The Divorce Committee At Bay

BLAIR FRASER July 15 1954

The Divorce Committee At Bay

BLAIR FRASER July 15 1954

The Divorce Committee At Bay



SELDOM has the Senate’s Divorce Committee been shown in such an unflattering light as during this past session. Four divorce bills, recommended by the Senate committee and passed by the Senate, were defeated in the Commons after being challenged by CCF members. One of the four was turned by the CCF1 into an indictment, not only of the petitioner and his witnesses, but of the Senate Divorce Committee itself.

The petitioner was a well-to-do Montrealer. The respondent, his wife, was a cripple who had suffered from polio as a girl and had since had five operations on her spine; she walked with a limp and used a brace. By a separation order from the Quebec Superior Court the husband was paying her $40 a week to support herself and their child. A divorce, in which the wife was represented as the guilty party, would have ended this alimony payment.

By his own evidence the husband had employed professional investigators several times without finding any evidence of misconduct by his wife. Finally he hired a man who, he said, called on him one day to sell insurance. (CCF1 members have an affidavit from the insurance company that no such individual ever worked for that company.)

To this self-appointed investigator the husband paid $750 to “get proof” against his wife. The “defective” recruited a friend to whom the husband paid $250, plus another $100 to the original hireling for “expenses.” Within a fortnight this pair produced “evidence.”

The co-respondent was a man of the same European nationality as the “detective” and, by an odd coincidence, turned out to be the room-

mate of the “detective.” All three men testified that on the very night he met the crippled wife, he took her to a hotel—none of them could remember the name of the hotel. On another evening he took her to a cabin at a motel near Montreal, ; though none of them could remember the name of the motel. There was a third occasion, they said, when he seduced her in his automobile, and the two “detectives” came along and caught t hem in flagrante delicto. This completed the petitioner’s case.

THE WIFE’S EVIDENCE was somewhat different. She had met the co-respondent at the home of a family who were friends of her husband. He had offered to drive her home from that party and she accepted; she got home without incident. On another occasion he also offered to drive her home and invited her to stop at a night club for a drink en route. She accepted; otherwise j the drive was without incident. On ! a third occasion he offered to drive her home and, instead, drove to a ¡ lonely spot north of Montreal and attempted to rape her— meanwhile tooting his motor horn loudly, at which summons the two “detec; tives” appeared and looked in the j car window.

The wife’s family doctor testified that he had examined her on the following day and found her bruised on arms and chest. She told him of the attempted assault; he gave her sedatives to quiet her nerves. Her brother testified that on a previous occasion the husband had threatened to “forge” proof of adultery if she refused to “simulate” it in order to give him a divorce.

On this evidence the Senate Divorce Continued on page 61

Backstage at Ottawa


Committee recommended that the marriage be dissolved, and the Senate duly passed a bill to that effect. With a large batch of others it went to the Miscellaneous Private Bills Committee of the House of Commons, where it was passed without comment. It then went to the House of Commons for enactment into law.

THE ONLY REASON it didn’t pass (he House of Commons was that Erhärt Regier, a CCF member from I British Columbia, happened to notice I hat he didn’t receive the evidence in t his case until after the case itself had gone through the Commons committee.

Regier was annoyed—with the Senate for not sending the evidence on time, and with himself for not noticing (hat he had passed a contested case without reading it. He made a point of reading every word before the bill came up in the House.

As he read, his eyes popped. The evidence of the two comic-opera “detectives” and the curiously co-operative co-respondent struck him as preposterous. He demanded in the House that the bill be sent back to the Commons committee for re-examination; it was.

When the committee met to hear the case the lawyer for the husband turned up to say the divorce petition had been withdrawn. He said the evidence had turned out to be false, the investigators and the co-respondent a trio of phonies. So the divorce bill was dropped. Presumably, the husband is still paying $40 a week for the support of his wife and child.

Later the CCF enquired of Hon. S. S. Garson, Minister of Justice, whose responsibility it was to lay charges of perjury in a case like this. Garson said it was a matter for the attorney-general of Ontario, though he agreed that the attorney-general would be unlikely to read Senate divorce cases. The senators, of course, might draw any such case to his attention if they wished.

So far, no senator has drawn this or any similar perjury case to the attorney-general’s notice. Neither has the Government signified any intention either of amending the divorce procedure, or of improving the Senate Divorce Committee.

AT THE GENEVA CONFERENCE Chester Ronning, now Canadian Minister to Norway but formerly chargé d’affaires at Nanking, gave his fellow members of the Canadian delegation an object lesson in the subtleties of Oriental diplomacy.

Ronning used to know Chou En-lai, Red China’s Foreign Minister, fairly well. On the first day of the conference

Chou En-lai gave him an elaborate bow and smile of recognition; Ronning knew this meant he would be receiving a call from the Chinese delegation.

Sure enough, a Chinese delevaJejbjJv^ turned up ^anoTñer 7i..»n whom Ronning had known well in the old days. Ronning speaks fluent Chinese; the Chinese delegate speaks fluent English. Bystanders were astonished, therefore, when the Chinese delegate addressed his old acquaintance in rather laborious German.

Ronning himself was enlightened but not surprised.

“It was a way of indicating the terms on which we met,” he explained later. “If he had spoken to me in English, that would have been too much a concession on his part. To speak to me in Chinese would be a concession of a different kind—over-familiar, treating me as one of the family. He knew I could speak German, so he used the neutral language to let me know where we stood. ’ ’

Some Canadian delegates feel the dark side of the Geneva Conference, and of this whole disastrous spring in South-East Asia, has been rather overemphasized. Geneva was the most confusing, discouraging, depressing conference since the war, but it was not, they say, the total failure that most Canadians seem to think it.

No settlement was reached, for example, on Korea, but no realist expected one. The realistic objective was to maintain the present truce and contrive some basis for continued negotiation. This was done. The Canadians are satisfied now, as they were not satisfied before Geneva, that President Syngman Rhee of South Korea can’t renew the fighting if he fails to get his own way, and they regard this as no inconsiderable gain.

They don’t take a Pollyanna view of the defeat in Indo-China but they do say they weren’t surprised. Canadian observers have never counted on a French victory, so they don’t regard an armistice along a line of partition as an unanticipated catastrophe.

Instead of looking on the last three months as cause for despair Canadian policy-makers regard the next three months as critical. Without being overly hopeful they think it’s still possible—and increasingly important —to bring the United States and the other Allies together in a common policy for Asia.

British and American policies now have several important points in common. The Americans want a collective security pact for South-East Asia, similar to NATO—so do the British. The Americans want to stop further Communist encroachments on the free countries of Asia—so do the British. But on the means, the timing and to some extent on the purpose of these mutually desired arrangements, the British and the Americans are far apart.

The U. S. idea of a South-East Asia

three , BritAsian pine«, Indo-

"ome — me Viting -shek." .once is the Asian treaty. j Alliance says a -n any partner shall an attack upon all. ¿em to want to go further . o have a treaty which would ind of Holy Alliance, each member not only against aggression but against internal revolt. In effect, this would prop up any Asian regime which calls itself anti-Communist.

Moreover some Americans, in disquietingly high places, seem to want nothing less than the overthrow of t he Communist regime in China. They look upon any negotiated settlement with t he present Chinese Government as undesirable and immoral and, although they don’t actually advocate war on the Chinese mainland, they are not particularly upset by the prospect.

CANADIANS are quite hopeful that these militant missionaries may be quelled by the U. S. election campaign this summer. They’re convinced that neither the U. S. Congress nor the American people would support a policy of armed adventure in China; they think perhaps the Democrats may do enough talking about ‘‘Eisenhower’s war” to make Republicans scuttle for cover.

Meanwhile they think everything possible should be done this summer, while the rainy season brings a lull in the fighting, to bring the nations of Asia into any Asian treaty.

This is by no means a single-ended problem. Nehru’s dislike and suspicion of Washington are just as strong by now as Washington’s of him. Also there are obvious difficulties about setting up a defense organization which shall include, as allies, two such bitter foes as India and Pakistan.

However, some Canadian observers think the Communist victories in IndoChina have brought new fears, and perhaps a new sobriety, into the foreign offices of Asia. They think now is the time to put the whole discussion of a South-East Asia Treaty on a new, broader basis. So they are working on both sides of this deplorably wide gulf to get an arrangement by which, even if the larger powers of Asia are not included for the present, they at least may not feel themselves deliberately excluded.

THE CANADIAN Government, by the way, has not the slightest intention of entering a South-East Asia Treaty Organization—nor, they say, has any other country so much as hinted that Canada should join. This is a regional pact, like NATO. Australia and New Zealand are not members of NATO, nor will Canada be a member of

Liberals were startled but delighted, therefore, when Conservative John Diefenbaker demanded that the Government accept this commitment forthwith. Diefenbaker was speaking as Opposition critic in the debate on foreign affairs; two days later George Hees, national president of the Progressive Conservative Association, repeated the demand in a speech outside parliament. Quebec Liberals intend to quote both speeches as evidence that a Conservative government would involve Canada in regional disputes in all parts of the world, iç