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The Relationship Between English and French Canadians

A distinctive feature of the French-English relations in Canada has been the collective will of the French-Speaking minority to survive. Survivance has not always been easy and is still not assured according to remaining francophone communities. At any time, French-English relations are shaped by the insecurity of the minority, the French, and the sensitivity of the majority, the English, to the minoritys concerns. (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) For many years, these arrangements were extremely successful. Both communities limited social contact by segregating students and churchgoers. (Wells, D. Canadian Identity) In 1917, this collaboration was tested over the conscription issue and has been hostile ever since. Rene Levesque called the English-French Canadian relationship an unhappy marriage. The following issues have contributed to this: Conscription in World Wars I and II De Gaulles visit to Canada and the FLQ October 1970 crisis The 1980 and 1995 Quebec referendums The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Quebec Bill 101 Mulroneys attempts to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold (Meech Lake

and Charlottetown Accords) Over the years, French Canadians have shown their dissatisfaction of their treatment with respect to English Canadians, the Canadian government and the rest of Canada. Due to this, the relationship between English and French Canadians has been heavily strained. The conscription crisis of 1917 was a major event causing tensions between French and English Canadians. It would not be overstating the problem to claim that this was an early indication of the separatist movement in Quebec. During this time very few French Canadians volunteered to go to war as their loyalty sided with Quebec and the French rather than with the British. (Robyn. Notes) With many Canadian soldiers dead and wounded from overseas battle, Prime Minister Borden was forced to turning to conscription as a means of increasing the number of soldiers. Although Borden had promised against conscription, in 1917 he set out the Military

Services Act. Even though all French Canadian MPs were opposed to this act, as they believed the French owed nothing to Britain, the act was passed and conscription was set. This enraged French Canadians and in Montreal violence and rioting took place. (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) At Easter, violent conscription riots ended in five deaths and many injured. (Wikipedia. Conscription Crisis) Conscription, although unpopular amongst the French, helped end the war in 1918, when most expected it to last another year. However, it left Bordens conservatives with a bitter legacy in Quebec and among western farmers. (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) Still, when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, Canada followed within a week. All parties made pre-war pledges against conscription for overseas service, and Liberals echoed the pledge in Quebec in October 1939. (Robyn. Notes) Then in 1940, as Britains allies fell to Hitlers Blitzkrieg, Canada adopted the Nation Resources Mobilization Act, imposing compulsory service for home defense only. In English Canada, the pressure for conscription grew. And so, the Prime Minister, W.L. M. King, announced a plebiscite to relieve the government from its earlier pledges. The national outcome of the plebiscite was in support of conscription. However, in Quebec, 72% of the population had voted against it. (Robyn. Notes) Once again French Canadians were confronted with the threat of an imposed military conscription. The conscription of both World War I and II brought a lot of bad feelings, severe damage in relations between French and English citizens, riots with casualties, costly damage, and extensive long term political damage that took over 50 years into the modern age to heal, leaving Canadians divided and distrustful of their government. On July 24, 1967, the president of France, Charles De Gaulle raised his hands into a "V" for "Victory." Then he spoke the words that startled a nation: " Vive le Quebec libre!"- "Long live free Quebec." (Shipton, R. Canadian Decades) These four words planted the idea of Quebec independence from Canada. The phrase, a slogan used by Quebecers who favored the separation of Quebec, and de Gaulle's use of it, was seen by them as giving his support to the movement. The speech sparked a diplomatic incident with Canada's government, and was condemned by Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, saying, "Canadians do not need to be liberated". ( The crowd's reaction to de Gaulle's phrase was emotional, and frenzied, but it sparked controversy with English-Canadians, as many were

outraged at the implied threat to Canada's integrity. On the other hand, French citizens felt the support for their cause as in his speech; de Gaulle spoke of his countrys "evolving" ties with Quebec, hinting at his support for Quebec sovereignty. Of course, the media blew up resulting in de Gaulle shortening his visit and not stopping at Ottawa. Over four decades later, it is still seen as an influencing moment in English and French Canadian relations. The October Crisis, one of the most disturbing episodes in post-war Canadian history, was the culmination of a long series of terrorist acts over nearly two decades by the Front de liberation du Quebec. (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) On October 5 1970 James Cross, a British trade commissioner in Montreal was taken hostage. Quebec City and Ottawa rejected most of the FLQs demands. In October 7, a manifesto encouraging the Quebec people to revolt was aired on a radio station. As negotiations stalled, on October 10, the FLQ kidnapped a Quebec government minister, Pierre Laporte. Sensing that the FLQ had some public support, Ottawa invoked the War Measures Act on October 16. They were people being detained, accused and arrested on account of being alleged supporters. However, the next day Laporte was found dead in the trunk of a car and cross was freed on December 4 hours after his kidnappers had flown to Cuba. (Robyn. Notes) At the time of the FLQ crisis the only act in place, which the government could implement to deal with the crisis, was the War Measures Act. Essentially the War Measures Act was law rescinding individual rights and freedoms, enabling police the power of search and seizure without benefit of a warrant as well as a number of other measures. ( While it may have been "over-kill", and swatting a fly (albeit a very dangerous fly) with a sledgehammer(Wikipedia. FLQ), it was, as I said the only law available at the time. The War Measures Act was revoked in 1988 and replaced by the Emergencies Act. In the long term, implementing the War Measures Act had little or no effect on Quebec's relationship with the rest of Canada. While there were and undoubtedly still are die-hard separatists in Quebec, it's very unlikely that implementation of the Act resulted in any more or any less of those citizens taking up the separatist cause. The 1980 Quebec referendum was the first referendum in Quebec on the place of Quebec within Canada and whether Quebec should pursue a path toward sovereignty. The referendum was called by Quebec's Parti Quebecois (PQ) government, which strongly favored secession from Canada. Initially,

polls hinted at a possible victory for the "Yes" side. During a major rally for the "No" side on May 14, six days before the vote, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau promised to reform the Canadian Constitution if the "No" side won, stating that Quebec's "historic demands" would be fulfilled. (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) Many nationalists interpreted this as a promise to change the constitution to satisfy traditional Quebec demands for more provincial powers. He had asked all the Quebec people to vote no and warned the rest of Canada that a no vote did not mean that all was well and nothing would change. Despite all this, the referendum did, in fact, fail. " la prochaine fois!" ("Until next time!") promised Ren Lvesque after the 1980 Quebec referendum. (Wikipedia.1995 referendum) Fifteen years later, on Oct. 30, 1995, Quebec and the rest of Canada faced that "next time" as Quebecers decided whether to separate from Canada. The 1995 Quebec referendum was the second referendum to ask voters in the Canadian province of Quebec whether Quebec should secede from Canada and become an independent state. The 1995 referendum differed from the first referendum on Quebec's sovereignty in that the 1980 question proposed to negotiate "sovereignty-association" with the Canadian government, while the 1995 question proposed "sovereignty", along with an optional partnership offer to the rest of Canada. . (Hallowell, G. Oxford Companion) The referendum took place in Quebec on October 30, 1995, and the motion to decide whether Quebec should secede from Canada was defeated by of 50.58% "No" to 49.42% "Yes". (Robyn. Notes) Jacques Parizeau, PQ leader, blamed Anglophones and immigrants in Quebec for the separatist loss. Most Quebeckers wanted to remain Canadian and that was a big blow to the separatism cause. In response to the perception that French speaking Canadians were being treated as a underprivileged ethnic minority, the federal government, in July 1963, appointed the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism to recommend the establishment of an equal partnership between the two founding races in Canada. (Wikipedia. Bilingualism) Then in 1969 the federal government passed the Official Languages Act, a policy based on three principles. This is a federal statute that declares French and English to be the official languages of Canada, and under which all federal institutions must provide their services in English or French at the customer's choice. (Robyn. Notes) Politically, all federal

parties supported the Act, but the public's understanding and acceptance of it was mixed. For many Qubcois, the commission was a move to hide issues within the government. For many Anglophones, especially in Western Canada, it was an attempt to force the French language on an unwilling population. However, the commission revealed that French-speaking population was not well represented in the government and was lacking in regard to education or employment opportunities outside of Quebec. As a result of these issues, Qubec nationalists saw the French language both as fragile, in need of protection from the English Majority and as a tool, which would enable them to gain economic and political control of the province. ( On the other hand, Quebec nationalists believed that the French language could not survive unless it was made the only official language within the province. At the time, English was already used in most of the large businesses in Quebec because they tended to be founded by English Canadians. (Textbook) The fact that English was the primary language in the workplace could not be changed, regardless of this policy. Despite the dissatisfaction of the French to this act, it was never revoked and the situation was only made worse by the violent crisis that erupted in Quebec after the passing of Official Languages Act. Introduced by Camille Laurin, Bill 101, made French the official language of government, business and of the courts in the province of Qubec, as well as making it the normal and constant language of the workplace, instruction, communication, business and in transportation. (Textbook) Education in French became compulsory for immigrants, even those from other Canadian provinces. Generally, the use of French at work and in public, which were mostly voluntary in Bill 22 (made French an official language of Quebec), became compulsory. The use of languages other than French was banned on public signs and the laws on public speaking became stricter. This goes to show the strong nationalistic pride of French Canadians as well as the difference in views between French and English Canadians. Many English supporters of bilingualism outside of Quebec were disappointed and disillusioned. After getting their hopes up of Canada being a place where both English and French Canadians could feel comfortable dealing in their own languages, Quebec became unilingual. Levesque admitted that the original idea behind the sign law, (all public signs must be in French), was only to change the English atmosphere of

the city of Montreal into with more French roots. (Textbook) Whereas the OLA made Canada a more welcoming nation, bill 101 contradicts that. It showed how unwilling the French were to compromise with the English. Both Anglos and Francophone can safely say that this law has induced new tensions and strain between these two diverse communities. The day of the referendum, May 20, 1980, was one of filled with anxiety for both parties involved in the voting process. The non-French population was composed of 20% of Quebecs total population; almost all were federalists who would vote against the separatists cause. Another 20% consisted of Francophone federalists while only about 15% of the remaining population was separatists. The rest of the 40% of the population was under pressure as the deciding vote would be on them. Eventually, Quebeckers casted their votes and the results were not in favor for Rene Lvesque; over 60% voted no. (Wikipedia. Bill 101) The Charlottetown Accord is a set of failed constitutional amendments, proposed in the early 1990s, to gain Quebecs formal acceptance of the Canadian Constitution. (Robyn. Notes) The Charlottetown Accord was the second attempt to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold, and was initiated after the failed Meech Lake Accord of 1987 which was in 1985, Trudeau was no longer in power, and had been replaced by Brian Mulroney. He promised to bring Quebec into the constitution. The final deal was to be created in 1990, but the provincial leaders had been replaced and did not support it. (Canadian Encyclopedia) Manitoba and Newfoundland opted out and the deal was dead. On the other hand, the Charlottetown Accord was held on October 26 1992. The key points outlined that Quebec would be guaranteed 25% of seats in House of Commons and was to be recognized as a distinct society. Also, Anglos in Quebec and Francophone communities outside of Quebec would have their minority language rights protected. Despite these alluring points, it was defeated by a majority of 54.4% to 44.6%. (Textbook) Most Canadians felt that the government should be focusing on more important issues like the economy and social programs rather than wasting time and money on something they didnt believe in. (Textbook) These accords were simply a quick solution to a problem that required more attention and thought put into it. The citizens felt that it was being dragged out unnecessarily and so they collectively rejected both accords.

Assimilation; the process by which a person or a group's language and/or culture come to resemble those of another group. Canada has always had a good reputation in respect to freedom laws and democracy. But what most people dont know is the struggles that both Aboriginals tribes and French communities have gone through to distinguish themselves in a prominent English-Canadian society. The relationship between English and French Canadians has often been referred to as an unhappy marriage, a comparison that is rightly suited. A happy marriage consists of two parties who love and respect each other. Most importantly, they accept one another and all the flaws and faults that come with that. Also, a marriage is a contract that is voluntary and cannot be forced. All these are factors were missing in the relationship between the Francophone and Anglophone. Also contributing to that was the conscription crisis, De Gaulles visit, FLQ, 1980/1995 referendums, bilingualism, Bill 101, and Charlottetown and Meech Lake Accords. The French have always been an important aspect in Canadian history, sometimes for their achievements and other times for the downfalls. However, the French have persevered and are and will forever be a significant part of the foundation of Canada.
Sources Books: Wells, D. (2005). The Canadian identity. Calgary: Weigl Educational Publishers. Shipton, R. (2011). Canadian Decades: 1960s. Calgary: Weigl. Craats, R. (2012). 1970s. Calgary: Weigl. Hallowell, G. (2004). The Oxford companion to Canadian history. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford
Websites: Conscription Crisis of 1917. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from "Meech Lake Accord." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 July 2014. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. < "October Crisis." The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2013. <>. "CBC Digital Archives - la prochaine fois: The 1980 Quebec Referendum Web. 31 Dec. 2013. < "Cultural assimilation." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 June 2014. Web. 9 Jan. 2014. <> "Official Languages in Canada." Canada Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <>

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