The English Canadian View

"English-speaking Quebec wanted a change of masters and was bound to vote the Duplessis ticket, no matter what alarums its opponents might trumpet

LESLIE ROBERTS October 15 1936

The English Canadian View

"English-speaking Quebec wanted a change of masters and was bound to vote the Duplessis ticket, no matter what alarums its opponents might trumpet

LESLIE ROBERTS October 15 1936

The English Canadian View


"English-speaking Quebec wanted a change of masters and was bound to vote the Duplessis ticket, no matter what alarums its opponents might trumpet


WHAT IS the attitude of English-speaking Quebec to the new, or revitalized spirit of Provincial Nationalism, recently reported upon by Victor Soucisse in Maclean’s and which, since then, has succeeded in removing the Liberal Party from office in the Ancient Capital—almost from the Legislative Buildings, in fact—after thirty-nine years of undisturbed sway?

Do English-speaking residents of the lower St. Lawrence sympathize with the view that French Canada has been deprived of its heritage, and with the numerous correctives suggested by members of the Union Nationale? If not, why did they vote the Union ticket in the general election of August 17? Do the English-speaking Canadians in Quebec espouse this new movement? Do they denounce it? What are its effects on the social and economic life of the minority likely to be? What, if anything, is English-speaking Quebec likely to do about it? What should it do?

Conservatives Voted Nationalist

THE RESULT of the general election, seen against the backdrop of those things in which English-speaking citizens are presumed to believe, presents a remarkable phenomenon, for the so-called English seats have aligned themselves almost unanimously with a new' party which contains, in addition to former Conservatives, all the elements of the Nationalist movement, from moderates to downright radicals. Obviously, then, English-speaking Quebec—and particularly the rank and file of the Conservative Party—must be in accord with the view that French Canada deserves a new deal, based on the hypothesis that English capitalists have despoiled our brethren, which is the rudiment of the Nationalistic debate. That is what the result w'ould seem to indicate. For example:

On the thirteenth of August, four days prior to the casting of ballots, Montreal’s English-language newspapers published a statement from Mr. C. E. Gault, w'ho for twenty-five years had represented the upper-crust Tory riding of Saint George at Quebec and had been Mr. Duplessis’ immediate predecessor as House Leader of the Opposition. Announcing his complete and permanent divorce from Duplessis, Gault said:

“I believe that the circumstances impose upon me the most important political duty with which I have ever been faced, and that duty is to place myself before the electors of Saint George as an Independent Conservative candidate, pledged to do all in my power to uphold Conservative traditions and British traditions in the councils of the Legislature, and to do my best to prevent the honored name of our great party from being used for the furtherance of a movement which has as its ultimate

objective the severance of Canada from its British connection and the secession of the Province of Quebec from the Canadian Confederation.”

Gault did not speak without reason. A few days earlier, the press had reproduced sections of a Duplessis pamphlet v'hich preached Nationalism—or anti-imperialism—in unmistakable terms, and it was this exposé which Gault made the occasion for finally cutting adrift from Duplessis and the National Union. And what happened? After sending Gault to Quebec for a quarter of a century, once even as one of a six-man-total Opposition to the Liberal Government, Saint George renounced him and chose in his place a politically unknowm young man who simply happened to have the Duplessis blessing.

A Change Was Wanted

OR PONDER another phenomenon. Shortly before these paragraphs are written, the Mayor of Montreal resigned—a dramatic post-election gesture on the part of that astute political w'arrior, Camillien Houde. In resigning, Mr. Houde announced:

“The new Government leader (Duplessis) will not soon forgive me because I correctly predicted that his succession to the Conservative leadership spelled the death of that party in the Province of Quebec, nor will he forgive me because I predict today that his victory, in alliance with the Nationalist element in this province, spells the speedy disappearance of the Province of Quebec from Confederation.”

Did Montreal’s English-speaking aldermen beseech their Mayor to remain on the dais and defend the minority, the Confederation and the Grand Old Flag from those who, allegedly, would like to hoist the Tricolor on the City Hall? No. Mr. Houde’s resignation was accepted unanimously, not with an attitude of malevolence toward the retiring Chief Magistrate, but with what is most easily described as an “aw, shucks, if that’s the way he feels about it. . manner. Mr. Houde, it should be noted, was formerly Leader of the Conservative Party at Quebec and, as such, chief of the Opposition. Apparently the opinions of Tory ex-leaders are currently at a discount among Englishspeaking Canadians in Quebec, unless Mr. Duplessis’ Conservatism is regarded as “ex,” which does not appear to be the case.

The state of mind reported was particularly noticeable throughout the election campaign. All attempts to introduce the Nationalist bogey-man on the hustings—and there was no lack of evidence—fell on deaf ears in the

English-speaking counties. Obviously, said Public Opinion, such talk was simply an election stratagem for use in what is loosely called the French Country, where Conservatism, as such, has been at low ebb these many years. The attitude of men like Gault (incidentally, even High Tory Westmount refused to have any truck with a “straight Conservative” candidate), the viewings-with-alarm of Godbout orators, were looked upon merely as herrings drawn across the scandal trail in the hope of abating the stench. Englishspeaking Quebec wanted a change of masters and it was bound to vote the Duplessis ticket, no matter what alarums his opponents might trumpet. The picture of the Nationalist lion and the Conservative lamb lying down together did not occur to the English voter as being even slightly incongruous.

Nationalism Not Feared

'O SUMMARIZE, Provincial Nationalism was not regarded as a serious movement by the English-speaking electorate during the election campaign. The “turnthe-rascals-out” slogan completely overshadowed all other cries. To the English, Mr. Duplessis remained a Conservative and, as such, not a man likely to permit any rioting in the ranks. When the supporters of Doctor Hamel and Mayor Grégoire of Quebec ganged the new Prime Minister, shortly after the election, to protest his failure to include either of these rampant Nationalists in his Cabinet, and Mr. Duplessis thundered that he would not be blackmailed or browbeaten, the English community assumed a pleased expression and said “There! What did we tell you?” innocently overlooking the fact that prior to the mob episode a portfolio, or at least the Speaker’s chair, had been offered to Hamel and refused. Certainly this circumstance might easily have been translated into willingness on the part of the Prime Minister to include representatives of the more radical Nationalistic element in his immediate entourage, provided they did not insist on travelling too quickly or too far. But the English press and (so far as it is possible to check the opinion of the public by conversing with numerous individuals) the electorate preferred to take the opposite view and applaud Duplessis for his courage.

Up to the present time, in fine, the rank and file of the English-speaking community in Quebec has refused to regard the so-called Nationalist movement as one likely to interfere with the even tempo of life among the minority. Possibly that is because, being the minority, we lack political consciousness as to the state of the commonwealth and, strangely, in the light of recent Nationalist fulminations, have always taken it for granted that French-Canadians direct the province’s affairs. Had English-speaking Quebec regarded Nationalism as a threat to the Confederation, to the British connection, or to continued comity along the St. Lawrence, it would not have voted as it did on August 17, scandal cries or no scandal cries.

Today, however, a faint stirring of interest in the stated aims of our French-speaking brothers is noticeable, principally because the clamor, once simply regarded as election talk, continues. The thought seems to be paramount in English minds that if anything is wrong, it should be adjusted before the debate becomes too acrimonious for amicable settlement. Mutual tolerance, always the genius of the two races in Quebec, should be applied to the problem before the extremists secure control in either camp. If good will on the part of the French-Canadian is disappearing, his irritation is the result of some slight, real or imagined, at the hands of English-Canadians, most of them resident beyond provincial boundaries. Meanwhile it seems to be the inclination of the English in Quebec to look hopefully toward Duplessis as a safe and sane, middle-of-the-road man who will not permit extremists to take the wheel of his juggernaut. I hope he is.

Wishful Thinking?

ACTUALLY, any stirrings of unease noticeable at this - time among the English-speaking section of the population, and particularly among members of the business community, are slight compared with the qualms felt a year

ago, when Paul Gouin captured twenty-six seats in the Provincial Legislature, and during the months which followed. Nervousness declined perceptibly when Gouin retired to his tent and Duplessis performed his amazing marriage ceremony between the Conservatives and the Actionists. Apparently most of the idealists were politicians at heart, which was something everybody could understand. So the English minority breathed more easily, even to those capitalistic gentlemen who, by the gospel according to Gouin, were scheduled to be “reformed.” Today, in spite of Doctor Hamel, in spite of Mayor Grégoire, in spite of mobs in Grande Allée and on Dufferin Terrace, in spite of Le Devoir, in spite of revolt on the radio from within Duplessis’ ranks and in spite of the warnings of ex-Mayor Houde, English-speaking Quebec refuses to develop anything more urgent than a .state of friendly curiosity in a movement concerning which it is only beginning to be intelligently informed. In any case, say St. James Street (where the trustards come from), Huntingdon, Sherbrooke and Brome Streets, the majority of the Ministry has been drawn from the more conservative elements of the new House and three English members have been included in the Government; so moderation apparently is going to be the policy of the new Prime Minister; moderation toward everything and everybody but his predecessors.

How much of this is wishful thinking, it is too early to predict, but the possibility remains that the English electorate may be wrong in its conception of Mr. Duplessis. Before we are much older, we may find him swinging sharply toward the Nationalist Left, although I doubt it, in the light of his earlier affiliations. There is also the possibility that in his following, which comprises 85 per cent of the new Legislature, a sufficient number of ardent Nationalists may be found to force a Leftist policy on the Government, or bring about its defeat. This, too, seems unlikely. We shall know more a year hence. Meanwhile the task for English-Canadians everywhere, inside and outside Quebec, w'ould appear to be to approach the problems raised by French Canada in a fair-minded manner and

to seek a formula which will frustrate the extremists in either camp.

With the exception of a few rabid Anglophiles—zealots every bit as hot as the wildest Nationalists in the other race--the English “colony” in Quebec will voice no protest against a thorough examination of the wants of the majority. and a complete overhauling of the scales if they are found to be out of balance. Contrary to opinions often voiced by certain elements beyond Quebec borders, the two peoples resident beside the St. Lawrence are not unfriendly to each other. When friction has arisen in the past, it has usually originated with the refusal of the Englishspeaking majority elsewhere to meet the French-speaking minority in a spirit of good will equal to that which the French majority in Quebec has always manifested toward the English there.

A Republic?—“Fantastic”

T ET US examine for a moment, however, the contentions ■*— of the so-called Nationalists and endeavor to ascertain the feasibility of demands which, although they may be excellent as parts of an ideology, lack the good, hard grist of common sense which must be applied to our rough-andtumble world.

Mr. Soucisse, for example, has raised the point that, although equal business opportunity with the English is denied to the sons of French Canada in Quebec, these young men do very well when they cross the United States border in search of occupation. Without concurring in this lack-ofopportunity-at-home theory, I should like to point out that when young Mr. Carpentier of, say, Sainte Anne de la Pocatière, ventures into New York City and ultimately becomes president of a great commercial enterprise, he ceases to be Carpentier and becomes something called Carpenteer. No longer does he conduct his affairs in his beloved mother tongue, but in the language of New York, which is English, and his children must become nice little American girls and boys. This, Mr. Soucisse has informed us repeatedly, is exactly what French Canada desires most to avoid —the disappearance of racial identity. Is it not possible that if French-Canadians are not the preponderant force in our commerce which they apparently desire to be, this insistence on retention of racial characteristics may have something to do with the matter? I leave this with the reader as a question, not as a statement.

Continued on page 48

Revolt in Quebec

Continued from, page 11— Starts on page 10 -

What happens to the mythical Mr. Carpentier when he goes to New York is just about what would happen to French Canada if the wild-and-woolly, let’s-starta-republic boys had their way. One of the principal reasons why Canada itself should remain in the British Empire seems to be that we are not yet sufficiently strong in our own right, to stand alone in case of need. How, then, can between two and three millions of French-Canadians expect successfully to establish a nation on the banks of the St. Lawrence between the Ottawa River and the sea? To whom will they turn for aid in time of need? Obviously. to the South. And how long will they remain French under those conditions? How long will they retain their language rights and their school privileges? A moment’s devotion to study of the French-Canadian in New England should serve to answer these questions. Readers will forgive me if I seem to be venturing into the realm of the fantastic, remembering that the subject with which we are dealing has numerous fantastic qualities in its own right.

Business is Not Racial

TURNING to more personal phases of the Nationalist movement, what of the “Buy French-Canadian” slogan? The English-Canadians in Quebec have never manifested any anguish in the matter of trading with their French-Canadian neighbors. Certainly I have never heard any-

one quibble about the cigars or cigarettes of Montreal’s amiable Mr. Grothe, simply because the owner of the business happens to be of Canadien birth. I know no English housewives who refuse to visit department stores in Montreal’s east end because the names over their doors indicate FrenchCanadian proprietorship. Traders that we are, price and quality, plus liking for a particular product or its vendor—and definitely not racial questions—govern our individual purchases. What is more, I challenge even the most virulent Nationalist leader to persuade M’sieu Télésphore Trudeau, of Saint Grégoire des Monts to “Buy Canadien,” so long as he can save a penny by purchasing the goods of a manufacturer from Regina or despised Toronto, for even a Nationalist must have regard for his pocket. Nor have I ever heard of any forthright French-Canadian captain of industry refusing to turn an honest dollar by trafficking with Anglophiles. I can point to several corporations, FrenchCanadian in. nomenclature, in the City of Montreal, for instance, which have been sold by their French-speaking owners to English-speaking buyers. In what direction should racial hatred turn in such cases as these —toward the Englishmen who bought, or the Frenchmen who sold? Arguments of this sort simply do not make sense in a hard-boiled world.

Mr. Soucisse has raised the point that the young French-Canadian who seeks a future in the world of affairs, must almost invariably present himself to an EnglishCanadian captai») of industry or finance, when asking for a job. Jn the realm of money he must pay his addresses to Sir Charles Cordon of the Bank of Montreal, or to Mr. Wilson of the Royal Bank of Canada. If he desires to enter the electricity business it is to Sir Herbert Holt, or Sir Herbert’s Mr. Norris, that he must go. In tiie great pulp and paper industry, says the complaint, virtually all the gentlemen at the top are of English-Canadian, *or United States, antecedents. But Sir Charles and Mr. Wilson are not regional bankers. Their ramifications are continent-wide and Montreal, as a financial capital, merely happens to provide their institutions with headquarters. Furthermore, there are banking institutions of French-Canadian background and name; the Banque Canadienne Nationale, for example. The fervently denounced St. James Street is not without its French-Canadian “investment bankers,” nor the Montreal Stock Exchange without its French-Canadian members.

As to Sir Herbert Holt and the so-called power octopus, and as to the gentlemen of the pulp and paper industry, it should be pointed out that where these have secured river-development or timber-cutting rights there is nothing in the record, as revealed to date, to indicate that these rights were wrested from French-Canadian capitalists who had similar plans and the means to carry them through. Nor are these corporations without French-Canadian representation in direction, nor sans FrenchCanadian shareholders and employees, Are we, then, to presume that the province should have been held at a standstill until development programmes were submitted by members of the other race?

The question of “reform” is dealt with elsewhere in these paragraphs. If wrongs have been done in granting natural resource development rights, by all means let them be rectified. The English-Canadian is every bit as anxious for such reform as is the French-Canadian. He likes a public-choking “trustard” no better than his neighbor does. But there is a vast difference between this point of view and that which urges “reform” on purely racial lines. Capital is not governed by the language which its owners speak.

Development, Not Despoliation

THE SUGGESTION has been made that we should embark upon a career of “reforming” or even “liquidating” English-Canadian capitalists who, according to the copybook maxims of the extremists, have “despoiled the heritage” of the French-Canadian, The apostles of “reconquest” maintain that such projects as Beauhamois should be expropriated without a moment’s delay (the suggestion being made that the Government can simply exchange provincial securities for corporate securities and so acquire these assets “without cost”) on the grounds that they have been pilfered from the people. But Beauhamois was not taken away from French-Canadian bidders who wanted to develop its power. Neither were any of the other resources developed by EnglishCanadian capitalists within recent years, so far as the record shows. Are we, then, to penalize the Anglo-Canadian developer, simply because he thought of his plan first? This would seem to my simple mind like giving too much credit for secondguessing, If these capitalists secured their privileges by chicane or graft, by all means “reform” them, but not because they are alert, and certainly not because their mother tongue is English. The divergence between the extreme Nationalist viewpoint and that of the rest of us is this: The rest of us realize that these resources did not become assets until development took place; the super-Nationalists seem to think that the development of a resource constitutes theft, unless by their friends.

There is similar talk about the mines. But who found them? English-Canadian prospectors. Who financed their development? Canadians with money in their pockets, regardless of race. The fact that French-Canadian mine managers are as scarce as hen’s teeth in Northwestern Quebec’s gold fields has been bemoaned in print and on the hustings, but the fact remains that young French-Canadians apparently do not become mining engineers, and that the French-Canadian universities have never specialized in teaching these abstruse subjects, as have the great English-Canadian schools. The pith of the matter seems to be that a people who have applied themselves, in the past, to such professions as the law, medicine, statesmanship and the church—in all of which its members have shone, more so than the English in Quebec, man for man —are now being urged by Nationalist agitators to seize for themselves money-making commercial enterprises to which they have paid little, if any, attention in the past. The arguments of the agitators impress the English-Canadian in Quebec as being too full of holes to be taken seriously, however—which probably explains in some measure the apathy shown to the Nationalist movement during the recent election campaign.

Where Danger Exists

T TNFORTUNATELY such debates cannot be conducted on a basis of good will or common sense, because of the loyalties involved. The ultra-Nationalists have based all their argument on the race cry. The Francophobes in the other camp are beginning to reply in kind. The longer the miserable business continues, the more difficult will it become for men of good will to make their voices heard, the more difficult will it become to remain a man of good will. That is the danger in the situation.

As for myself, I can recall extremely heated thoughts concerning the potholes in the principal motor thoroughfare of Montreal’s English-speaking west end, allegedly unrepaired last spring because FrenchCanadian city fathers did not want roadmending operations to interfere with the impending Saint Jean Baptiste parade.

1 hear friends complaining about similar manifestations in country towns, when through highways have been dosed to permit local processions to amble through the streets. English-speaking residents touch the boiling point when French-speaking adversaries cause legal documents to he served on them in French and point out, when criticized, that French is one of the two legal languages hereabouts and that the recipient can take documents in French and like them. That is certainly not the aim of our bilingualism. That, in fact, is the essence of narrow uni lingualism and a churlish business. French-Canadians may feel hurt because they are not represented in the Dominion Civil Service in accordance with their percentage of the popula-

tion, but the members of the Englishspeaking minority in Quebec have no kinder thoughts concerning the provincial service, a condition unlikely to be improved under our new-broom Prime Minister.

Moderation Needed

HTHIS IS a partial list of minor irritants, -*• In days gone by it was our custom to shrug off such petty matters, but rampant Nationalism is beginning to bring the petty grievances of our neighborliness to the fore, with results which are not pleasant to contemplate.

As for myself—and if I quote myself it is because I believe that my own attitude toward the French-Canadian people is that of the average member of the Englishspeaking minority in Quebec—I despise any man who raises the race cry in this province. Equally do I despise the man outside Quebec who raises similar cries against the French in Canada. The fact remains that elements are at work in my province—and it is my province every bit as much as it is that of any Nationalist — which seek to tear down the structure of its life, and life here in the past has been pleasant, because it has been based on tolerance as a necessity.

The task which faces the English-Canadian in Quebec, therefore, is to work with the moderates in the other race (and the moderates still appear to be in a majority) to maintain, or restore, the even tenor of our ways. Such points of the FrenchCanadian bill of rights as may be out of kilter must be restored, as quickly as may be possible. The extremists—who come altogether too close to the borderline of Fascism for comfort—must be written out of our regional life, by the simple process of establishing the error of their ways, a matter of time and education. The EnglishCanadian elsewhere will be well advised, if he is interested in peace and national unity, to assist in the task which lies ahead, by refraining from the making of incendiary statements in behalf of Quebec’s minority, and by according to the minority in his own section the fair play which is theirs by right and under the Confederation pact. By these means it is possible that we may even achieve national union, not in the narrow provincial sense but in that of a united Canada. It looks like a long pull, because the agitators have a running start.