Provisional Government [Manitoba], Convention of Forty, Seventh Day (1 February 1870)

Document Information

Date: 1870-02-01
By: Provisional Government (Manitoba)
Citation: Manitoba, Reconstituted Debates of the Convention of Forty/La Grande Convention, 1870, 2010 at 35-48.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).

Convention of Forty

Seventh Day

Council Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Tuesday, 1 February 1870

Ten o’clock. A.M. — English and French representatives in session.

Article 12 was put from the Chair:—

“12. That the military force required in this country be composed of natives of the country during four years.”

Mr. Riel moved the adoption of the article.

Mr. Cummings — Who are the “natives of the country?” Does it include all born in the country — Indians, half-breeds and everyone else?

Mr. Riel — I am a native of the country; and I would say that it means the people now in the country without any distinction.

Mr. Bunn — Not including Indians?

Mr. Riel — We do not know that they were born here (laughter).

Mr. Bunn — I have seen some so young in the middle of winter that I think they must have been born here (laughter).

Mr. Fraser — I have several objections to this article. I claim to be a native of the country, but I have not much desire to be a soldier. Go through the length and breadth of the Settlement and you will find the people forming a long link of family connection. In this state of affairs, should any disturbance arise in any part of the Settlement, how could I feel disposed, if a military man, to fight cousins or other relatives to the right or left of me? How could I answer a call which might compel me to fight my own father, brother or son? I could not do it. I will move in amendment,—

“That the military necessary for the protection of life and property in this Territory, be such as the Dominion shall see fit, acting in concert with our Local Legislature.”

I am ready to admit no foreign troops can be so eligible, in dealing with Indians, &c., as the natives. But even though we do get foreign troops to some extent, we may still have our own volunteers. As cavalry, the natives of the country would I believe prove the most suitable men for the work of guarding the border.

Mr. Riel, in French, as translated by Mr. Ross, said — Mr. Fraser tells us that the Settlement is related from end to end. That very fact, I say, strengthens our present position. Had it not been for the relationship existing between the people of this Settlement there would, in all probability, have been very serious trouble within the last few months. The very relationship of which Mr. Fraser speaks, was then our safeguard, and it will be our safeguard in the future. Besides, if we get all we want from Canada, there will be no difficulty, nor anything to necessitate a force other than our own people. There is no more likelihood of our slaughtering one another during the next four years, than there was during the last four months. Again, foreign troops might be prejudiced, or act unjustly towards us when we might be simply seeking for rights. In asking our rights at any time we might unreasonably or unfairly be put down by foreign troops. Here would be the good of native troops. With a Governor among us representing Canada, having immense influence, and at the outset feeling disposed perhaps to lean towards Canadians, would it not be well that we should have a local force? In any event that force could be dispensed with in four years (cheers).

Mr. Boyd seconded Mr. Fraser’s amendment.

Mr. Flett, in French, said — I do not think that foreign troops, if they came here, would do us any injury or be actuated by any motives of revenge. It is just possible that emigrants might be actuated by such motives; but for ourselves we have lived together for fifty years as brothers, and would not like to raise our hands against each other. We would not, in my opinion, prove much of a military force to preserve order in the Settlement.

Mr. Fraser — I do not anticipate trouble from natives; but foreigners and ill designing persons may come in, seeking to have influence over certain sections of our people; they may form large parties, and do us considerable mischief. If we were military men, we might be called upon to put down riots arising in this way, and none of us would like to act, under the circumstances. Hence my belief that it is not desirable that natives of the country should alone form the military. In conjunction with troops — British soldiers, not Canadian volunteers — their services might be found valuable,— more especially in the event of their being called out against Indians.

Mr. Riel — Of course if such a force were formed here, it would be composed of half from one section of the Settlement, and half from the other. It would not be necessary, in my opinion, to have a regular force organized in the North-West to act against Indians. I hope we will never have the misfortune to be under that necessity. I would think it a piece of injustice to ask that such a force should be enrolled for ever, but a four year’s organization of such a body would I believe be a good thing for the people of the Settlement, as it would accustom them to military discipline and defensive manoeuvres.

Mr. Sutherland — I certainly think it is right and just that all our young men who wish to follow the profession of arms should have the opportunity of doing so. But at the same time I doubt very much whether we could spare enough of them even for our own immediate protection in the Settlement, much less for the defence of the immense extent of the country in the North-West over which emigrants will scatter (cheers). It appears to me that if we require troops at all, it will be within the next four years. Military stations will be needed along the boundary line — probably at the Mountains — probably one to the east of us, one in the neighborhood of the Settlement, and one or two more to the westward. Now I do not believe we can spare in this Settlement the necessary number of our young men to perform this service effectively (cheers). We might, perhaps, succeed in raising a body of 200 or 300 cavalry, but that would be about as much as we could do. The remainder would prefer to attend to their farms. We are scarce enough to help in some seasons just now, and if during harvest time a lot of us should be called away from our fields, it would be a very great loss indeed to ourselves and the community at large (hear hear).

Such a thing might take place when we have a superabundance of grain in the Settlement, but that is something we are not likely to have for years (hear hear).

I think we should ask troops immediately — troops of the line,— not volunteers. The latter, I believe, would not do so much good, as when they were most needed they might be attending to the cultivation of their farms, and have least time to spare. For my part, I may say I never saw a silver shilling until I saw troops of the line here,— and some of these silver shillings are yet among us. Undoubtedly, this is our opportunity to ask for troops; we will probably get them without paying anything for them. Hereafter, in all probability, we will be called on to contribute to their maintenance here.

Mr. ODonoghue — I observe that some gentlemen think England will send troops here. Let me remark that it is contrary to the policy of England of late to send troops to her colonies. She has withdrawn all her troops from Canada, and will not send them out again, unless Canada pays so many thousand dollars for each regiment. It is quite a mistake to suppose that England, when not reaping any benefit from the Dominion, will send troops out there. She has refused to do so already, and we are part of that Dominion. With regard to the people here, I must say that for my part I think it would be rather dangerous to have foreign troops here. With them there would be danger of a collision between the troops and the people; without them I cannot see that there is any danger of a collision between the inhabitants. Seeing the close relationship between them, and that they have a common interest, I believe they will always be found united in defending that interest (hear, hear). I cannot agree with the remark that there will be any great number coming in here to influence one section of the Settlement against another and cause an outbreak. And as to Indians, I do not myself anticipate any difficulty with them. Our own people, I believe, know better how to deal with the Indians than any others, and can protect the Territory generally, far better than foreign troops. For years to come I do not think it will be necessary to garrison the interior, and in the Colony the people are very well able to defend themselves.

Mr. Sutherland — I beg to differ with Mr. O’Donoghue in his statement that England will not send troops. The troops, have, it is true, been withdrawn from Canada, but she has 656,000 volunteers of her own, and will be able, under ordinary circumstances, to defend herself. In the North-West we have a much more extended frontier to guard than Canada. We are going to enter on a new state of existence; all the Indians will know it; and at once commence to look after their interests. And even if there were no Indians on the Saskatchewan at all, I believe, as I said, that troops will be a necessity here within four years. The valuable minerals in that district will attract a large emigration of people, and without troops it will be by no means easy to keep order there. England, I believe, would find it to her interest to guard so weak and extended a frontier. Of late, it is well known, her Colonial policy has been changing considerably. Not long since, as we have seen, her policy was to cut her colonies adrift and let them go, but that policy is not found to be a wise one and is being gradually abandoned, and I expect England will send us troops here. We cannot of ourselves guard so extended a frontier.

Mr. Boyd — I agree with Mr. Fraser’s amendment, and think we ought to consider this matter fully. The nations of the old world are grumbling now at the large standing armies kept up. These armies keep so many men away from the wealthproducing section of the nation. Look now at our situation. Can we propose to garrison an enormous extent of country, with a very extended frontier, out of our small resources? Remember that for these armies they do not take the old and feeble but the very best men of the country (hear, hear). Thus with native troops, our best men would be drawn from the wealth-producing section of our people. On the other hand, if troops are sent in here, they are a positive advantage, if in no other way, that they add a large body of consumers to the community. The impetus they will give to industry of every kind will be considerable. Their advent will in fact be for the good of all. It occurs to me also that it may be against the Constitution for us to interfere with the Imperial Government to send troops where they choose. Yet another point we have to consider is, are the people of this country fitted to become regular soldiers in such a short time? A soldier, when on service, ought to be really nothing more than a machine. Now, I would ask, are not the people of this country too independent to take up that line of life? (hear, hear).

For irregular cavalry none would be better; but for regular soldiers, in my opinion, they are not constitutionally fitted. Again, the pay of regular soldiers is not such as our young men in this country are in the habit of getting. And if Canada can get the same material at a lower figure, we cannot insist that she take our people into her service at higher rates.

Mr. Kenneth McKenzie — I do not believe that our own people, whether farmers or hunters, would like to give up their line of life and settle down to the rigid discipline of a military life. Again, suppose parties in Canada, with large capital, desire to come here and settle. They would, among the first things, enquire what protection we could extend to them; and, without at all doubting the bravery of the people, my own belief is that we are too few for such a purpose. It would be a singular law if none but natives of the country were to be allowed to enlist here. Every man having a stake in the country should not be prevented from defending himself and his adopted country if occasion required his action. I say, further, let us do nothing to endanger the better state of feeling which is once again springing up around us. When this matter is settled I believe we shall shake hands and be better friends than ever (cheers). Hence I say, let us have what troops we need from abroad.

Mr. Sutherland — I would again suggest it to be vital that we should have good protection and the best security for life and property. Persons of large means will not come here unless we offer them such security; and I am rather afraid, if in this matter we make it exclusive — in favor of ourselves as natives — they may feel suspicious of us.

Mr. Riel — This will finish the affair. The idea that men of means would not come here — that they would feel it risky and unsafe, because we had a native force here,— is a reflection on the honesty of our soldiers and people! We have learned nothing but honesty so far; and rich men may troop in here with their coffers and be quite as safe with native soldiers as they could be with British troops (cheers).

Mr. K. Mackenzie — Our native troops would be honest enough; but would they be numerous enough to keep off either raiders or Indians?

Mr. Riel in French, as interpreted by Mr. Ross — I still stand to the position I have taken,— being satisfied that it is the only safe and proper defense. With stranger soldiers here, there might be improper interference — our people might not be treated respectfully — and would not be able to hold the position which might otherwise be theirs. Our people are said to be too independent to make good soldiers, but we have often seen what can be accomplished by them. All kinds of hardships are endured by them quietly and patiently; and, under all the late excitement, we have seen order preserved such as we never could expect to see. With such a force, partly composed of both peoples, and the possession of the two forts, we could hold our ground manfully. As to the necessity of a force to guard the frontier, that was all nonsense. It was impracticable; a service which all the soldiers of all the regiments of Britain could not fully perform.

Mr. Fraser — I am quite satisfied that the men of this country would make good soldiers; but I think it is well we should clearly bear in mind that whatever force we have here — whether British or native — they are not to be the governing body of the country (hear and cheers). Their office would be merely to support the Government of the country. They would be only subjects of the Government; and with a good Government, it matters little in some respects, of what nationality our troops are composed. By all means let us have native troops, but let their number be augmented by British troops.

Mr. Riel (in French) — Where is the advantage of having a few hundred soldiers? For my part, I do not want to be more British than I can help. What advantage did we derive from the British troops here before? They brought us some shillings — but they brought us some scamps, too.

Mr. Ross — I have been trying to consider the arguments advanced on both sides; and I must say, frankly, that I cannot see that a good case has been made out of the article under discussion. It seems to me that the wisest course would be to strike it out altogether and not ask for any troops. I do not see any special necessity for saying anything on the subject. Better leave this matter of troops to be settled, as it would undoubtedly be, between the Canadian authorities and our Local Legislature. If we are to have troops of the line, not Canada, but the Imperial Government, must send them. The latter will act in concert with the Local Legislature, and that Legislature no doubt will act in concert with the views of the people of the Territory. In asking [for] British troops, it occurs to me that we are asking something which is out of the power of Canada to grant.

If the proposed request were preferred [sic: referred, proffered?] to the Imperial Government, I fancy they would consider it a very unreasonable one, and for this reason: The Queen claims the right — indeed it is one of her prerogatives — to send her troops into any part of the British dominions; and though of late, the tendency has been to withdraw troops from the Colonies, that has been done only in so far as their presence was not needed. Take the case of Canada, for instance. The Dominion is perfectly able to take care of itself, and of course it would be unnecessary expense to maintain troops among people not requiring them. But while some British troops have been withdrawn from Canada on that account, they have not done so, I believe, altogether. I think, as I have said, that this is asking something which cannot be granted; something which, even if it could be granted, is not desirable. It is undesirable, looking at our small population: inasmuch as it would take a large number of our people from useful occupations, and, in making soldiers of them, cause them to lead idle lives and unfit them for the ordinary occupations of life. It is, I contend, unfair to our country to shelve in this way, a large number of our most able-bodied men. It is causing us to lose the benefit of their productive industry, and placing them in a position where they almost inevitably contract habits of idleness and laziness (cheers).

There is, besides, a good deal of force in the argument that in calling out a native force to act in our midst, we arm them against their own brethren: and we can all understand what a terrible feeling this would create in families. If they refused to do duty on account of their relationship, it would simply show that such a force was ineffective. Then, there is also the difficulty in the matter of pay. Elsewhere we provide that Canada is to bear all military and civil expenses, but there is nothing to show what they are to pay for this military service. Canada might say — Yes; we will pay the military expenses. When you organize your force we will give you six pence or one shilling a day. Where is the check on that? It would be a loss to our people to enlist at even two shillings a day,— and is it likely Canada would pay more to our people than she could get others to do the same service for? If we cannot control this matter of pay, the result will in all probability be, that we will not have any force at all. If we could fix the pay ourselves, and arrange that it should be, say, two pounds a day, very probably a considerable force could be raised (laughter).

There is no objection to a native force on the ground that we have anything to fear from each other. The point is really this: Here is a new Government starting up in the eyes of the Indians. The time has come when they have to part with their lands, and when probably there will have to be a good show of force in order to overawe them. In that service we would need a larger force than we could spare in the Territory. I would suggest that the article be dropped altogether.

Mr. Bunn, seconded by Mr. G. Gunn, moved in amendment, that the article be struck out.

The Chairman — In the course of the discussion which has taken place, it has been put forward as a possible thing that you are over-estimating the importance of this question. With that view I can hardly agree: for I believe it would be very difficult for you to exaggerate the importance of this question. I rise principally for the purpose of expressing my concurrence in the recommendations embodied in Mr. Bunn’s motion. It appears to me a reasonable and proper course — a course which, in the interest of those who send us here as well as ourselves, I think we ought to adopt. In the speech delivered by Mr. Ross there was, I think, much to claim attention. Short as it was, it contained about the whole substance of the matter. He told us that we had to look at the question in two ways: to consider, first, how far the object contained in the resolution was in itself desirable; and then how far it was attainable. These are the two main aspects in which the question presents itself to my mind. The question is that no troops, but such as are drawn from the country, be maintained for four years. This would be an extraordinary position for you to take; for, while in every Colony throughout the British Empire the inhabitants are glad to have military aid when they can get it; and when they cannot get it, they are seeking for it with eager anxiety, as in the case of New Zealand,— we are asked by the present proposal, to stipulate that no troops shall come into the Territory at all. We are looking at the prospect of being governed by the Queen, and yet if we adopt the proposal now submitted we shall be saying to Her Majesty: For four years at least we shall deprive you of that power on which the efficiency of government everywhere throughout the world mainly rests. This is as if we should ask a person to do a certain work, and say,— You shall not have the benefit of the best agencies for the accomplishment of that work. Is that a reasonable position? If we wish to be governed well, ought we to raise obstacles in the way of its possibility? We know how desirable it is that a government should be conducted with as little resort to military agencies as possible. But, unfortunately, mankind are so constituted that it is not possible to govern communities aright without the presence of a military power. Seeing, then, that it is necessary for the protection of life and property, and for creating that feeling of confidence without which no man will embark in any enterprise of consequence,— seeing that that is the case, why deprive ourselves of that which in other countries is so highly valued? Why should we do it? Is there any reason for it? None, certainly, that I can see. The request that no military should be sent into the country comes into direct collision with a prerogative which the Queen exercises throughout the Empire. In the British North America Act of 1867, which defines the conditions under which the Confederation of the Dominion is established, this power is expressly reserved to the Queen, lest there should be any room left for doubt about it. That act expressly states — That the command-in-chief of all the land and naval militia, and all the land and naval forces, “is vested in the Queen.” This is a prerogative which her subjects everywhere willingly accord. It is a prerogative none of her people desire to take away, but one on the contrary, they most earnestly desire to protect and uphold. And in my opinion it would be just about as reasonable to expect that the Sovereign would lay down her sceptre, or that the Commons of England would relinquish their control over the public purse, as that the Queen of England would promise that, happen what might, no troops should be sent to this Territory. The Queen could not, and would not, do it. The great object of all government is, undoubtedly, the due protection of life and property. On what is that protection principally founded? On the naval and military power. Why, then, should we put ourselves forward as a community who wish to be deprived of this great advantage? Why should you be so suspicious of the introduction of troops into this country? Have we not seen Her Majesty’s troops in this country before,— and may I not confidently say that this Settlement never saw so prosperous, so peaceful and so happy a time as the time when Her Majesty’s troops were amongst us (cheers).

I put it to every one of you, whether there was anything in the conduct of the troops as a body which ought to make you afraid of their presence again? No; they brought prosperity into the country; and produced a sense of security which the public mind has hardly ever known since they went away. That being the case, why should you be afraid of troops? You may perhaps say you are afraid of the government under which you propose to place yourselves doing something against you; but you are looking forward to responsible government, and no government of that character would persist in any course which was plainly opposed to the general interests and wishes of the community. With regard to the intentions of Canada towards this country, you all know quite as much as I do; and having heard all that has lately been publicly told you, I have the strongest conviction that the policy intended to be pursued by Canada towards this country is a just and a beneficial policy, and such as will secure to every man his rights. So far, therefore, as I am personally concerned, I do not look upon it as being at all necessary that you should place any formal List of Rights, as it is called, before the Canadian Government. I have sufficient confidence in Canada to be led to the conviction that her intentions are just toward this country, and that in assuming the government of it she will virtually be giving you a guarantee for the promotion of your interests. Canada has already said enough to give you reasonable ground for the strongest assurance that your rights as British subjects will be duly respected; and for my own part, I see no reason why Canada should not be invited to take up the Government as soon as possible, and so put an end to this period of distraction and trouble which weighs so heavily upon every mind, and is inflicting injury upon every interest in the country (cheers).

A remark made by Mr. Fraser is well worth your attention. He called attention to the fact that troops were not an independent body, but on the contrary, one that was to be moved according to the directions of Government; and seeing that into the liberal constitution which has been promised you, the principle of ministerial responsibility is so likely to be introduced, why fear the troops? It is not that I should ever like to see troops used in this country, even if they were in it, or that I think there is much likelihood of their active services ever being required. But there is a great advantage in having them. Their very presence would preserve peace, and without their presence I believe that, as a community, you can neither have peace nor prosperity. And again, if you still think that troops might be employed to your disadvantage, look, I beg of you, look at Her Majesty’s message, in which you are told, not merely that the Queen’s Government itself will not interfere with or set aside your rights, but also that with all Her Majesty’s power they will prevent others from interfering with or setting them aside. But how can the Government do that if you raise any obstacle to the sending of troops here? We should thereby be taking out of the Queen’s hands the weapon with which Her Majesty’s Government can best defend us. Let us look further at one of the statements which has been made by Her Majesty’s distinguished Representative, the Governor-General of Canada. His Excellency has told you that you may fully rely that the ancient formula will be fully observed, “Right will be done in all cases.” That I think, is very assuring. But of what use would be such an assurance — however sincerely offered — if you say to Her Majesty’s representative,— “Very good: your intentions are kind; but at the same time we shall take care, that so far as we are concerned, you shall not have the command of those means by which alone you can effectually secure the fulfilment of your words.” You would, in short, be stultifying yourselves by taking up such a position. I would therefore, most earnestly press upon your favorable consideration the proposition embodied in Mr. Bunn’s amendment,— that you should make no stipulation whatever concerning the military force of the country, but that you should leave the government of Canada to make such arrangements on that head as they may think best for the country. If you say to the Queen or to the Dominion, that those means must be expressly excluded on which the public peace and prosperity so largely depend, you will be taking a position which is not only extraordinary, but which is also quite untenable,— a position which would, in fact, be suicidal on your part. Standing here, with the interests of the country as deeply at heart as any one, whether native or not,— and looking as I do upon this, as a great era in the history of the country which places precious privileges within your reach, I cannot but be anxious that nothing should be done here to prevent the consummation of arrangements which, I believe will be greatly to the advantage of this country and people. Let us not, then, throw away the opportunity by making a stipulation which, even if desirable, is impracticable. Let us be ready as British subjects when called upon to do our duty in defending the country,— a duty which, as citizens rests upon us all — and let us, at the same time, be ready to welcome at the hands of the Governments, such military aid as they may think it necessary to send us, as a means of making us at once peaceful and prosperous (cheers).

Mr. Bunn having reduced his amendment to writing, it was then put as follows:— That all after the word ‘that,’ in Mr. Fraser’s amendment be omitted, and the following be inserted, that “Article 12 be struck out,”— carried,— Yeas 23; nays 15.

Mr. Riel’s motion was then put and lost:— Yeas 16; nays 23.

At two o’clock, the Convention adjourned for an hour.

Three o’clock P.M. — Convention in session.

Article 13 was then put:

“13. That the English and French languages be common in the Legislature and Courts, and that all public documents and acts of the Legislature, be published in both languages.”

The Chairman, seconded by Mr. Bunn, proposed this article, which was carried.

“14. That the Judge of the Supreme Court speak the French and English languages,”— Carried.

“15. That treaties be concluded between the Dominion and the several Indian tribes of the country.”

Mr. Bunn suggested that the words, “as soon as possible,” be added to the article.

Mr. Ross suggested further addition of the words, “with the view of satisfying them with regard to their claim to the lands of the country.” Mr. Ross went on to show that this matter of treating with the Indians was held by the Imperial Government to be one of grave importance, and as such they had pressed it strongly on the Canadian Government. Earl Granville says, “I am convinced your Government will not forget the care due to those who will soon become exposed to new dangers,— who will be, in the progress of civilization, deprived of lands which they have been accustomed to enjoy as their own home, and shut up in resorts other than those they have been accustomed to. These are things,” he says, “which did not escape my observation when dealing with the Canadian delegates and the Hudson Bay Company. I am convinced that the old inhabitants of the country will be treated with all the solicitude and respect due to them, in order to prove to them the friendly sentiments with which they are regarded by their new governors.”

Mr. Riel, in French, as interpreted by Mr. Ross, asked — Had the Indians the whole claim of the country? Here we ask the Canadian Government to settle with the Indians; and I would ask for the consideration of the Convention — without pronouncing an opinion — whether we ought to allow the question to pass in that shape. Are Indians the only parties in the country who have to be settled with for land claims? If so, all right. But if there is some section for which the Half-breeds would have to be dealt with, then the article as it stood was too general. I have heard of Half-breeds having maintained a position of superiority and conquest against the incursions of Indians in some parts of the country. If so, this might possibly be considered to establish the rights of the Half-breeds as against the Indians. But I merely suggest this for consideration. The article, I presume, refers to a settlement with the Indians of the whole Territory; and let me ask, is not that too liberal?

Mr. Flett, in French, asked where these fights had taken place between the Halfbreeds and Indians. Was it in British or American Territory?

Mr. Poitras (French) — For the most part I presume, in American Territory (hear, hear).

Mr. Flett — For my part, I am a Half-breed, but far be it from me to press any land claim I might have, as against a poor Indian of the country (hear, hear). Let the Indian claims be what they may, they will not detract from our just claims. We have taken the position, and ask the rights of civilized men. As to the poor Indian, let him by all means have all he can get. He needs it; and if our assistance will aid him in getting it, let us cheerfully give it (cheers).

Mr. Poitras — It is true that the fights alluded to, took place on American Territory, but had they not taken place there, these Indian hostilities must have taken place on our soil. For my part, I have no wish to deprive the Indian of advantages (cheers).

Mr. Ross — As a Half-breed of this country, I am naturally very anxious to get all rights that properly belong to Half-breeds. I can easily understand that we can secure a certain kind of right by placing ourselves on the same footing as Indians. But in that case, we must decide on giving up our rights as civilized men. The fact is, we must take one side or the other — we must either be Indians and claim the privileges of Indians — certain reserves of land and annual compensation of blankets, powder and tobacco (laughter) — or else we must take the position of civilized men and claim rights accordingly. We cannot expect to enjoy the rights and privileges of both the Indian and the white man. Considering the progress we have made, and the position we occupy, we must claim the rights and privileges which civilized men in other countries claim.

Mr. Thibert — The rights put forward by Half-breeds need not necessarily be mixed up with those of Indians. It is quite possible that the two classes of rights can be separate and concurrent. My own idea is that reserves of land should be given the Halfbreeds for their rights.

Mr. Riel (French) — The Half-breeds have certain rights which they claim by conquest. They are not to be confounded with Indian rights. Great Britain herself holds most of her possessions by right of conquest. In conclusion he moved that the article pass, with the addition of the words, “as soon as possible.”

Rev. H. Cochrane seconded the motion, which carried.

Sixteenth article:—

“That we have three or four representatives in the Dominion Parliament.”

Mr. D. Gunn — I think that we are grasping at too much. With a population of 12,000 we ask four representatives in the Canadian Parliament, while we refuse to give them, with a population of 4,000,000, more than three representatives in our Legislature. If we get two we ought to be satisfied.

Mr. Ross — When this matter was up in committee, we were not particular as to the number. We left it to the Convention to decide. Looking at our population, we were not entitled even to one member. But I do not look on it as a question which ought to be decided according to population. We have a vast country and are in the position to treat. We ask more than we are entitled to, but let us at the same time, observe some reasonable bounds. As far as securing to us the rights of this country, it matters little to us, in my opinion whether we have two, three, or four members in the Dominion Parliament. In a vast assemblage like that, our contingent will count for little. Their main use, I believe, will be to make known our wants to the people of Canada. Seeing that we only allow Canada three members in our Legislature, we ought to be satisfied with two in theirs.

Mr. D. Gunn, seconded by Mr. Ross, moved in amendment that only two representatives be sent.

Mr. Riel, in French, as interpreted by Mr. Ross, said — I think four is better than two. If we send only two, possibly they may be over-ruled, bribed, or misled. There is, it seems to me, wisdom and safety in the multitude of Councillors.

Mr. K. McKenzie — I would suggest that whenever our population increases [by] 10,000 we should [have] an additional member. In that event, if our country prospers, as I expect it will, our three or four will perhaps be swelled to twenty.

The Chairman — Whatever figure the meeting may adopt, there is no doubt but in the future it ought to be altered, so as to give a fair and equitable representation. The great thing to be accomplished now, is to get the principle admitted that we are to have representation in the Canadian Parliament. With regard to the extension of representation, I suppose it would take place every ten years as in the other Provinces.

Mr. Ross — I find by a calculation that the proportion to a member in the Dominion Parliament, is about 23,000.

Mr. Riel — In that case we would have about three-quarters of a representative (laughter).

Mr. Flett — I think the country ought to have three or four members at least. The North-West is a rich and extensive country, and we ought to have a large representation.

Mr. Fraser, seconded by Mr. Sutherland, moved that “we have 3 or 4 representatives.”

Mr. George Gunn, urged that in providing for the representatives of the country the claims of the interior should not be overlooked. He pointed out that there were considerable settlements scattered here and there, such as at White Fish Lake, Lac La Biche, Victoria and Fort Pitt. Many freemen who lived by hunting were settled round these parts, and someone conversant with the interests of that whole region ought to represent them. A judicious expenditure of money in roads, &c. in these quarters, would be of great service.

Mr. D. Gunn also alluded to the fact that at Moose Factory, York Factory, Oxford House and Mackenzie’s River, there were many civilized men stationed. Out of deference to the feeling of the meeting, Mr. Gunn withdrew his amendment.

Mr. Ross said that Mr. Gunn had his concurrence in the withdrawal, as it seemed to be the wish of the meeting that more than two members should be asked for.

Mr. Poitras moved in amendment that four members be sent.

Mr. Scott seconded the motion.

Mr. ODonoghue thought that one of their representatives should be in the Upper House.

Mr. Ross — The word “Parliament” includes both Houses; and we ask representation in the Dominion Parliament. In Canada the proportion of members between the Upper and Lower House is very different. Ontario has twenty-four members in the Upper House to eighty-two in the Lower; Quebec twenty-four in the Upper to sixty-five in the Lower; Nova Scotia twelve in the Upper to nineteen in the Lower; New Brunswick twelve in the Upper to sixteen in the Lower. The principle all through is clear that the Upper House is to have much fewer representatives than the Lower. If we had three representatives then one might go to the Upper and two to the Lower House.

At Mr. ODonoghue’s suggestion Mr. Poitras altered his amendment to read,—

“Until the population of the country entitles us to more, we have three representatives in the Canadian Parliament — one in the Senate and two in the Legislative Assembly.”

Amendment carried on a division:— Yeas 21; nays 18.

Article 17 was then read:—

“17. That all the properties, rights and privileges, as hitherto enjoyed by us, be respected, and that the recognition and arrangement of local customs, usages and privileges, be made under the control of the Local Legislature.”

Mr. Bunn, seconded by Dr. Bird, proposed the article, — Carried.

Eighteenth article:—

“18. That the two mile hay privilege be converted into fee simple ownership.”

Mr. D. Gunn, seconded by Mr. Lonsdale, moved the adoption of the article.

Mr. Scott — They might guarantee the Convention into fee simple ownership, but not name any time when this should be done. I would suggest that it ought to be as quickly as possible.

Mr. D. Gunn, seconded by Mr. Ross, in order to amplify and clarify the article, moved in amendment — “That all owners of lots fronting on the river who have hitherto enjoyed the hay-privilege on the two miles of land immediately in the rear of their respective lots should be put in full possession, as owners in fee-simple of the said two miles.”

The Chairman — We appear to be overlooking a very important consideration in connection with this matter. As you are aware, the Indian title is extinguished only over the strips of land along the river and extending two miles backward. The two miles beyond this, we ask in fee-simple. May we not in that case be asking Canada to grant us what she has not to give, until she has extinguished the Indian title? It occurs to me that it would be an improvement, if instead of adopting this article, Canada were asked to leave this hay privilege intact until the Indian title had been extinguished — and that then the matter should be dealt with by the Local Legislature — that is, by the people themselves.

Mr. Ross — I believe this to be a very important question, and one which needs speedy settlement, for in a short time surveys may be commenced which will throw people right behind us. If the Indian title is not extinguished beyond the two miles, some day, unless we are very specific, strangers may come in, sit down at the end of our lots, and shut us out from the hay-privilege, or at all events from the use of the common, which we have hitherto enjoyed. Considering how narrow many of our lots are, I say it is very important that we should have more room and not be cramped in as we would be, in the event of losing this two mile privilege. Cooped up within the two miles, men with narrow lots will have an exceedingly bad position. Get them how we will, I say we must have these two miles. They are indispensable and now is the time to speak for them. Asking Canada for this land, means of course that she shall first arrange with the Indians and then give it to us.

Mr. Riel — In one sense the preceding article gives us what we ask here. Hence this article is useless. The other article is general and I think covers all the ground.

Mr. Ross — We want in this article more than the old hay privilege, which the previous article might include. We want the absolute ownership of the two miles of hay privilege.

Mr. Riel — It becomes a question whether we ought not to leave this article open. Perhaps the full four miles might not be enough. As to the list of rights generally, it might be well to have another committee struck to revise them.

Mr. Ross — I never thought this list as drawn up by the committee was going to be a final thing. — It was my intention to propose a committee to draw up the articles creditably. But in the meantime, it is my understanding that the list be submitted to Mr. Smith for his opinion.

Mr. Riel, seconded by Mr. Fraser, moved that this article be left for the consideration of the Convention to-morrow morning,— Carried.

At seven o’clock P.M., the Convention adjourned till ten o’clock next morning.

Leave a Reply