5 January 1920
Over the past few years, rumours of widespread election irregularities and voter fraud have gripped our neighbours south of the border despite the lack of any evidence that has stood up to court scrutiny. While Canada has so far avoided similar claims, we shouldn’t be too smug. Charges of voter fraud have occurred here. Indeed, so bad were the irregularities in municipal elections in Eastview, a suburban community neighbouring Ottawa, a hundred years ago, one mayor was unseated by the court, and another given a suspended sentence before his sentence was overturned on appeal.
Eastview, now known as Vanier, was the product of the merger in 1908 of two smaller communities located to the east of the Rideau River called Janesville and Clarkstown. It was promoted to the dignity of a “town” in 1913. Predominantly French-speaking, the town changed its name to Vanier in 1969 to honour Georges Vanier, Canada’s first Francophone governor general. Vanier was amalgamated with Ottawa in 2001.
On 5 January 1920, municipal elections were held across Ontario. The following day, Ottawa newspapers reported that in Eastview, Mr. J. Herbert (Herb) White had emerged victorious in a hard-fought battle for the position of mayor. He had won with a plurality of only 19 votes over the second-place candidate, Camille Gladu. White garnered 428 votes to his rival’s 409. The third-place candidate, Mr. M. Desert, received 125 votes.
Gladu and White were long-time rivals in Eastview politics. Gladu had been the reeve of the village of Eastview and became its mayor in 1913 when the village became a town, a post he held for three consecutive years. White had won the mayor’s seat over Gladu in the 1916 election with a slim 14 vote majority. Both subsequently lost to Dr. Arthur DesRosiers in 1917 and 1918, with Gladu returning to the mayor’s chair in 1919.
Almost immediately after the 1920 municipal election, Gladu alleged that there had been grave voting irregularities. He claimed that when some of his supporters showed up at their polling stations, they found that somebody else had already voted for them. He additionally claimed that in at least one case, a voter had voted multiple times. He also called for a judicial recount given the narrowness of White’s victory.
Two weeks later in front of Justice Gunn, Eastview’s six ballot boxes were brought into court. Gunn was horrified by what he found. So mixed up were the ballots in four of the six boxes, Gunn didn’t even try to do a recount. He said that their contents were “in such a condition that it [would] be a difficult and tedious task to count… and then with no degree of certainty or satisfaction.” He said the responsible deputy returning officers were apparently unaware of their duties despite having done this job for years at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. He also said that Gladu was a “public benefactor” for seeking a recount and exposing this state of affairs. He then adjourned the recount and called upon White and Gladu to agree on whether he should proceed with a recount, or whether a new election should be held.
There was no agreement. Gladu filed a petition for the election to be set aside on grounds of election fraud.
A month later, again in front of Justice Gunn, Gladu’s lawyer laid out the extent of the fraud. Nearly a dozen affidavits were filed. In one case, a dead man, H. Joinette, had voted. In another, John Brady of 282 Nicholas Street admitted to having voted five times for the promise of a couple drinks. (Prohibition was underway at the time.) It seems he borrowed a cabman’s coat to disguise himself when he voted for a second time at one polling station. In addition, Mr. J.R. Snow of Toronto, who was an Eastview voter, was not in Eastview on the day of the election, but his vote had been cast nonetheless. (In 1920, property owners were eligible to vote in municipal elections regardless of where they lived.) The same was true for R. J. Dougall of Hallsville, and Patrick Finnigan and D. Daze, both of Montreal. All had votes cast in their name despite them not being in Eastview for the election.
There were also allegations that the third candidate in the election, Mr. M. Desert, was put up to run by an agent of Mr. White for the sole purpose of splitting the Francophone vote, thereby improving the odds of White winning. At that time, French-speaking voters in Eastview outnumbered English-speaking voters by slightly more than 100 votes. Camille Gladu also affirmed under oath that the voters’ list had been stuffed by Eastview’s assessor, Mr. Arthur Guilbeault, who was a political foe of Gladu. In all, there were at least 101 ineligible names on a voters’ list of roughly 900 names.
Judge Gunn then had the six ballot boxes re-opened. Their contents were described as looking like “a shingle mill the morning after a bad explosion.” It was also revealed that at some polling stations, the returning officers had left their posts for periods of time.
Under oath, Herb White testified that he knew nothing of the fraud, and denied that Guilbeault was his agent though he admitted that he had asked Guilbeault for a list of out-of-town voters, information that was not shared with the other two candidates. He further denied any knowledge of liquor being distributed. He added that he had paid nobody in the election, had held no meetings prior to the election, and had promised nothing. The cross-examining lawyer wondered why he had run at all.
When it was Guilbeault’s turn to be questioned, Judge Gunn cautioned him, saying that if the allegations made against him were true, he potentially faced a fine or jail time. Guilbeault admitted that there were bad feelings between him and Gladu. Guilbeault feared losing his job should Gladu be elected mayor as he had taken over Gladu’s role as the Liberal party’s Eastview organizer in 1917.
Justice Gunn’s verdict was scathing. The judge called the election irregularities “both before and after the polls closed” a deliberate disregard of laws by election officials that justified the overturning of the entire election. “In four polls out of six the neglect [was] so flagrant that confidence [was] entirely destroyed in the election.” The judge voided the mayoral election, unseating Mayor White. The judge strongly advised all councillors to resign as they had potentially benefitted from the voting irregularities. However, Judge Gunn absolved White of blame, saying that there was no evidence suggesting that he had attempted to gain “any illegal advantage or unwarranted gain.” He blamed the returning officers. Mayor White still had to pay the court costs.
While the verdict was appealed, Mayor White and other Eastview council members sat tight. Nobody resigned. Weeks went by. At one council meeting, it was claimed that the “whole issue [was] a created one, born and hatched in the minds of some malcontents masquerading under the guise of defenders of the law.” Business went on as usual.
But, in early May 1920, Justice Ross of the Supreme Court of Ontario heard Mayor White’s appeal. The judge swiftly dismissed the case. White was out, and a new election was called.
Herb White did not run in the re-election, Instead, he threw his support behind Dr. Arthur DesRosiers, an Eastview ex-mayor. DesRosiers also had the support of five of Eastview’s six councillors. It was another hard-fought campaign. At one campaign meeting, Gladu told his supporters that he had asked the sexton of Notre Dame Cemetery to lock it up on election day to stop the dead from voting. Camille Gladu emerged victorious, 466 votes to 457—a margin of only nine votes. Gladu’s supporters were jubilant. Lifted onto their shoulders, Camille Gladu gave an impromptu speech saying that after a five-month legal fight, Eastview citizens stood with him. One of Gladu’s council opponents said he shouldn’t be too impressed with a victory of only nine votes. This almost led to blows before cooler heads prevailed. Afterwards, Gladu was seated in the back of a carriage and pulled through the streets of Eastview by his admirers.
If you thought that this was the end of the saga, you would be wrong. Again, there were allegations of election irregularities. This time they were pointed at Camille Gladu. Less than a week after the re-running of the election, Gladu was in court fighting charges of aiding and abetting election fraud, specifically of aiding a person to impersonate another voter. Justice Cummings found Gladu guilty and sentenced him to ten days in jail. The judge subsequently suspended the sentence owing to Gladu’s poor health. On imposing the sentence, Justice Cummings oddly commented that he didn’t think Gladu was “morally guilty,” since he only committed the offence “in the heat of an election fight” but the law required him to find Gladu guilty.
Despite being found guilty by Judge Cummings, Gladu sat in the mayor’ chair. The temperature in Eastview’s council chamber was downright frosty. Gladu appealed. A month later, back this time in front of Justice Gunn, he was found not guilty of corrupt practices. The judge ruled that after carful scrutiny of the evidence, “no illegality or irregularity affecting the result of the voting was clearly established.” Mayor Gladu retained the mayor’s chair in Eastview.
Camille Gladu was re-elected mayor of Eastview in January 1921. Once again there were allegations of electoral fraud, this time levelled by ex-mayor Herb White. White claimed that a number of people not on the voters’ list had voted in the election, and that Gladu had offered jobs in exchange for votes should he win. Judge T. A. McGillivary dismissed the case on the grounds that the election was carried out in accordance with the principles laid out by law, and that any irregularity or mistake did not affect the outcome of the election.
Camille Gladu died in office the following November after a long illness. He was 49 years old. Both ex-mayors Herb White and Arthur DesRosiers, his political enemies, attended his funeral. The Ottawa Journal called Gladu a “picturesque personality,” who was “rather positive in his likes and dislikes,” a “hard fighter but a loyal friend.”
Ottawa Citizen, 1912. “Eastview Is A Town,” 24 December.
——————, 1913. “Eastview Election,” 7 January.
——————, 1919. “Will Run Again,” 11 December.
——————, 1920. “Carleton Co’y Election Results; Recount Likely In Huntley Twp.,” 6 January.
——————, 1920. “Ballots So Muddled Judge Suggests A New Election,” 20 January.
——————, 1920. “Moves To Set Aside Eastview Election,” 2 February.
——————, 1920. “Allege Dead Men ‘Voted’ As Well As Many Outsiders,” 23 February.
—————–, 1920. “Mayor Of Eastview Unseated But Councillors Continue In Office,” 1 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor Is Likely To Be Unseated Monday,” 2 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Old Guard Stays By Its Past,” 4 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor Is Unseated And Councillors Must Show Cause Why They Shouldn’t Go,” 8 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Council Sitting Tight, Call Special Meeting Wednesday,” 9 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor And Council ‘Stand Pat’” 11 March.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Appeal On Saturday In Weekly Court,” 16 March.
—————–, 1920. “New Evidence In The Eastview Case,” 30 March.
—————–, 1920. “New Elections Not Necessary, States Eastview Defence,” 3 May.
—————–, 1920. “Fraud Charged In Eastview’s New Election,” 28 May.
—————–, 1920. “Eastview Factions In Keen Election,” 28 May.
—————–, 1920. “Gladu Elected Eastview Mayor, Bitter Battle,” 29 May.
—————–, 1920. “Declare Mayor Aided Woman To Vote Illegally,” 1 June.
—————–, 1920. “Still Another Charge Against Eastview Mayor,” 2 June.
—————–, 1920. “New Move To Unseat Mayor Of Eastview,” 8 June.
—————–, 1920. “Writ Issued In Action To Unseat Eastview’s Mayor,” 10 June.
—————–, 1920. “Hearing Action To Unseat The Eastview Mayor,” 22 June.
—————–, 1920. “Mayor C. Gladu To Retain Seat In Eastview,” 10 July.
—————–, 1921. “Mayor of Eastview Died This Morning,” 5 November.
——————-, 1920. “Eastview To Again Vote For Mayor,” 15 May.
——————-, 1920. “Mr. Gladu Is Likely To Run In Eastview,” 7 May.
——————-, 1920. “Gladu Says He’ll Close Cemetery During Eastview Elections Today,” 28 May.
——————-, 1920. “Old Eggs, Hard Words And Writs Flying In Turbulent Eastview,” 31 May.
——————, 1920. “Mayor Gladu Found Guilty By Magistrate,” 5 June.
——————-, 1921. “Notes and Comments,” 7 November.