Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XVIII - Dewdney's Administration and Councils, 1881-1888


No Meeting of Council in 1882; Reasons—Creation of the Four Provisional Districts—Inadequate Mail and Telegraph Service— Bright Prospects of 1882; Surveys and Explorations—Regina Becomes Territorial Capital—Press Comments—Dewdney's First Council—Address in Reply to Speech from the Throne— Serious Grievances—Legislation and Legislators of 1883—Collapse of the Boom—McPherson's New Land Regulations— Dewdney's Council of 1884—Lieutenant-Governor's Comments of Contentment of Indians—Import of Spirituous Liquors— School Bill; Other Important Legislation—Visit of Blackfeet Chief—Friction in the Council—Executive Functions of the Council—North West Grievances Reiterated bv Council; Brought Before Parliament by Mr. M. C. Cameron—Territorial Elections of 1885—Speech from the Throne and Debate on Reply—Memorial of Grievances—Important School Legislation—Futile Debates in Parliament on North West Topics —Council of 1886—Territories Given Representation at Ottawa—Creation of Supreme Court—Tokrens Land Titles System—Council of 1887—Recommendations Regarding Constitutional Changes—North West Council Authorized—Constitution of New Assembly—Dewdney's Subsequent Career.

The Honorable Edgar Dewdney, who for the two previous years bad filled the office of Indian Commissioner, succeeded the Honorable David Laird as Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories in December. 1881. No meeting of the North West Council occurred, however, until August, 1883. The choice of the southern route for the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway rendered it undesirable to retain Battleford as the Territorial Capital, and doubtless the conflict of various interests to be affected in the choice of a permanent Capital were in part accountable for this long delay. Moreover, half a dozen districts in the Territories had by this time become sufficiently advanced in population to be entitled to erection into electoral constituencies. This involved additional delay. Furthermore, as we pointed out when treating of the work of Mr. Laird's last Council, grave doubts had been raised as to the Council's powers, and the satisfactory settlement of this difficulty involved lengthy correspondence with the Ottawa Authorities. Still another explanation was at the time offered by the Saskatchewan Herald. That journal was probably not alone in its belief that the decision not to call the Council during 1882 arose from "the manifest expectation of the early creation of two provinces." This "expectation" was not fulfilled, however, until twenty-three years later.

In May, 1882, the Dominion Government, on the suggestion of Lord Lorne, by Order in Council created in the North West Territories four provisional districts, chiefly for the convenience of the Post Office Department. Certainly the postal conditions of the West required attention, a fact clear by the following newspaper clipping, dated June 10, 1882;

"The Government has abolished two light but vexatious taxes—the stamps on promissory notes and bills, and the postage on newspapers. The wording of the latter Act defines a newspaper to be a publication issued at intervals of not more than seven days; and this just lets the Herald in as about the only newspaper that has to pay postage. We will try and stand it for the present. Put when the promised "more frequent mail service' is given us we will get even, for then the Herald will be issued every week, which will bring it within the operations of the law. Under existing arrangements there is no use in publishing a paper every week when there is a mail but once in three."

The people of Battleford district were at this time promised a weekly mail, and in the autumn an announcement was made that the contract had been let. Many months elapsed, however, before it came into effect.

The four provisional districts were called Assiniboia. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Athabasca. These districts have since then disappeared from the map of Canada, so it may be worth while to recall their extent and positions. Assiniboia included an area approximately 95.000 square miles, bounded on the east by Manitoba, on the west by the line dividing tenth and eleventh ranges of townships, in the north by the townships of series nine, and on the south by the forty-ninth parallel of latitude. Saskatchewan lay north of Assiniboia. and included about 114.000 square miles. It was bounded on the west by the continuation of the boundary line of Assiniboia, and on the north by the eighteenth correction line. Alberta included about 100.000 square miles, between Assiniboia and British Columbia. It was bounded on the north by the eighteenth correction line, near the fifty-fifth parallel of latitude. Athabasca, the largest of the provisional districts, covered approximately 122,000 square miles. It lay north of Alberta and west of Saskatchewan.

The Dominion Government also intimated to the people of Prince Albert that it would establish a line of telegraph from the crossing on the south branch to their settlement, and maintain stations at The Crossing, St. Laurent and Prince Albert, on condition that the people should lay the necessary poles on the ground. They were also to have a special telegraphic service with the East during the remainder of the winter, and, until the missing link was constructed, despatches would be received at Touchwood Hills from the East, and from the West at Humboldt, and exchanged between those points once a week.

During the summer of 1882 more than one hundred parties of surveyors were busy resurveying base lines and surveying townships in the North West, chiefly along the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Hope and confldence were returning. Air. Clarke, the member for Lome, had devoted himself with apparent success to the task of securing satisfactory terms for the Halfbreeds and squatters in the unsurveyed districts, the Dominion Government promising through him its early and favorable consideration to the settlers' demands. This year we find recorded 2,753 homestead entries in the North West. Even the Far North was becoming better and more favorably known, through the explorations of Dr. R. Bell, who was conducting careful investigation in districts never previously visited by scientists.

The original Battleford reserve of 1876 covered an area of sixteen square miles, and in the summer of 1882 a portion of this was surveyed as a town plot by the Dominion Government. Sad havoc was played with the streets as laid out by the old settlers. Scarcely a house was left standing squarely on the lot it was supposed to occupy. However, the people of Battleford were so pleased at obtaining any official survey, and over the fact that Battleford was the first town plot in the North West to be laid out by the Dominion Government, that they accepted pretty philosophically the apparently arbitrary decisions of the Government surveyors.

Meantime Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney was endeavoring to locate a capital. Troy or South Qu'Appelle and Fort Qu'Appelle were vigorous claimants. However, for reasons which long remained the subject of acrimonious dispute and disagreeable insinuation. Governor Dewdney ultimately selected as the site for the new headquarters of the Indian Department of the Mounted Police ''the point where the railway crosses the Tile of Bones Creek, about fifty miles southwest of Fort Qu'Appelle and twelve miles south of that river, in or near township eighteen, range twenty-one, west of the Second Meridian."

The name proposed first for the new capital was Leopold. The Governor-General, however, was appealed to, and his consort chose the name '"Regina," in honor of Queen Victoria.

The Honorable Mr. Dewdney's choice of ibis site aroused a storm of protest in the contemporary press, but on the 27th of the following March the Governor-General passed an Order in Council removing the Capital from Battleford to Regina.

"One thing is certain." said the Winnipeg Free Press. "Regina will never amount to anything more than a country village or town, for the simple reason that in neither its position nor its surroundings is there anything to give it the slightest commercial importance. Situated in tbe midst of a vast plain of inferior soil, with hardly a tree to be seen as far as the eye can range, and with about enough water in the miserable little creek known as Pile of Bones to wash a sheep, it would scarcely make a respectable farm, to say nothing of being fixed upon as a site for the capital of a great province. The place has not a single natural advantage to commend it."

Nevertheless, a thriving settlement was established at Regina within a few months. Of its subsequent history we will have something to say elsewhere.

Governor Dewdney's First Council met at Regina 011 August 20, 1SS3, the session lasting until October 4. It included Messrs. Richardson, Macleod and Breland (members of the former Council), Lieutenant-Colonel Ache-son. Gosford Irvine. N. W. M. P., and Hector Reed. Esq.. Indian Agent at Battleford, in addition to six elected members. Honorable Lawrence Clarke had been succeeded by Captain D. II. Maedowall as member-for Lome. Francis Oliver appeared as member for Edmonton. James Hamilton Ross had been elected by the Moose Jaw district. T. F. W. Jackson represented Qu'Appelle constituency. John Claude Campbell Hamilton had been the choice of the electors of Broadview and William White was the first member for Regina. Mr. Forget still retained his office as clerk of the Council.

The address adopted in reply to the Lieutenant-Governor's opening speech reflects in an interesting manner the hopes and opinions of representative Westerners at this time. It is therefore here reproduced:

"The members of the Council of the North West Territories desire to congratulate Your Honor on being able to speak so hopefully and so truthfully of the prosperity of the country. We believe with you that the rapid growth and development of the North West Territories is without a parallel in the history of the world. Within a short space of a year and a half a country containing more arable land than the whole of continental Europe, then without any settled population comparatively, now with its broad and fertile acres, the homes of thousands, happy in their choice of a home in the New Land, and sanguine of a peaceful and prosperous future.

"We believe that a very great measure of the success which has attended the opening up of the country is due to the wise railway policy adopted by the Dominion Government. We wish also to speak in terms of praise of the manner and rapidity of construction of the line of railway now about completed from the Great Lakes in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West. And notwithstanding the vast labor involved and the large number of men employed, all has been done we believe without interference or inconvenience to the requirements of the public, and without breach of the law or hindrance from the Indian or white man. This happy state of affairs must be, and we believe is, a matter of congratulation to Your Honour as well as to the country at large. We desire also in this connection to acknowledge the services which the North West Mounted Police Force have rendered the country, and feel that no small share of credit for peace and good order preserved is due to them.

"As the federal authorities have selected Regina as the new capital of the North West, we venture to express the hope that the future will but the clearer demonstrate the wisdom of the choice. We believe it to be the duty, as it is we think the desire, of every one interested in the prosperity of the country, to witness the prosperity of the country's capital.

"We wish to thank Your Honor for the representation given to the people in the Council of the country, and, as foreshadowed by Your Honor in your address to the Council, trust that by revision of the boundaries of the present electoral districts and the erection of new ones, a fuller and broader representation may be given at no distant day.

"We assure Your Honor that the assistance you expect from the recently elected members, and to which you refer in such gratifying terms, will be given you. We feel actuated as we arc by a desire to legislate for and in the interests of the people at large, that with an honest endeavor to promote the general good, without regard to section or people, the result will be satisfactory to ourselves and to those who are looking anxiously forward to the course legislation may take in this Council, as well as to the action which may be taken by us toward assisting to remove laws and regulations over which we as a Council have no direct power. To this end the Council will ask Your Honour to consider with us the best means that can be adopted to convince the Dominion Government of the necessity that exists of some definite action being taken with regard to those matters on which repeated memorials have been presented by the people, as well as matters and complaints which have arisen as the results of more recent legislation by the federal authorities.

"We share with Your Honor in the regret expressed by us at the approaching departure of the Governor-General and his Royal Consort. We are aware that in a very large measure the attention of the outside world has been directed with favourable results to these territories through the exertions of His Excellency, who has lost no opportunity of making known the resources of the country, with which he was greatly impressed on the occasion of his visit to the North West, and we assure Your Honor that we will heartily join you in an address expressive of our regret that His Excellency and Her Royal Highness are about to leave us.

"We further wish to assure Your Honor that the several important measures spoken of by Your Honor will have our most 'careful consideration.

"We would feel remiss in our duties were we, before concluding, not to give that expression of loyalty and attachment towards Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen, who has so long and prosperously reigned over this great empire of which this Dominion of Canada is a component part, who, by her ruling as a Sovereign as well as in domestic affairs, has made herself a model to the world at large."

Before the end of the session a lengthy memorial to His Excellency the Governor-General in Council was adopted, calling attention to sixteen important grievances or requests. The newspapers, particularly The Regina Leader, which had recently been established by Nicholas Flood Davin, were full of protests against the Regina reserve, and the North West Council added their remonstrances against any such large blocks of land, otherwise available, being deliberately withheld from settlement. The Council vigorously championed the rights of Halfbreeds, and other squatters; prayed for more extended surveys, especially in settled localities; protested against the leasing of arable land for grazing purposes; asked that cancelled homesteads should be reopened for entry, not held for sale; petitioned for proper vaults for the land and registry offices; called for additional Stipendiary Magistrates; asked for increased powers with regard to the incorporation of territorial companies; desired that all trails and highways should be vested in the Council; protested against the existing duties on agricultural implements and lumber; requested a largely increased sum for the improvement of navigation of the Saskatchewan River; prayed that the mining laws should be assimilated to those of British Columbia and Montana; protested against the proposed abolition of pre-emption rights; urged that the territorial grant should be based on a definite sum per capita; declared the system of granting immense tracts of land to colonization companies to be vicious; and asked for the representation of the Territories in the Dominion Parliament.

The influence of the elective members was now powerful, and may be seen in many clauses of this notable memorial. However, even yet the Ottawa Authorities seemed to care very little about the Territories, and many manifest grievances remained for long years unredressed.

Legislation regarding municipalities, the relict" of indigent children, the prevention of the profanation of the Lord's Day, the disposal of found or stolen horses, the herding of animals, and other important Ordinances occupied the attention of the Council. The following editorial on the Council of 1883 is quoted from the Regina Leader:

"Mr. Macdowall of Prince Albert has a clear, business-like head, and whenever lie spoke he showed a grasp of the question in hand and the fruits of careful observation.

"From Moose Jaw we have Air. Jas. H. Ross, a man of whom we in the North West may feel proud—a young man. full of truth and courage, with a single eye to the good of the country. He has been diligent in his attendance and given careful attention to the work brought before the Council.

"Mr. T. W. Jackson, of Qu'Appelle, has proved a most useful member. He has worked hard at the Municipal Bill. Many persons thought he would make the work of the Council difficult, and would display a hostility to Mr. Dewdney and Regina which would be inconvenient in discussion. So far from this, he allowed an address to pass which afforded him an opportunity of attacking both. Mr. Jackson may therefore be credited with a desire to pave the way for the good feeling which has prevailed. Reginians, after the way the city has been assailed, may well-feel proud that the North West Council has endorsed 'the wisdom of the choice,' and Mr. Jackson cannot be too highly praised for his patriotism. He was able to boast last week that though a course opposing the Lieutenant-Governor would have been popular with his constituents, he rose above the instincts of the demagogue and dictates of anger, and indeed there has been no more decorous or assiduous member of the Council.

"Mr. Claude Hamilton, of Broadview, has, when present, shown both intelligence and spirit.

"Mr. Wm. White, of Regina, has been attentive. He has wrestled with the noxious weed, and the Canada thistle has felt him at its throat. He has been most desirous of doing all he could to please the people of Regina. Indeed, this desire has been so strong as almost to denude him of self-reliance and make it seem that be almost shrank from responsibility. All that was in his power we may be sure he has done.

"Among the appointees, Mr. Hayter Reed has been most diligent, and Colonel Richardson's experience, legal knowledge and familiarity with the North West cannot fail—even though he necessarily takes an ultra-conservative view of every question—to have been most useful. Colonel Macleod is intelligent, knows the western ranch country well, but he seems to feel—for there is a good deal of soldier in him—that galloping across the country would be more in his line than legislating. Colonel Irvine's duties called him away nearly the whole period the Council was in session.

"The Governor has been very zealous as regards legislation, and when he had occasion to speak, spoke with force and clearness—more force and clearness than we should have expected from one so reticent in his habitual demeanor. Even persons disposed to regard him with hostile feelings acknowledge that throughout he has displayed breadth and grasp, readiness and statesmanlike instincts. Altogether, the Council has shown itself a businesslike assembly, and has done good work.

"One member we have not yet mentioned, perhaps the most remarkable man, in some respects, in the Council, Mr. Oliver, of Edmonton. If this gentleman is a type of the people of Edmonton, we take the people of Edmonton to our heart, for Mr. Oliver is a man not only of independent thought and great natural ability, but a man of transparent honesty. Such men the free air of our North West breeds. Mr. Oliver's name will be always connected with the foundation of the school system in the North West.

"In the article in which we commented on the opening of the Council, we expressed our confidence in the appointed members, that they would show 'an intelligent appreciation of the situation.' If they did nothing but vote the memorial they voted on Tuesday, they would have justified this confidence."

The year 1883 marked the end of two years of wild speculation. The number of persons who came up to the North West not to farm but to make fortunes were out of all proportion to the number of real wealth producers. Paper towns sprang up everywhere, and the aftermath of the ill-starred boom caused widespread disappointment and considerable suffering.

During this year the .Marquis of Lome's term of office was brought to a close, and he was succeeded by Lord Lansdown. Toward the close of the year the Honorable D. L. McP'herson became Minister of the Interior, and immediately promulgated new regulations opening up "the mile belt" for settlement and foreshadowing a liberal policy as regards the railway reserves. The even sections of the railway belt within a mile of the railway were thrown open on condition that the settlers should prepare ten acres the first year; should crop ten acres and prepare fifteen the second year; and. in the third and final year, crop twenty-live acres and prepare fifteen. The even numbered sections in the Regina Reserve were placed on sale to bona fide settlers at five dollars an acre. Purchases were limited to one hundred and sixty acres by any one individual, and settlers cultivating a quarter of their land within the three-year period were to be granted a rebate of half the purchase price. On the other hand, if the settler failed to cultivate the minimum of a quarter of his land within the three-year period the sale might be cancelled. The object of these and other analogous regulations was, of course, to prevent valuable lands adjacent to the railway from being monopolized by speculators.

In Governor Dewdney's Council of 1884 Charles Porromee Rouleau, an additional Stipendiary Magistrate, was added to the list of our-officio and appointed members. Two new elected members also presented themselves now for the first time. John Gillanders Turriff, for the electoral district of Moose Mountain, and James Davidson Geddes for that of Calgary. The elected members were now eight in number and the appointed and ex-officio members six.

In his opening speech Honorable Mr. Dewdney outlined the development of the electoral system and proposed various important subjects for legislation. During the recess copies of a school bill, submitted but later withdrawn by Mr. Oliver during the preceding session, had been distributed and Governor Dewdney expressed the hope that during the present session it would be possible to pass a School Ordinance acceptable to the people.

In view of the startling event occurring eight months later, the following quotation from the Governor's comments 011 the Indian situation is especially interesting:

"The exaggerated reports of Indian difficulties which have lately appeared in some of the newspapers and which must do the country harm, induce me to say a few words to you on that subject. From what I have seen myself during my travels in the spring, and from what I gather from the correspondence which reaches me as Indian Commissioner, I can confidently say that our Indians are generally more contented than they have been since the treaty was made, and the progress they are making in agriculture is most gratifying.

"It cannot be expected that with a population of some twenty thousand Indians, scattered on reserves in bands all over the territory, we can escape without a little trouble and at times excitement. This is inevitable where Indians fresh from the plains are first brought on their reserves and come in contact with white settlers. It has been so with those who are now comparatively well off, and will be so until the new arrivals recognize the fact that they must settle down, and work to make a living; but that there is any cause for alarm I deny. I am sure the general feeling is one of security, and the exaggerated reports that have been circulated are to be regretted."

In the preceding year, with the advice of his Council, Governor Dewdney had imposed a fee of fifty cents per gallon upon spirituous liquors brought into the country under Government permits. The Governor called attention to the fact that a large amount of liquor was being smuggled into the country without permits and that many illicit stills were in operation. However, he was "glad to be able to inform" the Council "that very little abuse" of the permit system had occurred. Against this dictum Messrs. Oliver and Turriff protested. They considered the enforcement of the law at present to be most unsatisfactory and disagreed with the Governor and the majority of the Council, who thought that the establishment of local breweries would improve conditions by discouraging smuggling and illicit distilling. From this time on for many years the control of the liquor traffic provided themes for ever recurring debates. It is, of course, to be understood that as yet the North West was theoretically under a prohibitory system, so far as the legal sale of intoxicants was concerned.

A very large proportion of the session under review was devoted to Mr. Oliver's School Bill. Already under the Governor-General's Orders in Council the Lieutenant-Governor was paying out of the appropriation for the North West Government half the salaries of the teachers engaged in ten Protestant and one Roman Catholic Schools. The regulations, however, required that a school must have an attendance of fifteen before it was eligible for assistance, and the Council were unanimously of the opinion that this number should be reduced to ten. Mr. Oliver's School Bill was read a first time and referred to a special committee. As a result of its deliberations a second School Bill was introduced by Mr. Rouleau and ultimately passed, August 6, 1884.

The other chief topics of debate in this session was the Lieutenant-Governor's Municipal Ordinance, which, after vigorous scrutiny in committee and numerous amendments, duly became a law. Mr. Jackson was a special champion of the Bill. The measure, however, did not prove very popular in practice. It was an attempt practically to transplant Ontario Institutions into a sparsely settled territory, where local conditions differed widely from those of Older Canada.

The Council of 1884 devoted attention to many other topics. In all forty-three Bills were introduced, and thirty-six were passed. Recommendations were made in accordance with which the elective members were to be paid $400 and travelling expenses.

On July 9 the Council was visited by Crowfoot, Red Crow, Eagle Tail, and Three Bulls—distinguished Blackfeet chiefs. They were duly welcomed by a formal resolution, to which Crowfoot returned thanks.

Evidence of friction between the elective and appointive elements in the Council sometimes manifested itself. Messrs. Oliver and Ross were particularly emphatic in maintaining that no person not directly responsible to the people in the North West should be allowed a voice in local legislation, or a scat in the Council. The majority of the Council were, however, peaceably inclined, and when Messrs. Oliver and Ross introduced this and other grievances in a fiery resolution we find Messrs. Jackson and Turriff presenting a substitute, which all the other members supported. In it they expressed the belief that the feeling of the country was strongly against "any action of the Council being taken in such a way that cither political party in the Dominion Parliament could use it for political purposes." One seems to see the hand of the party politician even in this rebuke to Messrs. Oliver and Ross, though it manifestly was not seen by some who supported the amendment.

The Council reaffirmed the statements contained in the Memorial of the preceding session, but protests against the continuance of many of the grievances complained of were referred from the Committee of the Whole to the Council in Executive Session. Consequently we have no further record of the matter in the Journals of the House.

However, the North West grievances had already been brought prominently before the attention of Parliament by Air. M. C. Cameron, member for Huron, Ontario. He introduced a Pill for the representation of the Territories in Parliament, but it did not reach the later stages. Again on November 27 Air. Cameron moved in amendment to a motion that the House go into Committee on Supply, "that the House should resolve itself into Committee to consider the conditions, complaints and demands of Manitoba, and the North West Territory, with a view to devise some means of remedying any well founded grievances and complying with any reasonable demands." Air. Cameron referred to the Memorial of the North West Council, and, while admitting that some of the grievances complaince of had been remedied, declared that still others were deserving of serious consideration. He also called attention to the Bill of Rights which had been adopted by the Fariners' Union of Manitoba and the North West complaining chiefly of the land laws and tariff. However, he found only fifty-seven supporters, and the Government's policy was endorsed by a majority of fifty-nine.

During the year Mr. W. Pearee visited Prince Albert, Battleford and other points on behalf of the Dominion Authorities to investigate the claims advanced by old settlers on the grounds of long occupation. A considerable number of these claims were satisfactorily disposed of. but Mr. Pearce could not speak French, and as the employment of an interpreter would have entailed expense, no enquiry was made into the special grievances of the French Halfbreeds. Comment is unnecessary.

Mr. A. Al. Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Interior, also made an official tour along the lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He met with a serious accident, however, and was obliged to cut his visit short. Put for this untoward incident other grievances which ultimately helped to bring about the North West Rebellion of the following year might have been remedied in time. As it was, the breaking of an official's arm seemed to involve that of the Government in inevitable and incurable paralysis. The events leading up to the rising and consequent thereupon will be discussed al length in other chapters. The rebellion was over when the Council again met on November 5, 1885.

In that year the electoral districts of the Territories were rearranged, and on the 17th of September elections were held. Mr. Oliver, of Edmonton, was defeated by Dr. Herbert C. Wilson by a narrow majority. Captain Macdowall, of Lorne, did not contest his seat, and Owen T. Hughes was elected to represent it. Air. Hamilton also retired in Broadview and was succeeded by Mr. Charles Marchallsay. Regina district was given two members, and in the new Council it was represented by Messrs. David E. Jelly and John Second in place of Air. W. White. Thus apart from the appointed and officio' members, the only gentlemen who had sat in the Council of 1884 and retained their seats in that of 1885 were Messrs. J. H. Ross. F. W. Jackson, J. G. Turriff, and J. D. Geddes. Mr. W. D. Perley was elected a second member for Qu'Appelle district. Spencer A. Bedford was elected by acclamation in Mossomin district, and Samuel Cunningham in South Alberta. Richard Henry (Viscount Boyle) was elected as member for Macleod.

The Council met November 5 and remained in session until December 18. In the Speech from the Throne the Governor announced that since the last session sixty-five applications—including only one for the establishment of a Separate School—had been received for the creation of school districts. Certain provisions of the School Act of the preceding session had in practice proved unworkable and would require amendment. As an evidence of the opening up of the Territories it was pointed out that local receipts had more than doubled during the last year, and that numerous flourishing agricultural societies had been established. The Governor also hinted at the necessity of some means being devised by which he could be assisted by and kept in touch with his Council during recess. This was a tentative suggestion pointing toward the creation of a permanent Executive Committee. The recent rebellion was but very slightly touched upon in the Governor's speech.

The reply to the speech from the throne involved the Council in a prolonged and exciting discussion, and when finally adopted it constituted something very like a vote of non-confidence in the Dominion Government's policy in the Territories.

It reads in part as follows:

"While congratulating ourselves and the country on the increased representation afforded, we cannot omit to point out to your Honor the still greater rights of representation which we feel we are entitled to, but have not yet received. Settled as these territories in a large measure are, by men who have been accustomed to the constitutional rights and privileges of the British Empire, and its colonies, it is inevitable that a feeling of distress and uneasiness should be prevalent owing to our not enjoying the same. . . . We confidently look forward to the next session of the Federal Parliament granting our requests and calling to their councils representatives of these territories. . . .

"The position of several townsites in which the Government and the Canadian Pacific Railway are interested is very unsatisfactory. It was never intended, we believe, that the exemption from taxation for twenty years granted to the Canadian Pacific Railway should apply to sections of lauds subdivided into town lots, and it is highly unsatisfactory to have the Crown claim exemption from taxation in towns allowed to be incorporated by it. The effect is to retard the growth of these centres of trade, and to create distrust, and besides, the resident owners are compelled to pay the municipal taxes which are expended in improving the property of the Crown, which in this instance reaps the benefits of speculation without bearing the burdens. ...

"Knowing as we do the great influence always had over the Indians by the Halfbreeds, we have to regret that the repeated representations made to the Government of Canada by the North West Council on behalf of the Halfbreeds and their claims did not receive more immediate attention. We trust Your Honor will give this Council your help in bringing the matter of the many existing unsettled claims to the notice of the Dominion Government by a memorial or resolution."

Much time was spent by the Council in the discussion of rebellion claims and in the registration of formal protests against unjust, inadequate or unnecessarily delayed settlements. However, the Council expressed the belief that the Government's policy faithfully carried out would prevent future Indian outbreaks and endorsed the action of the Dominion Authorities in allowing the law to take its course in the case of Riel, the rebel leader. The Halfbreed political prisoners, however, were recommended to executive clemency.

A very lengthy memorial was presented to the Dominion Government by the North West Council involving twenty-seven distinct grievances and requests. This course was rendered necessary by the fact that the Territories had no official representatives at Ottawa to present their views before Parliament. Messrs. Perley, Wilson and Ross were chosen as delegates to present the memorial at the capital, which they did in February of the following year. While many of their requests were not fully complied with at the time, the delegates expressed the view that much good would accrue from the Council's action.

During this session the North West School System was formally established with provisions for separate schools as required by Section 14 of the North West Territories Act. As school legislation will be given a separate chapter, we need not here further discuss this most important reform.

Territorial affairs were very prominent in the Dominion Parliament of 1885, though the debates resulted in but little good. Partisan feeling ran so high that the opposition was frequently unreasonable and the Government Party blindly subservient to its leaders. "Altogether," as Alexander Begg very truly says (Volume III, page 166), "the record of the session of 18S5 might profitably be expunged from the pages of Canadian history. It contains nothing that can redound to the credit or prestige of the Dominion, and much that is deplorable."

In the Council of 1S86, Calgary had two representatives, Messrs. John D. Lauder and Hugh S. Cayley, Air. Geddes thus disappearing from the House. Air. Jackson had resigned his seat for Qu'Appelle and been succeeded by Air. Robert Crawford. Otherwise the membership was the same as in the preceding year. The Governor commented upon the drought of the summer, but reported that, upon the whole, marked progress' had been made by the Territories, especially as regards the cattle industry. The Canadian Pacific Railway had been completed and the Long Lake Railway was running as far as the Qu'Appelle Valley. Other railway developments, actual or prospective, were also mentioned with approval, including a "not improbable Hudson Bay Railway" with its "initial point at Regina."

Out of the twenty-seven subjects upon which the Council of 1S85 had memorialized the Dominion Government, seventeen were reported as agreed to, and others as having been dealt with in a manner which the Lieutenant-Governor believed would prove satisfactory. The Governor congratulated the Council upon the present condition of Indian affairs, offering his assurance that there never was a time when the Indians were more contented, more cheerful or better disposed toward their white brethren. A few of the leading Indian chiefs of the North West had been sent to attend the unveiling of the Brant Memorial in the City of Brantford, Ontario, a step that would doubtless have a beneficial effect. Indeed, the general outlook of the North West was hopeful, and a large increase in immigration was in evidence.

This year the reply to the Speech from the Throne was much more pacific than it had been in the preceding session. The members of the Council, however, united in believing that the time had come when it should assume the character of a legislative assembly. A Committee of the Council reported at length upon the matter of pensions to numerous rebellion sufferers or their heirs who had not yet received proper recognition, and the details were transmitted in due course to Ottawa. The annual Memorial to the Federal Government this year included twelve items. Twenty-one bills were passed by the Council and three others fell by the way. It is perhaps not without significance that much of the Council's time was devoted to legalizing defective Municipal By-Laws.

The Council sat from October 13 to November 17, and evidently worked very steadily. On Wednesday, the 18th, however, a quorum was not present and the Governor adjourned the Council until the following Friday. On that occasion only two members presented themselves. Mr Honor expressed special regret at the somewhat cavalier desertion of their posts by the other weary legislators, as important matters were still pending. However, as the great majority of the members had already left for their homes, he bowed to the inevitable and prorogued the Council.

The time had at last arrived when representation of the Territories in the Parliament of the Dominion could no longer be delayed. The Territories were given two representatives in the Senate, and four electoral districts for Dominion purposes were also created in the North West. In the Alberta constituency D. W. Davis was elected; in Saskatchewan the candidates were D. H. Macdowall and the Honorable David Laird, of whom the former was successful. The first member for East Assiniboia was W. D. Perley, and the first member for West Assiniboia was Nicholas Flood Davin, who defeated James H. Ross. The latter gentleman, however, retained his place in the local Council as member for Moose Jaw.

The treatment of the Territories in the framing of the Dominion estimates-was distinctly more favorable this year than hitherto.

In this same year the Territories were sub-divided into five judicial districts. A Supreme Court was constituted, consisting of the Honorable Hugh Richardson, the Honorable James F. Macleod, the Honorable Charles B. Rouleau, and the Honorable Edward W. Wetmore, who was the Lieutenant-Governor carry on his executive functions by and with the advice of an Executive Council of three persons who should be summoned to office by the Lieutenant-Governor and must hold seats in the North West Council; that the Council should have power to amend its own constitution from time to time and should be subject as regards money bills, disallowance, and similar matters, to the provisions of the British North America Act applicable in the case of Provinces. This Memorial was presented in the Council by Air. Ross, but all the elected members of the Council, and Air. Hayter Reed as well, had places in the Special Committee appointed to draft it.

Every year had seen the old Liquor Permit Law failing more conspicuously than hitherto. Between January I. 1882, and October 20, 1887, the fines for the violations of the Territorial Liquor Laws amounted to $r5, 631.50, and it was notorious that but a small fraction of the total number of instances in which the law was infringed were ever punished. The Council placed on record its disapproval of the system as unsatisfactory and ineffective either as a temperance or prohibitory measure. After much debate on the subject, it was unanimously resolved that the Council should be given the same powers in dealing with the liquor question as those exercised by the Provinces, and that the provisions of the Scott Act should be extended to the Territories.

This ninth and final session of the North West Council closed on Saturday, November 19, 1887. When the Dominion Parliament met early in 1888 the North West Territories Act was passed abolishing the Council, and creating a Legislative Assembly. Of the twenty-five members, twenty-two were to be elected and three others were to be chosen from the Territorial judiciary as legal experts. These latter, however, were to have no vote. The Assembly was given, by the statute, powers analogous to those of Provincial Legislatures, but substantially the same as those latterly exercised by the North West Council under Orders in Council issued by the Governor-General. A1 embers were to be elected for three years, but the Assembly was to be subject to dissolution at the discretion of the Lieutenant-Governor. Provision was also made for an Advisory Council of four members, who, with the Lieutenant-Governor, would constitute an Executive Committee in all matters of finance. The Assembly would henceforth conduct the proceedings under the presidency of the Speaker, elected from among its members.

In his report for 1888 the Commissioner of the Royal North West .Mounted Police commented on an almost entire absence of crime in the Territory during the preceding year. In all quarters of the Territories, except the southwest, the Indians were making rapid strides toward self-support and some of their chiefs rendered very valuable assistance to the police in the enforcement of the law and the capture of criminals. This year considerable treaty money had been paid to the rebel Indian tribes upon the recommendation of the Indian agents. In speaking of the numerous Indians in the Prince Albert district, the Superintendent was able for the third time to comment in his annual report upon the excellent conduct of the Indian population. Not a single crime had been committed among them.

For several years after the Rebellion it was necessary to issue relief to large numbers of the Halfbreeds who had been ruined in the rising.

The Honorable Mr. Dewdney's term of office as Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories expired in July, 1888. The seven years during which he held this important appointment were a period of unrest and transition and the difficulties of his office had been very great. In those days a Governor really governed. It was his duty to preside over and direct the proceedings of his Advisory Council, and personally to superintend the administration of public affairs in all parts of his enormous domain. In this, moreover, lie was far from exercising a free hand. He was subject, in important regards, to the control of ill-informed officials two thousand miles away. True, it was his duty to render them well informed, and in this he-can scarcely be said to have succeeded. Indeed, the opinion has been very prevalent that the responsibility lies at his door for the notorious ignorance prevailing in official circles at Ottawa regarding the actual needs and wishes of the West. An impartial study of available records, however, leads one to the conclusion that he habitually and earnestly labored in the interests of the Territories, where he has always had warm supporters in the best informed circles. The Councils in whose deliberations he took so prominent a part left behind them a very creditable legislative record. Their recommendations to the Federal Authorities were, upon the whole, surprisingly free from political animus and in almost all instances characterized by shrewd insight into and familiarity with conditions throughout the Territories. Had the Memorials of the Council, transmitted to the Dominion Government by Mr. Dewdney, been given the prompt and decisive attention they merited. Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney's regime would have been marked by still greater development of the Territories, and by such an increase in prosperity and contentment as would have rendered impossible the deplorable rebellion of 1885.

Mr. Dewdney presently entered the Dominion Cabinet as Minister of the Interior, being elected for the constituency of East Assiniboia. The seat was vacated by Mr. Perley. who was shortly afterwards created a Senator. Four years later Mr. Dewdney became Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, holding that distinguished post from 1892 to 1897.


Return to our History of Saskatchewan Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast