Mr. Eldon M. Woolliams (Bow River):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege affecting the rights of parliament and therefore the rights of every member of parliament. Parliament is the highest court of the land; parliament is a court. Every member of parliament within this jurisdiction is a judge of this court.
My question of privilege arises out of a statement made by the Minister of Justice while addressing the S.G.W.U. students. The statement was reported in the Montreal Gazette dated February 23, and the comment of the minister is in quotation marks. He was referring to the Dorion commission requested by parliament, requested by the members of parliament and therefore requested by this court and the judges of this court. After much argument the government agreed to set up the Dorion commission by order in council P.C. 1964-1819 and amended order in council P.C. 1964-1820. The words of the minister that I say brought parliament into ridicule and contempt and which are prejudicial to the Dorion commission and prejudge the facts and the evidence are as follows;
When all is said and done most of the insinuations made against the government will be proven to be unfounded.
Further he went on to say, in his own case:
My conscience was clear when the inquiry began and it will remain clear when it ends.
I submit that these words amount to contempt because they create an undue interference with the administration of justice in Canada, which department the minister heads. Any undue interference in reference to the evidence, in reference to the witnesses themselves, and particularly any undue interference with reference to the officers of a tribunal which may exercise undue influence amounts to contempt.
I wish to quote from volume 8, third edition, of Halsbury's Laws of England. Paragraph 16 bears the heading "Obstructing officers of the court" and is as follows:
Contempt by obstructing an officer of the court is punished, not for the purpose of vindicating the dignity of the court or the person of the officer, but to prevent undue interference with the administration of justice.
I ask the question, Mr. Speaker. Did the minister exercise, by words now published in the Gazette, undue interference with the administration of justice as far as the Dorion inquiry is concerned? I now refer to the terms and conditions of the amended order in council dated November 27, 1964, P.C. 1964-1820, and I quote in part:
To inquire fully into allegations about any improper inducements having been offered to or improper pressures having been brought to bear on counsel acting upon an application for the extradition of one Lucien Rivard and all the relevant circumstances connected therewith-
And this is important.
-including the manner in which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and any officer thereof and the Department of Justice and the Minister of Justice dealt with the allegations when they were brought to their attention.
I now wish to refer to a decision of Mr. Justice Owens of the Quebec Queen's bench division, the case of Sommer v. The Queen, 40 Criminal Reports, page 426:
To speak generally, contempt of court may be said to be constituted by any conduct that tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disregard, or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant of their witnesses during the litigation.
Oswald, at page 5, cites from the case of Miller v. Knox (1838) 4 Bing (N.C.) 574, also found in 132 English reports, 910, the following:
"It is defined or described to be a disobedience to the court, an opposing or a despising the authority, justice, or dignity thereof. It commonly consists in a party's doing otherwise than he is enjoined to do, or not doing what he is commanded or required by the process, order, or decree of the court."
There is the often cited statement of Lord Hardwicke, Lord Chancellor, in the St. James' Evening Post case (1742), 2 Atk. 471, also reported in English reports, 683:
"There are three different sorts of contempt. One kind of contempt is scandalizing the court itself. There may be likewise a contempt of this court, in abusing parties who are concerned in
Question of Privilege
causes here. There may be also a contempt of this court, in prejudicing mankind against persons before the cause is heard."
That is important because these statements of which I complain were made by the minister at this meeting before the matter was heard and before a judgment was rendered.
Again at page 91 Oswald states the matter as follows:
"Ail publications which offend against the dignity of the court, or are calculated to prejudice the course of justice, will constitute contempts. Offences of this nature are of three kinds-namely, those which scandalize the court; or abuse the parties concerned in causes there; or prejudice mankind against persons before the cause is heard. Under the first head fall libels on the integrity of the court, its judges, officers, or proceedings; under the second and third heads anything which tends to excite prejudice against the parties, or their litigation, while it is pending."
Other descriptions and definitions of contempt of court are set out in the notes of my colleague Mr. Justice Rivard which I will not repeat.
Then reference is made to several authorities, including McLeod v. Aubyn, (1899) appeal cases, 549. The justice of the court then refers to many authorities.
From these authorities it would appear that a criminal contempt of court has two basic aspects, one consisting of acts or publications which bring the court or judge into contempt, and the other of acts or publications which interfere with or obstruct the course of justice.
The terms of reference in the inquiry approved by parliament directed Mr. Justice Dorion to inquire fully into not only the alleged bribery case but into the manner in which the officials of the Department of Justice and the Minister of Justice dealt with those allegations and other allegations in question. I want to repeat that; that under the terms of reference the commissioner was directed to inquire into the manner in which the officials of the Department of Justice and the Minister of Justice dealt with those allegations, and these matters are under review before that inquiry now. This statement was made before the evidence was complete, before the minister gave evidence-if he is going to give evidence-and before the judgment was made.
As I see it in brief, the administration of justice in this regard, the Minister of Justice in this regard, and therefore the government, were being tried on an issue to determine whether they had accepted their responsibility and were administering the law of the land impartially and without prejudice. Therefore when the minister made his remarks he unduly interfered with the administration of justice, or at least endeavoured to interfere unduly with the administration of
justice because he, the minister, caused to be published by his words an article in the newspaper which could unduly interfere with the administration of justice.
He used words in his speech which (1) attempted to prejudge and prejudice the decision, and attempted to prejudge the judicial inquiry; (2) prejudiced himself as a witness, for his opinions now reported in the newspaper which show that the minister might have preconceived political ideas and motives and, even giving him the best benefit of the doubt, may tend to colour, shape and trim his evidence on the facts of which he has personal knowledge. In his position as minister he has exercised influence over public opinion so that the public have now prejudged themselves the evidence of the inquiry prior to judgment being rendered by that said inquiry.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, he has talked; he has intervened when he should have remained silent and aloof as Minister of Justice in this matter. Justice must not only be done but it must seem and appear to be done, and I say by his words in his speech before those students he prejudiced and interfered with the administration of justice so far as that inquiry is concerned.
We shall be interested in the next 24 hours in the attitude of the Prime Minister in this regard. If by his silence or by his words he approves the minister's conduct, then he himself is placed in a similar position, and one must deduce that the code of ethics laid down by the Prime Minister for his ministers is mere words, and that his edicts and memos as to political morality are meaningless.
Will the Prime Minister act now in reference to the statements made on that occasion before that student body, interfering with the administration of justice, and attempting to prejudice the tribunal, the Dorion commission?
Subtopic: MR. WOOLLIAMS-REPORTED SPEECH BY JUSTICE MINISTER RESPECTING DORION INQUIRY