5th Day: 29 January

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Council Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Saturday, 29 January 1870[1]

Ten o’clock, A.M. — English and French Representatives again in session.

The minutes having been read and confirmed and the roll called, Dr. Bird, the Secretary of the Committee appointed to draw up the Bill of Rights, presented the list prepared by the committee, which was handed to the Secretaries. The document was one containing a list of demands in the event of the country entering the Dominion as a Territory.

Mr. Riel said — The committee preparing this list of rights, had not much time given them, and have labored almost continually at it during the last forty-eight hours. Mr. Jas. Ross was Chairman and Dr. Bird Secretary, and as to our labors I may say that we do not undertake to report all that was said and done. We resolved to report to the Convention the points on which we agreed, without giving a further knowledge of our proceedings. As far as possible, I may say in the name of the committee, we endeavored to deal with the principal points; and we must rely on the Convention to finish the work we have begun (cheers).

Mr. Ross, as Chairman of the Committee, wished to say a few words before the document was read. We felt, he said, a serious responsibility in drawing up this document. We felt great difficulty in arriving at conclusions which so vitally affect the welfare of the country; and for that reason, although you were good enough to give us additional time, we were very much hurried. We sat here till near three o’clock this morning and were back again at eight, to finish, such was our anxiety to enable the Convention to sit this morning, as arranged (cheers). In justice to ourselves we must say that we were under the circumstances, obliged to present the document in a very crude shape,— one in which we would not like it to go to the outer world. We must therefore bespeak your indulgence, if you find the form defective. I would say further, that in the consideration of the conclusions at which we have arrived, we would ask that it be done in a calm, friendly spirit (cheers).

The Chairman — As the organ of the Convention, I cannot do less than express my cordial approval of the remarks made by Mr. Riel and Mr. Ross. The Convention can very well understand the sense of responsibility under which the committee discharged their very important duties. I am quite sure the Convention will give this paper that calm consideration which has been bespoken for it, and further will believe that the utmost diligence has been used in its preparation. It may be that this paper contains things which may strike different members very forcibly in different ways. But we must not be carried away with first,— or perhaps even with second thoughts. The file is very slow in its work, but we must remember that it produces good polish eventually. And in endeavoring to turn out a good article we must place ourselves in a somewhat similar position to that of a file, and patiently do what we can to make the article satisfactory in the long run (cheers).

The Bill of Rights was then handed to the Secretaries and read in English and French.

Mr. O’Donoghue moved that the Convention consider the list of rights,— that article by article be taken up,— and if possible that it be finished that night.

Mr. Gunn seconded the motion.

The Chairman — In reference to the position of the paper before us, I would say a word or two. It was stated on the part of the committee, that, while they had done their very best in its preparation, they did not wish to put it forward as a final and complete document which might not require alteration at the hands of the Convention; but as one which they believed to embody the main things to be attended to in this negotiation with Mr. Smith, as Commissioner from Canada. It is therefore important members should observe that this paper is at present under trial and is not to be put forward as our final decision until it has undergone that scrutiny which has been invited for it by members of the committee.

Mr. Fraser moved in amendment that the Convention adjourn for an hour.

Mr. O’Donoghue having withdrawn his amendment, Mr. Fraser’s motion was put and carried, and the Convention adjourned at noon.

~~~

One o’clock, P.M. — Convention again in session.

List of Rights taken up, article by article:—

“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 (4 per cent) for _____ years, and for such further time as may elapse until there be uninterrupted communication between Winnipeg and St. Paul.”

Mr. O’Donoghue moved that the blank be filled up with the figure “5.” This figure was specified in another article which related to the building of a railway to this country.

Mr Bunn — I do not like fixing the term at five years. Although we demand a railway from Canada within five years, it does not necessarily follow that she will not build one sooner.

Mr. Sutherland suggested that the figure “3” be inserted.

Mr. Ross — I would state what I conceive to be an objection against Mr. O’Donoghue’s resolution, as a matter of form. He would make the article provide that the duties continue as at present five years,— or for such further time as may elapse before railroad communication is established. This would seem to imply that it might be more than five years before we got railroad communication, whereas we expressly provide, further on, that we must have railroad communication within five years.

Mr. O’Donoghue — I have no objection to providing that the present scale of duties should only last till the railroad is built.

The Chairman — Why should there be any period specified? Though there is a prospect of railroad communication between this country and Canada, there is no certainty. The basis on which this article appears to be framed is, that our position appears to be so peculiar that we must have a guarantee for exemption from additional taxation, or have a railroad. That being the case,— and remembering that we have been told by Canada, without any demand on our part, that we are to be exempt from duties for two years,— why not, at all events, take the benefit of that guarantee for that period? Let us accept the period Canada proposed, and say — let the period be two years; or until such further time as she may succeed in effecting uninterrupted communication.

Mr. O’Donoghue — Mr. Black considers it voluntary on the part of Canada to give us the two year exemption. I consider it compulsory, and that it was drawn from Canada. I do not consider that in our present independent state, Canada is in a position to dictate to us. I would substitute the figure “3” for “5,” and add, “or until such other time as there is direct communication.”

Mr. Sutherland seconded the motion.

It was suggested and adopted that the words “rail or steamboat” be placed after “uninterrupted.”

Mr. Boyd — At present the American railway is nearly at Georgetown. A steamer can ply between Georgetown and Winnipeg this summer; and hence the Canadian Government might now have uninterrupted railroad and steamboat communication, and at once force on us the increased duties (hear hear).

Mr. Sutherland could not see how, in winter for instance, it could be said, there was uninterrupted steamboat communication (laughter).

Mr. O’Donoghue, moved that the word “railroad” be inserted.

Mr. Cummings thought the word “Winnipeg” in the article out of place, as the railroad company, possibly, might not think that the best terminus.

The words “Red River Settlement” were inserted instead of “Winnipeg.”

Mr. Scott cautioned members against limiting closely the period within which present duties should continue. The duties are asked to be low, because it cost largely to transport goods. But if only one railroad were built through, freight would not be lessened much.

Mr. K. McKenzie went in for all the railroads he could get.

Mr. Gunn — How would it do to say, until such time as either a railroad or good water communication were established between this and Lake Superior?

Mr. Bunn approved of Mr. Scott’s remarks. There was no doubt we would have a railroad, whether we asked it or not. At the next sitting of the Canadian Parliament, charters would be applied for. Mr. O’Donoghue’s motion would be improved by adding to it,— “Until such time as we have uninterrupted railroad communication with Lake Superior.”

This was agreed to, and the paragraph amended accordingly.

Mr. Sutherland suggested a further amendment. At present certain goods were exempt from paying duty, and others paid higher than the four per cent,— such as liquor. The article would have to be changed in this respect.

Mr. Ross — In one of the lists — for there were several made out in committee — the exception in the case of spirituous liquors was made. But it has been lost in the course of copying.

The article was amended in this respect.

An objection was raised to the use of the word “and for such further time,” &c. An amendment that the word “or” should be substituted, was defeated; and the article put and carried in the following form:—

“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 be uninterrupted railroad communication between Red River Settlement and Lake Superior.”

Article 2 was then put, It was as follows:—

“That during this period, there shall be no direct taxation except such as may be imposed by the local legislature for municipal or other local purposes.”[2]

Mr. Fraser, seconded by Mr. Klyne, moved the adoption of the article.

In accordance with an amendment, moved by Mr. Riel, seconded by Mr. O’Donoghue and adopted, the words “That during this period” were struck out, and the words “as long as this country remains a Territory in the Dominion of Canada,” were inserted instead.

Article adopted.

Article 3 next came up:—

“3. That during the said period 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.”[3]

Mr. Bunn moved the article, and that the words “That during the said period,” be struck out, and instead thereof, the following be inserted. “That during the time this country shall remain in the position of a Territory within the Dominion of Canada.”[4]

Mr. O’Donoghue seconded the motion,— Carried.

Article 4:—

“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 consisting of _____ persons, of whom _____ be chosen by the people, and _____, being heads of departments of the Government, be nominated by the Governor-General of Canada.”[5]

Mr. Bunn proposed that the blanks be filled up with figures 20, 15 and 5. This would make the Legislature to consist of 20,— 15 from Red River and 5 to be nominated by the Governor-General.

Mr. Riel proposed in amendment that the Governor-General only have the power of nominating two.

Mr. Poitras seconded the amendment.

Mr. Riel — This is an important matter we are called on to decide, and the time will come when it will be more apparent.

Mr. Laronce — The main point is to decide how many we are to admit from Canada. Our own representation we can decide ourselves.

Mr. Bunn — I would point out that though the Governor-General has the power of nominating some heads of departments, it does not follow that he will nominate Canadians.

Mr. Riel — If we could be certain these heads of departments would be chosen here, it would make all the difference.

The Chairman — I do not think that the proposition to give Canada only two members would be well received in Canada. If we get fifteen representatives to their five, we certainly have a preponderating voice — quite enough to control affairs (cheers). When we consider the burdens Canada is to be asked to undertake for us,— when we look at the advantages the country will derive from the Government of Canada — when we consider how much the country will be elevated and its importance increased by union with Canada, it seems to me that the proportion of two to eighteen is unjust, so far as Canada is concerned. I am clearly in favor of Red River having a preponderance in the Legislature,— but with fifteen to five from Canada, it seems to me that our desires ought to be satisfied.

Mr. O’Donoghue — In introducing a Council here at first, Canada did so thinking there were no people here fit to conduct the public business of the Territory.  Again, when we enter the Confederation, no small part of what we expect to gain must come from the Dominion. Hence I think that two of those very smart gentlemen from Canada to eighteen of us, would be enough.

Mr. Riel spoke in French and as interpreted by Mr Ross said — I highly approve of Mr. O’Donoghue’s remarks. The matter strikes me in this way— that if Canada is exceedingly ambitious to have a strong representation in this Council, it shows her desire to further the interest of Confederation more than the interest of this country.

Mr. Sutherland suggested, as a compromise, that four instead of two, be nominated by Canada.

Mr. Riel — Say three and a half (laughter).

Mr Thibert — A statement came from Canada that we are an ignorant lot. And if she thinks so, she ought to be satisfied with three members, who should have full and fair play to work us round and round (laughter).

Mr. Bunn — I am only acting in the interest of this country when I urge strongly that Canada should be allowed to nominate a reasonable number. We have now a golden opportunity to secure our own interests, and let us not lose it by being illiberal and ungenerous (cheers). We are here to make a good bargain with Canada; and as long as we make the best possible bargain that is enough.

Mr. Thibert suggested that three should be allowed [illegible: to Canada, in addition?] to the Governor.[6]

Mr. K. Mackenzie — I do not see the necessity of a great many coming down from Canada. People here are better acquainted with affairs and their management, than Canadians.

Mr. D. Gunn — I am as fond of making a good bargain as any. But I think it would not be going too far to give Canada three or four besides the Governor.

Mr. Cummings — I will vote for the original motion. I have no doubt that some of those in the room will be high in office under the new order of things. Perhaps even the Prime Minister is here (cheers and laughter).

Mr. Flett (in French), I am in favor of the suggestion thrown out by Mr. Thibert, that there be three appointed by Canada, besides the Governor. We need not limit the number of our representatives. We have plenty, and half-breeds are never greedy though they take a good share (laughter). I understand that Mr. Riel is in favor of three besides the Governor.

Mr. Riel — I did not say so, but I will withdraw my amendment and say the number to be appointed by Canada shall be three, with the Governor, leaving the Convention to decide how many representatives shall sit for this country.

Mr. Bunn — Mr. Riel’s amendment makes matters worse, inasmuch as it binds the Canadian Government to three, and allows us to send as many representatives as we like. In this way we might allow them, in proportion, even a smaller representation than previously proposed.

After some further debate,

Mr. Riel said — For my part I would like to see the power of Canada limited in this country. That is what I want.

Mr. O’Donoghue urged that the number of Red River representatives be left an open question, as the country was not yet divided into districts and no census had been taken.

Some members having spoken,

Mr. O’Donoghue moved in amendment to the amendment, that the number of the Legislature be equal to that of the former Council here, twenty-four; and that the country be divided into twenty-four districts.

No one having seconded the motion, it dropped.

Mr. Fraser — In my opinion twenty representatives would be large enough for the management of our local affairs. As our population increases we could have power to increase our representation in proportion.

Mr. O’Donoghue — I want a good many representatives, believing that where the number is large there is less liability to corruption. We might be grasping, if there were only a few of us.

Dr. Bird thought that the total number of representatives had been fixed at twenty already. Nobody had moved an amendment to change that number. Mr Bunn proposed that the numbers be fifteen to five, and to this Mr Riel had moved an amendment, that Canada nominate only three. As to Mr. O’Donoghue’s argument, that Canada herself only asked two, and we were very liberal in giving her three, there might be some weight in it, but for the fact, that in claiming two it was intended that the council should be only fifteen. I think a great deal of illiberality has been shown in this matter. When another article of the list of rights comes under discussion, you will see that we are going to claim four seats in the Canadian Parliament, two, or in reality, four times as many as we have any right to. If we are going to ask so much, we should set an example of liberality (hear, hear).

Mr. O’Donoghue — We have not come to the article alluded to yet.

Mr. Ross— I propose, in amendment, that we have sixteen representatives from this country in the Local Legislature — four to be nominated by Canada. The latter may be residents of the Settlement; but even supposing they are foreigners, they would still be only four to our sixteen. If we saw these four at any time seeking to outwit us, or do anything against our interests — if we saw any chicanery on their part, or an attempt to use improper means to influence us — what would be the result? Such a course on their part would be the very means of uniting our sixteen against them and ensuring their defeat (cheers). In any event, I do not think we need fear four men,— come from where they choose — as against our sixteen representatives (hear, hear). Come from where they may, we can pick up, even in this room, as good men as any of them (cheers). There are some reasons, it appears to me, why we should give Canada a good representation. We are making a good bargain with her. Canada is going to spend a large amount of money in this country. And though I am sure, if we were trusted with its disbursement we would not do so unjustly; still, those who are to spend this money are far away from us, and naturally feel a little anxiety as to how the funds are to be expended. I say, then, by all means allow these people a reasonable representation. There is a kind of propriety in giving them four, for the reason that there are four Provinces at present in Confederation, and it seems but reasonable to allow a representative of each to sit with us, and see how the money is being disposed of. Let them have the four; and if we can get the money by giving them that number of representatives, I say we have made a good bargain.

Mr. Fraser seconded the amendment.

Mr. O’Donoghue — I think four too much out of twenty. As to the money to be sent here, I believe the people are honest enough to spend it wisely. What is to be spent will be in the interests of the Dominion, and from it they expect to reap one hundred fold. Besides, I think Mr. Ross’s amendment out of order as Mr. Bunn made a similar one.

Mr. Riel, after translating Mr. O’Donoghue’s remarks into French, said — I still feel strongly opposed to allowing so many to be nominated from Canada. In yielding my original position and granting three instead of two, I almost felt as if I had done wrong. We have no business to give way to Canada in this matter. She is coming here to enrich herself. Our country is larger than the four Provinces in Confederation put together, and in coming here, she is not going to be baulked by one member, more or less.

Mr. Ross’s amendment was put and lost on the following vote: Yeas 19; nays 20.

Mr. Riel’s amendment, that not more than three be nominated by Canada, then came up.

Mr. Sutherland proposed that the numbers be eighteen and three,— Dropped.

Mr. Poitras seconded Mr. Riel’s amendment.

It was put and carried.

The fourth article then stood thus:—

“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.”[7]

Convention adjourned at half past seven, to meet again Monday at one o’clock.

~~~

Next page: 6th Day: 31 January


[1] “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.

[2] HBCA, E.9/1, 7.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] Ibid., obverse.

[5] Ibid.

[6] HBCA, E.9/1, 8.

[7] 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.”

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