June 4, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)

LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

Of course this is an old story, for we have been talking to the minister about this matter for some years. I understand that a delegation of county court .judges from Nova Scotia waited on the minister some four or five years ago, and I remember the minister telling me in conversa-ation after he had met that delegation, that he hoped to evolve some scheme which would satisfy to some extent the demands made by the judges. I am sorry the minister has not been able to carry out what he then intended, but I suppose he has had some good reason. I am not familiar with the salaries and conditions surrounding the office of county court judges in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. I know something about the situation in Ontario, buf nothing at all about the situation in Quebec, and as the hon. member for Richmond has pointed out, conditions in the province of Ontario in regard to county . court, judges are quite different from conditions in the province of Nova Scotia, and I think the minister should give some attention to the conditions in the province of Nova Scotia apart from the reflex influence which his action might have on some of the other provinces of the Dominion. In the first place the minister will find that the administration of that branch of the law is very much cheaper in the province of Nova Scotia than in any other province in the Dominion, by reason of the smaller number of judges. I understand that in Ontario there are two judges to each county. In Nova Scotia we have only seven judges to eighteen counties, which shows that when the province was divided up into districts care was taken to give a reasonably large territory and a reasonably large amount of work to each- judge. Our judges in the province of Nova Scotia have a great deal of work to do. As the hon. member for Richmond has pointed out, we have no Supreme Court judges anywhere ih the province of Nova Scotia except in the city of Halifax, and the legislature of the province have conferred wide jurisdiction upon the county court judges to enable them to
[Mr. Dohertv.l

perform a great deal of the work of a Supreme Court judge. If there is any difficulty, about the setting aside of pleadings, of any contests of that kind, in districts remote from Halifax or in any part of the Island of Cape Breton, these cases, no matter how big the issue, are fought out before the county court judge. In the county of Cape Breton there is a very large foreign population, and I regret to say that for the last ten years the criminal business of that county has been simply en.ormous. Seventy-five per cent of that criminal business is dealt with by the county court judge, and handled very satisfactorily. Every one has such implicit confidence in his integrity and in his power to deal with these matters that except in extreme cases where he has no jurisdiction all these cases are tried before him. So that my hon. friend from Richmond was putting it mildly when he said that the county 'Court judge was engaged on these cases perhaps half his time every day; as a matter of fact he is engaged every day in the week with no let up at all, and he is paid the very small salary of $3,000 a year. There is no part of Canada that has been more expensive to live in during the last four or five years, or since the price of, foodstuffs began to go up so rapidly, than the city of Sydney, and I am sure that what may he said of the cost of living in Sydney is equally true of the other six districts of the province of Nova Scotia. As has been pointed out iby the hon. member for Richmond-and it is not- necessary to tell the minister this-there are certain things expected of a man who occupies the position of a county judge. He is the first citizen of his locality; everybody so regards him; and he must live up to, what is expected of him. I submit that it is the duty of the State, when it puts a man in the position to administer justice, to place him beyond temptation so far as money is concerned, independent in every respect, and able to maintain the dignity of his position. That, in some cases, the judges are not able to do pn the meagre salaries paid them. It would not involve a very serious expenditure to grant a substantial increase to the judges of the Dominion, much less would it be serious if something were done to put these men in a position to be comfortable and to live in comformity with what is expected of them.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   JUDGES ACT AMENDMENT.
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