Lieutenant-Governor Forget's Previous
Career—First Session of Fourth Assembly, 1899—Scrip Commission—The "Strathcona
Horse"—The Assembly of 1900—Apparent Discrepancies in Public
Accounts—Ross Appointed Commissioner oi- the Yukon —Derates on Liquor
Traffic—Negotiations for Provincial Status—Proposed Western Extension of
Manitoba—Elections of 1902—Financial Disabilities of the
Territories—Increased Representation in House of Commons—Dominion
Elections of 1903—Autonomy 1'ill Introduced; Resignation of Clifford
Sifton—Haultain Repudiates Proposed Constitution—Conflicting Opinion
Regarding School Clauses—Creation ok Province of Saskatciiwan—First
Honourable Amedee Emmanuel Forget was already a well known lawyer in
Montreal when in 1876 he removed to the North West Territories as Clerk
of the Council and Private Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor. When
the Council was transformed into an Assembly he became its clerk. In
1888 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs for
Manitoba and the North West Territories, and from 1895 to 1898 he was
Indian Commissioner. lie had also been prominently connected with
educational matters, having been a member of the Council of Public
Instruction in the Territories. When, therefore, Mr. Forget was chosen
to succeed the late Air. Cameron as Lieutenant-Governor, in 1898, he
undertook his duties with most exceptional qualifications. His regime
was of unusual length. On April 2, 1904, his appointment to a second
term was gazetted, and when in 1905 the Territories were divided into
Provinces, he still remained in Regina in the capacity of
Lieutenant-Governor until 1910. The last five years of this period,
however, we will treat as a distinct administration.
A general election having recently
occurred in the Territories, Air. Forget summoned the first session of
the Fourth Legislative Assembly to meet on April 4, 1899.
Mr. William Eakin was elected Speaker.
The personnel of the House had been considerably altered by recent
events; Mr. Oliver was now a member of the Dominion Parliament, Mr.
Turriff had in 1890 retired from active Territorial politics and in 1896
he became Dominion Land Commissioner. Of the outstanding figures of
earlier days the most prominent remaining were Mr. Haultain, Mr. Ross
and Dr. Brett.
The Speech from the Throne dealt in
fitting terms with the lamented death of the late Lieutenant-Governor at
London, Ontario, and with the departure of Lord Aberdeen owing to the
completion of his term of office as Governor-General. The Honourable F.
W. G. Haultain, Premier and Territorial Treasurer, reported to the House
the details of a lengthy correspondence with the Dominion Government in
which he had endeavored to obtain better financial terms and increased
constitutional authority for the Legislature. This report sounded the
keynote of the political history of the next six years. That the
Assembly had as yet not very definitely made up its mind as to just how
much power it should ask for was indicated by a resolution introduced by
the Premier on April 24th.. This resolution claimed that the power to
make ordinances in relation to the issue of land titles should be vested
in the Assembly, and the House divided, fourteen to fourteen. so that
Mr. Haultain's proposal was carried merely by the Speaker's vote. The
most interesting and important debates of this session were probably
those dealing with the necessity of opening up the Saskatchewan and
Qu'Appelle valleys by railway lines, and of compelling the railways to
give better facilities for the loading of grain. The House was prorogued
on April 29th.
In the same year Colonel James Walker,
a former distinguished member of the Mounted Police, was appointed Scrip
Commissioner to deal with the Halfbreeds of Athabasca, and in 1900 lie
held the same office in the provincial districts of Alberta and
Saskatchewan. The Halfbreed title to western land was now at last
finally extinguished by the issue of scrip in full settlement of all
On October 11, 1899, a state of war
commenced between the British Government and the Boer Republics of the
Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Britishers will never forget with
what disasters the early stages of the long struggle were marked. When
the seriousness of the situation was realized, the various colonies, and
prominent among them Canada, rose unanimously to defend the interests of
the Empire. Even most of those citizens who disapproved of the
ante-bellum policy of the Imperial Government felt that after
Magersfontein the time had come for all Britishers to present a united
front to the world. A Canadian regiment was promptly placed at the
disposal of the British military authorities and proceeded to Africa.
In January, 1900, a second contingent
was organized, almost wholly in the Territories, through the munificence
of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal. This was the famous "Strathcona
Horse," a unique cavalry regiment, six hundred strong. It was enlisted
chiefly from among the western cowboys,—men inured to hardship,
incomparable as riders, famous as marksmen, and characterized by
dare-devil courage and with all other qualifications that especially
adapted them for guerilla warfare. It was precisely the kind of force
most needed in South Africa and performed services that won for it and
the land it represented the profound gratitude of the Mother Country.
The second session of the Fourth
Assembly dated from March 29 to May 4, 1900. A new member was Mr. A. L.
Sifton, who was elected for Banff and who was subsequently to rise to
such prominence in Alberta.
The most interesting political events
of this session arose out of the publication in the Regina Standard of
evidence which had been taken before a Select Committee appointed in
1899, to inquire into certain apparent discrepancies in the Public
Accounts. The Standard's version reflected very seriously on the
Government. Moreover, though no one seemed to know just how the
newspaper came by its alleged information, a breach of confidence had
apparently occurred somewhere. Mr. Haultain demanded that the charge and
all the circumstances attending it should be investigated by the House
and the matter was referred to a Select Committee consisting of Messrs.
MacDonald, MacKav, Villeneuve, Lake, Cross, Sifton, Prince, Elliot and
Patrick. Six days later, on April 25th, the Committee reported that Air.
Richard Bedford Bennett, who was Air. Haultain's chief opponent, had
refused to appear before it, and an order by the House was issued to
compel his attendance. The scope of the Committee's inquiry was also
On Alay 3rd, the Committee reported
that the account in the Regina Standard was an incomplete report of the
evidence, and had been supplied to the press by Air. R. B. Bennett. The
whole misunderstanding arose out of the fact that, a couple of years
earlier, Air. Haultain had obtained for the Territories a supplementary
Federal grant of $20,000, which, though it had not yet become available
for use by the end of the Territorial fiscal year, had been included in
the year's receipts, by the North West Auditor. The Committee explained
that by this error in bookkeeping, an item of $45,000, estimated
receipts from the Dominion, had been inserted instead of one of $25,000,
the sum actually received, and that all this had already been duly
communicated to the Assembly. Accordingly, the Government was exonerated
from any attempt to mislead the public. This report was confirmed by a
vote of thirteen to three.
Early in 1901, Air. Ross was offered,
and accepted, the Commissionership of the Yukon, and was accordingly
lost to the Territorial Assembly in which, for the preceding seventeen
years, he had been so conspicuous a champion of popular rights. As
place, as member for Moose Jaw, in the third session of the Fourth
Assembly (May 2 to June 12, 1901), was taken by Air. Arthur Hitchcock,
but on a recount the seat was assigned to Air. George M. Amiable.
The death of Queen Victoria had
occurred on January 22, 1902, and one of the duties of the Assembly in
its third session was the presentation of a loyal address to King Edward
Perhaps the most noteworthy debate of
the session was that arising on the perennial liquor question. A
resolution was ultimately passed that, in the opinion of the Assembly,
the interests of temperance would be promoted by a system of state
monopoly of the liquor traffic. Accordingly, this troublesome problem
was, for the time being, safely shelved by a resolution calling upon the
Government to inquire into this system in other countries where it had
Meanwhile the most important topic of
serious political debate and negotiation with the Federal authorities
had to do with the establishment of full provincial status in the
Territories, an end for which Air. Haultain had so long been agitating.
This, indeed, was the special object of
consideration throughout the Fourth and last session, which was held
from March 20 to April 19, 1902. As, however, a special chapter is to be
devoted to the agitation for provincial autonomy, this important topic
need here be mentioned only in passing. It may be remarked that the crux
of the question was the dispute as to whether the Territories should be
divided into two Provinces or remain intact as Air. Haultain advised.
During this period. Mr. Roblin, the
Premier of Manitoba, was pressing for the annexation of a portion of the
North West Territory to his Province. His propaganda was received with
popular disfavor and aroused a resolution of protest in the Territorial
The' Assembly was dissolved on April
25th, and the elections occurred on the 21 st of the following month. It
is to be remembered that Dominion party lines were not as yet recognized
in Territorial politics. The Premier was a Conservative, but his two
lieutenants, Mr. Sifton and Mr. Bulyea, were Liberals, and Messrs.
MacDonald and Bennett, the leaders of the opposition, were
Conservatives. The result of the contest was the election of twenty-four
supporters of the Haultain Government, five Independents and six members
definitely opposed to the Government platform.
Shortly after the election, Air.
Haultain left to attend the coronation of King Edward VII, and did not
return until nearly the end of the year.'
The first session of the Fifth and last
Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories met in April, 1903.
As a result of the rapid increase in population and general industrial
expansion throughout the West, the necessary expenses of the public
service were growing at a rate which the citizens
of the older Provinces of the Dominion
seemed entirely unable to understand. In consequence, Mr. Haultain had
not been able to secure an adequate financial grant from the Dominion
Government, and the administration of Territorial affairs was seriously
hampered. Indeed, the Territorial Legislature seems to have grown weary
of legislating under such a handicap and relatively little was
accomplished in this session.
However, the West derived encouragement
from the introduction at Ottawa of a Redistribution Bill, increasing the
number of Territorial representatives at the House of Commons from six
to ten. There was, moreover, much discussion on the Provincial autonomy
in the Federal Parliament this year, but a dissolution was impending,
and the political leaders were manifestly hesitant about boldly
committing themselves at present on the vexed questions sure to be
raised in the creation of new Provinces, of majority and minority rights
on matters political, educational and religions.
In the Dominion election, in the
Autumn, 1904, Sir Wilfred Laurier's Government was handsomely sustained.
In what is now the Province of Alberta, Air. Frank Oliver and Dr.
Mclntyre were the successful Liberal candidates, and with them were sent
to Ottawa two Conservative members, Messrs. AI. S. McCarthy and J.
Herron. In what is now Saskatchewan, the Liberals carried every
constituency. The members elected were Messrs. Walter Seott, R. S. Lake,
A. J. Adamson, J. H. Lamont and Dr. Cash.
When the Territorial Assembly met this
year on September 22nd, their Excellencies, the Earl and Countess of
Minto were among the guests and spectators. The Speech from the Throne
commented on the recent more liberal response of Canada to the financial
representations of the Territories, expressed regret that the advocacy
of the Provincial autonomy had not produced more tangible results and
intimated that no legislation dealing with large public questions would
be introduced during the session.
On September 10, 1904, Earl Grey was
installed at Halifax as the new Governor-General of Canada. As we have
previously seen, Mr. Forget's first term of office as
Lieutenant-Governor was completed this year and he was reappointed.
On February 21, 1905, Sir Wilfred
Laurier introduced his bill for the creation of the Provinces of Alberta
and Saskatchewan, the famous "Autonomy Bill."
The pathway of the sponsors of the
bills was a very thorny one. Many stalwart Liberals considered that the
bill involved an unjustifiable surrender to the wishes of the Roman
Catholic hierarchy. Even within the Cabinet itself, unanimity was
manifestly lacking, and on March 1st, the Honourable Clifford Sifton,
Minister of the Interior, resigned his post by way of protest.
The Government now called to
confidential conference the western Liberals,—Messrs. Greenway. J. D.
Turriff, Walter Scott and Frank Oliver—
to consider certain proposed
modifications in the contentious clauses regarding Separate Schools.
Other caucuses were also held, with some of the Ministers present, and
on the seventh of March a sub-committee of the Cabinet was appointed to
deal with the matter. On the twelfth, Mr. Haultain, at the sacrifice of
the certain prospect of being called to the Premiership of which ever of
the new Provinces he would choose, came out uncompromisingly against the
bill in a remarkable open letter addressed to Sir Wilfred Laurier. The
details of this communication will be found in another chapter. On March
20th, the Premier announced a compromise embodied in a revision of the
obnoxious cause, and two days afterwards he proposed the second reading
of the bill. The Premier's friends considered him vindicated of the
charge of undue bias by the fact that the new clause was equally
distasteful to the extreme wings of both the Protestant and Catholic
parties. Both of these sections deluged the Government with petitions
condemnatory of the educational clauses in the bill and various
amendments of most contradictory character were introduced and
vigorously defended in the House.
Meantime, Air. Frank Oliver had
succeeded the Honourable Clifford Sifton as Minister of the Interior,
and his reelection by acclamation at Edmonton was interpreted as
indicating western approval of the Government's attitude. As a matter of
fact, the Territories themselves were much less excited over the
controversy than was Eastern Canada. In the North West the term
"Separate Schools" connected very different ideas from those associated
with it in Ontario.
On the second reading, the amendment
introduced by Air. R. L. Borden, leader of the opposition, was defeated
by a majority of eighty-one, and shortly afterwards the bill became a
On the first of September, 1905, the
Province of Alberta, and three days later the Province of Saskatchewan,
were formally inaugurated. Mr. Rutherford led the Liberals to
overwhelming victory in Alberta in the first Provincial election,
November 9th, and on December 13th, the Honourable Walter Scott, who, in
view of Mr. Haultain's hostile attitude towards the new constitution,
had been called to the first Premiership of Saskatchewan, won a victory
only less decisive over Mr. Haultain and his followers, who entitled
themselves the "Provincial Rights" party.