Documents of Quebec History / Documents de l'histoire du Québec
La loi du cadenas
The Padlock Law
The Padlock Act Again
[This text was written by Eugene Forsey. For the precise citation, see the end of the document.]
PROCEEDINGS under the Padlock Act no longer make the headlines in the great Montreal dailies, and often are not even mentioned. But the tale of raids and seizures goes merrily on, none the less. M. Peron's trousers, seized in the raid on his home a month or so ago, are still in the hands of the provincial police, whether as a "house" within the meaning of the Act, or as Communistic literature, does not appear. Mr. Louis Kon, of the Friends of the Soviet Union, is still mourning a doll confiscated in the first raid on his office; and, doubtless by way of giving him something to take his mind off his great loss, the provincial police on January 10 swooped down on him again and removed everything else they could lay their hands on. On Christmas eve, they dropped in on Mr. Stanley Ryerson (great-grandson of Egerton Ryerson), provincial secretary of the Communist party, and made off with all his books and papers, including his notes on the rebellion of 1837, about which he has recently written an excellent book.
Similar attention has also been bestowed on M. Evariste Dube, provincial president of the Communist party, two officers of the Butchers' Union, officers of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, Georges Caron, unemployed (among the loot here were four numbers of the Nation and two of the New Republic), and M. Perry, C.C.F. organizer for the Montreal district, whose literature, exclusively C.C.F., was returned to him with apologies a few days later. The provincial police have stated publicly that they do not hold anything except what they consider Communist. Everything else, except, it seems, M. Peron's trousers and Mr. Kon's doll, is returned to the owners. One victim had great difficulty in preventing the learned officers from seizing a book called "The Land of the Free," which, they insisted, must be about Russia!
On Wednesday, January 5th, an L.S.R. meeting to hear a speech on Spain by Mr. Hazen Sise, son of the president of the Northern Electric Company, was honoured by the presence of three plain clothes policemen: one from the municipal "Red Squad," one from the provincial police, and a third who described himself as "Raynault's man." Whether this was a flight of fancy, or whether the Mayor has a private force of his own, is not clear. This is by no means the first time that members of the "Red Squad" have attended L.S.R. or C.C.F. meetings. Passengers arriving in Quebec City from Montreal, if poorly dressed or "foreign-looking," have their baggage searched.
To meet these and other attacks on the liberty of the subject, the Montreal Civil Liberties Union has taken action on several fronts. (1) It has circulated a petition to the Mayor, asking him to enforce the law in respect to public meetings, and to protect legal meetings against violence or threats of violence; and to the provincial premier, asking for the repeal of the Padlock Act. This petition already has over 10,000 signatures, of which a very large proportion are from French-Canadians. (2) It has instituted proceedings to recover M. Caron's effects, on the ground that they were illegally seized, even under the terms of the Padlock Act itself. (3) It has arraigned in court, on a charge of inciting to riot, Dr. Lambert, local Fascist leader. Dr. Lambert appeared in his Fascist "uniform," a blue ski shirt with swastika arm-band (which, he says, indicates that he is "white, and speaks a white language.") The judge permitted him to remain in the court room in this costume, but refused to allow one of the lawyers present to take off his coat. The Montreal Witness comments that this is reminiscent of the toleration extended to German Fascism by the German courts before Hitler took power. (4) It has started a damage action against the city of Montreal on behalf of Louis Kon, for damages suffered through the cancellation of the Friends of the Soviet union meeting in November. (5) It has taken action against the Attorney-General to compel him to give his decision on the granting of authorization to Mr. R. A. C. Ballantyne of the Newspaper Guild to sue the Montreal Gazette for dismissal for union activity, in violation of the Workmen's Wages Act and the Fair Wage Act. Mr. Duplessis has already granted one such authorization, in another case, but when the case came to be argued it was found that by an unfortunate error (?) the authorization had been dated "1927" instead of "1937," and the action was thrown out. (6) It has drawn up and will, with other organizations, present to the Dominion Government a petition for the disallowance of the Padlock Act, or, alternatively, its reference to the Supreme Court for a test of its validity. The supporting organizations already number about a dozen, including several trade unions, whose membership is predominantly French-Canadian.
Source: Eugene FORSEY, "The Padlock Act Again", in Canadian Forum, Vol XVII, No 205 (February, 1938): 382.
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College