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Brownlee and the Seduction Scandal

Premier John BrownleeAll the hard work that Premier Brownlee did to obtain control of the province's natural resources would be forgotten in 1933 as the Premier would become the subject of a huge scandal involving himself and Vivian MacMillan. MacMillian was a clerk in the attorney general's office and a long time friend of the Brownlee's. 

The seeds of the scandal were planted on July 5, 1933 when Brownlee had given MacMillan a ride in his car. During the car trip, Brownlee noticed that their car was being followed. Brownlee would later discover that the men in that car were John Caldwell, MacMillan's fiancée and Neil MacLean, MacMillan's future lawyer. 

In August 1933, MacLean sent Brownlee a letter notifying him that he was being sued for seduction by the MacMillans under the Alberta Seduction Act, section 5, RSA 1922. Ms. MacMillan was seeking $10,000 in damages while her father was seeking $5000. The Statement of Claim outlined all of the charges against Brownlee. Brownlee denied all of the charges and filed a countersuit that alleged that MacMillian and Caldwell had invented this story for monetary gain. Incidentally, some evidence did surface that the two men, Caldwell and MacLean, would personally gain from ruining the Premier's reputation. Was Brownlee guilty of seducing MacMillan or were the charges fabricated for personal gain and revenge?

On July 1, 1934, the jury found Brownlee guilty of seduction and awarded Ms. MacMillan $10,000 and Mr. MacMillan $5,000. In a surprise move, Justice Ives overturned the decision of the jury and decided that the MacMillans had to pay Brownlee's legal bills. Regardless, Brownlee's career as Premier was over as he resigned on July 10, 1934. An appeal was sought and the Court of Appeal concurred with Justice Ives. On March 1, 1937, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of Justice Ives and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court awarded MacMillan $10,000 and costs. In 1940, Brownlee appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and lost. 

The question of whether Brownlee was actually guilty of seduction or the victim of a successful scheme to ruin his political career is still widely debated today.

 

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Information written and provided by Maria Elizabeth Vicente, MA

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