April 22, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)


Hon. C. J. DOHERTY (Minister of Justice):

My colleague asked that this motion be allowed to stand, because it will be necessary to look into the effect of it. I do not want to say at the present moment that the papers cannot be brought down, but I would point out this: In order to

produce the copies which the hon. member is asking for, it will be necessary to withdraw the documents referred to from the sealed packages in which they are contained in the custody of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. Now, all the provisions which are contained in the statute with regard to these documents convey the idea that these seals are not to be broken except upon an order for a recount, when they would be broken by the judge or in his presence, and after he has done with the papers he would be bound to seal them up again. There is also provision for the production of documents of this kind upon the order of a court when there is some proceeding pending before that court in which these documents are necessary evidence, or when there is a petition in contestation of an election pending before such court. In these cases, provision is made for an order of the court for the production of these documents, which involves, of course, the breaking of the seals, and that is done in the presence of the court. The law prescribes that in such cases the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery shall obey such an order of the court, but it specifically orders him, when he receives these election documents, which are under seal, to retain them for a period of one year and then destroy them, unless within that period there has been contestation of an election, in which event he is to retain them for a year subsequent to the decision of the contestation. _
There is also a specific provision in the Dominion Elections Act-it is true, it mentions ballot papers only, because then there was no question of envelopes of .this kind-that none of these ballot papers are to be inspected by anybody while they are in the possession of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. So, as I read the statute, the duty of the Clerk of tlfe Crown in Chancery is to keep those sealed packages sealed, subject to their production upon an order of a competent court, which order is to be made only when there is some proceeding before that court in which these documents may be necessary. For the moment, I do not think it is necessary to go into The question whether Parliament might be included as being a court in a proper case, but I would point out that there is absolutely no proceeding pending before Parliament in which it is made to appear that these documents are required. The motion is simply to procure copies of these documents-I have no doubt for some proper purpose-and it seems to me we should
look more closely into the effect of the motion before passing it.

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