I continue the reproduction of Chapter 2 titled THE CRITIQUES, that is to say, the authors Belliveau and Hébert, and the investigator Doyon. We shall see from what sources Jacques Hébert has drawn his inspiration to write his books.
IN THE MEANTIME, FOR A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW, I SUGGEST THAT YOU HAVE A LOOK AT MR. LEW STODDARD’S BLOG:
REPORT OF THE BROSSARD COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY IN THE COFFIN AFFAIR (27TH NOVEMBER 1964) VOL. 3 CHAPTER 2 (Part II)
THE CRITIQUES (CONTINUED)
THEIR SOURCES OF INFORMATION
I will not go over all the errors, inaccuracies, half-truths and falsenesses contained in Mr. Hébert’s books; they are numerous and serious; all of this report is full of them.
However, I wish to recall certain facts alleged by Mr. Hébert and that we know that they are true; I summarize them as follows :
a) Captains Matte’s and Sirois’ negligence for not questioning Messrs. Burkett and Ford about a meeting they might have had with the two Tapp brothers on the morning of the 27th of May 1953 at the Baker Hotel and the omission to provide for a meeting, at the time of the trial, between these four same persons, for the same purposes;
b) The Crown omission to bring to the attention of the defence, for it to do what it deemed fit and subject to a counter-proof from the Crown, information pertaining to the Dumaresqs and Dufresne, the Tapp brothers and Dr. Attendu seeing a jeep.
c) The Crown omission to bring to the attention of the defence the presence at Percé of Vincent Patterson and the information and statements made to the police as it appears in Mr. Doyon’s report.
d) The reasons for which the police were not able to discover, before this present enquiry, the exact circumstances of the removal of Jack Eagle’s rifle at Coffin’s camp on the night of the 27th to 28th of August 1953.
e) Jack Eagle’s rifle removal by Mtre Maher.
Had Mr. Hébert limited himself to these last facts and had he abstained to drown them, so to speak, in a pond of falsenesses, inaccuracies, half-truths and insults, the present enquiry may not have been necessary or, at all events, it could have been shortened greatly; consequently, to better appreciate the circumstances in which he has been able, in his last book, to communicate to the public so many falsenesses and utter so many insults, it appears to me essential to let you know a) the serious sources of information from which Mr. Hébert abstained from drawing and b) those from which he appears to have drawn to write his book.
THE « USELESS » SOURCES
Here are the admissions, for the least surprising, that Mr. Hébert has made to us on the very first days of the enquiry :
He has neither attended the Coroner’s inquest nor the preliminary enquiry, nor Coffin’s trial; he did not attend Hamel’s trial.
Before writing his two books and even before the beginning of this enquiry, he never had read the joint file that the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were called upon to study before rendering their decisions, nor none of the eighty (80) testimonies heard at the trial except a) Mr. Bernard Péclet’s testimony that the latter had given him a short while before he published his second book, b) some rare and succinct testimonies used and quoted in the factum prepared by the defence attorneys for presenting the case before the Supreme Court and c) some brief excerpts from the joint file to which may have referred the Supreme Court justices as reported in the Canada Law Reports, including brief references to Doyon’s and Sinnett’s testimonies.
Mr. Hébert declares with ingeniousness and humbleness that “if he has not read the testimonies, it is because he did not feel the need to do so, that the testimonies were not of particular interest to him”. If he has not read the testimonies of Coffin’s trial before writing his book, it is because he was more interested in new facts that occurred after the trial, and also because certain witnesses, of whom the ex-police officer Sinnett, had told him to what extent inspector Matte was guiding them in their testimonies before the court; he was not therefore confident that those depositions (those of the trial) might have been very useful to him; he preferred re-examining the witnesses and obtain new testimonies. He has never spoken with Wilbert Coffin; the only Coffin’s statements that he knows are those reported to him by Donald Coffin as to the treatments suffered by his brother; we know how accurately Mr. Hébert reported them.
He has never inquired about the Coffin affair from either the honourable Maurice Duplessis, or the honourable Antoine Rivard, or the honourable Noël Dorion, or the honourable Paul Miquelon, or Mr. Judge Blanchard, or Mtre Charles-Édouard Cantin, or Captain Alphonse Matte, or any police officer other than Doyon and Sinnett.
Let us underline, with no more comments, the emptiness, I meant to say this depth in the « documentation » with which Mr. Hébert armed himself to undertake an « objective » study of the Coffin affair.
THE SOURCES OF INFORMATION
But what were those sources from which Mr. Hébert has drawn to communicate the information on which he claims having based a proof of innocence of Coffin and the crimes against justice committed by a certain number of persons (apparently despicable). Let us see what he himself said to us about this subject:
He has read Mr. Belliveau’s book at the time where his first book (“Coffin was Innocent”) was already written; Mr. Belliveau’s book has nevertheless been useful to him to complete, in his second book “I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin”; some information from his first book; Mr. Belliveau’s book, however, did not constitute the basis of his first book “Coffin was Innocent”, says Mr. Hébert; nor did he draw his inspiration from it for his second book, even although he had had “very long” conversations with Mr. Belliveau; the first book “Coffin was Innocent” has been used substantially as the basis for his second book “I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin”.
a) He has read, as above mentioned, certain excerpts of sergeant Doyon’s and officer Sinnett’s testimonies that might have been quoted in the notes of certain justices of the Supreme Court, as reported in the Canada Law Reports.
b) He has read, before his first book, almost all articles found in the files of the Toronto Star about the Coffin’s trial, « articles as to which there is no denial from those who were mentioned », he emphasizes.
c) He has read news coming from Altoona through the Associated Press « which is not considered, in the journalistic milieu, as tarnishing with false information the American house representatives... It gives a greater security than as if it had come from a newspaperman of only one newspaper ».
He has read, before his first book, excerpts from Pennsylvania newspapers and excerpts from certain English language newspapers of Canada, namely the Toronto Star and the Toronto Telegram.
d) Truly, he only had, for his second book, the help of one investigator, the former sergeant Doyon; sergeant Doyon only made to him purely verbal reports about the investigations he had carried, with the exception of one affidavit from John Hackett, and maybe the statement from Donald Coffin as to the removal of the rifle.
e) He only interviewed, with the exception of sergeant Doyon and officer Sinnett, only two witnesses, Gérald Quirion and Donald Coffin; but that does not refrain him from speaking, on a few occasions, of statements that a certain number of people would have made to him.
f) Except John Hackett’s affidavit, he, himself, has never had other affidavits; he might have, however, been informed by Mtre Gravel as to the contents of certain affidavits published in the newspapers, affidavits of which Mtre Gravel had himself « obviously known ».
g) He might have obtained some information from John MacLean (probably about the Arnold jeep.)
h) For his second book, he has had conversations with Mr. Belliveau, whose book had helped him for some particular points.
i) At his request, sergeant Doyon would have met several witnesses in the Gaspé Peninsula, in New Brunswick, in Pennsylvania and even in Florida; but all of Doyon’s reports were made to him verbally and he cannot file any report in writing.
j) Besides sergeant Doyon and a few newspapermen whom he has mentioned, he got help for his first book from Mtre Gravel with whom he had a few rather long conversations and to whom he has read quickly the most part of the galley proof of his first book, but with whom he has had no meeting for his second book.
k) It is on the word of Mr. Doyon and Mr. Sinnett that he has made his statements in his book as to the preparation of witnesses by captain Matte.
Here are the imposing sources from which Mr. Hébert drew and on which he built the cracked building that we know of.
When all is said and done, his sources of information boil down to : a few rare excerpts taken from the notes of the Supreme Court justices, because, we know that Mr. Hébert has not read the notes of the Court of Appeal justices; above all excerpts from news and reports from the Toronto Star, the Toronto Telegram and Altoona newspapers, including those that constituted the basis of Mr. Belliveau’s book; a few passages from the factum of the defence attorneys in the Supreme Court; interviews with Donald Coffin, Gérald Quirion and officer Sinnett; purely verbal reports from former sergeant Doyon, recently fired from the Québec Provincial Police and manifestly angry at his former superiors; some information communicated to him by Mtre Gravel and a certain approval by the latter of the galley proof of his first book; an affidavit, that of John Hackett; a few conversations with Mr. John Edward Belliveau, whose importance was pretty well softened with the testimony of the latter. So is the formidable liability of unused sources and the thin asset composed in greater part of hearsay and, at times, as far back as the third degree.
Just as well, we have not been surprised to find in Mr. Hébert’s testimony certain retractations and contradictions that he was forced to make.
a) Those concerning his statement regarding the fact that Doyon would not have been examined, at the trial, about the jeep tracks, and that they would not have examined him on this subject.
b) Those concerning the disappearance of exhibits and the disappearance of bottles found on the crime scene, Mr. Hébert having been obliged to admit that those exhibits never were destroyed.
c) Those concerning statements Mr. Hébert puts into Coffin’s mouth and that, in fact, he would only have heard from the mouth of only one witness, Donald Coffin;
d) Those concerning his first statement that he had interviewed, himself, a « great number of persons » while, in fact, all those persons who might have been interviewed, except two, were so by Doyon and not by him;
e) Those concerning his statement that Doyon had submitted to him written reports while, in fact, he has not done any in writing.
If we add to these retractations the numerous denials, by a good number of persons to whom Mr. Hébert has, in his book, put words in their mouth and that those words had not been truly said by them, denials that we have noted in the preceding chapters; if we add those instances even more numerous where the alleged facts by Mr. Hébert have been denied, in whole or in part, by the numerous witnesses whom we have heard, what value may we attribute to the spirit of objectivity, accuracy and truth that would have entitled Mr. Hébert to make the two following statements: “we cannot refrain from believing in Coffin’s innocence unless we question my good faith, which is always possible” and “I cannot live in a country where justice is given such a rough handling, I don’t sleep well at night”.
Is it not the same spirit that brought Mr. Hébert, in the course of our enquiry, to state as being true that, at Jean-Guy Hamel’s trial in Percé, a witness had received $150.00 to testify against Jean-Guy Hamel, while it was immediately established before us, from testimonies heard at the last minute by the Commission legal counsel that the witness in question had only received the sum of $50.00 to cover his travelling and lodging expenses, sum that, in fact, was less than that the witness was entitled to.
Is it not the same spirit of accuracy that animated Mr. Hébert in the course of this enquiry and that induced him to accuse the Provincial Police of attempting to threaten certain witnesses summoned to appear before us, while these same witnesses affirmed to us that they had not been the object of any pressure or threat?
As a consequence, we have been more than surprised by the demonstration of disconcerting humbleness that Mr. Hébert has offered to our ears in the course of his testimony and we recall a few of them.
After having declared to us that since the beginning of the sittings of the Commission, he had read three of the five books of Coffin’s trial, he stated: “I have not learned anything that I did not already know”.
Forced to admit that before writing his books, he had not read this passage of sergeant Doyon’s testimony, in which sergeant Doyon states never having seen jeep tracks in the surroundings of the abandoned pick-up truck, Mr. Hébert explained that « if he had known this testimony, he would have changed one word, but it would not have changed the spirit of that paragraph in his book!
Asked to compare the diverse statements made by MacGregor about the muzzle of a gun, the witness states “I have more confidence in the affidavit that MacGregor submitted than to the testimony he has already given”.
After having heard the legal counsel to the Commission read to him certain passages of the notes of the Supreme Court majority justices, in which the justices state, as to the language of the Crown attorneys, that it was not inflammatory, Mr. Hebert tells us : even if he had read the notes of the four justices of the Appeal Court, he does not believe « that he would have been influenced when he wrote his book about this subject, not more, so he pretends, than he has been influenced by what the honourable justice Rinfret of the Appeal Court stated; it is mainly the decision of the two dissident justices of the Supreme Court who would have granted a new trial that influenced him, but he has to admit, at the end, that the two dissident justices of the Supreme Court did not give their opinion on the inflammatory language. (TO BE FOLLOWED)