Jesuits' Estates Act

During the French regime Jesuits were granted considerable property and seigneuries, which they used for educational purposes and for their missions among Indigenous people.

During the French regime Jesuits were granted considerable property and seigneuries, which they used for educational purposes and for their missions among Indigenous people. After the conquest, ownership of these estates passed to Britain, which held them 1763-1800, when the last Canadian Jesuit died. In 1831 London awarded the estates to Lower Canada. In 1838 Catholic bishops began to petition unsuccessfully for the appropriation of the Jesuits' estates in accordance with the wishes of the donors.

The Jesuits, re-established in Canada in 1842, were authorized by Rome in 1871 to begin negotiating a settlement of their estates with the Québec government, the estates' owner since Confederation. Archbishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau of Québec then intervened, arguing that revenue from these estates should be divided among Catholic schools rather than being given to the Jesuits, who wished to establish a university in Montréal to rival Québec's Université Laval. As Québec's Roman Catholic hierarchy quarrelled, Québec Premier Honoré Mercier called upon Pope Leo XIII to arbitrate the dispute.

In July 1888 the Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Jesuits' Estates Act, which provided a monetary settlement: the Jesuits would receive $160 000 and surrender all claims; $140 000 would go to U Laval and $100 000 to selected dioceses. A further $60 000 was allocated to Protestant institutes of higher education. Since Pope Leo XIII had been arbiter, the Orange Order in Ontario vehemently opposed the settlement as a papist intrusion into Canadian affairs. A heated debate occupied the House of Commons in March 1889; the motion to disallow the Québec law was defeated by 188 votes to 13. The Jesuits' Estates Act put additional strain on English Protestant-French Catholic relations.

How the money was divided:

Jesuits

$160 000

Laval University

$140 000

Various Catholic dioceses

$100 000

Protestant higher education

$ 60 000


Read More // The Jesuits