October 4, 1949 (21st Parliament, 1st Session)


Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)


Mr. St. Laurent:

Would the hon. member allow me to interrupt? I do not think I should permit that to go unchallenged. I have discussed with the chief justice the report appearing in Hansard and the facts are that this had to do with a recent decision in England dealing with a matter of seditious libel. It was being argued that that decision was binding upon the Supreme Court of Canada. His opinion was that it was not, because for many years now the Supreme Court of Canada has been the final court in criminal matters in this country. The question which arose then was merely whether the Supreme Court of Canada was to be bound, since it has become the final court in criminal matters, by decisions made elsewhere, by courts in another country, on similar criminal matters.
What he stated-and he does not admit that the newspaper report as cited at page 286 correctly reported what took place there- was that it was merely a reassertion of the opinion he had expressed four years ago, and which is reported in the Supreme Court Reports for 1945 in re Storgoff where, at page 538, he states:
In addition to that, the Supreme Court of Canada is now the court of last resort in criminal matters; and although, of course, former decisions of the privy council, or decisions of the House of Lords, in criminal causes or matters, are entitled to the greatest weight, it can no longer be said, as was affirmed by Viscount Dunedin, delivering the judgment of their lordships in Robins v. National Trust Company Limited (4) at page 519, that the House of Lords, being the supreme tribunal to settle English law, the Colonial Court, which is bound by English law, is bound to follow it.
It was merely distinguishing between the effect on a court of last resort of a decision made by another court of last resort and saying that decisions made elsewhere by another court of last resort were entitled to the greatest weight as authorities but had no legally binding effect upon another court of last resort. I think it is only fair to the chief justice that the impression should not go abroad that he is in any way quarreling
Supreme Court Act
with the proper application of the doctrine of stare decisis.

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