The public sittings of this Commission ended, for all practical purposes, on the 4th of July last; on at least three occasions before, the Commission had, in opportune time and in clear terms, invited all those who wished to submit a proof and call a witness to the stand, to communicate to this end with it. Eight extra sittings were held by the Commission in September and October, the last one on the 7th of October last; FROM THAT DATE, THE COMMISSIONER WAS DELIBERATING ON THIS AFFAIR.
The date for filing the Commission report was for the 15th of November; this date was however postponed until the 30th of November by an order-in-council that was only adopted on the 11th of November.
On the 6th of November, before the order-in-council of the 11th of November, circulated in Québec City, a new newspaper under the name of « QUÉBEC JOURNAL » and dated the 8th of November. The date this newspaper was published only preceded by nine days the date fixed for the filing of the report.
On the first page of this newspaper appeared in large characters the following headline : « The Coffin affair – THE PP MAP WOULD BE ERRONEOUS ». (CLICK ON THE ABOVE PICTURES TO READ THAT ARTICLE). At pages 13 and 14, and article, mentioning that it was from Jean-Luc Lacroix, pretended to bring to the attention of the Commission, in the guise of commentaries or simply news, the following three questions :
a) The pretended “voluntary impropriety” of a geographic map that would have been submitted to the Commission by Mr. Maurice Hébert as to the location of the rivers York and Saint-Jean in the interior of the Gaspé area where it was located, more particularly, that where the murders were committed and as to the exact location of the lumber jacks’ camp in the surrounding of which the three victims were found by the searchers.
a) News pertaining to payments that might have been received by Donald Coffin, Wilbert’s brother, after the execution of the latter, as to the mining claims that would have belonged to Wilbert at the time of his death.
b) Accusations based solely on pretended information communicated by a grave digger as to the pretended criminal circumstances of the Willy Baker’s death that took place a few months after Coffin’s execution.
c) The publishing of this article constituted, in my opinion, a characterized contempt of court and I consider that the Department of the Attorney General should, after the filing of this report, seriously consider taking recourse against Mr. Lacroix and others responsible for publishing this article likely to harm the Commissioner in his deliberations and to influence his report, and for using a newspaper for an implicit request for reopening the enquiry other than according to the procedure that was fixed, in early February, by the Commission;
Pretending basing himself on the information of this article whose contents he would not have known before it was published, Mtre F. de B. Gravel requested by telegram, the reopening of the enquiry on the first question raised by the article.
I refused the reopening of the enquiry for the following reasons :
On the legality and regularity of the request.
The affair having been taken under private consideration, the Commission does not believe being obliged to grant the reopening of the enquiry upon a request that is not supported by an affidavit stating that the new facts whose proof one would want to make could not have been discovered before the public hearings ended and that these facts are true.
On the first question: it might have and could have been debated when Mr. Maurice Hébert was heard during the regular sittings of the enquiry or when the Commission sat in Percé in early June; there is more; as to the question of the camps location, it appears from the very article that the accusation made by the author of the article is only based on hypotheses from his part or from Mr. Henri Doyon’s part; at the time of the trial in Percé and in the course of this enquiry, the former sergeant Doyon went, himself, to the camps in question with Wilbert Coffin, and a great number of guides, fish and game wardens of the Gaspé area who have uniformly and constantly located these camps near the St-Jean river. How can we, at this time, recognize any value to these hypotheses against a constant proof? Even in assuming to be true the alleged facts in this first question, these facts would not modify at all this Commission report as to the means of communications between the area where those crimes were committed and the exterior of the Gaspé peninsula other than those going through Murdochville, that is through Gaspé as the Commission has explained at length in his study on the jeeps affair; even one modification to the report on this particular point would not affect the report on the general question of the jeeps. On the other two questions raised by the article in question; Donald Coffin was examined before this Commission on two occasions; it would have, then, been easy for him to bring to the attention of the Commission the facts that are alleged in the article in question; moreover, these facts, being posterior to the execution of Coffin would not have in any way affected his guiltiness or non guiltiness nor having been in relation with the conduct of those who participated in the police investigation or the judiciary inquests.
As to Baker, it had at least on two occasions, been the object of a decision of the Commissioner stating that it was not coming within the mandate of the Commission. Raising this question again, without taking into account this decision, aggravates, in my opinion, the contempt of court.
To accept the reopening of the enquiry would have rendered possible, for all legal and practical ends, the indefinite continuation of the enquiry.
Those are the sort of interventions that accentuate, in my opinion, the despicable character of certain abuses committed by certain newspapermen in the exercise of the freedom of information and that render indispensable a more severe regulation in the exercise of the freedom of information. (To be followed)