#List(s) of Rights from Convention of Forty

Previous List: #List of Rights, Draft Bill of Rights* 28 January

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The members of the Convention of Forty agreed that a List of Rights be “submitted to Mr. Smith [Commissioner from Canada] for his opinion.”[1] A committee was formed to draft a list that the Convention could then debate and refine before presenting it to Smith.[2] There were, however, two lists devised by the committee: “one to be presented to Mr. Smith on the event of our seeking admission into the Dominion as a Territory; the other in the event of our going in as a Province.”[3] In the end, the Convention only considered, and Smith only reviewed, the list for entering as a territory.[4] The contents of the list for entering as a province are unknown.

When the list approved in convention was presented to Smith, Judge John Black, the chair of the convention, made it clear that what Smith would review was not a final statement with respect to a List of Rights for the people of Red River. Black explained,

it did not profess to be a complete list. It did not propose to give in final terms the views of the Convention respecting those points to which the list refers. It must be therefore regarded as somewhat incomplete, not only as regards what it omits, but also respecting what it embraces. But, continued the Chairman, it will, I hope, sufficiently answer the purposes for which it was intended, that of conveying to you, in terms as clear and definite as could be arrived at under the circumstances, the views of this Convention, as representatives of the people, respecting those great matters about which the minds of men in this Settlement are so much occupied.[5]

The day after Smith had reviewed the list, James Ross observed,

At Ottawa, information will be required as to the wants and wishes of the people here — and it is impossible to get that information from books or in any other way than by written information or delegates. Seeing that we have drawn up a bill of rights, and that [anything in] it has to be presented to Parliament, it is of great importance that we should have delegates there to give all the requisite information and furnish details which it would be impossible to get in any other way (cheers). Our circumstances are peculiar in a peculiar sense, and without the presence of such a delegation, the legislators in Ottawa might be unable to understand or appreciate properly the merits or bearings of all the points brought forward in the list (hear, hear).[6]

The three delegates to go to Ottawa were not picked until the final day of the Convention, as its last act. At that time there was no absolute directive to counter Judge Black’s assessment of the list as preliminary in form, or that either the List of Rights debated and agreed upon, or the one presented to Smith must be the version taken to Ottawa.[7]

Thus, no ‘official’ version of a finalized Convention of Forty list is known to exist. Given Black’s remarks, perhaps one never did exist. Nevertheless, various secondary sources recite the contents of a list from the Convention, each secondary source presenting its list as though it were a definitive version. Each of these lists exhibit a variety of minor discrepancies in punctuation and some changes in wording — likely reflecting which of the four available versions of the Convention of Forty lists (two in the New Nation; one attached to Smith’s report; one in the minutes of the convention) was used as a source (discounting the two versions that addressed two different scenarios and that were initially composed by the committee appointed to draft a list for debate).[8]

See, for example:

Alexander Begg, The Creation of Manitoba; Or, A History of the Red River Troubles (Toronto: A.H. Hovey, 1871), 255-259, 325-329.

George Lightfoot Huyshe, “Appendix A.,” The Red River Expedition (New York: MacMillan and Co., 1871), 241-244, who indicates the list was signed by William Coldwell and Louis Schmidt, secretaries to the Convention.

George Bryce, “Two Provisional Governments  in Manitoba, Containing an Interesting Discussion of the Riel Rebellion, With an Appendix Embodying the Four Bills of Rights Verbatim,” Manitoba Historical Society Transactions ser. 1, no. 38 (read 9 January 1890).[9]

The version of the List of Rights passed by the Convention of Forty shown below is based on two sources: the content of debates of the convention as they were presented in the New Nation newspaper (in which two versions with only slight variations appeared); and a copy of the minutes of the convention. For the most part, I have privileged the first version of the list printed in the New Nation — the articles as they stood when passed — read against the minutes of the convention.

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1. That in view of the present exceptional position of the North-West, duties upon goods imported into the country shall continue as at present (except in the case of spirituous liquors) for three years, and for such further time as may elapse until there is uninterrupted railroad communication between Red River Settlement and Lake Superior.[10]

2. As long as this country remains a Territory in the Dominion of Canada, there shall be no direct taxation except such as may be imposed by the local legislature for municipal or other local purposes.[11]

3. That during the time this country shall remain in the position of a Territory within the Dominion of Canada, all military, civil, and other public expenses, in connection with the general government of the country,– or that have hitherto been borne by the public funds of the Settlement, beyond the receipt of the above mentioned duties, shall be met by the Dominion of Canada.[12]

4. That, while the burden of public expense in this Territory is borne by Canada, the country be governed under a Lieut. Governor from Canada and a Legislature, three members of whom, being heads of departments of the Government, shall be nominated by the Governor-General of Canada.[13]

5. That after the expiration of this exceptional period, the country shall be governed as regards its local affairs, as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec are now governed, by a Legislature elected by the people, and a ministry responsible to it, under a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor-General of Canada.[14]

6. That there shall be no interference by the Dominion Parliament in the local affairs of this Territory other than is allowed in the Provinces; and that this Territory shall have and enjoy, in all respects, the same privileges, advantages and aid, in meeting the public expenses of this Territory, as the Provinces have and enjoy.[15]

7. That while the North-West remains a Territory the Legislature have a right to pass all laws local to the Territory, over the veto of the Lieutenant-Governor, by a two-thirds vote.[16]

8. A Homestead and Pre-emption Law. [17]

9. That while the North-West remains a Territory, the sum of $25,000 a year be appropriated for schools, roads, and bridges.[18]

10. That all public buildings be at the cost of the Dominion Treasury.[19]

11. That there shall be guaranteed uninterrupted steam communication to Lake Superior within five years, and also the establishment by rail of a connection with the American railway as soon as it reaches the International line.[20]

12. That the English and French languages be common in the Legislature and Courts, and that all public documents and acts of the Legislature, be published in both languages.[21]

13. That the Judge of the Supreme Court speak the French and English languages.[22]

14. That treaties be concluded between the Dominion and the several Indian tribes of the country as soon as possible.[23]

15. That until the population entitles us to more, we have three representatives in the Canadian Parliament — one in the Senate and two in the Legislative Assembly.[24]

16. That all the properties, rights, and privileges, as hitherto enjoyed by us, be respected, and that the recognition and arrangement of local custom, usages and privileges be made under the control of the Local Legislature.[25]

17. That the two Local Legislature of the Territory have full control of all the lands inside a circumference having Upper Fort Garry as a centre, and that the radii of this circumference be the number of miles that the American line is distant from Fort Garry.[26]

18. That every man in the country (except uncivilized and unsettled Indians) who had attained the age of twenty-one years, and every British subject, a stranger to this country, who has resided three years in this country and is a householder, shall have a right to vote at the election of a member to serve in the Legislature of the country and in the Dominion Parliament; and every foreign subject, other than a British subject, who has resided the same length of time in the country, and is a householder, shall have the same right to vote on condition of his taking the oath of allegiance,— it being understood that this article be subject to amendment exclusively by the Local Legislature.[27]

19. That the North-West Territory shall never be held liable for any portion of the £300,000 paid to the Hudson [sic] Bay Company, or for any portion of the public debt of Canada, as it stands at the time of our entering the Confederation; and if, thereafter we be called upon to assume our share of said public debt, we consent only on condition that we first be allowed the amount for which we shall be held liable.[28]

The list was revised by the Provisional Government of Assiniboia.

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Next List: #List of Rights, revised version of March 1870

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[1] James Ross, quoted in transcript, “7th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[2] The Committee appointed to Draft a List of Rights was composed of: Thomas Bunn, James Ross, Dr. Bird, Louis Riel, Louis Schmidt, and Charles Nolin. See “3d Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[3] Louis Riel, quoted in “9th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site; “Convention at Fort Garry, Very Important Debates, The Bill of Rights,” New Nation (11 February 1870), 1–2; Hudson’s Bay Company Archives [HBCA], E.9/1, Red River Rebellion Records, 14.

[4]12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[5] John Black, quoted in “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[6] James Ross, quoted in “13th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[7] “Convention at Fort Garry,” New Nation (18 February 1870), 2; HBCA, E.9/1, 17.

[8] See A.-A. Taché, Separate Schools, Part of the Negotiations at Ottawa in 1870 (St. Boniface: n.d. [c. 1900?]), 1.

[9] Bryce apparently relied on Begg, Creation of Manitoba, 255, for the list. Bryce also states the list was “adopted Feb. 3rd, 1869, by the convention after the meeting with Hon. Donald A. Smith,” which is a potentially misleading description. First, the list was completed by the convention on that date, but not formally declared ‘adopted.’ Second, the convention had not yet met with Smith to discuss the list. Third, Smith was not an ‘Hon.’ at the time.

[10] “Convention at Fort Garry, English and French Delegates in Council. Mr. Smith’s Commission, Bill of Rights,” New Nation (4 February 1870), 1–2; HBCA, E.9/1, 6–8;  “5th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site. Alternate wording, “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[11] See “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[12] Ibid., reads “That during the time this country shall remain a Territory in the Dominion of Canada, all military, civil and other public expenses in connection with the general Government of the country, or that have hitherto been borne by the public funds of the Settlement — beyond the receipt of the above mentioned duties,— shall be met by the Government of Canada.”

[13] HBCA, E.9/1, 8 obverse, reads: “That while the burden of public expense in this Territory is borne by Canada, the country be governed under a Lieut. Governor from Canada, three members of whom, being heads of departments of the Government, shall be nominated by the Governor-General of Canada.” See also “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[14] “Convention at Fort Garry,” New Nation (4 February 1870), 2; HBCA, E.9/1, 8 obverse reads: “by a Legislature of the people under a Lieut.-Governor appointed by the Governor-General of Canada.”; “6th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site; “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[15] “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site, reads “6. That there shall be no interference by the Dominion Parliament in the local affairs of this Territory, other than is allowed in the Confederated Provinces; and that this Territory shall have and enjoy, in all respects, the same privileges, advantages and aids, in meeting the public expenses of this Territory, as the other provinces in Confederation have and enjoy.”

[16] See also “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[17]  Ibid. A pre-emption law, meant that settlers — including Aboriginal settlers — could pre-empt land (assert ownership of property), and qualify as homesteaders without having to pay a purchase price. Attaining recognition of that right was critical for First Nations and Métis farmers. In 1862, after “an Indian offered to buy of portion of Crown land at a public sale in British Columbia,” legislation had been enacted “prohibiting aboriginal people from pre-empting (homesteading) but not from purchasing.” [Quotation source: Wendy Moss and Elaine Gardner-O’Toole, “Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws,” BP-175e, Publications, Government of Canada (1987). See also “Homestead Act (1862),” http://www.ourdocuments.gov (accessed 20 May 2014), which describes the U.S. implementation of homesteading laws for the American West.]

The people of Red River, who had ties with British Columbia and were aware of political changes there, would have known about that issue. They were also likely aware that:

the draft ‘Order-in-Council for Uniting Rupert’s Land and the North western Territory to the Dominion of Canada’ contained one solitary provision regarding existing land holdings. It read simply ‘All titles to land up to the 8th March 1869 conferred by the company are to be confirmed.’ Application of that sole provision would have resulted in the conversion of only a minority of the Red River land titles into free-holds supported by Crown Patents.

Quotation source: Philippe R. Mailhot, “Ritchot’s Resistance: Abbé Nöel Joseph Ritchot and the Creation and Transformation of Manitoba,” Ph.D. diss. (University of Manitoba, 1986), 23.

This article ensured that all farmsteads, whether or not they had be registered by the HBC (and many properties had been neither purchased nor registered), and whether or not the landholders were Aboriginal, would be protected.

[18] See also “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[19] Ibid.

[20] HBCA, E.9/1, 10 obverse, reads “communication” in place of “connection.”

[21] “Convention at Fort Garry,” New Nation (4 February 1870), 2, 6; HBCA, E.9/1, 10–12; “7th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site. After much discussion, the original twelfth article from the committee’s report was dropped. It read: “12. That the military force required in this country be composed of natives of the country during four years.”

[22] See also “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[23] Ibid.

[24] HBCA, E.9/1, 12 obverse. “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site, shows that the version read by Smith increased the number of representatives by 1.

[25] HBCA, E.9/1, 13.

[26] The original wording of the article was “18. That the two mile hay privilege be converted into fee simple ownership.” The amended wording was arrived at on “8th Day,” Convention of Forty. See “Convention at Fort Garry, Very Important Debates, The Bill of Rights,” New Nation (11 February 1870), 1; HBCA, E.9/1, 12–14.

[27] The original stated: “That every male person, twenty-one years of age, resident in the country one year, shall be entitled to vote for the election of a member to serve in the Legislature of this Territory and in the Parliament of the Dominion.” It was revised “9th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

[28] See also “12th Day,” Convention of Forty, this site.

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Published 15 September 2014

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