John Stephen Willison.

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eminent, but there is reason also to think that Mr. Peter
White disliked the Remedial Bill and believed that
if Mr. Wallace offered the motion for its rejection, the
Liberal parliamentary party would be divided and a
majority for the measure assured. Mr. Wallace, who
had resigned from the Government over the decision to
restore Separate schools in Manitoba, was not aggrieved
by the Speaker's action. He was among the most vig-
orous and effective obstructionists in Parliament and
was very influential during the general election in
solidifying the extremer Protestant element against the
Government. But if he co-operated with the Liberal
party, he entered into no actual alliance with Mr.
Laurier, and unlike Mr. D'Alton McCarthy when a
settlement with Manitoba was effected by the Laurier
Administration, he re-established an independent con-
nection with the Conservative party. It is curious that
Orangemen, who are commonly regarded as the "back-
bone" of the Conservative party, should have so often
assisted the Liberal party to obtain office. A great body
of Orangemen, angry over the murder of Thomas Scott
at Fort Garry and dissatisfied with the behaviour of
John Sandfield Macdonald, voted for Liberal candi-
dates in Ontario in 1871 and gave Mr. Blake a victory
which he probably could not have won without Orange
support. Sir John Macdonald was greatly weakened in



1872 by the defection of Orangemen who believed that
Kiel was treated with excessive consideration and that
there was feeble and indecisive handling of the Red
River insurrection. In 1896 the revolt among Orange-
men gave many constituencies to the Liberal party.
Indeed, it is doubtful if Laurier could have carried the
country without the support of an element which Lib-
erals have seldom conciliated and generally distrusted
and contemned.

I never doubted that the Liberal party would
triumph in 1896, although the result in Ontario was
less decisive and in Quebec more decisive than I
expected. I remember that a few days before polling
The Globe received a message from Quebec that at most
only two or three Conservative candidates would be
elected in-the Quebec district. We thought the estimate
so exaggerated and extreme that the despatch was not
published. But the prophet was not discredited by the
result. The tremendous energy and amazing endur-
ance of Sir Charles Tupper vitally affected the situa-
tion in Ontario. He revived the spirit and restored the
courage of the Conservative party and steadied a mul-
titude of waverers. In all his strenuous life he never
was more powerful or aggressive, more effective or
more destructive, than in the campaign of 1896, al-
though he fought upon an issue which was not of his
making and with a party broken by mutiny and dis-
sension. I have often wondered how Sir John Thomp-
son would have handled the Manitoba school question
if he had lived, or how Sir Chailes Tupper would
have framed the issue if he had been recalled from
England before the Remedial Bill was introduced.
While Tupper was reorganizing the Cabinet, it was




reported that Mr. B. B. Osier, K.C., had been offered
the position of Minister of Justice. But when the reor-
ganization was completed and the Cabinet announced,
Mr. Osier's name did not appear. I had not expected
that he would enter the Cabinet, for he was opposed to
Federal interference with the school legislation of
Manitoba. If, however, he had accepted Sir Charles
Tupper's proposal the bill would have been abandoned.
On his return from Ottawa after his interview with
Tupper he asked by telephone if he could see me at The
Globe office. I suggested that he should allow me to go
to his office. In the interview which followed he stated
that he had been offered the position of Minister of
Justice by Sir Charles Tupper and had declined for
only one reason. I suggested that no doubt the reason
was that he could not defend the Remedial Bill before
the country. He said, "No. I was not asked to do so.
I had the positive assurance from the Prime Minister
that he would abandon the bill if I would enter the Gov-
ernment." He said, further, that he would have
accepted save for the single reason that he was regarded
as a Liberal. He had neglected to explain his position
to the country. It was not understood that aside from
the school question, he had greater confidence in Sir
Charles Tupper than he had in the Liberal leaders. If
he joined the Cabinet he would be suspected of betray-
ing the Liberal party for office and exacting a price,
which would confuse the issues before the country and
possibly aggravate the bitter racial and sectarian
quarrel which the school question had produced.
When I recall this statement by Mr. Osier I can-
not think that Tupper was happy in the position
which he had inherited, and I wonder that he did not



insist upon a modification of the Remedial Bill or a
complete withdrawal of the challenge to Manitoba
when he accepted the office of Prime Minister and set
himself to reorganize and re-unite the Conservative
party. If he believed that the Remedial Bill was
strategically unwise or constitutionally unsound, he
should not have attempted to force it through Parlia-
ment. If he thought there was a constitutional obliga-
tion upon the Government to give such full measure of
relief to the religious minority of Manitoba as the bill
provided, he should not have bargained with Mr. Osier.
I think of an incident of the campaign in Toronto.
In the Centre Division Mr. William Lount, K.C., was
the Liberal candidate against Mr. G. R. R. Cockburn.
Mr. Lount rode "the Protestant horse" not perhaps
with great skill, but with extreme ardour. When it
was suggested that Mr. Laurier should hold a meeting
in Toronto, Lount declared that if the proposal were
not summarily abandoned he would withdraw from the
contest. Two weeks before polling Mr. J. K. Kerr,
K.C., and I spent Sunday with Mr. Laurier at London,
where he was the guest of Mr. C. S. Hyman. Laurier
intimated his desire to speak in Toronto. We agreed
that it was necessary that he should do so, and that the
effect throughout the country of a successful meeting in
the chief city of the Province would give inspiration
and confidence to Liberal candidates and workers in
the last days of the contest, and do something to create
in other Provinces the impression that Ontario would
give a substantial majority against the Government. I
had The Globe announce next morning that Laurier
would speak in Toronto, and during the day a meeting
of Liberal workers was held to fix a date and arrange



details. Mr. Lount protested that to bring the French
Catholic leader to the city where sectarian feeling was
so acute was a fatal error, that he would be denied
a hearing, that there would be organized interruption,
tumult and disorder, and that the effect throughout the
country would be infinitely damaging to Liberal pros-
pects. When Laurier came there was such a demonstra-
tion in his honour as he can have had but seldom, even
in his own Province. Hundreds who could not get
into Massey Hall cheered with irrepressible fervor as
he made his way to the meeting. Hundreds were still
around the building when he reappeared two hours
later. There was continuous cheering as he was escorted
slowly and laboriously through a narrow lane of excited
people to an overflow meeting at the old Queen Street
Auditorium. Inside Massey Hall there was a meet-
ing as memorable for its spontaneous and explosive en-
thusiasm as any ever held in Toronto. Sir John Mac-
donald himself never could have had a more tumultu-
ous welcome in the Orange and Protestant stronghold
of Canada. While he spoke there were frequent long
rolls of applause, but not a whisper of dissent or pro-
test. Indeed, I cannot think that I remember any other
meeting in which there were such manifestations of an
intimate and almost affectionate relation between the
speaker and the audience, such ardour of emotion, such
unity of sentiment. There was only one incident of
less happy import. Mr. Lount, who was among the
first speakers, held the floor so long that the audience
became restive and indicated by persistent shuffling and
stamping that its patience was exhausted. Thus for a
few moments there were symptoms of disorder to justify
Mr. Lount's prophecy. As we passed through the



crowds from Massey Hall to the Auditorium, Laurier
exclaimed : "Is this Tory Toronto?" It was, and Tory
Toronto never more clearly expressed itself than in that
remarkable demonstration over the French Catholic
leader of the Liberal party.

Only mischief results when political expediency
governs in the interpretation of a statute or the reading
of a constitution. We have had in the educational
clauses of the British North America Act a source of
misunderstanding and confusion which has not made
for national solidity and more than once has rilled the
country with the angry clamour of sectarian contro-
versy. We have had during the whole period of Con-
federation a resolute and unceasing effort to read into
the Constitution a guarantee of sectarian schools for
every Province of the Confederation, and a steady de-
nunciation of those who insist upon a different inter-
pretation, and contend for the right of the Provinces to
control over education, subject to their conception of
the constitutional limitations, as zealots and bigots, and
mischievous traders in racial and religious prejudices.
It may be desirable, therefore, to investigate the origin
of Separate schools in Canada and to trace the evolu-
tion of the Canadian Constitution.

As early as 1841, when the first attempt was made
to establish a system of schools in Upper Canada, the
right of Separate schools was obtained by the advocates
of dogmatic religious teaching. This privilege was
recognized in the first Common School Act for the
Province which was passed five years later. But it was
not until 1852 that the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics en-
tered upon an active struggle for the extension of the
Separate school system. Up to that year only fifty



Separate schools had been established, and thirty-two
of these had lapsed in the three years preceding. Thir-
teen of those remaining were Roman Catholic Separate
schools ; three were Protestant, two of these in French
districts; and two were maintained for coloured chil-
dren in Kent and Essex. In 1853 the provisions for
Separate schools were revised and extended and all sup-
porters of such schools were exempted from local or
municipal school rates. Hitherto they had shared only
in the Legislative grant and County school taxes; but
no part of the municipal assessment could be applied for
separate school purposes, and no municipal officer could
be employed to collect rates for their support. The
whole separate school movement was strenuously op-
posed by George Brown and his allies, while Bishop
Charbonnel was as determined to secure absolute
authority over the education of Catholic children and
to establish separate schools wherever they could be
supported. In 1856 the Bishop declared in a Pastoral
letter that "Catholic electors who do not use their elec-
toral power in behalf of separate schools are guilty of
mortal sin ; likewise parents who do not make the sacri-
fices necessary to secure such schools or send their chil-
dren to mixed schools."

From year to year the school law was amended in
minor particulars, separate schools increased in number
from thirteen in 1852 to one hundred in 1858, and the
clerical agitation for still more generous facilities for
their support and organization was maintained with
unabated vigour. Dr. Ryerson protested against the
interference of priests and bishops belonging to Lower
Canada with the school system of Upper Canada and
denounced "this double aggression by Roman Catholic




Bishops and their supporters in assailing on the one
hand our public schools and school system, and invad-
ing what has been acknowledged as sacred constitu-
tional rights of individuals and municipalities, and on
the other hand demanding the erection and support at
the public expense of a Roman Catholic hierarchical
school system." Finally, in 1860, Hon. R. W. Scott,
then representing Ottawa in the United Parliament,
introduced a Separate School Bill which, after three
defeats in successive years, was adopted with modifica-
tions in 1863 and is the general basis of the law which
now exists. In the final vote the representatives of
Upper Canada gave ten of a majority against the meas-
ure, and it was thus imposed upon Ontario by a majority
from Quebec. This in Ontario was the position at
Confederation, while in Quebec Protestant public
schools were maintained by the non-Catholic elements
of the population.

According to Pope's Confederation Documents, the
question of Education was first raised at the Quebec
Conference on October 24th, 1864. On motion of Mr.
Oliver Mowat it was resolved "That it shall be com-
petent for the local Legislatures to make laws respect-
ing (1) Agriculture, (2) Education, (3) Emigration,"
and various other subjects thereinafter enumerated. On
the next day Mr. D'Arcy McGee moved that "The
following words be added to item 2 Education 'sav-
ing the rights and privileges which the Protestant or
Catholic minority in both Canadas may possess as to
their denominational schools at the time when the Con-
stitutional Act goes into operation'." This was the final
deliverance of the Conference on the subject of Edu-
cation, and it seems therefore to be conclusively estab-



lished that the constitutional limitations upon Provin-
cial control over Education were meant to apply only
to Ontario and Quebec. It must be remembered also
that the Conference which recommended this clause for
insertion in the constitution made provision for the
incorporation of British Columbia, Rupert's Land and
the Northwest Territory in the new Commonwealth.

But to Sir A. T. Gait, not to McGee or Mowat, we
trace the educational clauses in the Confederation set-
tlement. Gait was a resolute foe of hierarchical pre-
tensions, a vigilant champion of the rights and interests
of the English minority in Quebec, and throughout all
his public career a formidable figure in the political
life of the country. He was Minister of Finance in the
Coalition Government which was organized to carry
Confederation, but resigned office in 1866 on account of
its failure to pass legislation securing to the English
minority of Lower Canada a fair share of the public
funds for Protestant schools and a Protestant Board of
Education. It must be remembered that no system of
public schools existed in Quebec as in Ontario. In
Ontario the schools of the majority were non-sectarian
and open alike to Protestant and Catholic without of-
fence to religious susceptibilities. In Quebec the
schools of the majority were strictly Roman Catholic,
devoted to the/teaching of Roman Catholic dogma, and
under the practical, if not the complete, control of the
Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The position was clearly stated in a petition to the
Throne from the Provincial Association of Protestant
Teachers of Lower Canada which was forwarded while
the Canadian delegates were in London advising with
the Imperial authorities upon the .terms of the Con-



federation settlement. They represented that "under
the educational law of Lower Canada, and in conse-
quence of the denominational character of the schools
of the Roman Catholic majority, your Majesty's sub-
jects professing the Protestant faith are subjected to
serious disadvantages; first, in being deprived of the
benefits of a general system of education similar to that
enjoyed by their fellow-subjects in Upper Canada;
secondly, in their liability to be taxed for the support
of Roman Catholic schools; and thirdly, in the diffi-
culties which they experience in establishing non-de-
nominational or separate schools and seminaries of
higher education for themselves." They argued that
the result of this condition of affairs was to discourage
the settlement of Protestants in Lower Canada and to
cause many families to leave the country. They pointed
out that pledges were made by members of the Govern-
ment that the grievances under which they laboured
would be remedied by parliamentary action, and that
though a bill for that purpose was introduced by Gov-
ernment at the last session, it was almost immediately
withdrawn, and that unless provision to this end was
introduced into the Imperial Act of Confederation,
there was grave fear that their educational rights would
be left to the control of the majority in the local Legis-
lature without any guarantee whatever. They declared
frankly that they would prefer a general and non-de-
nominational system of education, but that "so long as
the present system of separate schools shall continue in
Lower Canada," they must claim as constitutional
rights that all direct taxes for the support of schools
paid by Protestants should be applied to Protestant or
non-denominational education, that all public money



given for the same purpose should be divided between
Protestants and Roman Catholics in proportion to
population, and that just and proper safeguards for the
effective protection of their educational interests should
be introduced into the Act of Confederation. This was
the situation with which Gait had to deal and this the
position of the minority for whose interests he was con-
cerned. In Ontario, if a school section contained only
a single Roman Catholic child, it could attend the
Public School without impediment or embarrassment;
in Quebec there were, as there still are, whole counties
where absolutely no provision exists for the education
of isolated Protestant families. Gait, too, was distrust-
ful of the Quebec Legislature and fearful that the
securities required by the Protestant minority would
not be established under the local constitution, or would
be established under conditions which would not give
the necessary guarantees of permanence. Hence, at
the London Conference on December 5th, 1866, Gait
moved that "the following words be added to and form
part of the 6th subsection of the 43rd clause: "And in
every Province where a system of separate or dissentient
schools by law obtains, or where the local Legislature
may hereafter adopt a system of separate or dissentient
schools, an appeal shall lie to the Governor-in-Council
of the general Government from the acts and decisions
of the local authorities which may affect the rights or
privileges of the Protestant or Catholic minority in the
matter of education. And the general Parliament shall
have power in the last resort to legislate on the sub-
ject." Thus were developed the guarantees for the
Protestant minority in Quebec where, as has been said,
no public schools existed, and hence the clauses which



the Roman Catholic hierarchy have employed in the
endeavour to secure certain constitutional rights under
the Public School law of New Brunswick, to create and
perpetuate separate schools in Manitoba, and to estab-
lish a separate school system in the Western Terri-

The first appeal taken under these clauses of the
new constitution came from the Roman Catholic min-
ority of New Brunswick. This Province at Confed-
eration had no separate schools, but religious teaching
under liberal regulations was permitted in the schools
established in Roman Catholic communities. In 1871
the Legislature passed a law prohibiting such religious
teaching in the common schools, and under Gait's
clauses, providing for appeal to the Central Govern-
ment against any act or decision of local authorities
affecting the rights or privileges of a Protestant or
Catholic minority, the disallowance of the Provincial
legislation was demanded. The Legislature resisted
the demand, passed resolutions asserting the exclusive
authority of the Province over education, insisting that
its jurisdiction and powers should not be curtailed with-
out express sanction of the people at the polls, and
declaring that without the consent of the Legislature
the Imperial Parliament or the Parliament of Canada
ought not to interfere. Upon appeal to the constituen-
cies, the local Government was decisively sustained.
Sir John Macdonald, as Minister of Justice, in answer
to the demand for disallowance, said : "The Act com-
plained of is an Act relating to common schools and the
Acts repealed by it relate to parish grammar, superior
and common schools. No reference is made in them to
separate, dissentient or denominational schools, and



the undersigned does not, on examination, find that any
statute of the Province exists establishing such special
schools." This position was sustained by the law offi-
cers of the Crown, and while the controversy extended
over several years, and the clerical demand was insistent
and importunate, there was no serious attempt at Fed-
eral interference with the Province, which clearly was
the intention of Sir John Macdonald from the begin-

The second appeal was from the Roman Catholic
minority of Manitoba. In 1870 the Province of Mani-
toba was created with the educational clauses of the
British North America Act incorporated in its con-
stitution. In 1871, not by voluntary action of the peo-
ple, but in obedience to the Federal authority, a system
of separate schools was established. It must be remem-
bered that there was no public system of education in
Manitoba prior to the organization of the Province in
1870, and that such denominational schools as existed
were supported by the voluntary contributions of the
various communions. But under the system of educa-
tion established in 1871 the Roman Catholics of Mani-
toba received as liberal treatment as the Catholics of
Ontario. The first subsection of the twenty-second sec-
tion of the Manitoba Act declares that the Province
shall not have power to pass any legislation which
"shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with
respect to denominational schools which any class of
persons have by law or practice in the Province at the
Union." This was doubtless intended to give a con-
stitutional guarantee for separate schools in Manitoba;
but when the appeal taken by the Catholic minority
had made its way through the Canadian courts to the



Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, it was there
decided that the legislation of 1890 abolishing separate
schools was constitutional inasmuch as the only right or
privilege which Roman Catholics enjoyed was the
right or privilege of establishing such schools as they
preferred and maintaining them by their own contribu-

A second appeal was then taken under sub-section
two of the twenty-second section of the Manitoba Act,
which provides that: "An appeal shall lie to the Gov-
ernor-General-in-Council from any act or decision of
the Legislature of the Province, or of any provincial
authority, affecting any right or privilege of the Pro-
testant or Roman Catholic minority of the Queen's sub-
jects in relation to education." The Supreme Court
decided that even under this section no right of inter-
ference was vested in the central Government, and
mainly upon the grounds that every presumption must
be made in favour of the constitutional right of a legis-
lative body to repeal the laws which it has itself enacted,
and that an enactment irrevocably held by the Judicial
Committee to be intra vires could not have illegally
affected any of the rights and privileges of the Catholic
minority. The Judicial Committee, however, reversed
this judgment and found that the Governor-General-in-
Council had jurisdiction in the premises, but added:
"The particular course to be pursued must be deter-
mined by the authorities to whom it has been committed
by the statute. It is not for this tribunal to intimate the
precise steps to be taken. Their general character is
sufficiently defined by the third sub-section of section
twenty-two of the Manitoba Act." This sub-section
provides for action by the Governor-General-in-Coun-



cil in case a Provincial Government fails or refuses to
remedy grievances of a religious minority occasioned

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Online LibraryJohn Stephen WillisonReminiscences, political and personal → online text (page 18 of 25)