Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Can Quebec unilaterally secede from Canada?

The government of Quebec can decide to unilaterally secede from Canada because it holds a right to pursue secession under Canadian constitutional law, and a unilateral declaration of independence would not be illegal under international law. This is based on constitutional and international law, as determined by the Supreme Court of Canada and the International Court of Justice.

With regard to Canadian constitutional law, the Supreme Court of Canada in its August 20, 1998 Reference re Secession of Quebec unanimously affirmed that: “The rights of other provinces and the federal government cannot deny the right of the government of Quebec to pursue secession, should a clear majority of the people of Quebec choose that goal, so long as in doing so, Quebec respects the rights of others.

Hence Quebec has under Canadian constitutional law a “right” to secede. In addition, and according to the court, “(t)he clear repudiation by the people of Quebec of the existing constitutional order would confer legitimacy on demands for secession, and place an obligation on the other provinces and the federal government to acknowledge and respect that expression of democratic will by entering into negotiations and conducting them in accordance with the underlying constitutional principles.” Quebec’s right to secede thus has a corollary, which the Court presents as the “constitutional duty to negotiate.”

The Court did not rule that Quebec has the right to seek to achieve secession “unilaterally.” In this regard, the judges do state that “the secession of Quebec from Canada cannot be accomplished by the National Assembly, the legislature or government of Quebec unilaterally, that is to say, without principled negotiations, and be considered a lawful act.” However the unanimous judges added:

Conversely, violations of those principles by the federal or other provincial governments responding to the request for secession may undermine their legitimacy. Thus, a Quebec that had negotiated in conformity with constitutional principles and values in the face of unreasonable intransigence on the part of other participants at the federal or provincial level would be more likely to be recognized than a Quebec which did not itself act according to constitutional principles in the negotiation process. Both the legality of the acts of the parties to the negotiation process under Canadian law, and the perceived legitimacy of such action, would be important considerations in the recognition process. In this way, the adherence of the parties to the obligation to negotiate would be evaluated in an indirect manner on the international plane.”

This last formulation suggests that if Quebec negotiated in accordance with the applicable constitutional principles and negotiations were unsuccessful, the issue of secession and, indeed of unilateral secession, would become an issue to be dealt with at the international level. Hence, the state of international law on this issue would become highly relevant. And how does international law deal with a unilateral declaration of independence which is adopted in order to effect secession? In its advisory opinion of July 22, 2010, on the accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, the International Court of Justice stated as follows:

(T)he Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence. Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law.

On the basis of this determination, the government of Quebec, just like the government of Kosovo, can decide to unilaterally secede. And such a decision would not violate international law.

The successive governments of the Parti Québécois have consistently made known that they intend to negotiate the terms of Quebec’s independence with the government of Canada. A unilateral decision to secede from Canada has thus never been the preferred option for the political parties, movements and citizens who promote independence for Quebec. But Quebec’s right to pursue secession, recognized in Canadian constitutional law, should not be meaningless.

After a successful referendum on independence and negotiations conducted by the government of Quebec in accordance with the underlying constitutional principles, a new Clyde Wells (who torpedoed the Meech Lake Agreement in 1990) might well emerge and refuse to adopt the constitutional amendment required to acknowledge and respect the expression of democratic will of the people of Quebec. Such a refusal would then justify a decision to unilaterally secede from Canada and the adoption of a unilateral declaration of independence would become a legitimate option for Quebec. And it would be legal.


Based on arguments presented by Daniel Turp, a law professor at the Université de Montréal, former Bloc Québécois MP and former member of the National Assembly of Québec, in a debate hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute on the question of Quebec's right to unilaterally secede from Canada.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

​The Problem with Multiculturalism


The problem in general


Most educated people, when they hear the word “multiculturalism”, assume it to be synonymous with diversity. It's not surprising, since the word seems to be a conjunction of “multi” (many) and “cultural” (cultures). So the logical conclusion is that multiculturalism is simply a doctrine that says mixing lots of cultures together is good. However, “multiculturalism” is not the same as cultural diversity. 

In political theory multiculturalism refers to an approach that states adopt in order to negotiate the relationship between specific cultures and other members of society. Multicultural policies are an attempt to build a bridge between the state and minority communities by looking to particular community organizations and leaders to act as intermediaries. Multicultural policies accept that society is diverse but implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. In other words, they institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes and defining their needs and rights accordingly. 

Multicultural policies tend to reinforce the differences between groups based on ethnic and religious identities. They grant certain “group rights,” often to the detriment of individual rights. They favor tradition over modernism, and community over fundamental human rights by supporting and emboldening traditional religious leaders.

In a sense, multiculturalism is a rejection of modern Enlightenment values. It's rooted in the belief that universal citizenship, equality before the law, and equality of opportunity are insufficient and that the state must actively work to protect the cultures and beliefs of immigrant communities by granting privileges on the basis of membership in these religious or ethnic groups.

As an ideology, multiculturalism encompasses a variety of approaches, not all of them inconsistent with Enlightenment, liberalism or modernity. However, it does tend to place greater emphasis on diversity than on equal rights and equal opportunities for all. Its advocates often push for value pluralism and moral relativism: the idea that different moral outlooks (both those that respect individual liberty, and theocratic or fundamentalist ideologies that do not) are equally legitimate.

Cultures, however, are not homogeneous but complex. Multiculturalism attempts to describe loose groupings of individuals with similar backgrounds, religions or language as a “culture” and then assumes that the diverse individuals within that culture belong to the same “community”. Far from protecting, say, “all Jews” or “all Muslims” from generalizations, it reinforces the political fiction of cultural or religious unity. 

Rather than appeal to Muslims and other minorities as citizens, multiculturalism assumes that minorities’ true loyalty is to their faith or ethnic community. In effect, governments that adopt multicultural policies are subcontracting their political responsibilities out to minority leaders, who rarely represent their entire community and are usually on the more conservative end of the spectrum. This can lead to absurd situation like when Ontario was considering allowing Muslim faith-based tribunals i.e. Sharia law, in its justice system.


The problem in regards to Quebec


In English Canada, multiculturalism remains a sacred cow. The term is often used in contrast to intolerance or even racism, as if anyone who criticizes it must be a xenophobe who hates immigrants. But in reality, multiculturalism is itself a close cousin of racism – Djemila Benhabib calls it “multiracism” – because it exaggerates the importance of the community into which one is born, to the detriment of one’s individuality.

Multicultural policies essentially encourage immigrant communities to hold on to the culture of the country they left. This can lead to insular and ghettoized communities. Canada has been more immune to the negative effects of multiculturalism than many other countries mainly because it shares a language and culture with the global hegemon. Canadian multiculturalism depends on the dominance of American culture on this continent to keep its multicultural "mosaic" together.

This is simply not true for us in Quebec. In fact, the opposite is true. Our existence is in resistance to the dominant culture on this continent. So Canada's multicultural polices, which ostensibly work so well in English Canada, are not at all suited to our reality in Quebec, but they are imposed on us anyways.

Canada has never been a very well defined country. In fact, there have always been widely divergent interpretations of what Confederation, the founding of this country, was really about. To George-Étienne Cartier, the Attorney General for Canada East during the negotiations on Confederation and the principal leader of French Canada, it represented a pact between two nations. This is clear from what he wrote in La Minerve on July 1, 1867:
"Such is […] the significance that we must attach to this constitution, which recognizes the French-Canadian nationality. As a distinct, separate nationality, we form a State within the State with the full use of our rights and the formal recognition of our national independence."
Others saw Confederation as a pact between the provinces. After all, it's the British owned provinces of North America (with certain exceptions) that got together to create the federal government. However, when the Anti-Confederation League in Nova Scotia won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature, and 18 of 19 seats federally, not long after Confederation, they found that there was, in fact, no way out after Britain refused their secession. Canada's imperial nature became evident to them at that moment.

John A. Macdonald, on the other hand, was in favor of legislative union, i.e. a unitary state with a single Parliament for all of Canada. He didn't get that but to a large extent, Macdonald achieved the type of centralized federalism that he desired. The powers of disallowance and reservation in Canadian federalism made that perfectly clear.

Nonetheless, in the early days of Confederation, there seem to have been some acceptance of the binational nature of Canada, as seen in the Manitoba Act. But that acceptance was soon thrown out the window as the demographics of this country changed and Canada basically became British Canada which begrudgingly tolerated French in Quebec since we were still the majority there. 

In the 1960s, francophones in Quebec began to reject their second class status and wanted to become "master in their own house." There was also a growing demand for the recognition of the binational and bicultural character of Canada and this was even followed up with the threat of "equality or independence." Canada responded by setting up the Royal Commission on bilingualism and biculturalism, presided by  André Laurendeau, editor of Le Devoir, and Davidson Dunton, president of Carleton University. 

This commission agreed that Canada should formally recognize its binational nature. But instead, Canada adopted a policy of multiculturalism. It must be emphasized that this policy of multiculturalism was adopted in 1971 under Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government as an answer to the prescriptions contained in the commission's report, and that Trudeau's sudden rise to power at that time was largely due to his staunch opposition to Quebec nationalism. 

One of his goals in adopting this policy was undeniably to drown Quebec nationalism in a sea of multiple cultures, thus replacing “bi” with “multi.” So while multiculturalism was enshrined in Trudeau's 1982 constitution, no mention is made of the existence of a Quebec nation. Canada is described as a single, bilingual, and multicultural nation. By recognizing a multitude of cultures, multiculturalism negates any notion of duality and nullifies Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of culture.

So, we have gone from being one of the founding nations of Canada (at least, that's how we saw it) to an ethnic minority similar to groups of recent immigrants. It's not that we believe that we are more "special" than Italian or Ukrainian Canadians. But let's be honest, Italian or Ukrainian culture is not being created in Canada. They are living and evolving cultures in Italy and the Ukraine, not in Canada. Immigrant communities are simply holding on to the culture of the old country and trying to pass it down to the next generation like some kind of family heirloom. Multiculturalism encourages this behavior but despite these efforts, each generation usually becomes increasingly assimilated into the dominant culture of the host country.

We are no more French immigrants to Canada than Brazilians are Portuguese immigrants to Brazil. Our culture is a 400 year old French-speaking, North American culture that has always been diverse in its own way. It (or remnants of it) can be found all over this continent. Today, however, it is only in Quebec that it is a living culture that can evolve and integrate newcomers. We were our own distinct nation long before Confederation. We are not just another ethnic tile in English Canada's multicultural "mosaic." This Canadian multiculturalism without any constitutional recognition of Quebec's distinctiveness is an inherently assimilationist policy.  


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Justifying the Means

Money and corruption will save Canada

A country united by a slush fund


Years prior to the 1980 Quebec referendum, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it bluntly: "One of the means to counter-balance the attraction of separatism is to use the time, the energy and enormous sums of money at the service of Canadian nationalism." For Mr. Trudeau and the federal Liberals, all means were justified to preserve national unity.

More than fifteen years later, forces fighting sovereigntists would steal a page from the 1980 referendum when all the stops were pulled out to keep Quebec in Confederation, including slush funds, secret contributions and political infiltration.

Much like in the 1990s, the late 1970s saw obscure pro-Canada committees raising secret funds, a Liberal-friendly ad firm executing Ottawa's visibility campaign and there was also an informant -- none other than the Parti Québécois' minister of intergovernmental affairs, Claude Morin, mastermind of the entire PQ referendum strategy -- who was on the RCMP payroll.

As a paid RCMP informant Mr. Morin (he admitted that fact in May of 1992) would give the Trudeau Liberals every reason to believe that they could succeed in halting the separatist threat. In 1974, Mr. Morin persuaded Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque to introduce in the party program not one but two referendums in order to achieve sovereignty: one to receive a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada and another to approve the deal. The strategy served to put the brakes on the momentum the separatist PQ gained when it took office in 1976.

"It was in the mentality of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time to build a steamroller and use whatever means necessary to avoid caving in to Quebec and to finally crush the separatists," said Richard Le Lay, a former Progressive Conservative organizer who was a founding member of a pre-referendum committee.

"The federal Liberals' objective was to take power, hold on to it and eliminate the separatists."

The Canadian Unity Council was a federal government-funded body founded in the 1960s to promote national unity. Two years before the 1980 referendum, a pre-referendum committee was founded after Mr. Le Lay persuaded leading council figures, Jocelyn Beaudoin (the Quebec government's representative in Toronto until his role in Option Canada was revealed) and Louis Desmarais (brother of Power Corp. founder Paul Desmarais), to begin promoting national unity before the adoption of a new law in Quebec that would prohibit corporate contributions to election and referendum campaigns.

Mr. Le Lay headed a public relations firm called The Communications Associates and worked with ad firms such as Vickers and Benson on a number of national unity contracts. Michel Robert (former Chief Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal who stated that separatists should not be named to the bench) eventually took charge of the pre-referendum committee, made up of seven provincial and federal parties and many pro-unity groups that received direct funding from Ottawa.

At the same time, money from private corporations began flowing into the coffers of a discreet committee of business leaders called the Pro-Canada Foundation, headed by Montreal tax expert Redford MacDougall.

The list of donors, the amounts contributed, the names of fundraisers and the amounts spent were all kept secret. The money was needed to fund ad campaigns promoting national unity and to ensure the federal government's visibility in Quebec. A report was later leaked to the media, which unveiled that the group alone had received $2.7-million from about 115 corporate donors from across Canada who worked closely with the federal Liberal government to defeat the separatist threat.

"As soon as [Jean] Chrétien and his assistant Eddie Goldenberg took over [the pre-referendum committee] before the referendum campaign, everything changed and we were all excluded," Mr. Le Lay said. "It was obvious that under Chrétien and Goldenberg . . . the end justified the means."

The federal Liberals dumped Mr. Le Lay's company and brought in the ad firm BCP, headed by Jacques Bouchard, a close, personal friend of federal Liberal cabinet minister André Ouellet. BCP created a subsidiary firm, Communicateurs Unis, to launch thousands of dollars in ad campaigns for various federal ministries aptly aimed at persuading Quebecers to vote No in the referendum.

"We never knew how much the Pro-Canada Foundation had truly raised or spent before the campaign. It was never declared," Mr. Le Lay said. The money was never reported as official contributions as was also the case in the 1995 referendum, especially during one event when Ottawa recruited corporate support for a major rally in Montreal only days before the vote. It was estimated that the event cost several million dollars.

In both cases Ottawa argued it was not required to abide by laws in Quebec limiting spending. But the Gomery inquiry has offered a look at the workings of the Liberal Party in Quebec, a structure that also has its roots in the pre-referendum politics.

In 1978, when Claude Ryan, a stern Quebec Liberal with impeccable integrity, took over the provincial party, he never suspected the extent of Ottawa's involvement in Quebec politics but he had had misgivings about some of Ottawa's pre-referendum tactics. His main political organizer, Pierre Bibeau, recalled how a shouting match erupted between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Chrétien, then Mr. Trudeau's Quebec lieutenant, at a meeting he attended with his federal counterpart, Mr. Goldenberg, several weeks before the 1980 referendum.

"Mr. Chrétien argued that the campaign was about the breakup of Canada and wanted Ottawa to play a more prominent role. But Mr. Ryan insisted that under Quebec law he was the boss of the No side and refused to cave in," Mr. Bibeau said. "Mr. Chrétien didn't trust the Quebec Liberal Party."

The mistrust partly explained why Mr. Chrétien funded a parallel structure that gave a greater role to the Canadian Unity Council, which before that had limited prominence. When Mr. Chrétien became prime minister in 1993 he was determined to defeat the separatists. He came within a whisker of losing the country in the 1995 referendum and did not want to let it happen again.

"The visibility in Quebec of the Government of Canada had been significantly reduced from the mid-1980's until I became prime minister," Mr. Chrétien told the Gomery commission. "We would ensure that the threat of a new referendum would be removed... We were going to restore the visibility of the Government of Canada in Quebec."


To hell with the rules *


When Jacques Parizeau was asked about the difference between Chrétien’s methods from Pierre Trudeau’s, he noted "there’s a difference in means, but the spirit is the same. Ottawa looks to prevent at all costs the independence of Quebec whatever it takes. Trudeau went as far as to jail 500 Quebecers (in October 1970) for no reason other than to battle sovereignty and paint it as a violent movement."

As for Chrétien, Parizeau added, "he summed up his vision of things pretty well when he declared in 2002 that results showed that his government acted properly since support for independence was lower than it was back in 1995." In other words, for Chrétien, the end justified the means.

Here's how you screw over Quebec and make money...
What he was defending with polls was the unleashing of a pro-unity campaign of unprecedented scope to increase Canada’s visibility in Quebec and strengthen Quebecers’ identification with Canadian symbols in order to reduce support for sovereignty. This, he hoped, would either abort a third referendum for lack of support or win it, should one ever be held again.

A central aspect of Chrétien’s Propagandagate was the sponsorship program: the corruption and money laundering which sprang from the channeling of $250 million of public funds to sponsor events in Quebec, including $100 million that went to Liberal-friendly communications firms. Given the scope of this scandal and its raison d’être to prevent another referendum, Parizeau said this should prompt sovereignists to reflect on how it might affect their own approach.

"One thing is now clear: Through all these years, we followed the laws adopted by René Lévesque on the referendum and the financing of political parties. We obeyed the law and we were had like children. Now we see that the federal side resorted to illegal means and influence peddling. So we must ask ourselves what to do in order to remain respectful of the criteria of honesty we chose for ourselves while no longer being as naive as we were."


Based on an article by Rhéal Séguin , The Globe and Mail,  May 2005.


* “In Canada two weeks before the referendum in 1995 Yes were suddenly eight to 10 points ahead. It was more difficult for us because it was a provincial issue and the federal government I led could not get involved. But in the last nine days I said to hell with the rules and organised a huge meeting in Montreal in which thousands of people flew in to send a message that we wanted Quebec to stay with us.

Jean Chrétien, Sunday Post, September 21 2014


Friday, July 1, 2016

Competing Nationalisms


CHANGES IN QUEBEC DURING THE 1960s


The transformation of nationalist ideology in Quebec is a well known story. With a new conception of the nation as urban, industrial, and modern that became dominant in the 1960, old constitutional arrangements were no longer sufficient. The Quebec government needed additional powers if it were to meet its responsibilities as the only government in Canada controlled by a francophone majority. By the same token, now that francophones formed a modem society their status within Canada had to be redefined so as to be truly based on equality. Francophones had always believed that their relationship with the rest of the country must be based on equality, but English Canadians clearly did not; in fact few of them were even aware that francophones saw Canada as a compact.  

In short, the 1960s saw growing demands for a formal revision of the Canadian constitution so as both to entrench a dualist vision of Canada and, especially, to secure needed powers for the government of Quebec.  

During the 1960s, there were some serious attempts among political and intellectual leaders to grapple with these issues. In 1963 the Liberal government of Lester B. Pearson created a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism whose mandate included recommending what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding nations.  

As for the status of Quebec itself, during the early 1960s Prime Minister Pearson openly recognized Quebec's distinctiveness with such statements as: 

"While Quebec is a province in the national confederation, it is more than a province because it is the heartland of a people: in a very real sense it is a nation within a nation."  

Moreover, during this period the Pearson government allowed Quebec to exercise a de facto particular status by opting out of a large number of joint federal-provincial cost-shared programmes and even exclusively federal programmes.

Although there may not have been majority support among English-Canadian political and intellectual elites, the "two nations" thesis and a special status for Quebec were viewed as legitimate positions for discussion, and did have advocates in English Canada.


CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW CANADIAN COUNTER-IDENTITY AND A NEW CANADIAN NATIONALISM


By late 1960s, however, this effort to accommodate the new Quebec nationalism had been replaced with a new strategy: to deny outright Quebec nationalism, in fact to seek to undermine its underlying bases. In effect, the new Quebec identity was to be challenged with a new Canadian identity. The primary architect of this new strategy was, of course, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Montreal-based intellectual and political activist who became Prime Minister in 1968.  

Within this new Canadian identity, there are at least five discrete components: official bilingualism; a charter of rights; multiculturalism; absolute equality of the provinces and the reinforcement of national institutions. Each of these elements of Canadian political nationality can be directly traced to the fundamental objective of defeating the Quebec independence movement.  


Official Bilingualism


Through official bilingualism the Trudeau government sought to establish the myth that the French language was present throughout Canada. Demographically, this manifestly is not the case, and never has been. The use of French has always varied enormously from province to province. Only in Quebec does the majority (80%) use French; the next largest francophone proportion, New Brunswik’s is only 31 %. Moreover, in all provinces but Quebec and New Brunswick assimilation has been very high. As a result, in most provinces the proportion of the population which uses primarily French at home is now below 3%. Nonetheless, official bilingualism gave French the same formal status as English throughout the country, at least for federal purposes, however marginal it might be to day-to-day life.

On this basis, official bilingualism promised to nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of language by making all of Canada like Quebec. Canada as a whole, rather than just Quebec, would be the home of francophones. As Pierre Trudeau declared in 1968 if minority language rights are entrenched throughout Canada then the French-Canadian nation would stretch from Maillardville in BC to the Acadian community on the Atlantic Coast:

"Once you have done that, Quebec cannot say it alone speaks for French Canadians... Mr. Robarts will be speaking for French Canadians in Ontario, Mr. Robichaud will be speaking for French Canadians in New Brunswick, Mr. Thatcher will speak for French Canadians in Saskatchewan, and Mr. Pearson will be speaking for all French Canadians. Nobody will be able to say, "I need more power because I speak for the French-Canadian nation""


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Reinforcement of language rights was, in turn, the central purpose of the second element of the Trudeau government's pan-Canadian counter identity to Quebec's: an entrenched bill of rights which was incorporated as part of 1982 constitutional revision. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms deals with many other rights than linguistic ones: political, legal, mobility, social, etc... But language rights clearly were its raison d'être. The provision for minority-language education rights is the only section of the Charter not to be subject to the notwithstanding clause.


Multiculturalism


A third element of the Canadian identity is multiculturalism, which the Trudeau government proclaimed in 1971. Canada might have two official languages, but it was to be seen to have an infinite number of cultures. The federal government committed itself to "support all of Canada's cultures". Previously, much of the public discussion had linked bilingualism with biculturalism. It was in these terms that in 1963 the federal government under Lester B. Pearson had established its royal commission to examine Canada's national unity crisis: the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

The Trudeau government's adoption of a policy of multiculturalism often is seen simply as a reponse to the demands of Canadians whose origins were neither British or French. Many of their leaders campaigned against the concept of biculturalism. Contending that it necessarily excluded their components of the population, they argued for a more inclusive term. But the Trudeau government clearly had an additional purpose in rejecting biculturalism for multiculturalism: by recognizing a multitude of cultures multiculturalism could rein in the notion of duality and nullify Quebec's claim to distinctiveness on the basis of culture.


The Equality of the Provinces


The Trudeau government's fierce commitment to the principle of absolute equality among the provinces was clearly rooted in its determination to counter the claims of Quebec nationalists.

Insisting that "federalism cannot work unless all the provinces are in basically the same relation to the central government", Trudeau declared on one occasion that, "I think particular status for Quebec is the biggest intellectual hoax ever foisted on the people of Quebec and the people of Canada".


Reinforcement of National Institutions


Finally, this insistence on a uniform federalism was coupled with a determination that the federal government play a significant role in the lives of all Canadians (Québécois included), whether it be through programmes of direct transfer payments, such as Family Allowances, or major national undertakings, such as the National Energy Program. From the late 1960s onwards Ottawa was greatly concerned that its actions be "visible" to Canadians.


CONTRADICTORY IMPACT OF NEW CANADIAN "COUNTER-IDENTITY"


Not surprisingly, the new Canadian identity has not fared well in French Quebec, the population for which in fact it had been designed. Not only has the conception of Canada as a bilingual nation with a strong francophone presence from coast to coast lacked credibility in Quebec, but the principle of formal equality between English and French increasingly has appeared as an obstacle to the types of intervention by the Quebec state needed to strengthen the role of French within the province.

On the other hand, each of these elements of a new "pan-Canadian" identity has had a certain resonance in English Canada. Many English Canadians have embraced them as the basis of their own conception of Canada. In particular, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become a central element of the dominant notion of Canadian nationhood. Equally entrenched is the principle of absolute equality of the provinces: this was amply demonstrated in the opposition to the Meech Lake Accord.

Trudeau's success in mobilizing the federal government, and a good number of mainly of English-speaking Canadians, on behalf of this new Canadian identity presents some striking ironies. Whereas the strategy had been designed to transform the way in which Quebec francophones saw Canada, instead its impact has been primarily upon another population: English Canadians. In fact, the new Canadian identity that Trudeau helped to formulate has become the basis for a new Canadian nationalism which enjoys strong support in much of English-speaking Canada, although not in Quebec. Yet, Trudeau had always professed a deep opposition to all forms of nationalism. This was the rationale for his fierce rejection of Quebec nationalism and his decision to enter federal politics in order to combat it.

Ultimately, this new Canadian nationalism has rendered virtually impossible any constitutional reponse to the new Quebec identity. As a consequence, rather than leading to national integration, federal dissemination of this new "pan-Canadian" identity has deepened the divid between English Canada and Quebec.


Taken from a text by Professor Kenneth McRoberts, 1995



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Battle of the Park

The decision to rename a Montreal park from "Vimy" to "Jacques Parizeau" has sparked outrage in certain circles. In fact, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae called the decision "an insult pure and simple." I doubt that former Quebec Premier Bernard Landry has any opinions on what the people of Toronto should name their parks but Bob Rae feels it is his place to tell us who we should honor. It's easy to answer Bob but there are many Montrealers who share his opinion so let's consider the two options and their meaning for Quebec.  


Vimy Ridge


The First World War was a pissing contest between empires which turned into a slaughterhouse. The initial influx of enthusiastic volunteers quickly dried up and thoughts turned to conscription. Obviously, Quebecers had no interest in volunteering to get themselves blown up for an empire that clearly held them in contempt. The infamous regulation 17 severely restricting French instruction in Ontario’s schools had been passed in 1912 and was therefore still fresh in people’s minds. 

Henri Bourassa, founder and then director of Le Devoir, actively campaigned against conscription. Naturally, the reticence on the part of Quebecers to go to France in order to inhale mustard gas for King George V aroused the hostility of English Canadians. English newspapers were filled with Quebec bashing (a national sport, then and now). Some Orangemen MPs in the House of Commons called for the arrest of Bourassa and the suppression of his newspaper. 

Despite overwhelming opposition in Quebec the Military Service Act was passed on July 24th 1917. This bill called to arms all able-bodied men, single or widowed, between the ages of 20 to 35 years. Naturally, many men didn't want to go. If you didn't think you were fit for military service, you could make your case before a special tribunal in the hopes of obtaining an exemption. The judges on the tribunals, however, had a very restrictive view of what constituted unfitness. The population of Quebec was shocked by several cases of virtual invalids being sent to the front.

The Military Service Act was enforce in Quebec by the hiring ‘spotters’, men of dubious reputations and questionable methods. These spotters weren't policemen, but rather former boxers or wrestlers, and sometimes figures from the criminal underground who were paid a bonus for catching "deserters." So even if you did have an exemption, it could be ripped up in front of you and you could then be accused of desertion. Men whose exemption requests were still before the tribunal, were often picked up off the streets and weeks later their parents would find out that their son was sent to Europe.

These tactics lead to some violent confrontations in Quebec, the most famous of which was an uprising in Quebec City in 1918. The federal government responded by invoking the War Measures Act and sending in troops from Ontario and the western provinces. These troops opened fire on the crowd killing five men and injuring dozens. This is what that First World War means to Quebecers.

God save the King
The battle of Vimy Ridge was just one of the many bloodbaths of that war. The only thing notable about it was the proportion of Canadian vs British troops involved. The Canadians who fought at Vimy Ridge fought for the British Empire. They weren't fighting for our "freedoms" (certainly not for Quebec's freedom). English Canadians see this battle as a defining moment for Canada where the common identity of Canadians was somehow forged on the battlefield. The fact that Quebecers have a very different view of that war, and therefore that battle, is irrelevant to them. In fact, it fills many Canadians with contempt.


Jacques Parizeau


Jacques Parizeau was a major player during Quebec's Quiet Revolution. He was recruited as an economic adviser to Premier Lesage and became part of a group of bright, young civil servants who transformed Quebec, overhauling departments and creating new agencies to modernize the province. He is most associated with the establishment of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a pension fund manager with a mission to help support Quebec companies.

But Parizeau also played a role in the nationalization of electricity in Quebec. He helped crunch numbers for then minister of natural resources, René Lévesque. Parizeau was part of the team sent to New York to borrow $300 million to finance the project. Parizeau also helped create Quebec’s own venture-capital fund, the Société générale de financement and was instrumental in setting up the Quebec Pension Plan. 

The creation of institutions like la Société générale de financement and la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec helped make capital available to francophone entrepreneurs. The goal was to promote the formation of a Québécois business class as a means of reducing the province’s economic dependence on foreign or English Canadian capital. Private companies like Cascades, Bombardier, Lavalin, Provigo, Quebecor, etc benefited from these policies. In 1960 francophones only controlled 47% of Quebec's economy, by 2000 they controlled 67%. That's a substantial achievement by any standard and Jacques Parizeau had a hand in bringing it about.

Even if he had never entered politics, Jacques Parizeau would still be remembered for the role he played during this important time in Quebec's history. But he did enter politics and he was a true Quebec patriot. His dream was to take Quebec out of the shadow of British North America (i.e. Canada) and have it take its place among the nations of the world. It is a noble dream but it is for this dream that he is so despised by English Canadians.


Conclusion


When Lord Durham was sent to Canada following the rebellions of 1837-38 he said that he found "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." This appears to be still true today. The name of this park is just the latest battle in this never ending war. A bloodbath for the British Empire is a significant nation-building event for English Canadians but is pretty meaningless to Quebecers, and a man who contributed so much to the advancement of the Quebec nation is held in contempt by English Canadians. 

This would be fine if we were two separate countries but we aren't. We are part of the same country, and it is a country that defines itself as a single nation-state. It is a country that refuses to recognize Quebec as a distinct nation. And so, as long as Quebec remains a province of this country, its national identity, its history, and its language will always be contested. Canadian nationalism is not content to exist only in English Canada. It must always be on display in Quebec as well, and it must always compete with any distinctly Québécois nationalism.

Correction:
He fought to liberate his nation
They fought for the British Empire
This aggressive Canadian nationalism stems from Canada's colonial roots. Canada is essentially a relic of the British Empire and in many ways its imperialist attitudes towards Quebec persist to this day. A relationship of equals has never existed between our two nations. It's always been one of domination. This park incident is just another manifestation of this domineering attitude. English Canada will tell us who we should be honoring and who we shouldn't. 



Monday, June 6, 2016

The Spirit of Regulation 17

Keep Canada British
On the 22nd of February, Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, offered her province’s apologies for the implementation of Regulation 17. This regulation was imposed on the French-Canadians of that province in 1912. It outlawed bilingual education in Ontario, making English the only language of instruction allowed by law. In an article published in Le Devoir on the 29th of February, a professor from the University of Ottawa, Gilles Levasseur, maintained that the main intent of that regulation was to improve the quality of English instruction in primary schools. The measure caused much prejudice, but thanks to a courageous gradualism, many wrongs were righted.

But what was the spirit of this regulation? Was it simply a desire to improve the quality of English instruction? Not exactly! In the context of the times, Regulation 17 did not intend to improve the lot of the minority. Just the opposite! The Anglo-Saxons of the province simply took advantage of their majority in the legislature to declare war on what they called the French-Canadian “threat”. Their objective was not to educate, but to denationalize the French-Canadians of the province, and indirectly, to intimidate the others – i.e. those from Quebec – who had the bad idea of moving to Ontario. After all, the slogans of the time were things like Hands off Ontario! Keep Canada British! The message couldn’t be clearer [1].

The goal was therefore to prevent northern Ontario from falling into the hands of the French-Canadians. At the time, the agricultural potential was estimated at 16 million arable acres, which constituted a zone of considerable potential expansion. The province tried to entice and to recruit colonists from Scandinavian countries, but to no avail. As for the Anglophones of the province, they were already starting to leave their lands for the city and jobs in industry. So, did they have to resign themselves to leave such rich lands undeveloped? It would seem so [2].

As for the French-Canadians, they had been familiar with those territories for more than two centuries, and they had amply demonstrated their ability to organize and settle new lands. But the social Darwinian theories of the time, which were increasingly popular since the 1880’s, made them into a threat against racial supremacy in the province. People no longer spoke about the French-Canadian problem, but rather of the French-Canadian “threat”. A solution had to be found for the “French-Canadianism” that was spreading in the province [3].

In 1912, Regulation 17 constituted an adequate solution for the denationalization of those who were already established, but what good was it if nothing was done against the arrival of new French-Canadians. The solution would come in 1918.

Since Confederation, Ontario got rich from the sale of Crown lands and the granting of forestry rights. But there was still a lot of land left, especially in the North. Since French-Canadians were the only takers, a decision had to be made: should the path be left open for them, or should it be shut down? Public opinion, alarmed by the danger, wanted a vigorous response. It wasn’t long in coming. It would arrive in January of 1918. So, what was it?


The dragon breaks its chains


The ministry of lands and forests would continue to sell Crown lands to French-Canadians, but a clause would be added to the contract. Henceforth, the buyer agreed to obey, expressly and without reservation, all “laws, statutes, rules and regulations of every character whatsoever” of the province, under penalty of forfeiture of all real estate which would revert back to the Crown [4]. The attorney general would act on his own discretion without interference from the courts. In addition, no compensation would be given for payments already made, improvements to the terrain, or the construction of a house or buildings.

By 1918, the laws and regulations of Ontario already numbered in the thousands. A buyer exposed himself to ruin over the most minor of infractions. For instance, if he were caught with one broken headlight, or an expired fishing permit, he risked having his land confiscated, along with his house and other buildings. Can one imaging anything more violent and uncivilized? Modern history doesn’t give very many examples, except perhaps the confiscation of Jewish property during the Second World War.

In the face of such a denial of rights and common sense, one would have expected cries of indignation from the public and the press of Ontario, but nothing of the kind happened! The few newspapers that talked about the issue tried to justify its necessity [5]. The policy of provincialization of French-Canadians, i.e. keep them from leaving Quebec, had to be supported.

From a legal point of view, the measure was justified by a frankly imperialist interpretation of the constitution. Thus, when the French-Canadians accepted to submit to the Constitution of 1867, they also renounced to “all their political rights and claims based on the past”. It was as if French-Canadians had no rights prior to 1867. From now on, their only rights are those that appear expressly, in black and white, in the 1867 bill. If it wasn’t in there, it didn’t exist! It was that simple [6].

Interpreted that way, the Constitution of 1867 became a new capitulation: the French-Canadians were subject to the proposed contract, and handed over the keys of the country to their new masters. In addition, they agreed not to have any ambitions outside their province. They were provincialized: Hands off Canada! As George Brown put it as he left the Quebec Conference of the 27 of October 1864: “French-Canadianism entirely extinguished!”

Their fate within Confederation was therefore sealed.

We shouldn’t be too surprised; the judicial spirit of English Canada is strong. One only has to read the ruling in the Caron-Boutet case by the Supreme Court on November 20 2015, to realize that the judicial spirit of 1918 crossed the generations and that it still dominates us like the sword of Damocles above our heads.


By Christian Néron, member of the Quebec Bar association, constitutionalist and historian, March 10th 2016.

References:

Christian Néron, Dans le placard des donneurs de leçons
William H. Moore, The Clash! A Study in nationalities, J. M. Dent and Sons, London, Ontarion, 1918.


Excerpts from The Clash! A Study in nationalities by William H. Moore, 1918:

[1] Page 217

"In Ontario it is pointed out that if we were to allow the French-Canadians to extend and flood over Northern Ontario, we should some day have to fight for the predominance of Anglo-Saxonism. Within the past few months hundreds of thousands of chauvinists' dollars were devoted to publicly advertising the imminence of the peril which threatens Anglo-Saxonism..."

[2] Page 227

"...while in Ontario, as we have seen, English-speaking farmers, so far from being willing to replace French-Canadian farmers, are by thousands giving up their land sometimes not waiting for a purchaser and moving to city and town. But there were the King's lands in New Ontario. Over these English-speaking Canadians, possessing a majority in the Provincial Legislature, were trustees. The Provincial machinery could be used to prevent French-speaking subjects of the King from preserving their lingual interests in this part of Canada. What did it matter that Canada's crying need was food, and more food? What did it matter that the Mother Country had cabled: Speed up farm production? What did it matter that Ontario had for many years vainly endeavoured to find colonists for these fertile, unplowed lands?"

[3] Page 223

"Mr. Foy was then a Minister of the Crown in Ontario, the Minister responsible for Ontario's law, and his statement must have been accepted by English-Canadians as the government's opinion that the French-Canadians had already too many rights; and by French-Canadians as equally authoritative that the government was in reality preparing for the complete destruction of the French language in Ontario."

[4] Page 228

"All these considerations were submerged in the resolve that the King's subjects who spoke French and attended mass, should not secure a further footing on the King's lands in Ontario. Plainly the situation was extraordinary and could be met only by extraordinary measures. But the government was not abashed; it went the full distance and required applicants for the King's lands to sign papers that they would obey unreservedly "all Provincial laws, statutes, rules, and regulations, of every character whatsoever," on the understanding that failure to comply with any of these rules and regulations should "entail forfeiture without compensation" of "all rights and of any moneys paid on account of purchase of the land." A moment's reflection will serve to show the far-reaching importance of such action. Will the reader think for a moment of the vast amount of "Provincial laws, statutes, rules and regulations of every character whatsoever that may be in force from time to time," and say that there is not somewhere in his hidden past particularly if he own an automobile a blemish which stands for a violation of law or regulation that would under this regulation have put his home in jeopardy? 

That the government is aiming at violation of the school laws, and not its veterinary or automobile regulations, affects the principle only to make it worse. There is nothing that more readily saps respect for law than the existence of government regulations which it is not intended to enforce. That it may be intended to enforce the regulation only against French-Canadian violation of school regulations and not against that of English-Canadians and statements to this effect are being freely made from the hustings affects the principle only to make it more vicious. The foundation of loyalty is justice. The State expecting equal loyalty from all, and now demanding equal military service from all, ought to give justice equally to all."

[5] Page 229

"Men are being forced to swear away their rights to a common participation in the protection accorded property in the land of Ontario and yet the press to which we might naturally have looked for a defence of justice, raises no outcry at its destruction. It is not the properties of its owners, nor the properties of its readers and advertisers that are being deprived of the protection of the Courts. So far from condemning Ontario's action, the English press of the Province has defended it as a fitting punishment upon men and women who resolutely struggle for the preservation of their fathers' tongue in a land discovered and explored and made safe for civilisation by their fathers."

[6] Page 219

"On behalf of the Ontario Government, it is contended that there is constitutional justification for cancelling any privileges which may have been previously allowed ; which may have been implied in the Quebec Act. Granting that at the time of the Conquest the French-Canadians were guaranteed the preservation of their religious faith, and that then schools were universally considered as a matter of religion (exclusively so in Canada) granting that the French-Canadians, were for many years, continued in the free use of their language, even after Confederation (after the Ottawa River had become a boundary line) it is pointed out that their special lingual rights had ceased to be revealed by tacit and unwritten agreement after they had been put down in black and white in the British North America Act. It is therefore argued that the Canadian Constitution of 1867 must be regarded as superseding all pre-existing political arrangements; hence, by accepting the document, the French-Canadians have forfeited all right of appeal to earlier promises and guarantees."


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Birth of Quebec Nationalism

The early 19th century was marked by the birth of French Canadian [1] nationalist sentiment. This nationalism was akin to national liberation movements worldwide, notably in Europe and South America. Between 1804 and 1830, Serbia, Greece, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay won their independence. In Lower Canada, this movement took the form of parliamentary fights. The years 1805 to 1810 were particularly noteworthy in this regard. Francophone Legislative Assembly members were a homogenous bloc, with their own party—Le Parti canadien—and their own newspaper—Le Canadien, started in 1806. Up until 1820, executive power was successively wielded by governors general Carleton (lord Dorchester), Prescott, Craig, Prevost, and Sherbrooke. They wavered between confronting francophones and seeking to appease the House of Assembly. For example, when he was displeased with the elections, Governor James Henry Craig dissolved the Assembly and seized Le Canadien. He was exasperated that francophones talked constantly of the "Canadian nation" and its freedoms: "They seem to want to be considered a separate nation. They are constantly going on about la nation canadienne." In 1810, Craig described the Canadians as follows:
I mean that in language, religion, attachment, and customs, [this people] is completely French, it has no other tie or attachment to us than a shared government; and that it in fact holds us in mistrust […], feels hatred […]. The dividing line between us is complete.
Ross Cuthbert (1776–1861), the long-time anglophone member for Warwick (Lower Canada) and a member of the Executive Council, wrote an account of the Canadians' French character in 1809:
A stranger travelling across the province without entering the cities would be persuaded he was visiting a part of France. The language, manners, every symbol, from vane to clog, join together to lead him astray. […] Should he enter a house, French politeness, French dress, French apparel will strike the eye. Should one of the daughters of the house decide to sing, he'll likely hear the lovely ballad Sur les bords de la Seine, or some other song that transports him to a beautiful valley of Old France. Among the portraits of saints in the guest room he will also notice that of Napoleon. In short, he could not imagine he had crossed the borders of the British Empire. 
But this prominent Anglican citizen of Lower Canada saw the situation as an anachronism that would disappear "in the effervescence of a British solvent." On June 6, 1823, Lower Canada Chief Justice James Stuart (1780–1853), who was also a member of the Executive Council and the member for William Henry, submitted a brief on a draft Union that had this to say about the refusal by Canadians to assimilate:
Lower Canada is mostly inhabited by what one could call a foreign people, despite the fact sixty years have passed since the Conquest. This population has made no progress towards assimilation with its fellow British citizens, in language, manner, habit, or sentiment. It continues, with a few, rare exceptions, to be as perfectly French as when brought under British dominion. The main cause of this adherence to national particularities and prejudices is certainly the impolitic concession that was made to it, of a code of foreign laws in a foreign tongue. 
In its May 21, 1831 issue Le Canadien wrote,
There is not to our knowledge a French people in this province, but a Canadian people, a religious and moral people, a people at all times loyal and freedom-loving, and capable of delighting therein; this people is neither French nor English, Scottish, Irish, or Yankee, it is Canadian. 
Throughout this period, anglophones did not consider themselves "Canadians." They proudly called themselves Britons—meaning English—and bore loyalty only to the British nation, not the "Canadian nation." The term "Canadians" was only used condescendingly to refer to French-speaking Canadiens. This troubled era was marked by conflict between the governor general, backed by English merchants, and the mainly francophone parliament: religious quarrels, threats of assimilation, parliamentary crises, the battle over "subsidies," immigration troubles, the draft political union, and more.  


The Policy of Anglicization

In 1810, Governor James Henry Craig sent a dispatch to the British government proposing a series of measures he believed would restore harmony to Lower Canada. These measures included "the need to anglicize the province," "resort to heavy American immigration to submerge the French Canadians," the requirement to own "substantial land holdings" to be eligible for the Assembly, and especially "the union of Upper and Lower Canada for a more certain and prompt anglicization." Below is an extract of Governor Craig's dispatch:  
For many years, English representatives have scarcely made up a quarter of the total Assembly, and today out of fifty members representing Lower Canada, only ten are English. One could posit that this branch of government is entirely in the hands of illiterate peasants under the direction of several of their fellow countrymen whose personal importance, in contrast to the interests of the country in general, depends on the continuation of the current depraved system. [...] 
The petitioners of Your Majesty cannot omit to note the excessive scope of political rights that have been granted to this population to the detriment of its fellow British subjects; and these political rights, at a time when the population feels its strength growing, have already given birth in the imagination of many to the dream of a distinct nation called the "Canadian nation." [...] 
The French inhabitants of Lower Canada, today distanced from their fellow subjects by their particularities and national prejudices, and ardently aiming to become, through the current state of affairs, a distinct people, would be gradually assimilated into the British population and with it merge into a people of British character and sentiment.
For Governor Craig, it was unthinkable for the Assembly to have only 10 anglophone members out of 50 and that they be "in the hands of illiterate peasants under the direction of several of their fellow countrymen." There was already talk at the time of a "distinct nation" and "distinct people," an idea that would resurface 200 years later in the 1990s with the expression "distinct society." In 1836, a movement even pushed for partitioning Montréal Island and the county of Vaudreuil (on the western border near Ontario) to reattach them to English Upper Canada. The outcry from anglophone Townshippers and the City of Québec put a stop to the movement.  


Anglophone and Francophone Newspapers

Significantly, newspapers had been bilingual since the start of the British regime. The first newspaper, which was founded in June 1764, was La Gazette de Québec/The Québec Gazette. Of the nine papers published between 1764 and 1806, eight were bilingual, the only exception being La Gazette littéraire launched in 1778 by Fleury Mesplet (1734–1794). Quite often, the English text came first, followed by a French translation, or else the English text ran in the traditionally better left column, with the French on the right. Whatever the case, most subjects were culled from foreign newspapers, nearly all British or American.
Bilingualism in newspapers continued until the early 19th century. Several years later (1808), when Le Canadien devoted 85% of its space to the election, the British and the Catholic clergy reacted with condemnation. On December 4, 1809, the Bishop of Québec, Mgr. Joseph-Octave Plessis, violently attacked Le Canadien for "ruining all the principles of subordination and inflaming the province." Exasperated, Governor James Henry Craig ordered the seizure of Le Canadien's presses in 1810 and the arrest of its senior editors.  

Political Parties

In politics, francophone members became increasingly aggressive and formed Le Parti canadien, while anglophones gathered in the Tory Party. Each group had its own newspaper: Le Canadien (Parti canadien) and the Québec Mercury (Tory Party), which vied with each other. Antagonism grew between francophones and anglophones, and debates turned poisonous. In 1805, the ruling British business bourgeoisie, which opposed political concessions for French Canadians, founded a militant newspaper, the Québec Daily Mirror. On October 27, 1806, the Québec Mercury attacked Canadians in these terms:
This province is already much too French for an English colony. To defrancize it as much as possible, if I may use this expression, should be our primary goal.  
The Montréal Gazette put forward equally extremist views in 1836: "The time for indecision has passed. The British must either crush their oppressors or meekly accept the yoke that has been prepared for them." Anglophones feared falling under the supremacy of a "French republic." They called for the union of the two Canadas and spoke openly of assimilation, while Canadians denounced favouritism, the governor's corruption and arbitrariness (the "Chateau Clique"), and anglophone control of the councils. Francophones wanted an elected Legislative Council, oversight of government spending, and the maintenance of the seigniorial system and even threatened to join the U.S. Year after year, the abuse continued and even grew worse, profiting a group of the governor's personal friends. In 1827, a petition with 87,000 names denounced the profiteers known as the "Chateau Clique." The Gosford-Gipps-Grey Commission had predicted in 1837 that British settlers "would never consent without armed struggle to the establishment of what they see as a French republic in Canada." T. Fred. Elliott, secretary of the Gosford-Gipps-Grey Commission, seems to have clearly understood the issue of Lower Canadian duality:
French Canadians could not have failed to notice that the English have seized all the riches and all the power in each country where they have set foot. In all parts of the world, civilized or savage, the English have shown, whether as British subjects in the East or as settlers in revolt on this continent, the same inability to mix with others, the same need to predominate. One must admit that this could not be an agreeable thought for the gentle and easy-going race that finds itself caught in the midst of growing institutions and nations of English origin.
For him, the solution was to placate French Canadians and train them to govern themselves with the help of their fellow British citizens. But Elliott was only speaking personally and had little authority as secretary. 
Through several strong-arm tactics, Governor Craig succeeded in arbitrarily dissolving certain Houses of Assembly. Francophones and anglophones bunkered down for several years in hardened conflict that totally paralyzed the state. In 1834, French Canadian MPs went to London to present "92 resolutions" designed to update the 1791 Constitution. They called for an elected Legislative Assembly and greater political powers (responsible government and tax administration). Mired in its domestic problems, the British government took its time. In the meantime, as a pressure tactic, the House of Assembly refused to vote on the budget until London accepted its demands. The official response came three years later in May 1837. The British government rejected the proposals of the Parti canadien (which had become the Parti patriote) and flatly refused the House of Lower Canada's requests.
As though to add fuel to the fire, officials authorized the colonial government to dispense with the Assembly's consent for the use of public funds, cemented the privileges of anglophone capitalists, and raised the spectre of uniting the two Canadas. These measures fired up the revolt movement and forced the Patriots' leader Louis-Joseph Papineau to choose between submission and revolt. Once Papineau started to galvanize a population fed up with the economic crisis, inflation, unemployment, cholera epidemics, poor harvests, and political rot, the conflict was ripe for an armed confrontation.

The battle of  Saint-Eustache
The armed revolt of the Patriots broke out in fall 1837. They engaged the British army in combat near Montreal and in Saint-Denis, Saint-Charles, and Saint-Eustache. British officials soon intervened and quickly crushed the rebellion, spreading terror by looting and burning several villages, while the Catholic clergy preached loyalty, obedience, and resignation. The following pastoral letter of October 24, 1837, by then Bishop of Montréal Mgr. Jean-Jacques Lartigue is telling in this regard:

Everybody, said Saint Paul to the Romans, shall be subject to the powers of God. And it is He who has established all those in existence. Therefore, he who opposes these powers disobeys God's order. And those who disobey earn damnation for themselves. The prince is God's minister to do good. And since it is not in vain that he wears the gladius, he is also His minister to punish evil. You must therefore obey him not only through fear of punishment, but also as a duty of conscience. [...] And you must see at present that we cannot, without neglecting our duties and placing our own salvation in peril, omit to purge your conscience of such a slippery step. 
However, some historians believe that the 1837 Patriots' Rebellion was staged by Montréal loyalists, who provoked the Patriots to be able to accuse them of treason and thereby fight them legitimately. In any case, this is what Patriot militant Dr. Edmund B. O'Callaghan believed, who compared the situation in Lower Canada to that of his native Ireland:
They wanted, as in Castlereagh in Ireland, to incite the people to violence, then abolish their constitutional rights. In the history of the union of Ireland with England, you will retrace as in a mirror the 1836–1837 plot against Canadian liberty. 
For O'Callaghan, the government had knowingly armed volunteers and issued arbitrary orders to inflame the population and then cry rebellion once people were up in arms. During the 1837–1838 rebellion, between 200 and 300 Patriots died. Some 9,000 people participated in the uprising in Lower Canada.

The failure of the 1837–1838 rebellion was key to the development of francophone society in Lower Canada. Bitterly disappointed, French Canadians turned inwards and resigned themselves to their fate. For over a century, they took refuge in obedience, religion, agriculture, and conservatism. There was no Lower Canada Assembly for the next four years, as the main political figures were all in exile. The Catholic clergy filled the political vacuum. 
Dispatched urgently by London, John George Lambton (Lord Durham) arrived in Quebec City with full authority to investigate and report on the situation in Canada. 


[1] The name of our culture and of the people who belong to it was, since the original forging of our identity, Canadien. That is what the Native Peoples called us and it is what the French called us, but that name was essentially hijacked by another nation and so we eventually became known as French-Canadians. After the long held dream of a truly bi-national Canada died, we became Québécois or Quebecers in English.


From the Site for Language Management in Canada (University of Ottawa)