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


Frederick Andrew Laurence


Mr. F. A. LAURENCE (Colchester).

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded by the clock in front of me that the night is far spent and that the patience of the members of this House has already been considerably taxed. It would be improper, therefore, for me to prolong the debate this evening beyond a very few minutes, especially as I shall have an opportunity to complete my observations when the discussion is resumed. In offering to address the House upon this subject, important as it is, I have no expectation whatever that I can contribute anything to this debate. I rather seek an opportunity to Address myself to the House for the purpose of expressing my views and giving the reasons for the vote which I shall give upon this Bill.
I do so as a duty to myself and as a duty also to the constituents whom I directly represent in this parliament. It is nothing new to say that this is a very important measure. It is important, Sir, from many considerations. It is important because it marks the period when two new provinces are to be admitted to the union of the Dominion of Canada. It is important by reason of the vast extent of those two immense territories which are to be presently erected into two provoinces as part of our Dominion. We are informed that each of these provinces will comprise no less an area than 275,000 square miles. The mind of man almost fails to grasp the significance, the vastness, the greatness of these figures. We can only faintly do so, Sir, by comparison, and I may be permitted to say that each of these provinces will be nearly six times as large as the great state of New York, with its population of seven and a quarter millions ; each of them will be five times as great in point of area as the large state of Illinois, with its population of 5,000,000 ; each will be six times as large as the large state of Pennsylvania, with its population of six and a half millions ; each of them will be seven times as large as the large state of Indiana, with its population of two and a half millions. In point of fact, each of them is larger in area than the
states of Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Delaware and New Jersey, all combined together. Each of them is twice as large as England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, with their immense population of 42,000,000 people ; each of them is much greater than the German empire in Europe, with its population of 56,750,000 ; each of them is greater far than the republic of France in Europe, with its population of 39.000,000. By a simple comparison of that kind we are enabled to realize the immensity of the heritage which we as Canadians have in our great Northwest. This Bill deals, among other things, with the question of the public lands of these provinces. It proposes to leave them vested in the Dominion, as they are now and have been vested since they were acquired. For myself, I entirely concur with the arguments which were addressed to this House in favour of the proposition that the Dominion of Canada should administer those public lands. I realize, and I am sure every member of the House must realize, the importance of a vigorous, strong and national policy of immigration, in order that this country may grow and prosper. That policy of immigration, Sir, 1 think ought to be administered by the central authority of our country. Uniformity in the regulations with respect to immigration, uniformity in the price of lands and the conditions and regulations upon which settlers shall be invited to come into this country, is of the highest importance. We cannot permit one province to have regulations and prices and conditions of settlement of its own, inconsistent and at variance with the conditions and regulations and prices of another province. We must have system and uniformity in connection with these things. We must have a progressive policy, such a policy as we have had in the past, under which it is the proud boast of Canadians that our country is growing and prospering so well.
This Bill deals with another question, perhaps not more important, although one would judge by the discussion that has taken place here during the last six weeks, that it is at least quite as interesting-the question of education. This Bill is intended to settle the question of education in the new provinces by making the system now existing there part of the constitution of these provinces. That constitution is as prescribed in the British North America Act, save as to education, and the provisions with regard to education are in entire harmony and consistent with the principles, the spirit, the genius and the intention of the British North America Act. In fixing the constitution of an incoming province, we certainly have not plenary or absolute powers as to jurisdiction. We may not and we cannot disturb the arrangement of these jurisdictional matters prescribed by the British North America Act. We cannot, for example, commit to the provinces the regu-

lation of trade and commerce, or the right to legislate with respect to indirect taxation, nor can we give them control over the postal service, the military and naval defence of the country, currency or coinage, or the criminal law ; as defined in section 91, all of which are committed to the federal parliament. Nor can we, upon the other hand, usurp to ourselves in this parliament the right to legislate upon the subject of direct taxation within the provinces, or in respect to any other of those subjects which are exclusively and especially committed to the provincial legislatures by section 92 of the British North America Act. We have no such thing, as I understand it as absolute and unlimited power in regard to legislation upon the subject of education, either in this parliament or in any provincial legislature of this Dominion. A province may have an absolutely free and non-sectarian system of schools when it enters the union. It may change that system to a denominational system, but, that being once done, it can never change back again without violating the constitution and prejudicially affecting, as it is said, the rights of the minority and giving that minor ity the right of redress at the hands of this parliament. A province may have a sectarian system of education when it enters the union, and if thereunder the rights of the minority are secured by law, that system can never be altered under our constitution. I think it may be assumed then, in dealing with education, that we have a qualified power, not, however, inconsistent with or contrary to the British North America Act. We have a pregnant illustration of this in the case of Manitoba. The Act of 1870, which admitted that territory as a province into the Dominion of Canada, in respect of education, in a material and important sense varied the conditions and principles of one subsection of section 93 of the British North America Act by incorporating therein the words, ' or practice.' These words have an important signification taken in connection with the history and particularly the constitutional history respecting the province of Manitoba. These words are important considered in the light of the two cases, namely, the city of Winnipeg vs. Barrett, in 189], and Brophy vs. the Attorney General of Manitoba in 1894. These two cases really comprise the constitutional history of the struggle which went on with all its irritation, all its disturbing aspects and phrases and uncomfortable conditions during these years in the history of our Dominion. The system of education in 1870 in Manitoba was a purely denominational or church system and the schools were maintained wholly by voluntary contributions made up from the fees of the parents of the children and of the respective churches interested in these schools. None of these schools was established by law at that time, yet, Sir, so anxious was this par-Mr. LAURENCE.
liament to preserve, continue and perpetuate that system in that province that the words ' or practice ' were inserted in the Act by which the province of Manitoba was admitted to tlie union. Not only was the minority guaranteed by the Act which admitted Manitoba to the Dominion of Canada as a province, any sectarian or denominational system of schools which they then had by law, but they were guaranteed the continuance of any system that they might have had by practice, so anxious, I say, was the parliament of Canada to preserve the condition of things which existed at the time that Manitoba was brought in, which shows to my mind the jealous anxiety of this parliament to preserve and perpetuate the system of education that was existing in that country not only by law but by practice. The debates, such as we have of that period, show that this school question was wholly overshadowed by other considerations of more importance, but, Sir, the school question provoked little or no discussion, little or no opposition from any quarter or from either side of the House. While this parliament in the exercise of its right was perpetuating to the people of Manitoba the denominational system of schools which they had when they came into the union, not a voice was raised against the adoption of that principle then, no dissent, no objection whatever, and I apprehend that every man who participated in that debate and who participated in the formation of that province believed that he was carrying out the snirit and true intention of the British North America Act. In 1867, the Roman Catholics of the province of Ontario, then Upper Canada, had a system of separate schools and the Protestants of Lower Canadati at the time of confederation, insisted upon having the same principle incorporated into the compact of confederation. Some persons associate the term 'separate schools' with the idea of Roman Catholic schools. It is a mistake, Sir, to so confound the notion of separate schools with the Roman Catholics of this country. Looking at the institution of separate schools from the point of view of the British North America Act it will be seen that they are distinctly and emphatically Protestant schools because it was by the persistence of the Protestants and tlie representation of the Protestant minority in the province of Quebec that the very principle now under discussion in this parliament of the right of the minority to enjoy these schools was incorporated in the Confederation Act. This is no reproach, Sir, to the Protestants and it comes as no shock to me as one of that persuasion to know that it is the case, for I regard it as an expression of a sentiment indicative of liberality, tolerance and respect for the religious convictions of those who cannot agree with us and who caunot see eye to eye with their neighbour. It is the expression (Sir, in a word of the golden maxim, ' Do

unto others as we would have others do unto us.' The Protestants are the majority in this Dominion and the Roman Catholics the minority. Let it never be said to the disgrace, the discredit and the shame of the majority that they only respect this principle when it works to their advantage, and that they are unwilling to admit its operation when it is sought by others.
I was referring, Mr. Speaker, to the history of this question in relation to Manitoba. In 1870, there existed in Manitoba a system of purely voluntary schools. They were entirely denominational, some maintained by the Roman Catholics and some by the Protestants, but all supported by fees paid by the parents of the children who attended them and by the several churches to which these schools appertained. One short year after the creation of the province in 1871, a law was passed by Manitoba establishing a system of denominational schools. A Board of Education composed of two sections was constituted, one-half Protestants and one-half Roman Catholics and the province was divided into twelve Protestant districts and twelve Catholic districts. Nothing could be fairer than this equal division as between the two denominations. This system was maintained until 1890 when the policy of the preceding nineteen years was reversed and the denominational system of schools swept away. The Public Schools Act of 1890 provided that all schools be free schools, all were declared non-sectarian and no school not conforming to this Act and to the regulations of the Department of Education could participate in state funds. Such was the legislation down to 1890. In 1S91, the minority, chafing under this condition had recourse to the courts and to litigation and we have then the irritation, the agitation, the painful disquiet which has lasted in this country during six long years down to 1896. I am reminded that I am already trespassing upon the promise I made and if agreeable to the House and if I am in order I will move the adjournment of the debate.

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