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

Hon. Mr. Dunkin
On item $1,300,000, for opening communication with, establishing a government in, and providing for the Settlement in the North-West (re-vote),
Mr. Masson (Soulanges) moved that the words be added "providing that no portion of the said Loan or of the Dominion Funds shall be expended in supplying troops or militia of the Dominion for the purpose of acquiring by force of arms possession of the said Territory".
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier said that the Government must come down with a measure to provide for the North-West. With regard to the Government of that Territory, the measure which was passed last session expired at the end of the present session; and next week there would be a measure introduced by the Government, and then would be the time to raise this question.
Mr. Masson understood that the policy of the Government was to send a large army to take possession of that Territory. They were 1140 COMMON DEBATES April 21, 1870 told last year that the Territory was to cost ÂŁ300,000, but he found that the Government had sent out orders through the militia with a view to take possession of this Territory.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier said that the item did not at all go for military purposes, it was merely for opening communication. The Red River question was too large to come up at the present time.
Mr. Masson said if no part of the sum was to be employed for military purposes there could be no objection to accepting his amendment. The intention of the Government was to send a military force. He had twice offered his services against the Fenians, but he could not permit the Government to go and raise an army to take possession of a country with which they had nothing to do. The people of the North-West ought to be put on the same terms as the people of Newfoundland or Prince Edward's Island. They had no idea of compelling those Provinces to enter the Union by force of arms; and a different rule ought not to be followed in the case of the North-West. If they sent a soldier to that Territory there would be a war of Catholics and Protestants. (No, no.) There would be a war between nation and nation, and race and race. (No, no.) And the first shot that would be fired there would lose us the Territory. (No.) He was well convinced of that. He spoke from conviction, and a sense of duty he owed to his constituency. He thought that a peaceful policy would settle all difficulties with less expense and greater satisfaction to the country.
Mr. Mackenzie—No, no, (hear).
Mr. Masson said that a war there would end in a war with the United States. That was his opinion, but he might be mistaken. It would be satisfactory to no part of the country, for he did not believe that there would be a single man that would offer to go and take possession of a country where they had no position at all. No, it was for the Imperial Government to give them peaceful possession of that territory, and when they had it in peaceful possession he was willing, old as he was, to go and defend it.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said that it was quite clear that the resolution went much further than Mr. Masson had gone in his speech. He stated that if this vote did not go for any military expenditure he would have no objection to its passing, but it went much further, for it related to the general revenue of the Dominion. The hon. gentleman's speech and resolutions did not agree—his motion meant one thing and his words another. It was too 1141 important a question to be brought up on a side issue, and it could not be brought up on a side issue. The resolution could not be discussed at this late hour of the night. The hon. gentleman had refused to withdraw his resolution, although a pledge had been given by the Minister of Militia that full opportunity would be given to consider it; but the hon. member would not take the word of the Minister of Militia, and had tried to introduce an element of strife; therefore he (Sir John A. Macdonald) would move the adjournment of the debate on that resolution.
Mr. Mackenzie said he did not intend to combat the views of the Minister of Justice in adjourning the debate, but he did ask the Government to adopt some bold and vigorous policy that would commend itself to the country in that matter. They seemed to be afraid almost to speak on that matter, or act with independence. He was painfully impressed with the disagreeable feeling he felt surrounding him in connection with this matter, and if the Government did not bring the necessary information before the House he intended to call the attention of the House to the position Government occupied. While he was entirely unwilling to embarrass the Government in a position which was one of considerable difficulty, still he asked that, before the debate came on, they make up their minds to bring down a policy that would be satisfactory to the House and the country. The gentleman who moved that resolution said if anything more was done in the way of sending troops or restoring order by force, as order must always be restored, where there had been a violation of the law, and more than that the taking away of human life; the gentleman had said if this were done it would give dissatisfaction to the whole country. That was not correct. If there was a failure of justice, a failure of vindicate the majesty of British law, the country as a whole would hold the Government responsible for it.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said the remarks of the hon. member for Lambton showed that he deprecated discussions as well as the Government. The Government was quite aware of the gravity of the occasion and it was that sense of gravity which made the Government take every step with the greatest care. Before the resolution came up again the hon. member for Lambton would find a policy disclosed by the Government, which would meet not only the views of the majority of that House, but of those members who usually accorded their support to the present Government.
1142 COMMONS DEBATES April 21, 1870
Hon. Mr. Holton - Do we understand that the policy of the Government will be indicated before the adjourned debate on this resolution comes up?
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald - I do not say that I can pledge myself to any time; but I believe that at an early day the Government will be in a position to bring down a full exposition of their policy ab initio.
Hon. Mr. Holton - I don't want to press Government, but I think we ought to have an assurance that the advice of Parliament will be taken on the whole matter.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald - Surely.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier - Certainly.
Hon. Mr. Holton said that he thought that they had drifted blindfold long enough in that matter, and the Parliament should now take the responsibility and the Government the initiative. The Parliament must itself take the responsibility of the next important step taken in that very grave matter.
Mr. Ferguson expressed his confidence in the policy of the Government.
The debate on the resolution was then adjourned.
The House then went into Committee of Supply, Hon. Col. Gray in the chair.


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



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