Tut purpose of this chapter is to set forth as briefly as possible the origin and development of Separate Schools in Upper Canada, showing incidentally the part taken in that development by Doctor Ryerson.
If we seek to discover the primary cause of our Separate School system we undoubtedly find it in the almost unanimous desire of the pioneer settlers to have the Common Schools established upon a basis of Christianity, and to secure for their children some positive instruction in the Holy Scriptures. From their stand-point secular schools were of necessity godless schools. We need also to remember that sectarian prejudices were more bitter seventy years ago than they are to-day. Dogma and religion were thought to be inseparable. To-day the various bodies of Christians through-out the world make much of what they hold in common; seventy years ago their grand-fathers could not forget the petty differences of doctrine that held them apart. If the schools were to give religious instruction, and if the adoption of some form of instruction acceptable to all was impossible, then separate schools were the logical outcome. And as separate schools for each one of the many sects into which the scattered population of Upper Canada was divided were clearly impossible it naturally followed that such schools were established for Roman Catholics who were comparatively few in number, and who differed in doctrine from Protestants more radically than the various Protestant bodies differed amongst themselves. No one of the Protestant bodies could object to the reading of the Protestant Bible in the schools, but the Roman Catholics naturally objected to their children taking any part in such an exercise.
As pointed out in Chapter IV., the Common School Act of 1841 laid the foundation of Separate Schools. The provisions of that Act applied to the United Canadas. In any town-ship or parish any number of dissentients might elect a trustee board and establish a school, receiving for its support public money in pro-portion to their numbers. It is clear that in practice under this clause a dissentient school could be established only where the dissentients were sufficiently numerous to furnish at Ieast fifteen children of school age, and contribute a considerable sum for school purposes. An-other clause in the Act of 1841 required the Governor to appoint, in towns and cities, school boards made up of an equal number of Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Protestants to manage schools attended by Protestant children and the Catholics to manage schools at-tended by Catholic children. But this clause made no provision for Roman Catholics from two or more city school sections combining to form one school for their children, and as Catholics in a single city section were seldom if ever numerous enough to form a school the Act was practically inoperative in securing separate Roman Catholic schools.
The Bill of 1841, as introduced into the Assembly, contained none of the above pro-visions for Separate Schools, and the question naturally arises, why were they inserted? Several petitions were presented from Boards of Education, and some from Synods of the Presbyterian Church, praying that the Bible be made a textbook in the schools. Bishop
Strachan and the clergy of his diocese petitioned ” that the education of the children of their own Church may be entrusted to their own pastors, and that an annual grant from the assessments may be awarded for their instruction.” The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingston also petitioned against the Bill as brought in, but did not expressly ask for Separate Schools. It seems natural then to infer (and the Journals of the Assembly for 1841 hear out this inference), that the amendments granting Separate Schools were a compromise.
Another amendment authorized Christian Brothers to teach even if they were not naturalized British subjects. In 1843 the Act of 1841 was repealed in so far as it related to Upper Canada. The new Act made it unlawful in any common school to compel the child to read from any religious book or join in any religious exercise to which his parents or guardians objected. It also provided that if the teacher of a school were a Roman Catholic, then any ten householders or freeholders might petition for a Separate School with a Protestant teacher or, in the saine way, Roman Catholics might form a Separate School if the teacher were a Protestant.
The grants to these Separate Schools were to be that proportion of the total school fund in any Municipal District that the children in actual attendance at the Separate School bore to the total number of children of school age in the district, and they were subject to the same rules and regulations regarding courses of study and inspection as the Common Schools.
In 1847 an amendment to the Common School Act was passed known as the Towns and Cities Act. This Act gave the Trustee Boards of towns and cities full power to determine the number of, and regulate, denominational schools. An extract from Ryerson’s Annual Report for 1847 as presented to the Provincial Secretary will make clear the nature of the Act and the Chief Superintendent’s views of it. Speaking of the provision for Separate Schools in the Act of 1843 he says :
” I have never seen the necessity for such a provision in connection with any section of the Common School Law, which provides that no child shall be compelled to read any religious book or attend any religious exercise contrary to the wishes of his parents and guardians ; and besides the apparent inexpediency of this pro-vision of the law it has been seriously objected to as inequitable, permitting the Roman Catholics to have a denominational school, but not granting a similar right or privilege to any one Protestant denomination .. . nor does the Act of 1847 permit the election of any sectarian school trustees nor the appointment of a teacher of any religious persuasion as such even for a denominational school. Every teacher of such school must be approved by the town or city school authorities. There are, therefore, guards and restrictions connected with the establishment of a denominational school in cities and towns under the new Act which did not previously exist; it, in fact, leaves the applications or pretensions of each religious persuasion to the judgment of those who provide the greater part of the local school fund and relieves the Government and Legislature from the influence of any such sectarian pressure. The effect of this Act has already been to lessen rather than to increase denominational schools, while it places all religious persuasions on the same legal footing, and leaves none of them any possible ground to attack the school law or oppose the school system. My Report on a system of Public Elementary Instruction for Upper Canada, as well as various decisions and opinions which I have given, amply show that I am far from advocating the establishment of denominational schools ; but I was not prepared to condemn what had been unanimously sanctioned by two successive Parliaments.”
During the Legislative Session of 1850 and while the School Bill was under discussion, a petition was presented by prominent Roman Catholic authorities praying for some modifications of the provisions for Separate Schools in the Bill then before the House. The result was that the 19th clause of the Act of 1850 made it compulsory upon the Municipal Council of any township or the School Board of any city or town or incorporated village, upon the written request of twelve or more resident heads of families, to establish one or more Separate Schools for either Protestants or Roman Catholics. At this time only fifty-one Separate Schools were in operation in the whole of Upper Canada,* of which nearly one-half were Protestant.
According to a letter written by Ryerson to Hon. George Brown t there was a movement among certain Anglicans to secure Separate Schools for their children. Had Roman Catholics and Anglicans :1: both secured Separate Schools, it would have wrecked the Common School system, and these two denominations acting in concert were strong enough to defeat the Baldwin-Lafontaine Government. Acting on Ryerson’s suggestion, the Government conceded in the main the Roman Catholic claim and secured their support to the Bill_ This Bill gave Separate Schools one distinct advantage over the Act of 1843. It made their share of the Separate School fund that part of the total fund which the Separate School attendance bore to the total school attendance. But Separate School supporters were still far from having their schools recognized as a right and placed on an equality with Common Schools. Separate Schools were granted as a privilege or concession, but not as a right. Let me quote from Ryerson’s circular to town reeves on the Act of 1850: ” But, notwithstanding the existence of this provision of the law since 1843, there were last year but 51 Separate Schools in all Upper Canada, nearly as many of them being Protestant as Roman Catholic; so that this provision of the law is of little consequence for good or for evil . . . It is also to he observed that a Separate School is entitled to no aid beyond a certain portion of the School Fund for the salary of the teacher. The schoolhouse must be provided, furnished, warmed, books procured, etc., by the persons petitioning for the Separate School. Nor are the patrons or supporters of a Separate School exempted from any of the local assessments or rates for common school purposes.”
This makes it clear that Separate School supporters were liable t0 be taxed by the municipality for the support of Common Schools; they might be called upon to pay an assessment to build, repair or furnish a Common School, or to pay a part of the teacher’s salary. On the other hand, the only aid they received in support of their own school was a share of the legislative and municipal grants which together made up the school fund. It will at once be seen that every step toward free Common Schools placed the Separate School supporters at an increased disadvantage because it made them contribute more and more toward the Common School.
The Act of 185o caused some friction in Toronto, where the Roman Catholics asked for a second Separate School. The Trustee Board refused on the ground that they were not legally compelled to establish more than one Separate School in the city and the Court of Queen’s Bench upheld their decision. By the old Act, under which cities were divided into school sections, there was no legal bar to the establishment of a Separate School in every city school section. Ryerson thought the Roman Catholics had a grievance and consented to recommend the Bill giving a Separate School in each city ward or a Separate School for two or more wards united for such purpose. This amendment was passed in 1851 and caused considerable discussion. A large party in Upper Canada were opposed to Separate Schools on principle and objected to any legislation that would multiply them, make them more efficient and popular, or grant them more favourable financial support.
The attitude of the out-and-out opponents to Separate Schools was very well expressed by the following Bill, introduced in 1851 by William Lyon Mackenzie:
Whereas the establishment of sectarian or Separate Schools, upheld by periodical grants of money from a provincial treasury and placed under the control of the Executive Government through its Superintendents of Education and other civil officers, is a dangerous interference with the Common School system of Upper Canada, and if allowed to Protestants and Roman Catholics cannot reasonably be refused to Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Quakers, Tunkers, Baptists, Independents and other religious denominations; and whereas if it is just that any number of religious sects should have Separate Public Schools it is not less reasonable that they should have separate Grammar Schools, Colleges and professorships in the Universities ; and whereas it is unjust for the State to tax Protestants in order to provide for the instruction of children in Roman Catholic doctrines or to tax Roman Catholics for religious instruction of youth in principles adverse to those of the Church of Rome; and as the early separation of children at school on account of the creeds of their parents or guardians would rear nurseries of strife and dissension and cause thousands to grow up in comparative ignorance who might under our Common School system obtain the advantages of a moral, intellectual and scientific education, be it enacted therefore that the nineteenth section of the Act of 185o be repealed.”
Mackenzie’s Bill was defeated by 26 to 5. It lays clown broad general principles that are not easy to overthrow, and no doubt several who voted against it would have been glad to see all young Canadians educated together. But if the right to have Separate Schools be granted, and it had been granted by successive School Acts for Upper Canada, then it seems naturally to follow that the Legislature was bound to place no obstacles in the way of their formation and to make them efficient.
Separate Schools were at first grudgingly granted as a privilege, but not as a right. Naturally, every extension of the privilege was used by the supporters of these schools as a vantage-ground from which to secure further privileges and gradually convert these into rights. At first the parties seceding from the Public Schools shared only in the school fund made up of the legislative grant and an equal sum levied by the district, town or city council the whole being available only for the payment of teachers’ salaries. Supporters of Separate Schools were liable to be taxed for the building and equipment of Public Schools in addition to the support of their own. They claimed a pro rata share of all moneys levied by taxation, and in some cases the law was invoked in an attempt to secure such share.
In 1853, a radical amendment was adopted by which Separate School supporters received a pro rata share of the legislative grant only, and upon subscribing for school purposes a sum equivalent to the grant secured were relieved of all taxation for Common School purposes. The Act of 1853 also gave the Separate School trustees power to issue certificates to the teachers employed by them, and the same power of levying rates upon the supporters of their schools as that exercised by trustees of Common Schools.
While the Separate School Bill of 1853 was before the Legislature, there was an attempt to introduce a clause establishing a general Board of Trustees for Separate or sectarian Schools in towns and cities. Ryerson went to Quebec to confer with the Attorney-General and vigorously opposed the Bill. His correspondence shows that he had no wish to place Separate Schools on an equality with Public Schools. In fact he wished to do nothing that would encourage or make easy their formation. The law as it stood allowed Separate Schools only when the teacher was of a different religious faith from those wishing the Separate School.
A general Board of Separate School Trustees for every town or city would have greatly increased the number of Separate Schools.
Ryerson says : ” This is placing Sectarian Schools upon a totally different foundation from that on which they have always stood it is the introduction of a system of sectarian schools without restriction and almost without conditions. . . . If there are city and town Boards of Sectarian School Trustees they will claim the right of appointing their own local superintendents, and thus their schools will be shut up against all inspection except that they themselves may please to require or permit … Thus such a Board in Toronto might recognize and claim public aid for every child taught in convents and by other private teachers of the sanie religious persuasion. . . .
If provision be made n each city and town to incorporate into one Board one religious persuasion, exempting it from the payment of school rates and authorizing it to tax and collect from its own members to any amount for school purposes, the application of any other religious persuasion in any such city or town cannot be consistently or fairly resisted.
The effect of all this would he to destroy the system of Public Schools in cities and towns and ultimately perhaps in villages and townships, and to leave all the poorer portion of the population and that portion of it connected with minor religious persuasions with-out any adequate and certain means of education. I think the safest and most defensible ground to take is a firm refusal to sanction any measure to provide by law increased facilities for the multiplication and perpetuation of sectarian schools.”
The attitude of the extreme opponents of Separate Schools may be made clear from the editorials of George Brown in the Toronto Globe. On April 2nd, 1853, he says:
” But under the new Bill the taxation of the Roman Catholic parents and the whole charge of the Separate Schools are to devolve on the Popish authorities. The schools are to become henceforth distinct, not only in their mode of tuition, but in the machinery by which they are to be conducted. They are to retain no vestige of connection with the general educational system, which is the pride and glory of the Canadian people. Any Roman Catholic has only to declare himself a supporter of a Separate School and straightway he is relieved from taxation for the maintenance of the general system. As at present constituted, there is a kind of guarantee that Roman Catholics are educated, that they are not left entirely in ignorance, but under Mr. Richards’ Bill there would be none.. . . The plain and obvious intention of the Bill is the still further development of the sectarian element in our Common Schools. The Roman Catholics were not satisfied with what they had already gained. They wished to* obtain their share of the annual Parliamentary grant, paid out of the revenue, which is made up almost exclusively from Protestant money. They wished to have their schools altogether free from the supervision of the general trustees. Their bishops went down to Quebec, the Mirror announcing their departure, and hinting at the object of their journey, and straightway we have the Bill from Mr. W. B. Richards, granting to them all they had demanded. I f they had asked much more it would have been granted to them by the present Government. If this Bill passes into law, the sectarian system will be fully and thoroughly introduced, and must be carried out to its utmost extent. The Roman Catholics say that they are not satisfied to send their children to the Common Schools, and they are free from taxation. The Episcopalians are ready to say the same, and we ask whether in fairness we can refuse to one what we grant to the other? And then the Methodists will demand separate schools, and the Presbyterians, and all hopes of the education of the people may be abandoned. Yet this Bill has been introduced by a Government raised to power upon the principle that our school system should be free from clerical control. ` No sectarian schools ‘ was the watchword at the last election among Reformers, yet one of the first measures introduced by the Reform Government is to establish sectarian schools more thoroughly than before. We look to them to abolish, and behold ! they ratify and confirm the evils of their predecessors. Where is this to stop? When is the measure of the iniquity of this Government to be filled up? … Let our school system, the source of light and intelligence, be destroyed, and what re-mains to us of hope for the country? They, as it were, would go gradually back to the darkness of ignorance and superstition. We shall consider no institution safe from priestly encroachments if this Bill is carried. There is no point upon which the people of Upper Canada can be more severely wounded than their common schools. Every true patriot has fondly looked to them as the safeguards against the despotism of priestcraft, and against violence of an ignorant and, therefore, vicious populace. If they are sacrificed, if their noble endowment is scattered among the sects, frittered away on a dozen different school systems, if the priests are to take possession of all the avenues of knowledge, what will be the fate of this Province? Will it rise in the scale of nations, ever to be distinguished for the intelligence of its people, for its prosperity and advancement ?”
The following from the Toronto Examiner, reprinted in the Globe of April 7th, 1853, shows that the Globe was not alone in its opinions:
” We arc reluctantly forced to the conviction that the rupture, complete and final, of the Common School system of Canada is only a question of time. We were among those who looked anxiously to the Government for a liberal and decided policy on this momentous question. An examination of the supplementary School Bill which we give in other columns will bear us out but too fully, we fear, in pronouncing its liberality exceedingly questionable. . . . How different in Canada. Reformers have been bidding for Roman Catholic votes until they are likely to bid away every distinctive principle which they hold, and when this is done will it satisfy the ends of men whose mission is to establish in the place of free institutions the domination of priest-craft ?”
The following from the Roman Catholic Mirror, quoted in the Globe, April 9th, 1853, shows that the Roman Catholics were well pleased with the Bill:
” We freely admit that we had certain misgivings respecting the amount of relief which might be expected from the measure pro-posed, which from the haughty and dictatorial tone assumed by the Chief Superintendent of Schools for Upper Canada, in his late perambulations, we were prepared at least to regard with suspicion. The terms on which justice has been hitherto meted out in stinted and niggard instalments, under the existing law, and the many instances in which it has been withheld or contemptuously refused, may have rendered us over-sensitive; but we must ac-knowledge that when we observe Dr. Ryerson publicly promulgate the conditions on which he would concede to Catholics the privilege of directing the education of their own children, we were prepared to expect a reiterated legislative insult and a gross in justice, not a measure restrictive, partial and oppressive. We have been most agreeably disappointed; the Bill of the ` Honourable Attorney-General West,’ with some slight modifications which can be readily introduced in committee, will form the basis of an educational system of sound principle, particularly calculated to do justice to all classes of the community.”
The following resolutions of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church, printed in the Globe, June 30th, 1853, shows the opinion of that body on the Common School question:
” Resolved. I. That this Synod approve of a national system of education, placing all the members of the community upon a level, and encouraging, as that now in force in this Province does. the use of the Scriptures under certain reasonable regulations, as are also prescribed therein.
” II. Holding these views, we deeply regret to perceive the principle of sectarian schools, so distinctly recognized in the latest amendments of the Provincial School Act, and d0 strongly testify against such a principle as impolitic and mischievous, recognizing as it does the right of the Government to take the moneys of the public and appropriate them for the purpose of sustaining and extending religious distractions, and thereby continuing to stimulate the elements of discord throughout the community and mar greatly social interests.
” III. That this Synod recommend to those under their care the use of every proper and constitutional means to secure the repeal of all such statutes as recognize the principle of sectarian schools.”
The movement for extended Separate School privileges was being championed by Bishop de Charbonnel, of Toronto. During 1852 he had a long controversy with Ryerson on the school question.* Ryerson’s letters during this controversy make it quite clear that he thought Separate Schools a huge blunder, and that while he had honestly attempted to give Roman Catholics all the law allowed them he hoped and expected to see their schools die a natural death.
In his Report for 1852, the Superintendent points with pride to the fact that Separate Schools are not increasing. Indeed, he congratulates himself that the provision in the law allowing them is really a good thing, since it is not very effective in practice but yet acts as a safety valve to prevent violent opposition to the school system. He believed that the Roman Catholics themselves would ultimately see that a policy of isolation of their children would have the effect of cutting them off from many of their natural privileges as Canadian citizens. And had the Separate School Act of 1853 remained unaltered, events would likely have shown Ryerson to be correct in his views.
He believed the Act of 1853 was final, and that without any municipal machinery for collecting their taxes Separate Schools would never become numerous.
In this he was greatly mistaken, as events proved. In 1854, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Toronto, Kingston and Bytown, drew up a Separate School Bill which they wished should become law. This Bill would have forced all Roman Catholics to support Catholic Separate Schools wherever such were established. It also had other provisions which Ryerson thought objectionable. In 1855 a Separate School Bill, known as the ” Taché Bill,” was introduced into the Legislative Council, and after some amendments adopted by both branches of Parliament. This Act differed from all previous Acts in that its provisions were exclusively for Roman Catholic Separate Schools. It repealed all previous legislation for Separate Schools in so far as Roman Catholics were concerned. It made possible the establishment of a Roman Catholic Separate School in any school section or any ward of a town or city on petition of ten Roman Catholic ratepayers and gave them a Separate School Board with their own Superintendent in towns and cities. Such Roman Catholic ratepayers were relieved from all municipal rates for Common School purposes, and received for their own school a pro rata share of the Legislative grant if they had an average attendance of 15 pupils. The Act also made possible general Boards of Separate School Trustees in towns and cities and gave all Separate School Boards power to license their own teachers and levy rates for Separate School purposes upon the supporters of those schools. The Act was in principle a distinct gain for the champions of Separate Schools, but it led to no rapid increase in the number of such schools. In 1858, only 94 Separate Schools were in existence with an enrolment of less than 10,000 children, as compared with an enrolment of 284,000 in the Public Schools. The Act of 1855 was really forced upon Upper Canada by the votes of members from Lower Canada, there being a majority of Upper Canada members against the Bill.
It would seem that the Roman Catholics did not gain by the Taché Bill as much as they expected. The following letter written to Dr. Ryerson from Quebec, on June 8th. 1855, by John (afterwards Sir John) A. Macdonald, Attorney-General for Upper Canada, who had charge of the Bill in the Assembly, shows that political exigencies played no small part in school legislation : ” Our Separate School Bill, which, as you know, is now quite harmless, passed with the approbation of our friend, Bishop Charbonnel. who, before leaving here, formally thanked the administration for doing justice to his Church. He has got a new light since his return to Toronto, and he now says the Bill won’t do. I need not point out to your suggestive mind that in any article written by you on the subject it is politic to press two points on the public attention : 1st, That the Bill will not, as you say, injuriously affect the Common School system. This for the people at large. 2nd, That the Bill is a substantial boon to the Roman Catholics. This to keep them in good humour. You sec that if the Bishop makes the Roman Catholics believe that the Bill is no use to them there will be a renewal of an unwholesome agitation which I thought we had allayed.”*
That Sir John A Macdonald was largely in agreement with Dr. Ryerson on the Separate School question is the opinion of Sir Joseph Pope, his biographer, who says on page 138 of his Memoirs: ” Mr. Macdonald said that he was as desirous as anyone of seeing all children going together to the Common School, and if he could have his own way there would be no Separate School. But we should respect the opinions of others who differed from us, and they had a right to refuse such schools as they could not conscientiously approve of.”
From 1855 to 1863, no important changes took place in the law governing Separate Schools. These schools were increasing very slowly, not so fast as the natural growth of the Roman Catholic population. In 186o, there were only 115 Separate Schools with an enrolment of 14.708 as compared with some 325,000 in the Public Schools. In 1860, Mr. (afterwards Honourable) R. W. Scott introduced a Bill planned to give Separate Schools additional privileges. Substantially the same Bill was introduced annually by Mr. Scott until 1863, when it passed with amendments, some of which were suggested by Dr. Ryerson. As a matter of fact, the Taché Act of 1855, which was suggested partly by the status of Protestant dissentient schools in Lower Canada, had imposed some useless but vexatious restrictions upon Separate School supporters. In 1862, Ryerson proposed to satisfy what he called the reasonable demands of Roman Catholics by making four changes, as follows :—
1st. To allow the formation of Separate Schools in incorporated villages and in towns (the Taché Act allowed a Separate School only in the ward of a town and not a school for the town as a whole) ; 2nd. To allow a union of two or more Separate Schools; 3rd. To make it unnecessary for a Separate School supporter annually to declare himself such ; and 4th, TO exempt Separate School trustees from making oath as to the correctness of their school returns.
The Scott Bill of 1863* as finally adopted by the Legislature, embodied all these pro-visions and some others of importance. Separate School teachers were to submit to the same examinations and receive the sanie certificates of qualification as Public School teachers, but all teachers qualified by law in Lower Canada were to be qualified teachers for Separate Schools in Upper Canada. This provision was to allow the teachers of religious orders t recognized by law as qualified in Lower Canada to teach in Separate Schools in Upper Canada. The Act also made taxpayers who withdrew their support from Separate Schools liable for their share of debts incurred while Separate School supporters in building or equipping Separate Schools. On the whole, the Scott Bill, while in its unamended form it aroused great opposition in Upper Canada, as finally adopted, tended to bring the Separate Schools into closer harmony with the principles governing Public Schools. The feature of the Bill that aroused most opposition was its being forced upon Upper Canada by votes of Lower Canadian membersthere being a majority* of ten Upper Canada members against the third reading of the Bill in the Assembly. Such well-known men as John A. Macdonald, John Sand held Macdonald and Wm. Macdougall supported the Bill, while George Brown. Alexander Mackenzie and Oliver Mowat opposed it.
Ryerson claimed t that he agreed to the amended Scott Bill only on the distinct under-standing that it was to be a finality in Separate School legislation. Fie also claimed that the Roman Catholic Bishops of Quebec, Kingston and Toronto accepted the Bill as a final settlement. But nothing is final in legislation, and Dr. Ryerson ought to have known this. Legislation is as much the result of a process of evolution as any other institution of human society, and no three or four men, whether priests or laymen, could speak authoritatively and finally for the thousands of Roman Catholics in Upper Canada.
Separate Schools increased slowly. In 1863 they numbered 115, with 15,000 pupils, the Public Schools having during the same year 4,000 Roman Catholic pupils. In 1864, Separate Schools had increased to 147 with 17,365 pupils.. In 1871, the number was 160, with 21,000 pupils.
Almost immediately after the Scott legislation of 1863, an agitation began for further amendments to the Separate School Act. Ryerson made strong objections partly on the ground of the alleged compact of 1863, and partly on the ground that no legislation could possibly make Separate Schools really popular and efficient outside of large towns and cities.
In 1865, the school administration was attacked by James O’Reilly, of Kingston, and, in a memorandum prepared as a reply to these attacks, Ryerson goes into some detail to justify his Separate School policy and reiterates his firm belief that sectarian schools must ever be relatively inefficient. He concludes as follows : ” The fact is that the tendency of the public mind and of the institutions of Upper Canada is to confederation and not isolation, to united effort and not divisions. The efforts to establish and extend Separate Schools, although often energetic and made at great sacrifice, are a struggle against the instincts of Canadian society, against the necessities of a sparsely populated country, against the social and political interest of the parents and youth separated from their fellow citizens. It is not the Separate School law that renders such efforts fitful, feeble and little successful; their paralysis is caused by a higher than human law, the law of circumstancesthe law of nature, and the law of interest.
” If, therefore, the present Separate School law is not to be maintained as a final settlement of the question and if the Legislature finds it necessary to legislate on the Separate School question again. I pray that it will abolish the Separate School law altogether; and to this recommendation I am forced after having long used my best efforts to maintain and give the fullest effect and most liberal application to successive Separate School actsand after twenty years’ experience and superintendence of our Common School system.”*
When the Confederation resolutions adopted at Quebec in 1864 were being discussed in the Canadian Assembly in 1865, an extended debate arose over the clause which secured for the minorities in Upper and Lower Canada the privilege of Separate Schools. Men like George Brown and Alexander Mackenzie, who had opposed the Scott Bill of 1863, defended the minority clause on the ground that it would place Upper Canada in no worse position than she already was in regard to sectarian schools, and that privileges given ought not to be withdrawn. The Assembly were almost unanimous in supporting the Separate School clause which was incorporated into the British North America Act.
No changes in Separate School legislation were made after Confederation until 1886, and the only events of passing importance in Separate School affairs were the objections raised in Kingston in 1865 and in Toronto in 1871 to visits of inspection by the Grammar School Inspector, who had been appointed to make these visits by the Council of Public Instruction. When Dr. Ryerson pointed out that these visits were authorized by the Scott Bill of 1863, the Bishops very gracefully waived their objections and the principle of Separate School inspection by Government officers was established. In 1874, the three High School Inspectors made a general inspection of Separate Schools. In their report to the Government they say : ” The inspection of the Separate Schools derives an additional interest and importance from the peculiar position they occupy in our educational system. Among them we have found both well-equipped and ill-equipped, both well-taught and ill-taught schools. On the whole we regret that in the majority of cases the buildings, the equipment, and the teaching are alike inferior. There are but few Separate School teachers whose school surroundings are such as to make their positions enviable, and accordingly a large measure of approbation is due to those who have succeeded in doing good work. We have pleasure in stating that in many places the Separate School Boards are beginning to see that they must either make the schools tinder their charge more efficient or close them altogether. There are many things connected with the operation of the Separate School Act which invite comment ; but we think it best to postpone the expression of our views until they are matured by the experience of another year.”
Some years after this, in 1882, the Education Department adopted the plan of appointing special Roman Catholic Inspectors of Separate Shoots. No doubt regular inspection of these schools has done much to increase their efficiency, but it is to be regretted that the plan of inspection adopted tends to widen still further the breach between them and the schools of the mass of the people.
Four years after Ryerson’s death, the Act relating to Separate Schools was revised and amended. No new principles were introduced, but every amendment made tended to place Separate School supporters on an equality with supporters of Public Schools. The number of schools has gradually increased owing to the rapid increase in our urban population. In 1884 there were 207 Separate Schools, with 27,463 pupils; in 1894, 328 schools with 39,762 pupils; and in 1906. 443 schools With 50,000 pupils.
Perhaps the most important event connected with the history of Separate Schools since 1886 was the decision of the judicial Committee of the Privy Council in November, 1906. This decision macle it clear that the clause declaring persons qualified as teachers in Quebec at the time of Confederation to be qualified teachers of Separate Schools in Ontario applied only to individuals and not to religious corporations as such. The result will be that the Separate Schools ought soon to have a body of’ teachers with the same academic standing and the same normal training as the Public Schools.