It is no longer a secret that premier Maurice Duplessis of Quebec hated The Right Honourable Louis St. Laurent, the prime minister of Canada. It is also no secret that St. Laurent carried a hatred just as large for Duplessis. The American administration in Washington DC knew this, and they would use these facts behind the scenes to foster their own agenda with reference to Canada. They would do it smoothly, they would do it diligently, all the while making it appear that it was Ottawa who had smoothed out the edges. If the boys in Ottawa could be manipulated into a situation where they looked good to themselves, the electorate in Canada would hopefully look favourable at them again as election time was looming.
Prime Minister St. Laurent, and his band of loyals known as the federal cabinet must at all costs appear unified. It was paramount, affairs must be carried out accordingly. It was imperative. If the liberal government under St. Laurent was to have a chance of another term in Ottawa, the electors in Quebec must be kept onside, with or without the personal support of Duplessis.
One must consider here, this period of Canadian history and the way that it was put together would stand out as the very catalyst in the drafting of an accord affecting the two largest trading partners on the planet. The United States Of America was not about to sit with their engines in idle. Let's face it. They had the most to lose.
Canada had what the USA needed most, that was resources. This was post Second War, and the half way point of the century. There was an even bigger fish to fry. In 1954, Canada and The United States had embarked upon a joint venture known as The St. Lawrence Seaway. This would open both countries to vast untold fortunes in both importing and exporting. As is hoped with any vast venture such as this project, both partners would hopefully emerge as winners, except it was Canada who gave up the most to achieve the goal. This was another reason that the USA would tread carefully in her quest to control. Canadian authorities must feel that the American administration was bowing to them.
You may be wondering what all of this has to do with the Wilbert Coffin affair. That is a fair question. From this point forward, you are going to be introduced to a new cast of characters with reference to the Wilbert Coffin affair. You will see how the above ties in directly with Regina Vs Coffin. It will appear to be a tangled web of deceit, manipulation, and corruption. Trust me, it is all of those. I also caution you. There will be parts of this that will require an indepth reading and discovery by yourselves, but if you take the time, you will see the true picture emerge. If you are not prepared to do this, then you may be wasting your time. You must remember, this was not put together fifty plus years ago in such a way that generations down the road could easily figure it out. Clearly, it was meant to deceive. Here is my documented report, although a nastier more cynical person than myself might have titled the proceeding "The United States Of America and Regina Vs Coffin" instead of simply Regina Vs Coffin. It is now necessary that we go back into time and work forward.
Having failed to gain a new trial for Wilbert Coffin, his defense lawyers, Francois Gravel, and Arthur Maloney had made the decision to petition the federal cabinet to review the case and render a decision based on that review. The date was September, 1955. Other than a motion to approve a pay raise for themselves, politicians are not known to be expedient. The Coffin affair would be no exception. They did not know a lot about it, and anyway, it was something that had taken place down in eastern Quebec in Duplessis country. True, they wanted to look good to the people, but no matter which way they leaned, there would be a force against them. They would avoid the wrath of Duplessis if at all possible, as otherwise, they would be in a double jeopardy situation, and not a nice position to be in.
This is where it begins to get a bit complicated. Up until now most Canadians familiar with the Wilbert Coffin case had heard of the displeasure expressed by the United States of America for three of its citizens being murdered in Quebec. True, they were upset, and of course had good reason to be. The United States Ambassador to Canada, the Honourable John Foster Dulles had touted the theory to Duplessis and to St. Laurent that the affair would have grave consequences on the tourist business, especially, from the Federation of American Sportsmen. It would have that effect to be certain, however, it went much deeper. It went much deeper with St. Laurent and the cabinet, however, Duplessis would not be made aware of the hidden implications. He was left right where all wanted him to be, thinking that the Americans were putting pressure on him with reference to the tourist trade.
The following is the first thread of the web. It involves legal wranglings between Canada and the United States over the extradition of two individuals, W. H. Link and H. M. Green to face charges in the United States on securities fraud. The problem stemmed from December 1954 when Chief Justice W. B. Scott of the Quebec Superior Court refused to extradite these individuals to face justice in the USA. The United States administration replied by making application to the Supreme Court Of Canada to appeal this decision. The Supreme Court refused the appeal on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction in extradiction matters. The following exerpts from a confidential memo are self explanatory in this matter.
The following is a memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Secretary of State for External Affairs
Ottawa, October 24th, 1955
EXTRADITION, POLITICAL REASONS FOR SUBMITTING LINK AND GREEN
1. Scope of Memorandum
The Minister of Justice is presenting to the Cabinet, at this week's Cabinet meeting, a draft submission to the Governor in Council, recommending that two questions be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for hearing and consideration in regard to the Scott Judgment in the Link and Green extradition case. The Minister of Justice's draft submission to the Governor in Council will explain the legal position. The purpose of this memorandum is to set out the political reasons that make this action necessary.
By making this reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Government will be taking the measures open to it to meet the problem of fraudulent securities offerings across the border. Should the Canadian Government, on the other hand, decide not to make this reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, an awkward situation would be likely to develop. The United States Government would be frustrated in its efforts to solve the fraudulent securities problem and it would be in a position to place the blame on the Canadian Government. Such a situation clearly must be avoided if at all possible.
For these reasons the Department of External Affairs supports the recommendation of the Minister of Justice that the Scott Judgment be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Memorandum by Ambassador in United States
[Washington], November 8th, 1955
SECURITY FRAUDS; EXTRADITION; LINK AND GREENCASE136 CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE MINISTER OF JUSTICEAND THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL, AT TORONTO, NOVEMBER 7, 1955.
It had been arranged through the Embassy that advantage should be taken of the presence of the United States Attorney General in Toronto on November 7th, for a private and informal discussion of this subject with the Minister of Justice, who was to be there for Mr. Brownell's speech to the Canadian Club. It had also been agreed that the United States Ambassador and I should be present. This had first been suggested at the meeting on September [26th], in Ottawa, of the Canada-United States Committee on Economic Affairs, when the Secretary of State had referred to the United States Government's concern.137
The conversation took place in Mr. Brownell's suite at the Royal York Hotel on the afternoon of November 7th. It was agreed by all present that it would be entirely informal and private - a frank exchange of information and views.
The Minister, after referring to the suggestion that a "reference" be made to the Supreme Court of Canada on the points of law arising out of the judgement of Associate Chief Justice Scott of the Quebec Superior Court and describing briefly the law and procedure which govern such references, went on to explain to the Attorney General the position of a current reference to the Supreme Court in Regina v. Coffin.
This (Coffin) reference raised difficult and delicate issues for the Federal Government in regard to the administration of justice in the Province of Quebec, since the Supreme Court would appear to be reviewing the verdict of a Quebec Court after the unanimous refusal of an appeal by the Provincial appellate court. The Government, nevertheless, had felt bound to proceed with this reference (for reasons which Mr. Garson had explained) and the hearing would take place in December.
For the Government, the Minister went on, to make now a second reference to the Supreme Court which would reflect on the Quebec Courts (since it would at least indirectly impugn the finding of Chief Justice Scott in the Link and Green case) would exacerbate an already complicated and delicate situation. In the opinion of the Federal authorities the Scott judgement was bad law and had the effect of frustrating the purposes of the Extradition Treaty of 1952 between Canada and the United States. The Canadian authorities, like those of the United States, were anxious to rectify the position and restore the régime which the Treaty had intended.
In due course, Mr. Garson felt, it should be possible for a reference to be made which would achieve this purpose. The Government would wish to have this done just as soon as possible.
The Minister said that Canadian authorities had read with interest a proposal put forward by the General Counsel for the United States Securities Exchange Commission that the Extradition Treaty should be amended to provide for an appellate procedure. The Canadian Department of Justice would be interested in exploring this possibility (which from the Government's point of view would provide, at least prima facie, a politically easier course than a reference to the Supreme Court), but before doing so wished to know whether the United States Department of Justice had considered fully the implications of such an innovation in extradition procedures. Having regard to the fact that it would seem to be politically impossible to provide an appeal for the state without similar provision for the accused, Mr. Garson was inclined to think that the delays in litigation caused by such appeals might make them unworkable.
The Attorney General said that Mr. Timbers' proposal had not been examined fully by his Department and was not now being put forward as a suggestion to the Canadian Government. He personally was inclined to think that it would be a doubtful expedient; as Mr. Garson had observed, the delays involved would probably be intolerable.
If, Mr. Brownell continued, the situation could be restored to the pre-Link and Green position by a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, this would be preferable from the United States point of view, provided that the lapse of time before a judgement were obtained were not too great. United States authorities were already subject to very considerable pressures and these would build up seriously when Congress got under way in January. What length of time did the Minister foresee before the Canadian Government would be willing to refer the question to the Supreme Court?
Mr. Garson replied that unfortunately it was not possible to be precise on the timing of a reference. If his colleagues agreed to a reference (and he was awaiting the return of the Secretary of State for External Affairs before taking the matter up in Cabinet) the timing would be affected by the course of the Coffin reference and hearing. The Canadian authorities were also anxious to clear up the present unsatisfactory situation with regard to extradition for security frauds, but had obviously to take account of the considerations which he had set forth.
I suggested, in attempting to sum up, that the two Governments had the same objective, namely to establish as promptly as possible the régime contemplated when the Treaty was negotiated. The baleful effect of the Scott judgement should be got rid of as soon as could be. The problem was one of method and timing - not objective. To this all present agreed.
The Canadian position, I continued, had been frankly explained to the Attorney General but he would be unable to make this explanation to those in Washington who were pressing him for action. It seemed to me important, before any statement were made by the United States authorities, that agreement should be reached on the form of such statement. To this, too, there was agreement.
Mr. Brownell expressed his appreciation of the full and candid explanation which Mr. Garson had made and it was agreed that the Minister and the Attorney General would keep in close touch with one another, through me.
It was agreed that, in the circumstances, no purpose would be served by further suggestions from Canadian Counsel for the United States Department of Justice or others, with regard to any references that might be made to the Supreme Court or other procedures in this matter.
On the following day, returning to Washington, I mentioned to Mr. Brownell the importance, if any reference was to be made to the Supreme Court, of avoiding any impression that this procedure was being taken under pressure from United States authorities. He readily understood this and agreed to caution his officials. When the time came that something had to be said, the two Governments would agree on the form of statement.
On November 9th I wrote you a personal letter? reporting upon the conversation in Toronto between your colleague, the Minister of Justice, and the United States Attorney General concerning extradition in relation to security frauds.
Extract from Cabinet Conclusions
On the other hand, unless some action were taken, the government of Canada would likely be blamed for doing nothing to prevent the fraudulent use of the mails by unscrupulous brokers
The Cabinet noted the report of the Minister of Justice and deferred decision on a proposed reference to the Supreme Court with regard to difficulties which had recently been encountered in the administration of the Extradition Treaty between Canada and the United States, pending further consideration at a subsequent meeting when the Secretary of State for External Affairs could be present
On October 14, 1955 Cabinet asked the Supreme Court of Canada to review the conviction in Quebec courts of Wilbert Coffin for the 1953 murder of Richard Lindsay after suggestions were made that Coffin had not received a fair trial. Cabinet asked the court to answer the following question: "If the application made by Wilbert Coffin for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada had been granted on any of the grounds alleged on the said application, what disposition of the appeal would now be made by the court?"