No. 27
16 March 1870
I have had under my careful consideration Mr. Seymour's Despatch No. 75 of the 16th April last enclosing An Ordinance passed by the Government of British Columbia No. 21 of 1869 "to establish Public Schools throughout the Colony of British Columbia."
I have delayed replyingtoManuscript image to that Despatch until after the introduction into the Imperial Parliament of the Bill to provide for Public Elementary Education in England and Wales of which I now transmit to you a Copy.
As I read the British Columbia Ordinance the intention, if not the effect of it, is to allow (as the Imperial Bill proposes to allow) any School, Denominational or other, to receive a grant of Public Money as a Common School, at the discretion of the Governor in Council.
The previous OrdinanceofManuscript image of May 1865 requiring the Common Schools to be strictly non sectarian, is repealed, but the Governor in Council may require the Text Books used in Schools under the new Ordinance to be non Sectarian, and the provision enabling the Minister of any Denomination to teach Religion to the Children of his persuasion at convenient hours is retained. There is however no "conscience clause" exempting Scholars, whose Parents so desire, from attending such Religious instruction as may be given in the School. Neither is there any specific provision forascertainingManuscript image ascertaining whether the existing school of a District gives sufficient educational accommodation such as every sect can avail itself of, nor for withdrawing aid from any such School which fails or ceases to comply with this requirement.
The Ordinance appears in fact to be of a Rudimentary Character, leaving too much to be filled in by the Governor in Council, and as the Local Board are to have the power of imposing an Educational Poll Tax upon all Males over 20 years of Age it is the morenecessaryManuscript image necessary that the principal Regulations should be expressly defined in the Ordinance; so as to make it clear to the people of each Denomination that their Children may be taught their own Religion, and shall not except by consent be taught any other Religion in the School.
I therefore recommend for the consideration of your Government the amendment of the Ordinance by the introduction of a "Conscience Clause," thus leaving it permissible for the School of any Denomination to be a "Common School" provided thatitManuscript image it conforms to the Regulations contained in that clause; and I would also suggest the adoption of the provisions, so far as they are applicable and (Mutatis Mutandis) of the enclosed Bill, especially the Clauses from 82 to the end; because they furnish a Machinery useful for many purposes not at present provided for in the Ordinance. I need hardly however, remind you that the circumstances under which Mr. Forster's Bill has been framed are in a great degree peculiar to England, and that many of its details are consequently not suited for adoptionbyManuscript image by your Council in their present form.
I make these suggestions in the belief that the Ordinance if so amended would still be in accordance with the present balance of opinion in the Colony.
In order, however, that you may be in possession of further information on the subject, I also transmit to you herewith a Copy of an able Report lately made by Mr. Keenan upon Education in Trinidad containing well considered suggestions, some of which it is probable that your Council may be preparedtoManuscript image to adopt.
I approve of the proposed expenditure for Educational purposes for which provision has been made in the Estimates for the Current year.
I have the honor to be
Your most obedient
humble Servant