The Canadian Prairie Province – Government And Civil Institutions

BY the Dominion Act, 3:3 Vic. c. 3, under which the Province was carved out of Rupert’s Land and the North West Territory, provision was made for the establishment of its government, as also for that of the part of the territory not included within the limits of the Province. Manitoba was given a representation in the Canadian Senate of two members. The Hon. M. A. Girard, of St. Boniface, and Hon. John Sutherland, of Kildonan, were appointed such Senators. To the Canadian House of Commons four elective members came from the Prairie Province, and these are in the present, being the second, parliament of the Dominion : Messrs. John Schultz, M.D., Donald A. Smith, A. G. B. Bannatyne and Joseph Ryan, representing respectively Lisgar, Selkirk, Provencher and Marquette, the several sections forming the North, Middle, South and Western parts of the Province, into which it is divided for electoral purposes.

The Local Government is in the hands of a Lieutenant-Governor, appointed by the Governor-General, and of an Executive Council, the members of which must also be members of the Provincial Parliament. The present members and the offices filled by each are as follows:

The Hon. R. A. Davis, Premier and Treasurer ; Hon. James McKay, President of the Council ; Hon. J. Royal, Minister of Public Works, and Hon. J. Norquay, without portfolio. Hon. Colin Inkster was President of the Council, but resigned when lately appointed sheriff.

The legislative power was, till the fourth of February, 1876, vested in the Lieutenant-Governor and two Houses —the Legislative Council, of seven members appointed by the Lieut.-Governor, and the Assembly of twenty-four members elected by the people. The Legislative Council was deemed a source of useless expense in a country so new and undeveloped as Manitoba. The efforts of its venerable members were insufficient to raise its dignity, or make its existence appear a political necessity. The example of Ontario, which had happily dispensed with Black Rod and Lords in miniature, was quoted, and on the Province coming to Ottawa for ” bet-ter terms,” the abolition of this little Chamber was insisted on. The Province will now receive $90,000 annually from the Dominion to provide for its general governmental expenses.

The important constitutional change referred to was voted by both Houses, the Hon. Dr. O’Donnell only pro-testing, and intimating his intention of appealing to the Supreme Court. The Lieutenant-Governor gave the royal assent to the Act as stated on the 4th of February. His Honour thus referred to this event in his speech to the members : ” I have watched with deep interest your action with regard to the measure for carrying out the public business with the aid of a single chamber only. The members of the Legislative Council have displayed a spirit of devotion to the interests of the people in voting for the extinction of their offices as Councillors, which they were entitled to hold for life. I sympathize with those in both Houses who assented, as I am aware, to the change with reluctance and hesitation, regarding as they did, the Upper Chamber as a check and protection, but yet did so in the belief that the necessities of the Province required the step to be taken.” And in conclusion Governor Morris said : “1 have now the honour to bid you farewell, and do so with more than ordinary earnestness, in view of the passing away of a body of men to whom I tender my heartiest acknowledgment for the uniform courtesy I have received at their hands.”

The English and French languages are both used in the Legislature. It is hoped that the use of the French language will soon be dispensed with, in so far at least as the printing of proceedings is concerned. The expense so occasioned is a considerable item, and little needed, as most, if not all, of the members can read English.

The appearance of this little Legislature, especially in its first session, was such as tended to amuse spectators accustomed to more august gatherings of the people’s representatives. Ancient English forms and precedents were followed as far as circumstances permitted ; but there were, among the members of mixed blood, some more accustomed to the chase of the bison than to following orators through labyrinths of argument. The favourite dress of one, of taste akin to Garibaldi, was a red flannel shirt and moccasins. When Mr. Archibald first appeared in glorious array, to take his gubernatorial seat in the Legislative Council Chamber, an astonished legislator ejaculated ; ” Tiens ! Ce n’est pas un homme; c’est un faisan doré.” We find the spirit of Ontario in the statute book and judicature, as well as in the forms of the Legislature. This is the more apparent since Lieutenant-Governor Archibald left the Province and the present Chief Justice was appointed.

The Ontario lawyer finds himself at home in the Courts of Manitoba. English law, as to civil rights, has been introduced by local enactment as it stood in 1870. The law as to criminal offences is that of the Dominion. The Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Hon. E. B. Wood, Justices McKeagney and Betournay, who, as other Canadian Judges, hold office by appointment of the Governor-General in Council, and during good behaviour holds its sessions thrice a year in Winnipeg, having legal and equitable, civil and criminal jurisdiction in all matters. In regard to costs, civil cases are divided into a higher and a lower scale. Through the over-ruling influence of the Chief Justice, the code to which he was in practice accustomed, as set out in the Ontario Common Law Procedure Act and the General Orders of the Ontario Court of Chancery, has been adopted. Mr. Cary, a cultivated gentleman, is at once Prothonotary, Master in Chancery, Clerk of Records and Interpreter of the Court. The judges sit separately exercising originel jurisdiction, and in banco together on appeals, &c. The Province is divided into several judicial districts, in which county courts are held by the judges named, as occasion arises. The Chief Justice practically acts as Chancellor He complains that he has not enough of work to occupy his time. The bar has some able representatives.


The Lieutenant-Governor is also Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territory, and is aided by a council, the members of which are the Honourable Messieurs M. A. Girard, D. A. Smith, H. J. Clarke, Q.C., Pascal Breland, Alfred Boyd, J. C. Shultz, M.D., Joseph Dubuc, A. G. B. Bannatyne, W. Fraser, R. Hamilton, J. Royal, Pierre Delorme, W. R. Bown, James McKay, Wm. Kennedy, J. H. McTavish and Wm. Tait ; F. G. Becher, Esq., being the Clerk.

The last meeting of this body took place on the 24th of November, 1875, at Winnipeg. The Governor, in his opening address, reviewed the proceedings of the Council since its formation in March, 1873, quoting part of the address then delivered, thus;

” The duties which devolve upon you are of a highly important character. A country of vast extent, which is possessed of abundant resources, is entrusted to your keeping, a country which, though at present but sparsely settled, is destined, I believe, to become the home of thousands of persons, by means of whose industry and energy that which is now almost a wilderness will be quickly trans-formed into a fruitful land, where civilization and the arts of peace will flourish. It is for us to labour to the utmost of our power in order to bring about, as speedily as possible, the settlement of the North-west Territories, and the development of their resources, and at the same time to adopt such measures as may be necessary to insure the maintenance of peace and order, and the welfare and happiness of all classes of Her Majesty’s subjects, resident in the Territories.”

His Honour then refers to the fact that in expectation of the early appointment of a separate Lieutenant-Governor and Council for the North-west, the present Council act only provisionally, saying :

” A new Council is to be organized, partly nominative by the Crown, and partly elective by the people, with the view of exercising its functions under the presidency of a resident Governor within the Territories themselves. I am confident that that Council will take up the work you began, and have so zealously endeavoured to carry-out, and I trust that they will prove successful in their efforts to develop the Territories, and attract to them a large population.

” Though you had many difficulties to contend with, you surmounted most of them, and will have the gratification of knowing that you, in a large measure, contributed to shape the policy which will prevail in the Government of the Territories, and the administration of its affairs.”

The Council, in reply, expressed the satisfaction they felt for his Honour’s approval of their efforts, the confidence that their successors would cordially take up the work they had begun to develop the Territories ; they recorded their pleasure at the conclusion of the Indian treaties. They then expressed their friendly feeling to the President, and conclude thus :

” When we retire from the Council we will continue, in whatever sphere in life we may occupy, to be actuated by the same feelings of warm attachment to the Sovereign and loyal devotion to our country.”

The Government of the Territories soon to supersede the present Council is that provided by the Act of 1875, 38 Vic. cap. 49, under which the Dominion Government were authorised to appoint a Lieutenant-Governor and a Council of five members three of whom to be stipendiary magistrates Messrs. McLeod and Ryan have been appointed such magistrates. The other appointments will, no doubt, soon be made, and the proposed Government established with seat probably at the Forks of Battle River and the Saskatchewan, near Carlton House, five hundred miles west from the Province, which is already marked as an important place in the future. Three thousand carts went past it on the trail last season, and a considerable settlement is springing up round the quarters of the mounted police. The stage company having the line between Winnipeg and Fargo have made proposals to put weekly stages on the route between Winnipeg and Carlton House.

That part of the Territory north and east of the Province has, however, been recently detached from the western portion and erected into a district called Kewatin, or the North Land, to be under the immediate control of the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba. So much of this district as may not prove to be in Ontario, will no doubt ultimately be incorporated with the Province of Manitoba. As stated before, executive authority through-out the North-west is enforced by the mounted police, an excellent force of three hundred officers and men. The following are their stations for the year 1876 :—Head-quarters of the force, Livingstone or Fort Pelly ; A troop, Fort Saskatchewan ; B troop, Cypress Hills ; C troop, with artillery, Fort McLeod, Old Man’s River ; D and E troops, Fort Pelly ; F troop, the Elbow, Bow River, Judicial authority over this immense region is vested in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. The stipendiary magistrates and the inspectors, or officers in charge at headquarters of the police, have authority to arrest and, in a limited extent, to try summarily. These powers will continue under the new regime. The importance of the position of the Court in such a country as this can not be overestimated. Lynch law is unknown. The lawless find themselves more comfortable in Montana and Nevada than within the domain of the British lion. This cannot be better illustrated than by quoting part of the charge of Chief Justice Wood to the grand jury at its session in Winnipeg in the month of October, 1875. Were any excuse necessary for so occupying the reader’s attention, we would say that the history of the last few years is that of peace and prosperity advancing to make these plains their tributaries. Justice with strong arm and steady voice ” drills the raw world for the march of mind :”

” Were the Province alone concerned, I should at once dismiss you and the petit jury to your homes, for all the issues of fact in the cases in the civil docket, although numerous, will be tried without the intervention of a jury. Four cases appear in the calendar for offences committed in the North West Territory, and beyond the bounds of the Province, but over which by statute this Court has jusdiction, of men charged with murder of several Indian men, women and children at Cypress Hills, in North West Territory, in the month of May, 187(i. We all recollect the shudder of horror with which, shortly after the bloody tragedy, we received the intelligence of the wanton and atrocious slaughter by a band of whites, chiefly from Fort Benton, of the Assiniboine Indians peacefully encamped at Cypress Hills, whose first intimation of danger was the sharp rattle of the deadly repeating rifle from a treacherous and concealed foe. Three persons, charged with complicity in this murder, are indicted, having been brought upwards of one thous-and miles and lodged in Winnipeg gaol.”

“These cases have the greater importance as the crimes involved were committed far away from the abodes of civi!ization, and where it might be supposed the arm of British justice would not reach. It is at considerable disadvantage that the persons charged are at last brought before a Court of Justice. Public law and order and the interests of justice alike demand that we should deal firmly but cautiously in all these cases. We must let it be known from the Rocky Mountains to the boundaries of Ontario and Quebec that all are under the protection of and answerable to British law, and that however far removed, from settlement, and however remote from the habitation of the white man, the commission of crime may take place, the Argus eye of justice will find it out, and the law will apprehend, bring to trial and punish the offender.”


Public schools are in operation in the Province, under competent teachers, controlled by a board appointed by the local government. The Province gives an annual grant of $7,000, which provides a sum of from $120 to $150 for each school, which is generally supplimented by subscriptions. There are a Protestant and a Roman Catholic superintendent. Higher and grammar school education is sufficiently provided for by St. Boniface College, under control of Archbishop Taché, which has been established for many years, by the Church of England College of St. John, and ” Manitoba College,” under charge of the Presbyterians, all which prepare boys for entrance to universities and give instruction in theology. There is also a Wesleyan Institute. There are in Winnipeg and elsewhere in the Province day and boarding schools for girls.

For the purpose of creating a permanent provision in aid of education, two sections, or 1,280 acres, are set apart, under a Dominion statute, in every town-ship as surveyed. The provision thus made, if honestly utilized, will in time produce a magnificent educational endowment. No provincial university has yet been founded, but the subject has been discussed. Manitoba College sends young men to finish their curriculum at Toronto University. A young gentleman trained at St. John’s lately took his B.A. degree at Cambridge, where he gained a sizarship. At a recent public meeting in Winnipeg, one of the speakers proposed that a college affiliated to the great unsectarian University of Toronto should be established in Manitoba. Another suggested that the existing colleges of Manitoba, St. John and St. Boniface, might be affiliated under a board of regents incorporated as a university. It is hoped that when the time for action comes, large and enlightened views in respect to higher education will prevail. The cause will certainly not be promoted by conferring any pretentious powers of conferring degrees, so called, on provincial colleges for many years to come.

It is scarcely needful to remark that there is no religion established by State. All forms of worship are practised on an equal basis.

The Provincial Agricultural Association strives to introduce good breeds of cattle, and to obtain and encourage the cultivation of grains most suited to the soil and climate. The order of Good Templars has many branches, in which much interest is manifested.

Among other public institutions the Province has a Rifle Association, consisting of some two hundred members. This Association was formed in the summer of 1872, the president being Major A. Irvine, of the Do-minion Forces in Manitoba. The position is held for the year 1876 by the Hon. A. G. B. Bannatyne, M.P. The ranges of the Association are at St. Boniface on the east side of the Red River, about one mile from Winnipeg. The annual matches are well attended, and are conducted after the manner of a miniature Wimbledon. The scores of the competitors show that Manitoba is worthy of a representation in the annual team sent by the Dominion to Wimbledon. This institution is both flourishing and public-spirited. At the matches for 1875 the amount given in prizes was $1,075, of which $400 were contributed by the Dominion Government. Under a plan contrived by Captain E. Brokovski, executive officer for the past three years, marksmen are enabled to shoot after the most recent rules and shape of bull’s eye adopted at Wimbledon, on the old iron section target. The Association is now represented in the Dominion Rifle Association by five Manitoba members, including three Members of Parliment, the Mayor of Winnipeg and the Collector of Customs.

Newspaper and other literary work has its head-quarters in Winnipeg. Emerson lias a weekly sheet. The magazines of the older provinces receive many able and interesting contributions from Manitoba.

Mutual Improvement Societies have sprung up in every village, whose weekly meetings., with literary and musical exercises, are looked forward to with pleasure, and attended with profit, in the long winter evenings.

The population of the Province at the census taken in 1870 was made up thus :

French half-breeds 5,694

English 4,076

Christian Indians 581

Other persons 1,614

Total population, not including pagan Indians 11,965

As to religion, the Roman Catholics claimed then about five hundred in excess of the Protestants. With the subsequent rapid growth of Winnipeg, and the large increase by immigration of Mennonites, Icelanders, Danes and people from the other Provinces, Ontario especially, and the States, to the rural districts, it is estimated by Surveyor-General Dennis that the population of the Province is now about 32,000. The Manitobans, including members of the Provincial Government, however, claim that the population is now 36,000. The growth has been greatly checked by the grasshopper plague, as is else-where explained.