The Past Quarter on Century

Mazo de la Roche March 15 1936

The Past Quarter on Century

Mazo de la Roche March 15 1936

The Past Quarter on Century

Mazo de la Roche


grown II i», says Dflaxo lie la Itoclie, author ol*

I lie “•faina” series

IN MY MIND there is no doubt that the most significant development in Canada in the past twenty-five years is the development of her national consciousness. With the defeat of the Laurier Government in 1911

on the issue of reciprocity with the United States she showed her fear of foreign domination, her will to develop in her own way. Whether she has been able entirely to do so is a question.

There was a time when Canadians were in a peculiarly self-conscious state, especially in their attitude toward Americans. They felt superior to Americans because they were a part of the great British Empire, and at the same time they felt inferior because Canada was weak and unimportant as compared to the United States. They were used to being patronized by both England and America. They were in the habit of imitating Americans, even while they resented their air of superiority. How many young Canadians returned to Canada after a visit to the United States, flaunting an American accent, pitying the people at home as “behind the times,” as lacking in “push.” If one of them had the good fortune to go to England for part of his education, he returned to Canada even more supercilious.

Canadian authors took care to place the scenes of their books so indefinitely that they might easily be taken for American. That is, unless the scene was French-Canadian or Wild Western. Canada could be quaint or it could be wild and woolly, but it could not be ordinarily civilized or cultivated. In fiction they were acceptable as peasants, speaking broken English, or Westerners herding cattle, or even as Presbyterian ministers in the wilds of a mining town, but, indulging in intelligent conversation at a dinner party or making scientific research in a laboratory, never!

The American eagle had a large way of taking Canadian celebrities under its wing. I have seen, in their scientific journals, references to Sir William Osler as a notable American.

National consciousness was strongly accelerated by the Great War. Whatever disillusions have come in the train of peace, the sending of troops to France in the first days of the war, the fine courage of those troops, gave Canada a new place in the eyes of the world, a new pride in herself. Her troops were veterans of three years fighting when America joined the Allies. Thus an old and harmful inferiority complex was laid low. Canada came of age and took her place among the nations.

I have felt pride in the way in which Canada has met the years of depression, especially in the stability of her banks, based on the banking system of England. They held the confidence of their clients while, in America, bank failures created a sense of instability amounting to panic.

When the depression is overand surely it shows signs of lightening—Canada will emerge from it stronger and of more importance in the world than ever before. She is steadily moving in that direction. I notice that more space is being given in her newspapers to world affairs and less to crime in Chicago and scandals in Hollywood.

Some months ago the editor of a United States magazine

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The Past Quarter Century

Continued, from page 36

By Mazo de la Roche

asked me to write him a Christmas Wish for the coming year. I wished that America and England, united by Canada, the only country that understands them both, might draw closer together than ever. On the firmness of this link the peace of the world may, in a great degree, depend.

This same nationalistic spirit is shown in the impatient desire for a truly Canadian

expression in the creative arts. The spirit is there, the expression of that spirit will surely develop but it cannot be forced by restive proddings or be generated by provincial arrogance. Let us look at our achievements from a detached, a worldwide point of view, not from the point of view of the small town. Give the artists another quarter-century—even a century !