Lieutenant Colonel A. P. Allen
254th (Quinte’s Own) Battalion
WHEREAS Arthur Percival Allen, of the city of Belleville, in the province of Ontario, coal merchant, has by his petition alleged, in effect, that on the eleventh day of September, A.D. 1906, at the said city, he was lawfully married to Mabel Aleen Vermilyea; that she was then of the said city, a spinster; that his legal domicile was then and is now in Canada; that since the said marriage she has on divers occasions committed adultery; that he has not connived at nor condoned the said adultery; that there has been no collusion, directly or indirectly, between him and her in the proceedings for divorce; and whereas by his petition he has prayed for the passing of an Act dissolving his said marriage, authorizing him to marry again, and affording him such other relief as is deemed meet; and whereas the said allegations have been proved and it is expedient that the prayer of his petition be granted.
(Senate Journals, 7 June 1922, 265)
Arthur Percival Allen was born in Stella, Ontario, on 6 March 1880. He was a Belleville coal merchant with twenty years’ experience with the 18th Regiment. He had limited success in recruiting for the 254th Battalion from Hastings and Prince Edward Counties and sailed to England with only 250 men in June 1917. Allen was quickly deemed surplus to requirements and returned to Canada.
In March 1922, he petitioned the Canadian Senate to dissolve his marriage with Mable Aleen Allen (née Vermilyea), as was the fashion at the time. Allen alleged affairs on the part of his wife; adultery being practically the only grounds for divorce in Canada. Since Ontario had not yet acquired the jurisdiction to dissolve marriages, Allen resorted to the onerous and public option of appealing to the Senate.
On 7 June 1922, the Senate dissolved the marriage and allowed Allen to “marry any woman he might lawfully marry.” On 12 January 1927, he married divorcée Ethel Vivian Lingham in Belleville. In the 1922 Senate session, Allen was one of 104 divorce petitions; 63 from husbands and 41 from wives. Only two were rejected. The number of divorce petitions had dramatically increased from less than thirty before and during the war to over a hundred for each year since 1919, causing many to attribute the rise to returned soldiers.
The Allen divorce came at a time when the Senate began to reconsider its role in deciding the marriages of private citizens. Some senators objected to publicizing the divorce applications due to the undue public attention and scrutiny brought on the various parties. Meanwhile Quebec senators considered the entire process a “social calamity.” Shortly after the Allen case, on 17 June 1922, Charles-Philippe Beaubien argued, “These divorces are a menace to the foundations of society, and we should use every fair means we can to prevent divorces being granted as they are being granted to-day, by the dozens and the hundred.”
In 1930, the Senate voted to transfer the jurisdiction for divorce in Ontario to the province.
Digitized Service File (LAC):