April 6, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Monseigneur Sbarretti last night handed out | for publication the following statement :
I think it my duty to declare that the press report of a conference with the Manitoba delegates is not altogether exact and that it is given in such a way as to make a false impression on the minds of the people.
These are the facts :
Taking occasion of the presence in Ottawa of the Hon. Mr. Campbell, the attorney-general of Manitoba, whom I had met in a friendly way more than a year ago, I invited him to come to see me. I never met Hon. Mr. Rogers, nor did I have any communication with him. On the evening before his departure for the west, February 23rd, Mr. Campbell came. I asked him if something could not be done to improve the condition of the Catholics of his province with respect to education. I pointed out that in the cities of Winnipeg and Brandon, for instance, the Catholics were paying double taxes. I urged my request on the ground of fairness and justice and referring to his mission to Ottawa I remarked that from the point of view of the Manitoba government some action on these lines would be politically expedient and tend to facilitate the accomplishment of his object, inasmuch as Catholics In any territory which might be annexed to Manitoba would naturally object to losing the right they had to separate schools and to be subjected to the educational conditions which existed in Manitoba. Mr. Campbell then asked me what would be my desire in this respect. I then gave him ihe memorandum which has already appeared in the press.
This is the sum and substance of my interview' with Mr. Campbell. The federal government had absolutely no knowledge of it. It was a private conversation and simply intended to express a suggestion and a desire that the condition of the Catholics in the respect I have mentioned -would be improved. Any other assumption or interpretation is altogether unfounded. I think my right of speaking to Mr. Campbell in a private way and on my own responsibility cannot be disputed.
I notice that my hon. friends opposite cheer very much the statement of His Excellency "that ' Catholics in any territory which might be annexed to Manitoba would naturally object to losing the right they had to separate schools, and to be subjected to the educational conditions which existed in Manitoba.' That is what they cheer, as I understand. I am amazed at these hon. gentlemen. The other day we had the ex-Minister of the Interior rise in his place and publicly thank the right hon. Prime Minister, without whose aid, he said, the Catholics of Manitoba could not have been deprived of those rights-publicly thanked the right hon. gentleman for having come to the aid of the majority in Manitoba and prevented the Conservative government from restoring to the minority those rights of which they had been deprived. The
right hon. gentleman has declared this to be a happy solution of a difficult situation; but hon. gentlemen opposite cheer the utterance which I have just quoted. Their attitude is a little incomprehensible to myself, and I think it must be incomprehensible

to any reasonable man throughout the country.
Now, let us observe a little what His Excellency does say. He is an able and accomplished man, brought up in one of the best schools of diplomacy in the world ; a diplomat; a man who, I am sure, would make no suggestion, to Mr. Campbell or to Mr. Rogers, which he did not feel himself able to carry out. And let us see if my hon. friends opposite will cheer a little analysis of what His Excelleucy does say :
I remarked that from the point of view of the Manitoba government some action on these lines would be politically expedient

Politically expedient, mark you

and tend to facilitate the accomplishment
of his object, inasmuch as Catholics in any territory which might be annexed to Manitoba would naturally object to losing the right they bad to separate schools and to be subjected to the educational conditions which existed in Manitoba.
Conditions which the right hon. gentleman himself stated in 1897 were absolutely satisfactory not only to himself, but to the people of the province of Quebec. Politically expedient-what does that mean ? Let us consider it for a moment. It would be politically expedient for the government of Manitoba, which desired an extension of its boundaries, to make certain amendments to that law which the Prime Minister had declared to be a happy solution of a difficult situation. Politically expedient-who had the power to extend those boundaries? The government of this country-hon. gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House. There was one and only one power in this country that could deal with that question, and that is the power represented by the fourteen or fifteen gentlemen who sit around the Council board of Canada ; and His Excellency declared that ' from the point of view of the Manitoba government some action on these lines would be politically expedient.' Now, there is only one possible meaning to that, and it is this ; His Excellency must have thoroughly believed that he had the authority to suggest to these gentlemen that if they acceded to his demand. to his request with regard to the school laws of Manitoba, there would be such an extension of the boundaries of Manitoba as the government of that province desired. I am reluctant to believe that His Excellency would have made any such suggestion unless he believed he had authority of some kind.
I do not know whether he received authority from or had any discussion with the right hon. gentleman or with any other minister of the Crown. I do not know whether we shall receive any information on that subject. I do not know whether my right hon. friend will think it advisable to give us any information. I do
remember, however, that after the right hon. gentleman had declared, in answer to my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) and in answer to myself, only last session, that every document in connection with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company had been brought down, the Minister of Finance weeks afterwards read a document which had not been brought down, and used it for the purpose of debate ; and the government justified their action in that regard by declaring in effect that if a document of a confidential character came into their possession, they were perfectly justified in denying in this House that any such document existed. I do not know what denials or what statements we shall receive in this regard; but it is interesting to observe another thing in this statement of His Excellency, and it is this : that there is no direct statement in it, so far as I have been able to observe, that he did not have the authority which he assumed on that occasion. He has said, and the Prime Minister has said, that that interview was not arranged on behalf of the government or at the instance of the government; but I do not observe any statement of His Excellency that he did not consider himself to have authority to make the suggestion which he did make to the Hon. Mr. Campbell on that occasion. If there was a supposed authority, or if beyond that there was real authority given on behalf of this government, or given by any member of this government, how does the action of the members of this administration contrast with their attitude in 1896 ? Then their cry, at least in most of the provinces of Canada, was : No coercion ; hands off
Manitoba. That was their answer to a remedial order and remedial legislation proposed by a Conservative administration within the strict terms of the constitution. But what has been suggested might rightly be regarded, I think, as a remedial order of another type-as a remedial order of an unconstitutional and unwarranted character ; and I for one am surprised that upon the statement of His Excellency, which I have no doubt is absolutely accurate in every respect, there should have been this suggestion to the members of the government of the province of Manitoba.
I am not concerned wth the question as to whether or not His Excellency should be recalled ; as I said yesterday, he is not responsible to us in any sense, he is responsible only to his superiors. But the government of this country are responsible to us, and if there has been any suggestion of this kind by or on behalf of the government of this country, or by or on behalf of any member of it, then I say the country will demand, and I think the people will demand, the dismissal or retirement of any member of this government who ventured to confer upon His Excellency any authority

of that kind. His Excellency is not responsible to us, but the members of the administration are. This was uot an ecclesiastical matter, it concerned no ecclesiastical matters in no way whatever, it was to all intents and purposes a purely political matter, the extension of the boundaries of the province of Manitoba. I venture to think that in addition to the explanations which were given to the Prime Minister yesterday in this regard, there should be some further explanations made to the House and to the country to-day, in view of the very frank statement which has been made by His Excellency, and which I have brought to the attention of the House. I move the adjournment of the House.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   EXTENSION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF MANITOBA.
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