Mr. LAFORTUNE. (Translation).
Mr. Speaker, at recess, I was contending that public opinion which our learned opponents are representing as being on favour of this Bill, is rather in my humble opinion, opposed to it. Public feeling cannot lend itself to giving effect to such personal views in regard to restricting individual freedom, whose defenders those learned gentlemen profess themselves to be.
Let us not interfere with individual liberty. It is an entirely different matter when we are called upon to legislate concerning trade, for instance, or any other matter relating to society in general. Thus when the government submitted an Act in regard to Sunday observance, it was a general law, applicable to all provinces and to all classes of society. However, many persons took exception to that measure as being an encroachment on individual liberty. The majority of the House declared that law necessary; but people went so far as to try to nut a stop to amusements within the family circle and to prevent young people from indulging in moderate, honest and intelligent relaxation. However, that Act for the better observance of the Lord's Day had its good points, and I was, favourable to the principle ol the law, although I did not approve of its rigour.
But in the present case, as I listened to the learned gentleman who preceded me (Mr. Stratton) pointing out as he did to the impoverishment of families through losses sustained by many on the race-track, 1 was tenanted to turn around and ask; What about those who gamble on stocks? What about those who buy stock' which is never delivered to them? What about those business places where numbers of our y.oung men speculate on stocks, and ruin themselves and oftentimes their families? You do not propose introducing legislation with a view to restricting such transactions. And I heard the hon. gentleman stating; There is no comparison possible between gambling on stocks and gambling on the race-track. Well, I think he is right in stating that there is no comparison possible between the two, inasmuch as stock gambling is much the worse evil of the two. Those who go in for betting on the race-track are not guilty of one-hundredth part of the wrong-doing for which gamblers in stock are responsible. Nevertheless, should there be introduced to-morrow a Bill to prohibit stock gambling, that
hon. gentleman would be the first to protest and say: You are encroaching on individual freedom, you are interfering with trade and every day transactions. I might victoriously reply to that hon. gentleman that there is no comparison possible. The farming community, those who take an interest in farming and particularly those who go in for breeding, have a right to the protection of the law. It is contended that this Bill will not interfere with the breeders' business, with the farmers' opportunities. Whereupon I answer to my learned friends that they are astray in their contention that by prohibiting what is now being carried on in an honest, regular and rational way, the breeder's business, which is of interest to us, will not be interfered with.
Wherever racing is being carried on, betting should be allowed, and if betting between individuals only is allowed, and no middlemen permitted to take in the bets, what will become of the money put up in bets? I have some experience in this connection, and I say that if you do away with book-making, you render betting impossible. The money put up in betting will go into the hands of strangers, of irresponsible people, and when the meet is over, it will be found that they are flown. In order to recover the money, recourse to the law courts will be necessary, and a great deal of trouble will be in sight. Betting under such conditions would not be possible, all must agree as to that. Whoever has any experience at all in sporting matters will not say otherwise. As is well known, owners of race-tracks farm out the privilege of book-making to specialists and that is a fair and legitimate way of providing the funds to be given out in prizes.
What was it that induced thousands and thousands of people to gather for last autumn's race meet at Montreal? What was it that drew there 1,500 horses, a good number of which were from across the boundary? What was it, if not the prizes that were offered? Do you think a man in Philadelphia, or New York-there were even one in Los Angeles-would spend large sums to send horses to these race meets, if the stakes were only small sums? Even then, these race horse owners should not be looked at in the light of mere speculators; they send their horses at a loss. They do so for the benefit of the farming community, and in most cases they get only a very small proportion of their outlay. Is f.t fair that such men be subjected to the treatment meted out by this Bill? They spend large sums to promote the breeding of horses on right lines, and the farming community is benefited thereby. I trust, therefore, that the House will sound the death knell of that Bill and will turn down the proposal of these gentlemen,
whose only concern is to originate new criminal offences, and that we will hear nothing more of such theories.
Sir, no good reason can possibly be put forward in support of these contentions. Some latitude should be granted to human nature in selecting amusements, and these cannot be had free of cost. In the same way, the acquirement of learning does not go without fees. Those who attend race meets an engage in betting, acquire experience and that has to be paid for. From what these hon. gentlemen say, one might infer that all are losers at that game. Surely, there must be winners, and who are are they? Book-makers get rich, it is claimed. Of course there are winners in that class, but there are also losers. The money I lose in bets goes into the pockets of the_ fellow who bet against me, barring the amount of a commission of ten per cent generally, which goes to the middleman. That is all the profit the latter gets out of the bettors. On the other hand, the book-maker, who is a dealer in bets, a buyer and seller of bets on the horses listed to run, is himself a loser occasionally. He sells 'horses for first, second or third place, and that horse may come out last, in which case we immensely enjoy taking in his dollars, which you may rest assured, we have no thought of returning to him the day following.
I 'hear the hon. member for Prescott state that the book-maker is not often disappointed. I infer from it that the hon. gentleman has never been on a race-track. Let him come to our meet and he will find out that everything is done honestly, that there is no fraud.
Hon. gentlemen seems to think that there are no means devised towards protecting the individual and putting down abuses. But legal gentlemen who are well up in the knowledge of civil rights and iproce-dure, should not lose sight of those enactments specially designed to protect the individual, whether he be a young man or a father of family, against his own excesses in the matter of gambling or drinking. Have we not such a thing as the privation of civil rights and the family council? If it is shown to the courts that so and so is a spendthrift, a gambler at cards, a drunkard,. a too easy-going fellow, a family council may at once ibe summoned and consulted as to the desirability of interdicting the gentleman and providing him with a curator or judiciary council, whose duty it will 'be to prevent him from extravagant spending. Now it is proposed to have this parliament take the matter in hand and deprive of his civil rights the spendthrift, the gambler, the prodigal. Well, I protest against parliament assuming jurisdiction in matters of this kind. I say parliament has not the right to brand Mr. LAFORTUNE.
any one as a prodigal before his relatives have had their say in the matter. I say that such a course would be an encroachment on individual liberty. I say you have not the right to deal with Canadian citizens as if they were spendthrifts, and restrain their freedom of action without conforming to the rules of procedure enacted by the various provinces of the Dominion. Whenever we are called upon to deal w'ith a prodigal, but not of the most pronounced type, we deprive him in part only of his civil rights, by appointing a judiciary council to prevent him from living in an extravagant manner or spending too freely. Such are the means provided by law to restrain improvident and Teckless people.
Sir, the learned gent who preceded me stated-and I was sorry to hear him say so-: in this connection we prefer following the provisions of the United States law, to following those of the British law. We take after the people of the United States; as to the British enactment, as to the legislation in force in the mother country, they say, we have no use for it, Is that sound reasoning ? To my mind it is a criminal offence, a crime which should be made punishable under our laws, a crime of high treason to thus follow the lead of our neighbours, without paying any attention to what is being done in Great Britain. A Mr. Hughes has been mentioned. I am not acquainted with him, though he may be a very honest man. But I prefer following the legislation in force in the British empire. In support of a bad case, people are ant to make use of every means, good or bad. After centuries of British rule, one should know a thing or two.
I listened with pleasure and a great deal of attention to the statements made last evening by the ex-minister of the Interior (Mr. Sifton). I have never heard anything more precise and indicative of so great ability and experience. He gave us the whole thing in a nutshell. His arguments are uncontrovertible, and no attempt was made to answer them. The hon. gentleman who hails from those vast territories which are the hope of the Dominion, has Canadian interests at heart. It cannot be said of him that he is a race track gambler or that he has any kind of interest in racing associations. He gave us his word that he never gambled or engaged in betting, and nobody will doubt his word. His opinion should be given still greater weight, seeing that it is wholly disinterested.
Reference has been made to insurance policies, and the hon. gentleman who made such reference contended that the policyholder gets back only what he paid. Such is not always the case. The policy-holder is not always in that position, as I shall endeavour to show. Take for instance the
case of a life insurance policy. The policyholder dies after having paid his first premium and his heirs get a considerable amount of money which the company is bound to pay. Then take the case of a fire insurance policy. The owner of the building insures it for a large amount. The next day, the building is destroyed by fire, and he gets a lot of money, after paying in a small premium only. Will it be contended that in such cases the insured gets back merely what he had disbursed? However such agreements are considered legal, although they imply a contingency, although their outcome is uncertain, hazardous, in the same as with race-track betting. You bet on a horse expecting he will come out first, and very often he comes out last. You are the loser, but some one else is a winner.
My learned friends spoke of the usefulness of the thoroughbred. It is a well known fact among farmers and breeders generally, that thoroughbreds are high-priced horses. They are not plentiful, require much training, and cost a great deal to their owners. On the other "hand the latter expect to obtain a handsome price for them.
Within the last twenty years governments have spent large sums towards promoting breeding. The Minister of Agriculture, agricultural lecturers, co-operative associations, farmers' clubs, agricultural societies have all in turn advocated better breeding methods, and the improvement of live stock, especially of horses. For several years past, a large number of thoroughbreds have been imported to cross with Canadian horses. Thereby, we have succeeded in bringing about a considerable improvement in our breeds of horses. And when these hon. gentlemen contend that it is possible to continue that work of improvement independently of racing, let me answer that, in my humble opinion, that is not possible. Neither is it possible to provide for the upkeep of a race-track solely by means of entrance fees an contributions forthcoming occasionally from individuals or agricultural associations in connection with the meets. That has been attempted in every county throughout Canada. The idea is not a new one. An effort was made at large agricultural fairs to run the show by means of entrance fees alone, and to be content with a few races comprising only a small number of entries, but that always resulted in a failure. On the other hand, how have matters been improved? Success has been attained by acting in co-operation with the management of large associations. In conjunction with agricultural fairs and ploughing matches, we have arranged to have racing, and the owners of these race-tracks have contributed hundreds of dollars. How did these 208
gentlemen come to be in a position to do so? Simply through the association realizing profits, and being on that account prosperous enough to help us. Farmers benefit therebv. The passing of this Bill would inflict heavy losses on those who interest themselves in the improvement of horsebreeding. What would be gained by ruining these men? What would become of these associations who contribute towards the improvement of agricultural methods, the desirability of which is acknowledged by all? Representatives of the people who are desirous of promoting the welfare and the development of the country should not hesitate a single moment to vote against this Bill.
The question has been asked whether or not such a measure would be easy of enforcement. I am now speaking as if the Bill was to pass, although I do not think it will be voted by the House; but, admitting that it will pass, will it be an easy matter to enforce its provision? I have had some _ experience in the matter, having practised law for the last thirty years. I have always been concerned with my professional duties, and was deemed worthy of being appointed Crown prosecutor in my district. For the last four years, I have been acting in that capacity. Numbers of cases of all kinds have been brought up in the meantime, and having that experience, which should count for something, I say without hesitation that it would be absurd to pass such a law, to make betting a criminal act, to deal with bettors as if they were scoundrels and criminals, and that you will fail in getting a jury to condemn people charged with such an offence. Jurymen as a rule are respectful of authority, but they are free and independent men, and called upon as they are to decide as to the fact independently of the law, they will be averse to returning a verdict against that man, large amounts will have been expended in vain, public morals, public interests, nobody in fact being benefited thereby. I say: no, that cannot be. You will not submit that citizen to such vexatious and useless annoyance. Besides, in doing so, you would not attain your object. Your charges would be met by denials and counter charges against the accuser. The putting in our statute-books of such an enactment far from giving security to citizens, would result merely in an expenditure of public funds to the injury of the accused.
Abuses have been alleged; instances have been cited of people who have spent extravagant amounts in betting, or of others who have in consequence committed thefts. That puts me in mind of scenes often witnessed at sittings of the criminal courts; and I may be allowed to recall them to the hon. member who made U3e
Subtopic: G531 COMMONS