August 9, 1904 (9th Parliament, 4th Session)


Sydney Arthur Fisher (Minister of Agriculture)



I understand that my hon. friend does not consider that he has any legal claim, it would be a matter more of grace than of law. But it is a question which might well be considered. The whole question turns on the interpretation by the United States of their own law. The information which was supplied to Mr. Page by an officer in my department was merely a recapitulation of their customs law upon the question as to the entry free of duty of thoroughbred stock. My hon. friend baa

quoted an article from the ' Breeders' Gazette ' of Chicago, which shows that that great live stock paper in Chicago had exactly the same Impression of the law of the United States that was given to Mr. Page, and that Mr. Page himself got from reading the extracts from the American law which were put before him. I do not wonder at it at all, because that interpretation had been the practice of the United States customs authorities for many years. The circumstances quoted by the ' Breeders' Gazette ' of the sale by Messrs. Edwards, Cochrane, Cargill and Flatt, I think it was, who sent over stock to the United States for sale, was exactly on all fours with this case of Mr. Page. It occurred only a little while before, and it was only one of many such instances. The United States authorities have always interpreted their own laws in that way, namely, that animals going into the United States intended eventually for breeding purposes should be allowed in free of duty when accompanied by proper certificates, and the question as to whether they might be sold before being used for breeding purposes, to parties in the United States, never seems to have been considered, or if it was considered, it was decided that there was no impediment to their coming in free of duty.
Mr. Page unfortunately met a customs officer who interpreted the law differently. He insisted on the payment of duty and the dispute was referred to the highest tribunal of the treasury at Washington. That tribunal decided that as these animals had come in for sale before they were to be used for breeding, the duty must be paid. That decision was a surprise not only to Mr. Page but to all American breeders and livestock owners. It was the first time the law was so interpreted. The decision, however, was one which could not be overcome except by appeal to the Supreme Court. If this case had been brought to the Supreme Court, it is quite possible that court would have reversed the decision ; but for reasons explained in the correspondence it was not taken to appeal. When we made representations to the United States, the reply was that the decision of the treasury could not be altered and that under the United States law no compensation could be given without a special vote of Congress and such a vote the department was not prepared to propose. They pointed out that an amendment had been made to the law but unfortunately that amendment only gives relief to the United States citizens. It was made at the instance of the United States citizens for their own benefit. The whole course of the United States administration has been of late years to put more and more obstacles in the way of such interchange. This amendment to their law is another Mr. FISHER.
instance of that policy. It is to the effect that if United States citizens import animals, these animals shall come in free of duty when thoroughbreds, even if for sale and not for breeding purposes, but it gives no relief to Mr. Page or any other Canadian breeder or citizen. The amendment even went so far as to provide that the duties to be paid by Americans should be refunded them. The course which the United States authorities have followed they have a perfect right to take, but it seems to me a short sighted and unfriendly legislation on the part of that great people. Under these circumstances I see no prospect of relief at all for Mr. Page from the United States. Mr. rage has suffered most unfairly, and I have the greatest sympathy for him. He acted in good faith on what he knew to be the interpretation by the Americans of the law up to that time. The only possible question which can now arise would be whether this parliament should grant him some compensation. That however, "would seem to me a little out of the course which we ought to pursue in dealing with public matters.

Topic:   W. H. BOGLE.
Full View