March 12, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)

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The MINISTER OF JUSTICE.

I am glad to hear my hon. friend say so much the better, because he evidently agrees with the hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Ilaggart). The hon. member for Lanark says that the intention of the fathers of confederation was that we should have, not a federal but a legislative union. Now, if he will pardon me for saying so, I think he is entirely mistaken in making that statement. Undoubtedly the intention of Sir John A. Macdonald and of those who followed him at that time was to have legislative union. But if he will read the speech made by George Brown, which he will find reported in the debates on confederation, if he will read the speech made by D'Arcy McGee-and I claim that no man took a greater part nor contributed in larger measure to bring about confederation than D'Arcy McGee-if my hon. friend will read the speeches made by George Brown and D'Arcy McGee, he will find that they both declared at that time- and they were not French Canadians, Brown was not from the province of Quebec-that they were in favour of a Federal union. It is, however, well for us to know that Sir John A. Macdonald desired to have a legislative union; and it is also well for us to note the admissions that fell from the hon. member for Lanark, to the effect that, having failed to get the principle of legislative union consecrated by the British North America Act, Sir John still fondly hoped that he might rely upon the Supreme Court, and upon the Privy Council, to defeat the intentions of those who brought about confederation, and to bring about a legislative union by means of judicial construction, It is well we should know that, and while I admit with the hon. member for Yarmouth that the debate is in itself not very important, the admissions which we have from the trusted lieutenant of Sir John A. Macdonald are exceedingly important.
Speaking now, not as a representative from the province of Quebec, but merely as a Liberal, I say that I stand for local selfgovernment. My hon. friend from Hants (Mr. Russell) says we all stand for local selfgovernment. He stands for local self-government, and he preaches legislative union; because after all, as I said a moment ago, if you take away from the provinces the power to deal with these questions of property and civil rights, you are taking away from them all those things which have been assigned to them as subjects of legislation and without which they would no longer have any reason to exist. Therefore, I say as a Liberal that I stand for local self-government, and I will tell you why. I remember reading not many years ago a speech of Mr. Gladstone in which he said, speaking to a meeting of Liberals, that we should cherish municipal, local and even parochial liberties, not only as nursery grounds for the production here and there of able men, but for the general training of public virtue and independent spirit. Those should be the views and the desire of the Liberal party. We do not want centralization, because centralization leads to paternalism in government. We want decentralization, because we want the development of the individual. I say more, we want our laws made by those men who are immediately under the control of public opinion, of the public opinion of the localities to be affected by those laws. In a country of this sort, where we have got a variety of races, with such a variety of interests, with such a variety of climatic conditions, laws affecting property and civil rights which, in the maritime provinces or in Ontario, would be acceptable, could not be made applicable in the altered conditions which exist in British Columbia and Manitoba. So I say it is in the interests of the people themselves that they should have local legislatures working under their immediate control, in order that the members of those legislatures may be in closer touch with public opinion and more amenable to that public opinion.
Now I do not know that it is necessary for me to have made this digression. But perhaps I ought to mention that this is not a new movement. When the hon. member for Lanark said that it was the intention of Sir John Macdonald to have a legislative union, and also that he hoped that the courts would help him to defeat the object of the fathers of confederation when they gave their assent to a federal union, he omitted to tell us that before the Supreme Court was established he had attempted that which the hon. member for Hants says we ought to do to-day. As far back as 1868, Col. Gray, then a member of this House, representing the city of St. John,

was requested by Sir John Macdonald to make a report on the condition of the existing laws in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, in order to see how far it would be possible to bring about that which my hon. friend says is so desirable-that is to say, to provide uniformity in legislation. I remember reading in a book published by Col. Gray, a great many of the arguments-I do not say they were in the same form, and I do not suggest at all that they came from the same source as that from which my hon. friend drew his arguments- but they were on a line with a great many of the contentions we heard to-day. They were arguments to show the advantages of uniformity of legislation. But, when the question came up in this House, and was discussed here, Dorion, Blake, Mills, and other leading men of the day were found opposing the proposed motion, and as a result the whole matter was allowed to drop. The debates of that day do not contain any reference to what took place in the House. There was then no ' Hansard,' and I have had but a few moments to look through what is known as the scrap book ' Hansard ' of the time and I have found no reference to the debate. But, the matter may be found discussed editox-ially in the newspapers of the day. Now, I am not speaking now as coming from the province of Quebec, but I say it is impossible for a Liberal to favour action of this sort, because the necessary tendency is to break down those barriers which are essential to the maintenance of a federal union. At the present time there can be no reason why we should move in that direction. We have had a good many years experience of the British North America Act, which would enable us to point out any inconveniences that might result from the operation of that Act, but, to-day we have had very few instances of such inconveniences pointed out to us. But, I would like to draw my hon. friend's attention to this, that after the experience we have had, and after the experience that they have had in the United States, we find the Australian Commonwealth not only asking for legislation on the lines of our Federation Act, but going farther in the direction of decentralization, in the direction of giving power to the provinces, or to the states as they are called. You will find that under the Act adopted by the Australian Commonwealth, the residuary power is in the states. Let me say in conclusion, that I want to put it again to the House that I do not speak as a member coming from the province of Quebec. But of course, I cannot help feeling that this action would be a menace in so far as Quebec is concerned. We are happy in the possession ^and enjoyment of privileges which we cherish, and I say here and now that in so far as the province of Quebec is concerned, we have to realize that those privileges that we enjoy came to us through the Bri-Hon. Mr. FITZPATRICK.
tish North America Act, which was enacted by the Imperial legislature; and that the people of that province should bear in mind, as I am sure they do bear in mind, that they must look for the maintenance of these privileges to the Imperial connection, and the more we realize that here, the better it will be for ourselves. So long as we maintain the British connection, so long as we maintain our right to go to His Majesty, to the foot of the Throne, to maintain those privileges, so long will they be respected. I say this Confederation Act is a covenant between the British people and the people of Canada, that the British people respect their covenants, and that any lessening of the tie between us and Great Britain must be detrimental to the province of Quebec, in a greater degree than to any of the other provinces of the Dominion.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   PROPERTY AND CIVIL RIGHTS.
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