March 2, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)


James Davis Taylor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. D. TAYLOR (New Westminster).

Three weeks ago, I brought to the attention
of this House certain matters in connection with the British Columbia penitentiary, matters of especially grave moment because of the fact that they involve an interference with the prerogative of pardon which, under our constitution, is the personal prerogative of His Excellency. I charged on that occasion that there had been serious defects in the connecting links between the penitentiary and the Department of Justice, that material information respecting transactions within the penitentiary had not been communicated to the department by the inspector whose duty it is to visit that institution and make periodical reports to the government. We had the promise on that occasion that the government would institute an investigation into the facts thus brought before the House; but, in connection with this promise, we had the embarrassing fact that the head of the department had volunteered a certificate of character to the person involved in these charges, that is, the inspector whose duty it was to have made reports which I charged -and I think substantiated that charge by evidence produced in this House-had not been made, and by that certificate of character so given the government had placed themselves in the embarrassing position of sharing in whatever condemnation might be subsequently found attached to the conduct of the inspector. The first certificate of character was given by no less a person than the Minister of Justice (Mr. Ayles-worth) when, in the following week, he answered a series of questions placed upon the Order Paper by my hon. friend from Portage la Prairie (Mr. Meighen). The answers to these questions revealed that whereas there had been paid a series of visits to the convict known as Bill Miner, as to whom this discussion in the House had arisen, and these visits were recorded in the books of the penitentiary, no permission had been given by the department for these visits, and that they were directly contrary to the regulations of the Department of Justice, and therefore should have been reported by the inspector to the Department of Justice on the occasion of his first visit to the institution after they had been recorded in the book. I would like to recall that the facts before the House showed that the inspector visited the institution in July, 1907, that the escape took place in August, 1907; that all these visits were recorded on the books during several months prior to July, 1907, one of them so late as June of that year, and that none of these visits were reported to the Department of Justice here, as shown by the answers made by the Minister of Justice to the member for Portage la Prairie to the effect that the department had no knowledge of the matter and had given no permission for these visits.
It was also stated in this House, in con-

nection with this inquiry, that the reason certain detectives were permitted to visit Miner was that he was supposed to have taken certain bonds, the product of the hold-up near Mission in the year 1906. Now, in the answer made by the Minister of Justice in reply to the inquiry whether the department proposed to follow up that clue and find out whether there had been a recovery of those bonds subsequent to the escape of Miner, I would like to point out that nearly 18 months had elapsed, so that there would have been am ole time for these bonds to have reached their destination in Australia, and there would have been ample opportunity to inquire whether the officers had fulfilled their duty, and had pursued this subject by inquiries in Australia, or wherever else it might have been thought proper, to ascertain whether the bonds had been returned there, and so establishing a connection between the departure of Miner and the recovery of these bonds. The answer made by the department was that they had not made any inquiry, neither did they intend to pursue any inquiry in that direction. So much for the departmental side of this matter. But after the ventilation of the subject in this House, the public in British Columbia commenced to take an interest in it. I propose to read an extract from the Vancouver ' Province,' a most influential and independent newspaper published at Vancouver, a paper I may say of the highest respectability and responsibility, and which I am sure would not publish a paragraph of this kind except on the most unquestioned authority. I read from the Vancouver ' Daily Province ' of the 12th of February, this statement appearing in black type so as to emphasize it and add to its importance, and to show that it is not a mere casual paragraph brought in by a reporter but has received the attention of responsible persons in the office:
An official who is in a position to speak authoritatively on the subject of Bill Miner's escape from the penitentiary at New Westminster this morning made the following statement for publication:
At the time of the investigation into the escape made by Inspector Dawson I could have told him, had I been called upon to testify, that Bill Miner did not escape from prison bv crawling under the fence through the hole through which it was alleged he went. No man ever crawled through that hole for two good reasons. The first was that the hole was not large enough; the second, because the hole was made only for the purpose cf covering the letting out of Miner. The story of the loss of fifty thousand dollars worth of bonds or money by the Canadian Pacific Railway or any one else in the robbery, and that it had been cached by Miner, v as an invention in the interests of the robber himself. No one ever lost that sum; no binds were ever stolen. Miner's friends on the outside called on him and conducted fake Mr. J. D. TAYLOR.
negotiations for his so-called escape and the securing of the cached money. Certain persons made it possible for Miner to escape, apparently on the understanding that he would divide up on the booty. These facts can easily be proved if the government makes an investigation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that is a statement involving an arraignment of the Department of Justice, and is of a most serious nature, a statement so serious that I do not remember ever to have seen its parallel in the press of this country or of any other country, without an immediate inquiry being set on foot by the department indicted, in order, either to absolve the persons mentioned from complicity in the escape if they were innocent, or to punish the persons who were guilty of circulating so mischievous a story. I am surprised that nearly three weeks have elapsed since the publication of that indictment of the Department of Justice, without the slightest notice being paid by that department to the arraignment made by this official, who says that he was in a position to tell how this man left the penitentiary if he had been called by the inspector who was sent there and spent four months conducting this inquiry. But he was not called by the inspector, and was not given any opportunity to testify in this connection, and although his statement has been before the public for two weeks or more this House has been allowed to remain in ignorance whether or not the department of Justice have given anv attention to this information. But, Mr. Speaker, matters did not rest there. While the Department of Justice were seemingly oblivious to what the public might say about this, seemed to have lost any interest in Bill Miner, and had apparently no concern as to whether he escaped or was handed out, the public in British Columbia were not indifferent. The persons in British Columbia charged with interests much inferior in degree to those with which the department stands concerned, would not rest quiet under the indictment. One of these persons was the Canadian Pacific Railway detective, Bullick, who was mentioned in this House in connection with the transaction, and as to whom we were told by the Solicitor General that he hack been permitted to visit the institution because, as that hon. gentleman said, he desired, on behalf of the railway companv, who were prompted by the express company, to find out what became of these bonds. We find Bullick submitting to an interview in the ' Daily Province ' of February 18, and saying:
I never had an interview with Bill Miner at the penitentiary in New Westminster, hut I was present when Jake Terry interviewed the train robber there; I accompanied Terry to the penitentiary to see if he and Miner were acquainted, and though I was present

when the two men met I said nothing to Miner beyond correcting a statement he attributed to me in reference to the reported death of his sister. Warden Whyte was present at the time.
I certainly therefore never could have promised Bill Miner a pardon if he would surrender to the Canadian Pacifio Railway any bonds which he was credited with having stolen at the Whonnock hold-np. I never made any such promise to Miner or even discussed the subject with him notwithstanding any statement made to that effect by Miner to Instructor McKenzie of the penitentiary, and by him reported at the Dawson investigation into the escape of Miner.
This statement was made to-day by Mr. Robert E. Bullick, inspector of the special service department of the Canadian Pacific Railway in reference to the information given out in parliament yesterday by Hon. A. B. Aylesworth when questioned concerning the unsavoury escape of the train robber and three fellow-prisoners on August 8, 1907.
There never were any bonds stolen in the Whonnock hold-up by Bill Miner or any one else so far as I am aware, continued Mr. Bullick. The story of the theft of bonds was invented by Jake Terry, of Bellingham, a former pal of Miner's in San Quentin penitentiary. Terry spun the bond yarn to Mrs. Wellman, a sister of Miner's, who was living in Bellingham after the Whonnock hold-up, in the hope that he would be able to excite her cupidity and so learn from her the whereabouts of the robber who was then in hiding. Terry thought Mrs. Wellman would have some knowledge of her brother's location. Finally Terry while intoxicated gave the story to the Bellingham press in an attempt to substantiate the accounts he had been giving to Miner's sister. That was the origin of the bond fake.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am reading all this because the story is essential. You will observe there is a direct contradiction here between the statement made by the Solicitor General in this House that the reason this man was allowed to see Miner was that he wished to secure a trace of the bonds alleged to have been stolen, and the statement of the man himself, who comes forward and says that there never were any bonds, that he had no instructions from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, that the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was not authorized by the express company to act, and that the whole thing was a fake. But he proceeds now to a subject which does concern us, and as to which we have had no proper answer from the Department of Justice. He says:
The most peculiar circumstance in connection with the escape of Miner has not yet been brought up in parliament, and that is how it happened that when Miner got away his upper lip was adorned with a moustache and his hair was unclipped. Following the alleged escape, days elapsed before it became known that Miner was not close cropped and clean shaven-had the true description of the man been given out he would have been arrested as he was met not far from the mouth of the Fraser river by a policeman who recognized his features but was confounded at seeing such a growth of hair and moustache which he knew could not have been grown during the few days which had at that time elapsed since the escape.
It is suggested that perhaps the federal government hesitates about making any statement in this connection, as it would be merely furnishing evidence of the loose manner in which its penal institutions are managed.
Now completing the story, I find in the New Westminster 'Daily Columbian' which arrived in the mail to-day, a singular statement by Mr. D. D. Bourke, ex-warden of the penitentiary, a statement dealing with the report made to this House by the Minister of Justice and by the Solicitor General. I wish to call attention mainly to the concluding paragraph, but I think it is essential to the record, and lest any person should say that I had not read the full let ter, that I should read the whole of it although it is the concluding paragraph to which I wish to direct special attention. The letter proceeds:
The Vancouver ' World,' of the 23rd inst. has an editorial headed ' That Borden Telegram,' in which it states that the conduct of the bold wretch who tampered with the telegram committed a treasonable crime. He misled the state. Equally guilty of treason is the man who misleads the Crown and he who misleads a minister of the Crown misleads the Crown itself.
As my telegrams regarding the escape of Bill Miner have been discussed in the House and as they may be discussed again when the deferred item for British Columbia penitentiary is brought up, I think it advisable that the hon. the minister as well as the publio should be correctly informed in this matter before the discussion is resumed.
The minister is reported in ' Hansard ' (unrevised) of Feb. 11 as follows:
After leferring to my telegram of the 8th Aug. the minister says (page 971):
' But the extent of the message which then came, and which for the first time gave the slightest hint that Miner was one of those that had escaped, was a telegram which Mr. Bourke despatched on the 11th of August. When it reached Ottawa it was not addressed as it ought to have been, and as I understand Mr. Bourke says his original message was addressed, to the inspector, but it was addressed to Mr. Dawson individually. On receipt at Ottawa, instead of being delivered to me, or to Mr. Stewart, or to the department, it was repeated to Mr. Dawson at Kingston.'
Here are the facts as I know them.
On the 8th of Aug. Bill Miner and three other convicts escaped. Immediately I wired the department that four convicts had escaped. Seeing we had not recaptured these men I wired the department again next morning, 9th Aug., and gave the name of escaped convicts and asked permission to offer a reward. A child can understand even an hour's delay in such cases counts in the convict's favour. All day of the 9th I looked

anxiously for a reply but none came. Several days having passed and getting no reply from the inspectors I had given up hopes of the department taking any action when I noticed an item in the Vancouver 'Province' of the 15th stating that Chief Chamberlain had received instructions to offer $500 reward for Miner. As this was only an item I looked carefully over the Vancouver papers for a day or two to see if an official notice had been given, but there was none. I then went to Vancouver and asked the chief why he had not offered the reward, officially, as no one would venture his life with Miner on the information in the news item. The chief replied that he had no instructions to do so, and showed me the telegram from Col. Sherwood which simply stated the fact but gave no advice. A day or two later I had a telegram from Col. Sherwood saying Detective McLeod, of Vancouver, would call upon me in regard to the Miner case, and a few hours afterwards he with Chief Chamberlain and C.P.R. detective Bullick called on me. As Mr. McLeod assured me it was all right to allow the chief and Mr. Bullick to hear all I had to tell him, all three were present during the interview. As I am not aware of the reward being officially announced at any time, this interview was the first made here by the department of which I am aware for the recapture of Miner-about a fortnight after Bill Miner escaped.
Here is where it begins to be particularly interesting:
When Mr. Dawson began the inquiry some days afterwards he worked himself up to a passion because of the delay in getting my telegram of the 9th of August asking permission to offer a reward. He said I addressed the telegram to him instead of to 'The Inspectors.' That he was then at Dorchester and that the telegram was forwarded to Dorchester, that he had left Dorchester for Kingston before the telegram arrived there, and after arriving at Kingston he went to the country for some days and when he returned to Kingston and got the telegram several days had elapsed, and that had I addressed it ' The Inspectors,' Inspector Stewart would have got it at once and taken some action on it. I said I addressed it ' The Inspectors.' He then went to his papers and took therefrom a telegram such as I sent but addressed ' G. W. Dawson.' I still insisted that I addressed the telegram ' The Inspectors,' but he pretended not to believe me and charged me with bringing great trouble on the government. That evening I wrote the telegraph operator of this city.for a copy of the telegram which he sent me. It was addressed ' The Inspectors.' I handed it to Mr. Dawson. When I was in Ottawa a year later I called at the telegraph office there and asked for a copy but was told at the telegraph office that such papers are always destroyed after being held six months. As my telegram of the 8th was addressed ' The Inspectors ' and received all right, and as my telegram of the 9th was addressed all right to ' The Inspectors,' the only conclusion that can be drawn from Mr. Dawson's version is that it fell into some hands at Ottawa who saw, in thus falsifying it, a better chance for Miner to escape and as a consequence for my resignation.

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