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P.C. 411, pursuant to which the Royal Commission was appointed, provided
that the commissioners “may adopt such procedure and method as they
may deem expedient for the conduct of such inquiry and may alter or
change the same from time to time”. A later author summarized the procedure
that the commissioners in fact did adopt as follows:11
1. The persons who were arrested by the Order of the Minister of
Justice, were held incommunicado in the custody of the R.C.M.P.
2. The Commissioners conducted their proceedings in camera.
3. All persons concerned in the inquiry, including witnesses, were
required to take an oath of secrecy as to their evidence.
4. Persons interrogated were not cautioned that they need not answer
questions put to them, but that if they did, their answers might be
used in evidence.
5. Persons interrogated were not advised, that with respect to any question
which they objected to answer on the ground that the answer
might tend to incriminate them, they were entitled to claim the protection
given to them by Section 5 of the Canada Evidence Act.12
6. All evidence available, direct, hearsay and secondary was admitted.
7. In some instances, the Commissioners considered it expedient not to
accede immediately to a request by a witness for representation.
The extraordinary powers wielded in connection with the investigation
prompted much unease and concern even at the time, including in the
House of Commons.
For example, John Bracken (Progressive Conservative), Leader of the
Official Opposition, urged the government to address
the extraordinary procedure followed by the government in holding certain
Canadians incommunicado in connection with this matter … .
Everyone in Canada will want to support the government in trying to
stamp out espionage in this country, but some of us find it difficult to
explain, let alone justify, the extraordinary character of the procedure
M.J. Coldwell, a Member of Parliament and leader of the Co-operative
Commonwealth Federation (“CCF”), noted that “through the ages our forefathers
have fought vigorously to prevent secret trials and actions affecting
the liberty of the subject without fair and proper trial”, and that during
World War II “many hon. members were disturbed by the manner in which
defence of Canada regulations and the War Measures Act were used not
only against those who endeavoured to assist the enemy but against members
of religious sects and, indeed, Canadians of Japanese origin”. Though
adamant that “quislings and traitors must be punished”, Coldwell was also