May 21, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Humphrey Mitchell


Mr. HUMPHREY MITCHELL (East Hamilton):

Mr. Speaker, I shall not detain the house very long. In my view the whole affair, apart altogether from the justice of the application, must bring clearly before this chamber the insane policy of adjudicating upon matters of this description. The matter having been dealt with by the senate committee and by a committee of the house-and in passing it may be fair to say that probably ninety per cent of the members of this chamber have not read the evidence-we are asked to make a decision simply because one of the members of the committee has felt the matter should be carried to the floor of the house. I believe this should be an object lesson to indicate the necessity for bringing about the adoption throughout the whole dominion of a policy already followed in some provinces under which cases of this description are not considered by parliament. When a committee is sitting we see members walking in and out as the evidence proceeds. Many of the members do not attend. I wonder what the complaint would be if members of a jury acted in the same manner. We should be frank and in the interests of British justice and fair play admit it would be far better if cases of this type were decided in the courts in a

dignified manner rather than in the atmosphere which sometimes prevails in committees charged with dealing with divorce cases.
I have always taken the view that the first consideration in these matters should be that of the children; secondly would come the woman and then the man. We make no provision whatsoever for the children nor do we make any provision for the wife. I believe conditions would be more satisfactory if the courts were given the responsibility of deciding the right and wrong in these matters and in the present instance I suggest the house should accept the decision of its committee. After the evidence had been presented I decided that there had been connivance that they were both guilty that they had both agreed to have the Reno divorce, and that when the husband thought he would get his fingers burned he jumped out and she went ahead to get the divorce. I have maintained that when we have circumstances such as have been described it is better not to enter into a discussion. I believe it would be in the best interests of the children and of the other parties concerned if the decision of the committee were carried out. It should be noted that the vote in the committee was almost two to one against granting the divorce. We listened to the pleadings of counsel on both sides counsel for the petitioner admitting that there had been connivance in the matter. I think under the circumstances the house would be well advised not to listen to the pleadings of one member of the committee, although of course he is merely exercising his right as a member of the House of Commons in seeking to have the decision of the committee reversed. The hon. member is probably a brilliant lawyer, but a man may be a brilliant lawyer and a university man with many degrees and still lack judgment, and I would rather accept the next to unanimous view of the committee than the judgment of simply one individual member of that committee.
In conclusion I reiterate, Mr. Speaker, what I got on my feet primarily to put before the house. I am not going into the details of this unhappy case at all. Personally I would not believe the word of a private detective, having some knowledge of them in connection with labour disputes, if he stood on a pile of bibles as high as this House of Commons. I feel that I have made a contribution in putting before this house the plea that cases of this kind should be passed upon by the courts rather than by committees of the Senate and House of Commons. I hope that the house in its

Clarence MacGregor Roberts
judgment will agree with the overwhelming opinion expressed by the committee that this divorce be not granted.

Full View