“The North-West”, The Globe (3 January 1865)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The North-West”, The Globe [Toronto] (3 January 1865).
We see it objected that the resolutions of the Quebec Conference do not so explicitly provide for the annexation and opening up on the Red River country as they sought to do. The resolutions bearing upon that question is as follows: —
“That 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 important to the Federated Provinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the finances will permit the Parliament to do so.”
If this promise is made in good faith, it is as good as any paragraph in the whole resolutions. If it is not, it is still worth as much as the resolution promising to “secure” the construction of the Intercolonial Railway If the one promise cannot be relied upon neither can the other. It tells us that the communications with the North-west territory “shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the finances will permit the Parliament to do so.” That will be found to be quite as early as we can have the legal disputes involved in the North west question properly settled. There is already an appropriation of $50,000 at the disposal of opening up communication with the Red River country; and, when our way of the territory, we shall be able to find more money. If the Finance Minister can find money for the Intercolonial Railway, he can find it for the North-west communications as well. What more can we ask?
The peculiar position of the North-west question formed the reason why the Convention at Quebec could not deal more definitely with it. No member of that body had any authority to speak for the North-west. It was one thing to agree definitely to secure the Intercolonial Railway through Provinces represented in the Convention, and a totally different thing to speak of a road to pass through a territory for which the Convention had sort of claim to speak. If we had had the questions of boundary and of proprietorship settled, then the delegates would have known in what way to proceed. But under the circumstances, the Convention did all that they had a right to do. The first steps have to be taken in England, and by the Imperial authorities. It has first to be settled whether the Red River territory is to be considered the property of the Hudson’s Bay Company or not; and if it is, the claims of that Company must in some way be got rid of. We can hardly go the length of building a road thither until we know whose lands we are improving, and whether they are to be open to actual settlement or to continue locked up to serve the purposes of the fur-traders. It is a part of Mr. Brown’s present mission to England to urge upon the Imperial authorities he necessity of action in the matter. We have every hope that he will succeed in obtaining a satisfactory understanding. Not only has the importance of the opening up of that vast territory to settlement attracted more attention in England within a year or two past, but the favour with which the Confederation scheme is received in England will greatly aid the friends of North-west extension. All classes in Britain view the Confederation project with great favour and doing so will feel much more inclined to put us in the way of getting the Red River country under control. The Hudson’s Bay people have powerful friends in England, and so long as it was simply Canada asking, in a half-hearted style, for a sweeping away of the obstructions, it was found impossible to make much headway. When all British America is earnestly pressing of the same thing, it will be vastly different, and coupled with our Confederation scheme, the question of the North-west country will be a very different one to English eyes.
In Canada, we have always found a section of our people unwilling to see the question shaken up, for the reason that they thought they saw danger to their institutions lurking in the development of the North-west country. So long as the Representation question was unsettled, the French Canadians were to a man united in resisting it; they would yield nothing which directly or indirectly added to the strength of the advocates of Representation by Population. With the North-west opened up and added to Canada, the demand for representation by numbers would soon have become irresistible. It would have been impossible to withhold it, and the French Canadians have been taught to believe that, once it was yielded, they would be ruined. Now that the Confederation scheme has deprived Representation by Population of its terrors for our Lower Canadian friends, they have no motive for further opposing the development of the North-west; but are, on the contrary, quite as free to aid it as any other portion of our people. This is of itself an immense gain.
With such a prospect before us, we need have little doubt that our long-cherished hopes are soon to be realized, and that the boon which Upper Canada has long been demanding will be obtained. The settlement of the question of ownership, and as a consequence the opening up of communication with the Red River, have been so long delayed that any serious damage has been done. The people of the territory have become discouraged, and have almost lost hopes of ever being connected with us. Their trade has, in the meantime, been compelled to go through the United States, and it is only the firmness of their attachment to Great Britain that has kept them from declaring for annexation. The settlement of the country has been almost wholly prevented, and the few thousand people who are already there, have been compelled to submit to much imposition and injustice at the hands of the fur-trading monopoly. These things must be remedied at the earliest possible moment after we got the power. The pledge of the Quebec Conference must, and we have no doubt will, be fulfilled to the utmost, as soon as our authorities are empowered to move in the matter.