June 20, 1936 (18th Parliament, 1st Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Speaker, it will be recalled that last year I asked the house, under protest, to accept the amendment made by the senate. It was in the closing days of the session and I disagreed with the view taken by the senate, but in order to close parliament the general sense of an amendment similar to this from the senate was adopted. I disagree with the action taken

National Parks-Mr. Bennett
by the senate now, and I think a conference is highly desirable. I have thought a good deal about the matter and the only explanation I can give-and I say it with deference -is that there is a confusion in terms, and that they have used the word "admissible" in a wrong sense. Suppose I am engaged in an investigation .and during its progress so many documents are produced. The mere production of these documents does not render them admissible when they are tendered in evidence before judge and jury in the trial of a criminal action. I fear that the senate concluded that we were trying to make documents admissible without the reservation of the right to object before a criminal court to the admissibility and the proof of the documents.
I think the language we have used to clear up the difficulty might be that the documents shall not be rendered inadmissible upon proper proof in any trial of a criminal action. Isay that only for those who may have todeal with the matter. I feel quite certain that there is a confusion between "proof" and "admissibility." To prove a document means that you must establish its authenticity to the court that has to deal with its admissibility. The admissibility depends not only upon its proof but upon its relevance. Itdoes not follow in a criminal case that you
can ask the court to accept as admissible every document you produce merely because it was before an investigation, but it is equally true that it should not be precluded from being admitted because it was produced before a commission. The admissibility depends upon proper proof being given before the criminal court. In view of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has said, I cannot help thinking there is some slight confusion between the questions of admissibility and proof. What the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) tried to do and what the commons has now done is to say that documents produced on an investigation shall not, by reason of being so produced, be admissible in a criminal case; that is all, and I think if that is made clear there should not be any difficulty in another place in providing appropriate words to make it clear. Upon its being properly established that documents constitute real evidence, they shall be admissible when offered in court.
For instance, to produce a copy of a letter might be quite satisfactory before an investigation, but it would not be competent to use it in a criminal trial unless proof were given as to the loss of the original or other matters of that kind. Documents that are frequently
used on investigations are, in cases where the liberty of the subject is at stake, not admissible because there has not been adequate proof of their authenticity or as to the competence of the documents as real evidence in the inquiry. I support the view taken by the government in this matter. I think I mentioned the matter to the Prime Minister last year. I walked across the floor of the house and spoke to the right hon. gentleman about it. It was close to the end of the session and we accepted the amendment rather than delay matters. However I see no reason why between now and Monday there should not be sufficient time to consider the matter in its legal implications. I feel quite confident that upon investigation and discussion it will be found that the mere fact that a document was produced and used in an investigation has never prevented its being accepted as evidence in a criminal case, provided appropriate proof was given.

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