March 2, 1948 (20th Parliament, 4th Session)


René Hamel

Bloc populaire canadien


Once more, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for your kindness.
In 1868, the school legislation of Prince Edward Island underwent a thorough reform. Catholic schools were recognized and provided for. This province entered confederation in 1873 and until 1877 Catholic schools were maintained under the 1868 statute. Everything was at peace then. But again in this province Catholic and French schools were struck out with a stroke of the pen. Your Catholic and French schools were in existence, we are told, but they were not protected by statute. As regards the teaching of French, it is also true that this right was expressly written in the provincial school legislation, but unfortunately it is not protected by the 1867 act as it did not apply to a specific class of persons. In Prince Edward Island as elsewhere, French was crossed out of the act.
I suppose hon. members are interested in knowing what are the fundamental reasons why we are divided. That is why I have dealt with this problem.
Leaving Fredericton and Charlottetown and setting out for Winnipeg, we find another Golgotha where the rights of the French Catholic minority were pitilessly immolated. Passed in 1870, section 22 of the Manitoba Act provided protection against any legislation "affecting any right or privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic minority of the Queen's subjects in relation to education." Section 23 of the act provided as follows:
Either the English or the French language may be used by any person in the debates of the Houses and so on.
Could it be clearer or more specific? As a matter of fact Catholics and Protestants have been living together for twenty years in perfect understanding. Catholics and Protestants support only their own schools.
In 1890 came the Martin laws depriving the Catholic minority of all its rights. The privy council acknowledged the glaring injustice of this legislation. Parliament agreed. A Protestant member from Winnipeg, Mr. Hugh J. Macdonald, stated in this house in 1893:
The separate school system of Manitoba has been abolished in a barbarous, brutal and cruel way.

Once more the French and Catholic minority was crushed. Being unable to face double taxation they were forced to close a large number of their schools.
Study closely the story of schools in the district of Keewatin and in the other parts of the northwest territorities. In every case the same condition obtained. In order to ensure the consent of Catholics and of French people to the entrance of their territory into confederation, you had the same definite promise as to the protection of their faith and of their language, and the same violation of these rights as soon as the anglo-protestant majority could act at no great risk to itself. Mr. Speaker, I have gone into this bit of history for the following reasons.
In the first place, it is because I am personally convinced that the treatment inflicted upon the Catholics of this country, who number nearly five million and form 43 per cent of our population, explains much more adequately than the way in which history is taught in our schools, the dissension existing between the two major groups in this country. My second reason is that I thought it desirable to recall that historic episode, in view of the fact that the establishment of a federal district is now being mooted. I do know, Mr. Speaker, that speaking before a meeting of representatives of 22 municipalities interested in the project, the Minister of Public Works, as reported in the February 11, 1948, issue of Le Droit, gave the assurance that the plan was not to form a federal district administered by a commission, like those which exist in Washington or Canberra, but rather to beautify the dominion capital and the neighbouring localities, while respecting their autonomy as was done in Paris. How can the statements of the Minister of Public Works jibe with those which were made by the Prime Minister himself in this house, especially on April 21, 1944, when he said, as reported on page 2237 of Hansard'.
I have spoken on this subject a number of times and some years ago I made the suggestion, which others have also made, that some day the capital of Canada might become a federal district to be administered by a commission, in a manner similar to the capital at Washington.
This statement was made by the Prime Minister himself. It is not the system followed in the French capital that the government contemplates in connection with the dominion capital, but indeed the system followed in Washington. Consequently the population of French origin and Catholic

The Address-Mr. Hamel
faith will be faced with the same problems which arose in 1867, 1870, 1877, 1890 and 1905. How do the hon. gentlemen opposite intend to spare their compatriots and co-religionists the sad fate met by the French and Catholic population of the maritimes, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and even Ontario? By promises? Ten times in 80 years, the most solemn and formal promises have been broken. By texts? Read over again Manitoba's constitution, the Northwest Territories first constitution, and you will find out what a text is worth.
Mr. Speaker, the second reason of our dissensions in this country is that confederation was a bona fide pact, which was to be interpreted in a broad and generous manner, but it has been applied shabbily at the expense of the Catholic population which in 1941 was 44 per cent of the total country's population, and to the detriment of the French population which is more than 30 per cent of the total population of Canada.
Frustrated in their religious and cultural rights, the French Canadians were again frustrated in economic matters.
In the matter of subsidies, whether it be under the dominion tax proposals, or towards the construction of houses or again, on a per capita basis, as family allowances, it is a well known fact that the province of Quebec ranks last in Canada.
Last week's debate on the Farm Improvement Loans bill has shown that there also Quebec has received less than any of the other provinces. .
Coming now to the railroads, we find Quebec still dragging behind the others. I find at page 660 of the Canada Year Book a most interesting table on this question:
Number of miles per thousand people
Saskatchewan 9'69
Alberta 7'22
Manitoba 6-65
British Columbia 4-74
New Brunswick 4'01
Prince Edward Island 3-00
Ontario 2-77
Nova Scotia 2-5
Quebec 1-43
Another known fact is that in the civil service French-speaking employees represent only about \2\ per 100 of the total while
we account for 30 per 100 of the Canadian population.
From what the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Langlois) said yesterday, I understand
he is satisfied with present conditions.

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