Newfoundland Legislative Assembly, 9 February 1865, Newfoundland Debates over Confederation with Canada.



The house met at three o'clock.
Mr. KENT presented a petition from the Right Rev. Dr. Mullock, Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John's, which was received and read, setting forth that he had accidently learned that a Bill Ĺżor the registration of births, marriages and deaths had been before the house and had passed a second reading, imposing duties and penalties on the Roman Catholic Clergy, who are in nowise officials of the Government, salaried or otherwise; that while petitioner believed the principle of the bill to be a step in the way of civilisation, still he considered it unjust that, without notice to the parties concerned, penalties and duties should be imposed upon them, that petitioner and his clergy will willingly allow the government registrar, under certain limitations, access to the parochial registries of baptisms and marriages, but respectfully decline to become the unpaid officials of the government, under penalties; and praying that the house would not pass the bill in its present form.
Mr. KENT, in moving that the petition lie on the table, said the petition had reference to the fifth, sixth, fifteenth and concluding sections of the bill. His Lordship Dr Mullock and his clergy were not willing to be compelled by law to make to the Government, under penalties, the returns provided for by that bill. They were not officials of the Governinent, and if a law were passed compelling them to make returns as to the manner in which they administered the rites of the Church of which they were ordained clergymen, they considered it would be tantamount to a penal enactment. He (Mr Kent) thought the hon leader of the Government should have been more cautious in drawing up the bill —he should have trusted for the success of such a measure more to moral influence than to any penal enactment lie (Mr Kent) had looked over the Irish act for the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and he did not see that it contained a single penal enactment, notwithstanding that there was an established church in that country, whose clergy were more amenable to the Government than those of a Church having no connection with the state. He was perfectly satisfied the leader of the Government would take the matter into consideration, and so modify the provisions of the measure as to remove its objectionable features. The law should be so framed as not to excite the conscientious fear or alarm of any clergyman whatever. In Ireland, he ſound the registration was entirely carried out by laymen.
Mr. Talbot was satisfied the leader of the Government would, in committee on that bill, meet the wishes of the Right Rev Bishop and his clergy.
Mr RENOUF—That bill, in its present shape, would impose onerous duties, under penalties, upon clergy men who received no stipend whatever from the Government.
Mr KAVANAGH had great pleasure in supporting the prayer of that petition, and trusted the leader of the Government would so modify the measure as to render it acceptable to all.
Mr CASEY was sure it never was the intention of the learned Attorney General to impose penalties on the Catholic clergy under that bill. The duties of the Catholic clergy were most arduous. They had scarcely any leisure; and to impose additional duties upon them would be highly improper. He was satisfied that, in committee, the hon leader of the Government would remove what was considered objectionable in the bill.
Ordered that the petition lie on the table.
Mr MOORE presented a petition from Thomas Dwyer and others, of Upper Island Cove, which was received and read, praying for a grant to complete a road in that locality.
Mr RENOUF presented a petition from John White and others, of Petty Harbour, which was received and read, praying for a grant to deepen the gut there.
Mr RENOUF, in moving that the petition lie on the table, would heartily support its prayer. The petitioners were entitled to every consideration from the Government, and he trusted that matter would receive that consideration to which its importance, entitled it.
Mr CASEY supported the prayer of the petition. When the wind blew from the North East the petitioners had very great difficulty in mooring their boats. If any money should be granted this session for breakwaters, he considered injustice would be done to the etitioners if their claim should not also be attended to. They had not often asked anything from the Government; they had supported themselves without asking for poor relief, except a few this year.
Mr TALBOT quite agreed with his hon colleagues that that was an important petition. These people were industrious, and suffered great inconvenience and loss from the want of proper shelter for their boats. He trusted that petition would not be overlooked. The people were entitled to consideration.
Ordered that the petition lie on the table.
Mr E D SHEA gave notice that on to-morrow he would ask the hon Acting Colonial Secretary to lay on the table a copy of the report of the Commander of H.M.S. Medea of the fisheries at Labrador.
On motion of the hon ATTORNEY GENERAL, pursuant to order of the day, the house resolved itself into committee of the whole on the bill for the registration of births, marriages and deaths—Mr. Barron in the Chair.
Hon. ATTORNEY GENERAL –The object of that bill was to provide information as to the gradual growth of population in this colony, and also to form a public record by which the rights of parties in matters of inheritance might be established. Registers of births, marriages and deaths were kept as a matter of record in almost all civilized countries, and it might be considered a reproach to us that hitherto we had no enactment for such public records being kept. Statistical information on that subject was also now considered a matter of great importance, and governments bestowed great a tention on the collection of such statistics, which enabled them to judge of the progress of population and the sanitary state of the people; and to some extent of their comfort and social condition. The present bill was an attempt, and he must admit, an imperfect attempt, to provide such a record. To provide such a system of registrition as existed in the United Kingdom might at present be too expensive. But an attempt ought to be made, and when that bill should have gone through committee, and they had experience of its working, its imperfections could be remedied by subsequent legislation. The greatest difficulty he apprehended would be found in our population being so scattered, so that there would be a difficulty in sending the required information to the proper officer. He did not consider that in the existing circuinstances of the colony any money could be appropriated towards giving effect to that measure. He thought the Stipendiary Magistrates would be willing to act as Registrars; and where there were no Stipendiary Magistrates the Governor in Council would appoint Registrars. When the sections of the bill objected to in the petition presented by the hon. member for St. John's East (Mr. Kent) came to be considered, the objections to them would be taken up, and he hoped the matter would be satisfactorily arranged. He concurred with the hon member that the co-operation of all was necessary to the proper working of the measure, and hoped that in a matter of so much importance to their own people, the aid of the Roman Catholic clergy would be readily given to carry out that registration efficiently.
Mr. KNET had great pleasure in supporting the principle of the bill. It was as creditable to the hon. Attorney General as was the information and research which he had brought to bear on the question. The increase of population was shown by the births, and the sanatory condition of the people by its rate of mortality. And these were matters upon which it was very necessary that we should be informed. Indeed statistical information of every description was highly desirable. He was surprised by recent information procured at the instance of one of the Judges of our Supreme Court, that 1500 sheep had been destroyed at Brigus and its vincinity by dogs in five years. Did not that fact show that it was necessary to remove the cause of this destruction? The same principle applied to this measure. Every one speaks of our healthy climate, but the idea was only a speculative one, for we had no statistical information as to the mortality. In the United Kingdom, every thing was accurately known, and the bills of mortality in London were regularly published once a week. He (Mr. Kent) thought that the proper persons to carry out the provisions of this measure were the Stipendiary, Magistrates, and he trusted that us we progressed in material prosperity, we might be able to allow them some small compensation for their services in the matter. He could fancy that they might be very profitably employed in collecting all kinds of statistical information, and especially with reference to agriculture. And they certainly ought not to object to perform this duty which would occupy but a small portion of their time. Our position was in many instances an anomaly. In the other colonies they cannot see any necessity for salaried magistrates over the whole country as we had here. He was very glad to see that the hon the Attorney General saw the propriety of omitting the two sections in this bill already referred to. He was certain when that hon gentleman evinced such a desire to propitiate the good wishes of hon members on this side of the house, that from them he would receive no factious or violent opposition in the public business.
Mr. WHITEWAY had great pleasure, in supporting this bill. But he did not think that the outport magistrates should he saddled with these new duties without being in some way paid for their services. At present their salaries were hardly sufficient to keep them from starvation. It was very true that in some parts of the island they had very littie to do; but in other places to his (Mr. Whiteway's) own knowledge they had a great, amount of duty to perform, and their time was fully occupied. It should also be remembered that these gentlemen were not unfrequently the Deputy Surveyors, and were often called away forty or fifty miles from their homes for the purpose of surveying land for which service they received but trifling remuneration. Last winter the Magistrate at Fogo was occupied for nearly two months on business apart from his office, occasioned by the number of wrecked sealers that had to seek shelter there. We could not find gentlemen in this country who could afford to work without remuneration, a fact of which we had sufficient evidence when we found three Contingency Bills thrown out in the Legislative Council, because hon gentlemen representing out higher classes refused to give two or three hours of their time, once or twice a week, to the service of the country, without remuneration. He was sorry to see this additional duty imposed on the Magistrates without some little fee to remunerate them for their service.
Mr. RENOUF hoped that the eloquent speech of the hon member for Fogo would be reported. He (Mr. Renouf) thought the object of the bill was a good one. These Magistrates had very little to do, and they might be very usefully employed in collecting the information necessary to the successful carrying out of this measure. He (Mr. Renouf) thought their salaries were amply sufficient for the duties they had to perform. That measura would not entail much additional labor, and he considered that they were certainly the proper persons to be entrusted with the carrying out of the provisions of that bill.
Mr. E. D. SHEA regarded the principle of that bill as unobjectionable. It would certainly have the effect of procuring very useful information. We should now know more of that interesting locality Goat's Cove than we knew before. Hon members would be able to ascertain the number of its inhabitants, and whether Mr King was in reality monarch of all he surveyed in that quarter. But joking apart, he considered the measure a very useful one, and the only difficulty in his mind was that it would not be carried out efficiently, because there was no provision for remunerating the parties who were to perform the work. It seemed to be thought, however, that the Stipendiary Magistrates would be only too glad to take upon themselves this extra duty. They enjoyed so many of the blessings of civilization in these outports, their position there was such a happy one, that they would feel that they were bound to make some return for all the numerous advantages they reaped. It had been said that they were in some districts rarely called upon to adjudicate upon a case. He (Mr. Shea) thought that fact spoke trumpet-tongued in their favour. Did it not show the great moral influence which their presence exercised? It was not right that they should now be burdened with extra duties of an onerous character, without one shilling compensation. He did not see why they should be more patriotic and disinterested than other officials. Then many of these gentlemen had to perform the duties of Poor Commissioners, and if they were not paid for that they should be, for a more arduous and disagreeable duty he (Mr. Shea) could not conceive. It was not fair for the Government to impose these additional duties on these gentlemen merely because they had the power to do so. Looking at the provisions for carrying out the present measure, he did not think that the Government could reasonably expect that the duties would be efficiently performed. But beyond the Magistrates, the Government were to appoint Registrars. These men, of course, would be paid; or was it contemplated that all were to do the work from pure unsullied, unmixed patriotism? He (Mr. Shea) very much feared that this attempt at economy was not a very wise proceeding. He did not wish to predict failure. He merely expressed the fears which he really entertained. He hoped that there would be some inducement held out to these gentlemen, of some small remuneration —otherwise we could not have much confidence in the successful working of that measure.
Mr. TALBot.—No one would take an interest in any business if he was not paid for it. If the Government employed Registrars they would be compelled to pay them. And what would be the necessary, result with the Magistrates? They would become jealous of the Registrars, and of course their work would be inefficiently performed. The best plan would be to pay all or none. He (Mr. Talbot) must confess that his opinion was, considering the modus operandi to be pursued, that this measure would result in failure, in fact become totally inoperative. The best way would be not to pass it all, as we had no guarantee that it would be carried into effect; and the Act would be mere waste paper and an incumbrance to the statute book. The Roman Catholic clergy would not consent to discharge the duties that were to be imposed on them. Besides, there were private reasons, which could never be known that would prevent them. They would not act as the officials of any government, paid or unpaid. If the government passed the bill in its present form it would be a penal act. The church and state could never run together in parallel lines in all things, and you could, not force them. There were certain things connected with births and marriages, that they could not tell you of. As citizens, they would be bound, but as Ministers of religion, you would not get anything out of them. Whenever their principles came in contact with the state, they were bound to resist. Therefore this bill would be altogether a nullity. If the government made it incumbent on mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, to give the notices required by this bill, where was the necessity for requiring the clergymen, to do so? With these observations he supported the principle of the measure though he did not see how it was possible for this act to be carried into effect.
Hon ATTORNEY GENERAL.—If he was not mistaken marriages must be registered under the marriage act.
Mr. KENT.—But clergymen were not bound to make returns.
The hon ATTORNEY GENERAL believed they were.
The SPEAKER considered that it was of great importance that there should be a registration of births and marriages. The measure applied to all, and it was a duty that they owed to their own people, as it was of the utmost importance that such registers should be correctly kept, as they might involve rights of property and the peace of families, and serious loss and damage might result from the want of that evidence which, in the lapse of time, such registers only could furnish. In this country no great loss had yet taken place from the want of public registers although he was aware there had been some. We were increasing, and with an increase of population and accumulatios of property, it was of the utmost importance that we should have a correct registry of marriages and births. A registry of deaths was also necessary. He had frequent applications from England and Ireland as to the deaths of persons, and the time of such deaths. With regard to penalties, it there was any objection, he did not see that it was necessary to press that. It became a moral duty, and he took it for granted all clergymen would be ready and willing to assist in securing accurate registers. In Lower Canada there was a system of public registration, duplicate registers being kept by all clergymen, one of which was at the end of each year deposited with the Clerk of the Court, and the Roman Catholic clergy were the first named in the Act.—(Here bon Speaker read the first section of the Act of Lower Canada.) He thought it was the duty of all clergymen to assist in carrying out such a necessary measure. As to the penalties, he did not suppose they would come to much, but he did not think any clergymen would refuse to give the necessary returns.
Mr. KENT.—It was, no doubt of importance both as regarded the rights of property and for necessary statistical information, that there should be a correct registry of births, marriages and deaths. But what the petition of the Right Revd. Dr. Mullock objeced to was that the Catholic clergy should, under penalties, be bound to make returns to the government, which he regarded as a species of penal legislation.
Mr PROWSE was surprised that there should be any difficulty about furnishing information which was considered necessary in all civilised and progressive countries. He did say that if in that bill there was anything which touched the religious feeling of the Right Rev Dr. Mullock, he (Mr Prowse) would not be a party to its enactment, for however valuable the information might be, religious feelings must be held sacred; and he was satisfied the leader of the Government would be the last to infringe them. But such registers were very much required, and he (Mr Prowse) trusted there would be a willingness to assist in having them accurately made up.
Mr TALBOT—It was customary in all Catholic countries to keep in the churches public registers of marriages and births, and whenever courts of justice required extracts from them as matter of evidence, access to them was allowed. But there were no public registers of marriage here at all, because marriages were not performed in the churches. But there was a registry kept of baptisms and marriages, and the Bishop had no objection to allow it to be copied if the government required it.
Hon ATTORNEY GENERAL –It seemed to be considered objectionable that the bill should impose a duty for which there was no compensation. He had no objection to dispense with the 5th section of the Bill. But he could not say the same respecting the 6th. It was the section on which he relied for securing a correct registry of marriages. It provided that in addition to what clergymen were bound by law to do, they should send a copy of their registry at the end of the year to the Colonial Secretary's office. This object was to procure in a condensed form what was now recorded in all the churches and chapels in the island. He quite agreed with the Speaker that it was not a matter which any clergyman would object to, when the importance of the object was considered.
Mr KENT—But it was to be done under a penalty.
Hon ATTORNEY GENERAL –As to the penalty, if that was the objection, there would not be much difficulty about it. These sections might as well be passed over for further consideration, and the other sections of the bill proceeded with.
The seventh section was then read and adopted.
The remaining sections were read servatim and adopted, and the committee rose and the chairman reported progress and asked leave to sit again. To sit again to-morrow.
On motion of the hon Attorney General, pursuant to order of the day, the house resolved itself into Committee of the whole on the Coroners' Bill, Dr Winter in the chair.
The hon Attorney General explained the object of the bill, and the present state of the law, after which its several sections were read and adopted, down to the section authorizing the Goveonor in Council to fix the fees under the measure, on which there was some discussion, when the committee rose and the chairman reported progress. To sit again to-morrow.
On motion of the hon Attorney General, pursuant to order of the day, the house resolved itself into committee of the whole on the bill to provide for wives and children deserted by their husbands and parents, and for parents deserted by their children, Mr. Wyatt in the chair.
The hon Attorney General having explained the object of the bill, several sections were read and adopted, with some amendments. The committee then rose and the chairman reported progress. To sit again to- morrow.
The house then adjourned until to-morrow at three o'clock.


The Newfoundlander, 1864-1869. Digitized by Google Books



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Isabelle Carré-Hudson.

Personnes participantes: