My Friend, Jean Baptiste
The Quebecois is taking a foremost place in the Van of Canadian Progress
THE French-Canadian people are giving the Province of Quebec the sanest government in North America. That is the final opinion of the great majority of English-speaking people in Quebec.
We have not, in Canada, any group with any definite aim that can begin to compare with this French-Canadian group of political leaders, headed by Premier Taschereau, for compactness of policy, clearness of directness and energy of execution. The Liberal Government is so certain of power for a long time to come that it does not, as in most democracies, have to play politics to ensure victory in the next election: it can and does devote itself to constructive policies, some of which will require years to execute.
Under the wise lead of successive governments, the aim has been to develop industry by a wise administration of the finances of the proince, a policy which has placed the latter in a position that enables it to spend, each year, increasingly large amounts on internal improvements.
Even before the existence of the Quebec Liquor Commission added to its funds, the government already had set up a record in economical and efficient administration, and now, with the increase in receipts accruing from its liquor sales, the provincial debt is being lowered greatly every year.
For the improvement of tourist conditions, every hotel on Quebec’s tremendously increased system of good roads, is reported on, and if not up to standard requirements, the hotel-keeper is assisted in improving his accommodations.
The government is interested not only in retaining within Quebec its sons, but in reclaiming those who have left, and it has taken a lead in this respect that might well be adopted by the Federal Government and the other provinces. This movement, which enlists the earnest support of the intellectuals of Quebec, receives its strongest support from the co-operation of Church and Government. Everywhere, in all the little parishes throughout Quebec, the priests are exhorting their flocks to remain at home, and magnifying to them the advantages of life on the farm and in Quebec. Others have gone to the French-Canadian settlements of New England with an invitation to return to their homeland.
To all, the message is: “Return, return to the province of Quebec; come to aid in sowing our fields and to draw from the soil the benefits the land always gives to those who know how to work it. Come back as soon as possible: there are still many good places around the hearth of your fathers.”
Nowhere, has the hand of government been so strongly or so beneficently felt as in the field of education. There, real wonders are being accomplished. One hundred years ago, visitors to Quebec commented on the lack of education, and in the same breath, on a certain fineness of manners due to the example of a small select society. But even of that period, Premier Taschereau says: “Whatever its deficiencies, the system has taught our children their religious duties, kept them attached to the soil, developed character and cultivated the ideal.”
Quebec Educational Ideals
NOT only has there been a change in policy as regards effort, but there has been an even more startling change in the ultimate aim of education. In Quebec, until comparatively recent years, there was no sympathy for ‘divine discontent.’ It was believed that the villager, educated, would either emigrate to the city or else, being unadaptable to his village environment, would become discontented and a nuisance. The results began to disclose themselves everywhere. The English-speaking community, weaker numerically, was capturing all the
prizes of wealth and industry. French-Canadians asked themselves: “Why is it that in a city like Montreal, where we are so strongly in the majority, the heads of most of the banks and other big business institutions are English?” The answer, of course, was: “Education!”
A few days ago, a leading government official informed me: “The clergy give us every possible assistance in educational matters. Their assistance is invaluable; they are enthusiastic. We believe only the best education can
resist the materializing influences of this age, and we want our people to have it. And, although very loyal to their church, French-Canadians are essentially tolerant. There is in them a strain of liberalism which does not exist even in France, and they are ready to move toward a more independent education, not religious nor even irreligious, but directed by lay agencies, leaving religious instruction, proper, to the clergy.”
Pursuant to that policy, two thousand schools have been added in the last ten years; and in that period there has been an increase of eighty-nine per cent, in school attendance. It should be distinctly understood, in the other portions of Canada, that this work takes full account of English-speaking and Protestant needs. The Hon. L. Athanase David, Provincial Secretary, and in charge of education, says: “Some may have listened to attacks upon our own system of education; they were not quite aware of the wide liberties which the English minority enjoy in the schools of our Province; they did not know, perhaps, that Quebec spends nearly a quarter of her
revenue for the education of the Province’s children.” The same idea is thus expressed by Bracq: “While the French have an overwhelming majority in the province, they have in a most remarkable way respected the rights of the Protestants and treated them with utmost consideration.”
This is borne out by the evidence of Dr. Parmalee, secretary of the Protestant Committee of the Council of Public Instruction, who, in commenting upon a decrease of 17,000 in the Protestant population in the last thirty years, said: “This means about three thousand children less, but the number of rural schoolhouses is about the same. This has resulted in having schools where sometimes there are only ten pupils. With the annual grant generously given to us by the Quebec Government, it will be possible to build new schoolhouses located at a central point, where the pupils of schools to be consolidated in one will find easier access than they would if one of the present schools was used.”
English Is Obligatory
'T'HE teaching of English in the A schools of the province is obligatory, for, in addition to the recognition of the constitutional rights of the English language as one of the two official languages of the country, this province also realizes that it is not only useful but necessary that the French-speaking children should learn English. In the FrenchCatholic schools, English becomes obligatory from the third year, and in the cities and towns, it may be taken up from the second year. In the bi-lingual Catholic schools, the study of English commences from the first year, with a special course of study prescribed. In the normal schools, the teaching of English is compulsory during the whole of the three-year course, and the number of graduates qualified to teach in both languages increases each year. In independent schools, those operated by brothers and nunscf the teaching orders, which are amongst the best-organized schools in the province, special attention is given to English, and most of these schools have adopted the official English course laid down by the Catholic Committee of the Council of Public Instruction. The kind of English education given in the classical colleges can best be judged by noticing the proficiency of members of the learned professions, and of public men of the province, in the use of English. Most of them use better English, in the sense that it conveys more to the brain of the listener, although the grammatically correct word may not always be used, than educated English-speaking Canadians do.
The race, except in propagation, stood still during the most progressive period of other democratic races. In that time, cut off from all outside influence, it had all it could do to survive as a race, let alone advance. But, it is advancing now, and within the last ten years the French-Canadians have consolidated their position beyond all shaking.
An acquaintance was one of a party of business men who went to St. Jerome, a thriving town of five thousand people, in connection with a business proposal to the town. The mayor said: “We’ll have to go slow on this. You know, you English have taught us all we know about business.”
Now they are teaching themselves, and they are learning—fast. At McGill University, where we have the best opportunity to compare the education of the two races, in the list of graduates for the last few years there has been a striking majority of French and of Hebrew names, particularly in honors. The average product of our Protestant English schools is all right, but there is no provision made for backward pupils or for pupils of genius.
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But in the French schools, the bright boys are being observed and special provision is made for the cultivation of these minds. That crop will make itself felt in a few years. We shall see, in the next ten years, some bright French boys coming on i* business life. That will be a blessing: to have our crop of good Canadians increased — men like Laurier and Cartier and Hebert the sculptor.
The Industrial Future
' I 'HE government, while devoting itself *energetically to developing the resources of Quebec, in attracting new industries and strengthening the old, is not carried away by a rush of modern ideas, and just as much energy and care is put into the conservation of the old as in the development of the new. Gone, however, is the day when agriculture offered the only important field of endeavor. Still awarded, as it probably always will be, the place of highest esteem as the foundation of Quebec’s prosperity, the political, religious, and business leaders of the race have the vision of a highly industrialized Quebec, but a Quebec peopled largely by French-Canadians, and a Quebec that will be to-morrow what it is to-day, except that it will be more rich and more powerful.
The whole province is alive to that idea; the provincial government officials, led by Premier Taschereau, urge it and work toward it. Their big weapon is the fact that the province has the largest untapped source of cheap power-supply, easily available to the great industrial centers, of any region in North America, and they are beginning to utilize that weapon to the fullest capacity. One use of it takes the form of refusing to permit the export of power, planning thereby to force industries that require the power to erect plants within the province.
Premier Taschereau, in reviewing the great commercial and industrial progress of the province during the last ten years, has said that it can be attributed to “The utilization of our hydraulic forces, which has not only permitted Canadian capital to multiply, but has brought to us hundreds of millions of foreign capital.”
“In my, opinion,” he added, “a high tariff wall around Quebec would not protect us as well as a vigorous policy of conservation of our electrical energy, especially if we add thereto an invitation to outsiders to come here and aid us in the development of our hydraulic powers. By so doing, we will obtain four marked economic advantages; exclusion of foreign competition, creation of industrial centres for our workmen, the opening up of very much needed markets for our agricultural products, and, finally, elimination of emigration because of our greater means of giving our people work at home.”
He issued a direct warning to the Ottawa Government to keep hands off the water power resources of Quebec. “I wish here to say,” he declared, “that the Province of Quebec intends to maintain to the fullest extent its rights in this domain, and I give notice to those tempted to obtain rights from an authority other
than ours, that such rights are precarious.”
It is this policy that has resulted in the great Price-Duke power development in the Lake St. John district of the Saguanay River. This enterprise, inaugurated by the late Sir William Price and the late James B. Duke, the American tobacco magnate, is so vast that it completely dwarfs in magnitude and importance the much discussed development of Muscle Shoals. There, an entire wilderness is being transformed into a modern industrial district, one that is not growing up haphazard, but that is being created according to the builders’ plans. Model towns of ten thousand people are arising, as are railroads and other services; and entire industries are planning to move there to receive the full benefit of manufactuiing at the source of power.
No Regimentation In Quebec
npHE HON. ATHANASE DAVID, Provincial Secretary of Quebec, expressed a concrete view of French-Canadian aims:
“We cannot help feeling that we have a mission here, something that we owe to our origin and ourselves to perpetuate in our country. Is there anyone, I wonder, unable to understand this, or unwilling to admit it?
“I know very well that, occasionally, in watching us scaling the heights, others may have thought that we were going to lose ourselves in the clouds of idealism. It may be true that for too long a while we were idealists only, and that it took us a longer time than them to find out the value of money. But, indeed, can they complain on that score? Were not their victories in this domain, industrial, commercial or financial, just the more easy for them on that account?
“Quebec sacrificed itself and its material development for over a century and a half in order to more fully assure its intellectual and moral development, while others were allowed to increase their wealth and so are able, to-day, to preserve it better.
“But now, having acquired more assurance about what we can do, and satisfied that our language, our traditions, our institutions which we fought for, ought not to die and shall not die, here we stand before them, perhaps a little proud because we weathered the storm so well.
“And this means that we are about to offer them in the fields of commerce, finance and industry, a loyal and unceasing fight.”
Mr. David urges Canadians of Englishspeaking origin to study the history of the first race to settle this country, so that from this increased knowledge might come greater amity and understanding, and he further says: “Let me ask the question, where in all the world are there two peoples of different origin who live more harmoniously than in Quebec?” To which one can truthfully answer: “Nowhere!”
It is rare, indeed, that anyone from
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another part of the country, who had lived in Quebec any length of time, does not prefer to continue to live there, aside from reasons outside of personal choice. The charm of Quebec could be analyzed from many angles and accounted for by a great variety of reasons, but probably it rests primarily on the fact that life in Quebec is different. It is not standardized to the extent it is elsewhere in Canada and the United States; life is not so flat, so monotonous as it is where everybody is living and doing as nearly as possible like everyone around them. The intimate contact of the two races, languages and religions, prevents either from becoming too smug about itself, from feeling that after all it is a very great institution and much better than any other.
The day of the race’s fight to preserve itself has passed—and been won. Like a young giant it feels its growing strength. It has been slow in arriving, but it has arrived. And now it progresses by leaps and bounds in the material achievements hitherto neglected by a people who were content to live a happy, moral and simple life far removed from the modern struggle for success. They continue to be happyone ventures the prophecy they always will be. But now they are ambitious!
That is all to the good for the remainder of Canada, and there is room both for thought and congratulation in the remark of Premier Taschereau: “Quebec is not the dividing point of the Dominion, but the uniting link between East and West, and the most sanely conservative province of the Dominion.”
The solidarity of Quebec has grown immeasurably since the war; conscription and the persecution-complex of a numerically weaker people gave it then a bitter impetus which reached its crux in strained relations between the two races. Most fortunately, that has died down like much of the war bitterness and has been replaced by better relations between French and English-speaking Canadians than have probably ever existed; that is certainly true in Quebec, anyhow. AngloCanadians who now share the benefit of these improved relations once bitterly resented and sometimes opposed the methods employed by the French-Canadians to bring this result about. The bitterness has died because, without any manner of doubt, the Quebec French have in the last ten years established themselves as an ethnic group with a language and a culture of their own which has been accepted. If we accept, in fact as we do in theory, that the British Empire is and should be made up of races that are not, as in the United States, reduced to a condition of similarity, but are encouraged to retain their individual and national character, we should welcome the strong position the French have achieved.
At any rate, the Anglo-population of Quebec accepts the situation and welcomes it, because they want to do business with the two and a half million French in Quebec and because they cannot help but see the justice of the French-Canadian viewpoint.
Vincent Massey, of Toronto, recently said in Montreal: “We regard the two languages of this country, not as constituting a barrier between the peoples they represent, but rather as the enrichment of a common heritage. Canada is a diversified country, possessing different races, religions, social cultures. One hears this diversity often spoken of as a regretable fact. Could anything be more fundamentally wrong? Let us thank heaven for the diversities which save this country from a devastating uniformity, and in welcoming diversity let us remember that after all a nation is civilized in proportion to the sympathetic understanding with which it welcomes just such distinctions in language, customs, manners and frame of mind, such as make French and Englishspeaking Canada different in one sense, as they are suited in fundamental things.
“The greatest peril in North America to-day,” he added, “is the menace of
deadly uniformity standardized commonplaceness. I rejoice to think that there is one part of the continent which is proof against these dangers. So long as this province holds true to her ancient faith, her romantic tradition, the simple virtues of her countryside, and the glorious legacy of her language, Canada’s contributions in the world will be the richer for them.”
Stemming the ‘Jazz’ Tide
WE HEAR much about the American invasion of Canada. The French of Quebec constitute our greatest bulwark against it. The intelligence of the leaders combines with the instincts of the common people to resist that tide of absolute banality and mediocrity, that standardization of our modern life on this continent, which is the most distressing aspect of average Canadian and American lives. Lord Durham once said: “I do not think that ethnological homogeneity is an unmixed benefit for a country. Certainly the least attractive characteristic of a great portion of this continent is the monotony of its outward aspects, and I should consider it fortunate for Canada that her prosperity should be founded on the co-operation of different races. The inter-action of national idiosyncrasies introduces into our existence a freshness, a variety, a color, an eclectic impulse, ' which otherwise would be wanting; and it would be most faulty statesmanship to seek their obliteration. My warmest aspirations for this province have always been to see its French inhabitants executing for Canada the functions which France herself has so admirably performed for Europe.”
Let Lord Durham rest in his grave: They do! Undoubtedly we are, as a country, especially fortunate in possessing two of the great cultures of the world. Who knows what will come of the wedding? Nothing but a good flowering, surely.
One person’s opinion, more or less, does not matter, it can only swell the chorus, but for myself, as an Ontarian, born and bred, I can only say that in Quebec I have truly found my spiritual home; I like its life, its old worldliness and its people better than any other I have intimately known. I feel more at home among the French than among my own people; they have more wit, more imagination, and a greater appreciation of beauty in art and literature and daily life; and thrifty though they are, and however practical, they do not think the dollar is the end-all of existence nor the piling-up of them an object in itself; to them there is such a thing as ‘the art of living’.
Here, there is leisure in life, even for those who are not rich; leisure to observe and think and enjoy. There is a refusal to hurry and worry that does not exist in many places on this continent, somewhat like that of the Southern States of America, but far more sophisticated; for these are an old people, steeped in ancient sayings and thoughts and customs.
And the people of the villages and the country are ignorant of many things of the jazz age; there is in their bone and blood something older and sweeter and more essential to the happiness of man. Here, more particularly in the country, all is not dollar chasing; life has dignity; life is mellow; life has charm . . .
If these people were in Europe, those who could afford it, would cross the ocean to pet them. But they are at our door. Consequently, by thoughtless people, their qualities are unappreciated.
As a writer, within limitations, I am freer than most men, free to live where I wish, for I am not seeking wealth; happiness is my goal; and I can earn a living at my work in most places. So I am free to live almost anywhere in North America, certainly anywhere in Canada; but Quebec, rural Quebec . . . That is my home!
This is the last of a series of four articles on French Canada by Mr. Pearson.