The politics of the Manitoba school question and its impact on L.-P.-A. Langevin's relations with Manitoba's Catholic minority groups, 1895-1915

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Comeault, Gilbert-Louis
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In 1890, Manitoba's dual system of denominational schools was replaced by a non-sectarian public school system. Representatives of the French and English-speaking Catholic communities protested the change, claiming that their right to publicly financed denominational schools had been infringed upon. The legacy of this controversy was the Manitoba School Question. During his episcopate, Louis-Philippe-Adelard Langevin, Archbishop of St. Boniface from 1895 to 1915, made every effort to provide Manitoba's Catholic population with a publicly funded educational system influenced by Catholic thought. His objectives were frustrated by the politicians of the day who were keenly aware of the battle for cultural domination being waged by the Anglo-Protestant majority. Langevin sought to overcome this hurdle through Catholic immigration. The arrival of diverse national groups belonging to the Catholic faith did not resolve the issue. Instead, it added to Langevin's problems. Because the School Question and the attempts to resolve it had varied consequences on the different Catholic groups, divisions emerged and concerted action proved impossible. Much of the strife which plagued Langevin's episcopate was fostered by the Laurier-Greenway agreement. While it gave legal sanction to French-Canadian demands, the compromise did not offer any measure of relief to English-speaking Catholics hardest hit by the l890 Public Schoo1s Act. It created a source of friction between the two respective communities and helped foment a rift between Langevin and English-speaking Catholics. The bilingual clause of the agreement also inadvertantly caused Langevin to become embroiled in a campaign which, while it proposed to safeguard the faith of Central European immigrants, had severe repercussions on the French-Canadian community. The Laurier-Greenway agreement was to hurt Langevin in several other respects as well. Because of his insistence that the compromise was unworkable in centres where Catholics were a majority, Langevin incurred the wrath of Wilfrid Laurier. He also found himself shunned by Rome, by the Apostolic Delegates and by some of his eminent episcopal colleagues. Virtually isolated, Langevin sought the support of Rodmond Roblin, Premier of Manitoba from 1900 to 1915. He also endeavoured to mobilize the political force of the French-Canadian electorate to safeguard and fashion a recovery of the educational rights of the Catholic community. But the close relationship which developed between Langevin and Roblin was not without repercussions.