The Chargé in Canada (Boal) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 110

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 1020 of July 11, 1933, concerning the case of George Giller, alias John O’Brien, now imprisoned in the Kingston Penitentiary, and to report that I yesterday discussed this case with the Honorable Hugh Guthrie, Minister of Justice, with the object of obtaining recognition of the right of the consul to interview persons without obtaining special authorization from the authorities at Ottawa for each visit.

Mr. Guthrie had obviously discussed this matter at some length before my call with General Ormond, Superintendent of Penitentiaries, and he told me that he would later ask General Ormond to call upon me to explain the O’Brien case. I found that Mr. Guthrie was not disposed to recognize that there existed any right for an American convict serving a sentence in a Canadian penitentiary to see his consular representative, although he said that he considered that such interviews might be permitted as a courtesy to the consul. Mr. Guthrie’s view is that although convicts are foreign nationals they are forced to comply with the laws and regulations governing the administration of the penitentiaries in which they are incarcerated and where they are being punished. He saw no objection to correspondence from the convict to the consul being forwarded, provided it were handed to the prison authorities open.

After some conversation with Mr. Guthrie, he conceded that he might be prepared to formulate a regulation permitting the visits of American consuls to American convicts upon application to the warden. He said that he would endeavor to restrict this to Americans since he would not care to allow so broad a privilege to the Italian and Polish consular representatives, since it would probably involve a large number of visits. I inferred that in the long run he felt that these would be detrimental to prison discipline.

Mr. Guthrie, however, said that in order to model his regulation, in so far as practicable, on our own practice, he would like to have before him the provisions of the United States laws and regulations on the subject, and asked if I would request that these be furnished.

I have made some examination of the books available here but have not found any references which appear to be directly applicable to this case. Most of the examples cited in Article 719, Volume V, of Moore’s International Law Digest, under the heading “Interposition with Local [Page 84] Authorities” are obviously concerned with cases in which the prisoners involved have not yet been tried.

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Respectfully yours,

Pierre de L. Boal