The Laurier-Greenway Compromise as Described By Oscar Douglas Skelton
[Note from the editor: A scholar and a great admirer of Wilfrid Laurier, Skelton wrote an extensive biography (Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 2 vols., 1921) of him that set the pattern for the Liberal interpretation of Canadian history. This vision of Canada, embodied in the Liberal party, and the political leaders they have spawned - men such as Laurier, King, St. laurent and Trudeau - champions anglo-french cooperation and the necessity of compromise as essential components for the continued existence of Canada.
Skelton presented Laurier in a very favourable light. I have extracted here only the part that gives the terms of the compromise.]
The settlement embodied three concessions. First, religious teaching was to be carried on between half-past three and four o'clock, by any Christian clergyman or his deputy, when authorized by a resolution of the local board of trustees or requested by the parents of ten children in a rural or twenty-five in an urban school. Different days or different rooms might be allotted different denominations; no children were to attend unless at the parents desire. Secondly, at least one duly, certificated Roman Catholic teacher was to be employed in urban schools, where the average attendance reached forty and in village and rural schools where it reached twenty-five, if required by parents' petition; similarly, non-Roman Catholic teachers were to be employed when requested by a non-Catholic minority. Thirdly, "when ten of the pupils in any school speak the French language or any language other than English, as their native language, the teaching of such pupils shall be conducted in French, or such other language, and English upon the bilingual system." The provincial government also agreed that fair Catholic representation in advisory council, inspectorships and examining boards would be kept in mind in the administration of the act. In essence, the agreement left the system of public schools intact, but secured for the minority distinct religious teaching, and, where numbers warranted, teachers of their own faith and the maintenance of the French tongue. The language clause was framed in general terms by the provincial authorities in order to make it apply to the German Mennonites as well as to the French Catholics.
Source : Oscar Douglas Skelton, Life and Letters of Wilfrid Laurier. Vol. 2, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1921, 576p., pp. 16-17.
© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College