The Jesuits' Estates Bill

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The Jesuits' Estates Bill
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THE JESUITS' ESTATES BILL Speech of the Minister of Justice. The Position of the Government Defended in one of the Greatest Efforts of the Present Session. (Concluded.) The greatest writer upon the subject of criminal law which this country has produced, Sir Fitz James Stephen, has put the whole thing in two paragraphs, and his authority upon the question will not be denied. The exceptability of these statements as regards the United Kingdom will not be questioned. He says that for 200 years the government has been carried on - and he is speaking of the government of the United Kingdom - carried on as far as possible without reference to differences of opinion, which in earlier times were regarded as altogether fundamental. For the last 200 years in England, I venture to any, the government could not have been carried on if it had not the practice of ignoring legislation, which previously was considered altogether fundamental. At that time a man who did not conform to the rules of religion in force would have been put out of the pale of the law altogether and treated as a criminal. It is against our freedom and difference of opinion, against our freedom of worship, such statutes as have been invoked yesterday and today. Yet we are asked today to look at the other side of these fundamental principles and curtail our charter of liberties by enforcing with the strong arm of the federal authority the legal power which, in this respect, has been ignored for upwards of two centuries, I will divert from my argument for one moment to mention that in 1871 an act was passed by the legislature of the province of Quebec incorporating the Jesuits, under the name of Les Missionaires de Notre Dame de la Societe de Jesu, precisely the name so¬ciety as was incorporated by the act of 1887, the only difference being in the legislative provisions as to the manner of working their corporation, and from 1871 down to 1889 no word of objection is taken in any part of this country against its constitutionality or its effect, but because in 1889 we did not advise disallowance of an act of precisely the same kind we are to fall under the cen¬sure of this house. SIR JAMES STEPHEN'S OPINION. I will refer to the statement of Sir James Stephen as to the value of this legislation of years ago. He says: "These powers, referring to the legislation against the Jesuits in the reign of George IV., have never been exercised, and, I believe, have been treated ever since they were passed as an absolutely dead letter. Our ancestors walked in darkness, and we have solved the problem which was too hard for them by recognizing liberty, of conscience as a principle of universal application." THE EFFECT ON THE EDUCATION FUND. Before I close my argument I must ad¬dress myself for a moment to the contention put forward by Mr. McCarthy as regards the effect of the statute on the fund for higher education in the province of Quebec, put forward as a reason why the act should be disallowed, that it was a breach of trust, and that it misappropriated property reserved for higher education. I think Mr. Laurier was quite right in challenging Mr. McCarthy to produce any statement to prove his argument, and the house will have observed that he did not respond to the challenge. I may say at the outset that in regard to the sale of the property, the statute gives the province greater powers than before. It is a statute, as its title implies, for the settlement of this question, but the province of Quebec before that had under its existing legislation ample power for sale, and the act makes no provision different from that which already existed as to what is to be done with the property or with the money. One would suppose listening to Mr. McCarthy's arguments that there was a provision in the act which declared that that trust should no longer apply to the property, that it should go into the consolidated revenue, and be disposed of as the government pleased. Not so. The last clause of the act provides that when the properties are to be sold, that they are to be subject to the disposal of the legislature. Are we to infer, and so advise disallowance, that the legislature of the province is going to betray its trust in regard to that common property when it has not even sought power to desert its trust? I will tell the house an absolute fact, that the university in the province of Quebec, those interested in higher education, have not suffered one whit or jot by the passage of that act. (Hear, hear.) The fact is that the revenue from these estates has been paid from year to year into the consolidated revenue fund, and not into the fund for higher education in the province. The fact is, likewise, that large portions of that property already sold have from year to year been placed to the credit of consolidated revenue and spent in the general purposes of the province. And why from year to year the provincial legislature, not out of the revenues of the Jesuits’ estates or the principal of the estates, made provision for the higher education out of the consolidated revenue, after the argument that the minority would be prejudiced by this act, that it is a breach of trust on the face of the act itself, a division of the only fund for higher education in the province. The house will be surprised to know that from year to year - I am speaking now generally - the average allowance in Quebec for higher education out of the consolidated fund has been more than three times the proceeds of the Jesuit estates. (Hear, hear.) NOT A SINGLE SCHOOL, HIGH OR LOW, has been sustained out of these estates so far, because the fund was insufficient, but ample provision has been made out of the consolidated revenue, and yet we are told that when, these estates go into the market they go free from any trust, and neither the majority nor the minority will be able to insist on any grants for higher education in this province. The act allows nothing of the kind. It mentions nothing of the kind, and I think the argument has irresistible force when I say it has not been considered out of the province as a security for this purpose at all. Mr. McCarthy challenged the propriety of any report on this act when in favoring the house with his long and interesting theological discussion—(laughter and hear, hear)—when having excited to some extent the feelings and sympathy of the house, he declared that I had presented that statute to his excellency as of no more importance that others along with which I had recommended that they should be left to their operation. Now, sir, upon the importance or non-importance of the statutes it is not necessary for me to advise his excellency, but I take the responsibility of having advised his excellency that that act was no less within the powers of the legislature of Quebec than the other eleven which accompanied it. (Hear, hear.) When I have reminded the hon. Gentleman that it is NOT A QUESTION OF TRUST, that there is no division of trust by the authority of that act, and that these estates have not been the trust out of which higher education has been supported, surely I must be inclined to agree with him, that I was right after all in saying this was a fiscal matter entirely within the control of the province. It is not the first time, although it is the first time excitement has been raised about it, that this body of persons who have been spoken of so severely in this debate have been dealt with in the finances of the province of Quebec. I have in my possession a list extending back over fifteen years of appropriations in the supply bill made by the legislature of Quebec to sup¬port the higher education carried on by this community in the province. According to the statements we have heard this afternoon all that has been unconstitutional, and every one of those supply bills ought to have been disallowed, because, forsooth, it is said they were ignoring the distinction be¬tween church and state. I think it is wrong to treat this question in any way than as a fiscal question, and that the difference be¬tween the supply bills for the past fifteen years and this one act is simply of degree and amount. The principle of supporting the higher education carried on by this society in that province has been recognized every year in that supply bill, but for the first time, because it is a large sum being dealt with, because it deals with the rights of these people under their claims to property, we are asked to assert a principle, we were never asked before to assert. I desire to call the attention of the house for a moment to TWO OTHER BRANCHES OF THE ARGUMENT that were presented to us this afternoon. We were told there was a restriction in the act as regards the expenditure of $60,000, but no restriction in the act as regards the expenditure for educational purposes of the $400,000. The $60,000 has been appropriated to a body which had no claim, legal or moral, and never asserted any as regards the title of the Jesuits' estates. They claimed to be interested in the appropriation made from time to time for higher education. Rightly so. They were fully considered, and I have not to say whether the appropriation which has been allotted to them was a fair one or not; that is a ques-tion upon which the hon. member for Simcoe might have gone to the legislature of Quebec and addressed the assembly of the province with great force on the provisions of this bill, but to discuss the merits of the bill in this parliament and the disposition of public money would be as absurd as to take the supply bill year after year and enter into the merits of the distribution of money made by that supply bill. The reason I assume restriction has been imposed as regards the $60,000 and not as to the $400,000 is that the $60,000 is appropriated for educational purposes purely and simply, while the $400,000 have every prospect of being so applied; because it is paid to an order whose business it is to teach and who are trustees for the purpose of teaching. It is paid to them in extinction of a claim upon property in the heart of the domain of the province, but we are told, and that is the last branch of the hon. gentleman’s argument to which I intend to refer, that the grant of money to this corporation was an endowment of a church, and an endowment which violated the principle of separation of church and state in this country. I pass by for the moment the position which any church occupies in this country. I do not pretend to discuss how far in any por¬tion of the country any church might be considered as established, but I say that it passes the power of ingenuity to say that a grant of money to A CORPORATION OF TEACHERS AND PREACHERS is the endowment of a church in Canada. It is true that a church may be a society of teachers and preachers, but this society is not, and in the most illogical way in which a fallacy could be put on paper, this resolution asks the house to come to the conclusion that, because a society incorporated under a statute of a province and employed in teaching and preaching the tenets of a certain religion and receives a grant of money, that that is endowment of a church within the province. I venture to say that there is nobody in this country who can know the facts on which this resolution is based, and read the resolution without being surprised that it should receive the earnest antagonism of intelligent and able men, as it has done in this house. Let me say to my hon. friend from Simcoe that this is no more the endowment of a church, and no more the denial of the principle of separation of church and state than the endowment of a hospital, or orphanage, or asylum would be which was under the care of a religious organization. Let me say further to him, that I suppose we all cherish as fully as he does the principal that there should not be any control of church over state in this country. But what the hon. gentleman proposes is something worse—that we shall step into the domain of the provincial legislature and say that no legislature in this country shall have the power to give a vote of money to any institution if it partakes of a religious character. It may profess any other character in the world. It may profess any kind of objectionable principle, and it is lawful to endow it, but if it professes a Christian character it is, forsooth, unconstitutional to allow such an act to go into operation. Sir, I listened to the observations which the hon. member for Simcoe addressed to the house on the third branch of this argument, as to the OBJECTIONABLE TEACHING OF THIS SOCIETY with some surprise. I do not intend to challenge in any way his ample liberty to differ from me to the fullest extent as to the correctness and propriety of his observations. I trust that in this discussion he, and those who will vote with him, will not prove themselves any the less friends of religious liberty than they have professed to be in the past; but, sir, I assume, and I think I have the right to assume, that when the case of the gentlemen who are opposed to the allowance of this act is placed in the hands of one so able and skilled in argument as he, that we are not to be condemned for not having asked his excellency to disallow this act unless the reasons which he urged with so much force this afternoon were reasons which I could put into my mouth in addressing myself to his excellency. Surely I have a right to assume, from his standing in the house and country, that he has put forward the best case he could, and I ought not to be condemned unless I could avail myself of his reasons for asking for the disallowance of this act. A PICTURE. If I could picture myself going to his excellency and asking for the disallowance of this act for the reasons which the honorable gentleman presented this afternoon, I would imagine myself expelled from his excellency’s presence as quickly as I could go. What would be the reasons which I could urge? I am not finding fault with the strictures which the hon. gentleman made with regard to the society. I repeat, but, forsooth, I am to go to his excellency and ask him to dis¬allow this act because in the year 1874 the Quarterly Review published an article denouncing that order and its teachings. Am I not right in taking the argument and the evidence which the hon. gentleman produced to the house today as the argument and evidence which I might fairly address to his excellency, if I am to be censured for not having addressed any argument to him on the question? I am to go to his excellency and say that the Quarterly Review published an article in 1871 denouncing in language as strong as it could the tenets and teachings of this very people. His excellency might ask me a pertinent question, one that, at least, was levelled at the member for North Simcoe this afternoon without much effect. Let us suppose his excellency asks me, "Mr. Minister of Justice, who is the author?" My answer would surely be, "I really do not know, but, your excellency, I am sure that nothing would be published in the Quarterly Review which would not stand criticism." (Cheers.) I am afraid that his excellency might not be satisfied with that answer, and he might put me another very puzzling question. "Mr. Minister of Justice, are you aware that these able and eloquent, though anonymous publications in the Quarterly Review have been answered and refuted time and time again, until the slanders have been worn threadbare ?" I would ask my hon. friend from Simcoe what answer I could give to that question? I would like to ask my hon. friend if he has ever seen those answers? Mr. McCarthy—"Where?" Sir John Thompson—He asks me "where." I would like to ask him if he has ever read the answers. Has he ever sought the answers to them? Because those are questions which his excellency might ask me when I went to him with the advice that he recommends that I should give, the hon. gentleman asks me "where." Well, I tell him, in the first place, in publications so voluminous that I should have to give him a catalogue of them; but in order to be precise, and not to be suspected of evading the question, I will tell him that, in an English publication called the Month, step by step as every one of those articles came out in the Quarterly Review, the answer and refutation, in so far as these men were able to refute, were given, and I am NOT TO PASS JUDGMENT as to whether they were successful or not. I have no right to speak my own opinions here, but the opinions of those with whom I am acting in concert. Their answers, effectual or ineffectual, good or bad, were fully set forth in that leading publication in London. His excellency might ask me whether I had read those arguments, and what conclusion I had come to pro and con. If he did so I should be unable, in the course of that admirable theological discussion which we had today, to find a single chance of reply. I should have to tell his excellency that unless he were to be guided by the opinion of the partisan on one side or the other, the best thing he could do would be to leave it either to his own conscience or that conscience which the constitution has provided to deal with the subject, the legislature of the province which did deal with it. (Applause.) If his excellency were to ask me, "Sir, in advising disallowance on the authority of the Quarterly Review, which I am afraid the colonial office would not consider a sound authority or a satisfactory constitutional authority, have you verified the quotations for yourself?" I would ask the hon. member for Simcoe what answer be could give, if he has verified a single one of these quotations. They have put forward doleful cases, which have been refuted. If I were to advise his excellency to disallow this bill because of the objection-able teaching of this order, his excellency might fairly say to me, "Did not the legislature of these united provinces of Canada 37 years ago erect those people into a corporation to TEACH THE YOUTH OF THIS COUNTRY? Now, sir, in looking over the 37 years of the record, can you find me a man who could say that the fathers taught him immorality or anything objectionable? What reply should I have to give him? Well, sir, if his excellency went on and reminded me that the rules of the constitution of that order had been published for 45 years, and with the knowledge before giving him advice of that kind of having to be able to put my band upon a passage of the rules of that order which were objectionable upon the grounds of public policy, I am afraid I would be unable to do so to justify the disallowance of this act, and I should not find any grounds in the speech of the hon. member for North Simcoe. If I were to advise his excellency to disallow the act on account of the expulsion of the Huguenots, the Franco-German war and the expulsion from France in 1880, and the expulsion in other countries, I am afraid his excellency might read me a lesson in ancient and modern history, the deductions from which might be that in some of these countries and in some of these ages, that the court was opposed to the Jesuits, or that the court were opposed to Protestants and Reformers and Jesuits as well. I think that the house will agree with me that two principles must be observed whenever we are touching upon these trying, delicate and difficult questions, which are in any way connected with the sentiments of religion or of education in any country. I think the house will agree with me that there are two principles which it is absolutely necessary to maintain for the sake of the preservation of the federal power. One is the matter regarding the theological question and the other matters touching upon the freedom of its people, whether in the humblest and smallest province of this country or in the great province of Quebec. (Cheers.) - I