Session 2, Day 10: 6 May

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 2, Day 9: 5 May

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Assembly Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Friday, 6 May 1870[1]

The President took the chair at half-past two P.M.

The minutes having been read and approved,

The President addressed the Assembly, alluding to the present excitement in Canada concerning this country, and went on to say,— I desire to prove to the Canadian Confederacy that here in Rupert’s Land we are not divided — that we are acting in concert — and that we protest against the sentiments recently avowed in public in Western Canada, concerning us.[2] But I merely submit the matter to this hon. House.[3] I do not insist on it. If hon. members desire to adopt any such protest, it will be for them to say. It might, perhaps, be deemed unnecessary that this House should take any action in the premises.

On motion of Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, the consideration of the question was postponed, and Hon. Mr. Bunn having taken the chair, at the request of the President, the House resumed the consideration of the Law Committee report.

Article I under the head “Hay” having been put,

Hon. Mr. Hay, seconded by Hon. T. Sinclair, moved that the time for cutting hay outside the four mile line be changed from the twenty-first July, to the twenty-fifth July.

Hon. Mr. Touron, seconded by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, moved in amendment that the Article, as reported, be adopted.— Carried on a division — Yeas 12; nays 9.

Articles II and III carried.

Article I under the head “Roads” was moved by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, seconded by Hon. Mr. Norquay. It was as follows:—

“That all public roads remain the width they have been laid out till other arrangements are considered necessary by the Legislature.”

Hon. Mr. De Lorme, seconded by Hon. Mr. McKay, moved in amendment:—

“That all public roads shall be at least thirty-three yards wide, that is to say, free from fences, buildings, or any other encumbrance or obstacle within such width unless by public sanction.”

Hon. Dr. Bird said — The amendment, even for what it was intended, is obviously too little. It does not actually prevent the road from being narrowed. At present the principal public road, chiefly on the west bank of the river, is two chains wide, and by passing this law you enable the settlers to take each half a chain off its present width. This can even be done in the town under the proposed article. On the other hand there is the road across the main river which has been in some way used as a public road. In some places it is a chain and in others only thirty feet wide. This road, remember, is not a purchased road. It was given to the public by certain persons and extends from the French Cathedral to somewhere about Mapleton. I have taken care to get some information from the Inspector of Roads on this subject, and he says, in reference to the public highway — It is defined in the Local Laws that it shall be two chains wide. But I found part of it obstructed. The two chains were not given in these places; and when the parties were asked to remove the obstructions they would not do so. I bring this forward from the Inspector, to show that this road was never to say public property. So much land was given by proprietors along the line of road on conditions made with a former government that the road should not be above such a width. Under the circumstances, and until other arrangements with the government are made by the proprietors, it would be manifestly unjust to deal with this land as proposed. If an order is given by the Legislature to survey a wider road, in that case property holders have to get some compensation.

Hon. Mr. DeLorme did not agree with Hon. Dr. Bird. He knew that above, on the main river, and the Assiniboine, too, the fences were sometimes disposed in such a way that the roads were only a few feet wide, and in consequence of this there was hardly such a thing as passing on these roads in winter. They certainly are not made wide enough as they are.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue said — There are a good many points in the Hon. Dr. Bird’s argument in which I cordially agree with him. Where a road two chains wide has been given to the public and used as such, it should remain a public road,— more particularly in the case of a leading highway, such as the road on the west bank, that through the White Horse Plains district, and that threading the lower districts. These are the three principal thoroughfares, and no one, I am sure, would desire to see them narrower. I can easily imagine too that there are places on, perhaps, both rivers where the roads could not be made the full thirty-three yards wide without causing great annoyance and expense to private persons and to the public as well. Houses and fences might have to be removed and paid for, and other expense incurred. Roads had been opened, such as the Hon. Dr. Bird referred to, where land had been given liberally by the people themselves, though not to the width of two chains. In these cases, should the Legislature determine on widening the road to two chains, they might have as I said not only to remove several houses, buildings and fences and compensate the owners, but they would also have to buy the additional land required. Where the two chains were not given already, and the public desired the full width, the additional land would certainly have to be bought by them; for if a man is generous enough to give the public thirty feet at one time, if by-and-bye they need sixty feet, they must certainly buy the remainder. In conclusion the hon. gentleman said he would support the motion.

Hon. Mr. McKay supported the amendment, believing that roads ought to be at least thirty-three yards wide. He did not think that any person had a right to put up fences and make the road narrower than at least thirty-three yards. Because in one section of the settlement the road runs through a beautiful forest, and is narrow, that is no reason why the rest of the Settlement should be deprived of good roads. In cases where the road ran through heavily timbered land I would have no objection to its being only twenty feet wide. But in the other sections, where there is no forest, I think it ought to be as wide as possible,— say two or three chains.

Hon. J. Sinclair said — I think it is not very hard to have a road two chains wide up here where it is all plain: but below if you want to make the road of the width mentioned in the amendment you will have to pull down a great many houses and fencing.

Hon. Mr. Tait [illegible: advanced?] the motion.

The amendment lost on a division — Yeas 6; nays 15. And the motion carried — Yeas 13; nays 3.

Article II carried.

On motion of Hon. Dr. Bird, seconded by Hon. Mr. Hay, Article III carried, with the addition of the words, “as well as for all damages caused by neglect of his duty,” after the words “public works,” in the fifth line.[4]

Article IV was as follows:—

“IV. Every person who gives or sells fermented or spirituous liquor to Indians outside of the jurisdiction of any Court, but within the bounds of this country, shall be liable to a fine of not more than twenty-five pounds sterling.”[5]

Hon. Dr. Bird, seconded by Hon. Mr. Hay, moved that this Article be struck out.— Carried.

The House took a recess for fifteen minutes.

~~~

Business having been resumed, Article XVII, which had been postponed, was put,  as follows:—

“XVII. When a Judgment debt is not paid at the time appointed by the Court, the Sheriff shall be obliged, at the request of the creditor, and on presentation of the record of such judgment, signed by the Clerk of the Court, to proceed at once to seize the goods and chattels or other property of said debtor; and on giving fourteen days public notice, to sell the same by public auction, so far as necessary to satisfy the debt, and all necessary expenses connected with such sale; provided always that said debtor be not deprived of necessary household furniture or utensils, or of such implements as he must necessarily have, to carry on his usual trade. Failing such goods, chattels, or other property available for Sheriff’s sale, the debtor may be imprisoned on the conditions specified in local law, No. 13.”

Hon. Dr. Bird, seconded by Hon. W. Tait, moved that the Article be adopted, with the following amendments:— That the words “animals or” be inserted before the word “implements” in the sixteenth line [of the] printed report, and that the word “avocation” be substituted for the word “trade,” in the eighteenth line — Carried.

This finished the Law Committee report.

Hon. Mr. Hay, seconded by Hon. Mr. T. Sinclair, then moved that every member serving on any committee be allowed twenty shillings per diem for every day he serves, and that the hon. the Treasurer be authorised to pay this amount.— Carried.

The House then adjourned.

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Next page: Session 2, Day 11: 7 May


[1] Bunn, Sessional Journal, 40–42; “Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. Second Session,” New Nation (20 May 1870), 1–2.

[2] See “Schultz at Mischief again,” and “The Storm in Upper Canada,” New Nation (6 May 1879), 1, 2. Hartwell Bowsfield ed., “H.M. Robinson, Vice Consul, to J.C.B. Davis, May 10, 1870. No. 35,” The James Wickes Taylor Correspondence, 159-160: Robison reported:

Upon the 6th inst, … Presd’t Riel gave notice, in consequence of the Canadian action against the Delegates [to Ottawa] from this Colony, of his intention to place before the Legislature, for their approval, the Bill of Rights as it was sent to Canada. This was to be accompanied by a Protest — also subject to the approval of the Legislature — against the sending of British troops into the Territory, also protesting against the idea, prevalent in Canada, of this people being divided in their allegiance to the Provisional Government, declaring them a unit in its support, and approving the killing of Thos. Scott. as a necessary act, the justice [of which?] was admitted by the whole people.”

“Important Speech of the President,” New Nation (6 May 1870), 2, had earlier reported that, on 5 May 1870,

“The President … went on to say — I would take the liberty of asking of the hon. gentlemen one thing. We have just learned by mail that something is going on in the other provinces of Confederation, which concerns us. Threats are being made; but I do not know how far these threats are going against us. For my own part I do not attach much importance to them; and I have been the more inclined to this view, in consequence of a telegram which has just been received by His Lordship Bishop Tache [sic] from Father Richot and the other Commissioners. They announce that they are urging a settlement with Canada, and that there is no danger (loud cheers). But at the same time I have observed in the other reports which have reached us that some importance is attached to one idea, namely, that the people here are divided, and that the conditions on which we were prepared to receive Canada had been changed before they left here, with the Commissioners. It is true there has been a change, but it is, I think, one for the better, as the terms proposed in the long run could more easily be assented to, than those agreed on in the Convention. Some changes were found to be necessary by the Executive, and they had to be quickly decided on, as the Commissioners were expected in Canada, and the people here were anxious to see them starting to Ottawa. Hence the manner of making the alterations. But I would like to place them before the House, so that hon. members might judge for themselves. Hon. Mr. Bunn, the Secretary, was with us while the alterations were being made, and so limited was our time for the work that we had to work day and night in order to finish and enable the Commissioners to start at the time they did” [italics my emphasis].

[3] The “matter” referred to would appear to have included consideration of the amended and printed “List of Rights,” which on the previous day Riel had promised to table — See note 2 above; also “List of Rights, Tabled before the Assembly,” this site.

According to H.M. Robinson, “H.M. Robinson, Vice Consul, to J.C.B. Davis, May 10, 1870. No. 35,” 160, however, the List of Rights and the written Protest were not presented to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia for debate (with the hope of approval) until the next day, 7 May (though perhaps he merely  muddled the dates). Further, without stating the source of his information, Robinson claimed:

  • that some, unnamed, “English” representatives voiced disapproval of the Executive of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia having amended the List of Rights composed during the Convention of Forty “upon the ground of very radical changes made in it” (that Thomas Bunn and William B. O’Donoghue [the latter from Ireland and New York], were members of both the Assembly and the Executive indicates that not all members who had a substantive English-language background objected).
  • that “the entire English portion” informed Riel that “if the question of the Protest was urged” they “would vote against it.” Robinson then appears to imply (Hartwell Bowsfield’s transcription is incomplete at this point due to illegibility of the original), that Riel remonstrated vigorously with those who where opposed to his suggestion of a written Protest — Riel resorting to what Robinson characterized as verbal intimidation.

Nevertheless, according to Robinson’s comments, it appears that by 9 May, on the one hand the issue of the List of Rights amendments was obviously past the point of any undoing (effectively moot), while on the other hand, the idea of sending the Protest to Canada, just as obviously, had insufficient support and so “was finally dropped.”
m
Yet, the Protest perhaps was not entirely dropped. Peel’s Prairie Provinces online,  http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/bibliography/592.html, notes that a document, entitled “Protestation des peuples du Nord-Ouest,” which has “provisionally” been dated 14 May 1870 and has been described as a draft because there seem to be penned corrections, was printed, at some point. A facsimile of the document is available in Bruce Peel, Early printing in the Red River Settlement 1859-1870, page 34 (unfortunately illegible online). A copy is catalogued by Library and Archives Canada as MG 27 I F 3 — indicating the original is at the Archives of Manitoba. The latter’s archival code, however, is MG3 A1/26 (with the document located in SIS 4/B/12 — with graphic art and prints).

Much later, George Bryce, “Two Provisional Governments in Manitoba, Containing and Interesting Discussion of the Riel Rebellion, With an Appendix Embodying the Four Bills of Rights Verbatim,” MHS Transactions, ser. 1, no. 38 (read 9 January 1890), in arguing against French language rights in Manitoba, apparently took Robinson’s second-hand report as ‘truth’ and argued vehemently that Riel, and his “illegal” government committed “fraud.” (I do not agree: differing from Bryce in that I see no evidence that Bunn’s archived list is necessarily anything more than a draft; differing as well on the fundamental rightness of French language schools in Manitoba).

[4] “Laws of Assiniboia,” New Nation (6 May 1870), 3, gives the final text as “III. A Commissioner of Public Works shall be appointed who shall be responsible for the state of the roads and bridges and for all sums of money expended on Public Works, as well as for all damages caused by neglect of his duty. And when any public work is to be executed by contract, tenders for such work shall be publicly invited, and the lowest tender shall be accepted if otherwise satisfactory; but in any case the party whose tender is accepted must have two good sureties for the due execution of the contract.”

[5] Bunn, Sessional Journal, records the discussion; there is no mention of this article in the Law Committee’s report or in the New Nation.

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Published 7 July 2011

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