Since its opening at the beginning of November, until Jan. 19th, the Social Credit mission in Nova Scotia has been carried on with an encouraging degree of success considering the fact that it is new territory.
There were certainly difficulties here and there; even rough treatment from some local cliques; but things went right ahead.
But our three missionaries faced a trial on Jan. 19th, at New Waterford, near Sydney.
On that day, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, Urbain Lajeunesse, Bernard Gaouette and Lucien Lambert, who had just finished canvassing a street, were getting into their automobile to go to another locality when the police arrived and asked for their permit.
— What permit?"
— "Your permit for canvassing in this town." Mr. Lajeunesse explained that there was no question of commercial soliciting but mere benevolent work for a cause. But the police ordered them to the station.
At the police station Mr. Lajeunesse repeated his explanation about our movement, the circulation of our paper, and stressed the fact that the canvassers are propagandists working without commission, begging room and board. Nothing of a commercial concern.
— "But here, at New Waterford you must have a permit. It is a municipal law.
— "Very well. Give us a permit right away and we will go ahead with our work. The permit, is free, isn't it?"
— "No, you have to pay fort it. It may cost anything from $5.00 to $100.00. The town council decides the amount. But you must apply for it. State $50.00 as the amount. It may cost more or less than that; it will be settled after the meeting of the council."
— "No, we will not pay a cent. The money that we receive is for an organ whose purpose is to alleviate the lot of everybody, and it is the poor who are to benefit most from it. All the money goes to the paper and the work. We keep nothing."
Our men asked to see the town clerk. But they got nowhere with him either. The law was quoted to them. It requires that every foreigner who solicits, sells, peddles or hawks any articles in New Waterford be provided beforehand with a licence from the town. This licence costs from $2.00 up to a maximum of $50.00.
— "In that case", said Mr. Lajeunesse, "we will leave your town and work elsewhere. During their sixteen years of propaganda work in all the provinces our men have never paid a cent for a permit in any other place. We are not going to begin here. We will go elsewhere."
— "Oh, no, you can't go away like that. There is a charge against you for an infraction of a municipal law and that has to be settled here. You cannot go."
Mr. Lajeunesse then telephoned to Montreal, to the office of "Social Credit", to present the case and receive directions.
He also phoned Colonel Seguin of the federal police (there are no provincial police in Nova Scotia). Colonel Seguin looked into the matter and said that it was not his concern, that it was a municipal affair.
During this time a young policeman was walking to and from playing with a pair of handcuffs, opening and closing them with the obvious purpose of intimidating the three men. They found it difficult to keep from laughing.
There they were, just the same, in the office of the chief of police, seated on the only three chairs in the place, the policemen being obliged to remain standing. There is sometimes a laugh in the most disagreeable situations.
At the request of Mr. Lajeunesse the mayor came in. He asked to see the newspaper. He was given "Social Credit".
The municipal judge and magistrate Hinchey also asked to see the paper. It ended up in the hands of the mayor, the judge, the clerk, the police and some assistants. A Social Credit reading room!...
The three men were told to appear before the magistrate on the following day at 10 o'clock. But if they wished to go out in the meantime they would have to deposit a $50.00 caution fee.
— We havn't got the money and we don't handle any."
— In that case you will have to sleep at the police station."
— "All right with us. We are accustomed to sleeping anywhere that charity accommodates us. This evening we will be spared the trouble of looking for a place."
The chief suggested that they leave their auto at the station in place of the caution fee and they could leave.
The deal was accepted. This left Mr. Lajeunesse free to go to Sydney to get a lawyer for the next day. The others went directly to the home of one of our subscribers, Mr. C. Porquet.
Mr. Lajeunesse joined them half an hour before midnight, having retained the service of a lawyer, Vincent Morrison. In politics, the latter is C. C. F. . Mr. Lajeunesse made the trip in a car with four union leaders. This is the coal mine country.
Next day, the trial:
— "Guilty or not guilty?"
— "Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty." (Mr. Lajeunesse spoke for Mr. Gaouette since the latter stated that he understood nothing of what they were saying in the courtroom.)
The hearing was postponed till Jan. 23rd.
The police wanted $100. in bail. But the magistrate said: "Verbal bail only. These men have no money but they are honest men and I will hold myself responsible for their word. It is a precedent as far as I am concerned, but I will answer for their presence at the trial."
During the days preceding the trial, local Social Crediters, and even some from afar, got in touch with the mayor requesting a withdrawal of the charges. A delegation even went to see him for this purpose. The mayor replied that he had received phone calls and telegrams requesting a withdrawal of charges. Telegrams came from several places in New Brunswick and even from the province of Quebec, he stated. (Montreal dailies had announced the news of the arrest.) But the mayor said that he could not interfere in a case that was pending, such as this one; it must take its course.
On the 23rd the three appeared in court with their lawyer. But the lawyer for the town was not present; he was ill and his partner had died: Mr. Morrison, lawyer for the accused, wanted to go ahead with the case just the same. He maintained that it was unjust to impose on the men for the third time so unreasonably. However, magistrate Hinchey postponed the case till the 27th of January.
The trial was held on January 27th. The Social Crediter's lawyer put up a well organized defense. He seized the point very neatly and presented it to the court; the accused were not engaged in commercial procedures; you can't require a licence for business operations from people who are not carrying on business. Mr. Vincent Morrison proved himself a brilliant lawyer; the three Social Crediters expressed their appreciation and we wish to offer our homages here, publicly, no matter what his political affiliations.
The magistrate put off his decision till the following day.
In his decision he admitted that our men were carrying on work which is classified as benevolent; he even praised the rare devotedness which it entails. But he sentenced Mr. Lajeunesse and Mr. Lambert, just the same, to a $25.00 fine each, plus expenses of the trial. Grand total: $53.00. They also had to pay their lawyer, obviously. The charges against Mr. Gaouette were withdrawn.
The Social Crediters' lawyer said he would bring the case to a Superior Court.
Such are the facts. They were evidently presented in other ways by rumours and even by the press and by radio, especially so immediately after the arrest. The three Social Crediters were mentioned as professional thieves, taken by the police and thrown into prison.
Mr. Lajeunesse went to radio station CJFX in order to rectify the false reports circulated the first day. The local newspapers also lined up the facts correctly once they received the proper information.
Many people were surprised to see the three men the day after their arrest. Several had already said to new subscribers: "See, you have been cheated; these men are robbers and you will never see neither the newspaper nor your money; hadn't we warned you!... " But the sneerers had to swallow their words, and the new subscribers were proud of the return of the missionaries with their flags, their placards, and their smiles.
A FINE MEETING AT AROOSTOOK
"We nad a remarkable meeting at our Social Credit centre of Aroostook, Feb. 20. The provincial member, Mr. Brooks was there. So were Mr. Sipprelle of Hartland and Mr. Linton of Westfield. They took turns on the speaker's platform with Mr. Aimé Godbout as chairman. The Member having said that representatives are not in a position to make suggestions to the Government unless these first come from their electors, we passed three resolutions: two of them asking that the Federal Government double the family allowance rate and extend the old age pension to $60 at 60; the third resolution asking that the provincial Government take measures to have Social Credit established in the province."
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