House of Commons, 24 February 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Thursday, February 24, 1870

The Speaker took the chair at three o'clock.


Mr. Ryan (Montreal West) presented a petition from the Hon. John Young for an Act of Incorporation of a Company to construct a canal from Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence.


Mr. Dufresne complained that he had been misreported in a speech he delivered on Tuesday evening. The explanations which he gave were inaudible in the gallery.


Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald moved the appointment of a special committee to examine papers connected with the North West Territory, and to report what portions it would be expedient to lay before the House, composed of Sir John, Howe, Langevin, Tilley, Morris, Dunkin, J. S. Macdonald, McDougall, Holton, Mackenzie and Blake.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier referred to a remark of the hon. member for North Lanark, that he regretted that he (Sir George) had not in his speech said anything in condemnation of the proceedings of the insurgents at Red River. He begged to remind the House that he had on two or three occasions, in his speech, condemned the disturbances, but in some of the papers it had been merely stated that he confirmed the statement of the Hon. Mr. Langevin. He mentioned this so that he might not be misunderstood.
Hon. Mr. McDougall called attention to the great difficulty under which the reporters laboured, in ascertaining what was said in the House. These gentlemen had a very onerous duty to perform, and every facility should be given them. The difficulty in hearing might be obviated by erecting a temporary gallery for short-hand reporters only, over each of the entrances into the Chamber, lower down than the present gallery. Such an arrangement would not probably interfere with the artistic beauty of the House, and would certainly bring the reporters within hearing distance. Where they were, he had been told, it was utterly impossible to hear many of the gentlemen who 172 COMMONS DEBATES February 24, 1870 were in the habit of addressing the House, especially the leader of the Government, whose remarks, above all others, ought to be correctly reported. Such an arrangement as he had suggested could be carried out in two or three days, and at a very trifling expense. With reference to the remarks of the Minister of Militia he was exceedingly pleased to find that hon. gentleman so anxious that no misunderstanding with regard to his position and the position of the Government on the North-West question should go to the country. He had always believed that the Minister of Militia would take a broad Canadian view of this question, and not be influenced by local, sectional or national feeling, in dealing with it. He then referred to certain statements in the papers, and particularly to the reported remarks of the Hon. Mr. Letellier de St Just, in the Senate, that he had been guilty of doubtful acts in connection with the treaty with the Indians in the Manitoulin Island. He would briefly state the facts in connection with this matter. In the first place he had observed, in certain papers, especially in certain organs of the Government, a desire to create a prejudice against him personally, because of some supposed misconduct in connection with the Manitoulin treaty. Fortunately, that supposed misconduct, whatever it was, had never been heard of among the half-breeds of Red River. He had made particular enquiries on this point, and found they had heard nothing about these stories. Attempts had been made by Sir Francis Bond Head to have the Island of Manitoulin conveyed to the Government, in order that homes might be provided for such Indians from the mainland as desired to go there. The policy of the Government of that day was not carried out: few of the Indians went to the Island, but in course of time a number of Indians from the Western States went there. The late Chancellor of Upper Canada, by the authority of the Government, undertook to negotiate a treaty with the Indians for the ceding of the Island to the Government, and propositions were made to them which they did not accept. In course of time a number of Indians from the Western States of America, amongst others the Pottawotamies, came to the Island. They were under the control of two or three Jesuit missionaries, and a village grew up which appeared to be prosperous. The Government of which Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-E. Cartier were members, came to the conclusion that it was desirable that the Island should be ceded to the Government, and opened for settlement. The late Chancellor of Upper Canada, then Commissioner of Crown Lands, undertook to negotiate for the Island, and sent Commissioners there who were not acceptable. When the Government of John A. Macdonald came into 173 office, he (Mr. McDougall) came to the Crown Lands Department, and this question was brought under his notice. He found an Island some 90 miles long, and 20 or 30 miles wide; a portion of it was very good land, and he was authorized by the Government to negotiate for its cession. He went personally to the Island, along with the able Assistant Superintendant of Indian affairs. A conference was held with the Indians, and a treaty was formed. It was a fair treaty, and one of the most favourable ever made with the Indians in this country. It secured them the possession of the lands they held, and all money which should come from the sale of the remainder. But the treaty did not meet the views of the Jesuit missionaries, who did not think that the portion of the Island under their control should be ceded to the Government; so to please them a line was drawn, leaving the eastern portion of the Island under the control of these gentlemen. As far as he (Mr. McDougall) was concerned, he was acting as agent for the Government. There had been no complaint, except by some parties who brought the matter before the other House, and a Committee reported that the documents should not be printed, on account of their baseless character. From that time to this, those who had objected to his services with regard to the treaty, had been saying that he was guilty of something or other to the prejudice of the interests of the Indians and the missionaries. What he had done was in the interests of the country, and those who referred to Manitoulin Island should look into the matter and understand the facts well before they undertook to censure him.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said that he was in Opposition at the time of the Manitoulin transaction referred to, and was not inclined to look very favourably on the actions of the Government, but he could now in justice to the hon. gentleman state, that his impression was, that it was a good arrangement, and carried out with every fairness to those concerned. In reference to the statements concerning this matter, which had been made in some of the newspapers, he said that they, whether supporting the general policy of the Government or not, had no sanction from himself or his colleagues.
Mr. Simpson (Algoma) said that he had some knowledge of the state of matters in Manitoulin Island, and could state that everybody in that section of country considered the treaty made by the member for Lanark to be one of great justice to the Indians. The territory was very large and sparsely populated by Indians. The land, however, is very good, and is 174 COMMONS DEBATES February 24, 1870 fast settling up. There had been no complaint made as to the course taken by the Government.
Mr. Mackenzie said it was very strange that these statements should appear in what were known as Government organs. It had appeared to many others, as well as to the hon. gentleman, that an attempt was being made to turn him into a scapegoat for the Government, upon whom the whole blame of the transactions could be fixed. Any blame affixed, or attacks , made upon him, for his conduct after leaving Canada, must be borne by the Government; and he (Mr. Mackenzie) thought that any attacks made by the Government organs should be repudiated in the same manner as had been done in this case by the leader of the Government.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said that he had always been personally opposed to what was called organism, as he considered it was an unwholesome system, and one not known to British practice. Various sections of public opinion had their organs or papers holding their opinions, but he denied being responsible for any opinions expressed by any newspapers. He had always avoided anything of this kind in any part of the country. The hon. member for Lambton was entirely in error in his statements as to the course of the Government in respect to this matter. It was not only papers supporting the Government that had attacked the hon. member for Lanark. The first paper calling for his return was the Globe.
Hon. Mr. Howe considered it due to himself to make an observation. He hardly knew anybody that could influence a newspaper. He had never written a line for a paper in Canada, nor influenced an article in any way. The hon. member for Lanark complains of rumors and statements made by newspapers during his absence, and he thought it would have been better if that gentleman had in reference to rumours in the North-West, come home to his colleagues, and stated to them what he had heard, giving them an opportunity of making then, the same flat denial as had that day been made on the floor of the House. He did not think that gentlemen on either side of the House would like to hold themselves responsible for everything said in the papers usually supporting them. Much as the hon. gentleman admired the Globe, he would not, he thought, like to pledge his reputation on the veracity of everything it said.
Mr. Mackenzie—How do you know I admire it?
The Speaker then presented a message from His Excellency with the papers relative to the recent occurrences in the North-West Territory, which, on motion of Sir John A. Macdonald were referred to the special committee above named.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald moved, that when the House adjourns, it stand adjourned till Monday.
Hon. Mr. Holton said the House might fairly enough use an hour or two tomorrow afternoon in advancing current public business, and do a good deal towards launching new public business.
Motion agreed to.


Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald introduced a bill intituled: "An Act respecting elections of members of the House of Commons", and said that as it would affect all parties, he desired the bill to have the fullest consideration. It could be discussed clause by clause, and he proposed on Government days, when the House was not otherwise employed, to take up this bill by clauses, and give it the most careful consideration, in order to have no hurry about it and have a good election law.
Bill read a first time.


Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said he had intended to introduce a bill respecting the Court of Appeal, but he had received printed observations from the judges, and the bar of New Brunswick had also expressed their opinions, which were worthy of full consideration, and he wished carefully to read them before he brought down the bill.
Mr. Blake asked if the Hon. Minister of Justice would bring down the statements of the Judiciary and Bar.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—Certainly. He would be very glad to do so.


Hon. Mr. Langevin introduced a bill intituled: "An Act to extend the powers of official Arbitrators, to certain cases therein mentioned".
Hon. Mr. Young inquired the amount of salary and allowances to the Dominion Arbitrators.


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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