THE Australian -- he was a professor of International Law -- said he was sorry for us Canadians. "You are so busy," he said, "proving to the English that you are not Yankees, and proving to the Yankees that you are not English, you have no time to be yourselves at all." Since he had just come from an Institute of Pacific Relations conference, it was easy to understand the Australian's sorrow. He went on to speak of the Statute of Westminster.

The Statute of Westminster is a document highly regarded by "representative" Canadians who attend conferences. It was made law at Westminster in 1931 and ratified by all Dominion Parliaments. It embodies the Declaration of the Imperial Conference of 1926 that the nations associated in the British Commonwealth are "self-governing communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate . . ." and so on. It was of no importance, the Australian said. It was merely a legal phrasing of accepted constitutional practice, a not-too-successful effort to embalm living usage in a formula. Its chief use was to soothe Canadians. It was the ring Canada required so that she might show it to the neighbors and prove that she was an honest woman. Australia and New Zealand, being quite certain they were honest women, felt no need of a ring to show. But Canada and, to a lesser extent, South Africa, set store by such emblems of respectability. Why?

The percentage of formalists is high among Canadians currently recognized as representative, and insistence on Canada's national sovereignty is one of their peculiarities. The circumstance is regrettable for it has created a sort of embarrassment between ordinary Canadians and other average citizens of other countries. We think we are reasonably adult, as inmates of this world go, yet we find ourselves treated in international company like touchy adolescents. This is the work of the representative Canadians, done from the highest motives.

The obsession with status that has shaped Canada's external relations for twenty years is a by-product of the attempt to invent a synthetic Canadian national consciousness. It is one of the tragi-comedies of the time that, in a world waking in agony to the insanity of its old nationalisms, the statesmen and teachers of Canada have spent two earnest decades struggling to induce a new self-conscious nationalism in Canadians to whom it does not come naturally.

The attempt has been well-meaning. It was planned as a solvent of the differences that divide us. It was copied, with reverent care, from the best United States model. National consciousness was a subject taught in infant schools, a mental exercise solemnly required of children, a duty preached to youth by zealous publicists and university professors. According to plan, it was to merge French Canada's self-centered nationalism in a larger national ego. It was to cure English-speaking Canadians of an ailment known as colonial-mindedness, which few of them knew they had until they were told of it. For Canadians new from Europe, it was to provide the urge towards assimilation.

It has not worked out that way. French-Canadian nationalism is more actively separatist, more ardently Canadien, more openly resentful of the rest of Canada now than at any time since the eighties. The new Canadians, until the war came, had embraced only one article of the new Canadian faith with enthusiasm; they were all for North American isolation. The English-speaking Canadians, a diminishing majority, already divided east, west and center by economic differences and regional resentments, divided again. One set of extremists cultivated a sense of inferiority to Canadians of French origin and an intolerance of British associations which was as sentimental and unreasoning as their reverence for the United States of America. The other set, more royalist than the King and more imperialist by far than Westminster, adopted Mr. Neville Chamberlain's umbrella as a symbol of Empire and defended it on all occasions against all comers.

Between the two, the bewildered run of us clung, half apologetically, to an idea that we owed several things of value to our British connections and a certain amount of sympathy to the British taxpayer who still footed our defense bills. We accepted in a daze our leaders' assurances that theoretical devotion to international security -- Geneva pattern -- was quite compatible with isolationist practice. We relinquished without much regret some historic doubts of the universal benevolence of American imperialism and we let the Orangemen worry about the French-Canadian birth rate. We also tried hard to believe what we were told: that an international capitalism which had inaugurated the depression by shutting down its Canadian subsidiaries and throwing the unorganized Canadian workman out of his job was individual enterprise, the bulwark of our freedom and the cornerstone of Canada's national sovereignty.

And all the time, in the higher air of conferences, far above our dumb defenseless heads, representative Canadians labored to establish our status, happy in the faith that by saving the surface you save all. It should be remembered in extenuation that they were not then alone in believing that salvation is by formula, or that a phrase repeated often enough becomes a fact. Moreover, it looked at one time as if their faith might be justified. When war came -- for us, in September 1939 -- they produced a formula for unity and the Government of Canada adopted it. It consisted of:

A separate declaration of war on Germany, made a week later than the United Kingdom's to vindicate Canada's status; an assurance of "limited participation" given French Canada and the mid-western isolationists; a token force of volunteers enlisted and sent to England to satisfy the sense of obligation of the majority.

While the static war lasted, the formula was good. It was so good it became the platform on which the present Government was returned to power with a big majority in early 1940, its solid bloc of French Canadian support cemented fast with a pledge of no conscription -- "jamais, jamais, jamais!" [i]

But after May 1940, the formula hit hard times. One by one and with increasing speed as the majority wakened to the terrible realities and demanded action the limits came off Canadian participation. The token force became an army of volunteers. The Empire Air Training Plan, chiselled down at first by cautious dread of commitments, was doubled in size and doubled again by R.C.A.F. establishments to make Canada the free world's training school for airmen. The Canadian Navy, designed for coastal defense, moved out into mid-ocean, expanded and took on its half of Atlantic convoys; still expanding, it moved on into the Mediterranean. Canadian farms and factories turned out the stuff of war in volume that presently mounted up. All that was before Pearl Harbor, and we have done better since, with American help. But in one thing our failure is complete.

It is Canada's tragedy that this, the one country placed by history and geography in a position to show the way out of suicidal nationalism into sane internationalism, cannot find its own way out of its own confusion of spirit. Destiny caught us in Gandhi-pants and a gilt paper crown beating our national chest and repeating the formula prescribed: "Canada is a Nation!" We did it with the best intention. We were told by the most representative Canadians that it was the sure cure for Canada's split personality. But the cure has not worked and the hour of destiny is passing and the attending physicians have prescribed so far only a change of fixation. We are now invited to pursue unity as an end. This, like the old obsession with sovereignty, is by its nature self-defeating. In Quebec a new political party is already busy proving it. It is called Le Bloc Populaire Canadien and it grew out of the failure of a formula.

In less complicated countries than Canada good deeds do not invariably lead to schizophrenia. We have been put on the road to it by two things in our history of which we have no need to be ashamed. One is the Quebec Act of 1774. One is the clause of the British North America Act of 1867 ensuring French Canada against loss of its minority rights.

The Quebec Act, passed by the British Parliament, guaranteed to the people of the newly conquered French territory in North America security in their religion and language, their customs and tenures, under their own civil laws. It incidentally guaranteed that those people could in effect be insulated by their leaders from all direct contact with, and understanding of, the currents of thought that moved their English-speaking fellow-citizens. Its date indicates possible calculation in the generosity.

The British North America Act, passed 93 years later, provided that while Canadian Confederation lasts the Province of Quebec shall have, in the Canadian Parliament, a fixed representation of 65 seats and all other provinces shall be represented proportionately according to their population. This ensures French Canada an adequate weight in the federal councils and also ensures that politicians eager to get and keep office in Canada must guide themselves by the wishes of French Canadian leaders who can throw that weight around.

Whatever the virtues of the 1774 and 1867 arrangements in time of peace, in time of national danger they do not make for strong and resolute government, or for unity of action.

In the last war, when we were near defeat, the government of the day, obeying a majority vote of the whole country, attempted to apply conscription in Quebec as in the rest of Canada. The bitterness and hatreds born of that attempt, kept alive for more than twenty years in Quebec, were organized to ensure unbroken French Canadian support to the political leaders who had opposed conscription in 1917. Last year, the same leaders, newly pledged never to impose conscription in Quebec, were empowered by a majority vote of all the Canadian people to enforce conscription in all Canada. The formula chosen to meet this embarrassing situation was a half measure of conscription for home service only. Its chief products have been a sense of universal frustration and, in Quebec, Le Bloc Populaire Canadien.

Le Bloc is a party of resistance, organized in political revolt by French Canadian supporters of the present government. Its purpose is to punish what it regards as a breach of trust, by turning French Canada from the leaders who broke faith. Its argument, offered in all solemnity, is that the Quebecois were tricked into partaking of the present war "for England's advantage"; that Quebec was promised a profitable participation and no compulsory sacrifices; that it consented to participate on those terms and those terms have not been fulfilled. Therefore French Canadian support must be withdrawn from a government guilty of this betrayal. The argument is proving effective. It has recently won a Quebec by-election for the new party and ensured the defeat of the government candidate in two others.

But Le Bloc is more than a party of revenge. It is organizing methodically for postwar control of Quebec and the Quebec bloc in Ottawa. It has a program skilfully planned to channel all the economic grievances of French Canadian farmers and workers -- and they have plenty of legitimate ones -- into racial antagonism and bitterness. It is a curious commentary on the Bloc that its insistent demand that English Canadians respect French Canadian minority rights is mixed with open anti-Semitism. It has the only organized youth movement in Canada and it is training it on lines already too familiar. If the Bloc leader, Maxime Raymond, M.P., succeeds in his aim of bringing a large representation from Quebec into parliament behind him next election he will come close to being master in the House of Commons. For his Bloc can remain aloof from English-speaking politicians of every party and direct or disrupt government where it chooses, as its model, the Irish Home Rule party, did in England for years.

The Bloc's added importance is as the parliamentary repository of a romantic belief shared by many French Canadians who do not support it politically -- that small countries can still get along by themselves in this world. Bloc leaders, preaching that a country as potentially rich and relatively weak as Canada can run its own show and needs no protecting association with other peoples, get a hearing in Quebec that they would not get elsewhere in Canada. The majority of Canadians have outgrown that particular error. We know the choices before us. We can become an American protectorate, more or less humored in our pretensions to sovereign status, or we can develop our present partnership in the British Commonwealth and, as its North American representative, cultivate the friendship of our neighbors south and north, the American and Russian Republics. What we cannot do is resume our prewar cultivation of status, under the joint protection of Britain and the United States, demanding recognition from, and refusing commitments to, both. Outside Quebec, that is fairly generally recognized.

Outside Quebec, the lines of the future are turning left in Canada as they are everywhere. The Coöperative Commonwealth Federation, the farmer-labor party established eleven years ago by prairie Fabians, has within the past two years moved into place as the official Opposition in the provincial legislatures of British Columbia and Ontario. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it has defeated government candidates in three recent federal by-elections. The handicap of federal government blessing ensured not only the defeat but the disappearance of one Liberal administration in Ontario this summer. It was succeeded by a minority government of Progressive Conservatives, a party whose nearest American counterpart would be Willkie Republicanism.

Whatever comes in Canada when this war is won, it will not be a return to the laissez-faire of prewar Liberalism, nationally or internationally, politically or economically. That much is already evident. The indications are that, if the C.C.F. were to gain power, the Pacific would dominate Canadian foreign policy. Cooperation with Australia and New Zealand, China and the United States in Pacific security plans would be their natural first approach to international organization, if for no other reason than that the ablest followers of C.C.F. leader M. J. Coldwell are men and women from the prairies and the Pacific Coast.

The Progressive Conservatives have plumped for internationalism. Their leader, John Bracken, is with Cordell Hull against trade barriers. Their foreign policy takes for granted Canada's acceptance of responsibility as the North American member of the British partnership and they are already talking, as more than a hundred thousand young Canadian air force men are thinking, of Canada's future in terms of world air routes.

On the whole, the chance that Canada will gravitate on its own weight away from the British Commonwealth and towards some form of union with the United States looks less than it did. Discussions of the Quebec headache do not end this year, as inevitably as they did last, with "Oh, join the States, that'll settle it." And courting days are over on the Alaska Highway. Stories of the magnificence of American planners, the daring and speed of their execution and the size of their pay-checks were the staple export of Edmonton this time last year. Their tone is different now. A slight reaction has set in. The sensitive Canadian ear has begun to detect a note of possessiveness. There is a report, no doubt apocryphal, that telephone calls to U. S. Army Headquarters in Edmonton are answered briskly, "Army of Occupation."

One of the difficult things for a citizen of the American Republic to understand is the early history of British North America. Like his own early history, it is studded with stories of patriot stands against the aggressor. What he cannot seem to get clear in his head is that in our case the aggressor was he. There is, moreover, a certain reserve among all but representative Canadians regarding that four thousand miles of frontier without a fortress. Mention of it recalls to mind a few frontier adjustments made in the friendliest manner at our expense, from Maine to the Alaska panhandle. They were small matters really, and of no importance between friends with plenty of real estate. Yet we would rather not remember them now. With more important things at issue, most of us, at a pinch, can forget our interest in real estate. And Canadians are fortunate enough to have, if it had only been cultivated better, another set of values.

We were born internationalists. It was no embarrassment to our parents and our grandparents to own two citizenships and three allegiances and four or more affinities. On the contrary, they enjoyed it. To be at home by right of birth, tradition and circumstance, as were the fortunate among them, in London and Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris, as well as in Vancouver and Montreal and New York and New Orleans was not to their old-fashioned eyes a disadvantage. To have, as even the poorest of them had, a rich uncle in Australia or a second-cousin diamond mining in South Africa as well as a nephew getting along fine in the States did not make Canada a drabber place to them. To own, as a common inheritance, a common citizenship with half the world and a common responsibility for the good and bad done by fellow-citizens the other side of the world was not a belittling experience. It did not occur to our colonial great-grandparents that colonial was a term of ignominy and it was not their habit to magnify the ill manners of globe trotters who did think so into national grievances. They were perfectly capable of returning rudeness on a personal basis of exchange.

Sickly national sensitivity came late into Canadian life and where it came from is difficult to discover. Certainly not from our irreverent and confident fathers. Certainly not from the rank and file of the generation who went from Canada to war between 1914 and 1918. Their spirit was more robust. Their representative Canadian was the private soldier who, finding himself in London late in the evening of November 11, 1918, went to the Café Royal for something to eat, and presently concluded a discussion of inter-Allied relations by climbing upon a table, first having punched the eye of an English subaltern who tried to restrain him. He then grasped a lobster by the claw, swung it three times around his head and delivered it into the bosom of the nearest U. S. Army colonel with these representative words: "Once a Canadian, always a gentleman!"

Somewhere between 1918 and 1939, that helpful spirit of international Canadianism was lost to us in a search for status and respectability. The hope for Canada is that it will return, renewed, with the sons of the representative Canadian private. When last heard from, they were acting, in a manner their fathers would have been proud of, as liaison between Montgomery's men and Patton's on a Sicilian mountain side.

[i] The late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, Canadian Minister of Justice.

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