March 23, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)


' This parliament.' Parliaments are usually the result of appealing to the country and the wisdom of the people, and I take it that the good sense, and the good judgment, and the wisdom of the people of Canada are quite equal to the task of electing another parliament. I would not so much discredit the intelligence and the right aims of either the Roman Catholics or the French of this country as to insinuate that they would not be equal to the task of assisting to elect a parliament. Parliaments come and parliaments go, and we have never yet been confronted with that situation in Canada, and I am quite sure we are not likely to in the near future. The hon. minister said :
This is a religious question.
Well 1 can tell him that he was the first one in this House who said so. We thought it was a provincial autonomy Bill, that had to do with the establishment of two provinces in the Northwest, out of property that belongs to us, that it was a Bill for the purpose of giving them power to govern themselves, to legislate with regard to their own ends, to do the work which every province in the confederation that has provincial autonomy is doing at the present time. But the right hon. gentleman says it has turned into a religious question. Well, Mr. Speaker, if that he the case, who is responsible ? Is it this side of the House ? Did we introduce the element which would arouse any feeling along religious or sectarian or national lines ? Not by any means. We were silent spectators at the introduction of that Bill, which contains the elements that have provoked the acrimonious feeling existing in some parts of the country to-day. It is, I submit, the right lion, gentleman himself who availed himself of the earliest opportunity-I was going to say the improper opportunity-of making, upon the introduction of this Bill, a very impassioned speech along those lines. His speech on that occasion was something very unusual, Mr. SPROULE.
something very improper, something in my judgment quite uncalled for ; for while it is competent and proper for the member who introduces a Bill to explain its provisions, he is expected to confine himself to that object and explain them as briefly as possible. But Instead of an explanation, we had an exordium on other lines. We had raked up the condition of things before confederation. The right hon. gentleman conjured up again recollections of the various fights on religious issues that formerly prevailed between Upper and Lower Canada, when these two provinces were united. All these bitter recollections were pressed into service for the purpose of impressing on this House the wisdom and the necessity of passing this Bill. If there be acrimonious feeling excited in the country to-day, who is responsible ? Certainly not the opposition hut the government itself led by the right hon. gentleman, whose appeal in favour of the obnoxious features of the Bill was endorsed by the hon. the Finance Minister. These are the men who are responsible. It is they who have created the feeling of distrust which exists to-day. The right hon. gentleman declared that the press which supports the opposition has spared no effort to inflame the public mind on a very delicate subject. But if there were any such attempt, was it confined to the Conservative press ? If there were any efforts to inflame the public mind, is that to be traced to the Conservative press alone ? No, Sir, the criticisms of the press throughout the country were not confined to the newspapers supporting any political party. We had these criticisms from religious papers, independent papers, and political papers on both sides. And they all were agreed in the main that the government is doing an improper thing, something calculated to create a strong feeling of aversion throughout the country against the measure and the government itself. Is not that a fact, Mr. Speaker ? Need I point to the very logical, moderate and fair criticisms of the ' Globe '-the organ above all others which ought to voice the sentiments of the present government-and criticisms which, I humbly submit, would do credit to any newspaper in Canada. What is the press of the country doing to-day ? The organs of public opinion are, as a mirror, reflecting public sentiment, walling on the government to take warning, calling on parliament to take warning, and not do to-day what afterwards they may not be able to undo. Is the press to blame because it contains denunciations of the offensive features of this measure ? Is not the press in this respect exercising a public duty, and can it be charged with inflaming public passion and arousing sectarian strife because it calls attention to the dangers of this Bill ? Not at all. It is not the press of the country but the right hon. gentleman and his friends who must be held responsible for the present conditions.

The right hon. gentleman appealed to his record dealing with these troublesome questions, and pleaded that he had given sufficient evidence of his desire to conciliate and treat the various elements and creeds in this country upon lines that are broad, national and humane. He referred to his refusal to interfere in the New Brunswick agitation with regard to separate schools and gave that as an evidence of the spirit of fairness and toleration which actuates him. In the first speech he made on this measure he also referred to that matter, and drew attention to the fact that he ha'd then advocated noninterference with the rights of the province. Well, it struck me at the time that if that be the record of the right hon. gentleman, it is a great pity he did not embody the spirit which then actuated him into the measure now before parliament, because, if I understand the English language, this measure is above all things an interference with provincial rights. The right hon. gentleman told us that he refused to interfere in the agitation over the Jesuits Estate Bill because it was the undoubted right of the province to pass that Bill. Bet me say that the Jesuits Estate Bill was my first experience in parliamentary life with one of these vexed questions, and I agreed with the right hon. the First Minister that as it was dealing with lands belonging to the province, which in my judgment the province had a perfect right to sell and do what it liked with the proceeds, consequently we as a federal parliament had no right to interfere. I held that it was a Bill dealing with education, which under the British North America Act came within the exclusive right of the province ; and therefore if the province chooses to sell those lands and use the proceeds for educational purposes, or throw them into the sea, we had no right to interfere. Therefore although the question excited a great deal of feeling in my section of the country, I stood by that principle as firmly as I stand by it to-day. and I did it believing that the only guarantee for the successful working out of confederation lay in giving the provinces all the rights conferred on them by the constitution, and only exercising here those rights which belong to the federal parliament. Then we had the right hon. gentleman boasting that on the question of the Manitoba school education he had stood by provincial rights and endeavoured by conciliatory methods to adjust the differences between the two classes of people in that province and finally succeeded. Well, Mr. Speaker, I was with the First Minister on that question as well. I took the same grounds that I did on the Jesuits Estate question, namely, that it was undoubtedly the right of the province to deal with education, and I opposed any proposal to coerce or force Manitoba at that time. Was I right' then ? I submit that I was consistent in the stand I took upon those two questions, which were at the very antipodes
of each other, so far as popularity in my riding was concerned. Am I then to be blamed if I take the same ground to-day ! Am I to be blamed if I take my stand today on the question of provincial rights in the matter before the House as firmly as I (lid on the Jesuits Estate Bill and the Remedial Bill, which sought to compel the province of Manitoba to do what I thought she had a perfect right to refuse to do ? Then,
I say, I am consistent with my record m every particular. But the First Minister is not consistent with his record. On other occasions he stood by provincial rights ; to-day he is abandoning the principle of provincial rights and forcing upon these unwilling provinces laws which compel them to do what the constitution never intended they should be compelled to do. The right hon. gentleman defends his conduct by saying : I am doing this in obedience to the constitution. The Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) said last night that he did not understand the Prime Minister to say that he was compelled by the constitution to take the course he does. But I have here the Prime Minister's very words :
I stand again, as I believe, upon the rock oE the constitution of Canada when I say that this parliament should, according to that constitution, give to the minority in the new provinces the same rights and privileges that are given to the minorities in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
This is as plain, a declaration as could be made that he is obliged by the constitu- _ tion to do what he is doing-that he must take the course he does or otherwise he will not be doing right. I leave the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to settle this difference between themselves. But I take the declaration of the Prime Minister.
I understand his reasoning to be that, as section 93 of the British North America Act provides that certain rights enjoyed before confederation must be continued after coming into the union, he feels compelled to take the course he does. He says, if I understand him correctly. The Northwest Territories have a form of government, and under that form they have established separate schools ; and, now that we are establishing the provinces by these Autonomy Bills, we must provide for the perpetuation of the separate school privilege.
Now section 9? provides :
In and for each province the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education.
But the section further provides :
Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools which any class of persons have by law in the province at the union.
So, Hid Prime Minister argues that, because they have denominational schools by 1 law in the Northwest Territories at this

particular time, which he calls-improperly I think-the union, he is obliged under the constitution to provide in the Bills now before us for the continuation of the system of separate schools. Now, my understanding of the constitution is that subsections 2 and 3 of clause 93 of the British North America Act was intended to apply to provinces that had provincial autonomy before entering the union. Even at the time of confederation there were provinces, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, which did not then enter the union, but which have entered since. Had either of these had a system of separate schools before entering the union, these subsections of clause 93 would apply, as it applied also to Ontario and Quebec. But these subsections do not apply in the case before us at all. Because, these provinces are being carved out of territory that is already in the union, and never had provincial autonomy, but has had only such legislative authority as was delegated by this parliament under laws made in 1875 and later. The contention of the First Minister, as I have said, is that because they have separate schools we must perpetuate that system. But is that the contention of the Finance Minister -(Mr. Fielding) as well ?

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