September 15, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)

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The PRIME MINISTER.

The question is one of the anomalies that we have in our constitution and for my part, though I have had occasion to think a good deal over it, I have never been able to satisfy myself as to the remedy which we should adopt unless it be a radical one. I remember very well that when Sir John Thompson was Minister of Justice the matter was brought up and for my part I expressed the opinion then that in the province of Quebec the system of judicature was very unsatisfactory. We have no county court judges in our province. We have only Superior Court judges and I thought that the system which prevails in Ontario would be far more suitable to our province. I do not know if Sir John Thompson communicated at that time with the local government, but, I do know that my hon. friend from Montmorency (Mr. Casgrain) who was then attorney general introduced a Bill in the direction of changing our system and introducing the Ontario system. Unfortunately that Bill was defeated and for my part I always regretted it. Since my own friends have been in office in the province of Quebec I have urged repeatedly to try and change their system but they have told me that it is impossible because the opinion of the province is against it. I hope that some day there will be a change in public opinion and that we will have a different system introduced into the province of Que-

bee. But even then the anomaly would still exist if it is in the power of the local legislature to create the courts and fix the number of judges and leave it to the Dominion parliament to provide for the salaries. It goes without saying that there could not be a greater anomaly than this one, because the legislative authority which creates the court should also provide for the payment of the judges. Perhaps we should find some remedy for this condition of things if we could have the system which exists in the United States of having provincial courts and federal courts. If we had provincial courts to administer the laws of the province and federal courts to administer the laws of the Dominion I think it would possibly be a more logical system and perhaps be more useful to the different provinces and to the country as a whole. But, that is far away and we could not have it under our present system. Under our present system we cannot do anything else than try to reason with the provincial legislatures. If they amend the constitution of their courts and force us to provide salaries for the judges I do not see that we can refuse to do so. If the legislature in the exercise of its sovereignty as a legislature declares that such and such a court is needed and that it is to be composed of so many judges, I do not see that it is possible for us to substitute our wisdom here and to say: You are wrong and we shall not provide for the payment of the judges' salary. If we had reason to believe that the thing was done under motives which were not warranted and if it were to be akin to fraud, or something of that kind, then, this parliament would be justified in refusing to act. But assuming that the legislature has acted in good faith, I do not see hoy wb can fail to provide for the salaries. My hon. friend the Minister of Justice has just given notice of a resolution providing for the salary of another judge in the province of Quebec. Though I say that the Quebec system is not satisfactory I do not see how we can avoid doing that. The judges in the district of Montreal who have been referred to by my hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Borden, Halifax) are certainly overworked. But, there are judges in some parts of the province of Quebec who have very little work to do and who perhaps have more leisure than work during the year. But, we must remember that the geographical distribution of the population is such, that, whereas, one man in one part of the province may have little or nothing to do, another man in another part of the province may have more work to do than he can perform. Take the county of Gaspd for instance, which is the peninsula at the other extremity of the province. There is a very small population and very little work to dojbut that district must have a judge. Even if there were only three or four cases in a year, some one must be there Sir WILFRID LAURIER.
to attend to them. I wish the distribution of judges were made in Quebec in accordance with the system they have in Ontario but we have not that system. If I may be allowed to anticipate the proposal of the hon. Minister of Justice it is to provide an additional judge for the county of Pontiac. The county of Pontiac is a part of the judicial district of OttawTa, the judge of which presides in Hull. It is a fact that the judge residing in Hull cannot personally attend to all the work which he is- obliged to perform and therefore we have to provide an additional judge in the province of Quebec. But, all this is very unsatisfactory. We have no word to say as to the constitution of the courts and at the same time we have to provide for the payment of the judges. As to the salaries of the judges we have to make up our minds that it is impossible for the judges to remain upon the salaries that they have been receiving. The remark is often made to me : Well,
you have no difficulty in finding judges when there are vacancies. It is not that there are very severe difficulties in filling vacancies-I admit that-but since we have been in office we have offered vacancies to some of the best talent in the provinces and the appointments have been refused. [DOT]

Topic:   JUDGES OF PROVINCIAL COURTS- SALARIES.
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