Session 2, Day 9: 5 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 8: 4 May

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Assembly Chamber, Upper Fort Garry

Thursday, 5 May 1870[1]

The President having opened the House at half-past two P.M., called Hon. Mr. Bunn to the chair.

The minutes having been read and approved, the House resumed the consideration of the Law Committee Report.

Article I under the head “Fires” was taken up.

Hon. Mr. Hay moved that the words “ploughed or” be struck out, and that the Article so amended be adopted. Burning round such stack would, he thought, be sufficient, and ploughing was unneeded and spoiled the ground a good deal for mowers.

Hon. Mr. Garrioch seconded the motion.

Hon. Mr. Norquay — The provision for burning as well as ploughing should be struck out. He had seen hay stacks burned down from the top and taking fire sometimes at a distance of two hundred yards from the main conflagration.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — This subject of the propriety of burning round stacks is very much debated. I have heard of instances where such fires have burned into the ground and continued smouldering for a long time afterwards. Again at times the wind is high for days and even weeks, and persons cannot, without danger to the whole country, burn rings round their hay. But if, as Hon. Mr. Norquay says, burning or ploughing is not to be done, what protection does he propose?

Hon. Mr. Norquay — I would haul it home (laughter).

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — That would be a very desirable, but in nine cases out of ten, not a practicable way of getting rid of the difficulty. I believe that ploughing is the safest plan. If hay is made one year in a good safe place and it is ploughed round it is very likely the hay will be built there the succeeding year.

Hon. Mr. Norquay moved in amendment that all after the words “kindled a fire” be struck out, and the following inserted: “excepting for the purposes of self protection.”

Hon. Mr. Tait, seconded by Hon. Mr. McKay, moved in amendment to the amendment that original article be adopted.

The Chairman — Fires are often lit on the prairie by men who are not, perhaps, worth ten cents. These fires spread and destroy thousands of pounds worth of property. How can these men be made to pay damages?

Hon. Mr. Tait — It has been known, too, that the prairies have been set on fire by lightning. What is to be done in that case? (laughter).

Hon. Mr. Tait’s amendment was carried on a division — Yeas 16: nays 3.

Article II, which was as follows, was put.

“II. If between the first day of May and the first day of December, any person shall kindle a fire intended to run, he shall be fined ten pounds sterling, one half to go to the prosecutor; and if any person, without having obtained the presence and assistance of at least four men, shall light a fire for the purpose of burning rings round hay, as required by the preceding law, he shall be held to have incurred the penalty attached to this law. Provided that the Bench may remit the whole fine if the defendant has both kindled the fire through necessity, and done all in his power to prevent it from spreading.”

Hon. Mr. Poitras, seconded by Hon. Mr. Parenteau, moved that the word “six” be substituted for the word “four” in the seventh line.

The Chairman — I cannot see the necessity for the balance of the article, after the word “prosecutor” in the fifth line.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue thought the article very defective. It was vague, full of repetition and distinctions which amounted to nothing when examined closely.

Hon. Mr. Tait — I think the article as it stands, very good, but think that the words “between the first day of May and the first of December” should be struck out and the provision made applicable to the whole year.

At Hon. Mr. Tait’s suggestion Hon. Mr. Poitras altered his amendment by substituting the words “between the first day of May and first of December.”

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue — I would like to ask what would you do with the person who lit a fire intended to run, if he were penniless?

The Chairman — I suppose you would do with him as in the case of any other person where a fine was levied.

Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue said that the law ought to be more specific on this point. Some provision must be made against a man who was not worth a cent, lighting fires all over the prairie. [He] moved in amendment that the Article be struck out, and that the following be substituted:

“II. If between the first day of May and the first day of December, any person shall kindle a fire, intended to run, he shall be fined ten pounds sterling, one half the fine to go to the prosecutor. In default of payment, the offender may be imprisoned for three months in the Common Jail; and if any person, without having obtained the presence and assistance of at least six men, shall light a fire for the purpose of burning rings round hay, as allowed by the preceding law, he shall be held to have incurred the penalty attached to this law. Provided that the Bench may remit the whole fine, provided that the defendant has both kindled the fire through necessity, and done all in his power to prevent it from spreading.”

The Chairman seconded this last amendment, which was carried.

Article III was as follows:—

“III. If any fire in the open air, which is not intended to run, be left burning without due precaution against its spreading, and it actually do spread, every person who may have kindled, or fed, or used the same, shall be fined not less than five pounds, and not more than ten pounds sterling.”

Hon. Mr. Bannatyne moved that the Article be struck out.

Hon. Mr. Norquay moved in amendment that the words “not less than five pounds, nor more than,” be struck out.

The Chairman objected to the words, “or used,” in the article. A party using a fire in passing might leave others there, through whose negligence the fire might ultimately spread. It was unjust to enact that the man who so used it should be held responsible.

Hon. Mr. Tait, seconded by Hon. Mr. Fraser, moved in amendment the adoption of the Article as it stood.

Hon. Mr. McKay said he found the article rather severe, as it involved every person who had anything to do with the fire. If the parties kindling a fire leave it well secured, and a second party come along, and use the fire carelessly and it spread, obviously the first party ought not to be blameable. He moved that the article be adopted on striking out the following words, “without due precaution against its spreading and it actually do spread.” Amendment carried on a division — yeas 14; nays 4.

Article I, under the head “Animals” was moved by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, seconded by Hon. T. Sinclair, and carried on a division — yeas 12; nays 2.

Article II was moved by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, seconded by Hon. Mr. Lascerte, and carried.

Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, seconded by Hon. Mr. Tait, moved that Article III be struck out, and the following substituted:—

“If any Ram be found at large between the thirtieth day of July and the first day of December, such Ram may be captured by any person and placed in charge of a Constable to keep, at a charge of three pence a day until the owner pay to the captor a fine of five shillings and expenses of keep, and if the owner be unknown, the Constable shall, immediately on getting the Ram, advertise the same three times in every local Newspaper, and on three successive Sundays at the doors of two Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, giving in such advertisement a complete description of the animal.” — Carried.

Article IV was moved by Hon. T. Sinclair, seconded by Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, and carried on a division — Yeas 12; nays 4.

Articles V and VI carried.

The President then addressed the House announcing the appointment to the Executive.[2] The President said — I have the honor to announce to the House that certain additions have been made to the Executive. It is now composed of the Hon. Mr. Bunn, Secretary; Hon. Mr. O’Donoghue, Treasurer; Hon. Mr. Bannatyne, Postmaster-General; and Hon. Mr. Lepine, Adjutant-General. These hon. gentlemen compose the Cabinet, but it has also been taken into consideration that two other departments require to be immediately provided for,— a Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Superintendent of Public Roads and Public Works generally. I have the honor to submit the name of Hon. Mr. McKay as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the name of Hon. Mr. Bruce as Superintendent of Public Works. I would be very glad to have an expression of the House on these appointments. The names I now submit do not comprise all the members of the Executive which I would like to choose myself. But they are now submitted for your approval, as in the present state of things it is desirable that everything should have your sanction, representing as you do the people of Assiniboia. Let me then ask this hon. House to pronounce on the Executive appointments. It may be, that with the advent of another Government to power, by-and-bye the Legislature may not have such an opportunity as that now offered. For myself, I am the more glad to take this action as it forms a protest against the accusations brought against me that I have assumed dictatorial powers. I am not, and have not been a dictator, and I sincerely hope it will never be necessary that any one in power in this country will play such a part (cheers).

Hon. Mr. McKay said — I feel sensibly the high honor conferred on me in making me the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. But I would respectfully suggest that some one else should be appointed to this office. It is not that I do not wish to act with this House. Far from it. But I do not feel myself able to discharge the duties the office would entail, owing to my health. I am not active enough to discharge the duties of Indian Commissioner. In the meantime I am quite willing to discharge all the duties I can in this direction, such as interpreting, calling Indians together, and counselling with them.

The President having expressed the hope that the hon. member would continue in the office, and that as far as possible its duties would be lightened, 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 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. The Commissioners, of course, had certain power in regard to these demands, but before anything was finally settled, they were instructed that the approval of the Legislative Assembly of this country was necessary,— so that, while complying with circumstances we had at the same time a saving clause that the ratification of the action of our Commissioners depended altogether on the will of the Legislature of this country (cheers). To-morrow, if it is the wish of the House, I will place on the table the List of Rights as given the Commissioners, printed in English and French (hear, and cheers). I have to thank you hon. gentlemen for the attention you have given me with regard to the executive appointments. We must, of course, bear in mind, that they are merely provisional in their nature. It is said that we are going to fight with England, but we have not that pretension (hear, hear),— and some may find out that the present arrangement, such as it is, is more provisional than they think (cheers).

The House adjourned at half-past seven P.M.

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Next page: Session 2, Day 10: 6 May


[1] Bunn, Sessional Journal, 37–39; “Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. Second Session,” New Nation (20 May 1870), 1.

[2] Bunn, Sessional Journal, 39, indicates documents “C” and “D” would follow at this point. Document “C” was likely the text printed as “Important Speech of the President. Allusion to the Outburst in Canada,” New Nation (6 May 1870), 2, which indicates the speech was given in the Legislative Assembly on 5 May 1870, and which is incorporated in this transcription. Document “D” was presumably the list of rights to which the President referred before that adjournment; see “Legislative Assembly, 2d Session, Day 10,” note 2.

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Published 7 July 2011

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