June 25, 1924

LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

My hon. friends are drawing on their imaginations to find inferences. Are you going to convict a man on an inference? That has never been done yet in this country or in any other country having British institutions. No one knows that better than my hon. friends opposite who are in the legal profession and no one knows better than the hon. member for West Hastings that no man under the British flag was ever convicted on inference or suspicion. There must be evidence leading indisputably to conviction.

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CON

Edward Guss Porter

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PORTER:

Does the hon. member contend for one moment that a man has never been convicted upon circumstantial evidence?

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LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

My hon. friend knows very well that I did not say that, and he also knows that some of the worst criminals in the country have been convicted on circumstantial evidence and have been hanged on circumstantial evidence. It is very often the only evidence that can be established. Not only must there be circumstantial evidence that points to guilt, but there must be no other reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the circumstances that have been shown. Take this as circumstantial evidence. Can any one say that no other reasonable conclusion can be drawn from the circumstances in this case than a conclusion of guilt? That would be absolutely absurd. I have no hesitation in putting myself in the judgment of the best legal minds of Ontario that if that evidence was submitted to a court and a jury, the judge would immediately withdraw the case from the jury and say to the jury: This is suspicion and suspicion only. You cannot

Mr. Murdock and Home Bank

convict a man on suspicion, no matter how strong that suspicion may be." You can call this strong suspicion if you like, but I am arguing from this point of view. When my hon. friend is talking about drawing an inference, I say that the proper inference to draw from the situation is that nothing was said about the Home Bank in council on the morning of the 15th August, because the Prime Minister on the evening of the 14th had stated emphatically and plainly that the government would not do anything at all about the matter, and the Acting Minister of Finance the next morning at ten o'clock made the statement: I am going to

Montreal. There was nothing to talk about. If the Acting Minister of Finance had come back from Montreal with a statement from Sir Vincent Meredith of the Canadian Bankers' Association that probably something could be done, the matter might have been brought up before council and discussed. But prior to that time, I say that the inference is that nothing was said about the matter in council that morning.

You can search from the first page to the last and the only evidence is that Mr. Stewart came to Ottawa; a conference was held in the Prime Minister's house, of which conference Mr. Murdock knew nothing, because Mr. Murdock says in his evidence that he knew nothing about the visit of those directors until long after the visit had been made; the Acting Minister of Finance went to Montreal the next day, and Mr. Murdock at one o'clock the next day drew his money out of the Home Bank and deposited it in the Royal Bank. That is the sole evidence upon which hon. gentlemen opposite ask this House to convict a minister of the Crown of a heinous crime and misdemeanour in this country. No judge would allow such evidence to go to a jury on which to convict him, and this House will reject it, as I am certain the country will reject it when they have an opportunity to speak about the matter.

When the report alleges that there is no evidence to prove these charges, what I have stated confirms that allegation. Evil minds will have evil suspicions. My hon. friends opposite may have evil suspicions. We regret that, but we cannot help it. We hope they will change. But simply because they have a suspicion, let them not run away with the idea that a man is guilty of a crime. What does the Minister of Labour say as reported at page 77 of the evidence:

Q. And after getting information from Mr. Gordon, did you get any further information?-A. No.

This is about the failure of the Home Bank.

Q. You say: "No."-A. "No."

Q. Of any kind or description-or anywhere?-A. Not that would form my opinion in regard to the matter.

Q. It may not have formed your opinion, but did you get any other information?-A. No one else had discussed that matter with me at all.

Q. Had you any better knowledge on the 15th as to the condition of the bank than you had on the 9th?-A. I would say not.

Q. Why did you get in such a hurry on the 15th? -A. Well, I do not know whether it was a question so much of getting in a hurry. . . .Q. It seems to be. . . .

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LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Let the witness finish his answer.

The Witness: I proceeded to do on the 15th what I intended to do, and no doubt would have done, excepting that I neglected it for several days.

The leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) this afternoon rather intimated-at least I took his remarks in that way-that when the Minister of Labour was making these answers, he was making them with a mental reservation as regards what might have taken place in the council chamber. I do not think so. That is another inference. When he answered that question by saying that he got no other information from any source, he did not seem to me as though he was making any mental reservation whatever; I took it that he was excepting no place, not even the council chamber. I thought at the time that the question was objectionable, but it was not objected to and it went through. In my opinon there was no mental reservation on the part of the Minister Of Labour in his answer to that question. He further says:

By Mr. Porter:

Q. Just one more question, Mr. Chairman. I think that is all I want to ask for the moment. Mr. Murdock, I want to ask you one further question: Were you aware of the fact that the directors of the Home Bank met certain members of the cabinet at the premier's house?-A. Not until after it came out generally.

Q. When did you first become aware of that?-A. I could not say, Mr. Porter.

Q. You cannot give me approximately the date? -A. No, I am sorry to say I could not.

Q. It was prior to your withdrawal?-A. Withdrawal ?

Q. Prior to your withdrawal of the money from the bank ?-A. Oh, no.

Q. What? I said it was prior to your withdrawal on the 15th of August?-A. No.

Q. Are you quite certain of that?-A. I feel quite certain of that.

The Minister of Labour not only did not know that these directors were here but he got no information of any sort except that which he received from the Deputy Speaker, according to his own sworn statement. And who among hon. gentlemen who sit in this House is prepared to stand up and say that the Minister of Labour was deliberately lying

Mr. Murdock and Home Bank

when he gave his evidence in that regard? I do not think any hon. gentleman is ready to do that. Everyone thought that the minister gave his evidence in a most truthful manner. Why, the very cheque on which he drew the money was dated August 14, and all that the minister had to do if he wanted to be deceptive was to keep his mouth shut concerning that cheque. He was not asked the question as to when it was drawn but he volunteered himself the information as to its date; and if the statement had gone down in the evidence that the money was drawn on August 14 instead of August 15 it would have answered this charge almost conclusively. But the minister, in his desire to be absolutely frank with the committee, said: "I do not want to be misunderstood; although that cheque is dated the 14th the money was drawn by me on the 15th. I Went to the bank and drew the money that day." The minister appeared before the committee with absolutely clean hands and he was perfectly prepared to give a truthful statement in regard to everything that had taken place. He did not desire to conceal nor did he conceal any one particular circumstance in the whole matter. He answered all questions openly and aboveboard and the committee believed, as I am very much inclined to think the hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Porter) himself believes, that he was telling the truth and was actuated by nothing but the purest motives. There is no evidence against him; there is no truth in the charges. He has spoken and refuted those charges and I say that not only have they not been proved but that they were absolutely disproved.

Let us take the other side of the shield for a moment. When any one stands up and asserts that a minister of the Crown shall not use any information that he has obtained in council for any purposes whatever, even for the protection of his own property, his life or that of his family, I must say that this is a proposition from which I dissent en-ti.ely. I would not subscribe to any such preposterously inhuman doctrine. Suppose for example a member of the council happened to learn, in council, that a riot would almost certainly take place in the town in which his family resided: would it be improper for him t.o telegraph his wife and get her and the rest of his family out of the place as quickly as possible? Hon. gentlemen smile; but why should not a man use such information just as he would use information acquired in any other way? Suppose, again, that a minister of the Crown had heard in council any time during the war that a ship leaving Quebec

was likely to be torpedoed: would he be acting in any violation of his oath if he took steps to prevent his wife and family from taking passage on that vessel? Shall a minister not use information he has received in council for any purposes whatever? I say, I will not subscribe to any such doctrine.

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PRO

Agnes Campbell Macphail

Progressive

Miss MACPHAIL:

In such a case would

not the cabinet minister be perfectly within his right in attempting to save the lives of many others besides his wife and children?

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LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

Most certainly he would,

and that is the point I am coming at. I may remark in passing, however, that my hon. friend from Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail), who is getting particularly interested in this matter now, did not take so prominent a part m the whole course of the proceedings in the committee. We did not. have the pleasure of hearing her. Now, references have been made to the statements of English statesmen, and with those statements I have not any fault to find. Mr. Asquith for instance has said:

No minister is justified under any circumstances in using official information that has come to him as a minister for his own private profit or for that of his friends.

With that statement I am 'jn absolute accord. But I should like to remind hon. members that there is a very great difference between that and the question we are now discussing. In that case members of the cabinet, after having received information as cabinet ministers, purchased shares in a company out of which they made thousands of pounds; and there is a clear distinction between that situation and the case of a minister going to a bank and drawing out his own money, to which he has an absolutely perfect right. The Minister of Labour had an absolute right to withdraw his money any minute he saw fit; it was his own money and he had a right to draw it out. And how in the name of all that is intelligent could the Minister of Labour on that day have had any knowledge that the withdrawal of his $4,000 would injure in the slightest degree any other depositors in the bank? No one else thought it would. It was known that the bank was likely to fail; but who would lose in consequence of such a withdrawal? The shareholders would lose, and that is the utmost that any one supposed, the utmost no doubt that the minister himself supposed. It would not appear to anyone that the minister's withdrawing his $4,000 would injure in the slightest degree any other depositors.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Will the hon. member

explain why the minister drew out the money?

Mr. Murdock and Home Bank

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LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

He drew it out for

the same reason that my hon. friend or I or any one else would draw out a deposit- because he wanted it in a safe institution and did not wish to have it tied up in a bank that might become bankrupt.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

If the money of other

depositor's was safe where it was, the minister's deposit would also be safe and he would not be running any risk.

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LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

That is all right as an

ethical proposition. It is mighty easy to be wise after the event, but if my right hon. friend found that his wagon was likely to break down I am sure he would get ouf before it did break down. I say therefore that there was no reason in the world why the minister should not draw out his monesn It was his own money. He is not a legal gentleman like my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition and my hon. friend from West Hastings; they in their superior knowledge- and virtue, perhaps-would not have withdrawn their deposits, but he in his innocence of business matters withdrew his money. Now, even supposing he got the information in council-and I am accepting for the moment the very supposition that he got the information from thL source-I would be prepared to stand up and say that he was justified in acting as he did, because the withdrawal of his deposit would not under ordinary circumstances injure other depositors; in this instance the failure of the stockholders injured the depositors. As soon as Mr. Murdock found out there was likely to be injury to other depositors by reason of his action he said, "Very well, I will pay the money back." He made a supreme endeavour to do what he thought was right. He has been criticised by my hon. friend from West Hastings for not paying back the money sooner. Mr. Murdock saw notices in the newspapers, but he said, "I take no stock in newspaper reports." He thought, like most of us, that the reports were merely political tactics, and therefore he paid no attention to them, but when he found that other depositors were likely to be prejudiced, then he, like the honest man he has shown himself throughout these proceedings, said, "Very well, Mr. Clarkson, I will return you the money, although I do not feel that I am legally bound to do so."

Without taking up your time any longer, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the report of the majority of the committee is the report that

should be adopted by this House. And I know mighty wed that it is the kind of report that will be adopted by 90 per cent of the people of this country.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

When at six o'clock I

read the amendment and translated it, there seemed to me to be something irregular in its drafting. By rule 46, as the House is well aware:

Whenever the Speaker is of opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of parliament, he shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the rule or authority applicable to the case.

The amendment recites the reference which was made to the committee on Privileges and Elections, and proceeds as follows:

That the charges contained in the said resolution have been proven and sustained.

While the section of the report, concurrence in which is asked by the motion of the hon. member for Chambly and Vercheres (Mr. Archambault), is in this form:

That the charge submitted to this committee for investigation, so far as it affects the honour of Mr. Murdock, is not only not proved but entirely disproved.

The rule is that when a report comes from a committee a motion is made by the chairman or by any other member of the committee asking the House to concur in the report, and if objection is taken to the motion by some other hon. member he moves in amendment, that the report be referred back to the committee with instructions to amend the same. In the present instance the hon. member for West Hastings (Mr. Porter) has, in my humble opinion, forgotten that formality. Let me quote from Bourinot, as set out at page 141 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, No. 559:

When the motion is proposed the report may be referred back to the committee for further consideration or with instruction to amend the same in any respect.

The essential part of the report is contained in the section which the hon. member wishes to supersede by his amendment. I find no fault with him in this respect, for it is his right and privilege to ask the House to concur in the views of the minority of the committee. But there is a technicality which must be observed, and I would suggest that in order to live up to the precedents and rules of the House the hon. member alter his amendment to read as follows:

That all the words after "that" in the first line be stricken out and the following inserted instead thereof:

Mr. Murdoch and Home Bank

the second report of the select standing committee on Privileges and Elections be referred back to the said committee with instructions that they have power to amend it by striking out the last three paragraphs thereof and substituting therefor the following:

The last three paragraphs are those to which objection is taken by the hon. member.

and having heard the evidence given by all witnesses submitted in support of the charge contained in said resolution, and all evidence and statements made in answer thereto, and examined all exhibits filed 3a such inquiry, beg leave to report as follows:-

That the charges contained in said resolution have been proven and sustained.

Of course, the hon. gentleman would have to have leave of the House to amend his own amendment, or another hon. member might move it for him. It is true that

9 p.m. the amendment is merely defective as to form, but it is essential in parliamentary procedure that we should adhere to our forms. Therefore I would ask that the hon. member be allowed to amend his amendment in the way I have suggested.

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CON

Edward Guss Porter

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PORTER:

Mr. Speaker, upon reflection I feel quite satisfied that the course suggested by you is well advised. The intention of my amendment was identical with what you have expressed, but perhaps it was not aptly worded to carry out that intention. I will ask another member to move an amendment in proper form so as to comply with the rules.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Perhaps the House might be willing to allow the hon. member to amend his amendment.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

If there is objection,

another member might move the amendment. The amendment moved by the hon. gentleman is out of order, and the question is on the main motion. Of course, it is competent for another hon. member to move an amendment in proper form.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

May I ask a question, Mr. Speaker? Suppose all the members who have spoken on what was thought to be an amendment ask the right to speak on that which is really an amendment; will they have the privilege?

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LIB
CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

In conformity with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to move:

That the word " adopted " be struck out and the following substituted therefor:

Referred back to the said committee with instructions to amend same in such a way as to report the charge against the Minister of Labour as proved and sustained by the evidence adduced.

As a member of this committee, Mr. Speaker, I desire to make some very brief observations on the subject matter of the resolution and of the amendment thereto. But before doing so, I desire to make one or two comments only on the observations which have fallen from the lips of the hon. member for Welland (Mr. German). I can only say that his contribution to this debate has been quite on a par with his contribution to the argument that took place in the committee, when he constituted himself counsel-in-chief for the defence, and descended in my opinion, to the depths of the police court lawyer. I shall not follow him along that avenue. I desire to approach the consideration of this subject matter in the same spirit that characterized the hon. member for West Hastings (Mr. Porter) when he laid his charge on the floor of this House on the 22nd day of May last, in the same spirit which characterized his conduct of the case throughout the committee, and in the same spirit that characterized his observations made on the floor of this House this afternoon, and I venture to say that no more convincing argument was ever adduced in the House of Commons.

I expressly dissent from those who in the committee and out of the committee, in this House or elsewhere, have taken the view that this was a criminal charge against the Minister of Labour (Mr. Murdock). I have never so conceived it to be; I do not now so conceive it to be; but I do conceive that the charge made against the Minister of Labour was a charge against his personal honour, and a charge against the honour and proprieties of parliament. It is from that standpoint that the subject matter was approached by the hon. member for West Hastings, and dealt with by him in this House and in the committee, and by those associated with him.

Inasmuch as the charge was not a charge of a criminal character, inasmuch as the Minister of Labour was not charged with a breach of any section of the criminal code of this country, I have been of the opinion from the very first that it was incumbent upon the minister to take the first opportunity that could be availed of either to give assent to the statement of fact that was alleged against him or to give it the most unqualified denial; and I say the first opportunity, because his personal honour had been attacked, and because to do otherwise was to create in the minds of the public and of members of this House, the impression that his silence in a matter of personal honour and propriety would lead some people, at all events, to be-

Mr. Murdock and Home Bank

lieve that the charge against him might have been well founded. I believe, further, that it was incumbent upon him at the very earliest opportunity to have stated in language so emphatic that none would be under any misapprehension, just what his attitude and what his position was. But to the utter astonishment of every gentleman who sat in this House when the charges were levelled against the minister on the 22nd of May last, there was not one single word of denial of the specific allegations that were then and there made against him, but there was, if I may so term it, in the words of the old common law, a plea of confession and avoidance. There was a statement to the effect that he had taken the money out of the Home Bank under circumstances, inferentially at all events, such as the member for West Hastings had stated, and there was an avoidance by the plea that he had repaid the money; but unfortunately for the credibility of the hon. gentleman in any subsequent statements that he might make, when he disclosed the correspondence which he had had with the liquidator of the Home Bank, written as a result of a legal demand made upon him for the return of the money, he made one statement the truth of which has been challenged, and challenged from the very beginning, and the untruth of which would lead any sober, sensible man in this House or in this country to take with the very gravest degree of care any subsequent statement the hon. minister might make. I refer to that paragraph in the letter of the minister to the liquidator of the Home Bank, written on the 14th of May last, in which he stated:

On August 15th last I withdrew from the Home Bank, Ottawa branch, $4,050, and made this withdrawal in the ordinary course of business.

Is there a gentleman within the sound of my voice, is there any man who has followed the evidence in this case, who believes for one minute the statement made in that letter by the Minister of Labour to the curator of the Home Bank? Not only that, it now appears that in a previous statement made by the minister to a newspaper reporter, and which he has not denied, which during the course of the testimony he stated was in effect correct in practically every detail, he said that the money had been withdrawn for the purpose of paying for a house, whereas, as a matter of fact, when placed under oath he admitted, and had to admit it because all the record is the other way, that he had withdrawn the money on the 15th of August for the purposes of safety, and safety only.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have some observations to make as to the manner in which this investigation was carried on. I have not been a member of this House very long, and I have not had very much experience in the political arena, but I had had some political ideals and some ideals with respect to parliamentary practice and procedure, and what should be done on certain occasions, and it had occurred to my simple mind that when a charge was made specifically against the honour of an individual, which per se had no political significance, the investigation of that charge would be surrounded with all the sanctity of a judicial procedure. I was not originally a member of the committee in question, and was only appointed to relieve some gentleman who had to be absent from the House of Commons. But I attended all the meetings of the committee, save and except the organization meeting, and I wish to say, without fear of successful contradiction, that from beginning to end the atmosphere of the committee was charged, and charged as with electricity, with partisanship of the most blatant character.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Lucien Cannon

Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

I rise to a point of order. I do not think any member in this House should describe the conduct of the committee in the way the hon. gentleman is doing now.

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June 25, 1924