March 22, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Mr. DOHERTY: (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

1. The prosecution of Reid was initiated and carried on by the local authorities. The information of this Government as to the words he pronounced is derived from the judge's charge, copy of which is hereto annexed.
2. The Government has no information as to the words said to have been pronounced by Armand Lavergne, M.L.A., on the floor of the Quebec Legislative Assembly.
3. There are petitions before the Department of Justice for the exercise of executive clemency by His Royal Highness the Governor General. These petitions are receiving the careful consideration which is given to all such applications.
4. The right of both these men are governed by, and equal, under the law. They halve been and will be equally respected by the Government.
Rex vs. John Reid

Judge's Charge to the Jury
The Court: Gentlemen of the Jury, the defendant is charged with having used this language at three different meetings held in the province of Alberta, two held at Evarts and one at Rocky Mountain House, and he wishes to be tried by me alone, but I thought that this was eminently a case fitted for six jurymen, six citizens of this province to deliberate upon, because it is an offence of a somewhat peculiar nature. In regard to the majority of offences which are made indictable under our Criminal Code or under our law of Canada, there would be very little difference of opinion, I apprehend, and very few would express dissent to the fact that those things are made indictable offences, such as theft, arson and murder, but in regard to the offences charged it has some peculiar properties and is one where good common sense requires to be exercised in a remarkable degree, because there are certain principles which must be recognized and sometimes there may be an apparent conflict, of those principles; there may be a difficulty of adjustment so they may meet on a common ground; in other words, there may be some difficulty in a proper appreciation of just what a man may do and what he may not do when he is advocating political ideas or when he is discussing different forms of government-therefore, I thought that six men exercising the common sense which they have acquired through their knowledge of the world would be admirably fitted and even perhaps better fitted than I myself, to adjudicate upon so important a matter, so my duty will be to direct you on what I believe to be the law in relation to such offences and to call your attention to the evi'denoe adduced and the proper way to arrive at a correct conclusion. Then the matter will be one for you to determine as a question of fact.
When the authorities charge any person with an indictable offence under, our law, he is entitled to the presumption that he is innocent and the duty devolves upon the prosecution to

satisfy you beyond a reasonable doubt that the inferences you should draw, the only inference you can draw, is that he is guilty. If you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt then you are bound to bring in your verdict in accordance with that conclusion.
Now, there are some principles which must be recognized in adjusting yourselves to the proper viewpoint in connection with a charge of sedition. You have been told that the gist of the offence is speaking words of seditious intent and the Code has not described or attempted to define what seditious intent is, but the authorities are pretty well settled upon that and apparently it is to this effect, that any persons wishing to discuss public questions, questions affecting our Government institutions, affecting the authorities who administer those, they must do so within certain bounds. Counsel for the defence has quite properly called your attention to the well accepted principle applicable under British law and British institutions, and I may say particularly the British institutions, because it formed one of the central points of political discussion in England for a long time before the principle was eventually recognized and established, namely, that the subject of a Government had a proper right, the legal right to discuss and to criticise and even to condemn the Government if he thought the Government was dishonest or inefficient or the form of government was one which he believed was not the best one for his country; that principle is in force now and recognized by us that every subject has that right.
Some reference has been made to the religious opinons or the lack of religious beliefs of the defendant. That is also recognized in the British Dominion that a man has absolutely freedom of conscience as to the religious beliefs or lack of religious belief which he may adopt or profess and that is not to be charged against him.
Now, then, I think you may start with that as one of the accepted principles and one which must be kept in mind. There is another very important principle recognized and that is this that in order that any government may afford protection to life and property and even afford protection to that principle to which I have referred, namely: (that
people shall have the right of freedom of speech and belief), there must be some authority to assert and protect that right therein ; that means there must be some administrative function, some form of government which will be able to so administer the law that we may have these privileges and that we may profess them without molestation assuming we are honestly professing them and adopting them for an honest purpose. Then you have those two principles and they may apparently meet and may apparently conflict when we come to discuss and decide just what is a seditious utterance or what are words which are capable of being charged as having a seditious intention, Every one must be presumed to intend the natural meaning and consequences and results of his words and his action, and I think that is peculiarly applicable to a man who assumes the responsibility of teaching or advocating or trying to enlighten others on political principles. I do not think he can complain if we assume he is a man who has undertaken to educate, to instill in others doctrines which he believes. Then he cannot be heard to complain if we say we will take him at his word,

and we will infer his intention in speaking these words from the natural meaning, the natural consequences of these words. Now I have already told you that in order that there may be an administrative function, some form of government which will be able to maintain law and order that involves that we shall not have in our community, in our country, riots, disturbances, tumults in places where people meet or assemble; and so then those who wish to express their opinions either by way of advocating any particular political opinion or by way of enlisting others must have that in view that they may be chargeable, if they speak words in times and places and of a nature that may have a tendency to incite people to opposition; to create in the people who hear them a spirit of hostility, to arouse feelings of animosity.^ I feel that as men of ordinary common sense it must be plain, it hardly needs to be argued, that words which will bring into contempt and scorn and ridicule those who are in high authority must be considered very very carefully by those who intend to utter them. I have already told you that people have the right to have that opinion even of those in high authority, even of members of the Government, even of the King, but the law requires a limit in this request that when they want to express these opinions to others they must have in view the fact that the law will not tolerate them expressing them under conditions which may create the feelings to which I have already referred, the feelings of animosity and hostility.
In regard to the words spoken at the three different meetings, the evidence is to the effect that they were spoken by the defendant in his capacity as an advocate of a party or an organization which I infer is of a political or semi-political nature. The defendant was holding meetings in the province of Alberta, in which he was discussing the principles which he believed should be applied and the form of government, or possibly the absence ' of form of government, although I have not heard any very clear expressions of the form of government. However generally we may say, that he claims to be the representative of the Socialist Organization of the province of Alberta, and he was advocating the principles of his organization, and I think it is only fair to say that he was doing that for the purpose of obtaining converts, of impressing people with his views and thereby turning people from their present opinions to his opinions, if they did not in the first instance agree with him.
Now the evidence is to the effect that in discussing these questions he dealt very pointedly with the present condition of things, with the state of war which now exists between our country and Austria and Germany, and he made certain statements at these different meetings which are pretty nearly the same. "Witnesses have sworn positively that he said he served in the Boer War and that he personally knew of British atrocities and the burning of Boer homesteads that were quite equal to any atrocities now charged against the Germans. Three witnesses have pledged their oath to that. They were unshaken in cross-examination and they say their minds were particularly impressed by that statement because they were apparently inclined to discredit it. They pledged their oath that their understanding of what was said was this, that the speaker, namely, the defendant, had served in the Boer war and knew these things by personal observation. The defendant

asks you to believe something different. He admits he was not on active service there, further than that he enlisted about the close of the war, and when he arrived with his company in South Africa the war was practically over. He says he didn't say these things at all, so either these people are mistaken or else he is not telling the truth. I think it is a fair observation to say that when a man at a public meeting who is advocating political principles makes a charge like that he should not make it in ambiguous language, he should not leave any doubt upon his audience as to whether he is speaking of personal knowledge or whether he is giving some other man's statement of it, because it is a pretty severe arraignment of Great Britain's methods if these things were true and these witnesses pledge their oath that they believed this defendant to be giving his own personal knowledge of these matters. He says he was not, that he was giving a statement of some one else. They pledge theif oath that he in discussing the present war charged the British soldiers with selling German fingers as souvenirs in Scotland and Paris, and that these were preserved in alcohol. He rebuts part of that statement and confines it, I believe, to an admission that he said such things were being done in Paris or somewhere in France. These people swear that he said, " We have nothing to be proud of that we have been born under the British flag, that we have no King or country. He served his country faithfully during the Boer war and then he travelled five thousand miles home to find he. didn't have a job, he didn't have a country, he didn't have a flag." His statement now here is that he didn't serve through the Boer war but reached there about the time the war was practically concluded. These witnesses swear positively that he made statements to the effect that this war was being carried on in the interests of the capitalists class who were really the inciting cause of the war. They also say he criticised the administration of the Patriotic Fund, saying that the proceeds would go the members of the . British Cabinet and the British Parliament. That these same were interested in an Armament Trust that had control of the armaments in both the Allies and Germany and Austria. He qualifies that now by saying that he was giving the opinion of another writer in that regard. They say further in their evidence that especially at the last meeting at which there were over a hundred present there was a very strong feeling, that the meeting was on the edge of a tumult. That to my mind is very important because that is one of the features which must be kept in mind very prominently in determining whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charge. You are the absolute judges of the fact but I do not think it is an unfair comment for me to make when I say that might reasonably be expected, if at a time when our country is at war when great efforts are being made to enable the country to conduct this war to a successful conclusion, if some of the men holding public meetings, denounce those who are conducting the war, denounce their honesty and integrity and advocate that recruits should not join because those who are conducting the war have a vicious purpose in conducting it, then it seems to me those are things which might well agitate people and create a feeling of hostility and ill faith.
Now, gentlemen of the Jury, this is entirely a question of fact for you, having in mind the
directions which I have given you, and if in your opinion the purpose of these speeches or of any one of them, or any part of any one of them could fairly be considered to have in view the creation of a feeling of hostility for the purpose of bringing into contempt our administration, or any part of it or our army, or any part of it, or of those who are enlisting then it seems to me that the defendant has brought himself within the definition of the charge may be found guilty, if you come to that conclusion. The defendant seems to be a man who has travelled a good deal, you have heard him give his evidence. He seems to me a man who has made some study of the affairs of the world so he cannot have the benefit of this, that he was not able to appreciate and properly conclude what would be the reasonable effect of his words. He is apparently a somewhat clever young man, can speak quite fluently, can advocate his principles quite fluently and apparently is not lacking in intelligence at all and while granting him the right to hold political principles and to advocate them in a peaceful and proper way yet he must recognize the law as it exists. You, under your oath, must administer that law on the facts as you find them without fear or favour and as I have already observed I think it is a matter eminently fitting for six jurymen to adjudicate upon, not only for the purpose of the words spoken but the credibility of the defendant is in issue because in regard to some of the statements he has, as I have already observed, pledged his oath against the oath of the witnesses for the Crown. He is asking you te put a different construction on some of his statements from the construction which these men put upon them who heard them, and I have already told you that when people in public places for political or other purposes advocate things they are properly chargeable if people draw an inference which is a reasonable inference from the words spoken, and the words spoken have been so far as the evidence for the Crown is concerned, pretty well established. A good many of them have been admitted by the defendant. He has qualified them in a number of instances by saying these were not statements of his own knowledge but they were information from other sources. He has not given a very satisfactory explanation to my mind of the sources of the information in some of these regards. If he had them and is unable to have them now he is unfortunate but I am bound to make this observation that when a man in a public meeting attempts to instruct people or attemps to advocate political principles and make certain statements, I think he is under a duty to be able to give a reasonable substantiation of them when they purport to be statements acquired from some other source, especially when he makes wholesale charges which impute dishonest and improper motives to other citizens and when charged with making those statements he then says " well, I got them from some other source, from some newspapers or some journal ". I do not think we are asking too much of him if we expect him within reasonable bounds to produce the source of his information and if he does not make a reasonable explanation in that regard I think it is one of the items which may influence you properly in determining the credibility you will give to his statements in that regard.
Now, gentlemen of the jury, this is entirely and consider your verdict. It will be necessary for you to say under each count, there are

three counts charged and you can take them with you. It will be necessary for you to give a verdict on each of the three counts. In other words, give three verdicts, guilty or not guilty in each case.

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