A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislative assembly/ legislature/ conseil du governement. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive/ upper house of a government. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an Act or a statute. In the United Kingdom, the subparts of a bill are known as clauses while the subparts of an Act are known as sections.
The introduction and passage of bills marked the final days of the debates of the first session of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia (9 – 26 March, 1870). Bills were subject to discussion and amendment. To be passed, each had to be read three times, after which there was a vote. All 5 bills brought before the Assembly — excepting the 1st, regarding the hay privilege — were passed by 26 March 1870.
On 24 March W.B. O’Donoghue introduced the first bill to be considered: “An Act respecting the Two Mile Hay Privilege,” which provided that the “privilege, heretofore enjoyed by the inhabitants of Red River, should be converted into fee simple ownership.” The goal was to protect an option on land — amounting to half of the property under use — that those farming in the settlement relied upon, but for which the HBC had never actually conferred title. The members of the Assembly soon realized that the issue was complex: there were questions as to how rights of possession, access, and use were understood throughout the settlement and about how future scenarios might be addressed. Consequently, full consideration of the bill was set aside until the residents of Red River could be consulted. Representatives of the Assembly from each parish were to chair committees, “of not less than five, and not more than ten members,” within their constituencies. Reports on what the individual parishes regarded to be “the best mode” of converting use of the hay privilege to ownership of land “to the satisfaction of all parties concerned,” were to be tabled at the next session.
The same day, a second bill was introduced that provided for the better administration of public justice. It called for some reorganization of the judicial districts and laws, but basically ensured that until that task was completed all previous laws would remain in force. [See Laws of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, this site]
Before the end of the day, the third bill was tabled. It sanctioned modifying the military, which was still “considered necessary for the protection of life and property.” It provided:
“That a body of fifty men be recruited from the different sections of the country, and that this body of men be regularly organised and retained at Fort Garry for the service of the Executive; that each man so recruited and organised shall receive a monthly payment of Three Pounds Sterling, and his Board, as compensation; and that the term of each man’s service shall be for two months.”
The Assembly conferred command of the force upon Hon. Ambroise Lépine, Adjutant General.
On 25 March, the fourth bill, “An Act respecting Indemnity to Members,” set a rate of remuneration for the Honourable Members. They were to receive twelve shillings per day while on government business, on a promise of five dollars a day, to be paid when the Legislature completed “further arrangements.”
The fifth and final bill ensured that until the first bill on the hay privilege came into force, no one would be allowed to stake any claims or take up any kind of residence on the land directly behind any of the river lots in the settlement.
In addition, during the Second Session, on or about 7 May 1870, the List of Rights on which negotiations for confederation with Canada were to be based, and which was also known in its various previous incarnations as a Red River ‘Bill of Rights,’ was tabled before the Assembly. [See Hartwell Bowsfield, ed., transcript of letter, “H. M. Robinson, Vice Consul, to J. C. B. Davis, May 10, 1870. No. 35,” The James Wickes Taylor Correspondence, 1859-1870 (Altona MB.: D.W. Friesen and Sons, 1968), 160; and W.L. Morton, Alexander Begg’s Red River Journal, 369 n.1.]