Mr. E. A. PECK (West Peterborough):
Mr. Speaker, as a member of the private bills committee and having heard the evidence and argument before that committee, I should like to say a few words in opposition to the motion which is before the chair.
I think we ought to consider very seriously this motion as it might affect the life of one of our citizens, and that citizen a woman. If the motion carries, the respondent in this case is going to be charged with what is possibly in the minds of some people the worst offence of which a woman can be guilty, disloyalty to her husband; and not only would it brand her with that disloyalty but in all probability it would have the effect of separating her from her children and depriving her of the support of her husband. It is a very serious matter. This woman has strenuously opposed the charge which has been made against her. She has fought this case as hard as she could before the senate committee. The seven members of that committee were unable to agree, after hearing the testimony, that she was guilty of the charge against her. The senate committee divided with a very narrow majority of four to three. Then the case came before the private bills committee of the house, where we considered the testimony and heard the argument and voted on the question, and the committee to which this case had been referred by this house came to the conclusion by a majority of over two to one-I think the vote stood at 21 to 9-that the woman was not guilty and that the petition should be dismissed. Then the matter came before the house by way of report from the chairman of the committee, and the report was adopted. Now at this late stage we are asked to reopen the whole matter, and the question is brought up through a form of procedure that as far as my experience in this house goes has never before been attempted. I have sat in this house for ten years and I have never heard of any report of the private bills committee being upset, certainly not any report dealing with a matrimonial case. I do think that this is a most unusual proceeding and that it should not be permitted to establish a precedent in this house for the future.
I refrain from dealing with the testimony. I quite agree with the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) that we should not in an open sitting of this house deal with matters of this kind. We are dealing with a question of fact. We are sitting here either as jury or as judges,
and whichever way you look at it we are not properly constituted to be a court of appeal because we have not before us the litigants nor have the litigants the opportunity of appearing before us through their counsel. It seems to me a most unwise proceeding for us sitting here as members of the house to undertake to deal with this question, which after all is a question of fact. I submit, therefore, that if there is any doubt in the minds of any of the members and they feel that this matter should be further considered, it should be done by a reference back to the private bills committee, or by a reference of the case to a special committee, or by reference to a judge. The case might be dealt with in any one of these ways, but I do submit that we should not at this stage undertake to reverse the decision of a tribunal appointed by this house which has given this matter the fullest consideration. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the motion should be negatived.