House of Commons, 14 March 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Monday, March 14, 1870

The Speaker took the chair at three o'clock.


Mr. Morrison (Niagara) presented a petition from the President of the Board of Trade of the City of Oswego, State of New York, and 160 of the leading merchants and citizens of Oswego, praying that this House would pass an Act to incorporate the Ontario and Erie Ship Canal Company.


Mr. Workman presented a petition from the members of the Montreal Art Association, praying for an act of incorporation.


Mr. Morrison (Niagara) introduced a Bill intituled: "An Act to incorporate the Ontario and Erie Ship Canal Company".


Mr. Mills introduced a Bill intituled: "An Act to amend the Act further securing the Independence of Parliament".


Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier laid on the table papers respecting the expenses of Hon. Mr. McDougall on the North-West mission.
Mr. Dufresne asked whether any despatches have been received by the Government in relation to the recent troubles at Fort Garry, whether the Government can inform the House of the nature of the said troubles, and whether there has been any blood shed, or loss of life?
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier was very happy to inform the hon. gentleman that the Government had received no information that there had been any blood shed or loss of life. With regard to the despatches received by the Government, with reference to the troubles at Fort Garry, all the information that it was expedient to lay before the House, is contained in the return he had just laid on the table.


Mr. Masson (Soulanges) asked whether it was the intention of the Government to place in the Estimates a sum for the payment of the [...]
[...] in a V—shaped course. The recent explorations of Mr. Bell showed that the Belt was broken by a great gap of unascertained width in which the Nipigon country was situated. Thus instead of the barrier Laurentian region supposed to exist, forming an insuperable barrier to civilization, there was a moderately level country, fertile, suitable for settlement and affording great facilities for railway construction. After describing the geological character of different districts he said it was through the Silurian country north of Lake Superior. Mr. Bell considered there was an easy route for a railway by Black Sturgeon River to Lake Nipigon, thence by Gull River to Lonely Lake, by English and Winnipeg Rivers to the prairie country of Red River. It had been generally supposed, from a want of the proper information, that the country north of Lake Superior was of a broken and barren character, and unfit for settlement, and as a means of communication with the West Prairie country. Such an idea would tend to the impression that the only safe and natural inlet to the North-West was through the Minnesota country. But recent explorations prove this formidable range of mountains to have no great breadth, and that to the north there lies a vast level country of clayey formation, extending in the direction of Hudson's Bay. The importance of such discoveries, both as regarded the probable capabilities of the country for agricultural purposes, and the facilities for making a suitable route of communication, could not be over-estimated. It was well known that in the region of the Laurentian the surface was rough, rugged, covered with numerous irregular shaped grades, separated by ranges of barren rock wholly unfit for settlement, and presenting the most formidable difficulties to the economical construction of any communication with the inner country. But in the Silurian country, the elevations and depressions were fewer, the lakes larger, and the leading characteristics such as would warrant the supposition that a good route could be made through it at a moderate outlay, and the adjacent country be at once ready for settlement. The line under construction by Mr. Dawson, might be rendered available, as a temporary way to the North-West, but recent accounts would go to show that the permanent route would be found to the North of the Thunder Bay region, where, in all probability, the lesser summit would be met with. It was of vast importance that a route should be continuous, so that frequent trans-shipment should, as far as possible, be avoided. It would be well, if any improvement projected were made, to form a link in the railway system which must sooner or later extend through British Territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It appeared to him that a mixed canal and road system 390 COMMONS DEBATES March 14, 1870 would not meet the wants of the country, but if it should be decided to carry such a system out, he thought the proposed location was not the proper one, for it was in the wrong place, and had the great disadvantage of having one of the canal termini fully 800 feet above the level of Lake Superior—whereas it would be found that by taking the Nipigon route, the whole lockage between Superior and Winnipeg would not equal that required between Shebandowan and Thunder Bay. Such being the case, he thought that vigourous measures should be adopted without great delay to explore the country lying to the west of Lake Nipigon, and that efforts should be made to obtain, at least, an approximately correct idea of the geography of English River, Lount Lake, and to determine the lowest summit between the waters discharging into the Winnipeg and those flowing into Superior. The north shore of Lake Superior was from 1,300 to 1,500 feet high, and the summit on the boundary line (Arrow Lake) was 1,050 feet above its surface. Shebandowan Lake in Dawson's report was stated to be 810 feet above Lake Superior, and Dog Lake 718 feet. That pointed out a marked descending series, and from what was known of the country to the north, it was reasonable to suppose that a comparatively level line could be obtained at a much less elevation. In fact, said he, everything pointed to the conclusion that it was in the Nipigon country where we should look for a route that would fulfil the required conditions, afford a rapid passage from the great lakes to the interior of the North-West, as well as a means of export for the soon to be developed agricultural wealth of that country—whilst it would at the same time form a link in the large scheme of an Inter-oceanic Railway on British soil. The streams of Oriental commerce, so long in the hands of European nations, and carried round the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Isthmus of Suez, have already been tapped by the pioneer line of American steamers from San Francisco to Yokohama and Shanghai. The tonnage of San Francisco alone increased from 765,900 tons in 1866, to 901,400 tons in 1867. The number of passengers arriving in 1867 was 38,800, was nearly equalled by the aggregate of the first half of 1868, being 32,000. The opinion ardently expressed in scientific quarters is that the entire passage from London to Yokohama, through New York and San Francisco, will be reduced to the time required for a voyage across the Pacific, about three weeks. The trade of China and the neighbouring islands, amounts to $300,000,000 per annum, which was chiefly, in former times, in European hands, but is now rapidly passing into the neighbouring Republic. Through the principle established in the Illinois Central of land concessions 391 in aid of Railroads, a system of railroads has been inaugurated, giving an untold impulse to industrial and commercial activity. Looking to eventualities, England, although she has in India an army of 150,000 troops, of whom 70,000 are English, yet her main hope in the reconstruction of Indian civilization and the consolidation of her Indian Empire, was by the construction of a magnificent system of railroads, involving an expenditure of $440,000,000. Thus civilization is radiated downwards through a strata of ignorance and superstition, forming a unique political and social organism, the first Colonial Empire of the world. What is thus accomplished for Hindoostan, towards making a market for her products by railway communication, is only an evidence of what such a communication would bring about for the North-West Territory. It is by the establishment of railway communication, the warp and woof alone of Dominion consolidation, that we will ever be enabled to place our industrial and commercial interests upon a substantial footing, and secure at the same time the permanency of our institutions.
Hon. Sir A. G. Archibald seconded the motion.
Mr. Simpson (Algoma) said, this was a subject in which he felt deep interest, inasmuch as the country referred to was within his constituency. Last session he brought this matter before the attention of the House, and had urged on Government the importance, as a first step, of a survey of the country from the North shore of Lake Superior to the Ottawa River. He was glad to find that favourable statements respecting Nipigon territory made by the last speaker were fully confirmed by the evidence of Professor Bell before the Investigation Committee; and he would add that his own opinion of this country had always been in accordance with these statements. During last summer some of the officers of the Board of Works were sent to examine into the state of works going on from Fort William, westward. The Reports of these officers had not yet been published, but from information he had himself received on that point, he was certain that this Dawson route, as it was called, would prove a huge failure, On that point he had not the slightest doubt. In the first place, the levels had been very inaccurately estimated. One of the largest dams ever built in this country would have to be built at the mouth of the Mattawa River. The dimensions of it were something enormous—half a mile long and in many places 60 feet high. Further, he had been informed that in that part of the country, there was no clay with which to "puddle" the works, and then when completed, instead of costing 392 COMMONS DEBATES March 14, 1870 $12,000, as estimated, it would cost not less than twelve millions; and the lockage along that route would alone cost more than the amount estimated for the completion of the whole works. From information he had received he was satisfied that in that section there were only three or four months' navigation a year. The inland lakes did not break up in spring till much later than Lake Superior broke up. The country there was frostbound, and he had been informed by surveyors who had returned from there that they were obliged to give up the work on the 12th of October. Such a route was no way through which to take emigrants. He was satisfied that that route would never be completed, and that the Nipigon route would finally have to be selected. The Dawson route was through a succession of swampy lands, interspersed with small lakes and rocky hills, and it would be impossible to make a railroad through it. Nearly all the ranges of hills were not parallel to the watercourses, as usual, but across it, and therefore it was unfit for railways. From what he had been informed he was assured that the Nipigon territory was far superior to this both for railways and canals, as well as for agricultural purposes. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would send out officers in the spring to examine that territory as well as the Dawson route, so that the merits of both might be known and compared. He had nothing specially to say against the gentleman in charge of the works on the Dawson route, but he had been informed that if they had been done by contract, the cost would have been much less. There was a general impression abroad, that portions of the road were completed so that troops, ammunition and provisions could be sent to Red River by that way in spring. That was altogether a mistake, and he had no doubt that if troops were sent there they would have to be sent by the old Hudson's Bay Company's canoe route. The only way to hold the Red River country was by sending in a large emigration, and also a detachment of troops to keep order in the territory. He had been in that territory at the time when the 6th Regiment was there, and during that time there was no disturbance, and settlers were on the best of terms with the troops. But when there were no troops there whenever a disturbance broke out, no matter what class of the population caused it, they had the law entirely in their own hands, and the Hudson's Bay Company had no means of asserting their authority; and if tomorrow our Government was to make peaceful arrangements with the delegates, now said to be on their way from Red River, there was no way of holding that country, except by keeping a standing force there, and by sending a large number of immigrants there. If we did 393 not do that, Americans would. He had seen letters from prominent men in the United States, including officers of the army, which were to the effect, that it was the intention of the United States, if Riel held out till spring, to send into that country an overpowering number of immigrants from the United States, the result of which would be, that in the first meeting of an independent Parliament, they would vote themselves into the United States, and we would never secure that country except by war. He would repeat in conclusion that the only way to secure that territory was to open up communication with it through Canadian territory as speedily as possible, so that emigration could flow into that country, and to furnish the place with sufficient force to maintain order, (cheers).
Hon. Mr. Langevin said he had no objection to the passage of the motion. The hon. gentlemen must, however, understand that some delay may take place in bringing down these reports. The principle was not as yet before the Government. They will have to be laid before the Council, after which they would be brought down,
It being six o'clock the House rose.
After recess,
Mr. Chamberlin resumed the debate. He said he believed there was a very deep anxiety in the country that there should be a definite and energetic policy pursued by the Government, so that this portion of the Dominion would be rendered accessible to us. He believed it was a settled opinion of members of this House and of the country that this northern country must be bound to the Dominion by other than purely political ties. One way of developing the resources of the country would be to find a passage on British soil for a railway, and the iron band of a railway would be much better for its defence than fortresses, and would be much more valuable, if not less expensive, than soldiers. We must have the means of access through our own country, and there was deep feeling in the country in favour of the Government adopting an energetic policy to secure the means of access at once. They had heard how much had been done, or rather how little had been done, to open the way from Lake Superior to Lake Winnipeg. They had heard how difficult would be the passage by that route, especially for British troops, whose presence would be necessary in case the troubles there went any further; but it was manifest to those who had considered the question, that if efficient means had been taken by the Government with regard to com 394 COMMONS DEBATES March 14, 1870munication, troops could have been sent there at very much less expense. But it was very much better to give means of access to that territory than to spend money for ammunition and soldiers. And if an energetic policy had been pursued to give means of transit thither, a great deal of trouble would have been saved. It would have strengthened immensely the bonds of our negotiations to that territory, and would not have rendered necessary the tiresome and expensive process by which union would have to be effected. He, therefore, urged upon the Government that not a single day was to be lost in opening communication with that territory. He thought the Government would be wise, if they learned from the experience of the past that a more rigorous policy ought to be adopted in future.
Mr. Harrison spoke of the great importance of the question, and said that a railway should be shortly commenced if Canada meant to hold the Red River Territory. The best way to hold the territory would be by peopling it with loyal British immigrants. Unless we do so our American neighbours will people it with immigrants of a more objectionable kind. To facilitate emigration a railway is absolutely necessary. But in building it we should have regard to existing railways and existing interests. Let us utilize existing means of communication as far as possible and construct a railway from the head of Lake Superior. If private enterprise be not adequate to such a great undertaking, a course should be pursued similar to that taken by the American Government with reference to the Pacific Railway. There should be liberal grants of land in alternate blocks. By this means we shall not only build a railway but settle the country. The contemplated wagon road is not sufficient for purposes of settlement.
Mr. Bown said, if the road had been built he doubted very much whether there would have been any riot at Red River, and he pointed out that delegates to the convention there had also asked for the construction of a railway to Canada, (hear, hear). Now when both ends were asked for this mode of communication, he thought the Government ought to take the earliest possible measures to ascertain the best route for a railway, and liberal land grants ought to be given to any company that would undertake the work.
Hon. Mr. Huntington said, a railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, over British territory, would do a great deal to consolidate the Dominion, but from experience in the construc 395tion of the Intercolonial, he could not expect anything remarkable from the Canadian Government and went on to speak of the delay in its construction.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier asked the hon. member if he ever saw 500 miles of railway constructed in 18 months.
Hon. Mr. Huntington had seen greater progress in other railways and referred to the demoralization and difficulties with contractors of the Intercolonial.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier—There are no such difficulties.
Hon. Mr. Huntington referred to the American Pacific as an example of the rapid construction of a railway.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier—That took seven years.
Hon. Mr. Huntington said, the greatest possible progress had not been made in the construction of the Intercolonial, and if that were an example of Government construction, it would be months and years before they would have a railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Hon. Sir George-E. Cartier—You will have a drive from Quebec to Halifax in two years and a half.
Hon. Mr. Huntington was glad to see a gentleman so plucky and enthusiastic as the Minister of Militia. He then referred to the enterprise of American capitalists who had obtained grants of fifty million acres of land and were now hurrying up their Northern Pacific road through, from Duluth to ports on the Pacific, and suggested that this company might be induced to construct branches to Red River territory which would render it accessible to immigrants, until a road was constructed over Canadian soil.
Hon. Mr. Howe referred pleasantly to his former relations with the hon. member for Shefford, on account of which he controverted his opinions with some pain, but he conceived it to be his duty to do so. His hon. friend had been chaffing the Government about the delay in constructing the Intercolonial, but he forgot that we had not the assistance of the Chinese, who built the Pacific Railway for our neighbours.
Hon. Mr. Huntington asked if the hon. gentleman believed the administration of the Intercolonial road creditable to the Government.
Hon. Mr. Howe—It had been said the Intercolonial was for the benefit of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and not for Ontario, but Ontario took an excellent way of indemnifying itself, for Ontario contractors employed poor devils.
A Member—Order.
Hon. Mr. Howe apologized, and said they employed Blue Noses, and then ran away and did not pay them. If this was not the way to indemnify Ontario for expenditure on the Intercolonial, he did not know what was. He then said communication must be had with the North-West upon Canadian soil if they were going to hold that territory, (hear, hear). He referred to the work of Americans in Minnesota in building railways, and said if they did not obstruct settlers going to Red River, it would be common sense to make use of their means of communication, but if that was not the case we must have some means of communication of our own. He had listened with pleasure to the speeches of the honourable members for Russell and Algoma, who had given much valuable information. This was not the time to discuss the question, but he believed the Government would deal with it satisfactorily, and that it would be ready to take counsel with hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House, and devise the most rapid and practicable means of connecting the whole Dominion and develop its resources.
Hon. Mr. Connell would make a few observations on the subject now before the House. He stated that they had had an elaborate speech from the hon. member for Russell, speaking in strong language with regard to the advantages that would be derived from opening up communication with the North-West by Lake Nipigon, and the value of the territory in that vicinity. No doubt the hon. member for Russell felt and believed all he said with reference to that territory. He (Mr. Connell) had endeavoured to obtain some information on that subject. The Government had very properly sent out parties for the purpose of obtaining information. That would be shown when the papers came before the House. He (Mr. Connell) was impressed with the idea that there were not sufficient inducements to invite settlers to that district. If his idea of that section of the country was correct, the soil and climate were not inviting. There was no forest, and fires had laid waste the greater portion of the district. The season was short, hence there was no inducement for immigrants. The hon. member for Algoma had truthfully stated the real state of things now taking place with regard to opening up communication with the North-West. They were now informed that the 397large expenditure taking place to open up communication was utterly useless and worse than thrown away. The route chosen by the Government was not the proper one. If an expenditure of ten times the amount estimated was put in that work, no good would come of it. He (Mr. Connell) was opposed to the first action of the Government on this North-West question; but new arrangements were now made by the Hon. Minister of Militia and the late Commissioner of Public Works. He (Mr. Connell), however, had but little faith in the matter. They must hold the Government responsible. The Government obtained authority from Parliament to obtain the necessary funds. They were clothed with power to go in and possess the land. What had been done? The country was about lost to the Dominion and a large expense had been incurred. The people of that territory were in open rebellion. This was not all. He (Mr. Connell) believed that the class of persons which had put this Dominion to so large an expense, would be found pouring into that district at no distant day. If we could get the territory, it would be at an endless expense, and he (Mr. Connell) did not believe the people of this Dominion would sanction it. The Hon. Secretary of State for the Provinces did not give much encouragement with regard to this matter, but he seemed to think all will turn up right. Now the House had been in session about four weeks. What had been done? What information had the Government imparted to the people of this Dominion? What is intended to be done? In the past there had been any amount of useless expenditure, entailing all kinds of difficulties in the North-West. What right have we in that Territory? Parliament authorized Government to act. What have they done? Nothing but bring us into difficulty, and wasted the public funds. If that territory is to form part of this Dominion, it can only be done by a railway. That under present consideration is an important question. If we had opened up the country it would be a matter of consideration with the people of this Dominion whether they would sanction the project. The whole subject is not encouraging for the future. The value of the country under present circumstances is problematical. Let us hope for the best. This was no time to discuss that subject. Let the papers be brought down. Let the policy of the Government be examined. Let the people of the Dominion know the true state of things, and then let the House decide the course to be taken for the welfare of the Dominion. But at present this Government has not done anything but get things into difficulty. It is to be regretted that they have failed in their duty in this respect.
398 COMMONS DEBATES March 14, 1870
Mr. Mackenzie regretted the discussion had taken such proportions at present, as it would have been better to have waited until the papers had been brought down, when full information could be obtained. His hon. friend on his right (Hon. Mr. Huntington) had been incorrect in his geography, and had placed Duluth on the other side of St. Paul, while it was 200 miles on this side, and was not so favourably situated as Nipigon Bay or Thunder Bay for connection with Red River. He saw no reason why the Dominion should find it necessary to subsidize any American company (hear, hear), for the road should pass through our own territory. He deprecated the remarks of his hon. friend opposite (Mr. Connell) with regard to the expense of vindicating the authority of the Dominion, and of the Empire in relation to troubles in the North-West. That must be done at all costs and at all hazards, (cheers). We must feel precisely in the position of an individual who has been affronted, that until that affront is wiped out no other question must stand in the way of vindicating our position, (hear, hear). He considered that the proper time for the hon. member for Algoma and others, to have expressed their opinion about the route chosen by Mr. Dawson for a road, was during the discussion last spring, when their views would have been of some use. He had no doubt, if the Government showed anything like decision and activity in the construction of that road, they would have got it done by spring, when it would be required by immigrants, but the Government had showed that same want of activity, and firmness, and decision which characterized all their works.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier—Don't go too far.
Mr. Mackenzie said no one knew better than the Minister of Militia that he (Mr. Mackenzie) never went too far. (Hear, hear.) In fact he had incurred sometimes the reflection that he had injured his own party by not going far enough; but in that case he must tell the truth. From information which had reached him he was assured that there was no worse mismanagement on any public works than on those from Lake Superior west. He wished, however, to say no more on the subject until the papers were brought down. He wished to prevent, as far as he could, all discussion on this subject until more information was supplied. The whole subject of the conduct of the Government in relation to the North-West must pass under review before long, and as Hon. Mr. McDougall, who was greatly concerned in the matter was not present, and had no one there to represent him, it would be a great injustice to indulge in remarks that might be injurious 399 to him. He (Mr. Mackenzie) and Mr. McDougall had not co-operated for years, and he had as much reason as any other man in the House to find fault with his conduct in the past, but as an act of justice to a sick man, he thought they ought to avoid topics which might be injurious to his character unless he were present when they were discussed. (Hear, hear.) It would be quite proper when the documents came down to discuss that matter at length, but not till then.
Mr. Jones said he had said last Session that the money expended on the present route was thrown away and another scheme was now seen to be necessary. He was in favour of giving large grants of land. What he had said had been confirmed by the accounts sent by The Globe Special Correspondent, and also by later telegrams. At the rate the Intercolonial Railroad was progressing, the Road would not be made for two years; and the Commissioners had better be empowered to entail their offices and emoluments to their heirs and successors, for they would not, if they progressed at the present rate, complete it during the course of their natural lives. (Hear, hear.) The Government ought to reflect seriously before undertaking the construction of a railway which would cost a hundred millions of dollars, and lead to a country where the thermometer was 45 degrees below zero, (laughter). He expected it would be like the Intercolonial, which would cost twenty millions more than twenty millions already borrowed.
Mr. McDonald (Middlesex) urged the adoption of liberal land grants as in the American system, which was the only way of peaceably obtaining possession of the territory. He considered the route from Fort William to Fort Garry impracticable, and that it would cost over twelve millions of dollars to make it available for three months of the year, and in his judgment no Government could keep peaceable possession of the North-West without railroad communication through British territory. The proper route was along the valley of the Ottawa River; and if the Government would give $12,000 in cash and 12,000 acres of land per mile, they would find a company that would build the road within five years and not ask the Government for any assistance until they completed fifty miles. The company, moreover, would do all their own surveying and engineering without any cost to the Government.
The motion was carried.
Mr. Walsh said reference had been made incidentally to the Intercolonial Railway, but as all matters connected with that enterprise [...]


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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