English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians are not incompatible. Lord Durham suggested an assimilative Union, but Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, the Reformers, mapped out a genuine union.
Therefore, would that Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine had been alive when Confederation occurred. Confederation had French-speaking opponents, but several French Canadians wanted to join Confederation and Sir George-Étienne Cartier had good reasons to persuade his province to enter into a strong partnership: Confederation.
When the ancestral thirty acres (trente arpents) could no longer be divided or were too expensive to puchase; when, moreover, there was no prospect of employment in Quebec, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 French-speaking Canadians and Acadians left for the United States. Le curé Labelle asked farmers to go north and make land (faire de la terre), but many couldn’t. This period of Canadian history is called the exodus.
When Québécois fully realize the harm John A. Macdonald inflicted on 1) Amerindians, 2) French Canadians, and, to a large extent, on 3) English-speaking Canadians, they must stay calm. All must stay calm.
We have a future to build, and it must be built harmoniously.
A word on Covid-19. Quebec and other Canadian provinces have entered the second wave of the Covid-19 crisis. Let us protect one another and make sure that people do not resort to suicide. Losing one’s position is a terrible affliction, but this is a crisis and governments must help. People are afraid. My little area of Quebec is a pale yellow zone, but that will probably change. Quebec City, Québec’s capital, is the current epicentre of the pandemic in this province. However, it seems Covid-19 will not spare anyone. I’ve been indoors since early March. It isn’t good. Yet, I pity those who must go out. Let us help one another.
A few novels tell about the exodus and the many obstacles French Canadians had to face. These are:
I have written posts about all four novels. Besides, these are novels I have taught. As you know, my teaching-load was very wide: six areas. It was all but lethal. I also created language-lab components.
In other words, Canada had a responsible government 16 years before Confederation was signed. Confederation was the crowning event in a quest that began when the large Province of Quebec was divided into Upper Canada and Lower Canada. However, in 1867, French-speaking Canadians signed a document, the Constitution of Canada, Confederation, that precluded their living outside Quebec, if they wanted to be educated in French.
Confederation: Rupert’s Land
Another precedent rooted in the Act of Union, and the most unfortunate for French-speaking Canadians, was Lord Durham’s hope that French-speaking Canadians would become a minority in the large Province of Canada. The Province of Canada was a short-lived administration. It lasted a mere sixteen (16) years, which did not allow English-speaking Canadians to become more numerous than French-speaking Canadians.
However, matters would differ after the B.N.A (British North America) Act (1867) was passed. The B.N.A. Act federated Ontario (Canada West), Quebec (Canada East), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Once the Confederation joined the four provinces purchased Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada could stretch from sea to sea, which it did. British Columbia was promised an intercontinental railroad, a promise that brought it into Confederation, on 10 July 1871. By the turn of the century, the province of Quebec had become one of nine (9) provinces, and, with the addition of Newfoundland (1949), it could become one of ten (10) provinces. where French-speaking Canadians could not be educated in French. The above is somewhat repetitive, but beginning in 1837-1838, English Canadians and French Canadians sought responsible government, not division.
After Confederation, Quebec was one of a handful of provinces and soon the only province where French-speaking Canadians could be educated in French. Until 1998, Montreal had its Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. It was founded in 1951 as a replacement for the Montreal Protestant Central Board. (See Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, Wikipedia.) Quebec has been officially unilingual since 1974, under Robert Bourassa (Bill-22), but, despite its status, English-speaking Canadians residing in Quebec can live a lifetime without knowing French.
The War of 1812
The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.
Yet, English speaking and French speaking Canadians had acquired a sense of identity sooner than Lord Durham had expected. To a significant extent, the Act of Quebec (1774) had put French Canadians on the same footing as English-speaking citizens of the colony. My best example would be the War of 1812. Amerindians fought for their waning freedom. Tecumseh joined the group. Richard Pierpoint assembled a Coloured Corps. He was born a free man and would die a free man. As for French Canadians, they had been conquered some 50 years before the War of 1812, yet, the Voltigeurs, under the command of Major Charles de Salaberry, proved a fine regiment.
It saddens me that an effort was made to impede French-speaking Canada’s growth, but New France had been a colony, and Britain was a colonist. The inhabitants of planet Earth share affinities that override ethnicity, which is the story Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine told us and which is one of the finest Canadian stories.
Let me open this post by saying that the Constitution of 1867, or BNA Act, Confederation, was an act of Britain’s parliament. Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), as well as the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) were colonies of Britain. The Rebellions of 1837-1838 opposed Canadians and the Crown, not English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians.
L’A.A.N.B. est une loi du Parlement britannique, il ne résulte pas de la volonté des peuples du Canada, mais de la volonté d’appropriation d’un appareil d’État par la bourgeoisie canadienne.” [The BNA Act is a law of the British Parliament, it does not represent the will of the people(s) of Canada, but the will, on the part of the Canadian bourgeoisie, to take over the Government.]
So, I repeat, the Rebellions of 1837-1838 did not oppose English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. Canadians rebelled against the Crown and the Canadian bourgeoisie: the Family Compact and the Château Clique.
Lord Durham’s Investigation & Recommendations
After the Rebellions of 1837-1838 (Lord Durham), which occurred in both Upper Canada (Toronto) and Lower Canada (Montreal), John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham (Lord Durham) was asked to investigate matters. He spent about five months in Canada devoting two weeks to an investigation of Upper Canada. He nevertheless produced a Report on the Rebellions and made recommendations. There were many, but they can be summed up as follows:
the Union of Upper Canada and Lower Canada,
a responsible government for Canada, and, a matter often omitted,
the use of English in the Assembly.
The Act of Union was passed in 1840, and implemented, in 1841. Upper Canada and Lower Canada became the Province of Canada and remained a colony of Britain.
The British intended that this policy would facilitate assimilation of the French, but the French, led by such astute reform leaders as Louis Hippolyte LaFontaine, took advantage of divisions among the English-speaking legislators by allying themselves with the reformers from Canada West to push for responsible government and to make themselves indispensable for governmental stability.
However, Robert Balwin and Louis-Hippolyte faced opposition.
Realizing he [Sydenham] had almost no support in Lower Canada (at this time Canada East), he reorganised electoral ridings to give the Anglo-Canadian population more votes, and in areas where that was infeasible, he allowed English mobs to beat up French candidates. Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine was one such candidate who suffered from Sydenham’s influence; Lafontaine eventually left Canada East to work with Robert Baldwin in creating a fairer union for both sides. The new constitution, after being carried through the colonial parliaments and ratified by the House of Commons, came into force on 10 February 1841. It led ultimately to the great confederation of 1867.
Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine were friends. In fact, Robert Baldwin arrange for Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine to run for office in in York (Toronto) and La Fontaine won his seat.
Matters changed when three or four provinces of British North America confederated. The Province of Canada had been Upper and Lower Canada, which explains the conflicting totals of three and four. Moreover, when Confederation was passed, the Province of Canada became Ontario and Quebec, which delighted George-Étienne Cartier. French Canadians were fond of their Lower Canada whose inhabitants were not exclusively French-Canadians. Wolfred Nelson would be a mayor of Montreal.
In short, what I wish to stress is that English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians have seldom, if ever, attacked one another. Yes, as noted above, Lord Sydenham “allowed English mobs to beat up French candidates.” (See Lord Sydenham, Wikipedia). Louis Riel pushed back the armed surveyors ready to divide the Red River Settlement, bought by the Earl of Selkirk. But, truth be told, Canadians were not enclined to attack one another. There have been tensions between linguistic groups and a few bad moments, but in 1837-1838 patriots and patriotes were Canadians fighting Britain. They were led by William Lyon Mackenzie, in Upper Canada, and by Louis-Joseph Papineau, a Seigneur in Lower Canada. Papineau was also the leader of the Parti canadien. The party was the first political party in Canada and was first led by Pierre-Stanislas Bédard.
However, the Rebellion was more severe in Lower Canada. It appears the British were forwarned and Louis-Joseph Papineau, the leader of the Parti canadien, led ended up leading the patriotes. Papineau was very articulate
hangings and exile
Un Canadien errant
However, the rebels were defeated. At the conclusion of the Rebellions many were saddened. Several patriots or patriotes were hanged or exiled. Both William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau fled Canada. In 1842, Antoine Gérin-Lajoie composed Un Canadien errant. Few songs express in so poignant a manner the profound grief of the exiled. Editor and author Eugène Achard suggested that the song could be the National Anthem of Acadians.2 Acadians agreed. As well, for French-speaking Canadians, the Act of Union was a loss. French Canadians, called Canadiens, were quite comfortable in their Lower Canada, a land where they were a majority, but shared with people of different origins. The Act of Union took it away. It created a large Province of Canada were French-speaking Canadians were expected to become a minority and be assimilated.
Minorisation and Precedents
I have been asking why Protestants could be educated in English in Quebec, while French Canadians could not be educated in French outside Quebec, thereby becoming a minority. First, there was a precedent. By joining Upper Canada and Lower Canada, it was hoped that the English would be a majority.
Minorisation didn’t happen in the Earl of Durham’s Province of Canada, but it would happen in a federated Canada. English-speaking Canadians did not choose to be a majority, but in 9 of 10 provinces, waves of immigrants were educated in English. The Earl of Durham’s Province of Canada, where French Canadians were expected to constitute a minority presaged a federation that excludes the French and the Catholics. Ironically, in 1849, Papineau championed “rep. by pop.”4
The Act of Union had set precedents to the Constitution of 1867. There would be no separate schools for French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec, (article 93 of the Constitution of 1867), but Parliament was bilingual (article 133). Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine had spoken French, a precedent. But Ottawa was located immediately next of Quebec. One crossed a bridge. Quebec would have a role to play in Ottawa, which is the path Sir Wilfrid Laurier used.
G.-É. Cartier’s “here and now”
George-Étienne Cartier liked Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy. Canadians would be included in a government he favoured. He had belonged to the parti bleu (the Liberals), but had switched to the parti rouge (the Conservatives). Confederation would protect Canadians from expansionnist Americans. As well, the clergy was on the side of Confederation. The Province of Canada had 48 French-speaking representatives, députés. When the matter of Confederation was put to a vote, 26 approved and 22 didn’t. Then came railways…
Conversely, French Canadians provided Canada with a mythic past. It had legends Sir Ernest MacMillan set to music. Louis Riel is a major Canadian figure, and the Canadian martyrs have become American martyrs. As well, in his Report, Lord Durham was very unsympathetic to French Canadians. They didn’t have a history nor did they have a literature. French Canadians responded by creating a literature in French, their patrie littéraire, or literary homeland. That is all well, but immigrants to Canada settled in provinces west of Quebec and were educated in English. One “does the math.”
A will to assimilate French Canadians underlies the Earl of Durham’s report and the Act of Union, his main recommendation. The Province of Canada is a prelude to Confederation. Statues of John A. Macdonald are in storage and, having researched this post, I suspect Lord Durham’s demeaning view of French-speaking informs both the Act of Union and the Constitution of 1867, Confederation.
1 Denis Monière, Le Développement des Idéologies au Québec (Montréal, Québec/Amérique, 1977), p. 199.
2 Micheline Bourbeau-Walker, « Le Récit d’Acadie : présence d’une absence », in Édouard Langille et Glenn Moulaison, Les Abeilles pilottent,* mélanges offerts à René LeBlanc (Pointe de l’Église, Revue de l’Université Sainte-Anne, 1998), pp. 255-275. *The title refers to Montaigne‘s opinion on education (See L’Encyclopédie de l’Agora).
I’m sending a photograph of me. It was taken by my friend John on his birthday which happens to be three days before Christmas. My dear friend Paulina and I drove to Magog to celebrate. We brought cake, wine and other goodies. But John insisted on cooking the meal, including his version of a French Canadian tourtière.
John has white hair, but mine is grey. We are ageing. Paulina’s is black.
As for my long absence from my blog, it was caused by a password catastrophe. My memory is not as good as it was, so passwords have become a major nuisance. I live alone, and no one else uses my computer. Would that I didn’t have to remember passwords!
I have been working on the Canadian Confederation, but have yet to publish my post. It is difficult to understand why French-speaking Canadians could not be educated in French outside Quebec. New France was “conquered,” but did this mean that French-speaking Canadians had to be confined to one province in order to be educated in French.
These rebellions and l’Acte d’union were steps leading to responsible government and Confederation. The purchase of Rupert’s Land was reassuring. The United States was expanding. Besides, building railroads was the business of the day.
I have been trying to post an article on 19th-century Quebec. As workers tried to organize, many priests sided with the boss. Some threatened excommunication, if workers got together. A few workers were killed. In short, it’s heartbreaking.
Yet, I will write the shortest of posts. We are living and dying in the age of Covid-19. There are new outbreaks. So I want to tell you to wear a mask. It’s your only defense.
Social distancing does not work very well unless one also wears a mask. Nature has made us gregarious, so we automatically approach others.
Photo by James Ashfield of Canadian artist Robert Harris’ 1884 painting, “Conference at Québec in 1864, to settle the basics of a union of the British North American Provinces”, also known as “The Fathers of Confederation”. The original painting was destroyed in the 1916 Parliament Buildings fire. (Caption and Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
Statues of Sir John A. Macdonald are being removed. People are revisiting Confederation. The Indigenous people of this country wish to be recognized as a founding nation. As for the French-speaking inhabitants of British North America, John A. MacDonald, who belonged to the Orange Order which was anti-Catholic and anti-French. Quebecers had to say in Quebec. However, they resented the Act of Union (1841) proposed by Lord Durham in his report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838.
Upper and Lower Canada were seeking responsible government, or self- government, but French-speaking Canadians remember the Rebellions as a conflict between English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians. It wasn’t, not initially. Men were hanged or exiled and victims were more numerous in Lower Canada than Upper Canada. Quebecers have always sought to remember their motherland. Je me souviens (I remember) is the province’s motto. By and large, they accepted Confederation, but what role could they play? Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1811-1919), the seventh Prime Minister of Canada, opposed Confederation:
Like the Liberals of Lower Canada, Laurier opposed Confederation, arguing both that the federal government would have too much power, and that French Canadians would be overwhelmed. (See Sir Wilfrid Laurier, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
John A. Macdonald, who remains a father of Confederation, was a member of the Orange Order, which was anti-French and anti-Catholic. Consequently, Confederation excluded Quebec, but Confederation was a fait accompli.
He also decided, like many other Liberals, to accept Confederation as a faitaccompliand to work within the new system. In 1874, he resigned his provincial seat and ran for election to the House of Commons of Canada. (See Sir Wilfrid Laurier, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
Federalist Québécois could not undo the Conquest, nor could they walk back the hurried arrival of United Empire Loyalists. But they could bring to confederation the liberalism of Quebec’s Institut canadien. At the time of Confederation, Orangemen arrived at the Red River bearing arms and demanding their due, which caused the Red River Rebellion. This time, the conflict did oppose English-speaking settlers and the people whose land they were taking: French-speaking and English-speaking Métis, Amerindians, and other inhabitants of the Red River Colony.
After graduating from Montreal’s McGill’s Law school, where he studied in English, Wilfrid Laurier worked briefly in Montreal and then moved to Arthabaska, where he ran a newspaper: Le Défricheur (The Land Clearer). He had been a “rouge,” or radical Liberal, and he had also been a member and vice-president (1864-1866) of the Institut canadien, which ultramontane Bishop Ignace Bourget would close.
The Institut canadien had sponsored the most liberal and innovative discussions of the period, and its library was a collection of major scientific, legal and literary works. (See Institut canadien, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
At first, a radical, Wilfrid Laurier adopted moderate liberalism but he served in Quebec before being elected to the House of Commons where French-speaking and federalist Canadians could play a vital role. In 1861, Laurier was elected to Quebec’s Assembléenationale, the member from Drummond-Arthabaska. But, in 1874, he resigned from his position and ran for office at the federal level. Quebec could play a role in Confederation in the House of Commons. What Sir Wilfrid Laurier would take to Ottawa his liberalism and his wish to promote national unity. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was elected to the House of Commons in 1874 and lived in Ottawa for an uninterrupted 45 years. (See Sir Wilfrid Laurier, The Canadian Encyclopedia.) Born in St-Lin, Quebec (1911), he died in Ottawa in 1919. I am inserting a video of his state funeral. He had always been frail, chronic bronchitis, but he died of a heart attack.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier was alarmed when Manitoba abolished the dual school system Louis Riel advocated as a right. Canada was as John A. Macdonald’s Conservative-Liberal government wanted it: an Orangist and English-language country, or a Church-and-State government, resembling ultramontanisme. Yet, Laurier signed the Laurier-Greenway Agreement. His ability to find and accept compromises characterizes the Laurier years, as a member of Parliament, Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition. So, although he may appear a traitor to Louis Riel and to Canadian minorities. During his first year as Prime Minister of Canada, could Laurier fully support Louis Riel?
In 1905, Sir Wilfrid negotiated the entry into Confederation of two western provinces: Saskatchewan and Alberta. In fact, during the Laurier years, Canada welcomed two million inhabitants. They spoke in many tongues and practised different religions. Could the Laurier-Greenway Agreement be merely temporary? Despite his own convictions and respect for Louis Riel, Sir Wilfrid Laurier didn’t break the Laurier-Greenway Agreement.
I am branded in Québec as a traitor to the French, and in Ontario as a traitor to the English. In Québec I am branded as a jingo, and in Ontario as a separatist.… I am neither. I am a Canadian. Canada has been the inspiration of my life. I have had before me as a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day a policy of true Canadianism, of moderation, of conciliation. (Sir Wilfrid Laurier in Sir Wilfrid Laurier, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
Sir Wilfrid Laurier made mistakes, as did other Canadian leaders, but he remains one of Canada’s “monarchs.” He took Quebec to the House of Commons, where Quebec would have a voice and contribute leaders to Canada.
___________________ Monière, Denis. Le Développement des idéologies au Québec des origines à nos jours. Montreal. Éditions Québec/Amérique: 1977.