Mr. Speaker, I would not have considered it necessary to address the House on the subject now under discussion if it had not been for the remarks of the hon. member for Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) and for the interjection of the hon. member for Last York (Mr. Maclean). Those who carried out the idea of the union of the provinces, thought that a day would come, perhaps, when it would be desirable to make uniform the civil laws of the three provinces, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which were then coming into the union, and section 94 of the British North America Act was enacted. I need not quote the whole of the clause, but I shall quote the concluding part:
But any Act of the parliament of Canada, making provision for such uniformity, shall not have effect in any province unless it is adopted and enacted as law by the legislature thereof.
I wish to draw attention to the last part of this clause, ' unless it is adopted and . enacted as law by the legislature thereof.' This shows us what the intention of the fathers of confederation was; it was that the questions relating to property and civil rights were within the domain of the provinces and that it was only with the consent of such provinces that these laws could be changed or modified. This being so, what is the position to-day ? Each one of these three provinces has since its very inception, preserved its civil laws, with the addition of the amendments made thereto by the legislatures. I will ask this question of the hon. member : Is there
a real and serious grievance existing now which would necessitate the intervention of the Federal parliament in order to make uniform these laws ? In a country like ours where so many important questions occupy the attention of the Federal parliament, the latter would not be justified in interfering unless it was at the formal request of each of the provinces. If the grievances are well founded, how is it that the
voice of the legislatures has not been heard? It strikes me that they would be the first to interfere, and it has not been shown in any way that it was the wish of the provinces to change the actual state of tilings. It is said thgt there is no difference between these three provinces. They use the same language, have the same customs and the same aspirations, and as this, to a certain extent, is true, the proposed reform offers fewer obstacles than would result in an attempt to legislate for a class of people who, by their temperament, their customs, their habits, their tendencies and aspirations differ from others; but the question here is to change a system which has been tested by the experience of time and against which there is no serious complaints. If the grievances are well founded, there is a very simple way to apply a remedy. Let the local legislatures undertake themselves the task of making these laws uniform, and let them agree between themselves, in order that the various dispositions of their laws be made uniform. The hon. gentleman has enumerated what subjects could be made uniform, but I submit that these could be remedied by an understanding between the different legislatures. The resolution which the hon. member has moved, has a tint of centralization, which may have serious' consequences. It is asked that the parliament of Canada should intervene to make laws uniform in these various provinces; but, then it will be necessary to leave a gap between Ontario and New Brunswick, and agitators will ask the question, why this break in the continuity from the Ottawa river to the limits of the lower provinces, and then men not so well advised as the hon. member is, will ask why not uniformity in the laws of the whole Dominion. But the hon. gentleman will answer that there is our constitutional charter. Well it is better not to lay temptations in the way of those who are susceptible of yielding to temptation.
Though I entertain these views, I would not oppose the motion of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Russell) if it were proven that it was the wish of these three provinces that their laws be made uniform, because section 94 forms part of our constitution and that constitution we have Accepted and are ready to abide by it. This is not the first time that this question has been agitated. During the Quebec Conference, as the hon. member (Hon. Mr. Haggart)has said, the question was at issue. It was agitated in this parliament during the discussion on confederation. It was agitated in 1871, and as the Minister of Justice has said, parliament voted an appropriation, and the Hon. J. H. Gray was entrusted with the task of making a preliminary report to the then Minister of Justice. What was the conclusion of that report ?
Hon! Mr. IIAGGART. Does the hon. Solicitor General think that I ever argued that
we could pass a law here which would be effectual, without the consent of the provinces ?
Subtopic: PROPERTY AND CIVIL RIGHTS.