Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice):
Yesterday afternoon the hon. member for Sherbrooke (Mr. Howard) inquired as to the activities of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the highway running from Sherbrooke to the international boundary on May 24 last, and the hon. member sent me a note requesting me to make a statement in the house to-day in regard to the matter. I have obtained a report in regard to the situation, which I will read to the house:
Tradespeople of Sherbrooke, Quebec, have made numerous verbal complaints to members of our local detachment to the effect that their trade is seriously affected because of the habit of many local residents of proceeding to shopping centres across the south of the line and failing to report their purchases at the local customs ports of entry when returning to Canada. The majority of the traffic passes across the line at Rock Island and Beebe, Quebec, and the offenders usually take special advantage of public holidays, when the volume of traffic passing through those ports will not allow a thorough check to be made of their ears at the Canadian customs, and when the local collectors have, to some extent, to rely on persons voluntarily declaring such goods, as required by the customs regulations.
In an endeavour to curb the traffic a check up of cars passing along the Rock Island-Sherbrooke highway is made periodically, usually at holiday times, and the results have justified the action taken.
At all times the searches are carried out with tact and courtesy and seizures are not effected even when justified, unless the value of the goods makes such action essential. The usual course followed is to direct the parties concerned back to the port and have them pay the duties and taxes which should have been paid when they were returning from the United States. If the terms of the Customs
Act were strictly followed' the goods and cars could be seized and held pending departmental decision and the guilty parties are liable to prosecution.
Incidentally, careful check has to be kept of traffic on this highway at all times, as will be realized by the fact that within the past six months a total of 270 gallons of alcohol smuggled in cars from the United States, as well as a truck and a car for transporting the liquor, have been seized. This traffic will have to be carefully checked during the coming season as last fall it reached large proportions along the entire Sherbrooke and Huntingdon sections, -when several thousand ga.llons of American alcohol were seized' in transit, being conveyed by automobiles.
It is not our desire to unnecessarily embarrass or hamper honest citizens or ;ourists, in the carrying out of our duties, but it will be realized that the primary function of the preventive service is the safeguarding of the revenue and of Canadian business from unfair competition through the evasion of duties and taxes properly payable. The fact that only one or two actual seizures have been made, whereas approximately a hundred cases could have been so reported in the past year, indicates our aim to curtail the smuggling in the interests of local merchants by educating the people regarding the necessity of complying with the customs regulations, rather than by effecting seizures in the particular type of case in question.
The total gallonage of American alcohol seized in the Sherbrooke and Huntingdon sections since April 1, 1934, to date, was 6,036, which was conveyed in three trucks and seventeen automobiles which were also seized for transporting the smuggled spirits.
That is the report given me by the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.