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Speech before the Senate, July 11, 1895
Hon. Sir MACKENZIE BOWELL: My hon. Friend, speaking of my declaration in the speech that I made in the debate upon the address, said it was frank and explicit, but that I had changed my views because I had been " suppressed " by some other power. It may be that he meant something other than the interpretation which I placed upon it. My hon. Friend should be more frank. He knows that in all matters affecting the state, and all matters which are of grave importance, there is always, among 13 or 14 gentlemen, a divergence of opinion, and he knows from his long connection with parliamentary usages and practice, and from the great experience that he has had, not only as a minister of the Crown but as a governor of one of the great provinces of this country, that when difficulties and divergencies of opinion arise in a cabinet, there must be some concession on either one side or the other. He should have been more explicit and stated that when differences of opinion arose on this question, the policy adopted by the government was at my suggestion in order to bring together the whole of the elements of the cabinet so that we could come down as one man and state our policy, that when we thought the time had arrived to grant to the minority of the province of Manitoba those rights of which I have always stated, in this House and elsewhere, to my own individual friends
and publicly, they had been deprived by the Manitoba legislature. I said also here frankly -- and there is no misunderstanding of my position -- that per se I am not in favour of separate schools. I stated distinctly that I believe that Manitoba came into this Dominion with the distinct and positive promise, implied, and, as is was believed, incorporated in the constitution of the province, that they should have the right of separate school retained to them for ever in the same manner that they are enjoyed by the provinces of Ontario and Quebec; and as such, no matter what my individual opinion may be, as a public man I can consider myself bound - and I will take my party with me as far as I can - to carry out to the fullest possible extent the promises that were made to the minority at confederation, and of which, I repeat, I believe the Manitoba legislature has despoiled them. It is true, as my honourable friend says, that it was through the promises made to the church authorities in the province of Manitoba by the liberal party that they succeeded in turning the Conservative party out of power, and that the moment they obtained office through the acceptance of their promises by those whom we are now trying to protect in their rights, they violated their pledge and the minority in Manitoba have been suffering from it ever since. It is not the fault of the Conservative party, at least, that they find themselves in the position they occupy today. I sympathise, as far as any man can, with the minority on account of the delays which have taken place, but have those delays been the fault of the government? It may be said yes, because you might have and could have disallowed the Act when it was passed. The Privy Council of England have decided, contrary to the opinions of the Supreme Court in Canada, that the legislature of that province had the right to pass that Act, and had we disallowed it, we should have been pursuing a course which my hon. Friends from Lower Canada have objected to, over and over again. If there are any people in this Dominion who are sensitive as to the interference with provincial autonomy, or provincial rights, it is the population of Quebec. Those representatives of Quebec who helped to frame the constitution, took particular pains to protect the minority in each of the provinces, and who are extremely jealous whenever local rights are interfered with. My reason, as I have stated already, for asking for this delay, was to place ourselves in a position to prevent the charge being made in the future that we had acted precipitately, and that we had thrust upon the province a system of schools without giving them the opportunity of at least saying whether they would come down one step from the position they had taken in order to relieve the Dominion Parliament from inflicting upon them Dominion legislation which might prove of very great danger to provincial autonomy, and at the same time to the peace of this country. Now was I justified in that? If my hon. Friend is to take newspaper statements as being correct or expression the opinions of the ministers of the Crown, I might quote from the papers of the province of Quebec, unfavourable opinions of himself. I do not know another man who resisted them more vigorously or more determinedly than himself. He has taken his traducers into court, and I am very glad that the courts in the province of Quebec have shown that they will crush, as far as they can, vile attacks made upon public men. I am not responsible for what has appeared in the Citizen of this city, neither am I responsible for what has appeared in the Hamilton Spectator. If he has been a constant reader of the Hamilton Spectator, he must know that although it is a strong Conservative paper, it is one of those journals that has always taken a decided position against interference with Manitoba, particularly upon this question. It is a paper perfectly independent of the government and of any but those who support it. Taking that view of it, I find a letter was written by one of the leaders of the Liberal party -- whether with the consent of my hon. Friend opposite me and consent of his leader in the House I am not prepared to say -- written by the hon. Member for L'Islet and published in a Quebec newspaper on this very question. We know if there is one man more than another in the province of Quebec who has expressed more frequent and extreme views upon this question than another, it is Mr. Tarte, the first lieutenant of Mr. Laurier in the Lower House. In dealing with this question he uses this language:
There is not in the whole Canadian following a man of any standing who is not aware that it is impossible under the present state of things to
force Manitoba to submit to an educational law adopted by the federal power. Such a law can be enacted. It will not be enforced. It cannot be enforced if Manitoba resists, and unfortunately there can be no doubt as to that resistance.
And then the gentleman, in order to cover, I suppose, this bold declaration, tries to throw the responsibility upon the Tory party. He says:
It was so to speak prepared and organized by the Tory party themselves.
That is, he is holding the Tory party responsible for the legislation of Manitoba. If the Tory party are responsible I am somewhat at a loss to know how and in what of the leader of the Liberal party making the declaration that it is impossible to carry out any legislation which may be adopted by this Parliament. Is it to be supposed that he gave utterance to such strong opinions upon that question without the consent of his leader? Is it preparing for a fall? Are they preparing to say to the people that they are not prepared to go as far as the Tory party of which he speaks, and of which unfortunately for the party at one time he was a member, and hence not being able to carry out any act of remedial legislation, you should not attempt it? There is no other inference which can be drawn from that, and when you see the trio - the Honourable Wilfrid Laurier on the right, Joseph Martin in the centre, and Israel Tarte on the left, it is a picture you could hand down to posterity as an evidence of political purity and consistency. However, as they do not belong to my party, I do not envy them their combination. Mr. Tarte then goes on (it is not necessary for me to read it), denouncing in no unmeasured terms the letter which was written and published by Bishop Gravelle. However that is a matter I leave with them.
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Source: Canada. Parliament. Senate. Debates of the Senate of the Dominion of Canada. 7th Parliament, 5th session. Ottawa : S.E. Dawson, 1985. Pages 668-673.