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Speech in Senate Chamber: Inquiry— Canada's Founding Fathers: William Wyndham Grenville, John Graves Simcoe and John White— Debate Adjourned


Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of March 28,
2018: That she will call the attention of the Senate to the great
nation-building authors of Canada and their constituting
statute, the British North America Act, 1867, and to this
Act’s single conceptual and comprehensive framework
expressed in its section 91, in the words “It shall be lawful
for the Queen to make Laws for the Peace, Order and good
Government of Canada;” and to British Whig Prime
Minister William Wyndham Grenville, the architect of the
British statute, the Canada Act 1791, known as the
Constitutional Act 1791, that divided Quebec into two
provinces, Upper Canada and Lower Canada; and to Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, the great soldiergeneral,
the slavery abolitionist John Graves Simcoe, who,
in 1793, with Upper Canada’s first Attorney General John
White, achieved the adoption of their Bill, An Act to prevent
the further introduction of Slaves, and to limit the Term of
Contracts for Servitude within this Province, which Act was
the world’s first slavery abolition statute.

She said: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to my Inquiry
No. 41 on the British North America Act, 1867, and to William
Wyndham Grenville, the architect of the British statute, the
Canada Act, 1791, also called the Constitutional Act, 1791. This
act divided Quebec into the two provinces, Upper Canada and
Lower Canada. I speak also to Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant
Governor John Graves Simcoe, who, with Upper Canada’s first
Attorney General John White, in 1793, succeeded in their
legislature’s adoption of their slavery abolitionist bill, An Act to
prevent the further introduction of Slaves, and to limit the Term
of Contracts for Servitude within this Province, being Upper
Canada. This act was the first slavery abolition statute in the
British colonies.

Colleagues, on October 20, 1789, at London’s Whitehall,
before he was raised to the House of Lords, Prime Minister
William Pitt’s Home Secretary, William Wyndham Grenville,
wrote to Lord Dorchester, as General Guy Carleton then was,
seeking Carleton’s input on Grenville’s draft bill, the Canada
Act, 1791. Grenville’s Canada Act proposed the division of the
Province of Quebec into two separate provinces, Upper Canada
and Lower Canada, a division that Lord Dorchester opposed.
Grenville’s letter to Dorchester was published in the 1930 book,
Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution
1713-1929, selected and edited by Canada’s great Professor
William Paul McClure Kennedy. Grenville wrote, at this book’s
page 185, that:

Whitehall, 20th Oct., 1789
My Lord,
It having been determined to bring under the consideration
of Parliament early in the next session the propriety of
making farther provision for the good government of the
Province of Quebec, I enclose to your Lordship the draught
of a Bill prepared for this purpose.
His Majesty’s Servants are desirous, before this Plan shall
be proposed to Parliament, to avail themselves of such
observations upon it as your Lordship’s experience and local
knowledge may suggest. . . .
Your lordship will observe that the general object of this
plan is to assimilate the Constitution of that Province to that
of Great Britain, as nearly as the difference arising from the
manners of the people and from the present Situation of the
Province will Admit.
In doing this a considerable degree of attention is due to
the prejudices and habits of the French Inhabitants who
compose so large a proportion of the community, and every
degree of caution should be used to continue to them the
enjoyment of those civil and religious Rights which were
secured to them by the Capitulation of the Province, or have
since been granted by the liberal and enlightened spirit of
the British Government. This consideration has had a great
degree of weight in the adoption of the plan of dividing the
Province of Quebec into two Districts which are to remain as
at present under the administration of a Governor General,
but are each to have a Lieutenant Governor and a separate
Legislature. The King’s Servants have not overlooked the
reasons urged by your Lordship against such a separation,
and they feel that while Canada remained under its present
form of Government great weight would have been due to
those suggestions; but when the resolution was taken of
establishing a Provincial Legislature to be constituted in the
manner now proposed, and to be chosen in part by the
People, every consideration of policy seemed to render it
desirable that the great preponderance possessed in the
Upper Districts by the King’s antient Subjects, and in the
Lower by the French Canadians, should have their effect and
operation in separate Legislatures; rather than that these two
bodies of People should be blended together in the first
formation of the new Constitution, and before sufficient time
has been allowed for the removal of antient prejudices, by
the habit of obedience to the same Government, and by the
sense of a common interest. . . .

Honourable senators, Grenville’s Constitutional Act, 1791 was
published in Professor W.P.M. Kennedy’s 1918 reference book,
Documents of the Canadian Constitution 1759-1915, selected
and edited by him. The Preamble of the Constitution Act, 1791
states, in section I, at page 207:

Whereas an Act was passed in in the fourteenth year of
the reign of his present Majesty, intituled “An Act for
making more effectual provision for the Government of the
Province of Quebec, in North America:” And whereas it is
expedient and necessary that further Provision should now
be made for the good Government and Prosperity thereof:
May it therefore please your most Excellent Majesty that it
may be enacted; and, be it enacted by the King’s Most
Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the
Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in this present
Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that
so much of the said Act as in any Manner relates to the
Appointment of a Council for the Affairs of the said
Province of Quebec, or to the Power given by the said Act to
the said Council, or to the major Part of them, to make
ordinances for the peace, welfare, and good Government of
the said Province, with the consent of His Majesty’s
Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Commander in Chief for
the time being is hereby repealed.

Colleagues, this Act, in Section II, repeats Canada’s defining
constitutional phrase, which has been the whole point of these
interventions, at page 208, thus:

II. And whereas his Majesty has been pleased to signify,
by His Message to both Houses of Parliament, His Royal
Intention to divide His Province of Quebec into Two
separate Provinces, to be called the Province of Upper
Canada, and the Province of Lower Canada; Be it enacted by
the Authority aforesaid, that there shall be within each of the
said Provinces respectively a Legislative Council and an
Assembly, to be severally composed and constituted in the
manner hereinafter described; and that in each of the said
Provinces respectively, his Majesty, his Heirs and
Successors, shall have power, during the Continuance of this
Act, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative
Council and Assembly of such Provinces respectively, to
make laws for the peace, welfare, and good Government
thereof, such laws not being repugnant to this Act; . . .

Honourable senators, William Wyndham Grenville well knew
the great abolitionists of England and British North America, and
their commitment to humanity, justice and the common good. In
1807, on William Pitt the Younger’s death, King George III had
asked Grenville to form and lead a Whig Government. That same
year, in the House of Lords, Whig Prime Minister Lord Grenville
led on his own bill to abolish the African slave trade.
What I’m bringing out here, colleagues, for those who have
studied those times in school or on one’s own, is the great drive
toward a humanity underlying these men’s work and the close
attachment that they had to the greatest humanitarians of all time.
I speak of the abolitionists. Grenville is one of them. In fact,
Grenville County is not too far away from here.

En passant, I note that the brilliant abolitionist member of the
British House of Commons, the famous Whig Charles James
Fox, was the first member of Parliament ever to be described as a
Liberal. Whigs and Whiggery had been alive and active in the
Canadas and in Britain. I note that Upper Canada’s famous
reformers from Toronto — Senator Eaton will know their names
— William Warren Baldwin and Robert Baldwin, also had Irish
Whig roots. At this time British Whigs were a strong and
powerful force, advancing and winning greater rights and
freedoms for their peoples. Through the 19th century, British
Whig governments were responsible for the support of reforms
on free trade, suffrage, catholic emancipation and a whole range
of other ones, particularly in the suffrage. In the United States,
Thomas Jefferson and other leaders had adopted Whig social and
political ideals.

Colleagues, in his 1922 book, The Constitution of Canada,
Professor Kennedy treated of the 1791 Canada Act political
reforms. He wrote at page 84, that:

On August 24, 1791, an order in council divided the
province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, and
instructed the secretary of state to prepare a warrant
authorizing the governor of the province to fix a date for the
commencement of the Act within the province not later than
December 31, 1791. On November 18, Alured Clarke issued
a proclamation bringing the Act into effect on December 26,
1791. In September 1791, Dorchester’s commission and
instructions were issued as Governor-in-chief of Upper and
Lower Canada, and, Alured Clarke and John Graves Simcoe
were appointed lieutenant-governors of Lower and Upper
Canada respectively. On May 7, 1792 Clarke divided Lower
Canada into twenty-seven electoral districts returning fifty
members to the house of assembly, and in the following
July, Simcoe divided Upper Canada into nineteen counties
which were to elect sixteen members. When we turn to
consider the debates on the Constitutional Act, certain
principles governing the new constitution appear. The
division of the province was intended to put an end to the
competition between the French-Canadians and the British.
The idea was distinctly stated by Pitt: the creation of two
separate colonies which should be left to work out their own
destinies. The guiding force, however, was the reproduction,
as far as possible, in each province of the eighteenth century
British constitution, with a local aristocracy and an
established church. This reproduction was to act as a kind of
charm. It was to prevent the repetition of the first great
colonial tragedy; . . . .

Which, as you know, is the revolution in the United States, the
loss of 13 colonies.

Honourable senators, William Grenville believed that the real
cause of the American Revolution’s success and Britain’s loss of
its 13 colonies was Britain’s failure to grant the colonies more
flexible and representative government possibilities. He
endeavoured that such tragedy should be avoided absolutely in
the two Canadas, and in the remaining British North America
provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island
and Newfoundland.
In those days the maritime provinces were called the lower
On September 17, 1792, pursuant to the Canada Act 1791, in
the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, at Newark, today
Niagara, His Excellency Lieutenant Governor John Graves
Simcoe opened Upper Canada’s first parliament. The Speaker of
the Legislative Council was Chief Justice William Osgoode. That
day’s Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of
Upper Canada report Governor Simcoe’s first throne speech. He
said, partly, at page 1:

I have summoned you together under the authority of An
Act of Parliament of Great Britain . . . which has established
the British Constitution and also the forms which secure and
maintain it in this distant country.

Colleagues, on October 15, 1792, a month later, Governor
Simcoe, by his throne speech and his prorogation, closed their
first session of Parliament. That day’s Journals and Proceedings
of the Legislative Council of the Province of Upper Canada 1792
record Simcoe saying partly, at page 11, that:

Honourable Gentlemen and Gentlemen,
Two houses of assembled, of course, as always for every
Throne Speech.
I cannot dismiss you without earnestly desiring you to
promote by precept and example among your respective
counties the regular habits of piety and morality; the surest
foundations of all private and public felicity; and at this
juncture I particularly recommend to you to explain that this
Province is singularly blessed, not with a mutilated
constitution, but with a constitution which has stood the test
of experience, and is the very image and transcript of that of
Great Britain, by which she has long established and secured
to her subjects as much freedom and happiness as is possible
to be enjoyed under the subordination necessary to civilized
society. Then the Speaker, by His Excellency’s command,
declared both houses to be prorogued to Monday the
31st day of December next.

Honourable senators, I note that on June 19, 1793, in Upper
Canada, the great soldier-general and slavery abolitionist,
Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, and his Attorney
General John White moved and debated their abolition bill in
Upper Canada’s Legislative Assembly. This bill was intituled An
Act to prevent the further introduction of Slaves, and to limit the
term of Contracts for servitude within this Province. Attorney
General White had lived in Jamaica, in the British West Indies,
and well knew the law of slavery and its codes. The adoption and
enactment of Simcoe’s bill by Upper Canada’s Parliament made
it the British Empire’s first slavery abolition statute. In our
province of Ontario, August 1, now called the Civic Holiday,
used to be called Simcoe Day, and before that Emancipation Day,
upholding the abolition of slavery by the British 1833 statute of
the long title An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the
British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted
slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the
Service of such Slaves. The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 received
Royal Assent on August 28, 1833, and came into force on
August 1, 1834.
That’s why people call it a Civic Holiday. It used to be called
Emancipation Day. I ask senators to remember that next
August when it comes around.

Colleagues, I close on the mischievous and disturbing
activities that are recently arising in Canada. I speak of the
revisionist actions that seek to demonize John Macdonald, et al.
and to rewrite history.
In particular, I note an article in The Globe and Mailfrom some
days back.
I note Bob Plamondon’s learned Globe and Mail opinion piece
last February 19, headed “To Vilify Macdonald is to Malign
Canada.” Plamondon wrote, at page A13:

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario wants to take
his name off their schools. Because of vandalism, his birthday is
no longer celebrated in Kingston. Members of the Canadian
Historical Association will soon vote on dropping his name from
its annual literary prize. Is it only a matter of time before we
knock down Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue on Parliament Hill?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cools, do you
want five more minutes?

Senator Cools: Yes. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cools: A forthright and clear-minded Plamondon

While Macdonald can certainly be criticized, he was
nonetheless enlightened by the standards of his time. He was
in rare company in expressing sympathy for the Indigenous
people: “We must remember that they are the original
owners of the soil, of which they have been dispossessed by
the covetousness or ambition of our ancestors . . . the
Indians have been the great sufferers by the discovery of
America and the transfer to it of a large white
population.” . . . Macdonald wanted to avoid an “Indian
war” that had ravaged the United States, arguing it was
better to feed them than to fight them. . . . As the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission records, residential schools were
in place before Macdonald became prime minister and did
not reach their peak until about 40 years after his death.

So we can take Sir John A. Macdonald out of that particular

Honourable senators, I do not understand this hobnail boots
approach, nor why some choose to stomp all over the good
reputation of others, most particularly of John A. Macdonald.
The unalterable facts are that the Confederation Fathers who
shaped and made Canada were outstanding human beings who
opted for government and governance by peace, order and good
government. That is a high standard. I thank colleagues for their
That is why Canada is the country that it is. There is no
accident. Those men sat down and worked to reach agreement.
They wanted a country that would not be as savage as the United
States of America, even though they had great respect for the
Constitution of the United States.
I thank colleagues for their time. I hope and encourage, in all
of our hearts, to spread the love and affection that I have for
these men and for the great things that they did, and for the
country, nation and constitution they assembled. As I was saying
earlier to my friend, Senator Pratte, it is a constitution that has
already lasted 150 years.

Colleagues, in constitution times, 150 years is a long time. Our
Constitution has, in my mind, done better than France and the
United States of America. We’ve done better than most
I recommend that we uphold our Constitution, praise it and
love it. I urge honourable senators to take it to bed with them and
read it. Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Ringuette, debate adjourned.)