Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (7 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 70-71.
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MONDAY, 7th March, 1864
Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862] moved
That a Select Committee be appointed to enquire into the progress of the colonization of the waste lands of the Crown in Lower Canada, with power to send for persons, papers and records, said Committee to be composed of Hon. Messrs. Le Tellier de St. Just, Proulx, Armand, Foster, Dr. Malhiot, and Dr. De la Terriere.
In making the motion; the hon. member said the subject had largely occupied the attention of the other Chamber and of the country, and that, although this House might not exert so great influence upon the question, it was important, nevertheless, that it should adopt means to ascertain the merits of the matter. There had undoubtedly been abuses in the past systems, and it was necessary to remove obstacles to the occupation of the wild lands in Lower Canada. The question had unhappily been too much mixed up with politics, and he protested against its being so connected in future.
It was not a local matter, but one which possessed equal interest for the whole of Lower Canada, and it ought not, therefore, to be dealt with in a partisan spirit. All localities did not, however, see equally its importance, but in old establishments, like the county he formerly represented, they knew the value of lands for settlement, for it was where there was an excess of population that the need for new outlets were appreciated. The duties of colonization might be undertaken safely by our laboring masses, but when foreign emigrants were sent upon our wild lands, they should be informed of the difficulties they would have to contend with. He was sorry to believe that this had not always been done, and that the Government had been exposed to censure for not taking this precaution.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture] asked if the hon. member referred to the present Government?
Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862] said he did not well know what particular Government was to blame, and feared the present as well as previous Governments were equally open to censure. He understood letters had been addressed to the Government strongly animadverting upon the course they had pursued in relation to foreign emigrants.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture] said no such letters had been received by the present Government. In 1860, the Government had promoted a settlement on the Ottawa, and he believed serious complaints had been made of the hardships the emigrants had experienced, but they were not addressed to the present Government.
Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862] was glad if they were not culpable. It was a fact, however, that all the Governments past and present had treated the subject of colonization too lightly, and had disregarded the reports made by the Committees of the Assembly in relation thereto. A proper colonization could only be undertaken with success by parties having a little money, like the workmen in cities, who might save small sums year by year which they could devote to the object. Was it not a fact that many such persons insured their lives; and if they applied their savings to the payment of the instalments required by Government upon a lot of land, in five years they could pay the full cost of 100 acres, for the price was only from 1s. 6d. to 3s. per acre.
He did not look upon the system of colonization by companies as the most efficacious, and did not think the Montreal Society had succeeded so well as if another system had been pursued. The success of the movement in the Eastern Townships was due to the great pains some gentleman in that section of the country had devoted to it. They had induced the sons of well to-do farmers there to go upon the lands, and in this way they had been taken up.
The great difficulty in the way of colonization was the want of roads, and he must here complain that the money voted for the purpose of making them—not last session, but two years ago—had not been applied as directed by the Legislature. Now he thought that if we had good lands to dispose of it was better that our own people should have them than that they should be given to strangers. A Committee of the other Branch had made several recommendations as to the proper mode of proceeding in dealing with colonization, and he would read them to the House.
Here the hon. member read the recommendations, which were, first, that money should not be expended upon the survey of barren and useless lands; secondly, that continuous residence should not be required of the settlers. This condition, he said, had not always been insisted upon, but parties were allowed to employ laborers to clear a portion year by year, and when the lots were ready for occupation they went and took possession. Third, that a moderate appropriation should be made for the erection of places of worship three miles apart; and lastly, that means should be used to gather people of the same religious beliefs together, and not mix them up throughout the country.
One great obstacle to colonization was the municipal system, which, while adapted to the settled parts of the country, could not be beneficially worked in newly-settled places. The Government had expended considerable sums upon roads in the new settlements, which had been as good as lost for the roads were not kept in repair. He thought the old system of voyerie was better adapted to new settlements, and that if there were a person entrusted with the authority of determining upon what particular range in a township the duty of keeping a road in repair devolved the performance could be enforced. If this were done settlers would not be found leaving their lands for want of roads, as they had too often been obliged to do. He hoped the Committee would consider this suggestion.
The hon. member then referred to a blue book which he had before him, showing that there was still a very large quantity of good land in both sections of the Province to be disposed of, and especially that the amount was twice as large in Lower as in Upper Canada. He also referred to the Census, and regretted that the agricultural portion of it had not been published, though if the reports of its inaccuracy which have obtained were correct it would be of little value.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture] said he was not opposed to the appointment of a Committee, on the contrary, he was glad that the important subject of colonization was likely to be thoroughly examined. He must say, however, in reference to some observations of the hon. member that, if colonization had not progressed so much as was desirable, the fault did not lie with the Government, but was due to circumstances which they could not control. They had resolved not to expend for any purpose which they could not constitutionally touch, and no moneys for colonization purposes had come into their hands, except the sum voted last session. They, as to the expenditure of this sum, it was well known that it would be far more productive if used in making roads in the long summer days, instead of the fall, when severe frosts would destroy the labor expended. During the winter the wood for bridges had been in course of preparation and would be ready to be used so soon as the favorable season opened.
He was sure the course pursued would be approved by the country. He admitted the great importance of colonization, but at the same time feared the efforts had been too divided to produce satisfactory results. There should be more uniformity, and wider results should be kept in view. He knew that unfortunately politics had been too much mixed up in the schemes, and he was fearful that such would continue to be more or less the case. At the same time it was very desirable to set aside such influences as much as possible in the future.
One thing he could say and it was that the present Government had not been guided in their application of the moneys voted for this purpose by any political predilections, but that the counties represented by Opposition members had been as much considered as those represented by their own Ministerial friends. As to the reproaches visited upon the Government for having sent emigrants upon poor hands they did not apply to the present Administration, as he had already said, nor were emigrants invited to this country by improper representations of the large quantities of rich lands still to be procured. Indeed the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [William McDougall] had been blamed for saying we had but little left, and it was hardly likely the Government could be properly censured for two errors so diametrically opposite. However, we had yet some very good lands in Lower Canada, for instance, on Lake St. John, in the counties of Temiscouata and Rimouski and on the St. Maurice.
The thing most wanted was to work harmoniously and not to squander away the grunts upon small roads which led to no place in particular, and upon which few settlers would go, but to open out large arteries leading to our richer lands as had been done in Upper Canada. The hon. member then referred to the extremely unsatisfactory manner in which the census had been taken and specified several ridiculous instances of extreme blundering, and after all that had been done to correct it, it still remained very unreliable.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848] said that the hon. member had not been quite just to his predecessors, for he himself (Mr. Taché) had recommended the opening of a large arterial road parallel with the St. Lawrence, on the South Shore, below Quebec, and the project had been to some extent carried out, his own name having been given to the road. Then, as to the shorty cross-roads, though not so useful now as they might be, they would in time be required to enable the inhabitants of the back country to come to the river.
He trusted with his hon. friends that all political partisanship would be dropped in connection with the subject, and that all would unite for its success. We were not as in England a manufacturing people, but an agricultural people, and our legislation should have more respect to that subject than perhaps had hitherto been the case.
Joseph Armand [Alma, elected 1858] agreed with the hon. members, and would not easily forget the remarks of the late Hon. Mr. De Blaquiere who had expressed his surprise that so much effort should be expended for the purpose of inducing emigrants to come to this country from foreign lands, and none at all made to keep at home the thousands of young men who are annually leaving Canada to seek a living in the adjoining country. He was much pleased to see one hon. member proposing a Committee on Agriculture, and another one on colonization, and trusted their efforts would be crowned with success. Most certainly he would give them in heartfelt co-operation.
Marc-Pascal Laterrière [Laurentides, elected 1864] also approved of the appointment of the Committee, and had always maintained we had people enough of our own in Canada to occupy our wild lands, without resorting to foreign emigration. In 25 years all those lands could be settled by Canadians themselves, if a proper system of encouragement were adopted. The fact was that emigration had been used as a political engine to give the preponderance of numbers to Upper Canada, with a view of altering the representation. He trusted the researches of the Committee would result in the devising of a scheme which would put the subject of colonization entirely out of the range of party politics.
Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841] suggested that the Committee proposed might entail very large expense, and asked whether the Crown Lands Department and the Bureau of Agriculture could not supply all the information desired.
Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862] did not anticipate that it would lead to much cost, but even if a few dollars were spent in procuring important evidence the money would be far from wasted.
The motion was then put and carried.