September 13, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


William Cameron Edwards



It may savour of presumption in the opinion- of some members for any one not trained in the legal profession to dare express an opinion in regard to the -salaries of judges. Notwithstanding that, I am going to take the risk. In my opinion-, speaking generally, the judges in this country get more than they -are entitled to now. As to a judge not being -able to take holidays this year, he will be in a position to sympathize with all of us here, as we have not been able to take any this year. The judges have always had the -advantage of very eloquent and able advocates on both sides of this House when- their salaries were being fixed. We have always had a number of very able men of the legal profession in 9 p.m. Parliament, -and I hope always will have them; they are valuable men for the country. But I have always felt that they never lose sight, as lawyers, of the possibility that some day they might occupy positions on the Bench. The judges receive what must seem to the great majority of our people to be munificent salaries, and after -serving for a certain number of years, they may retire on a good fat pension. That is how it strikes the ordinary man. Men in other walks of life have to provide for their old age, but the judge can retire on a pension fixed with the idea of enabling him to maintain the dignity which he maintained when he was on the Bench. There are cases where men who have retired from the Bench after putting in their time have engaged in other work which was even more strenuous than that in which they were engaged when on the Bench. It is all right to say that we must provide for the men who occupy the Bench a salary which will make them independent and above suspicion. How far

has that gone in the opinion of members of this House? Session after session, we have had instances of Royal Commissions, where one judge has been appointed, perhaps in Manitoba, to act on a commission, *and in thfe eyes of one-half the members he is a white-winged angel-everything that is good and pure. Then another is appointed to inquire into his conduct and he becomes a very different kind of man. Time and again we have been told that we must provide salaries for the judges that will place them above suspicion, on a plane by themselves. But we have also heard these men who are supposed to be above suspicion and above partisanship severely criticised by members on one side or the other according to circumstances. I am not a member of the legal profession, but I believe I am voicing the opinion of a great proportion of the people of this country, I think the majority, when I say that the judges are being well enough paid. Talk about them having a lot of work! What right have they to draw a salary if they do not work? Is it the idea that these gentlemen shall be placed upon a pedestal and that the greatest effort of their lives shall be to draw their breath and their salaries?
They are no better than other people to work. They are getting better pay than most people who are trying to make a home for themselves and something to live upon in their old age. Judging by the convictions, and by. the way some of these men fill their positions on the bench, I think many of them should never have been appointed. Fancy a judge sending a boy of fourteen or fifteen years of age to the penitentiary for five or six years, for stealing two or three dollars in money and an old revolver. In my opinion, that judge ought to be sent to the asylum; he is not fit to occupy a place on the bench. The men who occupy positions as judges are, in the majority of cases, fine men, men of exceptional ability. Notwithstanding that, I do not believe that in all cases, nor in the majority of cases, a judge accepts the position purely and solely out of love for his country. I cannot get away from the idea that the judge was thinking somewhat of himself when he accepted the appointment. He looked at the salary, and considered the fact that, after a certain number of years, he might retire and have his old age provided for. There is no objection to that. It is perfectly legitimate to look at it in that way. As a class, considering the work they have to do, I think the judges are better . ,
paid to-day than any class of citizens in the Dominion.

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