Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (3 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 1-13.
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FRIDAY, February 3, 1865.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché moved,
“That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament for the purpose of uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, in one Government, with provisions based on the following Resolutions, which were adopted at a Conference of Delegates from the said Colonies, held at the city of Quebec, on the 10th of October, 1864:”
- The best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal Union under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such Union can be effected on principles just to the several Provinces.
- In the Federation of the British North American Provinces, the system of Government best adapted under existing circumstances to protect the diversified interest of the several Provinces, and secure efficiency, harmony and permanency in the working of the Union, would be a General Government, charged with matters of common interest to the whole country: and Local Governments for each of the Canadas, and for the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, charged with the control of local matters in their respective sections. Provision being made for the admission into the Union, on equitable terms, of Newfoundland, the North-West Territory, British Columbia and Vancouver.
- In framing a Constitution for the General Government, the Conference, with a view to the perpetuation of our connection with the Mother Country, and the promotion of the best interest of the people of these Provinces, desire to follow the model of the British Constitution, so far as our circumstances will permit.
- The Executive Authority or Government shall be vested in the Sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and be administered according to the well-understood principles of the British Constitution, by the Sovereign personally, or by the Representative of the Sovereign duly authorized.
- The Sovereign or Representative of the Sovereign shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia Forces.
- There shall be a General Legislature or Parliament for the Federated Provinces, composed of a Legislative Council and a House of Commons.
- For the purpose of forming the Legislative Council, the Federated Provinces shall be considered as consisting of three divisions: 1st, Upper Canada; 2nd, Lower Canada; 3rd, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island; each division with an equal representation in the Legislative Council.
- Upper Canada shall be represented in the Legislative Council by 24 Members, Lower Canada by 24 Members, and the three Maritime Provinces by 24 Members, of which Nova Scotia shall have 10, New Brunswick 10, and Prince Edward Island 4 Members.
- The Colony of Newfoundland shall be entitled to enter the proposed Union, with a representation in the Legislative Council of 4 Members.
- The North-West Territory, British Columbia and Vancouver shall be admitted into the Union on such terms and conditions as the Parliament of the Federated Provinces shall deem equitable, and as shall receive the assent of Her Majesty; and in the case of the Province of British Columbia or Vancouver, as shall be agreed to by the Legislature of such Province.
- The Members of the Legislative Council […]
- (p. 2)
shall be appointed by the Crown under the Great Seal of the General Government, and shall hold office during life: if any Legislative Councillor shall, for two consecutive sessions of Parliament, fail to give his attendance in the said Council, his seat shall thereby become vacant.
- The Members of the Legislative Council shall be British subjects by birth or naturalization, of the full age of thirty years, shall possess a continuous real property qualification of four thousand dollars over and above all encumbrances, and shall be and continue worth that sum over and above their debts and liabilities, but in the case of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, the property may be either real or personal.
- If any question shall arise as to the qualification of a Legislative Councillor, the same shall be determined by the Council.
- The first selection of the Members of the Legislative Council shall be made, except as regards Prince Edward Island, from the Legislative Councils of the various Provinces so far as a sufficient number be found qualified and willing to serve; such Members shall be appointed by the Crown at the recommendation of the General Executive Government, upon the nomination of the respective Local Governments, and in such nomination due regard shall be had to the claims of the Members of the Legislative Council of the opposition in each Province, so that all political parties may, as nearly as possible, be fairly represented.
- The Speaker of the Legislative Council (unless otherwise provided by Parliament), shall be appointed by the Crown from among the Members of the Legislative Council, and shall hold office during pleasure, and shall only be entitled to a casting vote on an equality of votes.
- Each of the twenty-four Legislative Councillors representing Lower Canada in the Legislative Council of the General Legislature shall be appointed to represent one of the twenty-four Electoral Divisions mentioned in Schedule A of Chapter first of the Consolidated Statutes of Canada, and such Councillor shall reside or possess his qualification in the Division he is appointed to represent.
- The basis of Representation in the House of Commons shall be Population, as determined by the Official Census every ten years; and the number of Members at first shall be 194, distributed as follows:
|Prince Edward Island||5|
- Until the Official Census of 1871 has been made up, there shall be no change in the number of Representatives from the several sections.
- Immediately after the completion of the Census of 1871, and immediately after every decennial census thereafter, the Representation from each section in the House of Commons shall be readjusted on the basis of Population.
- For the purpose of such readjustments, Lower Canada shall always be assigned sixty-five Members, and each of the other sections shall, at each readjustment, receive, for the ten years then next succeeding, the number of Members to which it will be entitled on the same ratio of Representation to Population as Lower Canada will enjoy according to the Census last taken by having sixty-five Members.
- No reduction shall be made in the number of Members returned by any section, unless its population shall have decreased, relatively to the population of the whole Union, to the extent of five per centum.
- In computing at each decennial period the number of Members to which each section is entitled, no fractional parts shall be considered, unless when exceeding one-half the number entitling to a Member, in which case a Member shall be given for each such fractional part.
- The Legislature of each Province shall divide such Province into the proper number of constituencies, and define the boundaries of each of them.
- The Local Legislature of each Province may, from time to time, alter the Electoral Districts for the purposes of Representation in such Local Legislature, and distribute the Representatives to which the Province is entitled in such Local Legislature, in any manner such Legislature may see fit.
- The number of Members may at any time be increased by the General Parliament,—regard being had to the proportionate rights then existing.
- Until provisions are made by the General Parliament, all the laws which, at that date of the Proclamation constituting the Union, are in force in the Provinces respectively, relating to the qualification and disqualification of any person to be elected, or to sit or vote as a Member of the Assembly in the said Provinces respectively; and relating to the qualification or disqualification of voters and to the oaths to be taken by voters, and to Returning Officers and their powers and duties,—and relating to the proceeding’s at Elections,—and to the period during which such elections may be continued—and relating to the Trial of Controverted Elections and the proceedings incident thereto,—and relating to the vacating of seats of Members, and to the issuing and execution of new Writs, in case of any seat being vacated otherwise than by a dissolution—shall respectively apply to elections of Members to serve in the House of Commons, for places situate in those Provinces respectively.
- Every House of Commons shall continue for five years from the day of the return of the writs choosing the same, and no longer; subject, nevertheless, to be sooner prorogued or dissolved by the Governor.
- There shall be a Session of the General Parliament once, at least, in every year, so that a period of twelve calendar months shall not intervene between the last sitting of the General Parliament in one Session, and the first sitting thereof in the next Session.
- (p. 3)
- The General Parliament shall have power to make Laws for the peace, welfare and good government of the Federated Provinces (saving the sovereignty of England), and especially laws respecting the following subjects:—
- The Public Debt and Property.
- The regulation of Trade and Commerce.
- The imposition or regulation of Duties of Customs on Imports and Exports,—except in Exports of Timber, Logs, Masts, Spars, Deals and Sawn Lumber from New Brunswick, and of Coal and other minerals from Nova Scotia.
- The imposition or regulation of Excise Duties.
- The raising of money by all or any other modes or systems of Taxation.
- The borrowing of money on the Public Credit.
- Postal Service.
- Lines of Steam or other Ships, Railways, Canals and other works, connecting any two or more of the Provinces together, or extending beyond the limits of any Province.
- Lines of Steamships between the Federated Provinces and other Countries.
- Telegraph Communication and the Incorporation of Telegraph Companies.
- All such works as shall, although lying wholly within any Province, be specially declared by the Acts authorizing them to be for the general advantage.
- The Census.
- Militia—Military and Naval Service and Defence.
- Beacons, Buoys and Light Houses.
- Navigation and Shipping.
- Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries.
- Ferries between any Province and a Foreign country, or between any two Provinces.
- Currency and Coinage.
- Banking—Incorporation of Banks, and the issue of paper money.
- Savings Banks.
- Weights and Measures.
- Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes.
- Legal Tender.
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency.
- Patents of Invention and Discovery
- Copy Rights.
- Indians and Lands reserved for the Indians.
- Naturalization and Aliens
- Marriage and Divorce.
- The Criminal Law, accepting the Constitution of Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction, but including the procedure in Criminal matters.
- Rendering uniform all or any of the laws relative to property and civil rights in Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward island, and rendering uniform the procedure of all or any of the Courts in these Provinces; but any statute for this purpose shall have no force or authority in any Province until sanctioned by the Legislature thereof
- The establishment of a General Court of Appeal for the Federated Provinces.
- And generally respecting all matters of a general character, not specially and exclusively reserved for the Local Governments and Legislatures.
- The General Government and Parliament shall bare all powers necessary or proper for performing the obligations of the Federated Provinces, as part of the British Empire, to foreign countries arising under Treaties between Great Britain and such countries.
- The General Parliament may also, from time to time, establish additional Courts, and the General Government may appoint Judges and officers thereof, when the same shall appear necessary or for the public advantage, in order to the due execution of the laws of Parliament.
- All Courts, Judges, and officers of the several Provinces shall aid, assist and obey the General Government in the exercise of its rights and powers, and for such purposes shall be held to be Courts, Judges and officers of the General Government.
- The General Government shall appoint and pay the Judges of the Superior Courts in each Province, and of the County Courts in Upper Canada, and Parliament shall fix their salaries.
- Until the Consolidation of the Laws of Upper Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, the Judges of these Provinces appointed by the General Government, shall be selected from their respective Bars.
- The Judges of the Courts of Lower Canada shall be selected from the Bar of Lower Canada.
- The Judges of the Court of Admiralty now receiving salaries shall be paid by the General Government.
- The Judges of the Superior Courts shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall be removable only on the Address of both Houses of Parliament.
- For each of the Provinces there shall be an Executive Officer, styled tie Lieutenant Governor, who shall be appointed by the Governor General in Council, under the Great Seal of the Federated Provinces, during pleasure: such pleasure not to be exercised before the expiration of the first five years, except for cause: such cause to be communicated in writing to the Lieutenant Governor immediately after the exercise of the pleasure as aforesaid, and also by Message to both Houses of Parliament, within the first week of the first session afterwards.
- (p. 4)
- The Lieutenant Governor of each Province shall be paid by the General Government.
- In undertaking to pay the salaries of the Lieutenant Governors, the Conference does not desire to prejudice the claim of Prince Edward Island upon the Imperial Government for the amount now paid for the salary of the Lieutenant Governor thereof.
- The Local Government and Legislature of each Province shall be constructed in such manner, as the existing Legislature of each such Province shall provide.
- The Local Legislature shall have power to alter or amend their constitution from time to time.
- The Local Legislatures shall have power to make laws respecting the following subjects:
- Direct taxation, and in New Brunswick the imposition of Duties on the Export of Timber, Logs, Masts, Spays, Deals, and Sawn Lumber; and in Nova Scotia, of Coals and other minerals.
- Borrowing money on the credit of the Province.
- The establishment and tenure of local offices, and the appointment and payment of local officers.
- Education; saving the rights and privy which the Protestant or Catholic minority in both Canadas may possess as to their Denominational Schools at the time when the Union goes into operation.
- The sale and management of Public Lands excepting Lands belonging to the General Government.
- Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries.
- The establishment, maintenance and management of Penitentiaries, and Public and Reformatory Prisons.
- The establishment, maintenance and management of Hospitals, Asylums, Charities, and Eleemosynary Institutions.
- Municipal Institutions.
- Shop, Saloon, Tavern, Auctioneer and other Licenses.
- Local Works.
- The Incorporation of Private or Local Companies, except such as relate to matters assigned to the General Parliament.
- Property and Civil Rights, excepting those portions thereof assigned to the General Parliament.
- Inflicting punishment by fine, penalties, imprisonment or otherwise, for the breach of laws passed in relation to any subject within their jurisdiction.
- The Administration of Justice, including the Constitution, maintenance and organization of the Courts,—both of Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction, and including also the Procedure in Civil matters.
- And generally all matters of a private or local nature, not assigned to the General Parliament.
- The power of respiting, reprieving, and pardoning Prisoners convicted of crimes, and of commuting and remitting of sentences in whole or in part, which belongs of right to the Crown, shall be administered by the Lieutenant Governor of each Province in Council, subject to any instructions he may, from time to time, receive from the General Government, and subject to any provisions that may be made in this behalf by the General Parliament
- In regard to all subjects over which jurisdiction belongs to both the General and Local Legislatures, the laws of the General Parliament shall control and supersede those made by the Local Legislature, and the latter shall be void so far as they are repugnant to, or inconsistent with, the former.
- Both the English and French languages may be employed in the General Parliament and in its proceedings, and in the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, and also in the Federal Courts and in the Courts of Lower Canada.
- No lands or property belonging to the General or Local Governments shall be liable to taxation.
- All Bills for appropriating any part of the Public Revenue, or for imposing any new Tax or Impost, shall originate in the House of Commons or House of Assembly, as the case may be.
- The House of Commons or House of Assembly shall not originate or pass any Vote, Resolution. Address or Bill for the appropriation of any part of the Public Revenue, or of any Tax or Impost to any purpose, not first recommended by Message of the Governor General or the Lieutenant Governor, as the case may be, during the session in which such Vote, Resolution, Address or Bill is passed
- Any Bill of the General Parliament may be reserved in the usual manner for Her Majesty’s Assent, and any Bill of the Local Legislatures may, in like manner, be reserved for the consideration of the Governor General.
- Any Bill passed by the General Parliament shall be subject to disallowance by Her Majesty within two years, as in the case of Bills passed by the Legislatures of the said Provinces hitherto; and, in like manner, any Bill passed by a Local Legislature shall be subject to disallowance by the Governor General within one year after the passing thereof.
- The Seat of Government of the Federated Provinces shall be Ottawa, subject to the Royal Prerogative.
- Subject to any future action of the respective Local Governments, the Seat of the Local Government in Upper Canada shall be Toronto; of Lower Canada. Quebec; and the Seats of the Local Governments in the other Provinces shall be as at present.
- All Stocks, Cash, Bankers’ Balances an […]
- (p. 5)
[…] Securities for money belonging to each Province at the time of the Union, except as hereinafter mentioned, shall belong to the General Government.
- The following Public Works and Property of each Province shall belong to the General Government, to wit:—
- Public Harbours.
- Light Houses and Piers.
- Steamboats, Dredges and Public Vessels.
- River and Lake Improvements.
- Railway and Railway Stocks, Mortgages and other debts due by Railway Companies.
- Military Roads.
- Custom Houses, Post Offices and other Public Buildings, except such as may be set aside by the General Government for the use of the Local Legislatures and Governments.
- Property transferred by the Imperial Government and known as Ordnance Property.
- Armouries, Drill Sheds, Military Clothing and Munitions of War, and
- Lands set apart for public purposes
- All lands, mines, minerals and royalties vested in Her Majesty in the Provinces of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, for the use of such Provinces, shall belong to the Local Government of the territory in which the same are so situate; subject to any trusts that may exist in respect to any of such lands or to any interest of other persons in respect of the same.
- All sums due from purchases or lessees of such lands, mines or minerals at the time of the Union, shall also belong to the Local Governments.
- All assets connected with such portions of the public debt of any Province as are assumed by the Local Government’s shall also belong to those Governments respectively.
- The several Provinces shall retain all other Public Property therein, subject to the right of the General Government to assume any Lands or Public Property required for Fortifications or the Defence of the Country
- The General Government shall assume all the Debts and Liabilities of each Province.
- The Debt of Canada, not specially assumed by Upper and Lower Canada respectively, shall not exceed, at the time of the Union, $62,500,000; Nova Scotia shall enter the Union with a debt not exceeding $8,000,000; and New Brunswick with a debt not exceeding $7,000,000.
- In case Nova Scotia or New Brunswick do not incur liabilities beyond those for which their Governments are now bound, and which shall make their debts at the date of Union less than $8,000,000 and $7,000,000 respectively, they shall be entitled to interest at five per cent, on the amount not so incurred, in like manner as is hereinafter provided for Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island; the foregoing resolution being in no respect intended to limit the powers given to the respective Governments of those Provinces, by Legislative authority, but only to lint it the maximum amount of charge to be assumed by the General Government; provided always, that the powers so conferred by the respective Legislatures shall be exercised within five years from this date, or the same shall then lapse.
- Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, not having incurred Debts equal to those of the other Provinces, shall be entitled to receive, by half-yearly payments, in advance, from the General Government, the Interest at five per cent, on the difference between the actual amount of their respective Debts at the time of the Union, and the average amount of indebtedness per head of the Population of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
- In consideration of the transfer to the General Parliament of the powers of Taxation, an annual grant in aid of each Province shall be made, equal to eighty cents per head of the population, as established by the census of 1861; the population of Newfoundland being estimated at 130,000. Such aid shall be in full settlement of all future demands upon the General Government for local purposes, and shall be paid half-yearly in advance to each Province.
- The position of New Brunswick being such as to entail large immediate charges upon her local revenues, it is agreed that for the period of ten years, from the time when the Union takes effect, an additional allowance of $63,000 per annum shall be made to that Province. But that so long as the liability of that Province remains under $7,000,000, a deduction equal o the interest on such deficiency shall be made from the $63,000.
- In consideration of the surrender to the General Government by Newfoundland of all its rights in Mines and Minerals, and of all the ungranted and unoccupied Lands of the Crown, it is agreed that the sum of $150,000 shall each year be paid to that Province, by semi-annual payments; provided that that Colony shall retain the right of opening, constructing and controlling Roads and Bridges through any of the said Lands subject to any Laws which the General Parliament may pass in respect of the same.
- All engagements that may before the Union be entered into with the Imperial Government for the defence of the Country, shall be assumed by the General Government.
- The General Government shall secure, without delay, the completion of the Intercolonial Railway from Rivière du Loup, through New Brunswick, to Truro in Nova Scotia.
- The communications with the North-Western Territory, and the improvements required for the development of the Trade of the Great West with the Seaboard, are regarded by this Conference as subjects of the highest importance to the Federated Provinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the Finances will permit.
- The sanction of the Imperial and Local […]
- (p. 6)
[…] Parliaments shall be sought for the Union of the Provinces, on the principles adopted by the Conference.
- That Her Majesty the Queen be solicited to determine the rank and name of the Federated Provinces.
- The proceedings of the Conference shall be authenticated by the signatures of the Delegates, and submitted by each Delegation to its own Government, and the Chairman is authorized to submit a copy to the Governor General for transmission to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Having read the motion, the hon. gentleman commenced to speak in French, when Hon. Mr. Ross requested he should address the House in English.
Hon. Mr. Letellier thought, as there were two members of the government in the House, one who spoke best in French (Sir E.P. Taché), and one who did the same in English, it would be better for the Hon. Premier to speak in French, and then his colleague could do the same in English; but Hon. Sir E.P. Taché concluded that as there were English members who did not understand French at all, while the French members all understood English, it would be best for him to speak in the latter language, and proceeded to do so.
Hon. Sir. E.P. Taché then said that in moving the resolution he felt it his duty first to make a few preliminary remarks, and to give fully and thoroughly the reasons which had induced him to assume the grave responsibility of laying this measure before the House and the country. The reasons were two-fold. They related first to the intrinsic merits of the scheme itself, divested of all other considerations, and next, to the settlement of the domestic difficulties which for some years had distracted the country, and the means we might and ought to employ to restore good feeling, harmony and concord therein. He would, then, first address himself to what he considered the intrinsic merits of the scheme of Confederation, and he would therefore say that if were anxious to continue our connection with the British Empire, and to preserve intact our institutions, our laws, and even our remembrances of the past, we must sustain the measure.
If the opportunity which now presented itself were allowed to pass by unimproved, whether we would or would not, we would be forced into the American Union by violence, and if not by violence, would be placed upon an inclined plain which would carry us there insensibly. In either case the result would be the same. In our present condition we would not long continue to exist as a British colony. To sustain this position he thought it was only necessary to look at the present state of Canada, its extent, its agricultural and mineral resources, its internal means of communication—natural and artificial,—its geographical position and its climate.
The extent of the Canadian territory was, perhaps, not defined, but it was sufficiently well known to enable him to state that it was as large as many empires in Europe, larger than France or Austria. He knew that the portion cultivated was, in respect to its superficial area, only as to the seacoast to the sea itself. We had vast forests not yet opened or occupied, and yet we had a population numbering over two and a half millions of souls. With such an extent of territory and so fertile a soil, he had no doubt whatever that in less than half a century Canada would embrace a population equal to that of the large empires of the old world.
Then with regard to our internal communications, natural and artificial, there was the noble St. Lawrence, which, with great propriety, might be called the father of rivers, for this stream, in point of navigable extent, was longer than any other river in the world. Some of its tributaries which would help to people the interior, were larger than the first-class rivers of Europe, and as to its lakes, none such are to be found elsewhere, especially in view of the facilities they afford to trade. Then the minerals of Canada, which were only now beginning to attract attention, were of the most valuable character, and as practical men asserted, much more valuable than the richest auriferous regions could be.
The honourable member then referred to the artificial communications of the country, viz.. our Canals, which, he said, were on a scale unequalled in America, or, indeed, in the world. Our Railway system too. In proportion to our means and population, was as extensive as could be found anywhere else; yet with all these advantages, natural and acquired, he was bound to say we could not become a great nation. We laboured under a drawback or disadvantage which would effectually prevent that, and he would defy any one to take a map of the world and point to any great nation which had not seaports of its own open at all times of the year. Canada did not possess those advantages, but was shut up in a prison, as it were, for five months of the year in fields of ice, which all the steam engineering apparatus of human ingenuity could not overcome, and so long as this state of things continued, we must consent […]
- (p. 7)
[…] to be a small people, who could, at any moment, be assailed and invaded by a people better situated in that respect than we were. Canada was, in fact, just like a farmer who might stand upon an elevated spot on his property, from which he could look around upon fertile fields, meandering streams, wood and all else that was necessary to his domestic wants, but who had no outlet to the highway. To be sure he might have an easy, good-natured neighbour, who had such an outlet, and this neighbour might say to him, “Don’t be uneasy about that, for I will allow you to pass on to the highway, through my cross road, and we shall both profit by the arrangement.” So long as this obliging neighbour was in good humor everything would go on pleasantly, but the very best natured people would sometimes get out of temper, or grow capricious, or circumstances might arise to cause irritation. And so it might come to pass that the excellent neighbor would get dissatisfied.
For instance, he might be involved in a tedious and expensive law suit with some one else; it might be a serious affair—in fact, an affair of life or death, and he might come to the isolated farmer and say to him, “I understand that you and your family are all sympathising with my adversary; I don’t like it at all, and I am determined you will find some other outlet to the highway than my cross road, for henceforth my gate will be shut against you.” In such a case what is the farmer to do? There is the air left, but until the aerostatic science is more practically developed, he can hardly try ballooning without the risk of breaking his neck. (Laughter.)
Well, that was precisely our position in reference to the United States. Since the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railway was opened we have bad a very convenient outlet to the sea, and he, with other hon. members now present, would remember the joyful jubilee which was held on the occasion of its opening at Boston in 1851 or ’52. For one he was perfectly delighted, as being a man of a different origin, to mark how the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race fraternised. How they did shake hands to be sure! How they did compliment each other as possessing qualities superior to all other people. They were indeed very affectionate and almost swore eternal friendship and fidelity, and he (Sir E.P. Taché) had no doubt whatever of their perfect sincerity at the time. The consequences of this great work had, no doubt, been highly advantageous to both sides, for their commercial relations had enlarged very much, no much indeed that now the transactions with the United States were, as he believed, more extensive than those with Great Britain. If the advantages had been all on one side this increase would, of course, not have taken place. But how were we situated now? Difficulties had supervened, in which we were in no wise concerned, but which originated with themselves. It was North against South solely, yet these difficulties had affected the good feeling between them and this country.
To be sure there had been no misunderstanding at all between our respective Governments, but the minds of the people on both sides had been considerably affected. The people of the Northern States believed that Canadians sympathized with the South much more than they really did, and the consequences of this misapprehension were: first, that we had been threatened with the abolition of the transit system; then the Reciprocity Treaty was to be discontinued; then a passport system was inaugurated, which was almost equivalent to a prohibition of intercourse, and the only thing which really remained to be done was to shut down the gate altogether and prevent passage through their territory. Would any one say that such a state of things was one desirable for Canada to be placed in? Will a great people in embryo, as he believed we were, coolly and tranquilly cross their arms and wait for what might come next?
For his part he held that the time had now arrived when we should establish a union with the great Gulf Provinces. He called them great advisedly, for they had within themselves many of the elements which went to constitute greatness, and of some of which who were destitute.—Canada was unquestionably wanting in several of these important elements, and he had been very sorry a few days ago to hear an hon. member of this House make comparisons unfavorable to those countries. That hon. member had said the Lower Provinces were poor and needy, and that like all other poor people they would no doubt be glad to connect themselves with a wealthy partner. He had also said their product of wheat was very small, and that one of the inferior counties in Upper Canada yielded more than the whole of New Brunswick.
Well, the allegations in respect of the produce of wheat might be true; but that did not necessarily constitute them poor provinces. Let the honorable member look at Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, which, in respect of agricultural produce, might be said to be poor, so poor that an American had once told him (Sir E.P. Taché) that they did not even grow […]
- (p. 8)
[…] grass, and their inhabitants had to file the teeth of their sheep in summer to enable them to get a subsistence. (Laughter.) Yet were these states poor? Had they no resources from their trade and manufactures? If they did not produce wealth in one way they certainly did in others, and so it was with New Brunswick. If it did not produce wheat, it produced timber in immense quantities. It had a very extensive fishing coast which was a source of great wealth. Some honorable gentlemen would perhaps remember what an eminent man from Nova Scotia—the Hon. Joseph Howe—had said at a dinner in this country in 1850, that he knew of a small granite rock upon which, at a single haul of the net, the fishermen had taken 500 barrels of mackerel. That was a great haul no doubt—(laughter)—but the honorable gentleman had not given the size of the barrels. (Laughter.)
Still no one could deny that the Gulf Provinces were of immense importance, if only in respect of their fisheries. Then they were rich in minerals. Their coal alone was an element of great wealth. It had been said that where coal was found the country was of more value than gold. Look at England, and what was the chief source of her wealth if not coal? Deprived of coal, she would at once sink to the rank of a second or third rate power. But Canada had no coal, and notwithstanding all her other elements of greatness, she required that mineral in order to give lier completeness. What she had not, the Lower Provinces had; and what they had not, Canada had. Then as to ship-building, it was an industry prosecuted with great vigor and success in those provinces, especially in New Brunswick, and some of the finest vessels sailing under the British flag had been built in the port of St. John, which annually launched a considerable number of the largest class. They were not beggars, nor did they wish to come into the union as such; but as independent provinces, able to keep up their credit, and provide for their own wants. They would bring into the common stock a fair share of revenue, of property, and of every kind of industry. As to their harbours, he (Sir E.P. Taché) had had the good fortune to visit them personally, and would say they could not be surpassed anywhere; in fact he believed they were unequalled in the world.
He would especially refer to that of Halifax, and would ask honorable members to imagine an extensive roadstead, protected by several islands standing out in the sea, so as to break the waves and quiet the waters in the worst of storms. This most beautiful harbour could accommodate, in perfect safety, more than 100 of the largest vessels; but this was not all, for at the east end where it diminished into a gully, but with very deep water, you enter into a large natural basin, rounded as it were by the compass, and of an extent sufficient to take in all the navies of the world. The entrance to this magnificent inner harbour was rendered inaccessible to any foe by the fortifications erected at the mouth, and the entrance could, moreover, be so barred that no hostile fleet could ever get through. He did not suppose the fleets of England would ever need to take refuge there—(hear, hear)—although it had been loudly alleged that they could be blown out of the water in an incredibly short space of time—(laughter)—but it might afford shelter to isolated vessels, in case they were hard pushed by superior numbers.
Well, under the union, Canada would become a partner in these advantages, and with the harbours of Halifax and Quebec, they might well feel proud of their country. On the whole, he thought that the Confederation of all the Provinces had become an absolute necessity, and that it was for us a question of to be or not to be. If we desired to remain British and monarchical, and if we desired to pass to our children these advantages, this measure, he repeated, was a necessity. But there were other motives and other reasons which should induce us to agree to the scheme. Every honorable gentleman in the House knew the political position of the country, and were acquainted with the feelings of irritation which have prevailed for many years.
They knew it happily not by their experience in this House, but by the tone of the public press, and by the discussions in another place where taunts and menaces were freely flung across the floor by contending parties. They knew what human passions were, and how, when bitter feelings continued for a long time, the distance between exasperation and actual conflict was not very great. They had now before their own eyes an example of the effects of such disagreements. It was persistently believed by many that the rival interests would never come to a rupture, but for throe years they had been waging a conflict which had desolated and ruined the fairest portion of the country, and in the course of which acts of barbarity had been committed which were only equalled by the darkest ages. We in Canada were not more perfect, and the time had arrived when, as he believed, all the patriotic men in the country ought to unite in […]
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[…] providing a remedy for the troubles we had to contend with. It might be said that the remedy proposed was not required, but he would like to know what other could be proposed.
Legislation in Canada for the last two years had come almost to a stand still, and if any one would refer to the Statute Book since 1862, he would find that the only public measures there inscribed had been passed simply by the permission of the Opposition. This was the condition of things for two years, and if this were an evil there was another not less to be deplored; he referred to the administration of public affairs during the same period. From the 21st May, 1862, to the end of June, 1864, there had been no less than five different Governments in charge of the business of the country.
The honorable member here gave a history of the several changes until the Macdonald-Dorion Administration died, as he stated, of absolute weakness, falling under the weight they were unable to carry. Their successors were not more successful, and being defeated were thinking of appealing to the country, which they might have done with more or less success, gaining a constituency here, and perhaps losing another elsewhere. They had assumed the charge of affairs with an understanding that they would have a right to this appeal, and while they were consulting about it they received an intimation from the real chief of the Opposition, through one of their own friends, to the effect that he was desirous of making overtures to them, with the view of seeking to accommodate the difficulties.
The honorable gentleman and some of his friends then came into contact with the leaders of the Government, and it was agreed between them to try to devise a scheme which would put an end to the misunderstandings, and at the same time secure for Canada and the other provinces a position which would ensure their future safety and procure them the respect and confidence of other nations. They arranged a large scheme and a smaller one. If the larger failed, then they were to fall back upon the minor, which provided for a federation of the two sections of the province. At the time these measures were resolved upon, the country was bordering on civil strife, and he would ask if it was not the duty of both sides to do all they could to prevent the unfortunate results which would have followed. An honorable member opposite (Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just) had said, a few days ago, that it would have been easy to have prevented the necessity for a Confederation of all the provinces, by granting to Upper Canada the increased representation, or the demand of representation according to population, which they had been contending for.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just begged to say that the Hon. Premier must have misunderstood him. What he had said was that if the proposition had been made to the people whether they should have a Confederation of all the provinces, or give Representation according to Population to Upper Canada, they would have chosen the latter; and when he had alluded to some other mode of accommodating the difficulties, he meant that if the Government had applied to other parties in the Legislature than those they had had associated with themselves, they might have succeeded without having recourse to Confederation.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché said that he had not been alone in interpreting the honorable member as he had done, for two city journals had taken the same view of his remarks.
Hon. M. Letellier said he was aware of it, but they were mistaken for all that.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—Well, it did not much matter; but the honorable member should recollect that Lower Canada had constantly refused the demand of Upper Canada for representation according to population, and for the good reason that, as the union between them was legislative, a preponderance to one of the sections would have placed the other at its mercy. It would not be so in a Federal Union, for all questions of a general nature would be reserved for the General Government, and those of a local character to the local governments, who would have the power to manage their domestic affairs as they deemed best. If a Federal Union were obtained it would be tantamount to a separation of the provinces, and Lower Canada would thereby preserve its autonomy together with all the institutions it held so dear, and over which they could exercise the watchfulness and surveillance necessary to preserve them unimpaired.
[Original Editor’s Note: The honorable member repeated this portion of his speech in French, for the express purpose of conveying his meaning in the clearest and most forcible manner to his fellow-members for Lower Canada, who might not have apprehended so well the English.]
But there might be a portion of the inhabitants of Lower Canada who might at a first glance have greater reason to complain than the French Roman Catholics, and these were the English Protestants. And why? Because they were in a minority; but […]
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[…] he thought that if they took the trouble fully to consider the subject, they would be reassured and satisfied with the scheme.
First a great event had taken place; the law of Lower Canada had been consolidated, and the English-speaking people residing in that section had got reconciled to it; in fact they were well satisfied therewith. In this respect, then, they were secure. But they might say that the majority in the Local Legislature might hereafter be unjust to them, but he thought that, on looking at the past, their fears might be allayed. Before the union of the provinces, when the large majority of members in the Legislature were French, the English inhabitants had never found cause of complaint against them. In no instance had injustice been attempted. The difficulty was that the minority wanted to rule and wanted to possess the whole power of the state in their hands. That the people of Lower Canada always arced towards the English with liberality was best exemplified by facts.
Before the union wile the constituencies were almost exclusively French, English Protestant gentlemen were frequently returned to Parliament, and he had now opposite to him an honorable member who had for twenty years represented an entirely French and Roman Catholic county. He doubted if in the course of those twenty years that honorable member had ever been asked whether he were Scotch or Protestant. They took the man for his sterling worth. It was even a fact that the French had elected members with extraordinary names, and as everybody knew, there was sometimes a good deal in a name. (Hear, hear.) Now if there was one name which French Canadians disliked more than another, it was that of Luther, (Hear, hear, and laughter.) Yet they had elected a gentleman bearing that significant appellation. He was glad they had, and he had no doubt he had been elected because of his personal worth; but it unquestionably showed a great deal of liberal feeling on the part of the electors. (Hear hear.)
But if an English Protestant was bad in the eyes of a French Canadian, a French Protestant was infinitely worse, and yet the county of Lotbinière a French Canadian Protestant without even questioning his religion. That gentleman was as a most worthy, able and well educated person, and every way well qualified for the important trust. But again, quite lately, in a division in Lower Canada numbering over fifty thousand souls, of which only one thousand four hundred were English, an election of a member to this Chamber had taken place, the candidates being a French Roman Catholic gentleman, long and well known, and an English Protestant—and with what result? Why, that the English Protestant had beaten the French Canadian Roman Catholic by one thousand votes. (Hear.) Could any greater proof of a tolerant and liberal feeling be exhibited?
These examples should show, as he thought, that the Protestants of Lower Canada were sure to meet with not justice simply, but with the largest toleration. It might perhaps be said that Mr. Price who had been elected for the division of which he spoke, being a large merchant doing business in Chicoutimi, had used the influence which his position gave him over many electors who were in his debt to obtain success; but whatever might be said of Chicoutimi, it could not be said of the county of Charlevoix, where he had no such business relations, and yet he obtained a majority there too. The fret was, the result might be considered not only as a mark of confidence in Mr. Price, the son elected, but as a token of respect and gratitude to Mr. Price, senior, who had by his energy and enterprise opened up the Saguenay country, and who, in a certain sense, might be said to be the father of that region. Much had been said on the war of races, but that war was extinguished on the day the British Government granted Canada Responsible Government, by which all its inhabitants, without distinction of race or creed, were placed on a looting of equality. (Hear, hear).
The war of races found its grave in the resolutions of the 3rd September, 1841, and he hoped never to hear of it again. We were so situated that their must needs be mutual forbearance. This life was one of compromise. Not only was forbearance needed in public life, but in domestic life. If one member in a family insists upon having all his own way, there will be trouble, and so through all possible relations of humanity. He believed the French Canadians would do all in their power to render justice to their fellow-subjects of English origin, and it should not be forgotten that if the former were in a majority in Lower Canada, the English would be in a majority in the General Government, and that no act of real injustice could take place even if there were a disposition to perpetrate it, without its being reversed there. He had now given to the House the motives which had led him to take the responsibility of introducing this important measure, and he trusted they would be viewed as sufficient. When the proper time for the discussion of the details came, he would be […]
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[…] prepared to give such explanations as might seem requisite, and as to the mode and time of the discussion he would leave that to the decision of the House.
Hon. Mr. Fergusson Blair—[Owing to some noise in the House, the reporter did not clearly understand the opening remarks of the hon. member, except so far as that he desired to convey the impression that what he was about to say was not to be regarded as committing any one but himself; that he did not speak for any party or as representing any party in the House. The hon. member was also understood to allege he did not think the political struggles and difficulties alluded to by the Hon. Premier could be taken as sufficient to justify the great constitutional change now proposed]. He thought that in the course of party struggles for supremacy, the Opposition had erred in seeking to oust the Ministry before they themselves were prepared to assume the charge with a reasonable prospect of being able to carry on the Government with success.
This was the British system, and an instance had lately occurred in the Imperial Parliament exemplifying it. On the Danish question Mr. D’Israeli could have defeated the Ministry, but, being aware that he could not form a strong Administration, many of his party abstained from voting. Such a condition of things could happen just as well in an assembly of 300 as in one of 600, and he did not think the change proposed would guarantee immunity from future difficulties of the same kind, therefore they might happen in the General Government as well as in that of Canada alone. But looking at the scheme as presented, and forgetting all past party disputes and the charges against the public men concerned, it came before the House in such a shape as to make it necessary to accept or reject it.
He must say he could not but attach great weight to a scheme prepared by men of different political opinions, by eminent men who had met together for the express purpose of arranging it, and who had agreed upon its provisions. If it were obstructed by any serious amendments, involving a prolonged delay, such delay might be fatal, and if it were to pass, he thought it should be allowed to do so at a sufficiently early period to permit of its being laid before the Imperial Parliament this year. (Hear, hear. ) He could not shut his eyes to the fact that whether or not the union added strength to the provinces interested, it would unquestionably add to their respectability and standing, both at home and abroad. (Hear.)
The people of England were evidently looking to the proposed change with confidence and hope, and as likely to perpetuate the connection of the provinces with the empire for a long time to come. But it was well known that there was an anti-colonial party in England persistently urging that it would be an advantage to the nation to get rid of the colonies. The question of defending them was an embarrassing one, and unless some such scheme as this were adopted, it might present grave difficulties. If the scheme were rejected, the effect would be very injurious upon our credit. (Hear.)
But if adopted, the reverse would be the ease. Its acceptance would also improve our position in the eyes of our neighbors in France and other nations; indeed it would, in all probability, give us a national standing, without the necessity of separating from the mother country. For these reasons he had come to the conscientious conclusion that it would be highly injurious to reject the scheme, and that it was our duty to pass it as soon as was consistent with a due consideration of what was due to so important a subject.
He did not think it necessary to express, at greater length, his reasons for giving the motion his support, but he again desired it to be well understood that he spoke only for himself, and not in concert with any one else. At the same time he might say, that from what he knew personally of the feeling of his section of the country, it was highly favorable to the measure. There might be some matters of detail upon which there was a difference of opinion, and when the resolutions came up in their order, he would indicate what the) were.
The proposed submission of the scheme to the electors would involve a delay which could not be compensated for by any benefit proposed to be derived from such a course; but if there should hereafter be any very important public movement and numerous petitions in favor of an appeal to the people, then the subject would present a different aspect. Or if the majority in favor of the scheme in the other branch of the Legislature should be very small, that might be deemed a sufficient reason for submitting it to the country. As to the course to be pursued in the decision on the merits, he did not know whether it would be best to have it in Committee of the Whole or with the Speaker in the chair. Hon. Sir E.P. Taché thought it would be better that the Speaker should continue in the chair, but with the understanding that every honorable member should be at liberty to speak as freely md frequently as if the House were in committee.
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Hon. Mr. Fergusson Blair assented.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just said, that if he were sufficiently master of English he would address the House in that language, but not being so would have to use the French. The difficulties to which allusion had been made were produced by two causes. They were not constitutional, however, but parliamentary, and, as he believed, could have been surmounted without recourse to the constitutional change which it was proposed to adopt without appeal to the country. It was true that difficulties had succeeded to difficulties, and that legislation was stopped, but if the leaders had sought in the Legislature itself for the means of removing them, he believed they would have been found. Who would guarantee the Government under the new Constitution from the recurrence of similar troubles? There would of course be an Opposition as in the smaller House. If similar difficulties happened, would the Confederation seek relief in another change of Constitution.
On the contrary, would not relief be sought in the means he had suggested. At any rate he did not think such a change as the union of all the British provinces was required. In 1820, when a union of Upper and Lower Canada was proposed, it was objected that if it did not work a larger union would follow, and then, lastly, a legislative union of all the provinces. Two of these steps had already been taken, and we were going on with rapid strides towards the last. In such a case it was not hard to conceive what would be the position of Lower Canada. It was a misfortune that we had to contend with national prejudices, but it was impossible to forget them. In the event of a legislative union would the guarantees proposed to Lower Canada under the federation system be found? Would it not then be at the mercy of those they now feared? He admitted we had a rich country as represented; we had wheat fields, mineral resources, forests, rivers and lakes, but to make them available did we require an increase of territory? We had territory enough, and an increase would be a source of weakness, not of strength. Would it not add to our already large frontier, and make us more vulnerable to invasions.
The union would not increase the power of England to protect us, and England would have the same interest in protecting the colonies without as well as with the union. New Brunswick might be rich in coal, in wood and in fisheries, and do a large business in ship building, but these things would seek the best markets under any circumstances, and he did not see that a union with us would increase their value, and if it did it would be no advantage. Then, as to Nova Scotia with its small population and fine harbour—where would be the advantage of connection with her? Though not united, would not the harbour be equally available to our vessels? He would now say he preferred to Confederation a legislative union of Upper and Lower Canada with inequality of representation in the Lower House and equality in the Upper.
This would not add to the expenses of the province, and would be more consonant with our interests and the sentiments [ideas] of the people. Though there should be inequality in the Assembly, the equality in the Legislative Council would act as a counterpoise, and prevent one section from invading the interests of the other. Then did not Confederation consecrate [establish] the principle of representation according to population? It would give larger to one of the nationalities, and, as the General Government would be able to veto the acts of the Local Government, would there be no danger to Lower Canada? If representation by population had been so much opposed in this part, it was doubtless because there was cause of fear, yet this very power was to be conferred upon the Federal Government. If it could not be given with safety under our present regime, how could it be safer to give it to the Confederation. The advantage of the plan to Upper Canada was well understood, for immediately alter the coalition they all agreed to say they had gained what they had so long contended for.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—Well, alter all, they only got what the honorable member himself proposed to give them.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just said he always preferred a short direct course to a long tortuous one. The friends of the new movement had tried to conceal the fact that representation according to population was to be conceded to Upper Canada, but they had failed, and the avowal had come out at last. The resolutions not being before the House, it would be improper to go into the merits of the details, but he could not avoid alluding to one point which was of profound interest. It was clear that the constituencies had not sent honorable members to this House for the purpose of electing themselves members for life, as they were invited to do. They were not sent here to change the Constitution, but to uphold it. (Hear.) You were, in fact, about to declare that the local governments would have power to recommend to the […]
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[…] General Government that you should be appointed for life. If so, then let the people say whether such power should be conferred. Take the means to make sure that the members of the Assembly shall appeal to the country. In New Brunswick the question was about to be submitted to the people through a general election. To be sure, it was said that the term of Parliament there had expired; but if the Ministers in New Brunswick had understood they could force a vote, as was about to be done in Canada, he doubted whether the general election would have taken place immediately. He believed, too, that the Conference generally had regarded this as the most proper mode. Then he did not think that such a change should have been brought about under a Coalition Government.
This was contrary to British usage, and he believed that if a petition was numerously signed, and forwarded to the Imperial Government, representing that this important change had been brought about by a coalition, the act would be declared unconstitutional. The scheme was practically unknown to the people. Under some pressure it had been sent confidentially to the members, but what did the country understand of it?—little or nothing. It had been said that if the scheme were not adopted now it would be in danger; but would it not keep good for a little while? Was it feared that the people would find out that it would occasion increased expense, and so refuse to have it?
If only for the reason that it was not known to the people, he would vote against it. When the details came to be discussed, he believed some of them would not be approved; and he also thought that the project did not embrace all the provisions which it should embrace. Finally, he thought the Government should not set its face against some changes in the scheme, were it only in the matter of the election of members to the Legislative Council, and he hoped the House would lead them to consent to that alteration. When the resolutions came up, he would make it his duty to speak more positively to the particulars in question. The honorable member then sat down, saying he approved of the mode of discussion proposed. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie then moved that the debate be adjourned until Monday, which was carried.