Documents of Quebec History / Documents de l'histoire du Québec
La loi du Cadenas
The Padlock Law
[This editorial was printed in the Canadian Forum. For the precise citation, see the end of the document.]
AFTER section 98 comes section 99. Under this section of the Criminal code the Governor-General-in-Council may prohibit drilling or the practice of "military exercises, movements or evolutions." Mr. Woodsworth has very properly asked the Minister of Justice whether this power will be used to prevent the Quebec fascists from continuing to drill in uniform as they are doing at present. Mr. Lapointe replied that a proclamation bringing the section into effect in all parts of Canada was issued in 1917 and has never been repealed. It would therefore appear that the National Social Christian Party has been breaking the law, for the Montreal Gazette on January 31st carried pictures of its members going through military exercises in one of their drill halls in Montreal. Mr. Lapointe promised an investigation and an enforcement of the law if the facts disclosed warrant it; we wonder whether he has not sufficient evidence already. Eight Communists were sent to jail in 1931 for five years on their first offence, yet the evidence against them went no farther than printed documents, mostly written by others, which talked vaguely about seizing power at some future and uncertain time. They had not reached the point of training their own disciplined army—a point now reached by Adrien Arcand's fascists.
The cynic may remark that whereas the radicals were all for the repeal of section 98, they are all for the enforcement of section 99. The criticism is beside the point—if you believe in democracy. The repeal of section 98 did not make the preaching of violence lawful, since the law against sedition remains. It merely got rid of excessive penalties, an objectionable presumption of guilt, and dangerous police powers. Section 99 interferes only with the right to raise private armies, and that is not a right which any radical has ever claimed. The enforcement of section 99, like the repeal of section 98, will strengthen democracy.
Source: Editorial, "Section 99", in Canadian Forum, Vol. XVII, No 206 (March 1938): 404.
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College