Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):
I hesitate to trouble the house
about a personal matter, but on March 29 last, during my absence from the house, in the course of a debate that arose on a motion of the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland), the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) made certain observations which are reported in Hansard as follows:
Now is there no duty on the part of the government to See that the laws of this Dominion are carried out?
Whereupon the Solicitor General is reported to have remarked:
Before my hon. friend leaves Baldy Robb I would suggest, if he wants to know the reason, that he had better inquire of his own leader.
Whereupon the hon. member for West York replied:
That is a suggestion the hon. gentleman can safely make in the absence of my hon. leader.
The Solicitor General is then reported to have said:
I give you warning.
Subsequently, during a somewhat lengthy discussion towards the close of the debate, the Solicitor General stated that he withdrew nothing that he had said.
I regard these observations as very serious reflections upon myself. If I was in any shameful or discreditable manner associated with this convicted criminal, Baldy Robb, I
think I would merit the condemnation of the house. But the facts are these-and I ask my hon. friend the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Stewart) to follow me closely: Last summer, after the house had Tisen, I had occasion to visit the Minister of the Interior in his office at Ottawa in connection with a departmental matter. I do not charge my memory as to how exactly the circumstance arose, but during the course of the conversation something was said about Baldy Robb, and I thereupon observed that he had been released some time ago. The Minister of the Interior said that such was not the case-he had not been released-although as a matter -of fact a statement to that effect had appeared in the public press. It transpired that the minister was correct and we had some conversation touching the matter. My recollection is that I stated I would have nothing to do with it, pointing out, however, that I had recently been in Edmonton where I had learned that a large number of people there, who had been associated with the prosecution of Robb, were of the opinion that the ends of justice had been satisfied and the law vindicated by his conviction and imprisonment, and that, having regard to the fact that his wife and family were in poor circumstances, there was no reason why, if the government deemed it a proper course to pursue and such a recommendation should be made to His Excellency, Baldy Robb should not be released on ticket-of-leave. If I remember rightly the Minister of the Interior inquired whether I would have any objection to communicating that fact to the leader of the opposition. I told him I would not. I ascertained that the leader of the opposition was absent from Ottawa, as was also the Solicitor General, and I telephoned the Minister of the Interior to that effect.
I had no communication with the Solicitor General with respect to this matter. I made no recommendations of any kind regarding the release of this convicted criminal; I left the responsibility where it belonged. I did state, however, that I would not criticize any action that might be taken in the circumstances by the law officers of the crown. This view I intimated to the Minister of the Interior, the only minister with whom I had had any discussion with reference to the question. I desire to place this matter frankly before the House, without either comment or any endeavour to draw any inference from what transpired. I feel I owe this as a duty, primarily, not so much to myself as to those with whom I am associated in this house.