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


Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; President of the Privy Council)



I thought it advisable yesterday to give no notice whatever to my hon. friend that I intended to make a statement which concerned myself personally, and to dispute a statement which had appeared in the newspapers on a previous day. Nor did I believe, nor do I believe yet, when a member of this House iiuds himself attacked in a newspaper in a manner which he thinks is unwarranted, that he requires to give any notice of his intention to rise in his place and make an explanation, particularly when the matter is iu no way controversial. It is also the general rule that when a member of the House gives his word in contradiction to alleged facts stated in a newspaper, his word is accepted, nor do I understand my hon. friend to dispute that rule. But today my hon. friend lias thought it advisable, for reasons of his own, to bring up a matter which is essentially controversial, because it implies a censure by the House, and, therefore, I would have expected that the usual courtesy would have been extended to me. Had I been informed of his intention. perhaps I would be in a better position to give him an answer, which I think I can give him nevertheless on this occasion. I must say that in the multiplicity of business which I have to attend to I had read only cursorily the statement which appeared in the newspapers, given by His Excel-Mr. R. L. BORDEN.
lency, Monseigneur Sbarretti, the Apostolic delegate, and which my hon. friend read a moment ago. But all this is not very much to the point. We have to-day, according to the hon. gentleman, a new phase of this question, and I am glad to say that we have a new phase, because it is a confirmation and a corroboration of the statement I made yesterday on the floor of this House. My hon. friend referred to my statement yesterday that up to the month of January last we had no information, no official information, of the intention of Manitoba to make an application for an extension of her boundaries. Why did I clo that ? My hon. friend, for a reason, explained the alleged Interview which was said to have taken place between Mr. Rogers, Mr. Campbell and the Apostolic delegate. In that interview Monseigneur Sbarretti was reported to have said that it would facilitate matters if these gentlemen would consent to the restoration of separate schools in Manitoba, and that if that had been done before it would have facilitated the extension of their boundaries towards the west. Well, Sir, I stated that I could hardly believe that His Excellency could have used such language, because then and there Mr. Rogers would have answered, and could have answered to the Apostolic delegate that there never had been by the government of Manitoba any demand upon this government to extend their boundaries prior to the month of January last, and therefore Monseigneur Sbarretti could not, in my judgment, have used such language in the presence of Mr. Rogers. Now to-day we have the confirmation of my opinion that Monseigneur Sbarretti had never spoken in that way to Mr. Rogers, for the very good and obvious reason that Monseigneur Sbarretti never saw Mr. Rogers. There are many things in that interview published by Mr. Rogers which turn out to be uot altogether according to the facts. You have the impression from the interview which was published yesterday, that the Apostolic delegate had sent an invitation to the delegates of the Manitoba government who were in Ottawa, to discuss with him this question of the extension of the boundaries of the province of Manitoba. Is that according to the facts as we know them to-day? No, Sir, we find that the invitation of Monseigneur Sbarretti was not at all extended to the delegates of the government of Manitoba, he says he never knew Mr. Rogers ; but the invitation was extended, not to the delegates, but to Mr. Campbell whom he knew before, and whom he treated as a friend. It is a very different thing to have an official interview and conversation with the delegates of a government. and a private interview and conversation between His Excellency and a gentleman who happened to be in Ottawa at the time, and who was a member of the government of Manitoba.
Now, Sir, there are many things alleged

in this interview which I might comment upon. It is quite evident from the explanation of His Excellency, and is indeed obvious to all, that this interview was not a public discussion, it was merely a friendly conversation between two gentlemen who had met together to discuss a question which they had previously discussed. Now, my bon. friend has hinted, or has attempted to create the impression, that the government of Canada was actuated by sinister motives with regard to the province of Manitoba, and that we refused to extend her boundaries because we wished to punish the province of Manitoba for having abolished separate schools. To establish his point he quotes a statement in a Quebec newspaper, the ' Soleil.' which is a newspaper friendly to myself and which claims to be my organ.
Sir, it is very strange that whenever a newspaper friendly to the government says something which the hon. gentleman thinks is favourable to themselves, he at once holds the government responsible for the statement. Well, does he hold me responsible, for instance, for the attitude of the ' Globe ' upon this occasion, or of the other newspapers who do not support the government ? And if I am not to be held responsible for the attitude taken by the [DOT] Globe,' why in the name of common sense should I be held responsible for the opinion of the ' Soleil ? ' There would be just as much reason in one .as in the other. ' Le Soleil ' is a paper friendly to myself. But, because ' Le Soleil ' is friendly to myself and wants to serve me, surely it does not follow that under any circumstances, I am bound to be responsible for everything appearing in ' Le Soleil,' or in any newspaper. It would he absurd to say that because men agree upon political matters, they will therefore see eye to eye in everything. There are other matters than politics on which men can differ in opinion. And it is, to my thinking, a position unworthy of my hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) to say that the government should be supposed to have been actuated by belief in a certain line of policy because that policy was supported by a certain newspaper. The day has not yet come when the Canadian government must look for its policy or the ground for its opinions to newspapers, however respectable those newspapers may be. We decide these matters upon our own lines and according to our best judgment. But the hon. gentleman has endeavoured to convey the idea- he did not say it in so many words-that there had been a sort of understanding. He did not use the word ' conspiracy,' but he intended to convey the idea, if he meant anything at all, that there had been a conspiracy between the government of Canada,-and in particular myself and the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fitzpatrick)-and Monseigneur Sbarretti to do certain things,- that is to say, that the extension of the
boundaries of Manitoba should depend on the restoration of separate schools in that province. Why, we have only to take the facts in chronological order as they are known to have occurred to show how unfounded, how' absolutely unfounded, how7 devoid even of the shadow7 of foundation, such an assertion as that made by my hon. friend is. What are the facts ? As stated yesterday, we received in the month of January, towards the end of it, the request of the Manitoba government for a conference. Wo agreed to that conference, and it took place on the 17tli of February. There were present a subcommittee of council and the question was discussed. We told the delegates that they should have an answer at an early day. That answer they had on the floor of this House four days later, on the 21st of February, w7hen I introduced the Autonomy Bills, and in the course of my explanation stated our position with regard to the boundaries of Manitoba was clearly defined. It was two days afterwards, on the 23rd of February, that the conference topk place between His Excellency Monseigneur Sbarretti and Mr. Campbell. When that conference took place, the decision of this government was already knowrn. We had stated what w7e would do. We had stated that we would reserve the northern portion of Saskatchewan to be annexed to Manitoba or not as circumstances might suggest, and the extension of the boundaries should take place to Hudson bay if there was an opportunity to do so, after conference. The policy of the government w7as thus determined, and could not be affected by anything that might take place in the conference between His Excellency the apostolic delegate and Mr. Campbell. But, Sir, there is more. My hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) wants to know whether or not there was any question between the government of Canada and Monseigneur Sbarretti as to the extension of the boundaries of Manitoba. As I said a moment ago, I have not seen the statement of His Excellency,-I have not read it critically-but the answer to my hon. friend's question he already has before him- he has only to read that statement. He has read it, and in it he finds that Monseigneur Sbarretti says explicitly that the government had nothing at all to do with his own action. That ought to suit the purpose of my hon. friend and ought to convince him that he cannot make any political capital on that line. I have only to refer to the words of Monseigneur Sbarretti when he says himself-and his words are in the memory of every member of this House- that he stated to Mr. Campbell that if they would restore the separate schools in Manitoba, it would be politically expedient. Why? In what manner ? In respect of any action to be taken by this government ? No ; but because the people in the Territories would then have no objections to going into Man-

itoba. There you have the whole meaning of this matter of political expediency.

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