March 18, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


Paul-Edmond Gagnon


Mr. Gagnon:

Mr. Chairman, I would like to take advantage of this item in the supplementary estimates to record my disagreement and express the opinions of those Canadians living in the kingdom of the Saguenay with regard to the intrusion of the federal government into the field of education.
It is inconceivable, Mr. Chairman, that the men responsible for the pact of 1867 had intended to bring about the disappearance of provinces or to put them in such a position that they would henceforth be unable to benefit fully from the advantages of the sovereignty which they already possessed and to exercise those rights which were vested in them according to the terms of the act itself.
Those who represented Lower Canada at the time would never have approved the treaty which would have deprived my compatriots of their essential rights and of those revenues indispensable to their existence and to their survival as a distinct and autonomous national group.
In 1867 it was known that to build schools, colleges and universities government help was needed. It was known that grants were

necessary to assure their maintenance and progress. Nevertheless, it was decided to leave to the provinces absolute authority in all matters relating to education.
The province of Quebec, which is in law and in fact the legal and political environment of French Canadians, must jealously preserve those rights, granted to it by the British North America Act, to administer its property and exercise those privileges which have been guaranteed to us by our national charter.
Any infringement of the autonomy of the province of Quebec is a breach of the contract made between the two great races in this country at the time of confederation.
If in the British North America Act, section 92, subsection 13 we may read the words "property and civil rights" ... in the province, it was because the only object in view was to safeguard the institutions and the peculiar customs of Quebec which is not and cannot be a province just like the others.
On page 35 of volume I of the report of the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations, the following words may be found:
The ease of Quebec In our federation is in fact peculiar. In every province, Quebec excepted, English civil law is in effect. Every province, save Quebec and Newfoundland, has divorce courts. Every province, except Quebec and Newfoundland has a non-denominational system of public schools. Every province with the exception of Quebec has one single official language, English. Quebec alone has a legislative council. Finally, Quebec alone has a non English-speaking majority, the French-Canadian group.
On the 24th of November 1871, Sir Wilfrid Laurier stated:
It is a historical fact that the federative form of government was adopted only to conserve to Quebec the exceptional and unique position which she occupied upon the American continent.
Lord Carnarvon, who has been called the sponsor of the British North America Act, stated in the House of Lords:
Lower Canada, too, is jealous, as she is deservedly proud, of her ancestral customs and traditions; she is wedded to her peculiar institutions, and will enter this union only upon the distinct understanding that she retains them.
Another great Liberal chief, Honore Merrier, in a speech at the legislative assembly on April 7, 1884, stated:
The frequent Intrusions of the federal parliament upon provincial prerogatives constitute a permanent threat to the provinces.
Mr. Chairman, centralization, whether administrative or political, interferes with the normal development of a state, and is contrary to the very interests of that state and of the people within it. For instance, the
problem of education must be settled at the level where it occurs, and at which it can be solved in the best interests of the people.
Because our religious, cultural and national traditions differ from those of other provinces, because the Canadian constitution, which is above the central power, clearly recognizes that fact, the Ottawa government is duty bound to respect those traditions and to let the Quebec provincal government safeguard them in their integrity.
Now then, such traditions, customs and way of life are preserved to a great extent by our universities and our teaching institutions.
We must therefore see to it that the revenue required for carrying out functions so vitally important to our race be so distributed that the provinces be able to carry out their duty and that there be no substitution to them in the exercise of some of their functions.
The central government has no right to do indirectly what the constitution clearly prohibits.
There should be no disruption nor weakening of the political structure on which the French-Canadian culture is based.
If Ottawa has money to give away, if every year it accumulates enormous surpluses, it is because federal taxes are too high.
Let the provinces and municipalities resume the fields of taxation which belong to them, and the problem of assistance to universities will be solved by the authorities properly constituted for that purpose.
Ottawa has no right to collect taxes for purposes which are not a responsibility of the federal government.
When Ottawa levies taxes for the purpose of making grants to universities, it violates the constitution because it interferes in a field which is under provincal jurisdiction and therefore outside its own jurisdiction.
It was chiefly on the occasion of the last war that the central government consolidated its control over sources of revenue. It did so in an unfair and dishonest way. It deliberately misled the provinces when, in 1942, it promised that tax agreements would be temporary and would be revoked as soon as the war ended. In 1947, under direct threat, provincial governments were forced by Ottawa to renew tax agreements for another five years. The same thing happened again in 1952.
The then minister of finance, in high-sounding and solemn statements, declared that the provinces were absolutely free to accept or refuse federal proposals. He was lying shamelessly.

The same blackmail continues today. The provinces have no alternative but to submit to the dictates of the Prime Minister or to be starved out. The only freedom that is left to them is the freedom to starve or to live prostrate at the feet of the federal ogre. "Being the lion entitles me to the biggest share," says the Prime Minister. Let the others share what is left.
With the exception of the maritime provinces, whose economy is on the downgrade because of the neglect and carelessness of this government, there are no more poor provinces in Canada, and it is a falsehood, a lie, to say that the purpose of tax agreements is to achieve a better distribution of the national wealth.
Are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island better off since Ottawa took them under its wing?
What is wanted, what bureaucrats are seeking, the purpose they want to achieve, is the monolithic state; it is to make Ottawa the financial, economic, political, intellectual and cultural navel of all Canada.
The trouble with these centralizers and the obstacle which prevents them from reaching their full goal is that the province of Quebec, and their great enemy Duplessis, whom they would like to subdue and force into line with the others under a single command, are standing in their way.
Upstanding French Canadians are firm in their resolve to remain what they always have been, citizens proud of their origins and their heroic past. They are a real hindrance to those dreamers who would like to cast the whole Canadian population in the same mould.
I contend that the Union Nationale, since it has been in power, has made marvels for everyone to see and verify; I contend too that the consistent success of premier Duplessis at the polls can largely be explained by his achievements in the field of education at all levels, primary, secondary and university.
I wish to quote from page 276 of the brief submitted to the royal commission on constitutional problems by the Federation des colleges classiques:
Every system of grants contains at least the germs of a subordination of the beneficiary toward the givers; this is inconsistent with the equality of right which must exist between the federal and the provincial governments.
I take pleasure here in congratulating the distinguished dean of Laval University, Mgr Alphonse-Marie Parent who said that his university would refuse federal grants.

Commenting this statement in an editorial, Le Soleil, mouthpiece of the Liberal party, said on December 21, 1956:
Such a decision could easily be expected since it is consistent with the traditions of that institution, the first French university in Canada which, for more than a century, has been the guardian of French civilization on Canadian soil.
In spite of its limited financial resources, the university could not betray those who have waged political battles, who have won the constitutional liberties which we en.ioy today and among the greatest of which is that exclusive jurisdiction granted to the provinces in matters of education, a privilege which the present government, as did all its predecessors, is jealously defending against any attempt of encroachment.
The surpluses of the central government, at a time when municipalities are faced with deficits, and some provinces are in financial difficulties, is nothing less than scandalous and unfair.
These surpluses are made possible by the central government's fiscal centralization and by its consistent encroachments upon the sources of revenue of the provinces.
It is rich with the money of others. Its favours, its liberalities and its gifts are paid for by taxes drawn off the provinces and particularly the province of Quebec.
Here is an abstract from the Tremblay commission's report:
Our surveys lead us to the conclusion that, for refusing to compromise on the rights granted to her by the constitution, the province of Quebec, through the policy followed by the federal government particularly since 1947, has sustained losses which may be assessed at more than $300 million.
French Canadians, Mr. Chairman, are too proud to be the servants of the central government; their glass is small but it is the glass in which they wish to drink, and begging is not much to their liking. They have too much backbone. We don't want charity, we want justice. This is why I say that the central government should return to Quebec the amount of which the province was deprived because she refused to sell her sacred and inalienable rights, because she is not willing to trade for gold the history, traditions, customs and privileges which her sons conquered in America at the price of heroic fighting and sometimes with their own blood.
Politicians of all political trends have fought and battled, not once but a hundred thousand times, to preserve for their descendants the catholic and cultural inheritance handed down by their forefathers. They spared nothing to make us what we are today. We may neither betray our past nor deprive our children and grandchildren of the merits and of the victories won by our forebears.
He who . . .

said Louis Veuillot, and I want to conclude with this thought:
He who . . . allows himself to be despoiled of the rights awarded him by his country's constitution is a coward, and he who fails to live up to the responsibilities conferred to him by this constitution is a bad citizen.

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