Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this amendment, because the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have made their desire known, and I put it this way because I read it this way. I read it in the referendum question.
On September 5 the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be asked to vote on the following question.
No doubt Newfoundland's long transition from British colony to self-government, even if it was off by itself, forged qualities permitting Newfoundlanders to be described as a people. This people voted in a referendum to make this request. They therefore decided politically that they wanted the provisions of the referendum question put to them to apply in the future.
While I am delighted to speak to this question to defend the political will of the people of Newfoundland, I would also like to point out that the Bloc Quebecois invited the Government of Newfoundland to use the occasion of the revision of its education legislation to, and I quote the letter our leader, Michel Gauthier, sent to the premier of Newfoundland. He said: "The Government of Newfoundland should use the occasion of the revision of its legislation on education to ensure the francophones there have total control over their schools, both legislatively and administratively".
I would add that history, which I have been a student of at other times, the history of Quebec and Canada reveals that, in fact, the francophone minority, which Daniel Johnson senior called "the French Canadian nation outside Quebec", has always suffered the fate chosen for it by the government of the province in question. In fact, and I will look at this point in the time remaining, section 93 originally intended to protect the protestant anglophone minority in Quebec, was cited on many occasions to protect francophone minorities. Nothing ever came of it, however. The bottom line is the pressure that may be brought to bear on each of the provinces.
This is why we took this opportunity to ask the premier to give Newfoundland francophones full control over their schools.
I would also like to point out that section 93 itself has a curious history. In 1866, while the Parliament of Canada was studying the bill to be recommended to London, Alexander Tilloch Galt, a member of the National Assembly for the Eastern Townships asked a francophone member there to introduce an amendment to protect the protestant minority in Lower Canada.
When members saw that, they proposed a subamendment that francophone minorities in Upper Canada be protected, too. May I remind you that, at the time, there were 165,000 Protestants in Lower Canada and 285,000 Catholics in Upper Canada, not all of them francophones, but 285,000 nonetheless. When the subamendment was tabled, Alexander Tilloch Galt, a member of Parliament, withdrew his amendment rather than see it applied to the Catholics of Canada West, most of whom were francophones.
So how did we end up with section 93? Simply because Alexander Tilloch Galt was among the members of Parliament sent to Her Majesty to prepare what would become the British North America Act, and when Canadians saw this act, they found section 93.
Section 93 brings back the spirit of the amendment Galt wanted passed. It provides guarantees that the rights and privileges enjoyed by denominational schools at the time of the union will be maintained. Should these rights been infringed upon, an appeal may be made to the governor general, who can recommend a piece of legislation. If the province refuses, the Government of Canada may pass remedial laws. In fact, this section was invoked quite often to protect not English Canadians in Quebec but French Canadian Catholics outside Quebec and, may I remind you, used repeatedly and persistently without success.
Let us look at the various cases, starting with the New Brunswick schools in 1871. By cutting all subsidies to separate schools, the New Brunswick legislature was forcing less fortunate Acadians to either accept double taxation or shut down their schools, under penalty of seizure. History has it that the superintendent responsible for enforcing the law was known to be, if not a fanatic, at least an extremist.
Acadians, who had taken a stand for Confederation, against the Protestant majority, which, may I remind you, was in opposition-so much so that they had to be called to order by London-were convinced they would be successful in their appeal to the federal government concerning the application of section 93.
Did Cartier not promote the Constitution, saying that the protection offered under the said section extended to all minorities? Imagine their surprise when Sir John A. MacDonald handed down his verdict, saying that New Brunswick's law was undeniably constitutional and that he had no cause or right to disallow it.
Naturally, Quebecers took issue with this decision. On that occasion, historians became aware of Acadians again. The people's feelings were so inflamed that Sir George Étienne Cartier, the great Sir George Étienne Cartier, ran into trouble in the August 1871 election, eventually being defeated.
Without getting into details, suffice it to say that, to resolve this issue, Mgr. Taché had considered getting Louis Riel elected and then having him give his seat to George Étienne Cartier so that he could settle the matter of the Metis as well as that of the separate schools in New Brunswick. This goes to show that this issue of
schools and their relation to the Constitution has always been a source of tensions in Canada.
In 1895, the issue of schools in Manitoba again profoundly troubled French Canadians who accounted for half of the population of Manitoba, in 1870, and for close to a third, in 1890. In 1895, the government decided to abolish the French catholic school system, claiming once again that it was too costly. To Quebec's utter surprise, the compromise arrived at by Laurier, the first French Canadian Prime Minister, compelled French Canadians in Manitoba to levy a second tax on themselves to pay for their own school system.
Imagine the indignation and the rebellion of English speaking Protestants if Quebec had even given a thought to doing the same for their own schools, even though they were not as numerous as French Canadians in Manitoba and, I might add, generally richer.
In 1915-1915, it rings a bell, does it not?-Ontario passed regulation 17 essentially banning the teaching of French in schools. French speaking Catholics did not get any support from English speaking Catholics. This debate was extremely upsetting for Quebec, just at the time when the issue of the conscription of young people to serve overseas was stirring up a huge controversy in the population. I believe that English Canada does not know to what extent the issue of regulation 17 started the ball rolling towards Quebec voting against the government on conscription.
The great French Canadians who, at that time, were defending Quebec, namely Henri Bourassa and Armand Lavergne, were linking both causes, and Armand Lavergne was one of the heroes in this fight. I will just read a quote from one of the speeches he gave in this House: "If we must fight for our freedom, we must stay here. I am saying, and I do not care where my comments are repeated, that any French Canadian who enlists is not doing his duty-"
That means that there was a link between the right to French schools and the teaching of French and the defense of freedom. It is that simple.
Laurier, torn between Canadians and Canadiens , resorted to appealing to Canadians' sense of fairness with regard to enlisting: ``If I ask that English be taught to the young people of my race, are you going to deny them that they also learn their forefathers'language? This is all I am asking, nothing more''. But it was too much.
Prime Minister Borden, pushed into influencing the Ontario premier by French Canadian bishops, was told that "any government giving in to French-Canadians would be thrown out of office within 24 hours". The federal government passed the compulsory military service legislation during the summer of 1917, against the advice of Laurier, then Leader of the Opposition, and in spite of the agitation in Quebec. What was the result? You know what happened. In December 1917, there was an election, Borden was elected by a majority, but all of Quebec, except for three English ridings in Montreal, voted massively against him.
For the first time, a government was elected without the participation of the French-Canadians. Quebec was highly criticized in English Canada, but New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had also voted against the conscription party. It is in this context that J.N. Francoeur, whom certain hon. members do not know perhaps, presented his resolution.
On January 17, 1918, J.N. Francoeur tabled a motion in the Quebec provincial legislature which raised quite a storm and which he withdrew on January 23, after having obtained results he considered satisfactory, given the circumstances; the motion stated: "That this House thinks the province of Quebec would accept the abrogation of the 1867 covenant if other provinces were to consider it is an obstacle to the union, the progress and the development of Canada".
Why bring back these facts? I could go on and on. Because what happened afterwards, the Official Languages Act, and the charter later on, did not succeed in giving the federal government the power to "protect" minorities.
History will show us that, even with the adoption of the charter, Catholic francophones who want to manage their schools will have to go to the Supreme Court. Basically, we take the opportunity given by this debate where we support the people of Newfoundland to remind them they are the only ones who can make a difference.
We must remember that, when the Official Languages Act was passed, assimilation had wrought havoc, but since the act was passed and since the charter, assimilation has been increasing, in some cases, at an increasingly accelerated pace, as we learned recently from Statistics Canada.
In the case of Newfoundland, it seems important to us for Premier Tobin to say clearly he will give francophones control over their schools and, while we respect the will of the people, we really think, hope, and wish that Newfoundlanders will take their responsibility, as Quebec did, and protect their minority.
I think it must be recognized it is not the Constitution that protects English Canadians in Montreal and in the whole of the province of Quebec, but indeed Quebec's own charter, Bill 101, which recognizes rights that francophones are far from enjoying elsewhere in Canada.