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Last revised:
27 August 2000

Les Québécois, le clergé catholique et l'affaire des écoles du Manitoba / Quebecers, the Catholic Clergy and the Manitoba School Question, 1890-1916

Notes on the 1890 Manitoba School Legislation

In 1890, on March 31, the legislature of Manitoba adopted two laws that superseded the school legislation that had been established in 1871 and which had created a confessional school system. The intent of the government of Manitoba was to create a single, public, non-sectarian system of schools for all of Manitoba’s children. As these two bills were far too extensive to be reproduced at the site, they are summarized below.

1. An Act Respecting the Department of Education:

This bill, by far the shortest of the two laws adopted, contained 19 articles. Article one created a Department of Education to consist of the members of the government or of a committee established by it. The Department received extensive powers by virtue of article 2: among them, to appoint inspectors, teachers and directors to schools, fix salaries, establish certification of teachers and various administrative powers to sanction the functionning of the schools. Article 4 established an Advisory Board which was to consist of seven members (art. 5). Four of the members of the Board were to be appointed by the government (art. 6), two were to be elected by teachers (art. 7) and the last member was to be appointed by the University Council (art. 13). The powers of the Board were spelled out in article 14: to make regulations about the physical layout and equipment of the schools (ss. a), to authorize textbooks (ss. b), to determine the qualifications of teachers and inspectors (ss. c), to determine standards for admission into the high schools (ss. d), to provide advice to the Department of Education (ss. e), to appoint examiners for teachers’ certificates and admission of pupils to high school (ss. f), « to prescribe the form of religious exercises to be used in the schools; » (ss. g), to make regulations « for the classification, organization, discipline and government of Normal, Model, High and Public Schools; » (ss. h), to determine who would get certificates (ss. i) and to decide on all disputes and complaints (ss. j). The Department of Education could appoint officers, clerks etc. to conduct the business of the Department or of the Board (art. 17) and reported annually to the Government (art. 15). All regulations by the Board and Orders in Council of the Government or of the Department had to be submitted for approval to the Legislature (art. 16) and if disapproved would be of no effect.

2. An Act Respecting public Schools

This law contained 183 articles with many sub-clauses, aside from two schedules annexed to the bill. 142 of the clauses were copied, in whole or in part, from existing legislation in Ontario, including the title of the Bill (s. 1). Thus, it would be fair to say that what Manitoba did in 1890 was largely to import the public school system of Ontario into Manitoba (Note: the data given by Crunican, p. 7, is incorrect; the two bills did not contain 227 articles but 202, the total number of articles copied, in whole or in part, from Ontario was 147, not 171 etc.) but without taking the separate school provisions that also existed in Ontario to complement the system.

By virtue of article 5, the public schools of Manitoba were to be free for students between the age od six and sixteen. Only religious exercises authorised by the Board were to be conducted in the public schools. The time for such exercises was to be just before the closing of the schools and pupils whose parents objected to such exercises would be dismissed before such exercises were held (s. 6). The religious exercises were to be held « entirely at the option of the school trustees for the district » (s. 7); otherwise the schools are declared to be entirely « non-sectarian » (s. 8)

The council of each rural municipality was to form a school district; numerical and geographical parameters for such districts were also established (s. 9). Three trustees would be elected in each of these rural districts (s. 10) by the ratepayers (« Ratepayer shall mean an assessed householder, owner or tenant, or any person entered on the assessment roll as a farmer’s son ») who are at least 21 years old (s. 13); such elections were to be held at an annual meeting of the ratepayers on the first Monday of December of every year (s. 14); trustees to be elected had to reside in the district, be at least 21 years old and able to read and write (s. 12). S. 14-22 established procedures for the yearly meeting of the ratepayers of each district. Each board of school trustees was to have a secretary-treasurer (s. 28); the administrative and financial functions of the secretary were defined in s. 29. Every Board of rural districts were also to have an auditor (s. 34) to examine the accuracy of the accounts (s. 36.1). The duties of the trustees of rural school districts were, among others, to select a new school site, to appoint a school auditor (s. 37.1), to provide adequate accomodation and a qualified teacher(s) according to the regulations of the Department of Education (s. 37.2) and to pay them (s. 37.4), to apply to the municipal council for levying and collecting of taxes needed to support the school(s) (s. 37.3), to keep the school properties in a proper state of repair (s. 37.5), to take discipline measures against pupils (s. 37.8), to have custody of school properties (s. 37.9), to see that the schools are conducted according to the regulations of the Department of Education (s. 37.10), to ensure that unauthorized books are not used in their schools (s. 37.11), to prepare a yearly report for the annual meeting (s. 37.12), to transmit data to the Department of Education (s. 37.13) and to collect on the children that are no from the school district the sum of $0.50 per month (s. 37.14).

Sections 38-51 dealt with the unorganized districts. Sections 52-67 discussed the establishment of new schools and their site; before any new site was selected, a special meeting of the ratepayers had to be called; no change of school site was to be effected without the assent of the majority (s. 52). If the trustees, and the majority of the ratepayers, disagreed as to the new site, an arbitrator had to be selected to decide the matter with the Inspector (s. 53). Several articles of this part of the bill governed the handling of disputes as to value of property intended to be used as the new site for a school. Sections 68-71 permitted the alteration of rural school districts by uniting two or more districts in the same municipality into one (s. 68.1), or by dividing existing districts (s. 68.2); procedures for appeal were set up (s.69) and for disposition of excess property (s. 71). Articles 72-77 governed the formation and dissolution of union school districts composed of parts of several municipalities; these union school districts could be formed by parts of two or more adjoining rural municipalities or parts of one or more adjoining rural municipalities and an adjoining twon or village (s. 72).

Sections 78-86 governed the school situation in cities, towns and villages. In such localities, new elections for trustees had to be called at a meeting of the ratepayers (s. 78); every ward of a city, town or village had to elect two trustees (s. 79); in a village not organized into wards, three trustees were to be elected (s. 80); any resident ratepayer, at least 21 years old, and able to read and write could be elected as public school trustee in a city, town or village (s. 83); s. 86 governed the duties of the board of school trustees in cities, towns and villages. Among others, these were: to provide adequate accomodations for all the children between the age of six and sixteen (ss. 2), to purchase, rent, furnish and keep in good repair the school facilities (ss. 3), to determine the number, kind, grade and description of schools (male, female, infant, central, ward), the teachers to be employed, their terms of employment , the remuneration and the duties of such teachers (ss. 4); to prepare, and lay before the municipal council, the estimate of the sums needed to cover the expenses (ss. 5); to collect a sum of $0.20 per month per pupil to defray the cost of textbooks, stationaries etc. and to see that every pupil is properly supplied or to collect for non resident pupils the sum of $1.00 per month (ss. 6), to create a model school for the future training of teachers (ss. 9), to publish the annual report of the auditors (ss. 10), to acquire land and property for school purposes (ss. 11), to provide, if they deem it expedient, for a kindergarden for the children of three to six years old (ss. 12), to be able to take disciplinary action against pupils (ss. 13), to appoint a superintendant for the city, town or village.

Sections 89-108 covered financial arrangements. To supplement the grant from the provincial government, the council of each rural municipality, had to collect each year by taxation a sum equal to $20.00 a month for each school they had under their jurisdiction or, in any case, collect $20.00 a month for each teacher it employed (s. 89.1). In the towns, cities and villages, the municipal council had to collect such sums as were required by the public school trustees for school purposes (s. 92). Rural school districts could borrow money to a maximum debt of $700.00 (s. 98.1). In the cities, towns and villages, and in the rural areas where the debt would exceed $700.00, borrowing would have to be submitted to the ratepayers in the same way as is outlined in the Municipal Act (s. 99). Loans also required the assent of the Department of Education (s. 105.1).

Sections 108-110 discussed the legislative grant. The grant was equal to $75.00 paid semi-annually for each teacher employed in a school district (s. 108.1) and « any school not conducted according to all the provisions of this or any Act in force for the time being, or the regulations of the Department of Education or the Advisory Board, shall not be deemed a public school within the meaning of the law, and such school shall not participate in the Legislative grant. » (s. 108.3). Sections 111-124 discussed School corporations (their names, change of names etc.), disqualification of school trustees, meetings of the boards and liability for school money.

Sections 125-135 concerned teachers and their certification. At the time of hiring a teacher had to hold a « legal certificate of qualification » (s. 126). Section 127 outlined the duties of teachers and, in particular, to « teach, diligently and faithfully, […] according to the provisions of this Act, and the regulations of the Department of Education and the Advisory Board. » (s.127.1). Teaching certificates were ranked as first, second or third class and were obtained by furnishing « satisfactory proof of good moral character » and by passing the prescribed examinations by the Department of Education or the Advisory Board. Such teachers, if male, had to be at least eighteen years old and sixteen if female (s.131).

School inspectors were created by s. 135; they had to hold a certificate of inspectors (s. 135), not be a teacher or trustee, and hold no other employment (s. 136). Sections 141-143 dealt with textbooks and libraries: teachers were to use only texts authorized by the Advisory Board and « no portion of the legislative grant shall be paid to any school in which unauthorized books are used » (s. 141). If any teacher used an unauthorized textbook « he shall for each such offence, on conviction thereof before a Police magistrate or Justice of the Peace, as the case may be, be liable to a penalty not exceeding $10 payable to the municipality for public school purposes, together with costs, as the police Magistrate or Justice may think fit » (s. 143). Each municipal council could raise taxes, « such as it may judge expedient » to establish and maintain a public school library (s. 144).

All clergymen (« a clergyman shall be a school visitor only in the rural municipality, town, city and village where he has pastoral charge »), members of the Advisory Board, Judges, members of the Legislature and members of municipal councils were school visitors (s. 147.1-2). It was the duty of teachers to keep a log of such visitors (s. 127.4) and to deliver it upon the demand of the school trustees (s. 127.6).

The sections 151 to 173 outlined a long list of penalties and prohibitions. These covered a wide range of issues such as accurate count of children, financial accounts of the school district, conduct of the trustees, behavior in and around schools, contagious or infectious disease etc. Teachers, trustees and inspectors, or anybody connected with the Department of Education were prohibited to act as agent to promote the sale of products connected to the school such as textbooks, maps, charts, furniture etc. (s. 176).

Catholic districts were dealt with in sections 178-181. If an area had both a Catholic and a Protestant district before 1890, and the Protestant district had debts, the Catholic ratepayers would be exempted from paying such portion of the tax as was applied to pay the debt of the Protestant school (s. 178). In case a Catholic school district was established prior to 1890, « such Catholic school districts shal, upon the coming into force of this Act, cease to exist, and all the assets of such Catholic school districts shall belong to, and all the liabilities thereof be paid bu the public school district » (s. 179). Arrears in taxes to be paid to the Catholic school board would be considered to be part of its assets and « shall be handed over to the municipal council to be collected on behalf of the public school board » (s. 180).

© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College