April 17, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Edward Guss Porter

Conservative (1867-1942)


And methods of government. They are subject to the same liabilities but not to the same limitations, and even if they were, section 41 would be in exact accord with the statute of 1875, and therefore within the jurisdiction of the legislative assembly, hut section 45, which cuts that down, would be ultra vires that legislature altogether. So that this amendment, as it now stands, leaves the matter in this shape that the right to establish separate schools, without limitation or restriction, as provided by section 41 of the ordinances, shall be preserved, and it will not he in the powers of the provinces to cut down or prejudically affect that right. For those reasons I have concluded that under this amendment, these two new provinces will have fixed upon them unalterably, and for all time to come, the same conditions as are enacted by the statute of 1875, which the people of the Territories have tried to get rid of ; and having shown their disposition to get rid of that system of clerical schools it seems to me the greatest injustice for this parliament to endeavour to inflict that system upon them.
But apart from the constitutional question altogether, if I had uo other reason for opposing those Bills than the fact that the introduction of this subject, which, it appears, cannot be discussed without raising the ill-feeling that has been exhibited, I am sorry to say on more than one occasion during the debate, could just as well have been avoided and the matter left to the provinces to settle for themselves-if there was no other reason for opposing this measure, I would consider that a perfect justification. But if we are not to enjoy that condition of attending to

our own affairs and allowing the provinces to attend to theirs, upon whom should the responsibility rest ? It must rest upon the right lion, the First Minister. True, his followers will have to bear a certain share of that responsibility, but to him alone must be left the responsibility of having put his followers in such a position that they are obliged to choose between serving their country or their church, between serving the right lion, gentleman or the people. Upon the question of the advisability of having a system of separate schools in any portion of this Dominion, there is fair room for differences of opinion. We can quite understand why our Roman Catholic friends desire such a system. It is quite natural that I should entertain an entirely different attitude. That I do, there cannot be very much doubt, but I want to point out this. Whether separate schools be right or wrong is not the question before us. Every man has a right to his own religious belief, and I would be the last man to interfere with it. But to observe the laws of God and make laws for good government are two entirely distinct things, and I draw that distinction in this measure. The late Dr. Ryerson, than whom perhaps the country never had a greater educationalist, made use of this language in pointing out a similar distinction :
What ought to be done in regard to religious instruction and what the government ought to require are two different things. Who doubts that public worship should be attended and family worship performed ? But does it, therefore, follow that the government is to compel attendance upon the one or the performance of the other ? If our government were a despotism it would compel what it pleased, but our government is a constitutional and popular government.
I could not express my views upon that subject more forcibly than Dr. Ryerson has expressed them. And another reason why I am opposed to this system of separate schools is that the conditions do not at present exist in this country that would warrant the establishment and maintenance of such schools. It is, to my mind, very much better, very much more in the interest of the children growing up in this country that there should be a common system, that there should be a mingling of the children that will promote the growth of a common interest and a common sentiment. It is much better that that state of affairs should exist than that we should have a condition that would produce the opposite result. Dr. Ryerson said, speaking of the establishment of separate schools:
In the earliest history of separate schools they were desired to meet peculiar circumstances or extreme cases of neighbourhoods where religious bigotry and party spirit deprived the minority of protection from injustice and oppression.

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