May 12, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)



In the course of debate during the sitting of May 10, the hon. member for Brome (Mr. McMaster) read a letter which he said was purely imaginary. The letter in question was addressed to Hon. F. B. McCurdy, Minister of Public Works, and signed by C. C. Ballantyne. A point or order was raised by the hon. member for Selkirk (Mr. Hay) as to whether it was competent to attach a member's name to an imaginary letter.
The situation was somewhat baffling and difficult to deal with at the moment, inasmuch as the question was without precedent so far as I have been able to ascertain, and, in view of the specific statement of the hon. member for Brome that the letter was purely imaginary, I did not at the time rule the proceeding out of order. Upon careful and mature reflection I am of opinion that if this incident is to stand, and a precedent thils established, a door would be opened for a grave abuse of the rules of the House and the general principles-which govern debate.
There are several objections to this method of procedure. It is contrary to the rules to refer to an. hon. member by name -and, in this connection, I desire to direct the attention of the House to the fact that there has been of late an increasing tendency to violate this most important rule.
Furthermore, the matter contained in a letter of this character, although said to be purely imaginary, cannot fail to convey a meaning and be capable of an interpretation which the hon. member affected cannot effectively deny, being precluded by the very nature of the letter; thus in effect an hon. member would be enabled by this indirect method to convey a meaning or impression which he would be precluded from doing by direct assertion.
There is still another very grave objection to this method, an objection which, to my mind, is sufficient in itself, namely, that the use of this method in argument will call for similar letters in reprisal, and

thus the door would be' opened to a method of debate which it would require no effort of the imagination to realize would affect most injuriously decorum in debate and the dignity of the House.
It is therefore in my judgment of great importance that the incident in question should not be construed as a precedent, and in order the more effectively to carry out this intention, I have issued instructions that the letter in question be not printed in the revised edition of Hansard. In justice to the hon. member for Brome, I desire to make it clear that he was most explicit in his statement that the letter was not only purely imaginary, but that it was not to be construed as having any personal reference to any member of the House. In this connection I quote the hon. member's words:
They are absolutely imaginary; there is no intention in my mind to assert for a moment that it is possible for the man, who i-s supposed to have written this imaginary letter to have really written it-I want that distinctly understood.
Indeed, I am happy to add that I have no doubt the hon. member for Brome had no ulterior motive in using the letter in question. This, however, in my judgment, only serves to strengthen the objection as to the danger inherent in such a course to which I have given expression.

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