Charles Henry Parmelee
Mr. C. H. PARMELEE (Shefford).
Mr. Speaker, I feel almost like apologizing for venturing to address the House in this debate which has now lasted for a great many weeks. However, I can plead the excuse that I do not often abuse the patience of the House and further, that as one of the Protestant minority of the province of Quebec I may feel that a few observations from me will not be out of place. The question we are now discussing is an important one. We have before this House of Commons measures creating two new provinces in the great west; provinces which some day we hope will become among the most populous and most prosperous in this whole Dominion, and provinces for the future welfare of which we have the greatest aspirations. It is, therefore, an act of the highest statesmanship that we should give these new provinces a constitution under which they can successfully work out their destiny. I may remark in passing that I fully endorse the proposal of the government in respect to the public lands of these provinces. In view of the vast importance to this western country that it should be peopled with an enterprising and energetic population, it is a wise provision that the Dominion government should retain the lands and continue the splendid immigration policy which for some years past has been so successful. Then, too, I am fully in accord with the very generous financial terms which the Bills accord to the new provinces. I believe we have made them financial concessions which will place them in perhaps a better position to construct bridges, to build roads, to maintain schools and to support their provincial institutions generally than if they had the management of the lands in their own hands. My remarks will be directed chiefly to the school clauses in the Bills before us, and in order that I may be brief I shall make no quotations. Although I may be a little out of the fashion in that respect I feel that I will earn the good will of my fellow members by adhering to this rule.
The great bone of contention in this debate has been the schools which are to be established in these new provinces, and on this question I fear that a great deal more than was at all necessary has been said. As a layman it would not be fitting for me to expound the constitution, but, Sir, the ordinary man reading the provisions of the British North America Act cannot help seeing that there is written in the constitution of Canada the principle of separate schools for the protection of minorities. If we go I back to the genesis of separate schools
we find that they were first demanded by the Protestant minority in the province of Quebec and that they were established principally for tlie protection and safety of that minority. Those of us who have read the pre-confederation debates must realize that Sir A. T. (hilt, who made himself the principal champion of the rights of the Protestant minority, who discussed the question on the public platform and debated it during the conferences, who went to London to argue in favour of it, every one of us, I say, must recognize that Sir A. T. Galt in demanding these privileges for the minority of the province of Quebec must have foreseen that in all decency and in all fairness similar privileges must be accorded to other minorities in other parts of the Dominion. There can be no dispute about that, and indeed ever since confederation that principle has been crystallized in the legislation of this parliament. In 1870, when Manitoba was admitted into tile confederation, the legislation enacted in this federal parliament purposed to establish a system of separate schools in the prairie province, but perhaps through bungling here and through bad faith elsewhere the intention of parliament was not carried out. But, Sir, even that lapse does not alter the fact that it is in the spirit of our constitution which this parliament has tried to live up to, that with respect to education minorities should have special protection. Let me speak of tlie conditions existing in the province of Quebec with which 1 am familiar. 1 consider myself fortunate that I was brought up in a province in which people of different races and different creeds are able to work harmoniously together for the welfare of our common country ; I consider myself fortunate in this because it has given me tlie opportunity to understand some things which men situated differently have not had the opportunity of realizing. At confederation, in 1867, the Protestant minority of Quebec were granted separate school privileges, and the carrying out of that understanding was placed largely in the hands of the Catholic majority. I am prepared to say here, Sir, that from 1867 to the present day not only has the spirit of our constitutional guarantee been faithfully adhered to by the Roman Catholic majority, but that the majority has shown itself in all respects and at all times generous in its treatment of tlie Protestants and has done everything it possibly could to promote good feeling and harmony. I am happy to be able to state in this parliament of Canada to-day that there is perhaps no country in the world where people of different origins and different creeds live together in such accord as in tlie province of Quebec. There is no country, I believe, which affords such a good example of the good that can he brought about where the majority and the minority are disposed to he fair to each other. Everybody knows that in the very nature Of things Mr. PARMELEE.
a minority is apt to be timid and suspicious, but, Sir, the Protestant minority in the province of Quebec have never had reason to complain. We have no complaints as to our treatment in the past, and in spite of many bitter things that have been sqjd in this debate ; in spite of the regrettable appeals to Protestant prejudice against the minority in the west, we, the Protestant minority of the Province of Quebec, have no apprehension in the future that the Roman Catholic majority will make this an occasion for reprisals upon us. I may, Sir, that the minority in the province of Quebec confidently believe that they will he treated just as fairly and just as generously in the future as though this debate had never taken place. The policy of the majority in the province of Quebec has ever been to treat the Protestant minority in a spirit of fair play, and I would ask if that is not a good policy; good for the majority, good for the minority and good for the welfare of our common country ? Providence has bestowed on ns the greatest among the earth's heritages; we have the freest of constitutions suitable to our necessities and desires; we are placed here in this fair land, men of different races and religions, to work together for the welfare of our country, and I appeal to my friends on both sides, of this House if the best policy for us to pursue is not that very policy of toleration, of broadmindedness and of fair play which has characterized the dealings of the 'Catholic majority in Quebec with the Protestant minority of that province.
It would seem to me, Mr. Speaker, that in starting these new provinces on their career, a constitution that is good enough for the province of Quebec, and which, by the way, is good enough for the great province of Ontario, ought to he good enough for Alberta and Saskatchewan. A few moments ago I glanced over a manifesto issued under the authority, or at any rate with the approval, of my hon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule). The hon. gentleman starts out in this manifesto by declaring how desirable it is that in a country like Canada we should have peace, but he immediately proceeds to make for peace by a declaration of war. It is contended that the schools ill the Northwest should be national schools, and I know that the argument is often made that national schools are absolutely non-sectarian and that an adherent of any particular faith might go to a national school without doing violence to his religious convictions or his conscientious scruples in any way. Well, Mr. Speaker, we might as well discuss this question frankly, fairly and candidly. That statement is liot founded on fact. The views of Protestants and Catholics in respect to education are so radically different that there is no possibility of reconciling them, and that being so, it seems to me that we should follow the example set in the province of Que-
bee find conclude that the only policy under -which we eau have peace and a good understanding is to agree to disagree on this subject. A great deal has been said on the other side of the House about provincial rights. It is a very catchy phrase and it can be rolled under the tongue like a sweet morsel, but after all we must remember that at the very inception of our constitution provincial rights were accorded in respect to education with the restriction that the rights of minorities in respect to denominational schools must be respected.
That being our constitution, it appears to me we ought to carry it out in its entirety and in the spirit of tolerance and generosity in which it was framed. A good deal has been said regarding the efficiency of separate schools, and I know that the prevalent idea among a good many Protestants is that they are not as efficient as they ought to be. In many cases, however, those who thus criticise these schools have in their minds the poor parochial schools maintained by conscientious Catholics out of their own money after being obliged to pay their taxes for the national school system. Is it any wonder then that separate schools so handicapped should not be as efficient as they would be otherwise ? But the very fact that the minority feel compelled by their conscientious convictions and scruples to impose burdens on themselves ought to convince us that we should at least meet them half way and give them the privilege of having the money raised by their taxes devoted to the maintenance of schools to which they can send their children.
A great deal has been said about our school system in the province of Quebec. My hon. friend from Dundas (Mr. Broder) quoted a speech made by the hon. the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fitzpatrick) in the Quebec legislature, away back in 1893, in which the minister criticised the separate schools then in existence in . that province. But my hon. friend did not take the trouble-perhaps he did not know-to explain the circumstances surrounding the delivery of that speech. Why. down in the province of Quebec we are animated by a spirit of educational reform, and at that time the Minister of Justice was pleading for an increase in the educational grant and endeavouring to arouse a sentiment among the people in favour of a greater expenditure on education, in favour of paying the teachers higher salaries and building better school-houses. That was the object my hon. friend had in delivering that speech, and it is quite possible that his zeal in the cause of reform induced him to make the most of his case and perhaps even exaggerate the conditions. But what he was endeavouring to do was to get the Quebec government to spend more money and take every means possible to put our educational system there on the most satisfactory footing. And I have no doubt that in the superior province of
Ontario, an equally earnest advocate of reform could find plenty of grounds for making a similar plea. I have no doubt that a member of the Ontario legislature, who was endeavouring to have the educational system of that province improved and no one will deny that it is not susceptible of considerable improvement-could easily find data on which to base an argument that elementary education there was not at all that it ought to be. and make just such an appeal to the people of that province, as the Minister of Justice did to the people of the province of Quebec, to put their hands in their pockets and do more for the cause of education than they had hitherto done. But with all its defects, I venture to say that in the province of Quebec, under our system there, both Protestants and Catholics have on the whole as efficient schools as can be found in other provinces. I believe that we are doing as good work there in the cause of education ns is being done anywhere else in this broad Dominion, and I am confident that we are as ambitious to have our system made as perfect as possible and equal to, if not superior, to that of any other province as are the people in any other section of this country ; and that, Mr. Speaker, is a sort of rivalry which we can all applaud.
I find it difficult to refrain from making a contrast between the treatment accorded the minority in the province of Quebec and that accorded the minorities in the other provinces. In the province of Quebec the Protestant minority have not only been treated fairly but most generously. We are given more than our share of public money, we are perfectly free to adopt whatever system we choose, and our constitutional guarantees have been carried out to their fullest extent. My hon, friend the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Fisher), who is connected with the system of Protestant education in that province, and my hon. friend from St. Antoine division (Mr. Ames), who also holds a high place in the educational system, both stood up a few days ago and explained how the minority have been treated in the province of Quebec ; and I appeal to any man who listened tc them if their words did not carry the conviction that nothing could have been fairer or more just than the treatment there meted out to us. The result is that everybody there is satisfied, and we never hear a word of complaint from any one. Take the Protestant press of the province of Quebec, and what has been its attitude during this debate ? Nearly all the papers have been enthusiastic supporters of the educational clause in the Bill before us, and those who have not supported it actively are giving it. their tacit approval. Even the Montreal ' Witness,' which, as far as Protestantism is concerned, is the watchman on the tower has declared that any Protestant in that province would be acting a mean and contemptible part if he should assist in any attempt to withhold from the
Catholic minority in the Northwest Territories the privileges which this Bill grants them. No Quebec Protestant, that newspaper contends, could hold up bis hands for the special protection and rights the Protestant minority now enjoy in the province of Quebec and at the same time give his countenance to any attempt to snatch from the Catholic minority in the Territories similar rights and privileges. Sir, under the system now established in the province of Quebec, we have an ideal province, in which both Catholic and Protestant live side by side in perfect peace and harmony. Side by side they work out in harmony their municipal institutions, and in none of our political movements is the question of race and religion ever made an issue. We have in this House members from that province, who are Protestants, and yet are elected by constituencies, the large majority of which is French Canadian and Roman Catholic. We see the same thing in our municipal institutions, showing the disposition on. the part of the majority there to be just and even generous and meet their fellow citizens of different races and creeds more than half way. The result is peace, harmony and a good understanding. Well, if that be good policy in the province of Quebec, why should it not be good policy in other portions of the Dominion ? But has that policy always been carried out in the other provinces ? Who does not remember that the great Conservative party in the province of Ontario fought two election campaigns on a proposal to curtail the privileges of the minority in that province and cripple their separate school system ? And if we contrast that policy with the policy which has always been pursued in the province of Quebec, all of us who wish to be at all fairminded must admit that the Protestant minority in Quebec has been given far better treatment than that given the Catholic minority in the province of Ontario. Then take the province of Manitoba. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the Dominion parliament intended to give the minority there separate schools. But one fine day these schools were abolished by provincial legislation. And even in the Territories, a good deal of the same disposition has been shown. Do you think, Mr. Speaker, that that is right ? Do you think it is fair ? Do you think that that is living up to the spirit of our constitution and giving equal rights to all ? We have men standing up in this House and telling us to trust the west. Well, after all that has happened in the great west, can anybody, can any fair minded man blame the minority if it should display a spirit of suspicion and apprehension. Why, it seems to me that nobody could argue with any fairness that the minority there have not any good ground for insisting upon this parliament seeing that the guarantees are observed which our constitution fortunately gives them.