House of Commons, 19 April 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Mr. Dufresne called attention to the presence in Ottawa of several gentlemen coming from the North-West Territory. It was well known that early in December last year, when it was known that the population of the North- West were hostile to the Dominion of Canada, our Government very properly, he believed, sent there a Commissioner delegated to see the people and arrange matters with them, in order that they might quietly submit to the authority of the Government. Their Commissioners, it appeared, had induced the population of that Territory to send down gentlemen, selected from amongst them, having power to act for the population as delegates. Those delegates were now amongst them, but on their arrival they had been arrested as parties to a certain crime committed in the North-West during the time of the troubles. So far they had been under the care of the police, but if this information was correct, they were going to be imprisoned to-morrow, at least two of them. They had been induced to come amongst them as delegates, and he should like to know from the Government if they were looked upon as such or if they came here on their own responsibility. It was painful to see that they had been induced, under the good faith of the Government, to come amongst them as delegates, and had received no protection. If they came on their own responsibility, of course it was their own look-out. He could not refrain from men 1080 COMMONS DEBATES April 19, 1870 tioning that some few days ago they had been threatened by a mob with being lynched, and he had heard that a Government expert had at the door of the Police Court threatened them, and endeavoured to excite the public to hang them on the spot. Of course the mob had more good sense than the Government employee, (hear, hear). He hoped the Government would tell them in what manner they looked upon these delegates.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said they all knew that there were gentlemen here from the North-West, and that there were many people desirous of having communication with the Government more or less in connection with matters in that Territory. The gentlemen to whom the member for Montcalm had alluded had not as yet come officially before the Government, nor had they come before the Government in any way. He had the pleasure of a meeting personally on Sunday evening with Judge Black, with whom he had a conversation on the country—a general conversation. Judge Black had been introduced to him by Mr. Smith, Government Commissioner; but had not as yet been officially recognized. With respect to those two gentlemen being arrested, the Government had no way of knowing it more than the member for Montcalm, except through the press. The officers of the Dominion had no concern in the administration of Criminal Justice—that rested with the Government of each Province. Though the arrest had been made upon a charge of crime, he must ask the member for Montcalm to consider it just in the same way as if it had taken place in the city of Toronto or the city of Quebec. If the arrest had been made in Toronto, it would be a matter for the Attorney-General of Ontario; if in Quebec, the Attorney-General of Quebec. In no instance could the Minister of Justice interfere, any more than the member for Montcalm. He had no authority nor power whatever in the matter of the arrest. With respect to the Canadian Commissioners, the papers would shew exactly what were the instructions given to them in going to the North-West. Immediately after that unfortunate insurrection or armed resistance, it was the duty of the Governor General, by the advice of the Government, in fact, it was his duty, as an Imperial officer, if the Canadian Government had not given advice, to communicate at once with the Home Government in England. The Colonial Secretary, as the papers would shew, conveyed at once instructions by cable to Her Majesty's representative, and those instructions had been acted upon by the Government. They had not yet received any communication on the part of the people coming from Red River, in the way of asking to be heard, or of submitting any 1081 grievance or proposition he might presume, but if it was a mere presumption, it was a natural and reasonable one that the fact of the process being taken out against those two persons had been one cause why they had not come to lay a statement before His Excellency.
Mr. Dufresne—Were the Commissioners to the North-West authorized to induce the people there to believe that in case they failed to arrange matters, delegates should be chosen to go to Ottawa?
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—Yes.
Mr. Dufresne—I understand the Minister of Justice to say these delegates have not yet caused their mission to be made known to the Government in the character of delegates.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—My honourable friend is quite right.
Mr. Dufresne—You have no official knowledge that they are here as delegates?
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—No person has presented credentials as yet. Rev. Mr. Ritchot called on the Secretary of State for the Provinces, and said he had come from Red River, but would defer submitting anything until the arrival of Judge Black.
Mr. Dufresne said it was well known that the arrest of these gentlemen would have a bad effect in the North-West. The people there were savages or half-savages, and would not reflect whether the arrest were the action of the Government, or made in the affidavit of a private person.
Mr. Bowell said he knew the young man who made the affidavit, and he enjoyed as good a character as any gentleman in the House. He also knew the young man that was murdered, he having belonged to the battalion in which he (Mr. Bowell) had a commission. The young man who was murdered was of estimable character, and was not what some had represented him to be.
Mr. Bown said the question was whether they were the representatives of the population, or whether they were the representatives merely from the self-constituted authority. The Government certainly ought not, and no doubt would not, recognize any such provisionally constituted Government for the North-West, (hear, hear). He would be sorry if they should recognize the delegates as such, and while he could easily understand why any man coming 1082 COMMONS DEBATES April 19, 1870 from the North-West should be attentively listened to, he could not suppose that the Government intended to receive them as delegates from that self-constituted authority.
Mr. Ross (Victoria, N.S.) said the hon. Minister of Justice had stated that no credentials had been presented by the delegates. He would like to know what credentials they could possibly have?
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said they could have the credentials of representatives from the meeting of the people. They all knew, as a matter of course—every one who read the newspapers knew—that they had an election there, and also that Mr. Smith, of the Hudson's Bay Company, went there as a Commissioner, and suggested that they should have a meeting of the people from the different localities, that they should elect representatives, and make a statement of grievances for the purpose of being handed to His Excellency. They knew that they had an election, and that certain bills of rights were agreed to, and certain delegates were appointed to lay them at the foot of the Throne; but those formal statements had not yet come in an official manner before the Government, who could not call for them, but must simply wait for them.
Mr. Mackenzie said the hon. gentleman had promised the report of the so-called Commissioner, Mr. Smith, who had done many things, and amongst them that of going round and inducing the people to elect delegates to some sort of Convention. Mr. Smith was not instructed, he presumed, to do that. They had been promised this report; but they had not yet got it: and many of them were aware that other persons were there from that Territory protesting that those two persons were not representatives of the people of the North-West but only of that part of them which was in a state of rebellion against the constitutional authority of the country. They wished to have Mr. Smith's report. He did not wish to precipitate a discussion without it, but it did seem that they could not get it. The Government did not seem willing to bring it down; and if they did not obtain it very soon, they would be deprived of the opportunity of a fair discussion on it.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said the hon. gentleman was fond of his "supposes," but what object could the Government have but to act right in that matter? Mr. Smith asked for time to consider his report, and as it was not a very long document, he was told to get it printed, and that had been done; and that morning it had been brought in complete. He had been instructed by the Minister for the Provinces to strike off thirteen copies for the Ministers, and 1083 it would come at once under their consideration.
The subject then dropped.
The House adjourned at 1:30 a.m.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1870. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1979. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Personnes participantes: