Assiniboia [Manitoba], Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia Debates [on Confederation] (16 March 1870)

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Date: 1870-03-16
By: Assiniboia (Legislative Assembly)
Citation: Manitoba, Reconstituted Debates of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, 1870, 2010 at 12-16.
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Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia

Council Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Wednesday, 16 March 1870

Noon — The President in the Chair. Representatives assembled.

Hon. Mr. Bunn moved the adoption of the motion of which he had given notice.

Hon. Mr. Bunn — That the Government of England, the Canadian Government, and the Hudson Bay Company, have ignored our rights as British subjects, when they entered into arrangements on the subject of the transfer of the Government of the NorthWest to the Dominion of Canada; without consulting the wishes of the people of the North-West Territory.

Hon. Mr. Olone seconded the motion.

Hon. Mr. Bunn called attention to the fact that in the original French motion the words “les droits des gens” occurred and had been translated “the rights of men.” The English translation being vague he changed the words in question to “our rights as British subjects.”

The President — It is our duty to weigh carefully how we word our resolutions and what we do. While seeking to be as explicit as possible, we must be respectful and dignified, not merely for own sakes, but on account of the Imperial authorities (hear, hear). The French phrase used in the original motion is very expressive and alludes to our rights as men — a people — a nation. In that capacity we have been ignored. All I wish to impress upon Hon. gentlemen is, that they should exercise as much care as possible in wording their resolutions.

Hon. Mr. Scott suggested the insertion of the words “our rights as a people,” instead of “our rights as British subjects.”

Hon. Mr. Bunn — I object to the alteration. It is only as British subjects that we have any right to complain of the transfer. If we were the subjects of any other Power, we would not have a word to say in the matter.

Hon. Mr. Scott — I still think the words “British subjects” not only unnecessary, but that they take away from the real essence of the motion. The second resolution, of which notice has been given, provides for our rights as British subjects.

The President — We have of course, our rights as a people and, standing on these general rights, we say we have been ignored and we complain. But, these rights being granted to us, we feel sure we are always British subjects. In effect there seems little difference between the two wordings proposed.

Hon. Mr. Bunn — There is not very much difference. But for the purpose of being concise, I prefer to leave my motion as it stands. I grant the principle advocated by the President, that every people have rights, but from whom must they claim them? Suppose in accordance with that general principle, we say we have rights, from whom must we claim them? From the Crown of England undoubtedly, as British subjects.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue moved in amendment — That we, the representatives of the inhabitants of the North-West, consider that the Imperial Government, the Hudson Bay Company and the Canadian Government, in stipulating for the transfer of the Government of this country to the Dominion Government, without first consulting, or even notifying the people of such transfer, have entirely ignored our rights as a people.

The President — The people of course, had the right to be consulted. There is only the right of conquest against it.

Hon. C.J. Bird supported Mr. Bunn’s motion. He said — The insertion of the words “our rights as British subjects” I consider only consistent. It does not alter our rights as a people in any way, but rather strengthens them. Suppose we were aliens, manifestly it would not lie in our mouth to complain of the transference to Canada. But as British subjects, and as such only, have we a right to complain.

The President — After all, there is here in some respects a distinction without a difference. We complain not because we are British subjects merely, but because we are men. We complain as a people — as men — for if we were not men we would not be British subjects.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — Unquestionably, it is our business, as a people, to say that we cannot be bartered away as an article of commerce. It is admitted that the high contracting parties might have entered into this arrangement if they had first notified the people and obtained their assent to the transfer. But no such notification was given — our people were deprived of a right common to all men — and of course they felt aggrieved (cheers).

The hon. member from Mapleton, (Mr. Bunn) would have us affirm that it was only because we were British subjects we had a right to be consulted. Now, I would go farther, and hold with the hon., the President, that as men we cannot be trafficked in — bartered away at the pleasure of any Government. We are free men and as such have rights altogether apart from those we acquire by being British subjects (cheers).

The President — For my part, in stating that one form of expression is about as acceptable as another, I do so, although having the sincerest desire to guard closely the interests of the people (cheers).

The President subsequently suggested for the sake of being more explicit, that the words “subjects of this country”, at the end of the resolution, be expunged, and the words “people of the North-West Territory” be inserted.

Hon. Mr. Bunn’s motion, as amended, was then put and carried on a division.

Hon. Mr. Scott, seconded by Hon. Mr. McKay, then moved the motion of which he had given notice.

Hon. Mr. Bunn moved in amendment, that the following be added to the resolution after the word, “respected” ―“and we feel assured that as British subjects such rights and properties, usages and customs will undoubtedly be respected.”

Hon. Mr. Tait seconded the amendment.

The President — I may say here, once for all, that we cannot hope to conduct parliamentary business as they do in London or Ottawa. But we must seek to be as orderly and business-like as possible in our proceedings, and I hope this will be the endeavor of every hon. member.

On the suggestion of Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue, the word “sufferings” was added to the second clause of the resolution, making it read, “which sufferings they still endure.”

The resolution then read―“That notwithstanding the insults and sufferings borne by the people of the North-West heretofore — which sufferings they still endure — the loyalty of the people of the North-West towards the Crown of England remains the same, provided the ‘rights, properties, usages, and customs of the people be respected — and we feel assured that, as British subjects, such rights, properties, usages and customs will undoubtedly be respected.”

At half-past one the House took a recess for an hour and a half.

Three o’clock, P.M. — Legislature again in session.

Hon. Mr. Bunn, seconded by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, moved that the Constitution of the Provisional Government for Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territory be now drawn up,— that a committee be appointed to draft the same, and submit it for the approbation of the Legislative assembly, and that said committee be composed of — French Representatives — The Hon. the President, and Hon. Messrs. Lepine,

O’Donoghue, and Bruce; — English Representatives — Hon. Messrs. Tait, Bird, Bunn, and James Ross, Esq., Chief Justice.

The President — The resolution is a very important one. Before beginning, it is necessary, of course, to have some bounds. We are only a Provisional body, but it seems to me that it would be well to show, in the way proposed, what are the aims of the present Government.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue objected to any person not a member, being appointed on that, or any other committee of the House. It was unparliamentary and would afford a bad precedent.

Hon. Mr. Bunn — At this stage,— when we are about to devise a constitution, I think it perfectly competent in us to try and secure the services of a gentleman of ability — and one who, though not occupying a seat in the House, is from his position and talents, eminently qualified to assist us in the work about to be undertaken.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — I do not object to Mr. Ross on personal grounds, I merely object to his being placed on the committee as giving precedent which is not only unusual, but which would in all probability work ill, as in the event of the Chief Justice being placed on a Parliamentary committee, there is no reason why three or four other outsiders should not be placed on that or any other committee.

The President — This little discussion shows clearly the necessity for a speedy definition of the powers and privileges of this House.

On motion of Mr. O’Donoghue, seconded by Hon. Mr. Scott, the name of Hon. Mr. Bannatyne was substituted for that of the Chief Justice, in the motion and it was carried as amended.

The Hay Privilege

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue gave notice that he would introduce a bill providing that the two-mile hay privilege heretofore enjoyed shall, by act of this Legislature be converted into fee simple ownership; and that all disputes arising between parties as to the right of this privilege, shall be referred to the committee appointed by the House for settling such disputes.

Hon. Mr. Bunn, seconded by Hon. Mr. Scott, moved that when the House adjourns it stands adjourned till Friday morning at ten o’clock, in order to enable the committee which had been struck to get through its labors. — Carried.

The House then adjourned.

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