House of Commons, 22 February 1876, Canadian Confederation with Alberta and Saskatchewan

194 The New North-West Territory. [COMMONS.]


Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE moved the second reading of the "Bill respecting "the North-West Territories, and to "create a separate territory out of part "thereof." He said—I have very little to say in addition to the remarks I made in introducing the Bill. The intention is simply to appoint the Governor of Manitoba to govern the territory immediately east and north of the present Province—to detach, in other words, all the portion known as the North- West Territory east of Manitoba and Lake Winnipegoosis, and to create a new territory, which shall in the meantime be governed by the Governor of Manitoba. It is uncertain when we may have the boundary on the west and east side of Ontario determined. The boundaries of the North-West Territories on the east
are equally uncertain, and it is considered desirable in the interest of the good government of the country that we would have this arrangement made. As soon as the western boundary of Ontario is determined, and if the Province of Manitoba take no action for the enlargement of the boundaries of that Province, another arrangement may be made.
The first section of the Bill is devoted entirely to a description of the boundary and the Territory. I cannot remember the name for it at the present, but it is an Indian name.
The second section repeals certain provisions which are not made applicable under this Act.
The third section provides that the Lieut.-Governor of Manitoba shall be ex officio Governor of this district.
We take power in the fourth section to constitute and appoint a Council if need be. We do not anticipate there will be any necessity for it, nor do we make provision for paying any members of the Council. It is merely to enable us, if necessary, to constitute persons to advise the Lieut.-Governor for the time being.
The other provisions of the Act are practically making applicable the provisions of the general Act of last Session and the schedules at the end of the Bill of the Acts that relate to the Government of the North-West Territories.
In the seventh section provision is made for the transmission by the Governor of that Province to the Governor in Council at Ottawa, within ten days from the passage of any law, a copy thereof: this is in accordance with existing provisions of the law.
Mr. MASSON—I would like to know why clause 11 in the North-West Territories Act is left out of this Bill; whether it has been found unnecessary or impracticable? A great many powers are taken from the Territorial Government, among them those which provide for taxation for local purposes. The Hon. Premier will, of course, give us his reasons for curtailing powers which, last session, he thought it necessary to confer to so large an extent. I would like to know what means the Local Government will have to provide for improvements and for the education of the people. The New North-West Territory. [FEBRUARY 22, 1876.] 195 Will they be obliged to appeal to the Federal Government to provide for these things?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—The Bill is only temporary in its character. Section eleven refers only to the Act of last Session. The laws established by this Bill are those in force at the present moment in the North-West Territories —neither more nor less. The Act of last Session proposed the creation of a municipal system and conferred practically all the powers of self-government as a Province. It is only when such powers are exercised that the clause in question comes into operation.
Mr. MASSON—How will the people of that country be educated or provided with public improvements?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—They will have precisely the same power they have at present in the North-West Territories under the existing laws.
Hon. Mr. TUPPER—Does this Bill affect the powers conveyed by the North-West Territories Act, so far as its jurisdiction goes?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—It detaches this section of country from the jurisdiction of the North-West Territories' Government.
Hon. Mr. TUPPER—Does this Bill provide for Municipal Government?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—It provides for no municipal purposes of any kind.
Mr. MASSON—How does it provide for education?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—We make no provision for that in this local Act.
Mr. MASSON—I understand the Government last Session when they introduced their Bill thought it advisable to provide for education. They now give no power for municipal taxation or the education of the people. Is there any law in that Territory which gives to the people there those rights and privileges assured to them by the 11th clause of the Act of last Session?
Hon. Mr. BLAKE—The Act of last Session has not yet been put in force. At present all the Territories of the North-West are governed from Manitoba. The Act of last Session pro posed, and I think rightly proposed a system which gave rudimentary representative institutions coincidently with its going into effect. The Bill of this Session takes off a very small portion of the enormous territories of the North-West for the particular purpose which my hon. friend, the Premier, clearly explained. He pointed out in the present condition of that country, with its comparatively limited means of access, with its vast unsettled plains, and with a portion of the territory lying partly east of Manitoba, that it was advisable as a mere temporary measure to adopt this system of government in that country for a short time. He pointed out as soon as the boundary of Ontario and the North-West Territories was settled, the question would immediately arise whether a portion of any territory, for present purposes annexed to Manitoba, would belong to that Province. If not annexed to Manitoba it would be under the jurisdiction of the Government at Fort Pelly. If this territory is  annexed to Manitoba the laws of that Province relating to schools will apply to it. If re-anne: ed to the North- West Territories, clause 11 of the Act of last Session will apply. But this cannot be done without at the same time conferring powers of taxation, and no such powers can be exercised without representative institutions.— We could not give to the few people there representative institutions, and therefore we continue for that part of the Territories the primitive system of government—the same system which the right hon. gentleman opposite thinks should continue for a long time to come. Now, that is not the view of the Government, as the Premier explained. He said the Act was passed last Session with the intention of bringing it into operation at the earliest practicable moment; but pending the settlement of the boundary question it is proposed to leave the few people who will be outside of this territory in the position that they now occupy.
Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD—As I stated at the time the Bill was introduced last Session, I think that territory might well be governed from Manitoba without a separate Legisla 196 The New North-West Territory. [COMMONS.] ture, but I did not at all contemplate that country would remain for a long time without a government of its own. My contention was that the constitutional Governor of Manitoba had so little to do he could economically enough for a good many years govern the whole of the Territories under the provisions of the Bill of last Session.
Hon. Mr. BLAKE--I am very glad to hear that.
Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD—The hon. gentleman will find if he looks back that I approved of the Bill, and the only objection was that a separate Government was unnecessary. This Bill is a permanent one on the face of it, and I think a clause should be introduced to say that it is temporary. Under this Act there can be no taxation. Then any expense or cost in working the machinery of the Government of this country will, I take it, be chargeable on the Dominion Treasury.
My hon. friend will no doubt explain later in the Session why the Act of last year was not brought into force. If I recollect aright, when that Bill was introduced to this House, I ventured to state, with the sparse population of the West, outside the boundary of Manitoba, that the Lieut.-Governor of that Province would perform all the duties of government required for a time in the Territories, and there would be no necessity for establishing a separate Government until the country had been better settled. But it was stated by my hon. friend that it was highly expedient that there should be a Lieut- Governor and a Government appointed for the Territories without any delay. Delay has taken place; and I venture to say that that portion of the country need not be brought under the operation of the law at present. The reason is still stronger now than it has been since last Session, as part of the territory is taken away under this Act, the part which has the most population. As I understand the boundaries, the bulk of the territory that will come under the provisions of this Act lie to the east of the western boundary of this Province, and to the east and north of the eastern boundary of Manitoba. The majority of the people who have gone into our Western country are settled in this district; at all events, a large percentage of them have settled about Lake Winnipegoosis in the immediate vicinity of Manitoba, although not within the limits of its jurisdiction; therefore there is less reason for the establishment of the new Government under the Act of last Session. There can be no satisfactory legislation by a Government of this kind, even if the population were there, for you cannot have educational legislation or impose taxes. Even though they had Municipal Councils they have not the authority to confer on them powers which they do not possess themselves, to impose school taxes; therefore the ordinances passed by the Lieut.-Governor in Council would be of a very unsatisfactory and inadequate description. It would, no doubt, be satisfactory to the House to ascertain how long the hon. gentleman thinks that that country will be governed under this Act.
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—There are several reasons why the Act of last Session was not put in force, some of which I can mention to the House. In the first place it was very desirable we should obtain the utmost possible information as to the probably distribution of population that would settle in the different districts of country. The Great Lone Land, as Mr. Butler terms it, was but imperfectly known, and it is only by recent explorations that many facts concerning it have come to our knowledge—facts that seem to be essential in considering the question of creating the seat of Government. We had determined on a vigorous course of action with regard to the expulsion of offenders by the North-West Mounted Police, and through their efforts we have been able to vindicate the majesty of the British law in these territories. By their means we have been enabled to acquire a great deal of information respecting the settlement and resources of certain parts of the country of which very little was previously known. We find that a large population is rapidly settling at the north bend of the Saskatchewan River, where there is a population already of between 500 and 1,000 souls. South of that, where the railway is to cross, the land at the south The New North-West Territory. [February 22, 1876.] 197 branch is being located, and one person has erected a saw and grist mill this year. Assuming the Jaspar House and Lake Winnipeg are the central points, the place where we shall likely establish the seat of Government is 250 miles from Fort Pelly, and 550 miles distant from the town of Winnipeg. At one time we thought Fort Pelly was the best place for the establishment of the Government House, but other information leads us to the conclusion that it would be better to remove it further west. A vast territory can be developed, and is now partly developed, in the Peace River District. Fort Pelly appears to be too far east, and Government would be more difficult if located there than if it were established at the center of the Territories. It is already difficult to reach remote settlements by any authority that we can put in motion, and we must have an authority that can easily extend to the different points. The place which we shall probably select as the seat of Government must be one favourable for the location of a considerable town; it ought also to be favourable as an agriculatural district, with an abundance of fuel and timber, and easy access from the different posts established by the Government in the Territories. I have far less doubt now than ever of the wisdom of establishing this authority, and of the utter impossibility of the Governor of Manitoba governing that vast territory. The Indian question itself, is a very serious one. We have found it necessary to ask Lieut.-Governor Morris, who has devoted himself earnestly and with an assiduity beyond all praise to make himself useful in developing that territory, to travel 200 or 300 miles to meet the Indians in treaty, and it was impossible for him to make that journey in less than two or three weeks. We cannot expect him, when we are obliged to meet and treat with other Indian bands in the Far West, to leave his Government for eight weeks at a time on this business. We find it necessary therefore to have another officer of superior rank, equal to that of the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, to meet those Indians, although Lieutenant Governor Morris has not his hands so full that he could not give his attention to more work in his immediate vicinity. It is a different thing when he is asked to travel 400 or 500 miles from his own Province, when matters pertaining to the Territories would demand his consideration. I have felt myself at liberty to consult with Lieutenant Governor Morris on all these matters. Although we were not politically allied, it does not prevent us from entering cordially into matters connected with these Territories, and it was entirely his opinion, as well as the opinion of this Administration, that until this boundary question between Ontario and the North- West Territories is settled, the portion east of Manitoba should be governed by the authority settled in that Province. We cannot apply the laws of Onatrio to any part of that territory, although it may belong to this Province, until the boundary is decided on. Ontario claims the whole of it to Manitoba; while others assume that the boundary is as far east as Fort William, and that the terminus of the Pacific Railway there is really in the North-West Territories. If all the territory west of Fort William is given to Ontario, then the laws in relation to Onatrio will come into immediate operation there; on the other hand if the North- West boundary is found to be at Fort William, then the laws applicable to the North-West Territories will be enforced there, and we can conceive of no difficulty that can arise that will prevent us from being able to determine these boundaries by legislation next Session of Parliament. The only settlement of any consequence east of Lakes Winnipegoosis and Manitoba, is the settlement of Icelanders on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. There are very few settlers in that region, and though our friends claim that there is but little land in that direction that can be settled, recent explorations have lead us to a different opinion. Settlement has gone south of Lake Manitoba, and north of Lake Winnipeg there is also a very considerable settlement. The prospect is that there will also be a very large population on the slope of the Rocky Mountains, where Colonel McLeod is stationed with the Mounted Police force, near Fort Benton. 198 The New North-West [COMMONS] Territory. Our officers there collected in something like six months $6,000 in duties on articles imported from the United States. The territory there is developing into a very rich country. It is a very fine grazing section, although from its greater elevation it is a little more subject to frosts than the other parts of the country of less elevation. There can be no doubt that the country from Lake St. Henry to the North Saskatchewan and a little beyond it is eminently favourable for settlement. There is a steady descent from the boundary northward. At the boundary the elevation of the prairie land is not far from 5,000 feet. At the Jaspar House it is about 3,500 feet on the average. Progressing northward towards Smoky River, it is not more than 2,000 feet. Where the Peace River bends southward we find that the elevation of the prairie is not much more than 1,000 feet above the level of the sea, and with its declination north the climate grows milder, and the isothermal lines appear to follow the level of the country. This indicates two things:—That there is a rich country fit for settlement from the United States boundary all the way north to Lake Arthabaska, and that as we go northward the land is better than in the south. There is no reason why a very large population should not pass into that vast country, stretching northward seven hundred miles, and enjoy a climate as favourable as in any part of Canada proper, except, perhaps, the south-west peninsula of Ontario. These considerations render it necessary, in our opinion, that this central authority should be established; that the people abroad who read our reports and seek for information about our country should understand that we have not merely an immense extent of fertile territory in the North-West, but that it is in a position that law and order can be enforced; that there is nothing to be feared from the wandering tribes of aborigines, and that everything has been done to prepare for the introduction and settlement of the large population that may naturally be expected to arrive from Europe. These measures have been adopted after due consideration, and the Bill is to provide for a difficulty of only temporary existence in consequence of the delay in ascertaining the western boundary of Ontario and the eastern boundary of the North-West Territories.
Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD—My hon. friend will see that a permanent Act doing away what that clause might create misunderstanding, and probably dissatisfaction.
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE—I shall consider whether it will be necessary to insert the words mentioned before the third reading of the Bill.
Mr. KIRKPATRICK—I think it very desirable that it should be a temporary Act, for in its wording I think that there are some very objectionable features. It assumes the delegation of our authority, not only to the Governor in the Council, but further to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and the Lieutenant-Governor is to have the authority and power of altering our laws; that is, he is to have greater power than we give to any Provincial Legislature, greater than we gave last year to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, in the North-West Territory, advised by an Elective Council. I do not think that is right, nor do I consider that it was intended such power should be granted to an irresponsible body, or the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. The hon. gentlemen present, who were in the House some years ago, will remember how sarcastically the present Chief Justice of Manitoba used to refer to this new institution of the Governor in Council; and this is now to be extended in a most remarkable manner. We are delegating these powers to the Lieutenant-Governor, with the power of altering, amending, and modifying any Acts, or Act, of the Parliament of Canada, or any parts thereof.
Hon. Mr. BLAKE—Would my hon. friend allow me to tell him that this is simply a consolidation of the laws under which that Territory is governed to-day?
Mr. KIRKPATRICK—I think that my hon. friend is mistaken, I cannot find it in the North-West Territories Act.
Hon. Mr. BLAKE—I am not speaking of the North-West Territories Act of 1875, which is not in force, but of laws passed by my hon. friend's leader.
The New North-West Territory. [February 22, 1876.] 199
Mr. KIRKPATRICK—If the right hon. gentleman passed an objectionable law, I do not think that we should re-enact it. It is no reason because he is an ass, that you should be a basilisk. This would be over-riding the legislation of the country, and I think that when my hon. friend, the Minister of Justice, looks into it closely, he will see what I contend is really the case.
Hon. Mr. BLAKE—I may say in answer to my hon. friend that this Bill has been, I believe, prepared with great care. Instructions were given that this should be done in the consolidation of the existing laws under which the territory is governed. We repeal the three Acts which are at present in force there, and simply re-enact a a measure giving precisely the same powers; we did not intend to alter, and I do not believe that we have altered, these powers in any particular.
Hon. Mr. TUPPER—I would like to ask the Head of the Government at what time he proposes to put the North-West Territories Act into operation?
Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE— I cannot answer that question at the present moment.
Hon. Mr. Tupper— With reference to this Bill I congratulate the Government on the conclusion at which they have arrived, after careful consideration, concerning the other measure.
Last year we had the North-West Territories Bill introduced and passed. Provision had formerly been made for the Government of that Province by the Government of Manitoba, and a Council composed of a number of gentlemen of high standing and of great ability, who had given a great deal of time and attention to any legislation, or any measures found necessary in this connection. The Administration thought it wise to introduce a Bill last Session, for the government of these Territories, abolishing this unpaid Council, and providing for the appointment of an independent and separate Government and Council, with the varioous other machinery required. It was also at the time announced to the House that it was the intention to establish that Government at Fort Pelly. It appeared to me that it would be wise to pause before incurring this new expenditure. We had already all that was necessary for the government of Manitoba. This Session we are asked to create a new authority, and what was the reason given? That there was a number of inhabitants in the adjacent district, and that it was desirable that they should be brought under the influence of the Local Government, but only until the time when the boundaries were established between Ontario and the North-West Territory. I undersood  my hon. friend to say he hoped that matter would be adjusted when Parliament would meet at the next Session. If this be the case I cannot understand why we should go to this expense.
Hon. Messrs. MACKENZIE and  BLAKE— There will be no expense.
Hon. Mr. TUPPER— The hon. gentlemen provides for the establishment of a Council.
Hon. Mr. BLAKE— There will not be a dollar of expense.
Hon. Mr. TUPPER— Very well, I do not then understand why it is necessary to alter the North-West Territories Act in relation to this section, if it is intended to put the Act in force at all, especially when my hon. friend told the House that he intended to ask for different legislation at the next Session of Parliament touching this matter. This is a question to which I am sure the House will give its most careful consideration. I think that the facts quite justify a postponement as well as the wisdom of obtaining still further legislation with respect to this whole country before we materially change its form of Administration. It is besides inexpedient to adopt legislation for a single season. No doubt, it is very important that what is designed for new countries in this relation, shall be changed as seldom as possible, for the people have become familiar with laws of a certain kind, and with a certain mode of Government, and it is not well that a year afterwards this legislation should be swept away to be replaced by another system. Experience shows the wisdom of a little delay in connection with such matters, 200 Salaries of County Court Judges. [COMMONS.] and we should comply with the dictates of experience in the present instance, if we permit the measure to stand over for a time.
Mr. SMITH (Selkirk)—It must be evident to everyone, and more especially to those who are intimately acquainted with the subject, that a territory of such vast extent, cannot be properly and suitably governed from a point so distant as Winnipeg. At the same time I was very glad to hear the observations and explanations given by the Prime Minister—and that is, that the seat of Government of the proposed new Province is to be removed a considerable distance further west. In the North-West there are already very large settlements at different points near Bow River and the South Saskatchewan, and again beyond Edmonton, and at Fort Albert, &c.,— perhaps altogether comprising four or five thousand people; but there is also a district to the north of that again, equally well fitted for settlement with the region south of the Saskatchewan. A few days ago I received a letter from a gentleman in the Peace River District, who has travelled over the greater portion of the northern part of the territory, and he states his belief that for one acre of good land to the south of the Saskatchewan, there are five acres to the north. I am not quite so sanguine; but, at the same time, I know that there is a very large extent of country to the north which is as well suited for settlement as the portion to the south. Settlers will come both from the United States in the direction of Bow River, and also from British Columbia and the United States by way of Peace River, and it is absolutely necessary that there should be some legal Government to give attention to any difficulties which may arise.
It must be further recollected that in this portion of the Territory, the great body of the Indian population is found; there are very different to those in the south, and if there are any troubles to be experienced, danger is to to be apprehended from the Indian tribes living on the upper portion of the Saskatchewan. I do not, myself, fear any such troubles, but many do, and I consider that it would be only prudent to take the necessary precautions. With regard to the section it is proposed to detach from the North-West Territory, I am of opinion that the provisions of the former Act would be found quite sufficient for the time being. That Act has been there administered during three or four years by a Council, which instead of having too much power, I consider had scarcely enough authority in several instances. Indeed, it was more an Advisory Council than anything else, and the Government has really been controlled from Ottawa; but nevertheless I must say that the Dominion Government has, on most occasions, given every consideration to the recommendations of this Council, and carried them out. I do think that for the moment the provisions of the old Act will be quite sufficient as regards the comparatively small portion settled, and of the district which it is to detach, nine-tenths or ninety-nine hundredths, or nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths, will have no settlement for many, many years to come; and neither require legislation respecting taxation or schools, or almost any other purpose during that period. Settlement will be somewhat tardy between the Lakes Winnipegoosis and Winnipeg, also a small portion near the mouth of the Winnipeg River, and possibly near Fort Francis or Rainy River. I trust that the Government will persevere with the measure, and carry out the promises of the Act of last Session as concerns the large section of the territory west and north of Lake Winnipegoosis, which can be properly governed by any Council such as that which is proposed for the portion to be detached in this Bill.
The Bill was read the second time.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1875-1949. Provided by the Library of Parliament.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Isabelle Carré-Hudson.

Participating Individuals: