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House of Commons, 21 February 1870, Canadian Confederation with Newfoundland

Mr. Mackenzie‚ÄĒI did not bring it up as a grievance, but as a deception practiced upon Reformers at the elections in 1867. I wish the whole of you were Conservatives, and then we would have no difficulty.
Hon. Sir George-√ą. Cartier said the matter did not affect or interest the representatives of the other Provinces. The hon. member for Lambton said that he wished to see them all Conservatives; but let him try to get up a Liberal party. With regard to the charge of the want of success in Confederation, and supporting it by the cases of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and the North West, he would refer to those countries. With regard to Newfoundland, it had rejected the proposal; but the terms were not those of the Government but of the House. The House agreed to their proposed terms, and then they ceased to be their proposals; and he was surprised to see that such intelligent men as the members for Lambton and Sherbrooke should found their charges upon such a foundation. He would tell the House that if they would be quiet, in a short time the terms would be accepted. With regard to Prince Edward Island, the Government had made certain proposals, but they did not like to do anything without the approval of Parliament. They had telegraphed the terms they should submit, and they had not yet received a reply. They could not force such powerful Provinces as Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island to accept their terms, but they must wait. With regard to the North-West Territory, the proceedings adopted had not been the action simply of the Government, but had been adopted by the House. After the plans had been adopted by Parliament the House was responsible for them. He hoped his hon. friend did not object to that. The responsibility rested not upon the Government, but upon the Parliament which had passed it; they had done all in their power to bring about the admission of the North-West into Confederation. He would admit that at the time the Confederation Act was discussed in Quebec, and at the discussions on it, they were not in possession of all the information that was desirable. The idea was that the Hudson Bay Company were not treating the inhabitants kindly, and that they would enter the Union gladly, but recent circumstances showed that the Government of the country was not as unpopular as it was represented. His own impression was that the population had become indifferent to it, and the late lamentable circumstances proved that it was partly unpopular. He regretted that his own colleague was now to be addressed as an opponent. Before he accepted the office, he came to him (Sir George) and asked him 118 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 whether he would support him. He promised him to do so for he thought that he would have been a good Governor. He thought now that he would have been a good Governor if he could have got into the country and could have explained to the settlers that the Government intended to do them no wrong. There could be no doubt that the Scotch and English half- breeds did not find fault with what the French Canadian half-breeds were doing. It had been published in some papers that there was a conspiracy against his hon. friend, because a French Gouvernor ought to be sent there, and that the Territory ought to be a second Quebec. He thought that these statements were the most wicked untruths that had ever been published. He had promised his friend his support, and he should not have been guilty of doing anything to give the least appearance of truth to such a wicked and mischievous untruth. The French Canadians were an impulsive race, and he thought it very wrong for a writer or a speaker to attempt to raise a disturbance in the East as well as in the West. They were French Canadians, but they were also British subjects (cheers), and were as much British, even if not more so, than the British, (cheers). He was a pure Frenchman, and he defied them to produce a more loyal man. Suppose that he was appointed to the Governorship, would his being a French Canadian make him unfit for that position? (No! no.) Sir G.-E. Cartier then contrasted the liberality of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and gave a stirring description of the loyalty of the old French inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. As to the inhabitants of the Red River, the French had gone there with their fathers, but some stupid fanatical papers had said there should be no Frenchmen there. At any rate there was no intention to send a French Government there; but still their paper had no right to speak of the French population as they had done. The Red River must be a Province like Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, but a Province for every race to settle in. He thanked God there were in Lower Canada 250,000 honest English-speaking residents; and he and his co-nationalists only regretted that there were not double the number. At the last census there were 80,000 French Canadians in Upper Canada. He hoped at the next census there would be 100,000 more (laughter), and he was convinced that the Upper Province would not be the worse for this increase. The address stated that the policy of conciliation would be adopted. There was the case of Ireland, conquered hundreds of years ago, and the misgovernment there was only now about to be relieved by Protestant votes. We wanted no such state of things here‚ÄĒno country baptized in blood. The House and country ought to be thankful that the North-West Territory would be annexed without a drop of blood being shed, (hear, hear). The moderation of the half-breeds had been remarkable; and now they understood the policy of the Government was to be pacific. He was afraid that Mr. Macdougall had been misled by some designing people in Red River. But papers would come before the House, and they would show the necessity of having this unfortunate difficulty settled as soon as possible. Some papers asserted that Bishop Tach√© had encouraged the movement. He had the authority of Bishop Tach√© to deny it in toto. Some days before Bishop Tach√© left for Rome in December last, Bishop Tach√© was informed that Mr. Macdougall was to come. The Bishop wrote to the College of St. Boniface, to the nuns in the convent there, telling them to welcome Mr. Macdougall. The nuns having the little children under their control, were prepared to receive him by singing the National Anthem. As to the remarks which Mr. Mackenzie had made as to the militia he (Sir George) could inform him that there were enrolled in Lower Canada 43,000 men, or 3,500 beyond the quota. There was also an excess over the quota in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. There had been strictures as to the success of Confederation, but could it be denied that the Nova Scotian's difficulty de facto had been settled? It was well after all that the Constitutional Act of Confederation had been tested in Nova Scotia. There the Local Parliament was against the Dominion Government, but still it could not impede the whole of Confederation. By the action of the last Parliament giving justice to Nova Scotia, the cause of Confederation had been vastly strengthened. Sir A. T. Galt had accused the Government of slowness in carrying out Confederation; but New Jersey and Rhode Island had been for years out of the American Union. Let Sir A. T. Galt, who is so great an admirer of American institutions, give the Dominion the same time for the work of Confederation. The work of incorporating Red River, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island would be completed before our American neighbors had settled their difficulties. The Hon. Mr. Huntington had taken part in a meeting in the Eastern Townships, called for the discussion of Independence, but luckily the member for Missisquoi (Mr. Chamberlin) was there and opposed him. The result was that Mr. Huntington did not try to hold a meeting of the same kind anywhere else in Lower Canada.

Source:

Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1870. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1979. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.

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Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

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