Father Lacombe's Threat to the Liberal Party [January 20, 1896]
[Note from the editor: Well-known by the students of the history of Western Canada, Albert Lacombe [1827-1916] was one of the first oblate missionaries to work among the Indians and the Métis in that region. In this capacity, over the years, he acquired a great reputation throughout Canada. His intervention, among the Blackfoot Indians, made possible the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was instrumental in protecting the Cree language, and to some extent the Blackfoot, by producing a grammar, a dictionary and manuals in this language. In 1895, Lacombe was appointed by Mgr. Langevin to represent him, and by extension the catholic episcopate, in Ottawa with the federal government as the school issue was about to enter a feverish political phase, centred on the issuance of a remedial law. As it appeared rapidly that the Liberal party would opposed the remedial law, Lacombe wrote to Laurier an important letter, parts of which are reproduced below. Within a month, the letter had been leaked to L'Électeur and was printed in the newspaper. It immediately caused quite a stir. Lacombe had gone too far, and clearly did not speak for the episcopate on this point. Nevertheless, it served the Liberals, and Laurier particularly, as they appeared, before the Protestant majority of Canada, to have withstood blackmail from the Roman Catholic episcopacy. Laurier's prestige grew steadily outside of Quebec without having been affected negatively within the province
Earlier in the letter, after claiming to speak for the Roman Catholic episcopacy, Lacombe had requested that laurier support the remedial law.]
I must tell you that we cannot accept your commission of enquiry on any account, and shall do our best to fight it. If, which may God not grant, you do not believe it to be your duty to accede to our just demands, and if the government, which is anxious to give us the promised law, is beaten and overthrown while keeping firm to the end of the struggle, I inform you, with regret, that the episcopacy, like one man, united with the clergy, will rise to support those who may have fallen in defending us. Please pardon the frankness which leads me to speak thus.
Source : Paul Crunican, Priests and Politicians : Manitoba Schools and the Elections of 1896, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1974, 369p., p. 172.
© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College