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


Henri Sévérin Béland



I think I can satisfy the hon gentleman on that point. Mr. Rogers is fond of notoriety, he desires to make himself and his party some political capital in Manitoba, and he came to meet Monseigneur Sbarretti for the purpose, in my opinion, of procuring some arrangement by which he hoped to capture the Catholic vote of Manitoba. I think that the object of Mr. Rogers, in my estimation, and I think in the estimation of my hon. friend also, was to make political capital. Now, Sir, who is making a claim for provincial rights to-day ? The hon, the leader of the opposition is making, from the rock of the constitution, as he said, a light for provincial rights. We had an instance the other day of how hon. gentlemen will stand sometimes for provincial rights when the leader of the opposition criticised the Bill that was introduced a few days ago by the right hon. gentleman, and when he was asked whether the land should be left with the provinces or with the federal government, he was of the opinion that the land should go to the provinces. But then he bethought himself, I suppose, of the strong objection, for it was an objection, that I quoted a minute ago, that it would perhaps interfere with an effective immigration policy. But I will quote his own words :
May I not further suggest that even if there were any danger-and I do not think there is- it would be the task of good statesmanship to have inserted, if necessary, a provision in this Bill with regard to free homesteads and the price of these lands, and obtain to it the consent of the people of the Northwest Territories.
It is no more difficult than that.
Provincial rights, provincial autonomy as long as it serves his purpose ! But, as soon as it does not serve his purpose, let us invade provincial rights and send a postcard,- I suppose that is the system in vogue in Toronto now-to every member and to every citizen in the Northwest Territories saying : Do you approve of that ? If he says he does, all right, and if he says he does not, well, where will he be ?
We, of the province of Quebec, we, the Catholic minority of this Dominion, are bound to change our mind as to the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L Borden). We had always thought that he was a broad minded Englishman, we had always thought that he was animated by that spirit of fair dealing and kindly forbearance that have distinguished English institutions for the last fifty years. The other day he pronounced upon us a beautiful eulogy. He said that he had traversed the province of Quebec from one end to the other and that every man he bad met there was well read, intelligent and sociable and a moment afterwards he moved the amendment which is now before the House. The hon. gentleman, I am afraid, has missed his vocation. He has missed his profession. He should have been a surgeon because lie would have made a very skilful one. When I listened to him I could not refrain from thinking that when he pronounced that eulogy, when he uttered

those words in praise of the French Canadian people he was doing the work of a surgeon before the operation-injecting into the tissues an analgesic before he used the scalpel* The hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) says that because we have tried to invade provincial rights we have become a disrupted and disbanded party. But, for a moment or two let us examine what has happened on the other side. The moment the hon. leader of the opposition has placed his constitutional gun in positiomand the moment he has fired that gun it has been found to be a slate gun. It splits to pieces. The hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) mortally wounded ; the hon. member for Beauharnois (Mr. Bergeron) not quite so badly wounded. The list of wounded grows every day. The hon. member for North Toronto says that the weakness of the Czar of' Russia is that he does not consult his people. Then, I might retort: What is the weakness of the hon. leader of the opposition ? If it is a mistake for the Czar of Russia not to consult his people how much greater a mistake must it be for that non. gentleman to turn his gun against his own lieutenants and his own regiment ? But, we have not heard so far in this House from the hon. member for South York (Mr. Maclean). He will be coming some day and making a plea such as he made to-day in favour of provincial rights. That hon. gentleman succeeded in the not very remote past in making himself plainly understood on the question of provincial rights. It was in March, 1902. What did the hon. member for South York say ? He was speaking in this House and he said :
Speaking of the provinces, I have not a moment's hesitation in saying that the result of provincial government in Canada has been detrimental to the progress of the country. I say that the interpretation of the law that has been given by the English Privy Council in regard to the distribution of rights as between the provinces and the federal power, has been against the interests of the country as a whole. That I regret. I agree with the hon. member for Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) that some day we will have the whole jurisdiction in this parliament, and in some way we will work it out. and in some way we will increase the federal power and wipe out gradually the provincial sower.
Who would believe that after what the hon. gentleman told us this afternoon ? But, that is not all. He said something else. Here is what he said :
Yet we are told that there is no hope of progress, that the main thing is to uphold local rights. That is the doctrine of the Minister of Justice of Canada. I take issue with him there. The thing which the Conservative party of this country committed itself to was to build up a nation, with a unification of laws, if that was possible, and that this country should in some way try to recover the federal power which has been lost to the provinces in the past few years.

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