IT SEEMS to me in order that our friends to the south should know more about French Canada, which by trade, culture and intercourse is so closely linked with them as to be American in the larger sense, without becoming in the least less Canadian or less French Canadian for all that. This subject is one very dear to my heart, and I shall express myself on it as frankly and clearly as possible. My comment will be divided in the form of answers to three questions:

First. What is the position of the French Canadians as regards the United States?

Second. What is their position regarding Canada and the British Commonwealth of Nations?

Third. How does that dual relationship of the French Canadians make them an element of strength and order, and therefore of unity, in our joint civilization, which necessarily includes not only Canada and the British Commonwealth of Nations, but also the United States, the Latin republics of America and liberated France?

I

French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians are both as staunchly loyal to Canada as you Americans to whom I address myself are loyal to the United States. You and we nevertheless have so many things in common, we both of us form such an integral part of the North American continent, and we both are so thoroughly animated by a spirit of friendliness and neighborliness that we are evidently called upon to work together more and more closely and directly toward an amicable solution of our mutual and even our respective problems.

Every Canadian acknowledges this fact. But we French Canadians, whether we live in the Province of Quebec or in one of our sister provinces, a mari usque ad mare, are particularly conscious of it.

The obvious reason is that millions of our kinsmen live in your country: in your Eastern states, in your Central states, and as far south as Louisiana. They are good Americans, tried and proven true, deeply loving the new land which is theirs now as it is yours. Their true allegiance to the United States cannot be denied. In this war, as in previous ones, they are your brothers in arms. On your farms, in your war factories, everywhere they are doing their bit. Day after day, tons of foodstuffs, matériel, ordnance, ammunition and arms of all sorts are turned out by their strong, deft hands. They take special pride in helping you manufacture that outstanding American weapon, the Garand rifle, which was conceived and realized by an inventor of French Canadian ancestry.

French Canada's part in the life of your country goes far back into history. Explorers, discoverers, missionaries, and settlers from Canada were the first civilized men to set foot on many a distant part of what is today the United States. Samuel de Champlain discovered the lake that was named after him, and determined the coast line of New England; Jean Nicolet discovered Wisconsin; Nicolas Perrot explored the Middle West; Robert Cavelier de La Salle, Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet discovered the Mississippi and reached the shores of the Gulf of Mexico; Pierre le Moyne d'Iberville was founder and first governor of Louisiana, and also founder of Mobile, Alabama; Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Vérendrye, discovered the Rocky Mountains and the territory which is now your state of Wyoming; François Norbert Blanchet was the first Bishop of Oregon; Julien Dubuque founded Dubuque, Iowa; Charles Aubry, one of the trail makers of your Western states, gave his name to cities in Arizona and Colorado; Robert Cavelier de La Salle marked the places where now stand Niagara, New York, and Joliet, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee; Antoine Launet de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit, Michigan. The list could be prolonged indefinitely. These few names of explorers, founders and missionaries are enough to show how large a rôle French Canada played in the early history of the United States. They all came from our three principal historical cities in Quebec -- Quebec, Montreal and Three Rivers -- or from smaller communities in the present province.

In our own day, statistics show that there is a large French Canadian population in New England. Take, for example, the percentages of French-speaking inhabitants in just a few New England cities and towns: Biddeford and Saco, Maine, 59 percent; Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 55 percent; Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, 44 percent; Sanford, Maine, 41 percent; Waterville, Maine, 34 percent; Nashua, New Hampshire, 40 percent; Manchester, New Hampshire, 35 percent; Fall River, Massachusetts, 25 percent; Salem, Massachusetts, 23 percent; Holyoke, Massachusetts, 23 percent; Lowell, Massachusetts, 22 percent.

One of the studies from which these figures are taken states: "Biddeford and Saco, Maine, comprise three large French parishes, with their own schools, stores and other establishments: a city within a city. The French wage earners are skilled workers, steadily employed at good pay, in the textile mills. Families generally are large and expenditure substantial. . . . Woonsocket's French population is an important factor in every phase of activity, political, industrial, and in merchandising. French-speaking clerks are employed by leading retailers to cater to the French-speaking trade. Five French parishes, six French grammar schools, two high schools and two academies maintain French as the common language in this outstanding French market." These figures cover only those born abroad and the first generation in the United States: there also are "substantial numbers of the second and third generations to be considered, because of instruction in French, in French parochial schools." In an article in the September 1942 issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Thorsten V. Kalijarvi, Director of the New Hampshire State Planning and Development Commission and Professor in the University of New Hampshire, states that in all there are over 2,500,000 Franco-Americans in the United States.

The contribution of these Franco-Americans is qualitative as well as quantitative. They all, of course, are bilingual. They are law-abiding citizens, blessed, as a rule, with large families, and their standard of living is high. Their culture is a fine one. They publish newspapers and periodicals, write books, succeed in the fine arts, science, politics and business, just as we do here. They are even creating a literature of their own, parallel to ours. If the total contribution of the Franco-Americans to your civilization, and their total wealth, could be set forth accurately and in detail there is no doubt that the figures would be astounding.

Their endeavors are dedicated to the greatness of your country. But when French Canadian artists such as Wilfred Pelletier, musical director of the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, or Raoul Jobin, Nicolas Massue, or Jacques Gérard, gifted Metropolitan tenors, participate in the musical development of your people, and when a pianist like young André Mathieu plays to music lovers all over the United States, we also cannot but hope and think that French Canada is adding something to the beauty and value of an intellectual life that knows no frontiers. We are thankful also that in some of your universities, lectures are given on French Canadian literature and civilization, and that a good many of your boys and girls come to study in our colleges and universities.

If you stop for a moment, then, to consider the mental and practical attitude taken toward you by French Canadians, their understanding of your ways of thinking and living and their participation in the formation of your historical background, you will conclude, I am sure, that -- on both sides of the border -- they hold a useful as well as a happy position on our American continent. If one further reflects on the fact that there are eight million French people in North America -- every man, woman and child among them true to his own country, yet devoted to the broadest American ideals -- all standing with you and with us in this war in the pursuit of our civilization's ultimate victory over barbarism, one will better conceive the noble rôle which Providence has granted us the privilege of playing on the stage of the New World.

Finally, one should realize what it means that the civilization of the Western Hemisphere as a whole has three component parts. There are 135,000,000 English-speaking persons; 130,000,000 who speak Spanish and Portuguese; and well over 8,000,000 who speak French. French is also the second language of a great number of English-speaking Canadians and Americans, as well as of the Latin American élite. The French Canadians and Franco-Americans, therefore, may well act as a living link between the Americans of all countries and languages, and in that way make for a greater human unity among nations and men of goodwill in this Hemisphere. What a varied yet solid texture for the building of a healthy and enduring Pan American civilization, if it is properly used!

II

Now let us consider the position of the French Canadians regarding Canada and the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The French Canadians are, first and foremost, Canadians, so much so that up to recent years that name was spontaneously and generally given them by the people of other races in Canada, especially the English, as meaning those most deeply rooted in the soil and history of Canada. The reason for this is simple. Canada was set apart, some four centuries ago, as our country, and nothing could ever change us in that respect. We have toiled so fervently for Canada, shed our blood for her so freely, that she has become part and parcel of our soul, bone and sinew.

As one turns the pages of the political and military history of Canada one sees that everything our forbears did, all that we are doing or shall ever do, is in the fundamental sense Canadian. Would it be fair, then, to rebuke us because our mental disposition is not colonial? While the English Canadians lived in deep communion with their mother country, we, in spite of our vivid love for France, thought and acted as Canadians. And by Canada, I do not mean exclusively the territory of our own Province, but that of the whole land we discovered, defended and Christianized.

As far back as 1506, Jean Denys, of Honfleur, explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 1534, Jacques Cartier took possession of Canada and planted the Cross at Gaspé. And for a long period of time before that, Basque and Breton fishermen had visited our waters and shores yearly. Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, was Lieutenant General of New France in 1603 -- 23 years before the sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutchman Peter Minuit. Port Royal, where now stands Annapolis, Nova Scotia, was founded in 1605 by Jean de Biencourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt. There gathered noble men like Poutrincourt himself; Samuel de Champlain, soldier, explorer, geographer and writer; Michel Sarrasin, surgeon, botanist, member of the Paris Académie des Sciences, and a few others. They established the first literary society in America, L'Ordre de Bon Temps. Civilization thus was early and happily implanted in Canada.

The list of other French explorers and settlers is almost endless. Every nook and corner, every mountain and plain of Canada, as far west as the Rockies, has been made accessible or opened to civilization by the French. They worked, fought, prayed and were martyred for their love of God and country. It was they who gave us all this great land of Canada.

After the Seven Years' War, this country of our deserted, famished, heart-broken forbears was ceded by France to England. Cut off from all political, cultural and commercial connection with France, lacking everything that means power and influence, they started to build a new and greater Canada on the ruins of their homes, churches, schools, farms and shops. They accepted as partners in that immense task the new, English-speaking fellow-citizens whom the chances of war had given them. Forgetting their hardships and the injustice of their fate, relying on God's help, the fortitude of their hearts and British fair play, they set themselves unflinchingly to work.

They were loyal to the British Crown, for French Canadians have a deep sense of honor and their realistic minds know the meaning of le fait accompli. They have been accused of being priest-ridden. They love liberty too much to be ridden by anyone. But they learned for themselves in those trying times to revere and obey the Church, their bishops and their priests in things spiritual. For their clergy not only enlightened their souls -- they had taken part in the colonization and civilization of New France, they remained in Canada when the French officers and nobles accepted the British offer to return them to France, they gave their people the example of every virtue. In that way they endeared themselves to our people and earned the right to preach to them the Gospel of Christ. In a spirit of true devotion, in accordance with the sane and sound doctrine that they learned from their priests, the French Canadians put into practice the tenet of their religion which says that allegiance is due to the established order. The souls of the French Canadian and Acadian people were unconquered, but they coöperated with the British instead of trying to paralyze their efforts. And a little more than a century later, a French Canadian, one of the Fathers of Confederation, Sir Etienne Pascal Taché, President of the Quebec Conference and Prime Minister of Canada, declared that the last cannon fired for the British in Canada would be fired by a French Canadian. Such fealty cannot easily be paralleled.

As years went by, our influence was more readily accepted because certain prejudices against us were found to be groundless. Thus we became more free to work hand in hand with our English fellow citizens to make Canada an autonomous entity. And the better and quicker it is understood that French and English-speaking Canadians must live together in harmony, while treasuring their own characteristics and keeping their own personalities, the better and quicker will Canada develop, morally, physically and materially, enriched by the gifts of our two complementary and not antagonistic civilizations.

But the process by which the two peoples came together was a long one. The terms of the capitulation of Quebec granted us the prerogative of keeping our religion, language and laws, but the Treaty of Paris abolished those privileges and imposed the Test Oath, which was directly aimed at the Catholic faith. The French Canadians were then the overwhelming majority in Canada, but they had recourse only to peaceful means in trying to obtain what they thought essential to their very existence. The firm ground they stood on was that, being loyal British subjects, they could appeal to the Crown. So, working in their own interest and in that of their English-speaking fellow-citizens as well, they obtained, bit by bit, certain constitutional liberties which finally led to the passage of the British North America Act of 1867, commonly known as the Act of Confederation.[i]

The first of these liberties were won when the military régime of 1763 gave place to the Quebec Act of 1774, which accorded freedom of religion, did away with the Test Oath, reëstablished French civil law and created a Legislative Council. Next came the Act of 1791, which was the first Canadian Constitution. But it lacked certain essentials, and we continued to demand complete ministerial responsibility and acceptance of the elementary principle of "no taxation without representation." Any Britisher or American who looks back to those days and considers the things we fought for will feel a very sensitive chord being touched in his heart.

Things came to a head in 1837-38, when a rebellion took place. Two facts about this must be kept in mind. First, the rebellion was not against the British Crown, but against a detestable oligarchy and bureaucracy which were condemned by the British themselves. Secondly, there was an identical movement among English-speaking Canadians in Upper Canada (now Ontario). The leader there was the grandfather of the Prime Minister of today, William Lyon Mackenzie King. Even in our Province, then known as Lower Canada, one of the principal leaders was an English-speaking Canadian, Dr. Wolfred Nelson. The outcome of this rebellion was the Act of 1840 which compelled us to pay half the debt of Upper Canada, but granted the much-coveted ministerial responsibility. This was followed by Confederation in 1867. Confederation was made possible only by its acceptance by the French Canadians. It is not perfect, but it has some important merits and it is far more than a modus vivendi. It should be envisaged more as a pact between the French and the English-speaking Canadians than as an agreement between provinces, some of which actually did not exist at the time.

In the course of the years since Confederation, we have proved our deep and practical Canadianism and guaranteed our fidelity to the British Crown. We feel we have done more than our part in keeping Canada secure for the British. I need not recall such dates as 1775, when Montgomery's troops were beaten at Quebec, and 1813 when Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry was the victor at Châteaugay. Thus was thwarted a manifestation of United States imperialism, the success of which would have complicated exceedingly your life as well as ours.

What more need be said about our position regarding Canada and the Empire? Our devotion to our King and to the Constitution we helped to mould and define reveal our intentions clearly enough. In 1931 a French Canadian of great vision, Ernest Lapointe, had the opportunity to express these ideals of his kinsmen and see them embodied in an act of universal importance, the Statute of Westminster. Now Canada is an independent nation, equal in every respect to England and all our sister Dominions. Our sovereign is the King of Canada, who is also the King of England and of every one of the nations of the Commonwealth. Like our English-speaking fellow-Canadians, we are proud and active partners in this Commonwealth, which is a liberty-loving society of British nations, self-sufficient but not self-centered, joined together by their allegiance to the same sovereign and by their community of interests.

III

When this war was declared, there was not a protest from the French Canadians. In spite of anything that may be said to the contrary, in spite of certain potential causes of friction, we stood and we still stand as one with our English fellow-Canadians for the defense of Canada and for our common ideal of liberty and civilization.

An objective consideration of the facts reveals unmistakably that the plebiscite held on April 27, 1942, was a consultation as to which was the better way of waging war overseas: by conscription or by voluntary enlistment. The French Canadians gave their opinion, but nothing could keep them from fighting side by side with their English-speaking comrades.

Plebiscite or no plebiscite, our soldiers, sailors and aviators are fighting to bring victory to the arms of Canada, to share that victory with other members of the British Commonwealth, with the United States and with all our other glorious allies, and to save France, the old and revered mother country, now cruelly trampled by Hitler's hordes. Plebiscite or no plebiscite, our farmers, mechanics, and workers of all sorts are producing the requisites of victory. Plebiscite or no plebiscite, our officers and soldiers have died at Hong Kong and at Dieppe.

Was the right approach used in addressing the French Canadians? Was their coöperation fully appreciated? Those are questions which time shall answer. Let us first win this war!

I should like to quote, in this connection, a few words spoken by the late and much lamented Lord Tweedsmuir, former Governor General of Canada, whom we loved so much. In 1937, at the Tenth Anniversary Meeting of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, he said: "If the Commonwealth, in a crisis, is to speak with one voice, it will only be because the component parts have fought out for themselves their own special problems, and made their contribution to the discussion, so that a true common factor of policy can be reached. A sovereign people must, as part of its sovereign duty, take up its own attitude to world problems. The only question is whether that attitude shall be a wise and well-informed one, or a shortsighted and ill-informed one."

The attitude we have taken resembles so much that of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, three of our sister-nations of the Commonwealth, that we do not think we have shown any lack of patriotism.

IV

In order to promote and achieve unity in Canada, the French Canadians contend that they are doing the right thing in according the English minority in our Province of Quebec every right and prerogative. They ask only that the same be done for them in the rest of Canada, the common Fatherland. It is certain that our two races have everything to gain by standing together, come what may. We will stand together if Canadianism is understood to be the result of tolerance and mutual respect for one's neighbor, his characteristics and his culture. And it is by learning and speaking our neighbor's language as he learns and speaks ours that we shall first show proof of our desire to communicate directly with him and establish such friendly relations that national teamwork shall become a total reality. The ideal would be for English Canadians to speak French as their second language, just as we French Canadians have English as our second language.

If I might add a personal word, I would say that I myself have a very warm feeling and admiration for my English-speaking fellow-Canadians and Americans, just as many of them show that they have for French Canada. I fervently hope that this reciprocal regard shows the real trend of feeling. We should all strive to make it more general. Unity cannot be achieved by pitting one part of a body against another, whether the body be human, social or political. The crushing of one element can only result in dwarfing the whole.

Diversity cannot hamper unity. Diversity, by enriching it, strengthens unity. In strengthening it, it gives it a more cogent sense of order. Unity in diversity should therefore be the slogan not only of French Canadians, but also of all Canadians, of all the citizens of the United States, of all the inhabitants of Latin America, of all the people of France, of all the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Is it not the expression of true civilization? And it is the civilization which we each hold as our own, and which we all have in common, that we are fighting to safeguard and to raise to an ever higher level.

[i] Of course, as the English became more and more Canadian, an ever-increasing number of English-speaking persons began to think as the French Canadians did on the subject.

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  • ADÉLARD GODBOUT, Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Colonization of the Province of Quebec
  • More By Adélard Godbout