The third of a series of articles presenting a French-Canadian’s interpretation of the reform movement in Quebec

VICTOR C. SOUCISSE August 1 1936


The third of a series of articles presenting a French-Canadian’s interpretation of the reform movement in Quebec

VICTOR C. SOUCISSE August 1 1936



The third of a series of articles presenting a French-Canadian’s interpretation of the reform movement in Quebec

IN THE two previous articles on the spread of Nationalism in Quebec, it was noted that the movement has both political and economic aspects. Its political significance was apparent in the overthrow of the Taschereau Government. The Buy-at-Home movement is one of the results of the economic revolt. The Jpdio, the Nationalist press, lectures, speeches, pamphlets arid fulllength books have contributed to the spreading onnformation on the position of the F>ench-Canadjjtó?m industry and finance.

One of the most exhaustive surveys íe situation of the French-Canadian in the larger s is “La Mesure. de Notre Taille” (The measure of ature), a book of 250 pages written by Victor It has had an extensive sale, and is widely re quoted in Quebec, Mr. Barbeau looks for le¿§ snip from the Church^ against “the concentration, e anonymity and the irresponsibility of capital is for us as well as for

other races an agent of n oraf and social dissolution.” His book surveys more than 1x00 large concerns operating in Canada. Its purpose isr to reveal the lack of FrenchCanadian representa tioirin ownership and management.

More than sixty industries are analyzed. Let us take restaurants, foi^Hrance. Mr. Barbeau lists ten chains which operatjl fifty-one restaurants in Montreal. It is noted that thertr is not a single French-Canadian director in any one of tne ten chains.

In mining, to which twenty-five pages are devoted, out of thirty-one mines which Mr. Barbeau lists as the most important in Canada, twelve are owned by English-speaking Canadians and the remaining nineteen by Americans. Not one of these great mines is owned by French-Canadians and all the technicians are English-speaking, many of them Americans. In 497 mining companies listed, Mr. Barbeau was able to find only seven French-Canadian engineers, or “ten times less than the number of American engineers.” “We cannot reproach,” comments Mr. Barbeau, “these people because of their nationality, any more than we can blame the director of L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal for being a Frenchman, not a Canadien . . . This listing blames no one. Then what is its purpose? To open our eyes, and ask ourselves why in this industry and its subsidiaries the French-Canadian makes such a poor showing.”

“Lackeys of High Finance”

ONE REASON for the lack of French-Canadian technicians and for the lack of French-Canadian success in mining may be indicated by the following dispatch from Ottawa to the Montreal Star of May 28 last:

“French-Canadian universities place little emphasis on geological or mining engineering courses, with the result that it is difficult to secure from them students qualified in these branches of learning,” Dr. Charles Camsell, Deputy Minister of Mines, stated in an answer tabled in the House of Commons yesterday. The answer was tabled by Hon. T. A. Crerar. Minister of Mines, in response to a series of questions by C. E. Ferland (Lib.. Joliette). Mr. Ferland asked if the Government had organized a number of geological surveys under the Mines Department last year; how many students were engaged therein; and how many of such students were French-Canadians.

He was informed that 546 students were employed, of which twenty-five were French-Canadians.”

The sect ion, on the Electrical and Tower groups contains

survey of tinny-one companies. The iSiR and description of foui teen of these is followed by the signifirtfrt^Wm^' néant “nothbigness,” meaning no French-Canadian representationron the Board of Directors. In eight of the companies, which include the Shawinigan Water and Power,ithe Montreal Light Heat and Power, the Power Corix>ratiF>n of Canada, there are twenty-one directorships held by French-Canadians, out of eighty-five. In nine other ^Jies, thirteen directorships are held by FrenchHans, but the total number of seats is not given, iuming that there was an average of ten directors in (of the thirty-one companies surveyed, it would mean a 1 of 310 directorships out of which the French-Canadian hlld thirty-three. But the fact that out of these thirty-three |Rrectorships, eight, or a quarter, are held by one man— Air. S. Godin, who, though wealthy in his own right, is believed by many French-Canadians to be Sir Herbert Holt’s financial representative-diminishes the proportion of French-Canadian representation just that much. Mr. Godin is also vice-president of the Montreal Light Heat and Power Company.

Mr. Barbeau decries “the lackeys of high finance, the ‘fiat feet’ in Parliament . . . they have changed the blood of soldiers, of dare-devils, of heroes that coursed in our veins, into wish-wash. No, certainly no, our ancestors weren’t business men—shopkeepers . . . Our real ancestors must be found among those who worked the land, invaded the forest, ceaselessly pushed back the limits of the unknown . . . They faced menace wherever it came from, dominated men and nature, and died when it had to be.

“They had nothing ! Well, well ! They had that which no defeat, no treaty, no persecution took from them: their French spirit. They had their idiom, their religion, their faults, their qualities. They were not ciphers; they were conquerors, not conquered; leaders, not followers. What have we done with this heritage? How is it that we have only kept the souvenir of their worth? That we have learnt so soon to sign pacts, to bow and to swallow our tongue? Silly to invoke the fortunes of war . . . We have been enslaved by the merchants and the industrialists. These are our conquerors. Wherever they have installed themselves to turn nature into money, we have followed behind . . . We have been seduced by their sense of the practical, and in the hope that we might one day command ourselves we have become accustomed to serving, until the economic crisis has shown us that a state of servitude might feed a

man but never a people.....a whole race.”

Strong stuff, but this is the kind of criticism which the revolt in Quebec is producing.

Other voices in Quebec speak in similar tones.

Georges Pelletier, managing director of Le Devoir, in its issue of June 27, following a bitter and ironical editorial on the textile situation, warns that:

“It is more than time to reform the methods of industrial capitalism here. Let us reform sanely for the profit of the people, the man who works, without forgetting the just profit owing the capital legitimately engaged; if not, when the reform comes, it will come from the wrong end and millions fairly earned will vanish.

“It has been seen in other lands. Must it come to pass here? Let us forestall this. It is already late.”

One of the Bain reasons for the weakness of the FrenchCanadian in industry is that for years he had been taught by his notaries, who might be termed the investment hankers of French Canada, to invest his money in nothing but mortgages, bouds and giltedged securities. FrenchCanadians own the great bulk of houses and apartments in Montreal, but are not individual home owners; they rent from French-Canad an estates and notaries who own block after block of houses and apartments. French-Canadian money was hnrd-eirned and it had to be safe. The FrenchCanadian’s capital was his accumulated thrift; he had no outside «»urces to draw from. The advice against investing in stocks was sincere but it was no great help in the development of industry.

There have been, of course, exceptions. The tramways in Montreal were at one time owned by French-Canadian capital, but most, of the development in industry by FYench-Canadians has been in family-owned affairs which, in most cases when the time came, were sold to outsiders.

There is another factor in the situation. When common stocks were paying huge dividends and pyramiding in value just before the collapse of the "golden era,” some of the brokers decided it was time that the French-Canadian should be let in on this goodjthing and several issues were put over, mostly of French-Canadian concerns which were as good as defunct already.

Large sums were lost in Inese financial adventures, and the faith of the French-Canadian investor in his own industries received a shock from which he is still quivering.

I .ess than a quart errcentury ago there were several aggressive French-Canadian concerns which dominated their markets in biscuits, in soap, in shoes, in wholesale groceries, but, unprepared for change, they have gone the way of all things that insist on remaining static and

French-Canadians ovenook Ute fact in assessing their lossetthat many English-speaking businesses have also been absorbed by the Americai^fiant .who invented mass production, “go-get-’em” selling an®milliQn-dollar advertising appropriations.

Education a Factor

"p DUC ATI ON IS. of course, another factor in thc^Qa•*~4 tion. Tex» much recognition cannot be given to the educational work carried on by the clergy and other Catholic institutions in the past. It is a historical fact that, without the clergy, education would have been sadly neglected if not entirely lacking.

There is a feeling in the province, however, and it is shared by prominent members of the clergy, that in a materialistic age more attention should be given by those responsible for education to the training of FYench-Canadians in practical business methods and to the teaching of modern science. It has been almost a tradition that the most promising young men, those belonging to the best families, should be assigned to the professions. These men are among the leaders in their professions—law, dentistry, medicine—and most of French Canada’s political leaders have come from this professional class.

What French Canada needs is more business leaders attuned to the modern tempo. The average young FrenchCanadian in business today is perhaps not assertive enough in his dealings with other races. I have always argued that the French-Canadian does not play enough personalcontact gamesgames that engender teamwork, aggressiveness, self-respect and a sense of fair play; games such as football which prepare one for the rough-and-tumble of everyday life.

Where is the French-Canadian’s future in business? Should he keep within a reservation of his own, or should he attempt to do business or get into a business that operates from “sea to sea?”

Mr. Duplessis says, “We are part and parcel of Canada, and in the Dominion we have, economically, socially and politically, our best chance for happiness and prosperity.”

The bulk of French-Canadians subscribe to this senti ment, but lately some have been asking: “How am I going to get the chance?” A French name, be it that of a firm or an individual, is much more of a handicap in Canada than it is in the United States. This is perhaps one of the reasons why so few of the three million French-Canadians and French-Canadian descendants in the United States ever want to come back. They say that all they have to do south of the line is “deliver the goods” and argue that this is not the case in their native country.

This may seem like a harsh statement, but it is nevertheless true. Why must a French-Canadian entering the services of a great many of the larger enterprises in his province, feel that he can never aspire to anything better than to be assistant to this or that; that as for a management job or something as high as a vice-presidency, Jean Baptiste ought to have some sense and know his place !

Mr. Barbeau in his work notes that a certain Mr. Brosseau is president of a big truck-making corporation and enquires: “Is there something in the American atmosphere which makes the French-Canadian a better man ?” It is not the atmosphere which is different, but the opportunity. The French-Canadian’s business training in Quebec may not be as well adapted to success in big business as it might be, but 1 have known able American-trained FrenchCanadians, perfect in their English, who were side-tracked when they tried to press forward in Canada.

Continued on page 34

Continued from page 16

The head of one of the largest business schools in Montreal told me recently that it was harder to place French-Canadians in business than graduates of the other races who attend these schools. Note the order of preference. The Scots come first, followed by the Irish Protestants, then the Irish Catholics, and then a toss-up between the P'.nglishman and the French-Canadian. The French-Canadian has a battle on his hands right from the start, even in his own home town. Whether this is justified or not is another matter, but it still leaves him with a battle on his bands. I have noted in a previous article that this situation is slowly improving in Montreal. This may be the result of the nationalist movement, but it is no doubt also good business policy, because the P'rench-Canadian is as a rule a most satisfactory employee and reacts favorably to recognition and promotion.

Now a very peculiar angle to the situation is that one of the French-Canadian’s worst obstacles in the path of his advancement is very often his own compatriot who has already attained eminence in the world of affairs and big business.

When the “successful” French-Canadian wants a man for an important executive task, he is very prone to look among the English-speaking candidates. I have known cases where the English-speaking directors of a concern have sought a French-Canadian for a managerial appointment, and it was his P'rench-speaking compatriots who held thumbs down. It is hard to expect the Anglo-Saxon to respect the ability of the P'rench-Canadian when the latter is denied by his own people.

Youth in Quebec is dissatisfied, just as it is throughout the continent, and is out to fight for itself. It is looking for leadership. Until recently it thought it had found it. It is now uncertain. If the young men in P'rench Canada feel that they are once more being betrayed, there is no saying what type of popular leader may seize the opportunity. Therein lies the menace of the present situation.

A Nationalist Block at Ottawa?

NOW WHAT are the probable effects of the Nationalist movement on Dominion politics?

Before the break between Duplessis and Gouin—the next step “On to Ottawa” was being anticipated -Arthur P lénault in L' Unité was preaching:

“Sixty Nationalist deputies at Ottawa (and this will be possible with a Nationalist Government at Quebec). They will not be tempted as were the Fiourassists in 1911, and will form a centre party. They will exercise a far greater influence in the Dominion than the P'rench-Canadians do now, where they only act as shock absorbers ...”

However, another issue may move a solid Nationalistic group into the Dominion arena. Orner Héroux in Le Devoir states that:

“The future, if the Ontario Conservatives make the mistake of solidifying their position with the extremists of their province, can reserve surprises even in the Federal domain. Not very long ago an observer said: ‘In Quebec we are rapidly moving toward the organization of a National Party. Between the different elements which will group themselves therein, the only divergence is in the manner of future collaboration . . . ’ Forces exist and are asserting themselves here, and no one can predict what they will mean for tomorrow. One thing is certain, a new atmosphere permeates the province

With the Taschereau Government out of the way, there is a far better chance of co-operation with other provinces in effecting reforms in regard to wages and the limiting of hours of work.

On the question of a European war, the bulk of P'rench-Canadians join a great many of their English-speaking fellowCanadians in the opinion that Plurope should be left to settle its own quarrels. P'rench-Canadians will defend any part of Canadian territory, and the situation has not changed since I Ienri Bourassa stated in an address before some 14,000 of his compatriots that “as British subjects they would defend the coast of Nova Scotia against any invader, even if the aggressor should be France herself.”

In 1776 the Church and the seigneurs remained staunch supporters of the British connection in spite of the representations made by a notable commission, headed by Fkmjamin Franklin. This commission was appointed by the Continental Congress and had for its mission the bringing in of French Canada as the Fourteenth Colony in the new Republic.

In the war of 1812-13 with the United States it is generally conceded that the battle of Chateauguay was one of the decisive battles of the war and that it was practically fought and won by P'renchCanadians against American odds of four to one.”

Canada was already strong in those days, because the two races had learned to respect each other and absolute co-operation was the watchword.

In many parts of the Dominion it is customary to decry the part played by French Canada in the late war. This attitude may not be justified by the facts. The best methods were not adopted to assure enthusiastic co-operation. An abler pen than mine may some day present the French-Canadian side. Final judgment should be reserved until such time.

One sure thing is that thousands of French-Canadian homes mourn sons and fathers. Just the other day the Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux was reported as having said: “Few people realize that 40.000

French-Canadians enlisted in the Great War.”

The French-Canadian is one of the easiest men in the world to get on with. He wants only an equal opportunity and recognition of his rights in any part of Canada. In the words of the late Archbishop Langevin of Manitoba: “We recognize no one’s right to stop a FrenchCanadian at the frontiers of Quebec and say to him, ‘Out of here, you are not “At Home” now.’ We are ‘At Home’ anywhere in Canada . . . Persecution discourages races without vigor and men without conviction, just as the storm lays low trees without roots, but it provokes and reanimates the courage of valiant hearts. To those who want to take that which belongs to us, we must reply with a pride that is all French and a determination that is all British, ‘What we have, we hold.’ ”

The French-Canadian wants nothing better than to be a Canadian. As a matter of fact, that is his proudest titleCanadien. In his own mind he is the original Canadian.

In Confederation he went into a partnership, a fifty-fifty partnership, and he backs this point with Sir John A. Macdonald’s own words. He asserts that if you merge your assets with those of others, you are a partner in the whole of the new company and not only in that which you already had. It does sound reasonable.

He rushes into print if he is not invited to the Youth’s Congress, for instance.

He sometimes wonders why he is not invited to the “National” Exhibition in Toronto. That a third of Canada isn’t specifically recognized is all the more noticeable when there is an “American Day.”

He objects strenuously to being overlooked in the selection for the hockey team in the Olympic games.

At the annual meeting of the Quebec Amateur Hockey Association held on April 25 last, a resolution was passed condemning the Olympic committee for not picking a single French-Canadian on its hockey team—the motion was proposed by Dr. J. A. Clement and seconded by Mr. Dallas Grant. The Montreal Gazelle of the next day reports Dr. Clement as follows:

“I think myself and feel it very deep in my heart that it was an insult to the French-Canadians. We had a man in Montreal who was known to be the best defense player in the Province of Quebec (Paul Arcand) and yet, while his name was on the list, he was not chosen. They could go to Ottawa and get the coach naturalized to go with the team, and they could take over a man who never played a game because he was not registered—I do not want to raise the race cry, but I think the French-Canadians should have been represented on the team and I make a motion of protest.”

Tolerance Needed

TRIFLES? Yes, of course, but straws which show how the wind is blowing. Some say that the minority should look after itself. It is the majority which has the largest responsibility. It should avoid sins of omission, unless they are to be charged as sins of commission. There is no race easier to get on with than the FrenchCanadian. In essence it says: “Let us

alone; let us do as we have been guaranteed; let us do that which we consider fair, and you can do the same. We do not ask what you do in your own schools, in your churches, in your daily life: grant us the same liberty. We are only too anxious to do our share, but we expect to do so as equals.”

Happily, times are changing. The granite-like fortress, the stern and haughty opposition is being manned by leaders who are moving with the times, men who believe that hinged gates too long barred were also meant to be opened.

Representative of many expressions of understanding, 1 quote Arthur B. Wood, president of the Sun Life Assurance Company:

“Undoubtedly the attitude of FrenchCanadians in regard to National problems and to their particular problems is a matter deserving of very careful consideration. It is desirable, in the interest of national unity, that the English-speaking population should be made conversant with the problems and with the outlook of French Canada.”

I have endeavored in this article and the two preceding it, to present as dispassionately as possible a picture of the mentality of the French-Canadian on social, economic and political matters. It is not expected that these articles will receive universal assent. As a matter of fact, some outspoken criticism has come from FrenchCanadians. There are extremists in both camps.

Frankness has been my guiding star. If we are to build up, north of the American border, a united people, the same spirit of tolerance and recognition of minority rights and claims, which has been resjxmsible more than any other factor for the cohesion of the British Empire, will have to be cultivated in Canada. There is an old saying, “He that is convinced against his will is of his own opinion still.” Repression, or any other attitude toward what the French-Canadian considers his rights and privileges will but intensify resentment and may lead to prolonged and unsatisfactory action on the part of the more assertive elements of the French-speaking population.

Editor’s Note: This is the concluding article of the series by Mr. Soucisse.