March 1, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux



Mr. Speaker, I wish to relieve at once the mind of my hon. friend who has just spoken as to the feelings of Roman Catholics on this very important question. Speaking as one of the descendants of those Frenchmen who were ceded by a French and Catholic King to an English and Protestant sovereign. I have no hesitation in saying, as my leader very eloquently said this afternoon, that, Catholic and Frenchman as I am, I am prouder to have lived under a wise and constitutional sovereign like Queen Victoria, than under an arbitrary ruler like Louis XV.
I rise to give my humble but earnest support to the resolution presented by the hon. member for Victoria, N.B. (Hon. Mr. Costigan).
The question now submitted to you, Sir, is not raised with the object of creating any religious agitation. If it were, I would not speak in favour of the resolution. The Roman Catholics of Canada, united with their co-religionists of the British Empire, are anxious that a grievance should be removed, that an evil should be remedied and that a wrong should be righted. Without going any further, I wish to answer at once a preliminary objection which has been raised. It is stated that this is not the proper place to discuss the declaration of the King against transubstantiation-it being a subject-matter, coming within the purview of the Imperial parliament. This

opinion is presumably based upon the following reply sent to tbe Marquis of Lome by tbe Earl of Kimberley, at the time tbe resolutions, adopted by this House in favour of home rule, were sent to tbe Imperial government :
Her Majesty will always gladly receive the advice of the parliament of Canada on all matters relating to the Dominion and the administration of its affairs; but with respect to the question referred to in the address, Her Majesty will, in accordance with the constitution of this country, have regard to the advice of the Imperial parliament and ministers, to which all matters relating to the affairs of the United Kingdom exclusively appertain.
This same view is shared by a portion of the Canadian press. It is contended that the parliament which prescribed the declaration against transubstantiation, is the only parliament that can abolish or amend it.
Sir, I quite agree that this parliament cannot substitute itself for the Imperial parliament, but surely we have the right to express an opinion upon a question deeply affecting twelve millions of His Majesty's loyal subjects, and at the least 42 per cent of the total population of Canada. Granted, that we can not legislate for the British parliament, but who can deny to our parliament, but any of our legislatures

that expressive power or expressive function, without which, parliament would be nothing but a mere name ? True, we cannot interfere with the functions of the Imperial parliament, but, Sir, we would be unworthy of our British citizenship if we could not, in this House, ventilate a grievance, and even humbly petition the King himself.
After all, the declaration against transubstantiation, which is made the subject of this debate, is a relic of past ages. At the time it was framed, the English people thought it was absolutely necessary that such a declaration should be made by the King. It was, perhaps, considered more as a political move than as a sectarian one. But, Sir, the fear of the Stuarts exists no more, and the Protestant House of Hanover is now deeply rooted in the British Isles, nay in the whole British Empire. The Pope of Rome is, and has been, for years and years a firm advocate of peace ; the disabilities against Britisli subjects belonging to the Catholic faith have also disappeared in the course of time, and today they form an important and numerous body of His Majesty's most loyal subjects. Why then, should the British sovereign be forced to make a declaration giving needless, -wanton and studied offence to his Catholic subjects ? Why then should their dearest belief be officially declared idolatrous and superstitious ?
As Catholics, we hold as tenets of our faith: (1) the real presence of Our Saviour in the Blessed Eucharist; (2) the invocation
of the Blessed Virgin ; (3) the invocation of the saints ; (4) the sacrifice of mass.
Yet, Sir, these fundamental and essential articles of the Catholic creed are pilloried by Act of parliament. What are we asking ? We are asking that Catholic doctrines held sacred by twelve million British subjects should not be made the object of royal condemnation.
This vast British Empire is composed not only of Protestants, but of Catholics, Brahmins, Mahommedaus, Budhists, Pagans as well. Strange to say, Catholics alone-twelve million of Catholics-are obliged to listen to a severe condemnation, to a rebuke, from the lips of their sovereign. This declaration, Sir, is, as I have already said, a relic of past ages. Let it disappear. Other relics have been done away with in conservative England. Not a century ago, according to public documents, the King was not only King of England, but also King of Prance. This title disappeared in the course of time, proud as the English were of this relic of past ages.
We also, in Lower Canada, were, after the cession, subject to the disabilities affecting the Catholics of England. An oath -a test oath-was required from our ancestors which practically debarred them from holding any public office. They protested, and Sir, Great Britain wiped out that vestige of past ages, and granted them civil and religious liberty.
We hope-we earnestly hope-that this resolution will be received in England, as the expression of the sincere and loyal wishes of the united Canadian people, and that the Imperial parliament will soon remove from the statute-book a declaration most offensive to Roman Catholics. This is not a national question ; this is not a religious question. It is a matter of public policy, a request for equal rights, for the exercise of that fair-play and broad toleration which characterize British institutions. In conclusion, I will say that I, as a Catho-lie, would not object to a Protestant declaration from the British sovereign, but I object to a purely anti-Catholic out-of-date declaration.

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