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


James Moffat Douglas



before, and as long as I am spared I shall continue to make that my confession of faith and of doctrine which I most firmly believe. But, the hon. gentleman, as I have already said, did not ask the co-operation or support of those who differ from him in these matters as to the framing of his resolution, or as to the time and manner of its introduction. If he consulted any person in connection with this matter, he consulted the right hon. Prime Minister, and when, at an earlier stage in this debate, the suggestion was made to the right hon. gentleman by the hon. member for East York (Mr. Maclean) that the debate be adjourned so that an opportunity might be given to the hon. gentlemen who, believing in equality, desired to frame a resolution that could be passed unanimously by this House, that reasonable request on the part of the hon. member for East York was absolutely refused. We are kept here until one o'clock in the morning trying to reach a conclusion that will do honour to the Commons of Canada and reflect the voice and opinions of those whom we represent. I say it is a most unreasonable proposition that an amendment to a motion of this kind should be presented to us at this stage of the debate, and that we should be asked to decide at once upon it. As I understand the amendment, it reads as follows. I have only been able to get it into my hands within the past few minutes :
That all the words on the second page of the resolution introduced by the hon. member for Victoria be struck out, and the following substituted : That in the opinion of this House
the declaration referred to in the above-mentioned Act of Settlement should be amended by eliminating therefrom all those expressions which are especially offensive to the religious belief of any subjects of the British empire.
The amendment goes a considerable distance to mitigate the objections I have to the resolution, but it does not go far enough; and desirous as I am of seeing the resolution carried out, unless an addition is made to the amendment I shall have to vote against it. Being a layman I do not profess to know what the exact meaning of the amendment is. but the suggestion I would make is that there should be added the following words : ' so long as the distinctively Protestant character of the declaration is maintained.' It seems to me that this is not an unreasonable proposition. It has been conceded by hon. gentlemen who have spoken on both sides of the House, that it is an absolute prerequisite that he or she who is the- sovereign of the British empire shall be a Protestant. That condition being admitted and agreed to, if the parliament of Canada memorializes the Imperial parliament, or the Crown, to have an amendment made to the declaration. I think it is not an unreasonable proposition to suggest that when we are ask-26 .
ing for changes in the declaration, when we ask that the words which have been objected to, and which are offensive to our Homan Catholic fellow-subjects, should be-eliminated, we should still preserve the feature of the declaration which has been taken by the sovereigns of Great Britain for the past 200 years-that they shall continue to make a declaration in which the Protestant features in the present declaration shall be maintained and continued. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the view which I desire to present, and I have tried to do it as briefly as I could. Let me say two or three words more. I dispute the contention with all respect and humility which has been presented here again and again, that it is the duty of this parliament to pass a resolution of this kind or a memorial of this kind at any stage of its proceedings. The Prime Minister stated this afternoon in the course of the debate that the resolution which was passed unanimously by this House last year, endorsing the position and action which the Imperial authorities took respecting the - Transvaal, had been graciously received and acknowledged by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is quite true ; but if my memory serves me right, the resolution which was passed by this House unanimously endorsed the position which the government of Great Britain took respecting the Transvaal, because that government was acting with the desire and with the object to secure for British subjects who resided in that part of the empire the same religious and civil liberty that we enjoy, and which British subjects enjoy in every portion of the empire ; and the reply which was received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies was a reply to an address which expressed satisfaction with the action of the Imperial authorities in their efforts to secure equal rights and liberties to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. If there was any class of Her Majesty's subjects which did not enjoy equal civil and religious liberty, I would be one of the first to advocate that any disability under which they laboured should be removed. For the past 200 years the declaration has been subscribed to by those who have occupied the position of sovereign of Great Britain, and the British Empire. The declaration was imposed upon them, but why ? Because the framers of that declaration were smarting under a series of the most intolerable wrongs and Injustice which alone could justify the use of such language. The hon.
member for Victoria speaks as one representing a certain class of this community. He has a right to speak as the representative of that class if he pleases, but I would ask him and the people whom he represents if the church to whieh they owe allegiance has changed any of its canon law which obtained 200 years ago,

or if its authorities liave acknowledged any abbreviation of the rights and privileges and powers which that church claimed belonged to it 200 years ago ? Two hundred years ago the head of the Roman Catholic Church-I do not desire to speak with anything but the greatest respect of that august ecclesiastic-claimed the power to depose and absolve. Has he relinquished that power ? Does he claim the right to exercise that power and jurisdiction to-day ? If he does, not one jot or tittle of the declaration which Her Majesty subscribed to, and which His Majesty subscribed to, should be removed. The foundation which was laid 200 years ago by those who framed this declaration was laid broad and deep and strong. A stately and superb edifice has been erected on this foundation in 200 years. Every man who is a British subject has now the fullest measure of civil and religious liberty accorded to him under the constitution which was then firmly established, and which has been growing steadily in power, up to the present time, and Roman Catholics experience only disabilities that are common to their Protestant fellow-subjects. I think, therefore, that we should be very chary of inviting the Imperial parliament to amend the declaration which was found to be so essential when it was passed. The Prime Minister of England, Lord Salisbury, has made a statement respecting this matter. His attention has been drawn to it by some eminent Roman Catholic peers whose loyalty is above suspicion. Lord Salisbury has pointed to the condition of things which existed when the declaration was placed on the statute-books, and he has referred to the fact that that condition is happily passing away. Sir, the liberties of the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom and of every other part of the British Empire are perfectly safe in the keeping of the parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. That parliament will, I have no doubt, and I hope very speedily, amend the wording of the declaration that is complained of, and wipe out any portion of it which is especially offensive to any section or creed in this empire. The parliament of Great Britain is charged with that jurisdiction, and in view of the responses which were received from the Imperial authorities when resolutions were passed by this House and by other legislatures in Canada, respecting matters over which we had no jurisdiction, I think we are justified in asking that great care and deliberation should be exercised now before we place ourselves in a position to receive another rebuff. It has been said by the hon. gentleman from Victoria, N.B. (Mr. Costigan) and others, that no special sentence or paragraph in the declaration is offensive to any other class or creed of His Majesty's subjects. That may be quite true, but surely we do not overlook the

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