Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 1 - Chapter VII Political History of the North West Territories and Alberta From
The confederation of the
provinces of British North America, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and
Nova Scotia, was proclaimed on July 1, 1867. In the B. N. A. Act setting
forth the terms of confederation, provision was made for the admission
of Prince Edward Island, Rupert's Land, the North Western Territories,
British Columbia and Vancouver Island into the union, upon addresses
from the houses of Parliament of Canada on such terms and conditions in
each case as should be in the addresses expressed.
On December 16, 1867,
addresses were passed in the Senate and House of Commons of Canada
praying for the union of Rupert's Land and the North Western Territories
with the Dominion of Canada.
In 1868 the British
Parliament passed the Rupert's Land Act enabling the Dominion of Canada
to accept the surrender of the territory in question together with all
the territorial and other rights conveyed by the original charter of
Charles II to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. Accordingly, on October
1, 1868, Sir Geo. Cartier and Hon. William McDougall were appointed by
the Dominion Government to proceed to London and arrange terms for the
acquisition by Canada of Rupert's Land and the North Western Territory
from the Hudson's Bay Company. A memorandum of agreement signed by Sir
Stafford Northcotte on behalf of the company, and by the Canadian
delegates on behalf of the government of Canada was arrived at,
submitted to the Canadian Government on May 8, 1869, and approved by
Order in Council on May 14th following. The principal terms of surrender
were as follows:
(1) The Government of
Canada paid 300,000 pounds sterling at the time of the transfer to the
Hudson's Bay Company.
(2) The Company retained
all its Posts then possessed and occupied and within twelve months from
the date of the surrender were allowed to select a block of land
adjoining each of their posts, the total of which was not to exceed
50,000 acres. The area actually selected and agreed to by the Government
of Canada was 45,160 acres.
(3) The company was
allowed fifty years from the date of the surrender to select
one-twentieth of the surveyed land in the Fertile Belt. The selections
in any township were to be made within ten years from the date of survey
thereof. The Fertile Belt was designated as that portion of the
Territories south of the North Saskatchewan River and east of Lake of
the Woods and Lake Winnipeg.
The surrender and the
agreement relating to it was ordered by the Privy Council of Great
Britain to go into effect on July 15, 1870, and in that month the last
meeting of the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company as governors and
administrators of the North West Territories was held at Norway House.
To provide for the change
of authority, the government of Canada, anticipating the surrender,
passed an Act providing for the temporary government of the North West
Territories (32-33 Viet. Cap. 3) in 1869, by a council appointed by the
Governor in Council. Unfortunately the establishment of Canadian
authority was attended with the serious disturbances that led to the
Riel Rebellion of 1869-70, the result of which was the passing of the
Manitoba Act and the institution of the first representative government
in Western Canada. The government of that portion of the North West
Territories not included in the Province of Manitoba was provided for by
continuing the act of 1869, and by section 35 of the Manitoba Act,
whereby the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba became also the Lieutenant
Governor of the North West Territories. The following year the
Parliament of Canada passed an Act making further provision for the
government of the North West Territories, authorizing the appointment of
a council not exceeding fifteen and not less than seven to aid the
Lieutenant Governor. This Council is known as the North West Council.
The first Lieutenant
Governor of the North West Territories was Hon. A. G. Archibald. He
arrived in Winnipeg September 2, 1870, a few days after Riel had fled
from the scene of his brief, rebellious dictatorship. One of the first
acts of Lieutenant Governor Archibald was to commission Captain W. F.
Butler, a famous soldier and traveller, to proceed to the plains of
Alberta to report on the condition of the country, with a view toward
enacting proper ordinances for the government of that new part of the
Dominion of Canada, and to ascertain the extent of the ravages of the
terrible epidemic of smallpox that was then raging among the Crees and
Blackfeet tribes of Alberta. To cope with the plague, a Board of Health
was formed, the first form of local government organization to be
established in this Province. Its members were men remembered by all
Westerners with esteem and affection: Rev. George McDougall; Rev. Father
Leduc; Rev. Father André; Richard Hardisty, Chief Factor; Rev. Father
Lacombe; Bishop Grandin of St. Albert; Bishop Faraud, Lac la Biche; Rev.
Henry Steinhauer; Rev. Peter Campbell; Rev. John McDougall; John Bunn.
In January, 1873, the
first North West Council was gazetted, the following being the members
thereof: Hon. Donald A. Smith, Hon. A. Girard, Hon. Henry J. Clarke,
Hon. Pascal Breland, Hon. Alfred Boyd, John Schultz, Joseph Dubuc,
Andrew G. Bannatyne, Wm. Fraser, Robert Hamilton and Wm. J. Christie.
The first meeting took
place on March 8th. By an Act of 1873 the number of the Council was
increased to twenty-one and in December of the same year five additional
members were added to the Council, viz., Hon. James McKay, Hon. Jos.
Royal, Pierre Delorme, W. R. Brown and W. N. Kennedy.
In 1875 the Parliament of
Canada passed the North West Territories' Act (C. S. 1875, Cap. 49)
which has been called the Constitutional Act of the Territories. From
that period the North West Territories have enjoyed independent
government and have risen from a state of semi-feudalism to almost
complete provincial autonomy. The Constitution relating to government
and legislation, the election of members to the North West Council or
Legislative Assembly, and the administration of justice was set forth in
this Act, and the law relating to descent of real estate, wills, rights
of married women, registration of deeds, intoxicants, and other matters
were also provided for. The legislative and executive authority was
vested in the North West Council composed of five members appointed by
the Governor in Council, and other members elected by the people in
certain districts. Communities with a white population of 1000 persons
within an area of 1000 square miles were constituted electoral districts
and given the right to elect a representative to the Council. A measure
of local government was conferred upon each electoral district. The
Lieutenant Governor and North West Council were empowered to pass
ordinances to erect each electoral district into a municipal corporation
with rights to impose taxes for municipal purposes and to pass by-laws.
The North West Council as
constituted by the North West Territories' Act, which was consolidated
in 18801 and again in 1886, continued until 1888 when the system of
having appointed members was abolished and the Council was superseded by
an assembly elected every three years. The first legislative assembly
consisted of twenty-two members and three legal experts who retained
their seats during the term of the legislative assembly, took part in
debates but were not entitled to vote.
The North West
Territories' Act of 1875 was proclaimed on October 7, 1876, and Hon.
David Laird was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of the North
West Territories, lie proceeded at once to Livingstone (Swan River),
where the capital of the Territories was temporarily located awaiting
the completion of the government buildings at Battleford. The first
session of the Council was held at Swan River March 8 to March 22, 1877.
Ordinances relating to administration of justice, protection of buffalo,
prevention of forest and prairie fires, ferries, roads, infectious
diseases, and masters and servantsin all, twelve billswere passed and
sent to Ottawa for confirmation by the Federal Government. The members
of the First Council were: Hon. David Laird, Lieutenant Governor;
Matthew Ryan, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Richardson, stipendiary
magistrates as ex-officio members of the Council; Lt. Col. James F.
Macleod, C. M. G., Commissioner of the N. W. M. P., appointed; A. E.
Forget, Clerk of the Council.
For the administration of justice the Federal Government erected courts
of civil and criminal jurisdiction, appointed a sheriff (Molineaux St.
John) and two stipendiary magistrates. The Lieutenant Governor, subject
to the Orders of the Governor in Council, had control of the Mounted
Police force and the appointment of justices of the peace.
The second session opened
at Battleford July 10, 1878, with an additional member, Pascal Breland,
appointed. Increased powers had been conferred upon the Council
respecting prisons, marriage, property and civil rights, after the
formation of municipalities for purposes of local taxation. The buffalo
ordinance was repealed and from that time the buffalo were doomed.
Indian dogs were so numerous in the country that the citizens of
Victoria petitioned the Council for protection for their calves and
pigs. The citizens of St. Laurent petitioned for assistance to procure a
school teacher. As the Council of the Territories had no power to impose
direct taxation except in electoral districts, the Council referred the
matter to the Federal Government. The Council was instructed by the
Federal Government that the constitutional objection of want of
representation could be met by raising a fund for school corporations
and giving them the right to impose the rate. The constitutional
objection of want of representation, which would apply in the case of
taxation by the Council, would not be applicable to school corporations,
who would merely tax themselves. The same question arose in the
following session of 1879. The Federal Government was asked to amend the
North West Territories' Act enabling the North West Council to pass an
ordinance empowering the people of any settlement with a sufficient
number of children, to form a school district and assess themselves
toward its support.
The menacing attitude of
some of the Indian tribes led the authorities to take steps for the
organization of volunteer militia by Lt. Col. Osborne Smith, D. 0. C. of
the Winnipeg Military District. Companies were formed at Battleford
(Captain Scott), St. Laurent (Capt. Owen E. Hughes), Prince Albert, two
companies of horse (Captains Moore and Young), and one company of
infantry (Capt. Thos. McKay).
The fourth session of the
North West Council was held at Battleford May 26 to June II, 1881. Three
electoral districts had been formed, viz.: Kimberley, Salisbury and
Lorne, the last of which returned Lawrence Clarke, Chief Factor of the
Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Carlton, as the first elected member of the
Council in the Territories. The most important legislative enactment of
the session was the provision for short forms of conveyancing.
Hon. Edgar Dewdney
succeeded Hon. David Laird as Lieutenant Governor of the North West
Territories in May, 1883, and in the same year the capital was
transferred to Regina. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway
and the rapid growth of districts along the railway led the Dominion
Government to choose Regina. The North West Council convened on August
22nd. Six elected members sat in the Council as follows: Francis Oliver,
Edmonton; Capt. D. H. McDowall, Lorne; John C. Hamilton, Broadview; T.
W. Jackson, Qu'Appelle; Wm. White, Regina; Jas. H. Ross, Moose Jaw. A
residence of twelve months in the district preceding the issue of the
writ was the qualification necessary to vote. The ex-officio members
were: Lt. Col. Hugh Richardson and Col. J. F. Macleod, stipendiary
magistrates. The appointed members were Pascal Breland, Lt. Col. A. C.
Irvine and Hayter Reed.
The activity of the
Council of 1883, especially among the elected members, indicates real
progress throughout the entire North-West, and also the need of
increased legislative power for the Council. Memorials were sent to the
Governor General complaining of certain policies that were being carried
out by the Dominion Government, viz.: The reservation of land on both
sides of the C. P. R. known as the Mile Belt Reserve, the granting of
leases in grazing lands, the practice of putting cancelled homesteads up
for sale, and granting of immense tracts of lands to Colonization
Companies. Further requests were made for power to incorporate companies
having territorial objects, two more stipendiary magistrates, reduction
of the duties on agricultural implements, a per capita grant based upon
an assumed population of 100,000 for public improvements and
representation in the Dominion Parliament.
The sixth session of the
North West Territories continued from July 3 to August 6, 1884. Two more
members were added, being the elected representatives of Calgary and
Moose Mountain. A total of 188 votes were cast in Calgary and 157 in
Moose Mountain in these elections.
The liquor traffic was a
prominent feature in the speech from the throne. The fee system of
liquor permits introduced in the previous session had the effect of
lessening the number of applications. Smuggling, however, was increasing
notwithstanding the vigilance of the Mounted Police and the penalties
imposed. The establishment of breweries was recommended by the
Lieutenant Governor and endorsed by the Council to obviate smuggling.
Thirty-six ordinances were passed in this session, the most important of
which were the School and Municipal Ordinances.
A Select Committee
reported (July 7, 1884), that the Federal Government should be requested
to put Section 93, B. N. A. Act, in force in the Territories as provided
by Section 9 of the North West Territories Act. The School Ordinance
provided for the formation of school districts with power to levy taxes
for school purposes. An appropriation of $7,000 was divided among the
different school districts. Those in operation were: Protestant, 17;
Roman Catholic, 11. Three towns, viz.: Regina, Moose Jaw and Calgary
were incorporated to date; also four municipalities, viz.: Qu'Appelle,
South Qu'Appelle, Wolseley and Indian Head.
By the "Administration of
Justice Ordinance 1884," the North West Territories were divided into
three judicial districts, viz.: Assiniboia, Alberta and Saskatchewan,
subdivided into Regina, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Macleod, Edmonton,
Battleford and Prince Albert districts. Although the three stipendiary
magistrates had concurrent jurisdiction over the whole of the
Territories, for convenience Lieut. Go!. Hugh Richardson resided at
Regina, Lieut. Col. Macleod at Macleod, and Magistrate Rouleau at
Battle- ford. There were sixty-three justices of the peace and
thirty-four notaries at this time. Permits for 9,908 gallons of liquors
were issued during the year.
This session is important
in that it witnessed the first opposition to the control of the
expenditure by the Lieutenant Governor, and the assertion of the rights
of the Council to legislative and executive control of all matters
relating to the government of the North West Territories such as was
granted to the legislative assemblies of the older provinces of Canada.
The opposition was led by Mr. Frank Oliver of Edmonton, and Mr. J. H.
Ross of Moose Jaw in the form of an amendment to the Report of the
Committee on Finance in framing the annual budget to be sent to the
The members of the
Opposition claimed that the funds granted by the Parliament of Canada
for the expenses of government in the North-West should be placed under
the control of the representatives of the people instead of in the hands
of the Lieutenant Governor. Subsidies similar to those received by the
other provinces, grants in lieu of public lands until the North West
Territories were able to take over these lands, funds for public schools
on the security of school lands of the Territories, and that no person
not directly responsible to the people should be allowed a voice in the
local legislature or a seat at the Council Board.
The affairs of the North
West Territories now began to attract the serious attention of the
Dominion Parliament. In the session of 1885 bills were introduced
providing for a census of the North West Territories, the introduction
of the Torrens system of land registration and for representation of the
Territories in the Parliament of Canada. The most pressing question of
the hour was the discontent among the half-breeds who claimed the scrip
privileges accorded the Metis of Manitoba. This question caused
considerable feeling in the Council and throughout the whole of the
Territories. A Commission consisting of Messrs. W. P. R. Street, A. E.
Forget, and Roger Goulet was appointed on March 30th, too late, however,
to prevent the half-breed uprising, known as the Second Riel Rebellion.
The Commission was directed to enumerate the half-breeds resident in the
Territories previous to July 15, 1870, and to issue scrip. The
Commissioners disposed of the claims of 1815 half-breeds, issuing money
scrip to the value of $279,,200 and land scrip for 55,200 acres.
The bill providing for
representation was postponed until the census was taken.
Five million bushels of
wheat were produced for export this year and the first shipment of wool
from the Alberta ranchers was made in the summer of 1885, the clip
amounting to 70,000 lbs. The C. P. R. was completed. The last spike was
driven by Sir Donald A. Smith at Craigellachie, B. C., November 7, 1885.
During the summer Hon. Thos. White, Minister of the Interior, visited
the Territories. His visit formed the occasion for the people to lay
their claims for reform directly before the Dominion Government. The
petition of the people of Prince Albert expresses these claims in a
general way: Representation in the Dominion Parliament; a legislative
assembly for the Territories and abolition of the North West Council;
the formation of a new province with control of public lands; railway
branch, lines and the Hudson's Bay Railway; the extension of the Habeas
Corpus to the Territories; abolition of clues on timber for domestic
purposes; opening of odd- numbered sections for homesteading; improved
mail service; appointment of officials from residents of the Northwest;
that unoccupied Indian re- serves be opened for homesteading; that
farmers be furnished with seed grain.
A re-arrangement of the
territorial electoral divisions was made in 1885 and elections were held
oil 15th. The members elected were: J. H. Ross, Moose Jaw; J. G. Turriff,
Moose Mountain; S. A. Bed- ford, Moosomin; W. D. Perley and Robert
Crawford, Qu'Appelle; H. C. Wilson, Edmonton; Viscount Boyle, Macleod;
Charles Marshallsay, Broadview; Samuel Cunningham, St. Albert; O. E.
Hughes, Lorne; D. F. Jelly and John John Secord, Regina; D. Lauder and
H. S. Cayley, Calgary.
The report of the
Lieutenant Governor to the Minister of the Interior for 1885 showed that
71 school districts had been organized since the passing of the school
ordinance of 1884, representing a school Population of 2,500 pupils. A
Board of Education for the Territories, of five members, was appointed.
The members of the Board were Messrs. Marshalisay and Secord of the
Assembly, Charles B. Rouleau and Pere Lacombe.
The movement for "better
terms" which began in 1884 was vigorously revived in this session.
The Council by a vote of
tell seven carried a reply to the speech from the throne which was
virtually a censure on the policy of the Dominion Government towards the
Territories. The policy of the Council was contained in an elaborate
memorial to the Dominion Parliament and presented by a special
deputation, Messrs. Perley, Ross and Wilson.
In the session of 1886
the Dominion Parliament dealt with the memorial of the North West
Council. Out of the twenty-seven reforms asked for, seventeen were
granted and the others dealt with in a liberal spirit. The Habeas Corpus
Act was extended to the Territories and a Supreme Court with appellate
jurisdiction was established. Four Federal electoral districts were
formed, two for Assiniboia, one each for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Two
senators were Provided for. The powers of the Council were enlarged to
make ordinances relating to:
(a) Direct taxation
within the province for territorial and municipal purposes.
(b) The incorporation of
companies with territorial objects.
In addition to the
completion of the C P. R., this year witnessed plans for the extension
of the Manitoba and North Western Railway, Long Lake Railway, Manitoba
and Southwestern Railway and the Northwestern Coal and Navigation
Company's Railway (the Gait Railway afterwards the Crowsnest Branch of
C. P. R. and A. R. & I.) for which land grants of 6,400 acres per mile
were given by the Dominion Parliament.
A special Committee of
the North West Council was appointed in 1886 to draft memorials to the
Dominion Government in matters requiring attention in the Territories
and within scope of the Dominion.
The demands in the main
(a) Reduction in price of
(b) Assistance for a system of secondary education.
(c) Payment of losses sustained by settlers during the rebellion of
(d) Vote by ballot.
(e) Votes for bona fide male adults after six months' residence in the
(f) Reduction of freight rates on the C. P. R.
The Dominion Parliament
was dissolved on January 17, 1887, and representatives for the electoral
divisions of the N. W. T. were elected to the Dominion Parliament for
the first time. These were as follows: Alberta, D. W. Davis; Assiniboia
East, W. D. Perley; Assiniboia West, N. F. Davin; Saskatchewan, D. W.
Land grants of 6,400
acres were given to the Athabasca Railway Company from a point south of
Calgary to Edmonton, about 300 miles.
On February 18, 1887, the
Territories were divided into five judicial districts, viz.: Eastern
Assiniboia, Western Assiniboia, Northern Alberta, Southern Alberta and
Saskatchewan. On the same date the following were appointed judges of
the Supreme Court of the North West Territories: Hon. Hugh Richardson of
Regina; Hon. Jas. F. Macleod, C. M. G., of Fort Macleod; lion. Chas. B.
Rouleau of Calgary; Hon. Edward Wetmore of Fredericton, N. B. The
Territories' Real Property Act passed in 1886 by the Dominion Parliament
went into effect on January 1, 1887, and under it the Torrens System was
established. Registrars were appointed for the five Registration Land
Districts resident at Prince Albert, Battleford, Regina, Calgary and
The last session of the
North West Council opened on October 14, 1887. During the recess Lord
Boyle and W. D. Perley resigned and in their places the following
members were returned: Macleod, F. V. G. Haultain; Qu'Appelle, Wm.
The development of the
country was reflected in the statements in the Speech from the Throne.
The number of schools increased to 109 with 3,543 pupils. The crop
returns from 168 townships showed 76,384 acres under cultivation, viz.:
Wheat, 33,354 acres; oats, 29,416 acres; barley, 8,244; roots, 5,370
acres; new land broken, 16,596 acres.
The liquor law of the
Territories or the permit system was declared by a report of a special
committee of the Council to be "unsatisfactory and ineffective either as
a temperance or a prohibitory measure." Accordingly a resolution was
passed asking that power be given to the Council to deal with this
question similar to the power enjoyed by the other provinces and that
the Canada Temperance Act be put in force in the Territories.
On the 10th of November a
special committee consisting of the elected members of the Council was
appointed to prepare a memorial respecting the future Constitution of
the North West Territories which placed the views of the people of the
Territories before the Parliament of Canada.
The memorial embodied the
terms and principles so often contended for in previous years with
respect to larger powers of local government and control of expenditure.
In this connection it is interesting to note the report of the
Lieutenant Governor to the federal government. He wrote as follows:
"During the sitting of
the Council a memorial was adopted recommending that a purely
representative form of government take the place of our present Council.
I think it my duty to inform you that my information from several
scattered centres of population in the Territories, does not indicate
that such is the general feeling of the people. A strong fear is
expressed that a purely representative form of government will lead to
direct taxation and thus impose upon settlers burdens which they are at
present unable to bear."
On the 19th of November
the North West Council met for the last time. During the session of 1888
the Dominion Parliament passed amendments to the N. W. T. Act creating a
legislative assembly for the Territories of twenty-two members with
three legal experts who held office (luring the terms of the assembly,
took part in the debates but did not have the right to vote. The term of
the assembly could not exceed three years C. S. 1888 Cap. 19).
Hon. Edgar Dewdney, who
had been Lieutenant Governor since the retirement of Hon. David Laird in
1883, became Minister of the Interior and was succeeded by Hon. Joseph
Royal. The first legislative assembly of the Territories opened at
Regina, October 31, 1888; Hon. H. C. Wilson, member for Edmonton was
elected first speaker. The advisory council consisted of the following
Hon. F. W. G. Haultain,
Hon. D. F. Jelly, North Regina.
Hon. Wm. Sutherland, North Qu'Appelle.
Hon. Hillyard Mitchell, Batoche.
The legal experts were:
Hon. Justices Richardson, Macleod and Rouleau.
The new government
immediately undertook a revision and consolidation of the ordinances, of
the North West Territories. The work was done by Hon. Justice Richardson
and A. E. Forget, Clerk of the North West Council.
The legislature was
anxious to obtain control of the liquor traffic by license or
prohibition. The question was referred to the legal experts who decided
that the legislature had no power to take a Plebiscite on either
The abolition of the
North West Council and the establishment of a legislative assembly did
not solve the problems of legislation and executive or in the
Territories. Although the assembly had been granted control of
expenditure yet the N. W. T. Act did not clearly give the assembly that
control of moneys voted by the Dominion Government for expenses in the
Territories which was sufficient for the expedition of public business.
There were parliamentary institutions without responsible government.
There was no responsible body to prepare legislation for the
consideration of the assembly and in consequence its legislative
functions could not be satisfactorily performed.
There was no cabinet of
responsible ministers. By law, the Lieutenant Governor was forced to
select four members of the assembly as an advisory council only in
matters of finance. He was president of the council and voted as a
member thereof. In order to initiate legislation the assembly were
forced to Present "an humble address" to the Lieutenant Governor asking
that he be pleased to appoint a commission to draft certain incasures,
which it should have been the right and duty of the assembly to do.
Strained relations ensued
between the Governor and the Assembly on the question of the powers and
responsibilities of the Advisory Council. The Lieutenant Governor held
that the Assembly was not entitled to a statement of the public accounts
on the ground that the moneys were granted from the Dominion, and that
his responsibility to the Assembly was limited to the Territorial
revenues alone, and so construed Section 13 of the N. W. T. Act of 1888,
which was as follows:
"The Lieutenant Governor
shall select from among the elected members of the Legislative Assembly
four persons to act as an advisory Council on matters of finance, who
shall severally hold office during pleasure; and the Lieutenant Governor
shall preside at all sittings of such advisory Council and choose a
right to vote as a member thereof, and shall also have a casting vote in
case of a tie."
Consequently the first
advisory Council resigned on October 29, 1889, and a new Council
consisting of Messrs. Brett, Betts, Jelly and Richardson were appointed.
This Council failed to receive the confidence of the Assembly and
tendered their resignations November 11, 1889. The Governor refused to
accept the resignations, stating that they were acting strictly within
the law. The difficulty reached a crisis on the 14th, when the Assembly
refused, on the motion of Mr. Haultain, to consider supply for 1889-90
until the expenditures of 1888-89 had been accounted for. The Lieutenant
Governor was forced to accept the resignation of the Council. He tried
to form a new Council with Mr. Tweed, Member for Medicine Hat as leader.
Mr. Tweed refused unless the claims of the Assembly were acceded to.
On the 21st of November
the Assembly adopted a memorial to the Dominion Government protesting
against the Governor's interpretation of the N. W. T. Act and asking for
an increased subsidy. On the following day the Assembly was prorogued.
The Governor, feeling that he was forced by the Constitution to have a
council, was obliged to select one "from amongst those willing to comply
with the law irrespective of the fact whether they possessed the
confidence of the House or not." This Council appointed February 8,
1890, were: Messrs. Brett, Betts, Jelly and Secord.
The conflict was revived
again in the Session of 1890. In the reply to the speech from the the
Throne, the Assembly severely criticised the action of the Lieutenant
Governor and the Advisory Council, ignored the members thereof in
selecting the standing committees and refused all legislation offered by
them. The reply was particularly censorious in matters of finance. It
pointed out that by the Act creating the Assembly, no motion regarding
finance might be adopted except it was first recommended by the
Lieutenant Governor, while the power to pass such a motion
unquestionably lay with the majority of the Assembly. It pointed out
further that the Assembly could legislate on few subjects that did not
involve finance, particularly so of schools. There existed the anomaly
of the Assembly being responsible for proper legislation regarding
schools, and yet deprived of the control of the funds necessary for the
maintenance thereof. The Governor in a message to the Assembly defined
his position clearly and firmly and held he was acting in accordance
with the interpretation of the law set forth by the Minister of Justice
of Canada. Before the Assembly prorogued the House passed an address to
the Governor, which was never sent to him but appears on the Journals of
the House. It sets forth the position of the majority of the members
with great clearness and ability. The Assembly was prorogued on November
29th, and dissolved by the efflux of time June following.
The elections for the
second assembly were held on October 31, 1891, and the session opened
December 10th. J. H. Ross of Moose Jaw was elected speaker. In May of
this year Messrs. Brett and Betts went to Ottawa to secure enlarged
powers for the Assembly. An Act amending the N. W. T. Act (R. S. C.
1886, Cap. 50), gave power to the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the
Assembly at any time, and cause a new one to be chosen. The Assembly was
to sit separately from the Lieutenant Governor. The cause of the various
deadlocks in the two past years was removed by the provision empowering
the Assembly to make ordinances relating to: The expenditure of
Territorial funds and such portions of any moneys appropriated by
Parliament for the Territories as the Lieutenant Governor is authorized
to expend by and with the advice of the Legislative Assembly or of any
committee thereof (54-55 Vict. Cap. 22).
The Legislative Assembly proceeded at once to act upon the enlarged
powers granted under the Statute and passed all dealing with the
executive government of the Territories. It was held by the Minister of
Justice (Sir John Thompson), that this Ordinance limited the powers of
the Lieutenant Governor and was consequently in conflict with the terms
of the N. W. T. Act which gave the Committee of the Assembly power to
offer advice to the Lieutenant Governor only in matters of finance and
expenditure and not to advise him on all matters connected with the
duties of his office. The next year the Assembly repealed the ordinance
and substituted legislation for the expenditure of Territorial funds and
such portions of any moneys appropriated by Parliament for the
Territories as the Lieutenant Governor was authorized to expend by and
with the advice of the legislative assembly or any committee thereof.
The question of separate
schools occupied the attention of the Assembly this session. Memorials
from the Roman Catholics in the North West Territories to the Governor
General in Council had been transmitted to the Lieutenant Governor, and
laid before the Assembly. These memorials were supported by a further
memorial to the Standing Committee on of the Assembly from Rev. Father
Leduc, O. M. I., Vicar General of St. Albert, and Mr. A. E. Forget,
Roman Catholic member of the Council of Public Instruction. The
memorials complained that the laws relating to education tended to
deprive the Roman Catholics of the management of their schools as
provided by Section 14 of the North West Territories Act of 1886, which
read as follows:
"The Lieutenant Governor
in Council shall pass all necessary ordinances in respect to education;
but it shall therein always be provided, that a majority of the
rate-payers of any district or portion of the Territories, or of any
less portion or subdivision thereof, by whatever name the same is known,
may establish such schools therein as they think fit, and make the
necessary assessment and collection of rates therefor; and also that the
minority of the rate-payers therein, whether Protestant or Roman
Catholic, may establish separate schools therein, and in such case, the
ratepayers establishing such Protestant or Roman Catholic separate
schools shall be liable only to assessment of such rates as they impose
upon themselves in respect thereof.
"The power to pass
ordinances, conferred upon the Lieutenant Governor by this section, is
hereby declared to have been vested in him from the seventh day of May,
one thousand eight hundred and eighty."
Among the rights of which
the memorialists alleged they were deprived were the discipline of their
schools, the grading and licensing of teachers, selection of textbooks,
inspection of schools by qualified persons of their own faith, the right
of using the French language and of opening their schools by the
recitation of prayers.
The memorials were
referred to the Standing Committee on Education. The Committee presented
a report which was endorsed by a majority of the Assembly, the vote
being 19 to 3. The report stated that the school ordinance in force did
not wrongfully deprive the Roman Catholics of the right to establish
separate schools and that the regulations respecting schools should be
left in the hands of the Council of Public Instruction.
This is a convenient
place to refer to the use of the French language in the North-West. As
we have seen, the first white men to reach the west were French and
French Canadians. Most of the employes of the fur companies were French
Canadians or French Half-breeds. On these grounds French was retained
for a number of years as one of the official languages of the North West
Territories. By the North West Territories Act the debates of the
Assembly and the proceedings before the Courts could be conducted in
either the French or the English languages. The Journals, reports and
ordinances could be printed in both the French and English languages.
But in 1891 the Parliament of Canada amended the North West Territories
Act giving power to the Assembly of the Territories to regulate its
proceedings and the manner of recording and publishing the same. [54-53
Viet. C. 22, s. 18.] Acting within this power Mr. Haultain introduced a
resolution in January, 1892, that the proceedings of the Assembly be
thereafter recorded and published in the English language only.
During the elections the
question of the liquor traffic excited even greater public feeling than
the constitutional differences between the Lieutenant Governor and the
Assembly. By the amendments to the N. W. T Act 1891, referred to above,
the Assembly was empowered to enact legislation relating to saloon,
tavern licenses and other licenses in order to raise a revenue for
territorial and municipal purposes. Consequently as soon as the Assembly
got a chance it abolished the unsatisfactory permit system and
established the liquor traffic on the license basis. The ordinance
provided that no license should be granted in a license district where a
majority of three-fifths of the electors voted in favor of prohibition.
Before the Assembly prorogued it passed a resolution, a forerunner of
many subsequent resolutions, respecting the annual appropriation made by
the federal government for the government of the North West Territories.
The population and the necessities for local public improvements were
growing rapidly while the subsidy was stationary. The resolution
reiterated the claim made in 1884 for grants in lieu of lands, debt
allowance and increased aid for education. In response to this memorial
the Federal Government invited Mr. Haultain to Ottawa and as a result a
lump sum of $193,200 was granted, an increase of $40,000.
The fourth session of the
Second Legislative Assembly met on August 17, 1893. Ordinances were
passed regulating mines, and the exportation of liquor to portions of
Canada outside the Territories. A bill to establish a general land tax
system was defeated. The words with which the Lieutenant Governor Royal
dismissed the Assembly indicates the evolution of responsible government
in the Territories:
"When on the 4th of July,
1888, I was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of the North West
Territories, the functions of that office were as totally different from
those of the Lieutenant Governors of the Provinces as they will be from
those performed by my successor. I was responsible to the Privy Council
of Canada alone for all executive acts done in the Territories. The
Assembly had hardly a voice in the government of the country and the
Lieutenant Governor was practically a political commissioner under whose
direct supervision and authority the affairs of the Territories were
conducted and administered. Now all this has been changed and hence my
satisfaction. The legislature today practically enjoys the rights and
privileges of self-government."
Hon. C. H. Mackintosh
succeeded Hon. Joseph Royal as Lieutenant Governor in November, 1893.
The fifth session opened at Regina on August 2, 1894. The Speech from
the Throne contained a review of the development of the country for the
previous seven years. The number of schools had increased from 111 on
June 30, 1887, to 372 on June 30, 1894, with a school population of
about 8000. Expenditure for schools increased in the same period from
$36,397.47 to $121,056.94.
The elections for the
Third Legislative Assembly of the Territories were held October 31,
1894. Hon. J. F. Betts, member for Prince Albert East, was elected
Speaker when the House met on August 29, 1895.
The session of 1896
opened September 29th. The separate school question was raised again,
but the Assembly adhered to the ordinance as passed in conformity with
the N. W. T. Act. On October 8th Mr. J. H. Ross, member for Moose Jaw,
moved for a committee to prepare a memorial to the Dominion setting
forth the financial and constitutional position of the Assembly, the
need of fuller powers, and the basis upon which the Territorial subsidy
should be determined.
On the 23rd the draft was
submitted to the Assembly and adopted. Full provincial status was not
demanded. The committee did not ask for right to raise money on the
credit of the Territories, the chartering of railways and the
administration of criminal laws. They asked that the executive
government be put upon a more constitutional basis, viz.: That an
executive council be substituted for the advisory committee, a body
which had no competency to advise the Lieutenant Governor, to control
dissolution or elections relating to the Assembly, and that the Assembly
have power to appoint sheriffs, magistrates, coroners and all provincial
Regarding the finances of
the Territories the Assembly reiterated its position of 1892, viz.: That
a fixed amount in the nature of a subsidy should be granted and
increased every four years. It was pointed out that whereas the
population was 66,799 in 1891, and the federal grant $211,200, the
population in 1896 was 105,000 and the grant only $242,879; that is, the
population had increased 56% while the grant. increased only 16%.
The items of the subsidy
asked for were as follows:
(1) Per capita grant of
80 cents per head on a population of 112,906 - $183.133.
(2) Government and legislation$50,000.
(3) Adequate grant in lieu of public lands.
In pressing the claims in
lieu of lands the Assembly urged that the revenues arising therefrom
accrue to the Dominion of Canada. Land subsidies to the extent of
25,000,000 acres valued at $25,000,000 had been given to railways in
addition to a cash subsidy of $25,000,000, of which amount the people of
the Territories also bore their proportionate share. Had the Dominion of
Canada paid the land subsidy in cash there would have been added to
interest charges of the country the sum of $750,000 per year.
The debate on the
memorial was the occasion for the first suggestion for a separate
province of Alberta, the matter being raised by Dr. Brett of Banff.
Important amendments to
the school ordinance were made in this session which form the basis upon
which grants are still made to the public schools of both Alberta and
The demands set forth in
the memorial were recognized by the Dominion Government and in the
speech from the Throne at the opening of the session of 1897, the
Lieutenant Governor announced important changes in the Constitution of
the Territories whereby, to quote his own words, "A completely
responsible system of government" was obtained. A true executive council
was chosen and public departments created for a better administration of
the public service. Larger powers respecting roads and trails and
important public works under territorial supervision were undertaken.
The ordinances of the
Territories were consolidated and a considerable body of amending
legislation was passed this session to secure simplicity and uniformity.
The session of 1898 was
opened on August 16th by his Honour M. C. Cameron. During the recess the
Yukon Territory had been separated by Order in Council from the North
West Territories and organized under a separate government. The
assumption of control by the federal government and the relinquishment
thereof by the Territorial Government was attended by some little
friction, especially respecting liquor permits. The Territorial
Government sent Mr. G. H. V. Bulyea into the Yukon to issue license
permits and establish regulations respecting the liquor traffic. Major
Walsh, Commissioner of the Yukon, under the Dominion Government, who
arrived later, refused to recognize the authority of the Territorial
Government, and conducted the traffic under regulations defined by the
Mounted Police. Consequently two sets of permits were issued. In the end
the Minister of Justice decided that the permits issued by the
Government of the North West Territories were valid. Subsequently the
Dominion Parliament passed the Yukon Territory Act superseding the Order
in Council of 1897 and extinguishing the jurisdiction of the North West
Territories over that part of Canada.
Before the Legislature
prorogued Mr. Haultain introduced a resolution upon a question that has
engaged the attention of legislators in the North-West since the
beginning of western colonization. It relates to lands granted to
railway or colonization companies. Invariably the policy of the
corporations has been to withhold the land from sale or settlement, and
avoid taxation by keeping the land valid in the Crown until it is
purchased on a long instalment plan and the purchaser obtains the patent
thereof. In his budget speech in 1897 Mr. Haultain showed that out of
grants of nearly 6,000,000 acres, and consequently lands not available
for taxes, only 204,000 acres had been patented. The resolution
petitioned the Federal Government to force the location and issue of
patents for all lands to which railway and colonization companies were
entitled, so that they might bear their just proportion of taxes for
schools, local improvements and other purposes.
His Honour M. C. Cameron
died on September 26th, and was succeeded by his Honour A. E. Forget,
for many years Clerk of the North West Council.
A new election was held
on November 4, 1898, and the Assembly met on April 4, 1899. The Assembly
consisted of 31 members, a number of new districts having been created
by the Redistribution Bill of 1898. Wm. Eakin, member for Saltcoats, was
The militia system was
extended to the North West Territories in 1900.
From this period to the
passing of the Alberta and Saskatchewan Acts the important question in
the Territories was provincial autonomy, though there was a difference
of opinion among the members of the Assembly whether there should be one
province or two. It annually formed the subject of correspondence and
negotiation between the Government of the North West Territories and the
Dominion Government until the Autonomy Acts were passed in 1905. The
memorial of the Assembly dated May 21 1900, was followed in December
1901 by an elaborate memorandum from Mr. Haultain in which the whole
question was reviewed and the problem stated. The Government of the
Territories drew up a Bill of Rights which claimed all the powers of one
of the old provinces of Canada.
On March 21, 1901, Hon.
A. L. Sifton, who had accepted the position of Chief Justice of Alberta,
was succeeded in the Department of Public Works by Hon. G. H. V. Bulyea.
The control of the Land Titles' Offices and Registration Districts was
transferred from the Dominion to the Territorial Government in 1903.
The session was brief,
the usual memorial for provincial institutions was sent. to Ottawa.
The last session of the
Assembly of the North West Territories met on September 22, 1904, and
prorogued on 8th.
Party lines were always
indefinitely drawn in the Assembly of the North West Territories, due,
it is believed, to the influence of Mr. Haultain, Mr. Ross and Mr.
Oliver. There was an unwritten but strong obligation recognized that the
good government of the Territories depended upon the elimination of
federal politics and the decision of all questions relating to the
North-West on their merits as affecting the welfare of the Territories.
With the passing of the
Autonomy Acts in 1905 party lines became clearly drawn, dividing the
public men of the Territories into two distinct parties.
The Alberta Act came into
force oil 1, 1905. Hon. G. H. V. Bulyea was appointed Lieutenant
Governor, August 24, 1905. On September 1st, Hon. A. C. Rutherford, M.
P. P. for Strathcona in the Territorial Assembly, was called upon to
form the first Government of Alberta. On September 9th, the following
appointments were gazetted:
President of the Council,
Provincial Treasurer and Minister of Education, Hon. A. C. Rutherford,
Strathcona; Attorney-General, lion. C. W. Cross, Edmonton; Minister of
Public Works, Hon. W. H. Gushing, Calgary; Provincial Secretary and
Minister of Agriculture, Hon. W. T. Finlay; Hon. L. G. DeVeber became
Minister without portfolio. In 1906 the latter was appointed to the
Senate, and the Executive was reduced to four members.
The first general
election was held oil 9th, 1905. The principal issues dividing the
parties were the rights of minorities to establish separate schools, and
the ownership of public lands. The alignment of parties in the Province
naturally followed that of the Federal parties. Reference has been made
already to both of these questions. The framing of the Provincial
constitution raised these questions again, and this time for final
As far as the matter of
schools was concerned, the Alberta Act has settled that issue finally,
but the ownership of the Crown Lands of the Province is still a live and
unsettled question. Sir Wilfred Laurier, Premier of Canada and leader of
the Liberal Party of Canada, introduced the bill for the creation of the
Province of Alberta in February, 1905.
The school clause of the
Bill provided that the minority should have the right to establish their
own schools and to share in the public funds for the maintenance of such
schools. An ambiguity in the construction of the clause caused a sharp
division in public opinion throughout the country, and especially in the
Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. As the clause was first drawn, it was
held by the opponents of separate schools that it re-established out and
out denominational schools, on the basis of the North West Territories
Act of 1875, under which Roman Catholic Separate Schools had been
established, with complete ecclesiastical control of finance,
inspection, teaching and textbooks. These rights had been considerably
restricted by the Territorial Assembly in 1892, limiting the right to
establish separate schools to those sections in which the Catholics were
in a minority, and limiting religious teaching to a nominal half hour at
the close of the day. Later, Ordinances and regulations enforced by the
authority of the Assembly, provided for uniform curricula,
qualifications of teachers and inspections in all schools, public or
The Conservative leaders
in Parliament, and their followers in both houses, strongly opposed the
clause ill form. Hon. Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior and the
representative of the North West Territories in the Laurier Cabinet,
resigned in protest against the clause, in which action he carried the
support of many Liberals in all parts of the North West Territories and
in Eastern Canada. Mr. F. W. G. Haultain, Premier of the North West
Territories, and Mr. R. B. Bennett, the member for Calgary in the
Territorial Assembly, led a fiery crusade against the clause. The
opposition and the hostility of many Liberals that such a law would be
incompatible with the long-declared liberal principle of Provincial
rights led the Federal Government to amend the clause to make it certain
that it conformed to the law passed by the Territorial Assembly, and
then in force in the North West Territories; that is, the rights of
minorities were those defined in the Territorial Ordinances of 1892 and
On Land question the
Liberals of the Province supported Sir Wilfred Laurier. The Conservative
Party led by Mr. F. W. G. Haultain, in Saskatchewan, and Mr. R. B.
Bennett in Alberta, contended that all lands, mines, and minerals
situated in the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan should belong to
the respective Provinces in the same way that those resources belong to
the older Provinces of the Canadian Confederation, that is to say, the
public lands should belong to the Crown in the right of the Province of
Alberta, and in the right of the Province of Saskatchewan and not to the
Crown in the right of the Dominion of Canada. The Liberal party led by
Hon. A. C. Rutherford ill and Hon. Walter Scott in Saskatchewan,
contended that the money grant in lieu of lands was a more satisfactory
settlement of the question. Public opinion in the new Provinces was
emphatically expressed at the polls. Premier Rutherford carried Alberta
23 seats to 2, and Premier Scott, in Saskatchewan, won 16 seats to 8.
The land question is
still unsettled, although both parties, in fact all parties in the
Province, agree that the lands should belong to the Province. In 1911,
Premier Sifton, who had succeeded Premier Rutherford as Liberal leader,
presented a formal demand to the Dominion Government to transfer the
lands, mines and minerals still in the Crown, except the homestead
lands, to the Province. Before any action could be taken upon the
subject, the Liberal party led by Sir Wilfred Laurier, was defeated in
the Federal General Elections in October, 1911. The demand was renewed
in 1913 by the three Prairie Provinces, and signed jointly by Premiers
Sifton of Alberta, Scott of Saskatchewan and Roblin of Manitoba.
Subsequent demands were made in 1919, and a conference of the Premiers
of all the Provinces was held at Ottawa. it was found, however, that the
older Provinces of Canada objected to a revision of the Alberta Act in
this respect, and to the transfer of the lands to the Prairie Provinces
without cornpensation, and readjustment of subsidies in favour of the
older members of confederation. There the issue lies today.
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