House of Commons, 5 May 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba

1374 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870


On the item of $1,460,000 for opening communication with and establishing Government in, and providing the settlement of such Territories, including the expedition to Red River— revote,
Hon. Mr. Holton said it would be remembered that in the Committee of Supply, in the ordinary estimates, that amount was voted for the purpose of opening, negotiating and establishing a settlement in the North-West; but when the question of concurrence came up, the hon. member for Soulanges moved an amendment, declaring in effect that no part of that appropriation should be expended on a military expedition to that country, which was said at that time to be in contemplation. The House was assured at that time by the Minister of Justice that no part of that money would be expended upon this proposed military expedition, and that if such an expedition was contemplated, the sanction of that House would be asked for it, and that the requisite money would be asked in a straightforward proposal, (hear). The motion of the member for Soulanges had been allowed to remain on the order papers for more than a fortnight, and the Government had not called up the item. But they now proposed to drop the previous vote and evade the motion of the hon. member for Soulanges.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—Hear.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Yes; by introducing into the Supplementary Estimates this item in another form which would cover in point of fact the expense of this proposed military expedition, (hear). He did not think that this was dealing fairly with the House, and was grossly digressing from what he believed to be the true Parliamentary practice by appropriating to meet those military expenses out of the money voted for different purposes two years ago, (hear). He could not imagine anything more repugnant to sound Parliamentary practice than that course of the hon. gentleman. If a military expedition were being equipped, why did not the Government come down and frankly state the policy on which that expedition was founded? (Hear.) Why not bring down estimates showing the number of men that were to be employed, and the amount expended, and other information to which, as a free Parliament they were entitled to from the Ministry, instead of seeking to accomplish all their purposes, by that indirect, irregular and uncon 1375 stitutional measure? (Hear.) He waited for an explanation from the Ministers as to that point.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks said he could not conceive anything more distinct than the terms of the resolution now before the chair. With reference to the fact that it was proposed to defray the cost of that expedition out of the vote the House was then asked for, the hon. gentleman had referred to a discussion on the previous vote. It was perfectly true that the original vote which was taken last year, and for which a loan was authorized by Parliament last year, was asked for when no military expedition was contemplated; and it was moreover perfectly true that when the Estimates were last year brought down, and that when estimated provided for the balance of the vote, which had been previously taken, and to which this loan had been granted; it was perfectly true that it was not then contemplated to apply any portion of it for that expedition, and that was distinctly stated, as the hon. member well knew. The hon. gentleman complained that the resolution having been reported from Committee, the Government stated they were not prepared to go into the discussion of the whole question on the motion proposed by the hon. member for Soulanges, which was calculated to bring on discussion. The hon. gentleman wished to know why the Government did not come down with their policy? It was answered at the time that whether the expedition was to be what might be called a warlike expedition or one of peace they could not state. He believed, looking at the state of matters, that he regarded it as one of peace, and consequently likely to incur less expense than was once anticipated. The hon. gentleman charged the Government with endeavouring to evade a discussion on the subject. The Government had no such desire. It was perfectly well known that it was their intention to send troops to the North-West and a discussion would take place on the subject; but they simply asked that vote, intending to supply out of the fund already voted and sanctioned by the House, a sum to go to pay the costs of the expedition. If this House, knowing that fact, was not prepared to grant that sum then a straight vote would be taken on the resolution.
Hon. Mr. Cameron believed not only the House but the country at large would sustain the course the Government had taken in that matter, and they had no reason to be alarmed. They had placed the matter in such a state that must give satisfaction to the country at large. If they were going to the North-West for the purpose of protecting the people, the House ought to understand what amount was intended for such a purpose. The Government need 1376 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870 have no fear in stating that, and no better opportunity for making explanations on the subject could be given. They had placed everything on a satisfactory footing, and their best course was to state their policy and what they intended to do and the people would sustain them beyond doubt.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said that the vote was only $160,000 more than the first estimate. He wished to know if that sum was intended to cover the military expedition to the North- West. (No, no.) Well then they had either estimated more than was necessary at first, or had asked a vote of money for purposes which they had not stated. They first asked for $1,300,000, and now they asked for $1,460,000. The first vote was not intended to cover the military expedition, while this one was. Therefore, when the estimates were prepared, all that was required was the first mentioned sum, for the purpose of opening up and providing for the government of the Territory, and it followed that only $160,000 was required to cover the military expedition.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—No, no.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Then he was to understand that when the Finance Minister brought down the first Estimates they asked a much larger amount for the purpose of opening up the country than they intended to spend during the year. If so, it was proper that the Estimate should be about the amount intended to be expended during the year for which the vote was asked. The Finance Minister said now that, when the House was asked to vote $1,300,000, he did not intend to expend during the year, for which the vote was asked, anything like that amount. Well, it was an objectionable course, and the House was entitled to know what was the amount out of the vote of $1,460,000 that the Government intended to expend in opening up the country and for the Government of the North-West, and what was the amount that they expected to expend in the military expedition. And he thought it due to the House that they should know, when voting that large sum of money, what it was for, and what portion was to be appropriated to each particular service, and he did not know that he should object to any of the items when he should know for what purpose they were required. Perhaps the hon. member did not know what that expedition would cost. He (Hon. Mr. Dorion) could understand that very well, but the House should know what amount was asked for that purpose, and it should be separated from the sums intended for other purposes. If they should vote several items in a lump they might just as well vote everything 1377 in a lump. He thought that, not only should they be told the amount required for the expedition, but that each item should be voted for separately.
Hon. Mr. Holton thought, as a preliminary to further discussion, that the suggestion he was about to make would be in order, and would be acquiesced in by the Minister of Finance. He thought the House could hardly be asked to vote money already expended, and he thought they might make the present resolution in perfect conformity with the resolution already proposed. That resolution was for $1,300,000, it being alleged in general terms that $160,000 had been already expended. He proposed to take the vote of $1,460,000, to cover the amount already spent. It was now thought, as a mere matter of convenience and regularity, it would be better not to go further with the resolution in its present shape.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said the Government might have made a mistake, but at any rate it was a mistake in the right direction. It was arranged by statute that all appropriations unexpended in the course of the year should be submitted again to the House. The vote of £300,000 for the North-West Territory was a case in point, there not being the slightest necessity to ask the House for its renewed sanction. He found from the 35th clause of 31 Vic., chap. 5, that the Government might have effected a loan, and have fairly expended the whole of that money in organizing, preparing, and sending up an expedition for the purpose stated. He considered the Government would be fully warranted in expending the whole of the vote in endeavouring to establish a Government in that country. In bringing down the original estimate, the Government merely desired to repeat the original vote, and an assurance was given that no portion of that money should be applied to military purposes. It was clear to the House, if the vote was now passed for merely the purpose of opening communication, etc., it would leave the country open to unknown expenses on account of the expedition. There was no certainty in calculating the expenses of the expedition, it could only be guessed at; but he hoped, owing to recent events, that the expenses would be much less than once feared. He asked the House not to press the Government to disclose particulars as to the expedition. They did not at present know whether the expedition was to be a peaceable or hostile one. If it was to be a peaceable one, there could be no objection to giving the information, but if the intention was hostile, to state the information, would be to give information to the enemy. (Laughter). He contended that it would be unwise and impru 1378 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870 dent to give the information which might have the effect of increasing the expense of the present expedition, and might render subsequent additions to it if necessary. He was happy to believe that in consequence of the generous and liberal spirit which had been shown by the people and Parliament of Canada, the character of the hostile expedition would be that of a friendly procession. (Hear, hear.) He was almost certain that unless at the very last moment, owing to personal or party conflicts in that House, they marred what had been hitherto so successfully begun, they might look almost immediately for a pacific solution of all the difficulties, and that the expedition would be received by the people of the Territory as the restorer of order rather than as threatenings of war, (hear). He thought the House would see that it was not wise to enter into details in reference to this expedition; but he might give the minimum of force to be sent. It was to be composed of one-fourth regulars and three-fourths Canadian volunteers, who were to be considered as regulars, and would be under the command of regular officers commissioned by Her Majesty—the expedition having the prestige and sanction of the Imperial Government, a fact to which he attached much importance. The minimum strength of force would be about 1,000 men, and any addition to that number would altogether depend on circumstances, over which at present they had no control. He hoped the House would be satisfied with the explanation that he had now given. He would prefer, under the circumstances, that the vote should be adjourned until they made further progress with the Bill he had introduced. He would rather not have any expression of opinion on that item than have the happy prospects marred. He would ask the Finance Minister to postpone the item until the principle of the bill had been adopted, so that it might go to the West that a measure which was liberal to generosity in its terms had received the sanction of the majority of Parliament.
Hon. Mr. Holton contended that the argument of the Minister of Justice as to the power with regard to the disposal of funds raised by loans and appropriations was not correct.
Mr. Jones made a few remarks as to the expedition.
Hon. Sir A. T. Galt: said the House had a right to know some particulars of the expedition. The Minister of Justice said he had taken the House into his confidence, but it seemed to him (Sir A. T. Galt) to have been but a very little way. They ought to know more of details as to the length of time it was supposed the Imperial troops would be on that expedition; 1379 when the liability of the Imperial Government was to cease; and when the ÂŁ300,000 was to be paid to the Hudson's Bay Company. He had understood that it was to be an Imperial expedition, and if that was so the whole control and responsibility of the expedition would be with the Imperial authorities, although in the matter of finance they were to pay three- fourths, (hear, hear). He certainly considered that it was of the highest importance that the Imperial Government should be responsible for that expedition, and he should have been glad if their responsibility in a pecuniary sense had been larger than it was, (hear, hear and laughter). He would like to know how the proposition of one-fourth and three-fourths had been arrived at. He did not think that they could expect that the present vote would cover all expenditure.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said they would have to come to Parliament if more was required.
Hon. Sir A. T. Galt said if they sent up a force they would have to maintain it.
Hon. Mr. Cameron was obliged for the information they had obtained, but would have liked it to have been fuller.
In reply to Hon. Mr. Dorion,
Hon. Mr. Langevin said that $200,000 was the amount of the vote to be expended in opening up communication.
Mr. Mackenzie said, according to the information he had before him, the entire expenditure up to the present time amounted to about $137,000. Now the entire estimates of Mr. Dawson for opening up the whole communication was $165,000 in round numbers. This estimate had been frightfully exceeded. If $137,000 had been already expended, and if hon. gentlemen intended to add $200,000 more, there was something wrong. He called the attention of the House at the commencement to what he believed to be a very correct account of the extravagance of that department of Public Works, and he was afraid that the hon. gentleman had given good reason for the charges brought against the mode of conducting works which appeared in the newspapers, and which he learned from other sources. He (Mr. Mackenzie) was afraid that the expedition going westward would find a fearful difficulty in getting over what was called a road, but what was really not fit to be travelled over by regular vehicles, and more particularly when heavily laden. He was afraid the road would be 1380 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870 impassable for military expedition. It was quite evident the expedition was to go there, and the House must vote the means to pay for that expedition, and he could only say that the Government ought to give the House the fullest information as to what they intend doing. He would with great cheerfulness support and vote for measures carrying out that intention. The Government would lose nothing by being entirely frank with the House, though the course they had pursued during the session had been entirely the opposite.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—Hear, hear.
Mr. Mackenzie said the hon. member seemed to be very much amused at the idea, but he would not be so pleased if he (Mr. Mackenzie) descended to particulars, as he certainly should if the hon. member challenged him to do so, in voting money, and in reference to startling events occurring in their territory, and which required the consideration of Parliament. It was wrong on the part of the Government to withhold information, and entirely wrong to do so under the pretence that it was in the public interest, as if the House should, in the interest of the public, be kept in ignorance, as if they should be kept in front of the scenes, while the hon. gentleman opposite walked behind the screens in perfect mastery. That was not the way to treat a free Parliament, and he would not consent to such treatment at their hands; but especially in an emergency like the present, he thought every member was bound to give a fair support to Government provided they trusted the House. When the item came up again he would take the stand which he had expressed.
Mr. Masson (Soulanges) said he would move the amendment, which would have almost the same effect as one moved on a former occasion, because he still failed to see the necessity of that North-West expedition. After the introduction of a new measure for the Government of the North-West Territory, and which he desired to see carried, he did not see the necessity for sending up troops, and offering the olive branch with one hand while they carried war with the other. It meant you must either accept the measure or swallow it. They heard from the papers that peace existed in that part of the country since the arrival of Bishop Taché. It was said that Riel was about to run away with some money belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, and he hoped that Riel would, for he did not deserve to live in the country. The whole French population had been treated as rebels, or sympathizers with them. In his own name, and in the name of his people, he denied such an assertion, because 1381 they could not assent to such proceedings. They could not approve of the murder of Scott in that part of the country; and he would say for his fellow countrymen that no Frenchman in the Dominion approved of it, (hear). It was not because they sympathized with Riel that they opposed the expedition to Red River. When he moved the resolution against the expenditure of $1,300,000, it was in the belief that it was the intention of the Government to send an expedition into that part of the country. How was it that at that time preparations were being made for it? Where were they going to use that money if not for that purpose? To-day in discussing that item it was avowed that it was their intention yet to send a military expedition into the Red River country to make the people of that country swallow that measure whether they liked it or not. For his part he was a freeman, thank God, and believed while under the British Crown, and while protected by the British flag, he had a right to be heard, and he asserted that before asking those people to accept that measure they should be consulted. But no Government desired to frame laws and send troops to enforce them without asking the opinions of the people on the subject. If the Confederation scheme had been submitted to the people it would hardly have been accepted, and as the hon. member for Cornwall said, they would not be in the condition in which they found themselves today. When Confederation was carried they had a national debt of some seventy-seven millions, to—day it amounts to $100,000,000, and before many years he ventured to say it would exceed $150,000,000. The debt would be rolled up at the rate of from two to three millions per year in carrying on the Government of the North-West alone. Under those circumstances he wondered how any member of the House could wish to have anything to do with the new Territory.
After a few remarks from Mr. Ferguson, the House rose for recess at six o'clock.


The debate on the Bill intituled: "An Act to amend and continue the Act 32 and 33 Victoria, chapter 3; and to establish and provide for the Government of the Province of Manitoba" was then resumed.
Hon. Col. Gray was glad to hear that the policy of the Bill was peace to all parties concerned in the insurrection. They ought to look at the Bill in the light of future and not in the light of the present irritating circumstances, and he should support it.
Mr. Young said the question should be considered with moderation, but the issues were too important if the future of the Dominion was so deeply involved, that it would be criminal to remain silent. He was not astonished at the feeling in Ontario, for the people not only felt that the country had been humiliated by the insurrection, and that a loyal Canadian had been murdered, but that the future of the mag 1386 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870 nificent North-West Territories was trembling in the balance. The Government had blundered in not consulting the Red River people, in pushing through a Bill at the close of last session to govern them by a Lieutenant Governor and Orders in Council. This provoked an odious comparison with the neighbouring American territories, and the action of the officials sent there had increased the jealousy and alarm of the people. To cap the climax the Secretary of State for the Provinces arrived on the scene, and the Loyalists looked anxiously to him to dispel their doubts by stating the real intentions of the Canadian Government; but that gentleman remained silent at a time when silence was to betray his country's cause, and if the hon. member for North Lanark was to be believed, the hon. gentleman actually encouraged the discontented to resist the transfer to Canada, and to insist in obtaining what he called their rights, (hear, hear). Those were grave charges, and if true the hon. gentleman should not longer hold a position in the Councils of Her Majesty, (hear, hear). Since the expulsion of Lieutenant Governor McDougall, the Government had neither acted with wisdom nor patriotism.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks—What could we have done?
Mr. Young—You could have paid over the £300,000, to the Hudson's Bay Company, (hear, hear). They broke their agreement with the Imperial Government on the point, and as an excuse the House was told that if the Government had done so, the British Government would have refused to take part in the expedition. After the transfer, the North-West would still have been British territory, and the Imperial Government could hardly have done less than what has been gained by delay, and find one-fourth the men and pay one-fourth the expense—not paying the £300,000 was pretty much like a breach of faith, and at least showed a Want of trust of faith in the future of the country, and When it became known encouraged Riel, and helped to prevent a settlement for months. Two great facts had been ,before the country—armed insurrection against the Queen's authority, and the murder of a loyal British subject. Whatever, then, their political differences were, every loyal man— every true Canadian would agree that the Queen's authority should have been re-established, and the majesty of the law upheld. The course of the Government, from the first, had been clearly to take immediate steps to re 1387 assert the Queen's authority, and to see that the crime committed at Red River was punished, as if committed on the banks of the St. Lawrence or Ottawa. But they had delayed and delayed, and it was only now, when the increased public opinion of the country goaded them into action, that they took the first active measures to preserve that fine territory, and to uphold the laws of the land, (hear, hear). As regarded the policy the Government now had before the House, the speaker approved of creating the Province of Manitoba and giving the people representative institutions, but many provisions of the Bill were objectionable. The system of the Government proposed was too cumbrous and costly. He was glad that the boundaries had been extended to take in the Portage la Prairie settlements, but the country had not the Government to thank for that. They had been forced to withdraw that proposition which was little more than an insult to the House and the majority of the people of the Dominion, (hear, hear). He (Mr. Young) strongly objected to locking up 1,400,000 acres of land for the children of half-breeds in addition to lands they now held. This would give 350 acres for each male half-breed in the country; as they would not work their farms this land would be lost to the settlement, and with the lands now held under the Hudson's Bay Company titles, and the one-twentieth to be allotted to that Company would leave very little land in the small Province to be taken up. He hoped the House would amend that clause. More information should be given by the Government before they legalized all grants made by the Hudson's Bay Company, and in no case should any grant after the 12th of March, 1869, when the territory was bargained for, be legalized. The House should limit the first Parliament to two years, and allow every British subject going to Manitoba, as soon as he became a resident or householder, to exercise all rights of British subjects. The whole Bill, particularly as first brought in, bore traces of a bargain, a compromise, and of being largely dictated by the Red River delegates. He protested against these delegates being considered the representatives of the Red River people, as they had been elected under compulsion; and he felt humiliated to think that whilst these men had largely influenced the Government, not a single representative of the loyal people of Red River in the city knew a single provision of the Bill until it had been laid before the House, (hear). In regard to the Military Expedition he believed it necessary, but was glad the Government felt so sure it would be one of peace. The Minister of Finance represented that some members wanted the Government to adopt a war policy, and wanted bloodshed. The hon. gentleman was simply drawing upon his 1388 COMMONS DEBATES May 5, 1870 fertile imagination. The whole country wanted peace. For his part he regretted that any expedition was necessary, and but for the blundering of the Government none would have been required, and they would not have had to bear the vast expense it would cost, (hear). But when it became necessary it should have been despatched as soon as navigation opened. But, as on other questions, the course of the Government was weak and vacillating; as on the Tariff, they were divided among themselves; they had no policy, no guiding principle; only one bond held them together, the cohesive power of office and place, and it was only too plain that on thisgreat question of the preservation of the North-West in which the very future of their nationality was involved, their Bill had been cut and carved mainly with a view to enable them to engineer it easily through the House, and thus maintain themselves in place and dispense its patronage, (cheers).
Mr. Colby dissented from the views expressed by the preceding speaker. He defended the conduct of the Government throughout the entire North-West business, and contended that not only was the country satisfied with the course they had adopted, but the House was also, for he had never seen the benches so empty during an important discussion. He did not blame the Hon. Mr. McDougall, for he considered a better appointment could not have been made. He did not blame the hon. Minister of Justice, for although it had been asserted that the hon. gentleman had never displayed astuteness except in keeping himself into office, he (Mr. Colby) believed it was through the astuteness of the Prime Minister that the country had come so safely through the difficulty. He believed it was better not to make the new Province too large at first, but to allow it to expand as the population spread over the country; and he thought a better population than French Canadian Catholics could not occupy that key to the North-West. They were par excellence a loyal people, and they were in the best position to render assistance in protecting that valuable avenue. The hon. member for Waterloo seemed wedded to a single Legislative Chamber for a new Province, but he (Mr. Colby) did not approve of that exceptional form of legislation for the people of Manitoba.
Mr. Cartwright thought that the Government had failed to use discretion in the appointment of subordinate officials employed in the North-West. He had heard of no sufficient reasons for the large representation in the Dominion Parliament, which was given by the Bill, but they had better err on the side of generosity in thtter. The Government were responsible for the early fruits of the insurrection, but not for the murder of Scott and later actions. One good result would follow from their expedition to that Settlement, and the progress of the country would be forwarded more by it than by years of ordinary progress. He hoped the Government would be willing to accept amendments in Committee.
Mr. McCallum criticised the action of the Hon. Mr. Howe in the matter, especially as to his notorious conduct on the prairie.
Hon. Mr. Morris read from a report of the Hon. Mr. McDougall, published in the North- West newspapers, stating that the Hon. Mr. Howe at that interview warned the Hon. Mr. McDougall that delicate handling was required in the Territory, but did not state that there would be an armed insurrection, because he did not apparently expect it.
Mr. McCallum said it was impossible to bring in a Bill to satisfy all parties, and the question was whether the Government had done all in their power to avoid the difficulty. He thought they had not. The appointment and acts of Colonel Dennis were also severely criticised.
Hon. Mr. McDougall defended Colonel Dennis, who was a good surveyor.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said full opportunity would be allowed for the discussion in Committee; and the Bill was then read a second time, and was referred to the Committee of the Whole for to-morrow, when it will be the first measure for discussion.


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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