Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (1 August 1866)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 67-70*, 71.
*Pages 67-70 were missing from the Scrapbook Debates and were supplemented by the Ottawa Times edition from August 2, 1866 as it is the source of the Scrapbook Debates.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 1st, 1866.
The Speaker took the chair at 3 o’clock.
After Routine Business.
Mr. Morris introduced a bill entitled “An Act to establish free Libraries in this Province.”
He did not hope at this late period of the session to secure the passage of the bill, but its being brought before the House and the country would be productive of good, as he hoped to see the system introduced. It had prevailed in England for sixteen years, and 25 libraries were established there under it. It had also been adopted with advantage in the United States.
The Breach of Privilege Case.
The Sergeant reported that he had taken Elzear Gerin into custody, in obedience to the Speaker’s warrant, and that he was now at the Bar of the House.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald moved that Elzaear Gerin be now called in, and that the clerk read the complain of the member for Drummond and Arthabaska against him—Carried.
The clerk read Mr. Dorion’s statement.
On motion of Atty-Genl. Macdonald, Mr. Gerin was asked if he had any statement to make, to which he replied in the affirmative. Mr. Gerin then made the following statement in French, which was taken down:
“Feeling myself grossly insulted by an article which appeared in the Defricheur, a paper owned and edited by the member for Drummond and Arthabaska, I desired to meet him to demand explanations on the subject. Yesterday evening I was in the library, making some searches, when I saw the hon. gentleman at some paces from me. I left the place where I had been sitting, and asked if I could say a few words to him. He then came and sat down beside me. I asked him then for what reason he insulted me in his paper in such an offensive manner. I remarked to him that he had attacked my private conduct in a way I had never been guilty of as regarded him. He acknowledged he had attacked me because I dealt unjustly with his private acts. I answered that if I had attacked his public course, or formed a harsh estimate in regard to it, it was only after all a matter of opinion. He referred to a statement lately published in Le Canada as incorrect and injurious to him. I replied that it was taken from a journal published in his own locality. Mr. Dorion then said that he had not seen the transaction referred to.
The conversation continued some time, the hon. gentleman acknolwedgig that he had attacked my private conduct and that he did not regret it. I then became excited and told him that the article in his paper was the act of a spy. He then became agitated, when I observed I did not know who was the author, but that he certainly was a spy. I repeated this assertion several ties when he remarked that if I would hold such language he would withdraw, and he rose and moved away a little. I then told him he was a spy and an outrageous liar, when he struck me in the face with a book he held in his hand. I then struck him several blows, when he struck me several times and tried even to kick me. At this time several persons rushed up and placed themselves between us; I believe some of them were members of Parliament. I then resumed my seat, when the hon. member told me to leave the Library, I replied, I will not; that I had the right to stop and would do so. He then told me he would have me arrested whereupon I stated, I can prove you were the first to strike me. I could not hear his answer, but I have since been told that after hesitating a moment he said it was not the case. This is all I have to say in this matter, but if the House permits me I shall make a statement respecting the way I have been treated since arrested by the order of the House. Yesterday evening when in custody at the bar several persons collected near me—”
Mr. Dunkin objected to entertaining any complaint as to what had taken place after his arrest.
Mr. M.C. Cameron said the complaint might throw light on the case as shewing the animus of the party.
Mr. Holton said it was an insult to the House to lodge a complaint by a prisoner at the bar.
Messrs. Cauchon, Dunkin and Bellerose, wished to ask a question. How have you been treated since taken into custody of this House?
(Interruptions, and cries of order.)
The Speaker ruled that questions could not be put until after the statement was read to the House. He also stated that in his judgment it would be most unfair to the prisoner not to allow him to finish his statement.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald, Mr. Haultain and Hon. Mr. Holton, said the prisoner had declared his statement finished, but asked permission of the House to make a complaint. They opposed his being further heard.
The Speaker said that if a prisoner, immediately after saying he had finished his statement, went on to say more in his own defence, he did not believe there was a court in existence which would refuse to hear him. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Gerin then said,
“While in custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, a member of this House turning towards me, flourished his arm in a threatening manner, and used expressions towards me unknown to polite society. I felt much insulted thereat, and desire that the House be informed of the matter.”
The Clerk then read the statement in French and English.
Mr. Dunkin said the last few sentences quite justified the propriety of the course he had suggested, that the latter part of the statement ought not to have been received by the House.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald said there could be no inconvenience, in allowing the prisoner to make his full statement, but great inconvenience might result from refusing to allow him to do so. With reference to the case, it might have been true that this person who was in the Library of this House by permission, might have been insulted by an article in a newspaper, but for this he had a remedy in the law courts of the land. The point for the House to consider, was that its privileges had been violated, and that a member had been assailed within its precincts. The privileges of the House must be protected, every member must be allowed to move through it at all times and circumstances without molestation or interference by any party whatever, no matter on what pretence. Members must be protected in this House, and no person should be allowed to abuse the favor granted him by Parliament, to interrupt their free action, either in their Library or any other part of this House. The prisoner at the bar deserved the severest condemnation for his improper conduct, and he should move in accordance with a precedent which occurred in 1850, that he be called upon and be severely reprimanded by the Speaker.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion would state in a few words that he did not admit by his silence the truth of the statement which had been read. He wished his remarks to be taken down, and added to his declaration of yesterday, as follows:
“I never struck him first; I had no book in my hand at the time; I never heard him say that I struck him first, and if he made such a statement, I did not hear it nor did I give it any answer: I never acknowledged that I had attacked his private character; and I positively say that I was in the act of leaving him when he struck me.”
Mr. Dufresne (Montcalm) said that it had been reported that he was the member referred to in the latter part of the prisoner’s statement. It was not true, and he wished to have the “saddle put on the right horse,” (cries of “name.”) He did not know the name.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald moved that the prisoner had been guilty of a branch of the privileges of this House. —Carried.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald then moved that the prisoner at the bar be reprimanded by the Speaker for said breach of privilege, and thereafter committed to the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms for twenty-four hours.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald referred to the delicate state of the health of the member for Drummond and Arthabaska, denouncing the outrage on him, and approving of the remarks of the Attorney-General West. He thought the punishment altogether insufficient; it was not severe enough to meet the offence. He desired to submit an amendment and have a vote taken on it, so that the country might see how members acted on this question. He moved that the resolution be amended by providing that the prisoner be committed to the County Gaol of the County of Carleton for the remainder of the session.
Mr. Cauchon opposed the amendment.
Mr. O’Halloran supported it.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald pointed out that there were two questions involved; the questions of the breach of privilege, with which the House was dealing, and the question of assault, for which the hon. member for Drummond and Arthabaska had a legal remedy outside this House, and which he thought he now ought to seek, after the statement put in by the prisoner.
Messrs. Stirton and Scobel supported the amendment.
Mr. Morris suggested that the offender should be excluded from the House during the remainder of the session.
Mr. Dunkin contended that though not trying the case for assault, the motion of the Attorney-General was not sufficiently severe. He suggested that the prisoner ought to be committed during the pleasure of the House. He would then be under the necessity of petitioning for enlargement and apologising for the breach of privilege, what he had not yet done.
Mr. Haultain moved that the resolution be amended, so that the prisoner shall be committed during the pleasure of the House.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald was willing to accept the last amendment.
Mr. M.C. Cameron supported the motion as introduced by the Attorney-General West. He thought it sufficient to satisfy for the breach of privilege. If members desired respect for the privileges of the House they should conduct themselves in all respect as became gentlemen. Especially when members also had control of the press, as he understood was the case with the member for Drummond and Arthabaska, they should be careful not to interfere with private character. He understood that the gentleman at the bar had been assailed in his private character by that member, and it was only in resenting that attack that he had used the offensive words of spy and liar. As he understood it the hon. member had been guilt of a breach of the peace by publishing a libel against the prisoner at the bar; and in resenting that the latter had forgotten in his excitement the place he was in, and had thereby been guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House. He admitted the breach and agreed it should be punished, but it should not be forgotten that it was not with regard to any portion of the hon. member’s duties in this House that the breach had been committed, but on a matter entirely different in which he had given provocation. If the prisoner should assault the member for Cornwall for having called him a ruffian, or the member for Mississquoi, for calling him miscreant in this debate, then he (Mr. C.) should support a motion for a very severe punishment, because in that case he would be assailing the freedom of debate; but the occasion of the breach in this case had no relation to the duties of the member in this House, it might have occurred […]
- (p. 71)
[…] on the street, or anywhere else as well as the Library, and they would not be looking well to the dignity of Parliament by meeting out severe punishment. He knew nothing of the young man at the bar did not even know his politics, but he thought when making his statement before the House he was neither a ruffian nor a miscreant. (Hear, hear.)
The House then divided on Col. Haultain’s amendment to Hon. J.S. Macdonald’s amendment, which was carried. Yeas, 75; Nays 35.
The Attorney-General’s motion as amended (from “24 hours” to “during the pleasure of the House”) was declared carried.
The SPEAKER then reprimanded the prisoner in the following words:
It is a power incidental to the Constitution of this House of this House to preserve the peace and order within its precincts, and to protect its members from insult and assault. This power is necessary, not only to insure the freedom of action of members, but that freedom of discussion which is one of their fundamental rights. Having been found guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House, in having assaulted Jean Baptitse Eric Dorion, Esq., a member thereof, you, Elzear Gerin-Lajoi, pretending cause of cmplaint against a member of this House, sought him out, and came within the precincts of this building, and within a part thereof to which you were entitled, not by right, but by favor only, grossly insulted that hon. member, and concluded by violently assaulting him.
For these grave breaches of privilege you have not even thought it judicious or becoming to offer any apology; you have mistaken your rights and position in reference to hon. members, and in this building. The place in which this insult was offered, and assault committed, greatly aggravates the criminality of your conduct. You have rendered yourself liable to such punishment as this House might award—and this House having ordered that you be reprimanded, you are reprimanded accordingly. The order of the House directs that you be committed to the custody of the Sargeant-at-Arms during the pleasure of this House.
Mr. Gerin then retired in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, and it being six o’clock the House rose.
Mr. McKenzie moved the third reading of the bill to regulate the means of egress from public buildings.
Sol.-Gen. Langevin moved that it be recommitted with the view to consider certain amendments, limiting theoperation of the act in Lower Canada. —Carried.
The amendments were reported, and the bill read a third time.
The following bills were also read a third time:
To amend the Act respecting the granting of Charters of Incorporation to Manufacturing, Mining and other Companies. —Mr. Haultain.
To amend Chapter 128 of the Consolidated Statutes of Upper Canada, intituled, “An Act respecting the Administration of Justice in the unorganized tracts of territory (from Legislative Council.) — Hon. Mr. Atty.-Gen. Macdonald.
To authorize the issue to Messrs. J.D. Whelpley and J.J. Storer of letters patent for a new and improved system of treating metallic ores. —Mr. Shanly.
To authorize the admission of William Lynn Smart, as a Barrister in Upper Canada. —Mr. Powell.
To permit the issuing of a Patent for a certain new and useful invention to Henry John Boswell. —Mr. Walsh.
The Buffalo and Lake Huron Capitalization Company Arrear Act of 1866. —Mr. Wood.
To incorporate the St. Patrick’s Association of Montreal. —Hon. Mr. McGee.
Hon. Mr. Cameron’s bill to amend the act respecting the Superior Courts of Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction passed through committee and was read a third time.
The House then went into Committee on Mr. McKellar’s bill to amend and consolidated the several acts respecting the Municipal Instiuttions of Upper Canada.
Hon. J.H. Cameron in the chair.
The committee rose, and the House adjourned, at midnight.