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Egerton Ryerson
Chapter IX - The Separate School Question


IT the date of the founding of our Upper Canadian school system all parties were agreed that religion and morality should form an essential part of the education of the young. Puritans and Presbyterians, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, stood firmly by this principle as a matter of conviction as well as of traditional usage, and Methodists were no exception to the consensus. They had shewn their faith by their works in the building of their college. When, therefore, Dr. Ryerson addressed himself to his important task, he did so upon the basis of this principle, believing that he had behind him the support of almost unanimous conviction on the subject; and he took especial pains to make provision for the recognition of religion in the schools, and for the instruction of the children in the fundamental principles of religion and morality. This provision was made in three ways—first the trustees were given power for the regulation of religious teaching and exercises in the schools in harmony with the desires of the parents; again all clergymen were made visitors of the schools with the right to instruct the Children of their communion by themselves for an hour each week; and in addition the text books selected for the schools were made to embody a very considerable amount, of religious and scriptural knowledge, without involving any dogmas called in question among the religious bodies. As a result of these provisions it is a well-remembered fact that at least in the rural schools religious influence and instruction were fairly well maintained. In the year 1859, with 3,005 schools, 4,300 visits were made by clergymen; in 2.510 schools the scriptures were read daily, and 1,708 schools were opened and closed with prayer. In all the schools the text books used contained the moral and religious lessons referred to. In the last report issued by Dr. Ryerson, of 4,758 schools reported, 4,033 were opened and closed with prayer, and the ten commandments were taught in 8,107. On these facts Dr. Ryerson m his report makes the following remarks:—"The religious instruction, reading, and exercises, are, like religion itself, a voluntary matter with trustees, teachers, parents, and guardians. The council of public instruction provides facilities, even forms of prayer, and makes recommendations on the subject, but does not assume authority to enforce or compel compliance with those provisions or recommendations. As Christian principles and morals are the foundation of all that is most noble in man, and the great fulcrum and lever of public freedom and prosperity in a country, it is gratifying to see general and avowed recognition of them in public schools."

While Dr. Ryerson with his strong personal influence continued at the head of the school system, these general provisions exerted a distinct moral and religious influence on the schools, but they were by no means a complete solution of the educational and political questions involved. To one class of the people the religious instruction thus given appeared altogether inadequate. They would be satisfied with nothing short of full instruction in the doctrines and usages of their own church; and they were not satisfied to confine this extended religious instruction to the Sunday school or catechumen class, or to a weekly hour in the public school under the direction of the clergyman. Another tendency due to t he growth of the modern spirit which would completely separate the work of the church from the political sphere is thus referred to by Dr. Ryerson in his last report:—"There are many religious persons who think the day school, like the farm fields, the place for secular work, the religious exercises of the workers being performed in the one case as in the other in the household and not in the field of labour." This class of the people would, of course, find the solution of the problem in a strictly secular government school for all classes of the population.

The first of these two classes had, as early as 1841 (i.e., when the first attempt at a general system of public schools was made, three years before Dr. Ryerson's appointment, and five years before the introduction of his first Common School Act,) already secured for themselves the concession of separate schools. They were thus in possession of a vested right; and of this the act of 1846 did not attempt to deprive them. The act of 1849, which failed to come into effect, dropped the provision and would apparently have resulted in purely secular schools, and this formed one of Mr. Ryerson's most serious objections to it. From the very outset of Mr. Ryerson's carefully conceived plan of schools on a moral and religious basis which might be accepted by all the members of a Christian community, it was thus exposed to two antagonistic influences which were at the same time directly and irreconcilably in conflict with each other. The separate school party were anxious to strengthen and extend their position, and the other party were anxious to extinguish the separate schools by the general enforcement of a purely secular system. Dr. Ryerson desired to secure the maintenance of the general moral and Christian aspect of the common schools, making them free from any valid objection on the ground of sectarian teaching, with at the same time such supervision of the separate schools as would secure their efficiency, and prevent their being forced upon any person without his free consent or desire. The common schools wrere to be maintained in their true" position as the schools of all the people.

The active conflict of these opposing parties may be said to dale from 1852. Up to that date the number of separate schools established had been fifty, of which thirty-two had been discontinued in the last three years. Of the remaining eighteen, three were Protestant, two being in sections where the majority of the population was French, and two were schools for coloured children in Kent and Essex, leaving only thirteen Roman Catholic separate schools in operation at the close of 1852. No better proof could be afforded of the success of the fair and conciliatory policy of Dr. Ryerson. Up to the time of his death. Bishop Power acted as chairman of the council of public instruction and was a most valued member of the board, and by his presence, counsel, and general attitude, contributed not. a little to make the common school system acceptable to the Roman Catholic population. During the first three years of his administration the attitude of Bishop Charbonnel was at least not antagonistic, and the aggressive position assumed in 1852 was, to the friends of a common school system, a surprise.

But on looking back, a circumstance connected with the passing of the School Act of 1850 seems to indicate that the new bishop, while seemingly acquiescent, was at heart anxious for thoroughly Roman Catholic schools. The bill of 1849 had disturbed, the confidence created under the policy of Dr. Ryerson, and gave occasion for a movement on the part of those desirous of denominational schools. In this the high church party of the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics united their forces. Dr. Ryerson's bill as introduced proposed to place the power of establishing separate schools in the hands of the board of trustees, instead of making it possible for ten householders to demand a separate school. To this the separate school party proposed an amendment, making it possible for any ten householders, either Catholic or Anglican, to demand a denominational school without restriction. The acts of 1813 and J.846 had restricted this power to cases when the teacher was a Protestant in a Protestant community, or a Catholic in a district mainly Catholic, and so made no provision for the subdivision of Protestantism and the establishment of Protestant denominational schools. By means of strong influence brought to bear on the members, this amendment was on the verge of passing when Dr. Ryerson fell back on a slight modification of the provisions of 1843 and 1846, which satisfied the Roman Catholics and broke up the combination, and so prevented a most serious inroad upon the principle of common schools. But shortly after this difficulty had passed another circumstance brought the question again to the front. The city of Toronto was under the new act but a single school section divided for municipal and other purposes into wards, in each of which there was a graded common school! The trustees, "who were decidedly opposed to the separate schools, refused to grant more than a single separate school under the provisions of the act, and the courts sustained them in the refusal. l)r. Ryerson used his influence to secure more favourable consideration for the Roman Catholics, but without avail. It was certainly within the power of the trustees to grant such consideration, as the law specified "one or more," but equally within their right, as interpreted by the court, to grant but the one, and upon that right they took their stand. This led to the demand for an amendment to the act, giving room for a more aggressive separate school policy. This Dr. Ryerson refused, but provided an amendment in 1851 which conferred the right of a separate school on each ward or union of wards for that purpose. During this period also, and for several years following, the advocates of the bill of 1849 kept the question alive by a constant effort to eliminate from the common school act all provision for or concession of the right, of separate schools. Dr. Ryerson consistently opposed this policy, believing that such a concession constituted a means of rendering the great body of the Roman Catholic inhabitants satisfied with the provisions of the law, and thus secured a more general acceptance of the common school system than would be otherwise possible. While Dr. Ryerson's policy, as we have seen, was, down to 1852, largely successful, the agitation against separate schools and the other circumstances referred to kept alive an opposing force which suddenly became active in 1852. By his fair consideration of the claims of the Roman Catholics in the Toronto separate school case in 1850-1, as well as by his consistent opposition to all attempts to deprive them of the rights already conceded by law, Dr. Ryerson had gained the ill-will of the radical party who wished to abolish all separate schools at once. He was now doomed to encounter almost equal difficulty from the ultra separate school party.

The initial point of the agitation was furnished by the growing establishment of free schools. These schools were supported entirely by their apportionment of the school fund, made up of legislative grant and county school tax, in which the separate school shared pro rata, and supplemented by a municipal tax upon all the property of the school section. In this last tax the Roman Catholics now demanded that the separate schools should also share pro rata of their average attendance. The case was brought up on appeal from the towns of Belleville and Chatham, in which Dr. Ryerson sustained the trustees in refusing to the separate schools a share in the second part of their school revenue. This led to the preparation by the Roman Catholic authorities of a hill which they were determined to press through parliament, and which, in the opinion of Sir Francis Hincks, would be a serious blow to the common school system and to free schools. To meet this emergency the Supplemental Act of 1853 was prepared by I)r. Ryerson and passed through parliament. The opportunity afforded by the passage of this act was embraced to define and improv e many of the general provisions of the act of 1850, but in regard to separate schools its essential feature was the exemption from the local or municipal school tax of all who were contributing supporters of a separate school. In making this equitable concession to the supporters of the separate school, care was taken to guard the rights of the common schools by provisions which Dr. Ryerson summarizes as follows:—

1. No separate school can be established or continued otherwise than on the conditions and under the circumstances specified in the nineteenth section of the School Act of 1850.

2. No part of the municipal assessment can be applied, and no municipal authority or officer can be employed to collect rates for the support of any separate school.

3. If any persons, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, demand a separate school in the circumstances in which t may be allowed, they must tax themselves for its support, and they must make returns of the sums they raise and of the children they teach.

4. Separate schools are subject to the same inspection and visits as common schools.

5. All ground and semblance of complaint of injustice is taken away from the supporters of a separate school, while they no longer employ municipal authority and municipal assessments for sustaining their school.

6. The supporters of separate schools cannot interfere in the affairs of the public schools.

The new act was thus a fresh proof of Dr. Ryerson's consistent support of the fundamental principle of a common school system, and of the separation of the state from entanglement with any church.

By this date the separate school question had aroused an intensely violent discussion and political contention on the part of two extreme parties. We have already seen that a party, led in the House of Parliament by Messrs. W. L. Mackenzie, George Brown and Malcolm Cameron, and joined by a very' few of the extreme opposite political faith, maintained a most active crusade against separate schools, whether maintained as a matter of principle or as a compromise. With these Dr. Ryerson agreed in principle but not in policy. Of both his principle and policy he made the most open avowal, saying in an official letter to Bishop Charbonnel (afterwards published):—"I always thought the introduction of any provision for separate schools in a popular system of common education like that of Upper Canada was to be regretted and inexpedient; but finding such a provision in existence, and that parties concerned attached great importance to >t, I have advocated its continuance, leaving separate schools to die out not by force of legislative enactment, but under the influence of increasingly enlightened and enlarged views of Christian relations, rights, and duties between different classes of the community. I have at all times endeavoured to secure to parties desiring separate schools, all the facilities which the law provides, though I believe the legal provision for separate schools has been and is seriously injurious rather than beneficial to the Roman Catholic portion of the community, as I know very many intelligent members of that church believe as well as myself." As this calm statement was written in reply to a letter from the Bishop inveighing in very forcible language against the whole system of common schools, there can be no question that it candidly and clearly expresses Dr. Ryerson's position and policy.

The leader in the opposition to this policy was Mr. Brown, then influential in parliament and throughout the province as the editor and proprietor of The Globe, Mr. Brown's policy, in which he was supported not only by a large section of liberals but also by a section of the Orange body, was the radical one of no separate schools. Ilis contention is fully expressed by the following quotation given by Dr. Hodgins from The Globe. Addressing Dr. Ryerson, he says: "And did this third concession to the claimants of separate schools satisfy them? Was your oft-repeated assurance realized that 'the existence of the provision for separate schools' in the national system prevented oppositions and combinations -which would otherwise be formed against it?' On the contrary the separatists only advanced in the extent of their demands, and became more resolute in enforcing them. The very next year the matter was again brought to a crisis, a general election came on. Bishop Charbonnel pressed his demands, and Mr. Hincks consented to bring in yet another sectarian school act." The position of the Bishop will fully appear from another extract from a letter written by him to Dr. Ryerson in March, 1852:— "Therefore, since your school system is the ruin of religion, and persecution of the church; since we know, at least as well as anybody else, how to encourage, diffuse, promote education, and better than you how to teach respect toward authority, God, and His church, parents and government: since we are under the blessed principles of religious liberty and equal civil rights, we must have and we will have, the full management of our schools, as well as Protestants in Lower Canada; or the world of the nineteenth century will know that here as elsewhere, Catholics, against the constitution of the country, against its best and most sacred interests, are persecuted by the most cruel, hypocritical persecution."

No analysis or description of the case could more clearly present the situation than do these three extracts. Each of the extremists stands on his ideal principle and is ready to carry it in practice to its logical conclusion regardless of the convictions of his opponent and of all collateral interests; Dr. Ryerson stands in a via media, striving to reconcile their conflicting ideas of right and truth and to harmonize both with other equally important interests of religion and patriotism, only to find himself the object of bitter invective from both. Dr. Ryerson's letters at this period rank again amongst the best work of his life as an exposition of the principles ethical, political and religious, which should govern in a mixed community of varying religious convictions, in matters in which, as citizens, they are called upon to cooperate with each other. We cannot, of course, claim that in the enunciation of these principles there does not appear at times some evidence of a strong and fiery spirit. It is scarcely giv en to a great soul pursuing with single purpose a great object of life, not at times to be roused to ire when needless difficulties are thrown across his pathway by men of alien ideas and spirit. Hence we must not be surprised if at times his words are almost as strong as those of Mr. Brown or Bishop Charbomicl. But the via media for which he contended throughout was respect to conscientious convictions on both sides and patient waiting for that unity of thought which truth is sure to bring in the long run. But for many years the conflict of parties made the via media a very thorny path to the chief superintendent of education.

Returning from the field of controversy to that of legislative and political action, we scarcely find the supplemental act of ] 853 in operation before the occasion arises for further agitation and new demands. There can be no doubt that the underlying cause of the new agitation was a clearly defined and persistent policy on the part of the Bishop to separate the entire body of Catholic children from the common schools and place the management of their education under the control of the church. To this policy I)r. Ryerson was, as we have seen, strenuously and inflexibly opposed. But as the Bishop was careful to wait for a reasonable occasion or favourable opportunity for each forward step in his policy, Dr. Ryerson was equally careful in his opposition not to contravene any principle of equity or fairness.

The occasion for the new agitation again arose in Toronto, where the extreme party opposed to separate schools was strong and quite ready for heroic measures. In St. David's ward one Roman Catholic teacher was employed in a school of six teachers, and on this ground the application of the Roman Catholics for a separate school was refused. This refusal Dr. Ryerson pronounced contrary to law. In the next year, by error, some supporters of the separate schools were included in the common school taxation and a refund of the amount so paid was refused on the ground that the proper returns of names had not been made by the separate school trustees. These circumstances were; made the foundation of the following complaints by Bishop Charbonnel:—

1. That the supporters of separate schools were unjustly required to pay amounts equal to those required for common schools in order to secure exemption from the common school taxation, and that for the same purpose the trustees were required to make returns not required of common school trustees.

2. That the trustees of the several wards of a city or town could not act together as one board as could the trustees of the common schools.

3. That the government grant was distributed by the city or town board, or in the townships by the local superintendent, a provision which did not secure impartiality. It does not appear that any instance of partiality was cited.

To remedy these complaints Dr. Ryerson added to a short grammar and common school bill of 1854 three clauses touching separate schools proposing: (1) To relieve the supporters of separate schools of the defined rate at which they must be taxed and also the trustees of the obnoxious returns; (2) To enable the trustees to unite as one board in towns and cities; (3) To place the distribution of the legislative grant in the hands of the chief superintendent of education. These provisions Dr. Ryerson calls his ultimatum of legislation on separate schools, but as they were not accepted they appear to have been withdrawn from the bill Early in the following year the Roman Catholic Bishops of Toronto, Bytown and Kingston prepared a comparative table of the Upper and Lower Canada school laws and a draft of a separate school bill setting forth their terms This bill proposed to repeal all previous provisions for separate schools; to empower any member of dissidents of any profession to form a separate school board; to give such board all the rights and powers of common school boards; to erect a single board in a town or city; gave the trustees power to fix their own limits to their separate school sections, and their own standard of qualification for separate school teachers, and to claim their share not only of all legislative grants but also of all provincial or municipal school funds and of all taxes tor school and library purposes in proportion to the population which they claimed to represent. This bill was immediately answered by l)r. Ryerson in a thorough and able exposure of its objectionable features involving, as he truly and emphatically asserted, "the complete destruction of our public school system." Notwithstanding this opposition of Dr. Ryerson, six weeks later and without his knowledge or consent, a bill very similar in many of its provisions was introduced into the legislative council by Sir E. P. Tachd. Mr. Gamble at once telegraphed Dr. Ryerson and mailed him a copy of the bill.

Dr. Ryerson telegraphed the Hon. J. A. Macdonald asking that the bill should be restricted to Roman Catholics, and should not admit the separate schools to the municipal council assessment. To these amendments Mr. Macdonald assented and the bill, as so largely amended, became the Roman Catholic separate school law.

Dr. Ryerson always denied all responsibility for this act, though as amended he considered it harmless in its effect upon the common school system. In his view, the bulwark of that system lay in the principle that the machinery of the government could be used to raise funds only for the support of common schools and not for the purposes of sectarian education, and that no individual should be compelled to contribute to such education without his consent. The most objectionable feature of the law was its utterly inefficient provision for the qualification of teachers, but this was a defect which concerned only those who voluntarily placed themselves under it. The large majority by which the bill was passed even in amended form was secured from Lower Canadian votes which stood forty-five to two, those from the upper province, which alone was affected, being sixteen to fifteen. Dr. Ryerson gives great credit to Church of England members on both sides of the House for their aid in amending the bill and supporting the common school system, naming Gamble, Stevenson, Robinson, Langton and Crawford.

It will be seen that in this second stage the separate school question had now passed into the purely political arena. It was no longer a question of what was in the best interests of the country, or of what was wise,, and just, and practicable in the furtherance of those interests, but rather than what are the demands of the content ling parties? and what votes and influence can they bring to bear to enforce those demands? This political relation gave to the separate school question not only a new though extrinsic interest and importance, but also the fierce intensity of conflict which marked its history for the next few years. It became part of a new constitutional question in Canadian politics, should Upper Canadian interests be determined by Lower Canadian votes?—a question the solution of which was tentatively sought in the principle of the double majority, but which finally forced all parties to turn to the broader principle of federal government now embodied in the constitution of our Dominion and its provinces.

Thus, once again, Dr. Ryerson found himself at the very centre of an intensely active and highly important political movement in our Canadian history. Rut in this movement he was now not so much the active participator as that passive occasion. On the school question the position of the extreme parties was now clearly defined. The liberal party demanded the abolition of separate schools, and whatever measure of secularization was necessary for that purpose. The Roman Catholic authorities sought the complete control of the education of the children of their church, holding that education must be moral and religious as well as secular or else be defective and even injurious. l)r. Ryerson stood between the two parties, by turns fighting the battles of each, and yet hated and assailed by both. He recognized that the Roman Catholics had conscientious convictions, and also vested rights which he felt bound to respect and protect. But while he maintained this position, he recognized the vested rights, the conscientious convictions, and the political equity which required that the rights of the Roman Catholic population should not infringe upon the equally important and much more extensive rights of the great body of citizens who desired an effective system of common schools.

With this position of Dr. Ryerson, the Hon. John A. Macdonald, now coming into the foremost rank in the Conservative party, was in full sympathy, although through the exigency of party interests he was forced to compromise, as in the Tache Bill. The Liberal party, 011 the other hand, identified Dr. Ryerson, Mr. Macdonald, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy as the common foes of a common school system, and thus the conflict between Dr. Ryerson and Mr. Brown was for some years of a most intensely bitter and even personal character.

In the meantime the separate school party were very far from confining their efforts to the legislative and political arena. Every effort was put forth to bring the provisions of the separate school law into operation. Even under the act of 1853 the Roman Catholic separate schools were increased from thirteen in 1852 to forty-four in 1855. Under the Tache Act the number was raised to one hundred in 1857-8, attended by nearly 10.000 pupils, an increase due, perhaps, not so much to any change in the law as to the active efforts of the ecclesiastical authorities, of which the lenten pastoral of Bishop Charbonnel in 1856 may be cited as an example. In this pastoral he says:—-'•Catholic electors who do not use their electoral power on behalf of separate schools are guilty of mortal sin. Likewise parents who do not make the sacrifices necessary to secure such schools, or send their children to mixed schools."

During this period the agitation of the public mind over this question was such that the governor-general, Sir Edmund Head, requested from Dr. Ryerson a special report. In this report, of which Dr. Hodgins has published extracts in his comprehensive history of separate schools in Upper Canada, he exposes very clearly the attitude of the Roman Catholic hierarchy at this period toward the common school system, summing it up in these words:—"It is this double aggression by Roman Catholic bishops and their supporters, in assailing on the one hand our public schools and school system, and invading what has been acknowledged as sacred constitutional rights of individuals and municipalities; and, on the other hand, in demanding the erection and support at the public expense, of a Roman Catholic hierarchal school system, which has aroused to so great an extent the people of Upper Canada against permitting the continuance any longer of the provisions of the law tor separate schools." At the same time he deprecates the interference of bishops and priests in Lower Canada, or of their representatives, with the school system of Upper Canada, pointing out that "there has been no interference in Upper Canada with the school system of Lower Canada." Many of the most essential parts of this report, re-written and enlarged, were laid before parliament in the same year.

The next important attempt at separate school legislation began in 18(50 with the introduction of a separate school bill by Mr. R. W. Scott, then member for Ottawa. Mr. Scott's first attempt failed, and was repeated in 1801 and 1802 with the same result. Finally, in 1803, a modified bill to which Dr. Ryerson consented was passed. Mr. Scott was a Liberal in politics, as well as a Roman Catholic in religion. His introduction of the question thus marks a new phase of the movement.

Early in 1800 Bishop Charbonnel had resigned the charge of the diocese; of Toronto, and Bishop Lynch became his successor. His policy does not appear to have been as aggressive as that of his predecessor. There was now no attempt to break up the public school system by provisions for a general introduction of denominational schools. Several provisions aimed at the removal of disabilities which Roman Catholics had imposed upon themselves by the Tachd Act, which, in 1855. repealed indiscrimmately the provisions of 1853. Other clauses attempted once more to introduce provisions to which Dr. Ryerson had from the outset been inflexibly opposed, especially two, the distribution of all school funds according to population, and the employment in any form of the municipal authorities to collect funds for the purposes of denominational schools.

In 1802, Dr. Ryerson, willing to concede the more equitable parts of Mr. Scott's bill, and if possible to reconcile the authorities of the Roman Catholic church to the public system of common schools, at least through the country generally, proposed the name of Bishop Lynch as a member of the council of public instruction for Upper Canada, finding, as he says, that his views on the subject '"were moderate and constitutional, appreciating the rights of citizens and the institutions of our country, as well as the interests and institutions of their own church." He accordingly prepared a draft of a bill repealing the objectionable requirement of an oath to returns, providing for separate schools in incorporated villages as ,n towns and 230 cities, enabling separate school trustees to form union school sections for their purposes, and exempting the ratepayer who has once formally giv en notice that he is a supporter of a separate school from the necessity of annual renewal of such notice, substituting therefor a return by the trustees of the names of all supporters of their school.

This draft seems never to have come before the House, as Mr. Scott again introduced his bill with the two objectionable demands. These were, however, removed in committee, and to the bill as thus amended, Dr. Ryerson assented on condition that the bill should be accepted as a settlement of the question bv the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church and should receive the assent of the government. For this purpose the bill, was thoroughly revised by Dr. Ryerson in consultation with the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, accepted by them, two copies prepared, and the assent of the government asked to Mr. Scott's proceeding with the bill in this form. Of it Dr. Ryerson says:—"Everyone who examines the bill will see that -t brings back the school system in respect to separate schools as near as possible to what it was before the passing of the Roman Catholic Separate School Bill of 1855 .... an object I have been most anxious to accomplish."

The parliament was now. however, approaching that period of perplexity which finally forced confederation to the front, and the defeat of the government laid the school hill over for another year. Early in the following session, under the Sandfield Macdonald administration, Mr. Scott once more introduced the bill, and it was accepted as a government measure and passed shortly before another change of administration. In the final vote the double majority principle announced by Mr. Sandfield Macdonald failed, as there was an Upper Canadian majority of ten against it. The act was, notwithstanding, assented to on May 5th, and so became law a week before the defeat of the ministry.

The passage of this Separate School Act of 1863 may be regarded as the final settlement of the principle of Roman Catholic separate schools as a part of the public school system of Canada. In that part of his school policy in which Dr. Ryerson hoped through careful and impartial administration of the common schools to make them so acceptable to the Roman Catholic population that separate schools would disappear as undesirable, he had not been able to succeed. In spite of his liberal measures and strenuous efforts, the vigorous policy of the Roman Catholic authorities from 1852 onward gave e strong and rapid growth to the separate schools. This growth was stimulated, as is always the case, by the efforts of the opposite party to wipe out separate schools by adverse legislation. The number of separate schools then in existence was attended by 15,859 pupils, nearly one fourth of the Roman Catholic school population of the province.

Yet this fact afforded no ground for discouragement as to the success of the public schools, which commanded a voluntary attendance of more than four-fifths of the whole school population of the province, and employed the services of 333 Roman Catholic teachers, or nearly twice as many as were employed in the separate schools.

But while these figures prove that the strength and comprehensive character of the common school system had been maintained without serious break, they also show that the separate schools had grown too strong to be overthrown by any form of polity, and that Dr. Ryerson was now wisely accepting the logic of facts, in making every provision for their equitable treatment and their highest efficiency. On the defensive side of his policy, he had certainly succeeded, and had foiled every attempt either to make the municipal authorities an agency for the maintenance of denominational schools, or to make the property of any but their declared supporters contribute thereto. They were thus left to work their own way on the voluntary principle, a right to which certainly every citizen is entitled in matters affecting his religious convictions, and for this purpose they were freed from all contributions to the public system of common schools, an exemption which, if not imperative on rigid political principles, is certainly fair as between Christian neighbours.

Rut notwithstanding the importance of the position thus reached, the story of Dr. Ryerson's struggle with this problem is not yet quite complete. In 1805 a new agitation of the separate school question was begun in Kingston and Toronto the principal importance of which was the occasion which it furnished for one of Dr. Ryerson's ablest deliverances on the subject. After meeting the man objections of his opponents and reviewing the whole history of the question from 1810 onward, showing that no privilege was granted to common school trustees which was not accorded to separate schools, with the single exception that they were not permitted to employ the municipal machinery for sectarian purposes, and pointing out the injustice of using general taxation for denominational purposes against the will of the majority, he states the fundamental political principle involved in the question as follows :—" Separate schools cannot be claimed on any ground of right., as I have often shown in discussing the subject in former years. All that any citizen can claim as a right on this subject is equal and impartial protection with every other citizen. All that can be claimed or granted beyond this must be on the ground of compact or of expediency or indulgence. 1 have ever regarded the existence of the separate school provisions of the law In the light of a compact commencing with the union of the Canadas; and, as such, in behalf of the public, I have endeavoured to maintain it faithfully and liberally. Rut if the supporters of separate schools continue to violate that compact, as they have done repeatedly, by denouncing it, and demanding its modification and extension, then they forfeit all right to the original terms and conditions of it, and reduce the whole question to one of expediency, in which light I will briefly consider it.

"I think no one will maintain that separate schools are expedient for the interests of the state. Nay, those interests are more or less injured by every act of class legislation, and the strength of the state is weakened by every sectional division which its citizens have created by law. If it was a source of individual pride and of the strength of the state, in ancient days, for every man to say 4Romanus sum'—'I am a Roman' —so would it be now, under a legislation of equal rights and privileges, without the shadow of distinction in regard to sect or party, for a man to say 'I am a Canadian.' For every man to feel that he stands in all respects upon equal ground of right and privilege with every other man in relation to the state and law, must best contribute to the true interests and real strength of the state, and best respond to the spirit and principles of free government. Upon public grounds, therefore, the law for separate schools cannot be maintained.''

After pointing out at a considerable length that separate schools are equally inexpedient for the educational, social and political interests of Roman Catholics themselves, he concludes thus:—"The fact is that the tendency of the public mind and of the institutions of Upper Canada is to confederation and not to isolation, to united effort, and not to divisions and hostile effort in those things in which all have a common interest. The efforts to establish and extend separate schools, though often energetic and made at great sacrifice, are a struggle against the instincts of Canadian society, against the necessities of a sparsely populated country, against the social and political, present and future interests of the parents and youth separated from their fellow-citizens. It- is not the separate school law which renders such efforts so fitful, feeble, and little successful; their paralysis is caused by a higher than human law—the law of circumstances, the law of nature, the law of interest, if not the law of duty from parent to child.

"If, therefore, the present separate school law is not to be maintained as a final settlement of the question, and if the legislature finds it necessary to legislate on the separate school question again, I pray that it will abolish the separate school law altogether; and to this recommendation I am forced, after having long used my best efforts to maintain and give the fullest and most liberal application to successive separate school acts; and after twenty years experience and superintendence of our common school system."

This discussion was followed by a single abortive effort to secure further separate school legislation in 18(56. In 1867 the question was finally settled by the following provisions of the British North America Act:—"In and for each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to education, subject and according to the following provisions:—

"1. Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools which any class of persons have by law in the province at the union.

"2. All the powers, privileges and duties at the union conferred and imposed m Upper Canada on the separate schools and school trustees of the Queen's Roman Catholic subjects shall be and the same are hereby extended to the dissentient schools of the Queen's Protestant and Roman Catholic subjects in Quebec."

These two fundamental provisions are followed by right of appeal to the governor-general-ill-council, and the right of remedial legislation by the parliament of Canada.

Before dismissing this important subject we may give a brief notice to the efforts of the Anglican Church ill Upper Canada to secure separate church schools. The first of these efforts preceded Dr. Ryerson's appointment, and was made by Bishop Strachan in 1811 and 1843. The effort was renewed in 1850. Of this effort Dr. Ryerson says: "An amendment to the nineteenth section was concocted and agreed upon by the clerical Roman Catholic and high Episcopalian parties, by which any twelve members of either church could demand a separate school in any school section of Upper Canada. The leaders on both sides of this new combination were very active, and in the course of a few days boasted that they would have a majority of fourteen or twenty votes against the government, on the nineteenth section of the bill. I saw at once that the proposed amendment, if carried, would destroy the school system, and in order to break up the combination and save the school system. I proposed to amend the nineteenth section of the bill so as to secure the right of establishing separate schools to the applicants (Roman Catholics) as provided in the school acts of 1813 and 1816."

The Tache Bill, as introduced, embodied a similar provision, opening the door to a general system of denominational schools, and very strenuous efforts, as we have seen, were required to secure the elimination of its objectionable features. Even during the legislation of 1860-63 the attempt was renewed, but in all these cases the effort, was defeated by the liberal and intelligent stand taken by lay members of the Church of England.

In closing this review of the separate school agitation it would be very wrong to attribute ot her than honourable motives to the supporters of the movement. Denominational ambitions may, of course, have had an influence; but behind all else there was, without doubt, a deep conviction of the importance, or rather necessity of religion and morals in the education of the young. In that conviction Dr. Ryerson shared, and his whole lifework was proof of its deep hold upon his own mind. As a result, from the beginning he sought to make the common schools Christian in a broad, comprehensive, sense of the term. Beyond that he provided facilities for more specific religious teaching after school hours by the pastors of the several churches, and took great pains to interest them in this work. It cannot be said that this last provision has been a success. The children generally cannot be held after four o'clock for another hour of school, even by the minister. Rut side by side with the school system was growing up in all the churches an independent and purely voluntary system of moral and religious education, in the Sunday school, the Bible class, the Sunday school teachers' normal class, the catechumen class, and in the efforts after higher religious intelligence of the young people's societies. In these lies the true solution of the moral and religious side of education, a solution in which the conscientious and pious zeal of our churches should keep pace with the intelligent and harmonious work of the state.


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