March 31, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Thomas Walter Scott



I have not the slightest objection to sending the letter across to my bon. friend (Mr. Sproule), but I would rather not publish the name of the writer.
I think I have advanced a fair measure of proof that as far as concerns the treatment given to the provinces in connection with public domain it is treatment that is eminently satisfactory to the people chiefly interested.
I come now to a subject which is perhaps more contentious in its nature, although I am obliged to repeat again that I think that a totally disproportionate amount of attention has been given to what is only a phase of the educational matter. The matter of education is one of very prime importance, the most important matter to the people of any province and the most important subject that could possibly be dealt with by any parliament or local legislature. But the matter that is being debated in the House is the narrowest kind of ap issue as between the proposition of the government and the proposition, as it is explained by himself, of the hon. member for Carletou. However, before actually taking up the educational clause, let me make another brief reference. The year of confederation, 1867, chances to be also the year in which I was ushered into this world and it will not be a matter of surprise, therefore, that some of the negotiations and some of the events that occurred prior to that time are not very definitely within my recollection. I was thrown into circumstances which did not conduce to a great deal of research or study historical or constitutional. Probably there are many people in Canada, in Ontario, in Manitoba and in the Northwest Territories who may be like myself in this regard. We have had it in our minds, from what we have seen in the newspapers and from the sentiments we have heard expressed by people around us that the re-sponsibilty for the insertion of the clause protecting the rights of minorities in the Canadian constitution, the British North America Act, was upon the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that they had in some way engineered that provision into the Confederation Act and that it was probably only the Roman Catholic people of the Dominion of Canada who were interested in the observance of that principle. Or, to state it the other way, we have had the impression that the Protestants in Canada were and

ought to be antagonistic to the observance of that provision for the protection of minority rights which is embodied in the British North America Act. I have to admit that it came with a kind of a shock to me in the first instance to hear that it was not the Roman Catholic hierarchy but the Protestant people of Canada who stood up for the insertion of that protection in the constitution. The House has heard the indisputable proof of that fact which was given by my hon. friend the First Minister in his speech in this House on the 21st of February and again in another speech on the 22nd March of this year. But, perhaps, it will do no harm if I quote from another gentleman for whom some hon. members on the other side of the House may have a higher regard. The late leader of the Conservative party, Sir Charles Tupper, referred to this matter in a speech delivered in this House in 1896. Sir Charles Tupper was one of the fathers of confederation who took part in the negotiations which resulted in confederation, and he speaks as a man having knowledge. He said:
I say *with knowledge that but for the consent to the proposal of Mr. Galt, who represented especially the Protestants of Quebec, and but for the assent of that conference to the proposal of Mr. Galt, that in the Confederation Act should be embodied a clause which would protect the right of minorities, whether Catho-ics or Protestants, in this country, there *would have been no confederation. I draw attention to the fact that when you contrast our present position with that which Canada occupied when Mr. Geo. Brown and Sir John A. Macdonald felt impelled, by the necessities of the case, by the condition of their country, to seek some change in its constitution which would relieve it from the terrible war of religion and race that had been maintained in old Canada down to that time, it is significant that but for the clause protecting minorities, the measure of confederation would not have been accomplished, and no man can say how humiliating might not have been the position either of Canada or any of the smaller provinces if that great work had not been accomplished.
I find that at that same time the hon. gentleman who at present represents North Toronto (Mr. Foster) in this House said of that provision that it was the sine qua non of the Protestant minority of their entrance into confederation. I may just at this point read a little further from the speech made by the then Minister of Finance:
And so the first paragraph

Referring to section 93 of the British North America Act.
- the educational clauses of the confederation resolutions gave by general consent to the provinces the power to deal with respect to education ;
Saving the rights and privileges which Catholic or Protestant minorities* in both Canadas may possess as to their denominational schools at the time when the union goes into operation.

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