House of Commons, 29 April 1870, Canadian Confederation with Alberta and Saskatchewan

1274 COMMONS DEBATES April 29,1870


Hon. Mr. McDougall-Before the orders of the day are put, although I do not see either of the two Ministers leading the Government present in their seats, I would like to ask the Government when the Bill in relation to the North-West, which has been promised for the last two or three days, is likely to be submitted to the House.
Hon. Mr. Howe--Not to-day.
Hon. Mr. McDougall--On what day, then?
Hon. Mr. Howe--I am afraid not till Monday.
Hon. Mr. McDougall--Then, Sir, I will just take the opportunity of making a remark or two on this subject. I will call the serious attention of the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury Benches to the importance of speedy action in relation to this matter. Sir, those who have studied the question at all, are well aware that if an expedition is to be sent to that country--if this Parliament or country are to assume the responsibility of sending a force of the Dominion into that country for the purpose of enforcing the authority of the Canadian Government and the Crown, they know, I say, that it is above all things important that the force should be on the march at the very earliest possible moment. Now I understand that the canals are open and that there is no natural difficulty to the adoption of that course within a week or two. Yet it is perfectly evident to my mind that, if the Government have not decided upon that subject, if they have not determined upon the character of the measure to be submitted, or as to the amount of money they will ask for the expedition, and the terms on which it is to be organized, then I say they are derelict in their duty to the country and the high authority of the Crown, in not having done so and submitted it to the decision of this House. We have had promises, I see by the newspapers, within the last two or three weeks, that they would submit their policy within a day or two, and on one occasion it was promised within a few hours; but now we were told that it is not to be submitted till Monday. The 1275 session is rapidly going on, and unless the Ministry are prepared to submit their policy immediately, I say it will prove altogether disastrous to the country, (hear).
Hon. Mr. Howe—I would much prefer that one or other of the leaders of the House were present to answer this question. I may say that the House and country may rest assured that there has been no want of zeal or of industry on the part of the Government in dealing with this question; but the House will see when the subject is brought before it in its entirety that there are various and different interests to be consulted, and the necessity of having perfect agreement between the Imperial and Dominion Governments has thrown a great responsibility on the Cabinet; but these have been dealt with, and that in such a manner as is compatible with the best interests of this Dominion, (hear). I would say also with regard to the Cabinet, that they have been from the first, and they are now, so far as I know, united upon their policy.
Mr. Mackenzie—Of course, I can easily understand that the hon. gentleman might reasonably ask for delay in this matter until some of his colleagues, who are supposed to lead the Government in this House, should be in their place, but sir, we have asked day after day, and we have been promised day after day, that this matter should be proceeded with, (hear, hear). We were promised the Bill early in this week, and on Tuesday night we were promised by the Minister of Militia, in the absence of the first Minister, that it would not certainly be later than the end of this week, (hear, hear). Now, sir, the House adjourned last night without any motion having been made to set to-morrow. We are therefore to presume that the House will not sit to—morrow. This, therefore, is the last sitting this week, and yet the Bill is not brought down, and no intimation has been given by the Government of their policy, (cheers). They have not made any statements of the relations existing with the Imperial Government, (hear, hear). I have seen that within the last day or two a question was asked in the Imperial Parliament in reference to it, and the answer of the Imperial Ministry was that they were still in communication with the Dominion Government.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said that the matter was still under consideration.
Mr. Mackenzie—Yes. Now, what I complain of is that this House being within a few days of its prorogation, this matter seems to be systematically delayed by the Government, (hear, hear). I have refrained in consideration of the public interests from pushing this matter any 1276 COMMONS DEBATES April 29, 1870 faster than I have done, but now it becomes absolutely necessary that we should wait no longer, and I now tell the hon. gentleman that unless we receive some definite indication of the policy of the Government, that I shall give notice to-night of a motion to bring it forward on Monday, (hear).
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—Of course, it is perfectly competent for the hon. gentleman to give notice, but I protest against the assertion that there have been systematic delays on the part of the Government, (hear). The hon. gentleman and the House ought to know that there is a very grave state of matter existing in the North-West Territory, and he ought to know that it is of the greatest importance that the Government should come down with a measure which will give satisfaction to the people of the whole Dominion, (hear). He ought to know that sending the expedition to which he referred is a matter of the very greatest gravity, and also the circumstances under which that expedition may go, whether it is to be an expedition of peace, as I sincerely hope and trust it may be, (cheers). I believe that the measure which is to be brought down here will give not only satisfaction to this House and the country but also to the people of that Territory, (hear). I say, sir, under these circumstances the Government will not be provoked by the taunts of hon. gentlemen opposite to act prematurely, to come down with a measure without giving the best and fullest consideration that it is in their power to give to this most important matter, (hear).
Mr. Mackenzie—You do not keep your promises.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—The Government are not neglecting it; they are giving their constant attention, I may say, to this question day by day, and explanations have been going on. Certainly, I admit that we have been from day to day in expectation that everything would be closed, and that we should be able to bring down and explain our policy at an earlier moment than we have been able to do, but what is a day or two compared with having matters arranged in a satisfactory manner, (hear). I am happy to know that the members of the Government are one and all under the conviction that they will be able to bring down a solution of the difficulties connected with this question—that they will be able to come down with the full co-operation of Her Majesty's Imperial Government, and to obtain the full concurrence of this House and the entire country, (hear).
Mr. Mackenzie—The hon. gentleman will admit that the Government are bound to fulfil 1277 their promises, and the time has now elapsed. The latest time that they asked is now up. The Bill was to be brought down to-day, (hear). I do not intend to say anything more about that now, but I rise for the purpose of asking whether the Government intend to vote the House to sit to-morrow? (Hear.)
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—The Government think that they will facilitate the business of the country by not asking the House to sit to-morrow.
Mr. Masson (Soulanges) thought it would be well for the House to adjourn for a fortnight or a month to give good time to well consider the matter. (No! No!) The whole country was anxious about this North-West question, and many members on both sides were desirous that the Government should take time to consider it.
Hon. Mr. Langevin repeated the explanation in French and said the Government had made great progress with the Bill, but did not wish to bring it down till it was quite complete.
Hon. Mr. Holton—There was one point in the observation of the Finance Minister that struck me as very important indeed. He expressed the hope, on the part of the Government, that they would very soon be enabled to bring down a measure which would command the approbation of this House and be in accordance with the views and wishes of the Imperial Government. The plain inference from that observation is that the Administration has not as yet come to a full understanding with the Imperial Government as to the measures to be taken in the North-West matter, (hear, hear). I think, sir, we are entitled to know whether that inference is true, (hear, hear). Nothing should be left to inference in so important a matter as this. I inferred, and my hon. friends near me inferred, from the language of the hon. gentleman that no absolutely final agreement had yet been come to between the Government of the Dominion and the Imperial Government in reference to the North-West matter, (hear, hear).
Hon. Mr. Dunkin—Of course, in the absence of the hon. gentlemen who are more particularly in charge of this matter, it is not right for me to give an answer to that question; but this I am fully entitled to say, that the inferences attempted to be drawn from the words of my colleague, the Finance Minister, are utterly unwarranted and unfounded.
Mr. Mackenzie—Is there any disagreement?
1287 COMMONS DEBATES April 29,1870
Hon. Mr. Dunkin—I have stated nothing to imply that. When the Bill is brought down, the whole matter will be fully and satisfactorily explained.
Hon. Mr. Holton—That may be, but the hon. gentleman must admit that we are as competent to draw inferences as he is (hear), and he will not deny that when a member of the Administration rises in his place and expresses the hope that the measure to be brought down will meet the approval of the Imperial Government, that the inference is plain that no arrangement has yet been come to. I think that there can be no mistake about that.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks said the hon. gentleman was confounding his two statements, one with reference to the measure to be brought down, and the other with regard to the expedition. It was impossible to communicate with the Imperial Government on all the little details of the Bill. There was not the least doubt that not the slightest difficulty, would be raised on the question of the expedition by the Imperial Government. (Hear.)
Hon. Mr. Cameron (Peel) thought that not a single member of the House wished to drive the Government into any premature action. He hoped that the Government would be able to bring down their policy on Monday.
Hon. Mr. Chauveau thought that there was one thing more to be deprecated than want of forbearance in the matter, and that was the rending of the several parts of the Dominion into pieces. (Hear.) Until that time all the members had shown the greatest forbearance, and he hoped the Government would not be forced into a hasty disclosure of their views. He hoped the matter would be allowed to rest for a few days more, until the House would be able to assume that responsibility which as the representatives of the people they were under, and be able to give effect to their resolutions.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said that the Finance Minister had very properly divided the subjects into two parts. With regard to the measure for the Government of the North-West Territory, it was announced in the speech from the Throne, and for two and a half months the Opposition had been anxious to hear the terms of that measure. He did not think it could be said that they were unduly pressing the Government at that moment. If the Government told them that they wanted a week they would not have pressed them for that week; but from day to day they were told that it would be ready, and three days ago they were informed that it was but a question of hours. (Hear.) He thought that it was not unreasonable to show a little anxiety on the point at that late period of 1279 the session. But there was another measure about which he was more anxious, and that was the expedition. If the Government were making preparations, and they read of it in every newspaper throughout the land, he thought they had stated policy as to that expedition, and the Government was not justified in withholding from the House the terms and conditions of the expedition. He had no wish to press them for their policy on matters in which they were not acting; but it had been admitted that action had been taken in this matter of an expedition. The Government were not justified in adopting any measure for an expedition without letting the House know what its policy was and taking the opinions of the representatives of the people upon it. He hoped the Government would feel the necessity of satisfying the just expectations not only of the representatives but of the whole people of the Dominion upon both points. (Hear.) He had not the least wish to press the Government for a hasty decision on one point; but with regard to the other, which they seemed to have decided upon, the House had a right to information.
Mr. Dufresne said he was opposed to a military expedition to the North-West, and to the heavy expenses that might be incurred to acquire that Territory by force of arms.
Mr. Gibbs rose to a question of order. The House was not now called upon to discuss the property of an expedition to the North-West.
Mr. Ferguson rose to speak, but was interrupted by noises from both sides of the House. He was persisting in his attempt to address the House, when the Speaker said he had better yield to the unmistakeable sentiment of the House.
(Cries of Chair, Chair). The matter then dropped.


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



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