March 24, 1927 (16th Parliament, 1st Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)


The hon. member has
such a wide knowledge of everything that he reminds me of what was once said of Macaulay: "If I knew as much about anything as he pretends to know about everything I should indeed be wise". I hesitate to make the remark I am about to make. Is there a desire on the part of the House to render nugatory all the efforts the minister has made to put on the statute book an
Customs Act Amendment

effective law to prevent a recurrence of the conditions we had disclosed last year? Is that the object? If not, why make a joke of all this, as some hon. gentlemen seem to be doing? The truth is that in all jurisprudence, as my hon. friend from Quebec South so well knows, there are certain conditions which in themselves are regarded as prima facie evidence either of negligence or of guilt. For example, according to law of negligence, if a person traveling on a passenger train is injured, the very .fact that the conveyance is one intended for passengers is prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the company. We use the expression in law, res ipsa loquitur-the thing speaks for itself. So that in criminal cases where we have certain conditions which in themselves constitute an evidence of guilt, and therefore is prima facie proof of it, any person found in certain relationship to those conditions is presumed to be guilty of the offence involved. The onus of proving his innocence rests upon the person so found. In the particular section to which attention is called it will be observed that:
If any person. . . . harbours, keeps, conceals, purchases, sells or exchanges any goods unlawfully imported into Canada-
-he must prove a lawful excuse. That is all. Take our laws relating to liquors. As my hon. friend from Quebec South knows, in Quebec, in Alberta and in Saskatchewan, under certain conditions, the onus of proving innocence rests upon the accused. Once a person is found in certain circumstances the onus is shifted and he must explain his position. This happens every day in respect of many matters I need not mention.
I shall not speak to-night on this question, but I desire to say this much before I conclude. I followed with a good deal of interest and some degree of effort all that was said last year with respect to the enforcement of the customs laws, and I learned then that men were perfectly willing to pay $1,000 at any time if they could get away with $5,000. They were quite prepared to pay $1,000 now and $1,000 again if by so doing they could gain $10,000, and this effort on the part of the minister and the government, by making the penalty so severe as to prevent a recurrence of what has so marked the administration of the customs laws of the country, must commend itself to hon. members. 1 do not say that severe penalties will cure evils of this kind, because they do not. But where you have a condition prevailing, a known condition such as that disclosed last year, and you find men flourishing as they do by gains ill-gotten from smuggling and
from the importation of narcotics, it is time we made the penalties severe enough. Drastic penalties in such cases are found to operate as a powerful preventive. Let me give an illustration; take the case of whipping. Hon. gentlemen will recall that a certain Cl ass of criminal was perfectly content to suffer imprisonment for burglary, for housebreaking, for bank robbery and offences of that nature; but the moment you added the cat-'o-nine tails he became less eager to carry on his operations. The reason is psychological, as those will understand who have studied criminology. I remember reading some time ago an eminent criminologist's opinion in this regard. There is something in the psychology of this form of punishment so repulsive to the mentality of the burglar that he will not readily risk the possible infliction of the penalty, which therefore proves a strong deterrent. Here you have a type of man engaged in smuggling on a large scale; he is a professional, a member of an organized gang or clique which is trying not only to defraud the country of its revenues, but, as the hon. member for Frontenac-Addington has said, to work irreparable physical injury on our citizens. He traffics in narcotics and other drugs. I am not talking about the casual smuggler who brings across a bolt of silk; I am concerned with the class who are known to engage in a business which is a menace to the lives of people, as brought out before the royal commission now7 carrying on its investigations.

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