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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XXXIX - The Agitation for Provincial Status


Memorials of 1900 and 1901—Sifton's Arguments for Delay, March, 1902—Haultain's Protests—Debates in Parliament—Haultain's Letter of May 19, 1904—Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Reply— Discussion in the Tress—Rise of the School Question—Should There be One or More New Provinces?—Conferences at Ottawa—Provincial Institutions Assured.

In the present chapter it will be our duty to review, in its main features, an agitation which extended over a considerable number of years and which culminated in the creation of the present Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The limits of our space forbid the treatment of the subject in full detail, especially with regard to its initial stages. Indeed, for our present purposes, we may commence with the year 1900.

The Assembly, under the leadership of Mr. Haultain, having passed a resolution praying for provincial autonomy, Premier Haultain and Mr. J. H. Ross visited Ottawa in 1900 and in 1901 in connection with the matter. An elaborate statement of the whole case was submitted by the Territorial Premier to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, under date of December 1, 1901, and at Sir Wilfrid's request a Bill was prepared and presented to the Ottawa Government embodying the Territorial demands and requirements. The proposal was to join the four districts of Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Athabasca into a Province of the Dominion under the terms of the British North America Act, with four members in the Senate and ten in the Commons, and with the same local constitutional powers and rights as the other Provinces. Mr. Haultain and his colleagues recommended that the new Province should enjoy full control of its Crown Lands and subsidies of $50,000 for legislative purposes, and of $200,000 at the rate of eighty cents per head of its population. The Subsidy should increase at the same rate until the population reached 1,396,091. Moreover, interest at 5 per cent should be paid to the Provincial by the Federal Government on all lands previously granted for settlement by the Dominion Government within the bounds of the new Province.

Under date of March 27, 1902, the Honourable Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior at Ottawa, wrote Mr. Haultain as follows:

'It is the view of the Government that it will not be wise at the present time to pass legislation forming the North West Territories into a Province or Provmces. borne of the reasons leading to this view may be found in the fact that the population of the Territories is yet sparse; 'that the rapid increase in population now taking place will, in a short time, alter the conditions to be dealt with very materially; and that there is considerable divergence of opinion respecting the question whether there should be one Province only or more than one Province. Holding this view, therefore it will not be necessary for me to discuss the details of the draft bill which you presented as embodying your views."

In his reply, dated April 2nd. the Territorial Premier concluded a vigorous protest in the following terms:

"We cannot but regret that the Government has not been able to recognize the urgent necessity for the change that has been asked, and can only trust that as you have denied us the opportunity of helping' ourselves you will at least be impressed with the necessity and duty, which is now yours of meeting the pressing necessities of these rapidly developing Territories' when we may, in your opinion, without inconvenience, mark time constitutionally, we cannot do without the transportation facilities, the roads bridges, the schools, and the other improvements which our rapidly growing population imperatively requires—and at once. Whether we are made into a Province or not. our financial necessities are just as real, and in conclusion I can only trust that when the question of an increase to our subsidy is receiving consideration, more weight will be given to our representations in that respect than has been given to our requests for constitutional changes.

A few days later, on April 8th. Mr. Haultain moved the following resolution in the Territorial Assembly:

"Whereas, the larger powers and income incidental to the Provincial status are urgently and imperatively required to aid the development of the Territories and to meet the pressing necessities of a large and rapidly increasing population, be it resolved that this House regrets that the Federal Government has decided not to introduce legislation at the present session of Parliament with a view to granting Provincial Institutions to the Territories."

Dr. Patrick, for the opposition, proposed a 2,000 word amendment supporting the division of the Territories into two Provinces, each with about 275.000 square miles of territory, arguing that such an arrangement would cheapen administration and make transportation arrangements easier. It was lost by a large majority, and Mr. Haultain's motion carried in the same way.

The subject was shortly afterwards debated in the House of Commons at Ottawa—April 18th—in connection with a vote of $357,979 for the North West schools. All the Western members spoke, and Mr. R. L. Borden declared existing grants to be inadequate, and supported Territorial

autonomy. Mr. Sifton, in reply, stated that the Government was considering the financial question of the future carefully. As to autonomy, he thought a settlement in three or four years would be quite reasonable. The granting of autonomy would not abolish existing difficulties, and many of the people in the Territories did not yet desire it, and even those who did were not agreed as to whether there should be one Province or two. The Government, he declared, would not be hurried in so important a matter.

On April 16, 1902, Mr. R. 15. Bennett, of the Opposition in the Legislature, moved a long resolution urging autonomy as an imperative necessity. Mr. Haultain, however, declared it unnecessary, and the mover alone voted for it.

On May 19, 1904, Mr. Haultain wrote Sir Wilfrid Laurier, drawing his attention to this matter once again. He reviewed the correspondence which had passed between them, pointing out the importance of taking action in a matter upon which the members of his Legislature,—both Liberals and Conservatives,—were absolutely united and representative of the wishes of the people. He referred to resolutions then being passed at party conventions throughout the Territories as corroborative of his views, and indicative of the fact that some of Sir Wilfrid's supporters from the West were not giving him advice in harmony with the feelings of their constituents. Mr. Haultain asked that negotiations be resumed and legislation introduced into the Dominion Parliament at the earliest possible date for "organizing, upon a Provincial basis, that portion of the North West Territories lying between the western boundary of Manitoba and the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, and extending northward from the international boundary as far into the District of Athabasca as might be decided upon." He further requested that, whatever else it included, the legislation should contain provision for:

1. The application of the British North America Act as far as possible to the area dealt with.

2. Adequate representation in both Houses of Parliament, bearing in mind the difference in the ratio of increase in the population of the Territories from that of the longer settled parts of the Dominion.

3. Government, legislation and administration of justice.

4. The preservation of vested rights.

5. The transfer of the public domain, with all Territorial rights and the beneficial interest therein involved.

6. A subsidy, based as nearly as might be, upon those given to the Provinces.

7. Remuneration for that part of the public domain alienated by the Dominion for purely Federal purposes.

8. The placing of the burden of the Canadian Pacific exemption upon the Dominion, where it properly belonged.

All these matters, he added, had been repeatedly brought to the notice of Sir Wilfrid's Government, and he hoped they would now receive some consideration. In a supplementary note, Mr. Hanltain drew attention to the fact that the population of the Territories being now about four hundred and fifty thousand, they were entitled, on the existing basis of Provincial representation, to eighteen members, instead of the ten given them in the Redistribution Act.

Apparently no answer was made to this communication, or to another one dated June 1st. Three months later, however, and on the verge of the general elections, Sir Wilfrid Laurier wrote to Mr. Haultain (September 3). He defended the allotment of representatives, under the recent redistribution, as being liberal in its basis of assumed population, and a larger number than would have been given had the Territories been Provinces and therefore subject to the decennial rearrangement only. As to the delay in granting autonomy, he was quite assured of its wisdom, not only because of the rapid current development and changing conditions in the West, but because of the fuller and more comprehensive information now available. As to the future, Parliament had just been dissolved, and action therefore would be better justified. The new House of Commons would contain not four, but ten representatives of the North West Territories, who, coming fresh from the people, would be entitled to speak with confidence as to the views and requirements of those whom they represented. Should the present Government be sustained, it would be prepared immediately after the election to enter upon negotiations for the purpose of arriving at a settlement of the various questions involved in the granting of Provincial autonomy, with a view of dealing with this problem at the next session of Parliament.

Prior to and between the dates of these communications, there had been the usual discussion of the subject throughout the Territories, with an occasional reference in the East to the possibilities of dangerous national controversy involved in it. Speaking to the Winnipeg people, on January 8th. Mr. Thomas Tweed, President of the Territorial Conservative Association, declared the people to be overwhelmingly in favor of autonomy, and referred to the support given that policy by seventeen Liberal members in the Legislature, although its immediate grant was opposed by Liberal members from the West in the House of Commons. The Calgary Herald, on March 21st. handled the situation, without gloves, from the Conservative standpoint. It pointed out that according to its estimates, the Federal authorities had cleared, over all expenses, at least one million dollars in revenue from the public lands of the Territories, and nevertheless refused Premier Haultain a quarter of that sum, except as a loan, though desired for purposes of imperative necessity. "The conduct of the Administration of Ottawa," it proceeded, "is quite sufficient to raise another rebellion in the North West Territories."

An outside view of existing institutions in these regions was given by the Montreal Star of April 8, 1904, as follows:

"The people of the Territories are deprived of the control of their public lands, of their minerals, of their timber. They have no power to raise money on their own credit. They have no fixed subsidy, and are dependent on annual doles from the Dominion Government, small and uncertain in amount. They have no power to incorporate railway, steamboat, canal, transportation and telegraph companies. They have no power to amend their constitution, as the other Provinces have. 'They have no power to establish hospitals, asylums, charities, and those other eleemosynary institutions which the British North America Act assigns to the Provinces. They are not allowed to administer the criminal law, which is a right possessed by all the Provinces of the Dominion."

Speaking to the Calgary Herald, on .March 17, 1904, Mr. Richard Secord, who had recently retired from the Legislature to run in Edmonton against Mr. Frank Oliver, quoted the local Premier's figures as indicating a revenue running from $1,400,000 to $3,000,000 under Provincial status, as against the present $750,000 a year. Besides the inadequate sums allowed to the Territories up to this time (according to Mr. Haultain's contention) a heavy debt of $4,925,187 was being charged up against them at Ottawa. The force of Mr. Secord's protest was weakened in Eastern Canada, however, by his defeat at the hands of the electors of Edmonton. Moreover, tables were given by supporters of the Dominion Government, showing the steady increase in the Dominion grants during recent years.

Meanwhile, the Territorial Premier was in the East, pressing upon the Dominion Government his claims for autonomy. He was accompanied by his colleagues, Mr. G. H. Y. Bulyea, and by Mr. J. J. Young, M.L.A. In an interview in the Toronto Star of April 13, 1904, Mr. Haultain said that he and his colleagues were simply urging that the continued progress of the West now rendered it essential that self-government, similar in scope to that of the older Provinces, be no longer withheld. He doubted whether the people of the East realized that the North West Territories, if at once organized into a Province, would already, in the matter of population, stand fourth among all the Provinces of the Dominion. The people of the Territories had given no reason to suppose that they were incapable of self-government, and they wished their request for recognition to be seriously considered.

This visit to Ottawa was not very fruitful of results, if judged by the ' above quoted correspondence and succeeding period of inaction. In financial matters, the Territorial Premier did, however, gain materially, as we have mentioned elsewhere.

In another direction important developments were occurring. For some time The Toronto News had hinted at a serious reason for the delay in granting autonomy, and on May 4th, a subject which the rest of the press either skimmed over or touched not at all was very plainly referred to: "The principal reason for the slowness to give autonomy to the West," said the Nezvs, '"is that the Ottawa Government dare not give it. The Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has served notice that when the bill to make a new Province or Provinces is drafted, it must contain a provision establishing Separate Schools."

Now it will be remembered that, under the Canadian constitution, if separate schools have been established by a Province, whether prior to or after its entry into confederation, such schools cannot subsequently be disturbed by the Provincial Legislature without the Assembly rendering itself liable to "remedial legislation" by the Dominion Parliament, in the interests of the minority affected. This somewhat extraordinary feature of the British North America Act manifestly made the school provisions of the Autonomy Act, matters of the greatest importance. It might mean school legislation not merely for today or tomorrow, but for all time to come.

Le Journal (Cons.) declared that the allegations of The News were a mere expression of fanaticism, but The Keivs returned to the charge and it was soon supported by many other influential journals and public men.

Upon the matter of delay and inaction, Mr. R. P.. Bennett, M. L. A., of Calgary, said to the St. John Star of December 24th:

"The opinion prevails that the neglect of the Federal Government to deal with the repeated demands of the Legislature for Autonomy has been owing to the difficulties that surround the solution of the educational problem. Whether Separate Schools shall exist by law, or whether they shall be prohibited, is the first question calling for decision; and second, shall the new Province or Provinces be given full power to deal with the matter without any limitations whatever."

He pointed out that while at the present time separate schools existed in the Territories, they were of a type different from the separate school's of Eastern Canada. The teachers were required to possess the same qualifications and submit to the same training as those in the public schools; the same text-books and courses of studies were used, and, in the matter of inspection, no distinction was made between the public and the separate schools of a given inspectorate.

While the school question provided the real bone of contention, opinion in the local press also varied considerably as to the area or areas that should be placed under the Provincial system of Government. Thus, for example. The Moosoinin World argued strongly against Manitoban extension westward (though not objecting seriously to a northern addition to the Prairie Province), and opposed a multiplicity of governments, which it thought

would only serve to satisfy selfish individual ambitions. The Edmonton Bulletin and the majority of the papers in the western part of the Territories desired two Provinces with separate capitals and the boundary running north and south. The Prince Albert Advocate, however, favoured three Provinces, —-(1) Assiniboia and part of Western Alberta, (2) Northern Alberta and the Peace River country, (3) Saskatchewan and Eastern Athabasca. This idea was based upon the transportation system. Other papers wanted the division made in harmony with natural productions, as one extensive region was distinctly cereal-producing, while another was, to an equally characteristic extent, an irrigable and ranching country. Underlying the diverse proposals advocated by the press in different parts of the Territories is the principle that public interests would be best served by such a subdivision of the North West as would render the home town of each given newspaper the natural Provincial Capital. The press supporting Mr. Haultain, as a rule, favoured one Province, while in the East, The Globe, on November 9, 1904. supported the extension of Manitoba's boundaries and the creation of two Provinces.

In The Toronto Globe of January 3. 1905, Air. T. II. Maguire, lately Chief Justice of the Territories, wrote strongly opposing .Mr. Haultain's proposals for the formation of one Province out of these vast regions. Mr. Maguire claimed that public opinion was in favour of two Provinces, if not three", as he himself desired. Manitoba should be extended, he thought, but northerly to the Saskatchewan River and easterly to Hudson's Bay.

Meanwhile, Mr. Premier Haultain, of the Territories, and Air. G. H. V. Bulyea, his Commissioner of Public Works, had arrived at Ottawa to commence, on January 5th, another conference with the Federal authorities. As to the details of the succeeding consultations, the public was not informed, but the correspondent of The Globe, on January 18th, declared that there would be nothing in the form of a definite agreement until the return of the Minister of the Interior, who was not in Ottawa. The conference included Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir William Afulock, Air. Fitzpatrick and Air. R. W. Scott. On January 19th, the western delegates also discussed conditions with the members of the Commons and Senators from the North West, and it was shortly afterwards announced that the new Provinces would be two in number. The continued absence of Mr. Sifton. the official representative of the West, ostensibly through ill health, occasioned much comment in political circles.

However, it was evident that the first stage of the long struggle was over. Provincial institutions for the Territories were now assured.


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