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.


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.

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.


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)

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Acadians take the Royal tour

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, who encouraged us to "learn more about John A. Macdonald's life and vision for a country that values diversity, democracy and freedom", has recently said that "being a constitutional monarchy was a decision that we made." When exactly did we make that decision? I think it was a decision that was forced upon us and we eventually acquiesced to it to some degree. But nonetheless, the vast majority of Quebecers still reject monarchy despite the endless supply of colonised little buffoons like Mélanie.

In any case, let's mark the Queen's 90th birthday by reminiscing a little about the time that the Acadians "made the decision" to accept the British monarchy. In 2002, a group of seven Acadian historians decided to set the record straight after centuries of historical whitewash and the result was called the Beaubassin Manifesto. Here it is...


Grand-Pré: Round them up and ship them out
We, Acadians, are the survivors of genocide.

Genocide is defined as “the systematic destruction of a people or an ethnic group”; this definition corresponds perfectly to the events of 1755, as British intentions at the time were well and truly to destroy a people and its culture. The Acadians were chased, dispossessed, starved and killed; their crops and homes were burned and their cattle killed or stolen. Furthermore, in order to insure the disappearance of the Acadians as a people, the British took pains to systematically divide them into small groups so as to force them to disperse in the thirteen Anglo-American colonies, while denying them the right to move. The British thus forced the disintegration of a society based on the family and their assimilation into the Anglophone colonies on the continent. In light of these facts, it is clear that the British authorities were guilty of genocide.

Half of our people lost their lives as a result, either directly or indirectly, of this exile imposed by the British. Consequently, on an estimated population of 15000 to 18000 people, from 7500 to 9000 people died, mostly the weak such as children. Several factors explain this high mortality rate: the crowded conditions onboard ships (where food and water were insufficient), the epidemics caused by the unhygienic conditions of the voyage, the cold-blooded murder of many Acadians, as well as the order given by Lawrence [1] to starve out the Acadians hiding in the woods. The loss for our ancestors was therefore immense: they were dispossessed of their fertile lands, of their goods and possessions and they had to suffer the dislocation of their society, the disintegration of their culture, along with the enormous loss of life. The British used the banal term of “deportation” to describe this crime. We have enabled this distortion by using our own expression of “Grand Dérangement” (Great Disruption) so as to attenuate our tragedy.

On their side, the victors try to rewrite their own history in an attempt to justify themselves in the eyes of future generations. They also try to constrain us, the descendants of their victims, to accept this revisionist history by threatening those who would tell the truth with major sanctions. [2] This threat of sanctions was sufficient to create a silence amongst our people that has lasted for over 250 years. Right up to the present day, our schools offer a very limited view of our history, and this, out of “respect” towards the conquering people. Thus, we don’t speak of the horrors of “genocide” but of a “deportation.” Only the most audacious books speak of an “ethnic cleansing.”

What are the effects of these lies on the evolution of our people? For us, the signatories, the consequence is obvious: we have lost touch with our history prior to 1755, that is, we have been forced to deny collectively the tragic elements of the period from 1755 to 1763. We assert that the Acadian people are suffering from a kind of collective amnesia: we do not celebrate our heroes; we do not commemorate the important achievements of the Acadian people during its colonial period. We don’t insist either on the success of the alliance and friendship between the Mi’kmaq and Acadian peoples, a friendship that survived all of the trials of the conquests and was broken only by the murderous acts of the British authorities. The Mi’kmaqs and the Acadians built a culture from the symbiosis between the two peoples, a culture that existed outside of the monarchist tradition and in an egalitarian context.

The reality of Acadia prior of 1755 has unfortunately been replaced by the myth of Évangéline. This fictitious character, created by Longfellow, reinforced the image of a conquered people. Évangéline is not history, but a story depicting a servile and victimized people, and it’s this image that we cultivate to this day. How else do you explain that the only Acadian university carries the name of one of those responsible for the Deportation with much of the blood on his hands, namely Robert Monckton? Why isn’t there a monument commemorating the 7500 to 9000 dead of the Deportation? These facts can only be explained by the collective amnesia of the Acadian people.

By not recognizing the importance of the Deportation and its consequences, we cannot properly appropriate our people’s history. Such a consciousness of our history is essential, because without it, it’s impossible for us to live our present lives and anticipate our future. The collective memory of the Acadian people can only be recovered if Acadians become intimately aware of the horrors of the events that bloodied the Acadian coasts. The loss suffered by our ancestors was immense: they were dispossessed of their fertile lands, of their goods and possessions and had to suffer the dislocation of their society, the disintegration of their culture, as well as enormous loss of life.

In order to justify their actions, the British authorities went as far as to pretend that the Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the Crown. Documents from the period demonstrate that in fact it was only a pretext for the Deportation. For one, the Acadian people already swore allegiance. For another, Lawrence already clearly indicated his desire to deport the Acadians. In a letter dated August 9th 1755, he affirms: “I will propose to them the Oath of Allegiance a last time. If they refuse, we will have in that refusal a pretext for the expulsion. If they accept, I will refuse them the Oath, by applying to them the decree which prohibits from taking the Oath all persons who have once refused to take it. IN BOTH CASES I SHALL DEPORT THEM.

The reasons explaining the Deportation are multiple and complex. But two motives are clearly invoked by the British to justify the Deportation. First of all, Lawrence’s correspondence explicitly demonstrates that the Deportation was seen as a measure against a people that the British perceived as a dangerous threat to the security of the territory of Nova-Scotia, due to the alliance of the Acadian people with the Mi’kmaqs, its proximity with Canada and its close ties with France. Another British motive for the deportation of the Acadian people was the illegal appropriation of our ancestors’ fertile lands: “if we succeed in expulsing them, such an exploit would be the greatest that the English accomplished in America, for all will say that in the part of this province occupied by the French are the richest lands in the world. We can then put in their place good English farmers, and we shall soon see an abundance of agricultural products in that province.”[3]

But, what entitles us to seek justice is that the Deportation was even illegal according to British law. It is undeniable that the Deportation was illegal for the following reasons:

  1. In 1755, the Acadians were British subjects. In peace time, the law stipulate that their rights cannot be infringed upon.
  2. Still with respect to British law, the theft of Acadian lands constitutes an illegal act.
  3. As a result of Lawrence’s orders, many Acadians suffered significant damages and others were even executed.[4]
  4. Following the armed rebellion of a dozen Acadians, the British decided to punish an entire innocent people, women and children included, thereby turning all Acadians into a nation of rebels. However, according to the law of the time, only those found guilty of a crime should be punished for that crime.

[1] “If softer methods do not work then you shall have recourse to more energetic methods to embark them and to deny to those who flee any possibility of shelter, by burning their homes and by destroying anything in the land that might provide them sustenance (…)” Letter from Lawrence to Winslow, August 1755.

[2] As one example among many others, we can cite the re-francization campaign launched in Moncton in 1934 by certain people in L’Assomption. They wrote letters inciting the Acadian population to demand services in French in stores. In response, the Anglophones of Moncton immediately boycotted stores belonging to Acadians. In view of this, the Acadians were forced to abandon their campaign.

[3] Letter dated the 9th of August 1755, published in the New York Gazette on the 25th of the same month and in the Pennsylvania Gazette the 4th of September.

[4] Lawrence offered the equivalent of $30 for a scalp from an Acadian man and $25 for a scalp from an Acadian woman, child or a Mi’kmaq.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Martin Patriquin's long road to the Senate

Professional liar
Martin Patriquin is Maclean's chief propagandist regarding Quebec and language issues. His job is to distort, misinform and subtly demonize through insinuation. In a recent article, Patriquin looked at a strange phenomenon in which Quebec is supposedly opposing the rights of francophones while purporting to defend them. The title of this article, "Why Quebec is fighting against its rights", suggests that he will provide us with an explanation for this strange behavior but he fails to do so.

The springboard for all this is the recent case which came before the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Yukon Francophone School Board vs the government of the Yukon Territory. The francophone school board argued that it should be the school board and not the government that decides who is eligible for French education in the Yukon territory. Shockingly the Quebec government did not side with the school board. How can this be? How does this make any sense when Quebec claims to be defending the French language?

Patriquin doesn't give us a clear reason. He does give us a few quotes from Quebec government officials but without any context. Along with these quotes, he basically insinuates that Quebec must be afraid that a ruling for the francophones of Yukon could force Quebec to give anglophones in Quebec the same rights that francophones in English Canada enjoy. The government of Quebec is, therefore, hypocritical when it claims to want to protect the French language. Its real goal must simply be the suppression of English for bigoted reasons and nothing else. 

In reality, Quebec's position on these matters isn't difficult to understand at all, and has been consistent for a long time. But to understand this position, you need to understand the larger context which is something that Patriquin will never give you. But I will...

The reason

From the beginning of Confederation, francophones believed that Section 93 of the Constitution Act 1867 included language rights. Anglophones believed otherwise, and in the decades that followed Confederation they enacted a whole series of anti-French laws which usually culminated in the banning of French schools. The federal government and the Supreme Court remained almost completely silent during this time even when the rights explicitly guaranteed in a federal act (The Manitoba Act) were being violated.

It was only when Quebec passed the Charter of the French language, which limited the use of English in Quebec, that the Supreme Court sprang into action in order to cut it into pieces. A few years later, a new constitution was imposed on Quebec which incorporated a charter of rights that contained several new clauses severely limiting Quebec's power over matters of language and culture.

Given this context, it is completely understandable why Quebec would oppose any further federal encroachment over its jurisdiction on language through Supreme Court rulings. However, since there is no constitutional recognition of Quebec's distinct situation within Canada (as the Meech Lake Accord potentially offered), these battles must be played out in the context of federal vs provincial rights, which sometimes puts it in opposition to francophones outside of Quebec. 

But really, the root cause of this problem is that the premise on which Canadian language policy is based is simply false. It assumes that there is some kind of equality between French and English in Canada when there is not. One language is a minority language with all of the challenges that come with this reality, whereas the other is the dominant, majority language in this part of the world. And speakers of this language enjoy all of the benefits of this majority status even when they are a numerical minority, like in Quebec.

Canada's approach to language also completely ignores the important differences between the history of francophones in English Canada and that of anglophones in Quebec. The historical situation of francophones – underprivileged in education and income, suffering rampant language attrition, lacking public institutions which function in their language and thus the means to maintain their culture, etc – is somehow made analogous to the situation of anglophones in Quebec, where none of these historical indices of oppression were present. 

A lying bag of crap

Well, there you are, the explanation for Quebec's position on these matters with the context. It's really not that difficult to understand. I think Patriquin's inability to comprehend it is intentional and that his real purpose is to mislead his readers. To prove this point I'll focus on one example from this article, Patriquin's description of the Beaulac case and Quebec's reaction to it:

"In 1999, the Quebec government again intervened in the case of Jean Beaulac, a convicted murderer from British Columbia who, the Court ultimately decided, deserved to have his trial heard in French in his home province. 
Following the Beaulac decision in 1999, Parti Québécois justice minister Linda Goupil gave a decidedly bizarre press conference in which she said the case would “limit the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the blossoming of their language.” She then quoted Voltaire—“The joy of some creates misfortune for others,” she said—and promptly refused to take any questions in English."

The main problem here is that a transcript of the entire press conference is available online and Patriquin's depiction of it is so clearly fraudulent. Here is some of what justice Minister Linda Goupil said: 

"The Court states that administrative contingencies must not be taken into consideration in respect to that right. The State must take the necessary steps to ensure the existence and maintenance of institutional bilingualism of criminal justice in all of Canada. This means, in practice, that a francophone from British Columbia could demand that in a criminal trial, the Crown prosecutor, the judge and the jury must be able to speak his language, i.e. French. 
I can imagine that the government of British Columbia might question the applicability and practice of this judgment on the administration of justice over there. In Quebec, all anglophones already enjoy, in almost all cases, these privileges. Quebec has been offering this service to its linguistic minority for a long time. 
But the Beaulac ruling does have an effect in Quebec in that it limits the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the development of their language. In practice, this will mean that any defendant in Quebec may, to the extent that he has a minimal knowledge of the English language, require that his trial be held in English. Consequently, the judge and the prosecution must be able to speak English. 
This is undeniably an extension of the current practice, which is that when the accused is an anglophone, we take steps to ensure that his trial is held in that language. However, this is a situation which is assessed case by case, depending on the real spoken language of the accused. In practice, this means that many trials are held each year in English in Montreal, Gaspésie and Estrie. 
In conclusion, this judgment is reminiscent of the old adage that the happiness of some is the misfortune of others, I am very happy for francophones outside Quebec but in Quebec we did not need the Beaulac ruling to protect our linguistic minority, they already had these rights."

The Deputy Minister for Legal and Legislative Affairs, Louis Borgeat, then added more information about the different laws implicated in this case and how this ruling might affect them. Questions were then taken from journalists including from anglophone journalists John Grant (CTV) and Richard Kalb (CBC). Mr Kalb asked the Minister if she would answer some questions in English. She said that she would rather not, explaining that she was still in the process of perfecting her English. Mr Kalb then said that this would be an opportunity for her to practice, people laughed and the press conference continued. Later on, the Deputy Minister did answer some questions in English.

Basically, it is impossible to read the transcript of that press conference and Patriquin's account of it without coming away with the obvious conclusion that Patriquin is a lying bag of crap. Why is he completely distorting this 17 year old press conference? Well, like all propagandists, he is not interested in informing the public. His goal is to form public opinion in a certain way. This often requires lies and distortions.

Perhaps, in the end, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of other shameless propagandists like André Pratte who was recently rewarded for his years of service with a seat in the Senate.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Economy

For many, Quebec's economy is seen as the biggest obstacle to our ability to become independent. This section does not seek to demonstrate that Quebec is an economic paradise with no difficulties on the horizon. All states of the world, even the most powerful, face challenges of their own. If Quebec is not an economic paradise whose horizon is free from difficulties, nor is it the economic dunce that some try to portray it as. We have everything it takes to become not only a viable independent state but a more prosperous one.

To begin with, we must remember that we have abundant resources that will allow us to easily transition from our current situation to an independent Quebec. Our mining sector ranks among the top ten producers in world. The main minerals being mined in Quebec are iron, gold, copper and zinc. We also produce titanium, silver, magnesium and nickel as well as many other metals and industrial minerals, including diamonds. And that's just the beginning: 60% of our mineral potential remains unexplored. Forestry is also a sector that can contribute to our development.

We also have large reserves of drinking water. Within the context of global warming, this resource will become increasingly important. Moreover, hydro-power also puts us in an enviable position in this regard, allowing us to attract energy-intensive industries or for export in the case of rising electricity prices. In a similar vein, the St. Lawrence River is an important strategic resource since its waterway reaches the heart of North America. As an independent country, we would be able to regulate traffic and impose regulations and tariffs that seem most appropriate to us without having to account for Ontario's needs. Currently, the bulk of maritime traffic through the St. Lawrence is directed to the Great Lakes without any real benefits for us. The benefits are primarily for the Toronto area.

Finally, our main wealth is, and should remain, our brains. Quebec scientists, artists, athletes and innovators are already bringing Quebec to the world. Having a population that is three times as bilingual and seven times more trilingual as anywhere else on the continent also represents an important economic asset for us.

For any state, possessing wealth - natural or otherwise - is not enough, it must be able to develop competitive industries and companies. It must also be able to protect its strategic interests, that is to say, the competitive advantages it has over other states in certain industries. Like other nations of the world, we too must defend our strategic interests. However, our interests do not always coincide with those of Ottawa. By remaining a province of Canada, we are entrusting an important part of our economic levers to another nation which often has other objectives.

First of all, the industries that get support from the Canadian and Quebec governments are not the same. On the one hand, there is the oil and automobile industries, and on the other, there is renewable energy, aerospace and forestry. When the automobile industry based in Ontario experienced difficulties in 2009, the Canadian government invested $10 billion to help maintain jobs, but when at the same time, similar difficulties were felt in our forestry industry, it was essentially our government in Quebec that came to its aid. As for oil, $1.4 billion are invested each year by Ottawa (over $60 billion since 1970). Meanwhile, Hydro-Québec had to be financed almost exclusively by our government and has never had the benefit of any significant Canadian funding.

Oil prices are another example of the divergence between our economic interests and those of Canada. Low oil prices are good for our economy, but they hinder Canadian growth. The fact is, we do not have an oil industry, the benefits to our economy are at best indirect. The disadvantages, however, are extremely obvious because high oil prices lead to a strong Canadian dollar, which hurts our exports. An estimated 55,000 jobs in Quebec's manufacturing sector were lost in recent years due to the strong dollar. Furthermore, significant costs are to be anticipated for the implementation of Canada's goal for reducing greenhouse gases since Quebec, one of the greenest provinces in Canada, will end up having to pay for Alberta's pollution. Worse still, Ottawa has spared no expense in promoting the tar sands in Europe and lobbying to prevent it from being labeled as dirty energy. In contrast, it in no way defended our hydro-power when in 2010 the US Congress decided to consider hydroelectricity from Quebec as not being clean energy.

Our economic weakness as a province of Canada can also be seen in the area of ​​international trade agreements. The global economy is governed by a multitude of trade agreements concluded between independent states. Canada rarely negotiates and signs these agreement with our interests in mind, but rather with those of the larger Canadian economy (mainly that of Ontario and Alberta). The recent free trade agreement with the European Union demonstrated this once again. During the final negotiations, the Canadian government offered Europe the import 17,000 tons of cheese in exchange for the opportunity to export 50,000 tons of Canadian beef. As European farmers are more subsidized than ours, this deal will greatly harm our cheese industry, which represents 60% of the Canadian total. Obviously, the beef industry, based mainly in Alberta, is satisfied with this outcome.

Everyone makes choices according to their own interests. We can't blame Canadians for wanting to defend their economic interests here and abroad. But then why should the people of Quebec have to justify their determination to defend their own economic interests? Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for us to adequately defend these interests as a province of Canada.

As an independent country, we could better use the money we currently send to Ottawa. The Government of Canada spends billions in areas that are of no interests to the majority of Quebecers. Examples are numerous: intensive military spending, subsidies to oil, the Senate, the Governor General, the monarchy, etc. Under military spending, Canada has more than doubled its funding in the last 14 years ($10.1 billion in 1998-1999 to $21.7 billion in 2013-2014). Canada's 2008-2028 defense plan will cost $490 billion. Therefore, Ottawa will require us to spend almost $113 billion on the military while we are being forced to cut spending on health and education. The plan includes more than $33 billion for the purchase of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, of which not a penny will be spent in Quebec, despite the fact that the Lévis shipyard is one of the world's best.

Among these examples of forced expenditure must be added the purchase of more than a billion dollars a year of services paid by Quebec to Ontario via the Government of Canada. Since the majority of the Canadian public service is established on our neighbor's territory, they largely benefit from the money we pay in taxes. Independence would enable us to bring home the bulk of this economic activity.

In addition, many Canadian programs or departments spend far less in Quebec than its economic or demographic weight would merit. As an independent country, we will stop paying for the Canadian Wheat Board, which mainly benefits the West. We will also cease to pay for the Canadian nuclear program, whose expenditures are mainly made in Ontario. Canada has 22 nuclear reactors, 20 of which are in Ontario. Quebec only had one, Gentilly, which will be closed for economic reasons. As an independent country, we will stop paying for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose expenses are incurred mainly in British Columbia and the Maritime provinces.

Another striking example is the system of Canadian tax credits that punishes us for some of our social choices. For example, our child care program costs us $149 million in tax credits because child care costs are lower in Quebec than is the rest of Canada. The situation is the same for tuition, we choose to keep our tuition low to promote access to school. The Canadian system, organized around the reality of other provinces, deprives Quebec students of $100 million in unused Canadian tax credits.

We must also consider the significant savings that would be achieved by eliminating the duplication of government. As an independent country, we would not have to pay for two Ministries of Finance, Health, Revenue, Natural Resources, International Relations, etc. Canadian officials of these ministries spend a lot of time administering parallel programs that could be streamlined or eliminated if control is passed to Quebec. One of the most absurd examples of such duplication is that of the Canadian Ministry of Health, which employs 9079 staff but only manages one hospital.

To add to all this, several studies have been done on the effects independence would have on the public finances of Quebec. The latest was done by Stéphane Gobeil who clearly showed that the savings would be in the order of $7.5 billion whereas the costs would be of $5.5 billion. So as an independent country, we would save about $2.0 billion in the first year. In the past, other studies on this issue have all demonstrated the benefits of independence. In 1994, Jacques Parizeau ordered a study on costs and revenues of independence from the Minister for Restructuring, which indicated that we would have saved nearly three billion in 1995. In 2005, François Legault's "Budget of the Year 1" estimated that independence would generate more than five billion dollars in surplus.

With the savings generated by independence, our room for maneuver would be wider, allowing us more choices. For example, a more interventionist government could invest in our strategic sectors, a more conservative government could lower our taxes, while a more left-wing government could reinvest in health and education.


Overall, being a province of Canada does not benefit us economically. We have all the potential to become a rich nation, free and prosperous. Already as a simple province, we have a modern and diversified economy which compares favorably with that of many sovereign countries. However, to face the economic challenges ahead and to bring about solutions that truly meet our needs, we need to decide our own economic future. Our political subordination, however, leaves us with very little leeway. Independence will not bring paradise on earth. We will still have to deal with a number of economic issues like natural resources management, public finance management, defending our economic interests, fighting against poverty, improving living conditions, etc. The difference is that we will have all the tools that allow us to face these challenges. We will, in short, have the power to put into action our own economic vision and undertake projects that fit that vision.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How the West Was Won

On December 4th 2003 in Edmonton, Gilles Caron, a truck driver from Quebec but living in Alberta, turned left on a red light. Pulled over by the police, he was given a ticket written in English only. Five days later, Mr. Caron contested the validity of the ticket because it was not bilingual. He also asked for a trial in French. At the same time, a Franco-Albertan named Pierre Boutet initiated the same appeal.

They were no doubt inspired by George Forest, a Francophone Métis from Manitoba who fought right up to the Supreme Court the validity of an English-only parking ticket by appealing to the commitment made towards the Métis upon the creation of the province of Manitoba in 1870. Forest convinced the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the 1890 law abolishing bilingualism in Manitoba. That 1979 ruling caused the restoration of French as an official language of Manitoba. 

Strong tensions

We shouldn’t underestimate what the impact of a victory for Caron and Boutet could have been in Alberta. The anti-French sentiment has deep roots in the West. Marie-France Kenny, the current president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada, remembers that “in the 1950’s, the KKK would burn crosses in front of our schools. The nuns would have to teach us French in secret.”

We should also remember that in 1982, when Manitoba was forced by the Supreme Court to translate into French all of its law since 1890, the provincial government tried to come to an agreement with the Société franco-manitobaine (SFM) whereas it would forego that gigantic expense in exchange for improved services in French for certain ministries. The Anglophone population was nonetheless outraged and the offices of the SFM were set on fire.

The then president of the SFM, Léo Robert, and his wife Diane received death threats, followed by an anonymous letter warning them that their children had been followed from school in order to find their address, and that something bad could happen to the kids if the SFM persisted in its demands. To ensure their security, Léo and Diane were forced to leave their home and relocate their children outside Winnipeg. 

The inherent double-standard

In the end, the defenders of French in Alberta were spared such ugliness since the Supreme Court ruled that Alberta had no constitutional obligation to translate its laws into French. It justified its ruling by saying that it cannot “create new rights” in the plaintiffs’ favor. The Court got creative by adding that “linguistic rights have always been conferred in an express manner”. On that, the Court is partly right, because while that assertion is true for francophones, it was never true for anglophones. In their case, “the silence of the law” has always been interpreted as conferring full linguistic rights. There are therefore two irreconcilable interpretations of rights built along Canada’s historic fault line, the goal of which is unquestionably the domination of one group and the inevitable subordination of the other. The Supreme Court has always had the duty to come running whenever Canada’s fundamental double-standard is threatened.

The Supreme Court’s ruling sticks our noses into the harsh reality that the Constitution of Canada is nothing but an unequal contract built on a nineteenth century assumption of Anglo-Saxon superiority. The rights of Anglos were always held to be sacred but the rights of francophones were always negotiable. Section 133.2 of the 1867 Constitution (BNAA), which is still the law today, states that "The Acts of the Parliament of Canada and of the Legislature of Quebec shall be printed and published in both English and French". Quebec is therefore constitutionally obliged to write all of its laws in French and English but no such requirements were forced on to any other province until the 1980s. And these requirements, as the Supreme Court has made clear, do not apply to most of English Canada.

The country that could have been

Manitoba exemplifies the Canada that could have been, but was deliberately prevented from coming into being. Following the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870, the Parliament of Canada enacted the Manitoba Act. The Act embodied many of the demands that had been made by Louis Riel and the Métis at the time of the rebellion. These demands had been written in a succession of Petition of Rights drafted by the Métis and their Provisional Government at the time of the rebellion.

Essentially, the Manitoba Act created a Métis province. This had been forced on the Government of Canada by the position of strength of the Métis and by support in Quebec for such a move. John A. Macdonald, felt that the creation of a province, out of a part of the North-West Territory, was premature. The territory was not sufficiently populated and the “true character” of the West had not yet been established according to him. Macdonald probably had in mind a territory populated by white immigrant farmers from Ontario and the British Isles. The idea of entrusting the government of a province to Natives was evidently foreign to nineteenth century Anglo concepts of “proper government”. The provincial status was the first, and main, concession made to the Métis. The province was given the name of Manitoba at the request of the Métis. 

Given the concession of provincial status to the Métis, the federal government insisted on two points that were incorporated into the Manitoba Act: 

  1. The new province was limited to a very small size, to an area immediately south of Lake Winnipeg and extending to the American border – hence the term of “postage stamp province” used to describe the size of Manitoba as created in 1870. It appears that by keeping the province small, the federal government was limiting the “potential damage” in having the Métis put in charge of a province. 
  2. All the “ungranted or waste lands in the Province” – essentially the Crown Lands, the natural resources and the revenue to be derived thereof – were vested in the government of Canada, rather than with the provincial government as was done elsewhere in Canada. Such lands were to be used “for the purposes of the Dominion”. Local control over land was removed from Manitoba as it was expected that the (Métis) government of Manitoba might interfere with the process of land distribution and settlement of white farmers in the province. This lack of control over its lands is what partly explains that the Métis lost control over their province by 1873-1875 as the small Métis population was rapidly submerged by the influx into the province of new settlers, primarily from Ontario. This model of withdrawing control of Crown Lands was later followed when Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905. It created an anomalous situation by which an entire region (the Prairies) was treated differently than the other provinces. This lasted until 1930.
In the House of Commons, much debate took place on the model that should be followed in creating the political and social institutions of Manitoba. Many promoted the Ontario model that consisted of a simple form of government – akin to a municipal government –, a single public school system not organized around religious denominations, as well as a single language – English – in the courts and the legislature of the province. This model, popular in English-speaking Canada, was believed to foster unity. 

Others, mostly from Quebec, promoted the Quebec model. This model fostered diversity. It provided for a dual denominational school system – one that recognized both Catholic and protestant schools – as well as two languages in the courts and the legislature of the province: French and English. In this latter model, the parliamentary institutions were elaborate and followed, as in the case of Quebec, the model of the British Parliament with an upper and a lower house. It is clear that the institutions of Manitoba were shaped in the Quebec model. 

Thus, guarantees were extended to the French and the English languages. At the outset of Confederation, Canada chose the model of diversity, mostly because it matched the situation of the Métis who were French and English, Catholics and Protestants, but also because it was heavily favoured in Quebec. Consequently, in the early days of Confederation, a bilingual and bicultural country was emerging, especially if one keeps in mind that the Manitoba institutions were extended by federal legislation to the rest of the North-West in 1875. However, between 1890 and 1905, virtually all the bilingual and bicultural elements created in the West between 1870 and 1877, were abolished once anglophones had gained majority status and could impose their will over others.

Ein volk, ein reich

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed the rise of nativist, racist and otherwise unenlightened movements in English Canada. Throughout Canada, French-Catholic minorities were systematically attacked one after the other in an attempt to make them conform to the White, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant mold. Everywhere, outside of Quebec, minorities, racial, ethnic or linguistic, were hounded. French-Catholic minorities stood as a symbol: their presence said that difference was acceptable and good, that diversity was welcomed. Their eradication would give to all the same message: conformity was what was desired. 

In New Brunswick, in Manitoba, in the North West and in Ontario francophone rights were curtailed. Even where more justice should have been expected, such as in the federal government and parliament, French rights were openly disregarded. Only after long and protracted battles was French accepted on the stamps of Canada or on its currency, things that should have been symbols of the bicultural and bilingual nature of the country; meanwhile, few French Canadians rose in the civil service or in the army, and discrimination was rampant. Some of the laws that were passed in English Canada during this time included:

1871 - New Brunswick: The Common School Act imposes double taxation measures against French Catholic schools. 
1877 - Prince-Edward-Island: The Public School Act puts an end to the teaching of French in schools. 
1890 - Ontario: The Liberal government of Oliver Mowat adopted a law stating that English must be the language of education except when children cannot understand it. 
1890 - Manitoba: Official Language Act banning French, formerly an official language in the province. Premier Greenway diminishes the rights to French school, abolishes its use in the Parliament and in the Courts of the province.  
1891 - Ontario: The minister of education, George W. Ross, bans all French school books in Ontario. 
1905 - Alberta: The School Act of that year imposed English as the only language of instruction, while allowing some use of French in primary classes. 
1909 - Saskatchewan: The School Act makes English the only language of instruction but allowed limited use of French in primary classes. In 1929, a different Saskatchewan law abolished French in public education. 
1916 - Manitoba: The Thornton Act, by abolishing bilingual schools, completely ends the teaching of French in the province. 
1912 - Ontario: Circular of Instructions Regulation No. 17 and No. 18 Forbids the teaching of French above the first two grades of elementary school.
The Supreme Court never said a word about the rights of francophones during this time. If the linguistic rights of francophones weren’t conferred in an express manner, they did not exist according to the Court. But when Quebec enacted the Charter of the French language which limited the use of English in Quebec, the Supreme Court immediately sprang into action in order to cut it into pieces. The linguistic rights of anglophones in Quebec did not need to be explicitly defined, they were always inherent.

Before Canada’s annexation of the West in 1870, official bilingualism had been the rule when the lands were under Hudson’s Bay Company control; at the time, roughly half of the inhabitants were French-speaking. We shouldn’t forget that it was Lower-Canada (Quebec)’s money that allowed Upper-Canada (Ontario) to get out of a crippling bankruptcy in 1840. And it was in large part Lower-Canada’s money that led to the acquisition of the rights to Rupert's Land in 1870. Yet despite this, the federal government made sure that the West would be English only.

The federal government set out to recruit immigrants by the hundreds of thousands to settle the West. For that purpose, Canada eventually had hundreds of immigration officers, although nearly all of them were to be found in Great Britain, Ireland and in the United States. So while thousands of Québécois (close to one million from 1830 to 1930) emigrated to the United States, Canada recruited large numbers of British, Irish and American immigrants to fill the West. It was plain to see that the federal government did not care about the fate of the Quebecois and made no effort to repatriate them. Immigration from Europe was subsidized (each immigrant received free land and, by the 1920’s, a train ticket for the West; Quebecers who wished to go west had to buy their own tickets).

The name of the game is still empire

Canada only cleaned up its act in the 1960s, when faced with a growing independence movement in Quebec. It is as it has always been. When forced to, Canada makes concessions, but when it has the upper hand, it imposes homogeneity, since this promotes unity. Today, with French declining across Canada, the federal government just needs to push for the wall-to-wall application of the “personality principle” to language and reject Quebec's attempts at establishing the “territorial principle” within Quebec, as it exists in Belgium and Switzerland. Canada is only promoting this type of “bilingualism” because it is now in its favor. The goal posts may have changed, but the game is the same. It is the domination of one nation over another i.e. empire.