House of Commons, 21 February 1870, Canadian Confederation with Alberta and Saskatchewan



Monday, February 21, 1870

The Speaker took the chair at three o'clock.
A petition was presented from certain citizens of Hamilton, asking for the abolition of duty on refined salt.


Hon. Mr. Howe
He would beg gentlemen on the other side to acquit him of remissness in not speaking, but he had wanted to narrow the debate and have a discussion on the North- West. At the same time he had nothing to conceal. The Opposition had a right to know and his friends on his own side of the House. It would be in the memory of the House that during the short session of 1867 he delivered on the subject of the North-West. (Hear, hear.) It was known too, how, in the presence of an immense force on the other side, he had avowed and maintained the belief that the Imperial Government should assume the charge of that 80 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 Country. He believed that it should be formed into a Crown Colony, or a series of Crown Colonies, and that the Queen would have the benefit of all the trade without the people of the Dominion incurring the risk of extending their territories or burthening themselves with the expense. The session of Parliament to which he had referred, lasted forty days, and after it closed and went home. When Parliament opened again he found that it had decided to purchase the Territory. After this, delegates were sent to England, and the arrangements they had made were, he admitted, of an advantageous character. The policy as to the North-West was settled when he went into the Government last spring, and there was nothing to be done except to carry out the policy which Parliament had laid down. He now addressed the House in the presence of his friends in the Government, and would ask them whether, from the day he entered the Cabinet, they had not his sincere and hearty co-operation in the course they had determined to pursue. He would now say something as to his connection with this question, but everything that related to the policy of the Government after the insurrection, it would be more convenient to discuss when the papers came down. He proposed now to confine himself chiefly to those points on which the gentlemen opposite had made observations in the matter of his conduct. About mid-summer he had gone up the Upper Ottawa, and on his return was about to pay a visit to his own Province, when he was surprised to receive a note from one of the Government as to exchanging the office he then held to that of Secretary of State for the Provinces. On reference to this particular circumstance, he would observe it had been stated abroad, and not contradicted, that there was some French conspiracy, some conspiracy, hatched he did not know exactly where, or by whom, but hatched in some decree in the interests of Lower Canada, and by some gentlemen who represented that section of the country. He would now state that the proposal was made to him by the Minister of Justice, sitting in the Hon. Mr. McDougall's house, and no one was present but three persons; and those three were themselves. There was not in the city a French member of the Cabinet, save the Hon. Mr. Chapais. Sir George-É. Cartier and the Hon. Mr. Langevin were in the Lower Provinces. He did not know whether they were conversant with the proposition or not. Next day, going down the river to Montreal, he put the question to the Minister of Justice. "Do you really wish me to change office? I have no desire to change for I am happy enough where I am." (Laughter.) He further stated to Sir John A. Macdonald that he desired no change, but at the same time, was perfectly willing to 81 assist the Government in any department they desired. He also said to Sir John, "I know Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and the two Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, but what do I know of the North-West? But if it is wise for me to act, the best thing I can do is to go to the country, examine its approaches on every side, and bring back to the Government that amount of local and general knowledge which the Government may require." As a further evidence of this French conspiracy, Sir John A. Macdonald had said to him, with a good deal of earnestness, "I wish you would go." He (Mr. Howe) then asked him if he were at liberty to discuss this matter with their colleagues? and Sir John A. Macdonald replied in the affirmative. He (Mr. Howe) soon ascertained that the proposal had been made with the knowledge of the two French members. In the conversation he (Mr. Howe) had with these two French gentlemen, they neither attempted to influence his judgement nor control his free action. He believed that the statement which had been made with respect to these two gentlemen was without the shadow of a foundation. On his return to Ottawa he put himself in communication with Mr. McDougall finding that the latter had made up his mind to accept the office of Lieutenant Governor. He consulted with Mr. McDougall as to the best way in which to employ his (Mr. Howe's) summer. Here he might take occasion to say, with respect to a certain matter that had been hinted at, that in one conversation which he had previous to the acceptance of office by Mr. McDougall, he said to that gentleman, "If I were younger nothing would gratify my ambition more than to go to the North-West, and there lay the foundation of a great Colony; but I am twenty years too old and would not accept the office." Mr. McDougall knew this was his (Mr. Howe's) opinion before he accepted office. Mr. Howe having described the mode of his journey to the North-West, said that it had been objected to him that he had not sent back instructions before Mr. McDougall set out. The explanation on this head was very simple. When he got to Abercrombie, which was 315 miles from Fort Garry, he heard rumours and reports that the Governor would not be allowed to enter the Territory. These rumours were everywhere, even in the streets. Some young Canadian friends asked him how he knew that he would be allowed to enter the country. He said that he would make the attempt; that the party did not anticipate an army, but were quite prepared for any small force. These rumours had spread 315 miles this side of Fort Garry.
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[...] 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 Governor 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—no country baptized in blood. The House and country ought to be 119 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 Taché had encouraged the movement. He had the authority of Bishop Taché to deny it in toto. Some days before Bishop Taché left for Rome in December last, Bishop Taché 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.
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Hon. Mr. Huntington said, the question of Confederation was an old one, started by Sir A. T. Galt in 1858,   seized on, and adopted by Slr G.-É . Cartier, and soon after introduced into a speech from the Throne.
Hon. Sir George-E. Cartier said the Government had real work in do to incorpoate the different Provinces; but the Hon. Mr. Huntington had found it easier work to get up an agitation. He did not blame any one who cherished ideas about "Independence" but in England amongst some   of the public men and writers, there was an erroneous idea as to   "Independence." There had sprung up there an abominable school of politicians who would measure the greatness of England by estimating the savings of a  few thousand a year. But if there were diseased parts: in the body politic of England, let them show that they at heart, as members of the Empire, were healthy, and let them show by pronouncing that we have no desire for "Independence". (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Huntington said that the Minister of Militia confounded the theory of Confederation with its practica1 working. The Confederation question had been of slow growth. It was first proposed years ago by the member for Sherbrooke, who stood alone in the matter, and it was only when it was likely to be successful that the scheme: was taken up by the Minister of Militia and a coaliton formed to carry it. Judging from analogy he had little doubt that before long Cartier would make the independence question his own and earn great credit by carrying out other men's ideas, as he had done before.
Hon. Sir George-E. Cartier said the agitation now at all events was very slow. England was the centre of Ihe British system. If there was any disease of the heart, let Canada prove herself   sound and show herself determined to maintain the connection in spite of anything which might be uttered by any British Radical, (cheers).
The fifth to the ninth paragraphs were adopted. On the reading of the tenth,
Mr. Cartwright moved the adjournment of the House, and after remarks from some of the members the House adjourned at 11:35.


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



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