Imatges de pàgina
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1896

THE STORY OF THE MANITOBA SCHOOLS

QUESTION

The history of the past six years of Protestant domination in Manitoba affords such a display of tyranny and oppression as would seem at the present time to be incredible. The treatment of the Roman Catholics, by which they are wholly deprived of the enjoyment of the rights in the education of their children secured to them by the constitution, comes as near to persecution as can well be conceived in these days of boasted toleration and enlightenment. It is a singular fact that intolerance in matters of religion should be exhibited and carried into practical effect by Protestants in a British colony, while acts of persecution commonly supposed to be peculiar to Roman Catholics are now never heard of. The phenomenon is one well worthy of the consideration of ultra-Protestants in this country.

The controversy arising out of this matter has been fiercely raging throughout the Dominion of Canada during this whole period of six years. No topic has ever secured a wider amount of attention, whether from the public, the press, or in political and religious circles; all available machinery of the courts has been set in motion for the decision of questions of constitutional law, and on two separate occasions the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has pronounced elaborate judgments on appeal, the only effect of which has been to thrust the matter back once more into the arena of politics; the actual position being that the Roman Catholic minority in Manitoba

for their rights, which the Protestant majority as represented by the Liberal Government of the Province refuse to yield to them, with the result that they have been compelled to look to the Conservative Government of the Dominion for the redress of their grievances. To this end, the Minister of Justice, on the 11th of February last, introduced a 'Remedial Bill' into the Canadian House of Commons, which, however, it was found impossible to pass, on account of the obstruction developed by the opponents of the measure in the short space of time remaining before the end of the term of the recent Parliament, which expired in the latter part

Whether to students or to statesmen, the history of this period

are fighting

of April just past.

of incessant strife will be found to involve matters of considerable interest, as, for instance, the modes of life in an isolated colony of pioneers of different races and religions, and their means of education; the erection of the settlements into a province, and its reception into a federation of older colonies, with proper safeguards for the rights of the pioneers; the early provisions for education by law, and their subsequent overthrow; the racial and religious antipathies in consequence evoked throughout the federation, and the amenities displayed by the Protestant majority in the distant province; the conflict between the federal and provincial authorities, and the dependence, for the correct interpretation of the law under which the colonists live, upon the great Imperial Court of the Privy Council.

In the old days of the Red River Settlement in Rupertsland there was no law touching the subject of schools or of education. There were, however, a number of denominational schools established and controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, and the Presbyterian Church respectively. The Archbishop of Rupertsland states that in 1869 he had sixteen schools organised in the different parishes. This settlement is now included in the province of Manitoba, which was received into the Union or Dominion of Canada from the 15th of July 1870 under the provisions of the Manitoba Act of that year (33 Vict., c. 3, Dominion Statutes), afterwards confirmed by Imperial statute. There were then 12,000 Christians in the province, 6,000 of them Roman Catholics, 5,000 of the English Church, and the remainder chiefly Presbyterians.

The Manitoba Act established a legislature for the province, and section 22 of that Act provided that the legislature might exclusively make laws in relation to education, subject to restrictions which will be presently specified, saving certain rights, and reserving power to the Dominion Parliament to legislate in the matter in certain events.

Accordingly, in 1871, the legislature passed a law which established a dual system of denominational schools. A board of education was formed, divided into two sections, Protestant and Roman Catholic, with a superintendent of schools under each section, and the grant for education was divided equally between the two sections. There were twelve districts under each section, according as they comprised mainly a population of the one faith or the other, and the male inhabitants in each district might decide how school funds other than the public grant should be raised. In the course of time the board was enlarged to twelve Protestant and nine Roman Catholic members, and the public grant was rearranged on the basis of the school population. Provision was also made that school districts of the different faiths might overlap each other. Each section had control over the management and discipline of its schools, and prescribed the books to be used therein. In the Roman Catholic section the choice of books referring to religion and morals was subject to the approval of the religious authority. From 1877 to 1890 no ratepayer of one faith was obliged to pay towards a school of the other.

For nineteen years, therefore (1871–1890), a denominational system of education was maintained in full force, being the first system established by law in Manitoba. This, it is to be noted, is the foundation of the whole present difficulty.

Suddenly the whole policy was reversed, the old system swept away, and what is called a non-sectarian system set up in its place. On the 31st of March 1890 two acts were passed by the provincial legislature, which came into operation on the 1st of May. By the 53 Vict., c. 37 a Department of Education and an ' Advisory Board' of seven members were established : four of these members to be appointed by the Department, one by the University Council, and two to be elected by the public and high school teachers, and this board had the power to prescribe the forms of religious exercises. By the Public Schools Act, 53 Vict., c. 38, all Protestant and Roman Catholic school districts came under the Act, and the public schools were to be free. Provisions were made for religious exercises conducted according to the regulations of the board, just before closing time in the afternoon, and for the withdrawal of pupils beforehand if required. They were to be held at the option of the school trustees for the district, who might require the teachers to hold the same, and no others were to be allowed.

Then follow provisions for school districts, the election of school trustees, and the levying of a rate on the taxable property in each district for school purposes. A legislative grant was allotted to public schools, in which no school could participate which did not comply with the Act and the regulations of the department and the advisory board, and no text books were to be used unless authorised by the board.

It must be stated that, owing to the influx of settlers from the eastern provinces and the United Kingdom, the nature of the population had entirely changed in the course of twenty years, so that in 1889 the Protestant school population was nearly 19,000, while the Roman Catholic was less than 4,500.

now look at the reasons given for the revolution in the law, and for this purpose it will be satisfactory, so as to avoid the risk of understatement, to take the reasons set out in a paper published under the auspices of the provincial government, which are roughly as follows: The Roman Catholic schools were almost completely under the control of the Church, the teachers being to a great extent priests and sisters, whose qualifications were unknown outside, while the inspectorate consisted of priests alone. The inefficiency of the system is shown by giving instances of the absurdity of papers set in examinations for teachers' certificates, and by the illiteracy of the

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French half-breeds. The whole of the school lessons (except those of arithmetic and geography) were made the means of imparting religious instruction, and the pupils were completely immersed in Roman Catholic ideas and influences.' Instances are given of peculiarly Romanist questions in teachers' examinations, and then the writer says:

'I pass over the following:
«« What are angels ? "
«“What are the occupations of the angels ? ”
"“What do you mean by devils ? "

'Any one who could answer the second question at any rate would deserve to be senior wrangler and double first in any hall of learning. (sic)

The serious charge is made that French ideas and aspirations were fostered to the almost entire exclusion of those that are British. The study of English was rare in the French schools; British Canadian history was not taught till the child reached the sixth division, and English history only in the seventh or last division. Quotations from the text-books and specimens of the teachers' examination papers in this subject are given to substantiate this charge.

This, of course, is all very sad, but there are other ways of improving the growth of a young tree than that of pulling it up by the roots.

Further it is charged that the Roman Catholic Church practically had the disposal of the public grant to its section, and the control of municipal taxation for school purposes in its districts.

In 1889, the last year of the dual system, the number of the Roman Catholic school population was less than a quarter of that of the Protestant, but there were seven times as many Protestant school districts and teachers as there were on the Roman Catholic side. The average public grant per district was: Protestant, 178 dollars; Roman Catholic, 304 dollars. The Protestants taxed themselves on the average per district 538 dollars, the Roman Catholics 242 dollars, which is said to mean that the Roman Catholics avoided taxation and lived on the grant as much as possible.

It is now necessary to examine the powers given to the provincial legislature in the matter of education, and to trace the course of the proceedings taken to obtain decisions on points in dispute in the courts of law. These powers are contained in section 22 of the Manitoba Act above mentioned, and are as follows:

XXII. In and for the province the said legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education, subject and according to the following provisions :

· For the programme of studies in the schools, and specimens of examination papers, reference is made further to the · Memoir' prepared by the Roman Catholic section of the board for the Colonial Exhibition in London in 1886. This memoir would probably therefore be accessible in this country.

(1) Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools, which any class of persons have by law or practice in the province at the Union.

(2) An appeal shall lie to the Governor-General in Council from any Act or decision of the legislature of the province, or of any proviucial authority, affecting any right or privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic minority of the Queen's subjects in relation to education.

(3) In case any such provincial law as from time to time seems to the Governor-General in Council requisite for the due execution of the prorisions of this section is not made, or in case any decision of the Governor-General in Council on any appeal under this section is not duly executed by the proper provincial authority in that behalf, then and in every such case, and as far only as the circumstances of each case require, the Parliament of Canada may make remedial laws for the due execution of the provisions of this section, and of any

decision of the Governor-General in Council under this section.

Upon the passing of the Manitoba Schools Acts of 1890, the Roman Catholic minority protested that they were unconstitutional, and appealed to the federal power for relief.

On the 25th of April 1890 the Hon. E. Blake, leader of the Liberal party in the Dominion House, moved that it was expedient to provide for the reference of questions of law or fact upon educational legislation to a high judicial tribunal. The late Sir John Macdonald agreed for the Government, and the resolution was passed unanimously. In the following session the late Sir John Thompson accordingly brought in a bill to amend the act as to the Supreme and Exchequer Courts of Canada, and the Act c. 135 R. S. C. § 37 was amended, the 30th of September 1891, to provide the means for such reference.

On the 7th of October 1890, one Barrett, a Roman Catholic ratepayer of Winnipeg, obtained a summons for an order to quash certain by-laws of the city, made to authorise an assessment for city and

purposes for the current year, on the ground that the amounts to be levied for Protestant and Roman Catholic schools were united, and one rate levied upon Protestants and Roman Catholics alike for

On the 24th of November Mr. Justice Killam dissummons.

On appeal the full Court of Queen's Bench for Manitoba dismissed the appeal, Mr. Justice Dubuc dissenting.

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the 28th of October 1891, the appeal was allowed, the Schools Act declared ultra vires of the provin cial legislature, and the by-laws in question quashed. The Court held that the words 'or practice’ in the first sub-section of section 22, quoted above, saved to the Roman Catholics the privilege of denominational schools, and that they could not be taxed for

school

the whole sum. missed the

Protestant schools.

Next, on the 5th of December 1891, one Logan, a member of the

the city to show cause why a by-law levying the school rate for the was levied upon all denominations alike, and that members of the

Church of England in Winnipeg, obtained a summons calling upon current year should not be quashed, on the grounds that the rate

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