Session 1, Day 2: 15 March

NB: text taken from Archives of Manitoba, MG3 A1-15, Red River Disturbance collection, “Seasonal [sic: Sessional] Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, March 1870,” appears in black; text taken from other sources appears in grey.

Previous page: Session 1, Day 1: 9 March

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Assembly Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

                                                                                                Tuesday, 15 March 1870[1]

The Members of the New Legislative Assembly of Rupert’s Land met again in their Chamber on the 15th ult. The President having taken the chair,

The following notices of motion were given:—

Hon. Mr. Bunn — That the Government of England, the Canadian Government, and the Hudson Bay Company, have ignored our rights as British subjects, when they entered into arrangements on the subject of the transfer of the Government of the North-West to the Dominion of Canada; without consulting the wishes of the people of the North-West Territory.

Hon. Mr. Scott — That notwithstanding the insults and sufferings borne by the people of the North-West heretofore, and which they still endure, the loyalty of the people of the North-West toward the Crown of England remains the same, provided the rights and properties, usages and customs of the people be respected.

It was announced that his Lordship Bishop Tache was in waiting outside the assembly room.[2] The President immediately went to meet him and introduce him to the House. A seat was given and accepted by his Lordship.

After a moment of silence the President said:—

During some months the people had been in trouble and suffering, but since a certain time things were appearing to turn in our favor. Canada had begun to recognise us more than she was accustomed to. The people of this country had begun to understand each other and had met from all parts of the Settlement to unite. While thus coming to such an understanding and feeling its pleasures the first joy was produced by the arrival of His Lordship Bishop Tache.

The President said he felt extreme pleasure in presenting to His Lordship the first Legislative Assembly of this country, representing all classes of the people. And in the name of the people represented by the hon. Members of this Legislative Assembly he bid His Lordship welcome and congratulations on his safe return amongst them. We are here to look after the interests of our people; and this is a great responsibility but we must not shirk from it; for upon us depends the future destiny of this vast country. Let us then not be too precipitate, but weigh well all our words that our actions may bear abundant fruit. Let us again welcome His Lordship amongst us, his people, and I know he is welcome to all classes.

In Reply.[3]

Bishop Tache having expressed the pleasure he felt at meeting the Council, he said, in substance — I can well understand the anxiety of the people, at the crisis in public affairs with which we have to deal. I believe it to be an anxiety deep and wide-spread. Let me express the hope, however, that all feeling of this kind will cease. It is a hope grounded on my own conviction that this anxiety is now needless, and that a brighter and better day will speedily dawn on this land (cheers). I do not come back, gentlemen, in any official capacity. When I arrived in Canada, it was understood that the people of Red River were sending down delegates; and hence it was not thought necessary to invest me with any powers as Commissioner. The Government pressed me to remain until the arrival of the delegates, but my anxiety of mind was such that I could not delay. I desired to be with my people at a period such as this; and hence I left Canada with all convenient speed. Short as my stay was, however, I had ample opportunity for becoming acquainted with this fact, that the intentions of the Canadian Government as far as the people of this country are concerned, were good and praiseworthy (cheers). I can testify that they have no desire to overlook the political rights of the people here (cheers). As an evidence of this, I will, with permission, read a telegram from the Hon. Joseph Howe, which I received since my arrival here. It was sent to me to St. Paul, in answer to another telegram I sent him, but it arrived there the day after I left. I despatched the telegram, I may say, in consequence of receiving at St. Paul The New Nation, containing a copy of the List of Rights adopted by the Convention. Mr. Howe’s reply was: “Propositions in the main satisfactory. But let the delegation come here to settle the details” (cheers). Let me say, further, that I believe that until recently the people of Canada were in perfect ignorance of the true state of affairs in this country; and it is not to be wondered at, as I myself, even after having spent most of my life in this country, was very far from knowing the actual state of affairs here, until I arrived the other day. I am a Canadian, and proud of that title. Many friends you have in Canada, both in the Government and outside; so be assured that nobody is desirous to oppress you (hear, hear). His Lordship, in order to show the opinion entertained of Mr. McDougall’s action at Pembina, read an extract from a speech of Hon. Mr. Howe, in the Dominion Parliament. The speaker condemned Mr. McDougall’s action thoroughly, and stated that when all the papers relating to the North-West were laid before the House, it would be found that Mr. McDougall’s position was unjustifiable. I will say again, said his Lordship, in resuming his speech, that my own feelings towards the people of Red River, are unchanged in the least. As I have often said before, so say I now,— they have, one and all, without distinction of race or language or creed,— my highest esteem and affection (cheers). If I may make a comparison to evince my regard. I would say — to show that I feel towards the people of Red River as if they were all one body: When one member of a body, say, the right hand, suffers, the left hand sympathises with it. And so it is with us, as a people. So thoroughly do we sympathise with each other, that when one section suffers the other partakes of that suffering. In doing what I can, then, to mitigate that suffering, I feel that I am bound to do what is possible for all classes, equally. (His Lordship was very much affected during the latter part of his address and sat down amid cheers.)  Soon after, he rose again and said — An inspiration occurs to me. I would ask the President, as an act of grace, for the release of half of the prisoners (cheers).

The President — I have great pleasure in stating, in response to his Lordship’s request, that one half of the prisoners will be liberated this evening (loud cheers) — and the other half will be set at liberty as soon as we have heard from a certain quarter to which some of the prisoners belong (cheers). This I do out of respect to the Assembly (cheers).

The Bishop — I would, as a parting request, express my desire that all the representatives present,— but especially those from the English-speaking population — should exert all their efforts and influence among the people in their respective localities to give them to understand the necessity of union, to preserve order, abide by the laws of the established government, and to see that nothing ever again occurs to disturb the peace of the Settlement (cheers). Before sitting down, I would say a further word or two in reference to Mr. McDougall’s action. While at Ottawa I had the privilege of seeing the official papers in reference to this North-West difficulty; and in these the Government publicly condemn Mr. McDougall’s action. These documents will show, that while they thought Mr. McDougall still at Pembina, they sent to him two special messengers with dispatches condemning his action (hear and cheers). And in reference to Dennis’s action here, the same despatch stated that had Dennis succeeded in causing a civil war in Red River, he would have had to answer for any life lost by such action, before the bar of justice (loud cheers).

Hon. Mr. Bunn moved a vote of thanks to his Lordship, and in doing so expressed the feeling of great satisfaction with which the news of his arrival had been hailed by all classes of the people. For a lengthened period they had been distracted by the most harassing doubts and fears; and now at last, in the person of his Lordship, they believed they had found one who would lend most potent aid to bring about a happier and better state of things (cheers). I cordially and sincerely endorse, said Hon. Mr. Bunn, his Lordship’s opinion that peace and union among all classes and sections should be our motto. I believe with others that union among ourselves is absolutely necessary for our own preservation as a people — but necessary also in the interests of Canada, and perhaps even in the interests of the Imperial Government. Gentlemen, unfortunately, mistakes and blunders have been made on all hands. This has been admitted by all the parties concerned; but is that a reason why the poor Red River people should be called upon to sacrifice their lives and shed their best blood to wipe out these mistakes? Who among us that heard his Lordship’s appeal for union, and his appeal for our unfortunate brethren now in prison, but must have heartily echoed that appeal, and must have rejoiced in his soul to hear that appeal for the release of one half of them, so unhesitatingly conceded. Let us hope and trust that henceforth there shall be no further necessity for the harsh measures which all have lamented, but that in future all will be unity and peace; and I hope that prosperity to the country will be the result (cheers).

Hon. C.J. Bird seconded the motion, which was carried amid applause.

The House then adjourned till ten, A.M., the following day.

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Next page: Session 1, Day 3: 16 March


[1] Bunn, Sessional Journal, 1213; “Provisional Government. Bishop Tache [sic] Addresses the Assembly,” New Nation (18 March 1870), 2 [listed as 16 March at Manitobia site]

[2] Sentence here is abridged, the full text printed in the New Nation reads: “During another afternoon session of the Legislature it was announced that his Lordship Bishop Tache was in waiting outside the assembly room.”

[3] Begg, Alexander Begg’s Red River Journal, 339, reports that “The New Nation was stopped to-night [Friday, 18 March 1870] – it appears the report of the council proceedings especially that touching on Bishop Taché’s appearance before the Legislative body was not according to the taste of the President.” Presumably the printed version, on which this transcription is based, met Riel’s approval.

~~~

Published 6 July 2011

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