Assiniboia [Manitoba], Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia Debates [on Confederation] (24 June 1870)

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Date: 1870-06-24
By: Assiniboia (Legislative Assembly)
Citation: Manitoba, Reconstituted Debates of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, 1870, 2010 at 110-120.
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Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia

Assembly Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Friday, 24 June 1870

The President took the chair at four o’clock P.M.

Rev. Mr. Richot occupied a seat in the chamber, by invitation.

The President, after a few preliminary remarks, expressed the pleasure he felt at seeing present Rev. Mr. Richot, one of the delegates to Canada. The rev. gentleman’s arrival had been anxiously looked for, as he had, in a country supposed to be more civilised than this, been exposed to very many insults and dangers. The rev. gentleman would himself address the House in reporting the results of his mission, and then hon. gentlemen would have an opportunity of judging of the issue of their delegation to Ottawa.

For my own part, the President went on to state, I cannot refrain from congratulating the delegation — but principally Rev. Mr. Richot — on the issue of their labors, performed under circumstances of danger such as only the protecting arm of Heaven could bring them through with safety. I feel it but due to the rev. gentleman present, to congratulate him personally on the courage, perseverance and wisdom displayed by him in his mission, and to wish him, on your behalf, as well as my own, prosperity, happiness, and long life in our midst (loud cheers).

[He] asked the rev. gentleman to address the House in reporting the result of his mission.

Rev. Mr. Richot then addressed the House in French, which was translated into

English by the President.

The rev. gentleman, in reply to the President’s remarks, said — Though the people of this country were anxious about their delegates, we were not fearful, because if there were a certain number of the strangers in whose land we were, actuated by an apparent desire to do injustice, the great mass of the people of Canada had more regard for justice and the rights of men. Everywhere we went, the gentlemen, men of business, and people having any considerable stake in the country, treated us, as your delegates, well. The delegate sent out by the British Government expressly to meet us, received us cordially, as did also the Canadian Government and the Governor General himself.

We were not in danger, for the further reason, that, as was said in Parliament, Canada had, in fact, no jurisdiction over this country; and if any legal action were desired, it would have to be sought here, under the authority of the Government of the day. A person had been appointed to meet us at the International line, and as soon as we were within that line we ought to have been respected, but were not. Still, out of respect to England and Canada, and for other considerations, your delegates submitted to indignities. At length we sent to the Governor General a protest against this treatment. This we felt it incumbent on us to do, out of regard to ourselves, to those who delegated us, to the Government here, and the people of the North-West generally.

(A copy of the protest was here read).

That protest was made under the guarantee of the proclamation of the Governor General sent to the North-West in the course of the winter. In this proclamation His Excellency, as the representative of the Queen, stated that a pardon had been granted to all those who had risen in arms (hear, hear).

To our protest an answer was sent, which I hand in.

The President read the reply from His Excellency, acknowledging the receipt of the communication asking protection, and stating that it had been transmitted to the Cabinet, to be taken into consideration as soon as possible.

The President — In the name of this House, I would ask Rev. Mr. Richot if our delegates have been received as the delegates of the Provisional Government, representing the people of the North-West?

Rev. Mr. Richot — We were received as delegates from the North-West; and, privately, when we had to treat with the Canadian Ministry, due respect was paid to the Commission given us by the Provisional Government. I have already communicated with the Government on the subject, but, for the information of members, will state that we were received as delegates from the North-West on the 11th April. We were received by the Government on the boundary line.

On the 12th, we were received by the Ministry. On the 21st, I wrote a private note to the Secretary of State — private, because we were not free. On the 22nd we were free, and then your three delegates addressed a joint note to the Ministry asking from them official recognition. The Government had begun to treat with us, but we did not wish to go on without a written answer. On the 26th we received a written answer, in which we were recognised.

As to a full, written report of our mission, I do not like to supply that, until the arrival of my co-delegate, or both of them, if they come. By making such a report at present, I might forget something, or possibly state that which would admit of contradiction. I am here to-day, by request, to attend this hon. House, and supply what information I can in the meantime in reference to the delegation.

Hon. Mr. Bunn, having been requested to do so, read the official letter of recognition, which was as follows:

―OTTAWA, April 26, 1870.

{Rev. Mr. Richot, {John Black, {Alfred Scott.

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22nd inst., stating that as delegates from the North-West to the Government of the Dominion of Canada, you are desirous of having an early audience with the Government. I am to inform you, in reply, that Sir John Macdonald and Sir George Cartier have been authorised by the Government to confer with you on the subject of your mission, and will be ready to receive you at eleven o’clock.

I have the honor to be,

Your most obd’t servant,


Rev. Mr. Richot — As soon as we were recognised as delegates, the Ministry at Ottawa made a list themselves, which they proposed to place before Parliament, and submitted it to the delegates. But we said we will have nothing to do with your list. You are not to propose the terms of treaty to us. We are sent here with certain instructions, and you must hear us. We produced our List of Rights, but they told us that, as Ministers, they could not take the responsibility of introducing a bill into Parliament, which would embrace all the articles specified in the list. They then drew up another list, quite different from that sent out by the people of the North-West. They did it on their own responsibility, and for this reason, that if our list had been presented to Parliament, it would have been lost, the Ministry would have fallen, and what would have been the issue, as far as we were concerned, it would be hard to tell.

The list drawn up by the Ministry was submitted to us as delegates, and the Governor General asked us if some arrangement might not be come to, by which, instead of having two lists, there would be but one, and said that if it were impossible to make the two lists agree, it would be necessary for him to receive and treat with the delegation in the name of England. Again, we found provision made that, even if we could not come to an understanding with the Governor General, a special agent had been sent out by the English Government to treat with us. I refer to Sir Clinton Murdoch.

In reply to the Governor General, we said that we would not then decide finally, but hoped that an agreement might be made between Ministers and delegates which would bring the Ministerial list nearer to that of the people of the North-West, and enable both parties to agree on it. This was done. An understanding was arrived at, and another list was formed from the two first-named. We put that list into the hands of competent men — lawyers — in order to get a thoroughly reliable opinion concerning its merits. We desired to be clear as to whether the proposed measure was one which we could reasonably accept, and which Canada could reasonably offer. Those we submitted the measure to were men from different Provinces of the Dominion — men who sympathised with us — and they agreed that it would be to our advantage to accept it. Then it was brought before Parliament; and, subsequently received the sanction of both Houses of the Legislature. At another time, we had some explanations with the Ministry regarding the land question, as touched on by the Manitoba Act, and received satisfactory assurances from them. Wherever there is a doubt as to the meaning of the act, let me state, it is to be interpreted in our favor (cheers).

This is only just — for, manifestly, a law such as this relating to land, for instance — ought to be interpreted in favor of the people for whom it is made. As to the question of a reserve, I may say that at first the Ministry offered us 100,000 acres, to be given to the Halfbreeds of the country for their children. But, we told them, that was not enough. We asked for 3,000,000 acres (hear, hear, and cheers), but were told that we could not get so much.

Again, we were anxious to secure the land-reserve for the benefit of all the children in the country, white and Half-breed alike. We tried hard to secure this; but were told by the Ministry that it could not be granted, as the only ground on which the land could be given was for the extinguishment of the Indian title. It was reasonable that in extinguishing the Indian title, such of the children as had Indian blood in their veins should receive grants of land; but that was the only ground on which Ministers could ask Parliament for a reserve. It was to be a reservation for minors, with Indian blood — but not for adults, for the latter are allowed every liberty of self-government and all the rights of white people. They have land already, or, if they have none, it is their own fault.

Having, then, the rights and liberties of white people, adults, even with Indian blood, were allowed no special privileges. But with the children it was different. Those of age have the right to take up unoccupied lands wherever they like, and all that they now possess is theirs — paid or unpaid. As a further argument against a grant of land to all the children in the colony, Ministers urged that it would give rise to trouble in the other colonies. At present, too, it was clear that the people of this colony had many special advantages. For besides what the Act of Manitoba conferred on us exclusively, we were largely the gainers under the general Act of Confederation.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — Some gentlemen present do not, I find, understand clearly Article 31 of the Manitoba Act, that having reference to the extinguishing of the Indian title by a land grant.

The President — The grant is made to extinguish so much of the Indian title as is inherited by children having Indian blood. But, apart from this, the general Indian title has to be extinguished by being dealt with separately. All those having Indian blood have a title which must be extinguished as well as the general Indian claim.

Rev. Mr. Richot — The Half-breed title, on the score of Indian blood, is not quite certain. But, in order to make a final and satisfactory arrangement, it was deemed best to regard it as certain, and to extinguish the right of the minority as Indians; and for that reason 1,400,000 acres were set aside by the Canadian Government for the Halfbreed children of the country, to extinguish their admitted right as Half-breeds. This reservation does not in the least conflict with the 91st section of the general Act, where it is provided that certain tracts of land are to be reserved for, and owned by, Indians.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — An hon. member near me puts the question, as to whether Half-breeds taking these reserves are to be held as minors, as under the Confederation Act?

Rev. Mr. Richot — No.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — That is right.

Rev. Mr. Richot — Ministers at first fought very hard against us in this matter. They said you are claiming for the Half-breeds the rights and liberties of civilized people, while at the same time you want for them certain rights as Indians. We cannot recognize these two claims. We answered, If you do not want to recognise these rights, do not ask us to enter Confederation. We are not bound to enter the Dominion. They replied that they desired the completion of Confederation.

We argued, again, that though the Halfbreeds asked to be recognised as civilized people, they had not therefore lost the claims derived from their Indian blood. Those claims are none the less good; because by their energy in hunting and cultivation the Half-breeds have raised themselves to a higher position than the Indians. England is fully prepared to pay all the respect due to the Indian title; and, in doing so, will not overlook the claims of Half-breeds to their rights derived in this way (cheers).

Let me take this opportunity of saying, that my co-delegates laboured earnestly with me in our mission to secure the rights of the people here — and Mr. Alfred Scott, particularly, who has been so much insulted by the Press, did excellent service, and won the esteem of Ministers by his tact and ability (cheers). As to Judge Black I have only to mention his name to make you certain that he made a good impression on the Government and all with whom he came into contact, and did well for us (cheers). Further, I may add, that on all questions your delegates were perfectly agreed (loud cheers).

The President — I would like to ascertain one point, which is of great importance. Are we going to enter into Confederation only to give Canada jurisdiction over us?

Rev. Mr. Richot — Let me premise by alluding to the question of amnesty, which I have heard spoken of in the Colony. To meet that matter the 19th clause of our List was prepared, and we urged it as soon as we came to treat with Canada. We said we would do nothing unless this were agreed to. It was answered, that the Canadian Government had had no business in this country, and ought rather to ask us pardon for having troubled us. If they came here without authority, and tried to make war on our people through their agents, they did what they had no right to do. Hence Canada had no say in this question of amnesty. It was the business of the Crown. The Crown was represented de facto by the Provisional Government. Having the Government of the country in charge, the Crown ought to have provided for it; and it is the fault of England if we were compelled to establish a Provisional Government.

As to the debts of that Provisional Government, it must be understood that as soon as it ceases to exist there is no remainder of it, and it cannot be attacked in any way. It perishes altogether as soon as the authority of the Crown comes here, and those who may have lost by it, will have to seek compensation from the Crown. Canada came here a little too soon, and will have some portion of the debt of the Provisional Government to pay, as well as some other parties. In fact, between the Crown and Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Company all expenses will have to be arranged. The Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the delegate from the Crown to Canada, Sir Clinton Murdoch, the Canadian Government, Judge Black, Donald A. Smith, and the other Delegates, all arranged together for the payment of that debt in the way I have stated (hear, hear).

There is another point to which I would allude. The Ministers asked us if there was any objection to the LieutenantGovernor of Manitoba being at the same time the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories? and we, as delegates, answered that we did not know of any objection, but thought it rather an advantage that he should hold both offices. Hence it was arranged that the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba should be Lieutenant-Governor also of the NorthWest Territories.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — He will be king of the North-West (laughter).

Rev. Mr. Richot — An explanation is needed about another matter — the fisheries. The Province of Manitoba, you may observe, is exempt from the general law of Confederation for the protection of the fisheries. In many seasons the people of this country want, as a matter of necessity, the free use of the rivers and lakes, and therefore they will be allowed the same fishing privileges as heretofore.

Hon. Mr. Bannatyne — That is to say, they will not be compelled to abide by the Confederation Laws as to fisheries?

The President — Yes.

Rev. Mr. Richot — It was thought that it would not be very good to make laws to protect the fish when the people were hungry (laughter).

Again, as to the amount to be contributed by Canada towards the Government of the Country, they proposed $20,000, but we objected on the ground that such a sum would not be at all sufficient. We urged that it was a new country, where the circumstances with regard to the promotion of education, &c., were not the same as in other countries, and some expenditures would have to be made by Government in behalf of education and agriculture. Under the circumstances they raised the amount to $30,000.

Hon. Mr. Bunn read the following letter, in further explanation of the Manitoba



Ottawa, May 23, 1870.

GENTLEMEN — Regarding the representations made by you respecting the fourth sub-section of section 32 of the Act to establish and provide for the Government, of the Province of Manitoba, in which it stated, that ‗all persons in peaceable possession of tracts of land at the time of the transfer to Canada in those parts of the Province in which the Indian title has not been extinguished, shall have the right of pre-emption of the same on such terms and conditions as may be determined on by the Governor in Council’ — I am in a position to give you the assurance of the members of the Government that as soon as the Government shall be able to grant the necessary deeds, no payment will be exacted from any of the persons mentioned in that sub-section, but that they will be placed on the same footing as those mentioned in the 3 preceding sub-sections. I beg to call your attention to the interview you had with His Excellency the Governor General on the 19th inst., at which I was present, and at which His Excellency was pleased to state that the liberal policy intended to be pursued by the Government with regard to the parties for whom you interest yourselves, was the proper one, and such as ought to be adopted.

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient servant,


Minster of Militia and Defence.

P.S. — You are at liberty to use this letter in such manner and whenever you think fit, in any explanations you may have to give in connection with the object for which you came as Delegates to the Canadian Government — G.E.C.

To M.M. Richot and Scott,

I have the honor to give you the assurance on my own part, as well as on behalf of my colleagues, with regard to the 1,400,000 acres of land reserved by the 31st section of the Manitoba Act for the benefit of the families of the Halfbreed residents, that the regulations authorised to be made from time to time by the Governor in Council respecting that reserve, will be such as to meet the wishes of the Half-breed residents, and to secure in the most efficient and equitable manner the division of that extent of land among the children of the Half-breed heads of families residing in Manitoba at the time of the transfer to be made to Canada.

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient servant,


Minister, of Militia and Defence.

Rev. Mr. Richot — The word “resident” ought to be understood as including all who have a residence here, even though travelling. As to the result of the mission of your delegates generally, I have only to say that as the Canadian Government seem really serious, they have to be believed and we can trust them (cheers).

My own conviction is that both the Canadians and English Government are anxious to do what they can to treat us well (cheers).

I found that our future Lieutenant-Governor is looked upon as a real gentleman and one who will do justice to everybody (cheers).

As to the troops, I never said a word for or against their coming. But the intentions of the Government in this respect, appear fair enough. They mean well in the premises (cheers).

The President — All the explanations expected, have been given by our delegate.

Rev. Mr. Richot — One word, as to the people of Canada with whom we came into contact. I found them very kind, generous and fair, and that they did not, as a rule, take the same view of matters which some papers had done. They looked at the occurrences of last winter in their proper light; and, while censuring where they thought it deserved, they did not blame the people, as they thought they were in peculiar circumstances. And, as to the action of the Government, it was felt that as it had been attacked — had to defend itself — no other set of men could, perhaps, have done less under the circumstances (hear, hear).

Hon. Mr. Bunn, seconded by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, proposed a vote of thanks to Rev. Mr. Richot as one of the delegates to Canada — I have much pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to Rev. Mr. Richot. We must all feel indebted to that gentleman and his co-delegates for the successful manner in which their work was performed, for the risk incurred, and the time, trouble and expense taken in its accomplishment (cheers).

In the first motion placed before our Parliament at its first session I took the liberty of expressing our confidence that England would attend to the wants of our people, as soon as they were made known; and she has done so (cheers).

From the report brought by Rev. Mr. Richot, it will be found that that confidence was not misplaced, but that England is old England still (loud cheers).

I have much pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to our delegate, Mr. Richot (cheers).

Rev. Mr. Richot — For myself, I have expressed about the same thing to the Governor General and Sir Clinton Murdoch. I told them that the people had expelled Mr. McDougall, but were sure that as soon as England knew their causes of discontent, she would be willing to satisfy them (cheers).

Hon. Mr. Schmidt heartily endorsed the vote of thanks to Rev. Mr. Richot.

The resolution passed amid loud cheers.

The President — We have seen the Manitoba Act — have heard the report of our delegation — and now we have to proceed to something else. Is it the intention of the House to pronounce on the Manitoba Act?

Hon. Mr. Schmidt, seconded by Hon. Mr. Poitras, moved that the Legislative

Assembly of this country do now, in the name of the people, adopt the Manitoba Act, and decide on entering the Dominion of Canada, on the terms proposed in the Confederation Act — Carried amid loud cheers.

Rev. Mr. Richot again obtained leave to address the House, in acknowledging the note of thanks accorded him, [he] said— As delegate, you will understand, of course, that my position was a very difficult one. The Manitoba Bill passed; but, you will observe, it differed from our Bill of Rights, and, as delegates, we could not say if the people of the North-West would accept it. Hence, though fully alive to the fact that we had many friends in Canada — in the legislature as well as out of it — we could not express to them our sense of gratitude.

The only thing we could do was to thank them for their sympathy. But now that our work, and that of the Canadian Parliament, has been ratified by this House, my desire is, first, to thank the people of this country for the noble stand they have taken on this question. I have to thank the Canadian Ministry — particularly Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Cartier — for the liberal bill framed by them, with the assistance of the delegation. I have to thank the Dominion House of Commons and Parliament generally: for while 120 voted with us, only 11 were found against us (cheers).

I have to thank also the Queen of England, whose subject I have always been — whose subject I am to-day (loud cheers).

But, above all, I have to express thanks and gratitude to a higher Power than all others. I have to thank an over-ruling Providence for having been led through so many difficulties and dangers. Nor must we at this time think harshly of those who did not dare to come with us and demand rights; for it was a very risky and imprudent thing. That we succeeded, is due to Providence. We have succeeded — but we have seen how difficult the task was. Why? Because we were divided. But now that we are united, we will be a strong people, and our little Province will be the Model Province of Confederation (cheers).

We will have an influx of strangers here. We want them, and will be glad to receive them (cheers).

But let us be intelligent enough to distinguish between the good and those who only come with selfish ends, to work against us (cheers).

Let me add to what I have stated in regard to the Manitoba Act, that at first it was intended that Portage Laprairie [sic] should be left out of the Province. This had been opposed by the delegates — those who worked for it were the enemies of the Portage — and as soon as the Ministers understood the matter fully, they included that district in the bill (cheers).

I would, for my part, like it to be well understood that all I have done in the past has been in good faith and with a desire to serve the country (cheers).

I have never tried to work against any part of the people. As one of the delegates, I brought the bill to Canada, and on that bill worked for the people of the country as a whole, without distinction (hear, hear).

I offer my sympathy to every denomination in the country, and will repeat that if there were some among us who did not dare to oppose McDougall, they were, perhaps, right. While in Canada, let me say, in closing, not only had we all the sympathy and attention we could have expected, but admiration was expressed for the stand taken by the people, who had, it was held, shown themselves to be a reflective, prudent people — wise to a plan — resolute to act — so that, although jeopardised through dangers of the greatest magnitude, they passed almost unscathed through the crisis (loud cheers).

On motion of Hon. Mr. Schmidt,— I will now make another motion consequent on the former ones — I propose that we welcome the new Governor on his arrival (cheers),— it was resolved unanimously that the new Governor be welcomed on his arrival.

The President then addressed the Assembly, in closing the proceedings— We must not expect to exhaust the subject. If we have the happiness soon to meet the new Lieutenant-Governor, we will have time and opportunity enough to express our feelings. For the present let me say only one thing — I congratulate the people of the North-West on the happy issue of their undertakings (cheers).

I congratulate them on their moderation and firmness of purpose; and I congratulate them on having trust enough in the Crown of England to believe that ultimately they would obtain their rights (cheers).

I must, too, congratulate the country on passing from under this Provisional rule to one of a more permanent and satisfactory character. From all that can be learned, also, there is great room for congratulation in the selection of Lieutenant-Governor which has been made. For myself, it will be my duty and pleasure, more than any other, to bid the new Governor welcome on his arrival (loud cheers).

I would like to be the first to pay him the respect due to his position as Representative of the Crown (cheers).

Something yet remains to be done. Many people are yet anxious and doubtful. Let us still pursue the work in which we have been lately engaged — the cultivation of peace and friendship, and doing what can be done to convince these people that we never designed to wrong them (cheers), but that what has been done was as much in their interest as our own (hear).

Rev. Mr. Richot — I would say one word. It is easy to raise objections to the Manitoba Act, starting from an American point of view. I have heard many such objections. But these possess no weight with us (cheers).

The President, with a few words, prorogued the House.

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