March 1, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Henry Robert Emmerson



At all events a discussion as to whether His Majesty does or does not do so is not relevant to the proposition involved in the resolution before the House. After listening to the utterances of the hon. gentleman from West York (Mr. Wallace), one is at a loss to know whether or not that gentleman is conversant with the occurrences which have transpired within the last twelve months. If there is one idea more than another which has grown and developed in Canada during this past year, it is the idea of empire. On every occasion, from every platform, among all classes and creeds we hear utterances in this Dominion as to the growth of the idea of empire. It is not germane to the subject that we should view
the inception of this idea of empire from an historical standpoint. It is not even necessary for us to attempt to discover how the idea got lodgment in the minds of British subjects everywhere in all lands. We have only to recognize the fact that in Canada this idea has grown, and we have evidences of it on every hand. In all the public speeches of leading statesmen, in all the opinions ventilated by publicists and men of affairs, the idea is promulgated that we are beyond and above what we were a few years ago ; that we have developed from the mere citizenship of Canada, grand as that is, into the broader and grander citizenship of the British Empire. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into detail of the origin of those British institutions of which we are all so proud. That, I will leave to the historian, hut I may recall the fact that in the early history of the United Kingdom originated those grand British institutions at a time when England was Catholic, at a time when there was no test oaths ; at a time when the religious convictions of Englishmen were far different from what they are to-day. Take the glorious Magna Charta ; take the right of trial by jury ; take the idea in our municipal affairs of magistrates and sheriffs and such officers, and you will find that their inception was at a time when England was wholly and solely and exclusively Catholic. Therefore, Sir, if we take pride to-day in the idea of empire, we must not forget what we are and whence we sprung ; we must not shut our eyes to the past. Bearing this in mind, I am sure that we will all be prepared to view this question dispassionately and calmly, recognizing the changed conditions, and recognizing too, that we in Canada are a different people to-day from what we were even a few years ago. I am sure that our neighbours to the south of us take pride in the idea and in the history of the Pilgrim Fathers. They take pride in the fact that they came from that ancestry- and there are many in Canada who had the same origin, and who came here by way of New England. If they take pride in that fact, it is because there was implanted upon the shores of New England, when their little bark arrived, the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, and the right to worship God at whatever shrine their consciences dictated. This idea has been beautifully described by Mrs. Hemans in her poem on the Pilgrim Fathers :
What sought they thus afar ?
Bright jewels of the mine ?[DOT]
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war ?-
They sought a faith's pure shrine !
Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod !
They have left unstain'd what there they found-[DOT] Freedom to worship God !

And while our neighbours to the south rejoice in that freedom and claim it as a proud heritage, I am sure there is no portion of this American continent where the people can take greater pride in the same freedom than we in Canada. If our neighbours have that freedom, I am sure that we have it in its very essence, and enjoy it to the fullest extent. That being the case, we surely must recognize that under the la w this privilege belongs to every man living in Canada and having the rights of Canadian citizenship. If, then, it is acknowledged as a right which the citizens of the empire may enjoy to the fullest extent, it must surely be acknowledged as a right that should be enjoyed without offence, and without anything that would in any way reflect upon or mar the enjoyment of that right. If that is the case, surely there can be no objection on the part of Canadians to approach the Throne and ask that there shall be eliminated from that test oath the objectionable features that have been referred to, as embodied in the declaration which has been under discussion this afternoon.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not refer to myself with any idea of wishing to invite personal attention ; but I do think that it is permissible to me to refer to the position which I hold with respect to these matters. I am not in any sense in sympathy with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. My origin and my ancestry were such that I came from one of the Protestant denominations, and I owe allegiance and give adherence to one of the Protestant denominations of this Dominion. I recognize that at one time in the history of this empire that denomination suffered under legal and civil disabilities. I recognize that there was a time, even in Canada, at least in the province from which I come, when those who enjoyed the same ideas of religion that I do were under the ban-under disabilities with respect to public offices-when they were not in the enjoyment of the fullest civil and religious freedom which they enjoy to-day.
If this were a question iuvoiving the adoption of some particular dogma or creed, if it wore a question which in a way involved the acceptance of doctrines which I as a Protestant do not hold. I could not in any sense approve of or support the motion of my hon. friend from Victoria. But I do not understand the question to be that at all. I understand the motion in no sense diminishes or restricts the religious freedom which every man in Canada enjoys to the fullest extent. It in no sense modifies the religious opinions of any one supporting it. It simply says that there shall be no reflections cast upon the religious convictions which any citizen of the British Empire may hold. With these ideas dominant in my mind, and with the idea that I would wish to enjoy my own religious convictions to the fullest extent without any reflection being cast upon them, I grant to those

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