April 5, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Henri Sévérin Béland



I am very glad to hear it. Coming to what is known in the country as the educational clause of this Bill, it is a ' very burning question and a question of very great importance. The agitation which has been aroused over that clause is immense, and we all regret it. That agitation is so intense that we are told that the provincial government of Manitoba, now on its last legs, is seeking to get a new lease of office out of it. Well, the educational clauses of this measure have already been discussed a good deal in this country. They have encountered very bitter opposition from the newspapers, especially in that enlightened city of Toronto, where even men who used to be ranked amongst the foremost Liberals have been outspoken in their opposition to those clauses, and they have also enjoyed the distinction of being made the subject of the censorious tongues of those who adorn the pulpits of this country. There are many points of view from which this important question may be considered. There is the constitutional point of view, there is the provincial autonomy point of view ; but whatever may be the reasons invoked in this debate, the main object of those who are making to-day a solid opposition to these educational clauses is nothing else but political capital. Before proceeding further, I must say that I was very much surprised the other night when I heard the eloquent member for West As-

siniboia (Mr. Scott) state in this House that amongst the Protestant population of this [DOT]country the opinion prevailed that the privileges of the Catholic minority had been called for by them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The educational privileges of the minorities in this country were called for, not by Catholics, but by Protestants. They were called for by Mr. Galt, and I will go further. 1 will say that the man who had every authority to represent the Catholic population of this countiy, John Sandfield Macdonald, moved a resolution in the parliament of United Canada asking that the Catholic minority be left in the hands of the Protestants of this country, as they could rely on the good faith of the Protestants-and what was the fate of that motion ? It was defeated by a vote of 95 to S.
You have heard, Sir, on this question constitutional authorities ; you have heard men of great legal training ; you have had the opportunity of hearing men who are professors in our most reputable universities ; and you have also heard men whose profession it is to read themselves in national and international problems. We have had in this House on the constitutional question the spectacle of the right bon. gentleman who leads the government differing with one or two of his ministers, while they all adopted the same course. We have had on the other side oif the House the spectacle of the leader of the opposition differing in toto from his first lieutenant, the member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk). I will refrain from going any further into the divergencies we have witnessed in this House regarding the constitutional aspects of the question, and will present on that aspect the point of view of a layman. There are two alternatives, I believe, which confront every member of parliament on this matter. Axe these Territories entering confederation today or did they enter the union in the year 1S70 ? You may take whichever view you prefer, but you must adopt the one or the other. Either they entered the union in 1S70 or they are going into it to-day. If they are going into it to-day, article 93 is very plain :
Nothing ill any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to denominational Schools which any class of persons have by law in the province at the union.
Well, if we take the alternative that the Northwest Territories are going into the union to-day, it seems to me that this clause should apply, but some hou. gentlemen, I fliiuk among them the leader of the opposition, contend that the Territories entered the union in 1870. If they did, what is our position to-day ? Legislation was passed by this parliament in 1S75, in the full exercise of its powers, creating in the Northwest Teritories a system of separate
schools by which the minorities were to enjoy certain privileges. In pursuance of that law, ordinances were passed in the Territories by which this system of schools: was amended over and over again. What then is our position to-day ? Are we going to adopt the views of those who enacted that law of 1875 or are we going to repudiate them ? I think that when we know that this parliament in 1875 passed a law conferring upon the Catholic minority certain privileges, and that that law has been amended by the legislature of the Territories in the exercise of its power-and we must admit that it was in the exei'cise of its power so long as these ordinances have not been repealed by this parliament -I submit that when we know that, our paramount duty is to confirm the legislation passed both by this parliament and the legislature of the Northwest Territories. This is the layman's point of view. By adopting this course we put an end to interminable judicial disputes ; and if only the hou. leader of the opposition had adopted that view, as he seemed to be about to adopt it when the Bill was first introduced into this House, if he had left aside those elements of his party who are opposed to any privilege being given the Catholic minority, if he had said : I will stand with the
right hon. gentleman in upholding legislation that this parliament has passed, that men like Sir Alexander McKenzie, Sir John Macdonald, Sir Alexander Campbell, have supported-had he adopted the view of! those eminent statesmen, what would be the position to-day ? There would have been no agitation of any importance in this country, we would have buried for ever the old feuds which I say have been a curse to the nation in the past.
There are three systems of schools; first there is the system of separate schools with two boards, each board having the supervision of its schools, the qualification of teachers, text books, inspection and so on. The type of these schools is to be found in the province of Quebec. There is a second system of schools which you call neutral or godless schools. The best illustration of that system of schools is, I believe, to be found in the United States of America. There is a third system of schools which may be called either separate or public schools, which are under one single hoard, and in which religious instruction is allowed, according to the wishes of the parents. This system, I believe, is the one which is in force in the Northwest at the present moment. The argument of the hon. member for East Grey (Mr. Sproule) the other day was fairly conducted all along the lines that church influence in the schools was prejudicial to their efficiency. He went so far as to say that information which he has gathered permitted him to state that church influence, clerical

schools, in France, for instance, had produced a people of illiterates and atheists. He will likely be disposed to recognize that he has been led into error. In France there are very few atheists ; there are a good many free-thinkers

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