Laurier's Declaration of Support of Minority Rights [March 1893]
[Note from the editor: In March 1893, a motion of censure of the government policy on the Manitoba school question was introduced by a liberal supporter, and right hand man of Laurier in Quebec, Israël Tarte. Tarte's motion blamed the government to have followed the judicial route instead of taking their responsibilities as governments should. Laurier supported the motion. It was the occasion for Laurier to discuss the claim, often repeated by men such as Archbishop Alexandre Taché, that the public schools of Manitoba were only the former Protestant schools now thinly disguised. It should be pointed out that there was some disturbing evidence to support such a view. Laurier used the occasion to express himself on this point and on the issue of minority rights. The views expressed here by Laurier, led him eventually to demand that a Commission of inquiry be set up, headed by Sir Oliver Mowat. The investigation became the cornerstone of the Laurier policy on Manitoba schools. It needs to be added that, once in power, Laurier did not pursue the idea of investigating the situation.]
If it is true [ ] that under the guise of public schools, Protestant schools are being continued, and that Roman Catholics are forced, under the law, to attend what are in reality Protestant schools, I say this, and let my words be heard by friend and foe, let them be published in the press throughout the length of the land, that the strongest case has been made for interference by this government. If that statement be true, though my life as a political man should be ended forever, what I say now I shall be prepared to repeat, and would repeat on every platform in Ontario, every platform in Manitoba, nay, every Orange lodge throughout the land, that the Catholic minority has been subjected to a most infamous tyranny.
Source: Oscar Douglas Skelton, Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Vol. 1, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1921, 485p., pp. 455-456.
© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College