Mr. P. E. LAMARCHE (Nicolet):
Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to>
take up much of the time of this House in dealing with the resolution which has been so weld and ably discussed by its mover and by hon. members on both sides of the House who have taken part in the debate. I feel that it is my duty, however, to state here, as fully as I can, the reasons why I give to this resolution my unqualified support.
The speaker who has just taken his seat, my hon. friend from Frontenac (Mr. Ed-
wards), opened his speech by saying that under the circumstances it would be very hard for him to be moderate, and he has, I think, given a fair illustration of the truth of his prophecy. Not only will I try to be moderate, but I. assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be moderate. Surely my.hon. friend from Frontenac will be astonished at the fact that we French Canadians have spoken in this debate moderately, because it is well recognized that in this squabble we are' the under dog. Mr. Speaker,. I have not devoted any part of my time to studying the different censuses, or to trying to assort the ignorance of this country into races, counties, and denominations, and that is the reason why I am not able at present to follow the figures given by my hon. friend from Frontenac. I remember, however-and I am sorry that I have not the documents in my hand-that when the statements just made before the House were published, not very long ago, the figures were repudiated by the proper department of the Quebec Legislature. I believe that some of the newspapers of this country will again repudiate the figures, since they have assumed more importance by being brought before this House. If I am unable to follow him in the statements he has made as to the proportions of ignorance or illiteracy, I believe that every one who has listened to the dehate which has taken place on this resolution will admit that there are in this House to-day representatives of the French Canadian race who surely know how to read and write and talk, either in French or rn English. Although I have differed on many questions from the right hon. leader of the Opposition, I was proud yesterday that one of my race could master the English language so well as to excite the admiration of both French and English in this country. Taking for granted, for the purposes of discussion, that the figures brought before the House by the hon. member for Frontenac are correct, what do they show? They do not show that the French Canadian people are not able to learn any subject of study as well as the Englishspeaking people. They do not prove that the French Canadian student cannot follow the courses in any school as well as his English competitor. They perhaps show that the results were due to non-attendance in the schools; and, if that is the case, the proper remedy is not to blot out French altogether from the schools, but to make necessary laws for compulsory 237i
education, and force every child in the province of Ontario to attend school; and the same thing might he suggested to the legislation of the province of Quebec.
My hon. friend from Frontenao was scandalized because such a question as this has been brought before this House because, he says, it is so remote from federal politics. He said it bad been brought here only to serve the purposes of the political followers of certain leaders. I remember that only a few years ago certain questions were brought into the federal arena for discussion not only in this House but also before public opinion in this country. Certain questions were brought up, and I am told that to those questions many members on this side of the House, at least, owe their seats. Were those questions foreign to federal politics, or were they solely within the province of the local legislature? We all remember the famous question of the Ne Temere decree. We all remember the turmoil which was raised in certain parts of the Dominion on account of the presence of the right hon. leader of the Opposition at the Eucharistic Congress. We all remember that, Mr. Speaker; and can it be said to-day that those questions were not more foreign to the federal arena than the question of education?
The question of education is a question which is dealt with separately in the British North America Act. There are three sections dealing with legislative powers: One section, 91, which enumerates the different subjects upon which this Parliament has power to legislate; the second, section 92, which enumerates the different subjects over which the provincial legislatures are supreme, so far as legislative powers are concerned; and there is a special section, section 93, devoted to education. In that section it is provided that provincial legislatures are supreme, so far as education is concerned-supreme in the sense that the Federal Parliament cannot legislate except in an exceptional case; the case of a remedial Bill. But they can legislate only within certain limits. The subject is
limited by a special proviso dealing with certain guarantees given to denominational creeds in this country. It is true that this guarantee contemplates religion. But I maintain that the French-Canadian
Catholics have in that section certain rights as well as their English-speaking cocitizens of the Catholic creed.
If we go beyond the limit of Confederation, if we go back beyond the year 1867,
we find that education in Upper Canada was governed by the law of 1363, and that law of 1863 enabled the Catholics of this province to have their school matters regulated absolutely by a board of commissioners and by their own inspectors. The board of commissioners and inspectors were empowered to determine the kind of schools to be established and how those schools might be governed. They had the power also to say whether the schools would be totally English or totally French, or whether they would be French and English, that is, bilingual. That right existed before Confederation, and by section 93 of the British North America Act * all these rights have been preserved. Therefore, I say that the legislation passed by the province of Ontario is not only unjust, not only oppressive, but is also ultra vires. _
But it is not my intention to deal with that matter. The general terms in which this resolution has been worded allows, in my opinion, no serious objection to be taken as to the advisability of bringing it before the House. Its conclusion, if adopted, cannot be considered as binding in any way on the Legislature of Ontario. The subject-matter of the resolution is treated as a question of general policy in the light of British principles, which we all know, and which we all try to apply in this country as well as everywhere else. Furthermore, this resolution does not deal in any way with the constitutional or judicial aspects of the question. This enables me to say that even if all the contentions of our English-speaking friends in Ontario were maintained by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England, this motion would still be in order, because it is the duty of this Parliament to discuss all matters which are connected with the good government and welfare of this country at large and with the welfare of any portion of it, because this Paraliament is the national forum where, naturally, according to British principles, these questions must be aired.
I am a lawyer by profession, and I have learned the principles of law in the office of a gentleman who occupies a seat on the treasury benches; I mean the hon the Postmaster General (Mr. Casgrain). I have not been able to follow him always in politics, but I have always thought that he was a very good lawyer, and I still think so*. In order to illustrate that I am sincere, I am going to invoke his high authority on the very question that is be-
fore the House to-day. I would have preferred that the Postmaster General himself should have done it. He 'has very cleverly outlined the course which parliamentary procedure should take by attempting to show that this question should not come before this House, but in this case, Mr. Speaker, I must abide by the decision given by yourself yesterday, when you explained at length the doctrine applicable to such a case as this. I am at liberty to do so, especially as the Postmaster General has upheld yo-ur decision by his own vote. It having been settled by yourself, Mr. Speaker, and your position having practically been endorsed by the Postmaster General, that this is the proper place to discuss this question, and the Postmaster General having thought to put aside the question and not to deal with it upon its merits, it is my duty to the country at large to show what ihia position with regard to it is, lest some people might unjustly represent that the Postmaster General does not think the same way as we 5 p.m do upon it. I do not want him to suffer any harm from that. I will quote the opinion of the Postmaster General on the question of schools in Ontario given to the New York Times Magazine of February 13, 1915. I will give an extract from a legal opinion written by him, because I say that the Postmaster General passes not only in Montreal, but all over Canada as a high authority on these questions :
In Ontario, where there are 250,000 French Canadians, the difficulty is with the act of the provincial Legislature in hindering the teaching of French in some of the schools and actually prohibiting it in others.
I commend these words to the hon. member for Frontenao and the hon. member for Kingston:
Until 1912 the schools in the French sections of Ontario were bilingual, as much attention being paid to French as to English. But in that year it was enacted that thereafter in all schools then established French should be used exclusively only for French children during the first two years of their schooling and that beyond that age the language in all forms should be English except for one hour a day.
Now, since 1912, many new French Canadian settlements have been established in the province of Ontario, and of course they have their schools, but the provincial authorities iui ve, ruled that by the wording of an Act of 1912 no French whatever can he taught in the schools opened after that law went into effect.
When France ceded Canada to Great Britain it was stipulated in the treaty between the two mother countries that the French in Canada should retain all their civil, religious, and social
rights. And, furthermore, the British Nortn America Act, which is, in part, the Constitution of Canada, recognizes French as one of the two official languages of the country. So Ontario is violating both constitution and treaty. Two cases growing out of this very serious school disturbance, with its incidental strikes of teachers and pupils and protests of parents, are now pending in the courts and will be taken to the Privy Council of England for settlement. I believe that the final ruling will be in favour of the French Canadians, for the Privy Council has never failed to uphold our rights.
I agree entirely with the Postmaster General in the opinion he gave as a lawyer outside of this House, but I cannot agree with him in the opinion he gives as a politician sitting on the treasury benches.
Subtopic: THE BILINGUAL QUESTION.