March 30, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Joseph Gédéon Horace Bergeron

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Speaker, when the House rose at six o'clock, I was reading the words of the member for Brandon (Mr. Sifton), his own apolgy for the extraordinary position which he assumes on the measure now before the House. He left the government because he could not agree with his colleagues on clause 16 of the Bill as originally presented, and when he spoke here lie seemed to take a great deal of pride in the fact that the government had amended that clause and substituted for it the provision as to separate schools which we are now discussing. We have had it stated throughout the country, by the friends of the government in some quarters, that the government had not changed their policy on this question, and that the amended clause is in effect the same as clause 16, the difference being only in the phraseology. If we are to believe what the ex-minister (Mr. Sifton) says, and he seems to know all about it, it is quite clear that he carried his point against the government, against the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, and the framers of clause 16, and that these gentlemen had to take back water at the command of their ex-minister. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Sifton) said, * Hansard ' page 3103 :
Let me give what I conceive to be an accurate resume of the principles which are enforced and carried out by these ordinances. We have one normal school with uniform normal
training for all teachers, and when I say all teachers, I mean teachers of all schools, separate and public ; uniform curricula and courses of study for all schools of the same grade ; uniform text books for all schools whatever ; uniform qualification of teachers for all schools whatever ; complete and absolute control of all schools as to their government and conduct, by the central school authority set up by the legislature under the ordinances ; complete secularization of all schools between^ nine o'clock in the morning and three-thirty in the afternoon, except that any school, if the tius-tees so desire, may be opened with the Loid s Prayer ; distribution of the legislative grant to all schools according to educational efficiency on principles set out in chapter 31.
Then, where there is a public school, the minority, Protestant or Roman Catholic, may organize' a separate school ; hut every separate school is subject absolutely to all the foregoing provisions, and is in every sense of the term a public school. If the Protestants are in the minority in a district, their school is called a separate school ;

I call the attention of hon. gentlemen to the fact that what we in the province of Quebec would call a Protestant school, is, according to the member for Brandon, a separate school when the Protestants of the district are in the minority. The ex-minister continued :
If the Catholics are in the minority in a district, their school is called a separate school , but both are public schools. They are absolutely similar save for one distinction : where the trustees are Protestant, there is Protestant teaching from half-past three to four, and where the trustees are Roman Catholic there is Roman Catholic teaching from half-past three to four. That is absolutely the only distinction between these schools.
Then the hon. gentleman read the amended clause as follows : .
Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right' or privilege with respect to separate schools which any class of persons have at the date of the passing of this Act, under the terms of chapters 29 and 30 of the ordinances of the Northwest Territories passed in the year 1901.
Commenting oil this clause, the hon. gentleman (Mr. Sifton) is speaking to the element of our population who are opposed to separate schools ; he is making an apology for the amended clause, and he says :
What does that preserve ? I have read these ordinances through, and all that I can find this section to preserve-and it is an important thing-let us not exaggerate or minimize, let us know exactly what we are doing-I think that this is what we are doing and all that we are doing. This section preserves the right of the Protestant or Roman Catholic minority to have their school, a separate school in name, but a public school in fact, in a separate building if they wish. That is the right it preserves. It preserves, secondly, the right of the Protestant or Roman 'Catholic minority in such school to have religious teaching from 3.30 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Further on lie says :
But there cannot be under this system any control of the school by any clerical or sectarian body.
The aim of the hon. gentleman is to show that he is opposed to clerical or sectarian teaching more than anything else. Well, Sir, let me tell him that those who are in' favour of separate schools in the proper sense of the word are in favour of clerical and sectarian teaching, or otherwise those schools would not deserve the name of separate schools. He says :
There cannot be any sectarian teaching between nine o'clock in the morning and half-past three in the afternoon. So that, so far as we have objections to separate schools based upon the idea of church control, clerical control, or ecciesiasticism in any form, this system of schools is certainly not open to that objection.
And yet the newspapers which are supporting the government in the province of Quebec are boasting that the Prime Minister is preserving for ever the separate school system which the people of the Northwest Territories had at first-not the present system of separate schools existing there, which does not amount to anything. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Sifton) goes on to speak of Manitoba and he boasts of what he has done :
When we in the province of Manitoba undertook to remove what was a- school system that I said was inefficient to the point of absurdity, we found ourselves confronted with many and serious difficulties.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I stated this afternoon what I believed to be the real cause of the changing of the school law in Manitoba, and when the member for Brandon says that the clerical school system is inefficient, I can refer him to such an excellent authority as the right hon. the Prime Minister who will tell him that he is entirely mistaken. If the hon. gentleman said that the elementary schools in our province, or in other provinces for that matter, if he said that what we call in French les petites ecoles are not perfect, there might be some ground for his statement, because it is unfortunately true that those who pay for the maintenance of these schools do not contribute sufficient to secure the services of first-class teachers. However, these elementary schools are mostly attended by very young children and up to the present time they have been found fairly sufficient for their purpose. But when the member for Brandon (Mr. Sifton) makes the sweeping assertion that clerical schools are inefficient he simply does not know what he is talk-1 ing about. Let him look around him in this House and see the men on both sides, who are the alumni of clerical schools. Let him look at the men in this chamber who have been taught in colleges and schools
conducted by priests ; let him look at the men who have received what he calls a clerical education, and perhaps he will revise his judgment. The hon. member for Brandon has not to look only on this side of the House ; let him look at the men sitting around him and beside him who have received their education in schools controlled by the clergy, and I think he will have to admit that they are men of education, men of high attainments, men of whom any country might well be proud.
More than that ; the hon. member for Brandon is unjust, because, if I am well informed-and I have taken my information from some newspapers of repute published in the province of Manitoba-the Catholic university of St. Boniface to-day is above competition. It is understood that in that university, the young men in the highest classes have nobody to compete with, from Toronto to the Pacific coast and they are obliged to compete amongst themselves. They have carried off prizes, medals and every distinction. Nobody knows this better than the hon. member for Brandon. These young men are taught by ecclesiastics ; they are the subjects of clerical schools. So I say to those who might be tempted to believe him that when the hon. gentleman talks of the inefficiency of clerical education, he is out of the way altogether.
In answer to my hon. friend the Minister of Customs (Mr. Paterson), who had declared that the proceedings of the Manitoba government in abolishing separate schools in that province might have been obnoxious to somebody, the bon. member for Brandon said : ' Well, Sir, I am here to say that
we cannot abolish abuses of that kind by handling people with kid gloves.' No, we all know that he did not use kid gloves. We all know that not only was the minority in Manitoba robbed of its system of schools, not only was the French language abolished, which is something appreciated by those who speak that language, but their buildings to the amount of $14,000 were stolen from them by the Manitoba government and were never given back to them. So when the hon. gentleman says that he did not use kid gloves, he is right. I would rather say he used a crowbar or a pince-monseig-neur to steal the separate schools of Manitoba, or what they had and their buildings.
My hon. friend from Labelle (Mr. Bour-assa) speaks very well-I have heard him before-but be always comes to a conclusion entirely different from his premises. Every time 1 have heard him on these subjects. I have always seen him starting against the government and finishing by being entirely with the government. He thought he would make a point in his speech by criticising my hon. friend the leader of the opposition. He even went so far as to say that he had lost confidence in the leader of the opposi-

tion. Well, that did not pain my hon. friend very much, because he had never supposed that the hon. member for Labelle had any confidence in him. The hon. member for Labelle, if I infer rightly from the words he uttered, is entirely opposed to the amendment. Still. I believe, though he did not say so in words, that he will vote for the amendment. So it is no use for me to discuss his speech, because, though it was witty and well delivered, its conclusion did not follow from its premises ; consequently there is no result to it.
My hon. friend from Peel (Mr. Blain), in the very eloquent speech he made in the House in answer to the hon. member for Labelle, spoke of the generosity of those men whom the hon. member for Labelle was ready to asperse. My hon. friend from Peel forgot one thing, however, when he spoke of the generosity of Ontario, he should more properly have spoken of the generosity of the Conservatives of Ontario. My hon. friend said that only lately there was an election in the province of Ontario, and the Prime Minister of the day had said that if he came into power he would see that every nationality and creed would be represented in his government. What did he do when called on to form an administration? He kept his word ; he acted like an honourable man and according to the traditions of the Conservative party. Mr. Speaker, who was the man who for the first time, appointed to the upper House of this parliament a French Canadian from the province of Ontario-a man coming from your own city, the Hon. Mr. Casgrain ? Sir John A. Macdonald, whom the Liberals in our province have always tried to make a scapegoat of, as a Protestant and a fanatic. Who appointed the first French Canadian senator from the province of Prince Edward Island, in the person of the Hon. Mr. Arsenault, but a Conservative administration ? And when that gentleman died, our French Canadian premier replaced him with an English-speaking Canadian. Who appointed Senator Poirier, another French Canadian, from the province of New Brunswick, but a Conservative administration, which also appointed Judge Landry ? I am saying this to show that the Conservative party has traditions of which it may well be proud, and that it stands by those traditions. There may be in our party some gentlemen who have ideas different from the others, but the party ns a whole has a history of which it may well be proud. We cannot say the same of the other party. We know that if hon. gentlemen opposite have stood upon any platform in the past, it has been only to get into power. Their traditions are all new ; they have never been in use yet. In 1896, the Liberal party prevented the Conservative party from doing an act of justice in the settlement of the Manitoba school question. We may be
told that the province of Quebec has sanctioned that. It is true. There are many considerations for that; but it does not deprive the Conservative party of the honour of having done its duty. I heard my hon. friend from North Toronto (Mr. Foster) yesterday saying in a sarcastic way that hon. gentlemen opposite may boast that three appeals have been made to the people since that time, and that the people have sanctioned the position taken by my right hon. friend. What does that prove ? It proves only one thing-and I say it with all modesty-that they were believed more than we were believed ; but it does not prove that they were right. Sir, when I am speaking about traditions, I want to say this before I resume my seat, that upon all those dangerous questions, national or religious, the Conservative party has always been found in the path of duty, ready to do what was best in the interest of the country. They paid for it dearly sometimes ; but history is written, and when that history is read by those who will come later, the young men of the day, whether they are educated in separate schools or in public schools, it will tell them the truth. The Liberal party cannot continue to play double face with each and every one of these questions.
Something has been said, unfortunately, about the hierarchy ; and something has been written in the papers against the hierarchy. But it was defended here by gentlemen on both sides, and I was proud to hear gentlemen who do not belong to that creed speaking of the hierarchy in most eulogistic terms. Let me say that,' although we have had this measure before the House for over a month, I have never received a letter or word of communication of any kind regarding it from any bishop or priest, and I know a great many. What does that prove ? It shows, not that the Catholic clergy are not interested, but that they have too much delicacy and too much sense of their own dignity to undertake, without being requested to do so, to advise a member of parliament as to what course he should follow. Our clergy have been deceived in the past, and if my remarks have been long and tedious, it is because I wish to put on record in ' Hansard ' what I consider necessary to enable them to know who are those by whom they have been deceived. We have heard a great deal about petitions, and we have seen a great many petitions presented in this House, but the only petition that I have received from my constituency is one that is signed by fourteen Methodists -whom I know to be most respectable men-in the city of Valleyfield. We have been told of certain petitions which have been sent out in the province of Quebec by the Club Jacques Cartier at the instigation of some members of this House. But that statement was positively denied by my hon.

friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk). My hon. friend stated positively that there was not a member in this House from the province of Quebec who had anything to do with these petitions. I am not pretending that there would be any harm in these petitions, people have the right to petition ; but X am merely pointing out that if any petitions were circulated, they were circulated by some one who took upon himself to do that work without having had any authorization from any member of parliament. I have not seen any of these petitions, but I understand that in all of them the right hou. gentleman is asked to stand fast by clause No. 16 of the Bill as introduced. The signers of these petitions were afraid that he might drop that clause ; they were afraid that he might be influenced by the other wing of the government, and abandon clause 16 for something else. Well, they were not wrong, because my right lion, friend has given up that clause and accepted an amendment which is satisfactory to the hon. member for Brandon (Mr. Sifton). One need not go far to show what kind of an amendment that must be.
I call the attention of those who are in favour of separate schools to Mr. Sifton's approval. If the amendment before the House is acceptable to the hon. member for Brandon, you may judge for yourselves how far it goes in favour of separate schools.
In 1896 there was a hierarchy in the province of Quebec just as there is to-day. What happened then '! After the elections were over and my right hon. friend was returned to power with a large majority from the province of Quebec, one of the boasts of the Liberal politicians and the Liberal press was that they had been able to carry the province against the hierarchy. If that were true, what did it mean ? It could only mean that the hierarchy had no influence at all. But if it had no influence, how could we be called a priest-ridden province ? It is not true, however, that the hierarchy had no influence, and I can tell my right hon. friend something which he knows quite well. The hierarchy in 1896 did not do anything. They did not do as much as I would have liked them to do in their own interests. So broad and nonpartisan were the mandements they published that they were accepted by the Liberals as being in their favour. But if the day should come when that hierarchy would feel impelled to take a hand in the contest, their influence would be soon felt. My right lion, friend remembers that when there was trouble in Manitoba, when a rebellion was threatened in that province, it was not on its troops that the government relied. No, the government of that day did not send out its troops, but telegraphed to Rome to his Lordship Bishop Tach6, and asked him to return home and establish peace in the province of Manitoba. Bishop Taehe did so. The government of that day must had confidence in his ability and Mr. BERGERON. [DOT]
influence. Many were the promises which were made him then, but which have never been carried out. For this I am not blaming my right hon. friend. The responsibility lies with other public men, but unfortunately the Liberal party had more to do with it than anybody else.
To come back to the position taken by the Minister of Finance /(Mr. Fielding). We are now about to create two new provinces. We are in a sense enlarging Canada. We are making it stronger and more important. I -would advise the House not to stand so much upon the letter of the constitution, but to do what is best calculated to make all creeds and nationalities in these new provinces live together in harmony. What we require in this country is tolerance and conciliation, and we cannot have that when we call for the sacrifice of any principle or the destruction of any right. Every nationality and creed in this Dominion should be made to feel that it has the respect and the confidence of other nationalities and creeds, if -we want Canada to be united and ever to achieve anything.
I sincerely hope that the question now being discussed is the last of the kind that will ever come before parliament. I sincerely hope that in the end we shall all join hand in hand. I trust that every province and every Canadian worthy of the name, a nd who desires the welfare of his country, will join hand in hand with his fellow-citizens to work together for what we believe the best interests of Canada, and not allow national or religious questions to interfere with that work. .
In speaking of the position taken by my leader, I wish to say openly that, to my mind, he made an admirable speech upon this question, a speech to which nobody can take exception. We may not all share the conclusions to which he came, but every man on this side, and I believe on the other side as well is convinced that the leader of the opposition spoke in all sincerity, without any bias, and influenced solely by a desire for the welfare of Canada. So much is that the case, that if in that amendment of his, ten words were struck off at the end, I would be disposed to support it. And in doing so I would be standing on a good principle, namely, provincial autonomy and provincial rights ; and in my opinion clause 93 of the British North America Act would give the new provinces the school system they have to-day. But as a doubt has been expressed by the Minister of Justice, I would have clause 16. But here is where I think there is a difference between the position taken by the hon. the leader of the opposition and the right hon. the First Minister. My hon. friend the leader of the opposition leaves the door open by his amendment to the people of the new provinces to give themselves separate schools. From not one man on this side of the House have I heal'd a word against the system of separate

schools in itself. Those who have spoken have declared in favour of allowing the people to have whatever system of schools they please.

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