single sequence. I was just saying that I cannot imagine any circumstances in which, when a clear duty was imposed by parliament upon a minister, Mr. St. Laurent would have come into the house and made the statement which the Prime Minister made, "Under the circumstances we have concluded." I say that the forms of our institutions are just as important to preserve as the substance, and even if it were the fact, and I am not sure it was, that the Prime Minister did impose upon the Minister of Justice the statement should not have been put in that form.

Let us see what reasons the Minister of Justice gave for taking the position he took on March 16 in relation to what he said as to the situation on March 11, the day on which the request was made. Here is what the minister said, as found at page 1960 of Hansard:

Following the clash that took place on the highway outside the town of Badger on Tuesday evening, March 10. the situation apparently deteriorated further and Superintendent Parsons advised the commissioner that in view of the movement of 100 further strikers into the area, he felt that the call for reinforcements should be renewed.

On receipt of this information from the commissioner on Wednesday morning, I approved-

I find I have to amend something about which I spoke from recollection earlier. When the minister made the statement on Wednesday afternoon, March 11, he had already approved-

-his taking the steps necessary to gather the men in the maritimes who had been alerted, and to have air transportation arranged. I told him, however, that while these steps were to be taken as a precaution I was not giving authority for the plane to take off from Moncton, and that this was not to take place until I had an opportunity to consider the situation further and to consult with my colleagues with regard to it.

That is the situation, and that consultation, as I have said several times before, took five days.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

My hon. friend should read the next sentence which disposes entirely of the inaccurate statement he has just made and proves that what he said was incorrect.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I will be very glad to do so. I told the minister at the beginning that I would be very glad to read any additional part and I will be very glad to do so. The

Supply-Justice

minister does not need to be provocative about it. I will be glad to do it any time he asks.

The commissioner thereupon Informed me-

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

No, the next sentence, which shows that it did not take five days but that a decision was taken that afternoon.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I beg the minister's pardon.

I certainly was not deliberately trying to omit it.

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Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

If any hon. gentleman wishes to make the suggestion that I was he can make it.

These consultations were held on Wednesday afternoon, and it was decided that a state of readiness should be maintained but that reinforcements should not be dispatched at that time.

That was no decision. That was postponement of a decision, a postponement that endured, as I have already said, for five days. I want to come now to the minister's reasons for refusing ultimately, five days later, to send these reinforcements. Here is what he said as found on page 1961:

I do not accept, and the government of Canada cannot accept, that an issue of this importance- whether reinforcements should be sent under the circumstances such as existed here-can be decided on the basis of a mere mathematical calculation as to whether men are physically available.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Mr. Chairman, so far I have refrained from interrupting the hon. member on a point of order, the point of order having to do with the sub judice rule, because the hon. gentleman has been reciting the facts and giving his opinion about them which he is entitled to do and to which I am entitled to reply, and to which I shall, but I think the hon. gentleman is now coming inescapably to the issue that is before the courts, the issue of whether it was right or wrong to refuse to send these reinforcements.

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LIB

June 24, 1959