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Page 43 - The Separatist Movement in Cape Breton

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1980/12/1 (474 reads)

The point is that a huge amount of money is being made by the General Mining Asso? ciation, and this is going to upkeep the government of Nova Scotia. In fact by the latter part of the 19th Century, some? thing like 407o of the provincial income came from royalties of the Cape Breton coalmines. That money could easily have supported the colony of Cape Breton. They would have had both enough people and enough money to have a House of As? sembly. The money that went to support the Province of Nova Scotia in the latter part of the 19th Century would have been kept here to build. But it wasn't. The royalties were bled off to Halifax and the profits went to Montreal or Britain or anywhere else but Cape Breton. Just look at our cities. And as radical as Cape Bretoners have been--they called for not letting those profits go; socialism grew up here very early--but when you're lost in a larger House of Assembly, you are always outvoted. In any case, if Cape Breton breaks away. Nova Scotia is going to lose all this money and it is going to hurt them eco? nomically. From 1819 to 1846 we have pe? titions for separation. Something has to be done. An answer has to be made. This separationist thing can't just hang on. So it was brought before the Privy Coun? cil. And the Colonial Officer said that obviously we've made a mistake. He writes it in pencil on the back of a letter. I've seen it. He said the complainants are right. (The separatists are right, that they should be a separate colony?) Right. But on the other hand, it's not conveni? ent because it will destroy the economy of Nova Scotia. They go to the Privy Council behind closed doors. And the an? swer comes out. No, we won't take back the annexation. We'll never know what they talked about because no minutes were kept of these meetings. All we know is that it comes out--the decision is passed from them--says, No, you are not allowed to separate, annexation will stand. And once the Privy Council has spoken, that's it. That's the highest court of appeal. That's it, unless you want to rebel. Legally, I think it could have gone this way: Britain could have said. Look, it's illegal but prepare a bill in Parliament and have it passed the next day, annexing Cape Breton to Nova Scotia. Parliament could do it. But I think they were worried about a big fight, because Richard Gibbons had allies in the British House of Commons. And if it was brought before the House of Commons (a) that a British colony had for 20 years been taxed illegally, and then (b) had been annexed illegally to another co- lony--well, it would have hit the fan con? stitutionally, I think they were scared to bring this to the floor of the House of Commons. So they made a decision. Fiat. Let it be. And there it was. And the Sepa? ratist Movement was pretty well crushed, for that time. And we've been part of Nova Scotia ever since. The desire for Cape Breton independence did not end with the Privy Council's de? cision in 1846. An example of the contin? ued feeling is this newsclipping from the Sydney Post, 1936: "The last movement for the self-government of Cape Breton was begun in 1886 and its advocates embraced the leading men in both, political parties in all sections of the island. A public meeting was held in this connection in Sydney in the old Court House on May 19th of that year. It was attended by a large, enthusiastic and rep? resentative crowd in favor of separation. "One of the chief supporters of the move? ment was Newton L. McKay, who represented the county in the Dominion Parliament from 1872 to 1878. He made an able and empassioned plea for Cape Breton autonomy. Others followed him in eloquent addresses, and the separation resolution carried by unanimous vote. On the way home from the meeting Mr. McKay fell dead from heart dJLsease on the street just opposite where the County Court stands. The whole coun? tryside was shocked by the occurence, and the movement was consequently held in abeyance pending the result of the appeal agitation in Nova Scotia proper." The "appeal agitation" referred to is the fact that in 1886 Nova Scotia had voted to leave Canada. It was the outcome of that effort that Cape Breton Separatists were going to watch. In the end. Nova Scotia did not leave Confederation. But the idea that Cape Breton should control Cape Breton, .that the prosperity that comes from her resources should be rein? vested in Cape Breton, has not died. For a recent example, the two recordings of THE RISE AND FOLLIES OF CAPE BRETON IS? LAND, from College of Cape Breton Press. We would like to learn more about Newton L. McKay. Perhaps there is a relative who can supply us with information about the man. Please contact us or Dr. Robert Mor? gan, Archivist, Beaton Institute, College of Cape Breton, Sydney? Reuben McEvoys General Store Ltd. INGONISH BEACH We Specialize in Camping Equipment and Clothing of All Kinds as well as Hardware. Pltanbing and Electrical Supplies Open All Year at the entrance to the beautiful Cape Breton Highlands National Park (43)
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