To make my position
clear, Mr. Chairman, I wish to state that I am speaking for myself and not in the name of any other hon. members on my side of the House or of my party.
I was shown some despatches to-day which indicate that there has been an attempt to make political capital out of the fact that I objected to the introduction and first reading of the Bill the other day on the ground that proper notice had not been given. There is before the Supreme Court of Canada to-day a case in which the plaintiffs are proceeding on the ground that the Canada Temperance Act is not in force in the province of Alberta. The
matter was argued before the Supreme Court of Alberta, and as the Minister of Justice has said, two of the judges decided the proceedings were regular and one dissented. On the judgment rendered, Mr. Justice Harvey stated that the point raised with regard to the omission in the proclamation was an important one and that were it not for important considerations of public interest it might have had an effect upon the decision. Now, I want to be thoroughly understood: I strongly object to any legislation having retroactive effect, the more so when it affects a case pending before the courts. There is more involved in this case between the Gold Seal Company and the Dominion Express Company than the simple question of private interests. I admit that the majority must rule, but it must be remembered that there are people in Alberta who did not vote in favour of this temperance Act under Part 4 prohibiting the importation of liquor into that province. By Part 4 it was provided that upon petition from the legislature the Governor in Council might appoint a day by proclamation upon which the vote of the citizens of the province in question should be taken, and that in the proclamation should the vote be favourable the day on which the law would come into force should be mentioned. Well, in this case the Governor in Council is the Minister of Justice because he is
the adviser of the Governor in Council. My hon. friend says that the officers of the Crown who prepared the proclamation are responsible for the omission and that in their view the omission is not fatal. But so far as we in this House are concerned the omission was made by the Minister of Justice, and it is not for him or for us in the House to pass upon the question whether or not the omission is fatal, having regard to the fact that a 3ase involving an interpretation of the Proclamation is pending before the courts. If we exempt pending cases from this legislation I do not see that Ontario, Manitoba or Saskatchewan will be adversely affected, because in those provinces no cases are pending in which the plebiscite is disputed; the only case I know of is that of the Gold Seal Company and the Dominion Express Company. This is, to say the least, restrictive legislation and comes pretty near to being penal legislation. When we restrict the liberty of the individual on account of a wave of feeling in favour of temperance or prohibition we should give him every
opportunity to defend his case and to bring before the courts any point which he may wish to establish as to the legality or otherwise of a proclamation issued under the law. I say that there is a principle involved here; it is an attempt to legislate persons out of court. If I go before a court basing my case on existing iaws and existing conditions and he who is responsible for an error involved in the case seeks to legislate me out of court, I say that such a course is immoral; it is worse than passing legislation and giving it retroactive effect when no cases before the courts bearing upon the matter are pending. If, therefore, we are to pass this legislation we ought to put a proviso in the Bill that it shall not affect pending cases. I do not want to bring about a vote on the question, but I do want to make it perfectly clear that I am absolutely against any legislation having retroactive effect, especially any legislation which will have the effect of putting out of court people who are rightly and legally before it.