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Title: Bilingualism - Address delivered before the Quebec Canadian Club, at - Quebec, Tuesday, March 28th, 1916
Author: Belcourt, N. A. (Napoléon-Antoine), 1860-1932
Language: English
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TUESDAY, MARCH 28th, 1916


The Honorable N. A. BELCOURT, K.C., P.C.









TUESDAY, MARCH 28th, 1916


The Honorable N. A. BELCOURT, K.C., P.C.

Gentlemen of the Canadian Club:--Your president has asked me to address
you this afternoon in the English language. It is with great pleasure
that I received this invitation and that I avail myself of the privilege
of speaking to you in that language with regard to the very troublesome,
somewhat distorted, and certainly much misrepresented school question in
your sister province. First of all, I wish to assure you that I shall
not make a speech. I desire, in as simple and lucid English as I can
command, to endeavor to explain to you the difficulties of that school
question, addressing myself preferably to your intelligence, rather than
to your hearts.

I want, if I can, to enlighten you as much as possible with regard to
this school trouble, a trouble which unfortunately is not a new one for
us in Ontario, which we have had many times in the past, and which I am
none too sure we shall not have again in the future. This time, as you
know, it has broken out over the notorious regulation No. 17. That has
been the center of the storm, and until the question it has raised is
solved it must, I am afraid, continue to be a storm center. I want to
tell you what is the real meaning, what is the object and what will be
the effect of this regulation. I am going to give you concrete evidence
of everything that I propose to tell you.

Let me tell you also that I will do so with the greatest care and
moderation, and, whilst I feel strongly, as you may imagine, upon this
question, I am going to suppress my own feelings and make a calm and
dispassionate analysis of the question. I will leave it to your
intelligence and to your own sympathy to decide what course of action
each one of you individually may feel called upon to follow.

Regulation No. 17 has been designed, enacted and enforced with no other
object than the gradual proscription of the French language in the
primary schools of the Province of Ontario. I say there is no question
about that, and if anyone of you will take the trouble to follow me
closely, and afterwards, if any doubts remain about the matter, and you
will take up the regulation and study it carefully, I am sure you will
agree with me.

The regulation treats of the use of French in the primary classes in
Ontario in two ways: First, as a means of instruction or communication;
and, second, as a subject of study.

Now, as a means of instruction, that is, as a medium of communication
between the teacher and the pupil, the use of that language in all
schools, in all classes, at all stages, and on every subject is limited
to where, in the opinion of the Chief Inspector of the Province, IT IS
NECESSARY. In other words, as a medium between the teacher and the
pupil, the French language cannot be used with French-speaking children
to impart to them any information on any subject whatsoever, unless the
Chief Inspector has previously decided that in the case of each
particular child the use of the French language is absolutely necessary
because the child does not understand enough English to receive
instruction in that language. I say without hesitation that if anyone of
you will read regulation No. 17 you will come to no other conclusion
than that.

And you can imagine how impracticable and impossible it would be for the
Chief Inspector, with all his other duties, to examine each individual
child in the hundreds of schools in the Province of Ontario to ascertain
if such child understands the English language well enough to receive
instruction in English.

Now, as a subject of study. As a subject of study there is a distinction
to be made between the schools which were in existence prior to the
enactment of the regulation, and the schools subsequently established.
That is, prior to the month of June, 1912, the use of the French
language as a subject of study was confined to begin with to the
elementary subjects of reading, composition and grammar. In the schools
then in existence, subject to the approval again of the Chief Inspector,
these subjects may be taught to the French Canadian children whose
parents demand that they shall be taught those subjects. The maximum
time fixed is one hour, but the Chief Inspector may increase that by
special order given by himself. But in all cases, let me repeat, these
subjects cannot be taught for one hour or one minute to any
French-speaking child in any class, in any school in Ontario, unless the
Chief Inspector has pronounced upon each individual case. I said a
moment ago that the time is limited to one hour, but he may make one
minute if chooses. With reference to the use of the French language,
whether as a means of instruction and communication, or as a subject of
study, the decision of the Chief Inspector is in every case final and
conclusive. There is no appeal.

I told you a moment ago that I would endeavor to give you concrete
evidence of what I say.

The regulation, as I have said, was promulgated in the year
1912. There were then hundreds and hundreds of separate schools
in Ontario--corresponding to your dissentient schools in this
province--where French had been a subject of study, where French had
been used as a means of communication. And the permission to use French
as a subject of study, as I have already explained, is confined to these
schools. In all schools established after the month of June, 1912, the
French language is banished at once, completely and forever; and I
propose to prove it to you in a very conclusive way.

In the Green Valley case, in the county of Glengary, was a case brought
by Scotch-Catholic rate-payers against the Roman Catholic school
trustees because during one hour of the day the teacher, who was a
French-Canadian, taught in French for fifty minutes reading, grammar and
composition, and gave ten minutes to catechism in French. An action was
taken for an injunction, and the court granted the injunction. It was
proved in the case that about seventy-five per cent of the rate-payers
and seventy-five per cent of the pupils were French-Canadians. The
injunction was granted and when the trustees continued to employ this
system they were called up before the judge on a charge of contempt of
court, with an application to commit them to imprisonment. The judge
ordered that each of them should pay a fine of five hundred dollars, not
because they had taught French reading, grammar and composition for
fifty minutes each day, but because for ten minutes of each day
catechism had been taught in French to the French-Canadian pupils. Now,
Catechism is something that is always taught in a Catholic separate
school. That is the very principle--that is the reason why separate
schools were established by law. So you will see the extent to which
French is prohibited in Ontario under this regulation.

Now, with reference to the use of the French language as a subject of
study in the schools since 1912 we have had several complete and
authoritative demonstrations of the meaning of the regulation. In the
City of Windsor there were in 1912 three Roman Catholic Separate
Schools, namely, the "Sacred Heart," with 45 per cent, "St. Francois,"
with 65 per cent, and "St. Edmond," with 85 per cent of French speaking
Catholic pupils. Prior to 1912 French was a subject of study in the
Sacred Heart school only. French has continued since 1912 to be a
subject of study in that school. Prior to 1912 there was no French
taught in St. Francois and St. Edmond School; since 1912 the trustees of
these two schools have applied to the Department, for permission to
teach French in these two schools for one-half hour in one of them and
for one hour in the other. The following letter from the Department
peremptorily denies them the right to have even one minute of French in
these two schools:

     Catholic Separate School Board.

     Windsor, Ontario.

     "The Minister of Public Instruction requests me to
     acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 8th, and to
     say in answer that he has studied the subject carefully and
     finds that the regulations of the Department of Education
     do not allow French to be taught as a subject of study in
     any of the separate schools of the city of Windsor, with
     the exception of the Sacred Heart School. Consequently,
     with a reasonable delay, you will make such changes in the
     organization of your school as may be necessary under this

This letter was signed by Mr. Colquhoun, Deputy Minister of Education in
Ontario, and is dated October 31st, 1914. Now, the other day the acting
minister of the department, the Hon. Mr. Ferguson, published a long
statement covering nearly two pages of newspaper, explaining this
matter. With regard to this particular case, concerning the schools in
the city of Windsor, his answer was, I respectfully submit, unworthy of
himself, unworthy of the province, and especially unworthy of the great
subject of education. His answer was that the children of the
French-Canadian parents at Windsor had not been refused anything to
which they were entitled under regulation 17. That was his answer,
begging the whole question.

May I now give you a very independent and impartial opinion as to the
effect and nature of this regulation? Within a year after it was
promulgated and sought to be enforced, the six inspectors appointed by
the Government, for the very purpose of enforcing the regulation, were
called to Toronto by the Head of the Department of Education, to make a
report of their findings after the regulation had been in force about a
year. The six inspectors were three English-speaking and three
French-speaking inspectors. They met in Toronto, and, after comparing
notes, made a unanimous report to the Minister of Education, and please
remember that this report and the investigation from which it arose were
both made at the request of the Minister of Education. The report was
unanimous. I shall not quote it all, but only a few lines:

    "The inspectors agree that the above regulation (17) has not
    been effective, for the following reasons:



That is not my statement, remember, gentlemen, but the unanimous
statement of three English inspectors and three French inspectors
charged with the duty of enforcing this regulation.

Naturally the French-Canadians of Ontario, of whom there are 250,000,
who have in the past enjoyed the right of teaching their language to
their own children, promptly and strongly resented all this. But they
have not been the aggressive and turbulent agitators which they have
been represented to be. On the contrary, they took the constitutional
means of going to the Department about the matter. Memorials,
representations and calm and dignified protests were made. Delegations
were sent to Toronto. On one occasion the chairman of the Ottawa
separate school board went to Toronto as the representative of most of
the different separate school boards throughout the province. Nothing
came of it. Sir James Whitney told them that he was not going to
establish RACIAL SCHOOLS in the Province of Ontario, whatever the
meaning of that may be. He sought to make them feel that he looked upon
the use of French in the Ontario schools as introducing racial schools.

Gentlemen, I have to touch on these points very briefly because I know
your time is precious, and I do not want to trespass upon your
indulgence. I might say that such litigation followed. However I do not
propose to go into that as I do not know that much profit could be
derived from it in the time which you have kindly allowed me.

Then this statute was passed last year, of which we are now asking the
disallowance, and I am going to speak of that briefly. I am sure you
have heard something of the petitions which have been circulated, not
only in the Province of Ontario, but also in Quebec, calling upon the
Dominion Government to disallow this statute passed in 1915. The statute
has two effects, the validating of regulation 17, which in the meantime
was being tried in the courts, and the purpose of establishing the
Ottawa Separate School Commission, of which I have no doubt you have
also heard.

The act takes all the powers from the Roman Catholic Separate School
Trustees elected by the Roman Catholic rate-payers and confers them upon
the Commission. This Commission--which I shall not qualify, but which I
shall describe--was composed of three gentlemen, Mr. Denis Murphy, Mr.
D'Arcy McGee, and Mr. Charbonneau. The first two being Irish Catholics,
and the other a French-Canadian Catholic.

The Roman Catholic population of Ottawa is composed of nearly 50,000
people, of whom about 33,000 are French-Canadians and about 17,000 are
Irish Catholics. As I said, the Government appointed two Irish Catholics
and made one of them chairman, the other vice-chairman, and Mr.
Charbonneau simply a member. This commission was vested with all the
powers which the board of elected trustees had the statutory right and
the duty to administer. You can imagine, gentlemen, how efficiently
these schools could be conducted under such conditions and with such a
commission. You can imagine the provocation it was to the
French-Canadian population of Ottawa. I should add that one of the
commissioners--they are all respectable men--but one was in the
unfortunate position of being a license holder under the Government
which appointed him. Mr. Charbonneau, or the firm to which he belonged,
held a license for the sale of intoxicating liquors. He held his license
from the Government appointing him, and this was the man who was going
to administer these schools in the capital of Canada. You can imagine
the resentment of the people and how difficult--how impossible--it was
for such a commission to administer in a proper way the schools confided
to their care. The result was confusion worse confounded, and
considerable agitation, with the result that to-day there are nearly
5,000 children belonging to the English-French schools of Ottawa who are
deprived of an education, and have been so deprived for two months.
Their teachers have not been paid some of them for five, ten, fifteen
and twenty months. The taxes belonging to the French-Canadian supporters
of these schools have been used for the payment of the teachers in the
schools attended by the Irish Catholics, schools which have not in any
way, at any time, under any conditions being interfered with by the
French-Canadian people of Ottawa.

Another result of regulation No. 17 is--I doubt if there is anyone in
this room who will really believe me, but I assure you that it is
true--let me tell you, gentlemen, that to-day the Germans in the
Province of Ontario have and are enjoying, with the consent and
participation of the Department, rights that are absolutely denied to
the French-Canadian population. I knew you would say "shame." I know no
intelligent person will believe this at first, but I pledge you my word
that that is the case. I am going to read you regulation 15 so that I
shall not be misunderstood. Regulation 15 says: "15. In school sections
where the French or German language prevails, the trustees may, in
addition to the course of study prescribed for public schools, require
instruction to be given in reading, grammar and composition to such
pupils as are directed by their parents or guardians to study either of
these languages, and in all such cases the authorized text books in
French or German shall be used."

Regulation 17 has abrogated this provision with respect to French in all
schools established after June, 1912, and with respect to German the
matter remains as it was under regulation 15.

Now, what is the case of the French Canadians of Ontario, on what do
they rely, on what do they base their claim that French should be used
in their schools? By the British North America Act it is provided that
the rights and privileges enjoyed by Roman Catholics in the Province of
Ontario at the time of Confederation, or by the Protestant minority in
the Province of Quebec, shall not be interfered with by the provinces.
Subject to these rights the provinces are given absolute power to
legislate on school matters. There is the whole question so far as the
legal and constitutional aspect is concerned. You have to see what in
1867 were the rights of the respective minorities in Ontario and Quebec.
So far as Quebec is concerned, it is not and never was subject of
misunderstanding. Everyone has agreed as to what the rights of the
Protestant minority were and are, and no one has interfered with them.
But it is different in Ontario. I have been there for thirty-two years,
and it has always been more or less a subject of discussion and dispute.
The rights of the Catholics in Ontario in 1867 were the rights given by
the act of 1863.

The first part of the act gave to the Roman Catholics the right to elect
trustees to conduct the Catholic separate schools, in other words the
right to fully administer the schools. Other provisions of the statute
dealt with the right to determine the kind and description of the
schools, in other words the right to have schools where both languages
would be taught, as it had been previous to 1863. Then there was the
right to appoint teachers and define their duties; also to appoint
inspectors or superintendents. Every one of these essential
things has been wiped out and taken away from the separate schools
supporters of the city of Ottawa, not in part, but wholly and
completely, and conferred upon Government appointed Commissioners.

Let us see what this means. The questions involved in this controversy
are in principle as essential and as important as any question that ever
came before the British people. Why, it goes back to Runnymede, when
this principle was settled forever--No taxation without representation.
The French-Canadians of Ottawa are compelled to pay taxes and they have
no representation. They are taxed and have to pay taxes for schools, and
yet they have nothing to say regarding the expenditure of their taxes or
the conduct of these schools.

What would you say if my good friend, Sir Lomer Gouin, undertook to say
to the city of Quebec: I don't like the members that you send to
represent you--they don't do things as I like to have them done, and
hereafter you are not going to select your representatives, but I am
going to name or appoint them for you; or if he arrogated to himself the
right to have your dissentient schools conducted and administered wholly
not by your elected trustees or Commissioners, but by certain persons
chosen by him. Gentlemen, I say in all solemnity that there is no
difference between that and the things that have been done in the
Province of Ontario. Am I not right in saying that this question should
be of the deepest concern to all lovers of British constitutional law
and constitutional history?

Now, as to the second point, the kind, number and description of

Prior to Confederation there were French schools--not English-French
schools, but exclusively French schools under the Department of Public
Instruction in the Province of Ontario. I use that term advisably,
because it was so called at that time, although it is now called the
Department of Education. Time and again it occurred, with the approval
of the educational authorities, that teachers who could not speak a word
of English, but only German or French, were employed in the schools of
Ontario. There were schools in the Province of Ontario before
Confederation where no English was taught, and that with the sanction of
the Department. In many parts of Ontario there were schools, many of
them, where there was only French, and there were many others where both
the English and the French languages were taught. They had French
teachers and French inspectors, and French text books. I am referring to
this in order that you can fix in your minds what were the conditions in
1867. In other words, what were the conditions which the Act of
Confederation, an Imperial Act, has made perpetual in Ontario, as well
as in Quebec.

We had these rights in 1867; in what way and when have we been deprived
of these rights--on what authority have they been taken away? Absolutely
none. There was only one authority that could deprive the Roman
Catholics French-Canadians of Ontario of their rights in that province,
or the Protestant minority of their rights in the Province of Quebec.
There is only one authority, not the Ontario Legislature, not the Quebec
Legislature, not the Dominion Parliament, but the Parliament of
Westminster. The Act of Confederation is an Imperial Act which no
Canadian Parliament or Legislature can in any way affect. The Imperial
Parliament has not dealt with the question. If I have made it clear to
you that there were rights which were enjoyed in 1867, since those
rights have not been touched by the only authority that could touch
them--have I not made out an absolute case that those are rights which
we had then and still have to-day, and ought to have now and in the

Section 133 of the British North America Act--and I refer to it because,
strangely enough, it has been quoted and relied on by both sides in this
controversy--section 133, you will remember, provides that either the
English or the French language may be used in the Parliament of Canada,
the Legislature of Quebec, and the Federal and Quebec provincial courts,
and it places these two languages on an equal footing in such
Parliament, Legislature and courts. It is argued by those opposed to us
that that is a restrictive provision, a limitative provision, on the
doctrine "inclusio unius fit exclusio alterius." I do not think so at
all. Here were new forums being created: The Parliament of Canada, the
Federal Courts, where it was absolutely necessary that the language to
be used should be determined without doubt--there should be no doubt
that in the Federal Parliament both languages should be official--no
doubt that is what was in the minds of the fathers of Confederation.

But, they say, why mention Quebec at all? Why did they say that English
could be used in the Legislature of Quebec and why not say that French
could be used in the Legislature of Ontario?

The answer to that is that the English language was safeguarded in the
Legislature of Quebec simply because our English friends were on that
occasion, as usual, a little more practical than we are. They wanted the
English language to be official in the Legislature of Quebec, and asked
to have it stated in the Act. That was a concession to the Protestant,
or rather to the English-speaking minority in the Province of Quebec.
Section 133 is not limitative. Some people are apt to look upon this
matter in a very strange way. We are told that we are not to claim any
rights for the French Language in Ontario, because there is no text of
law. I ask you, gentlemen, if you have ever seen anywhere a text of law
which says that the English language is the official language of the
British Empire? No, there is no such law, none anywhere, not at
Westminster, at Ottawa or at Toronto. Why? Simply because language is a
natural right--there are rights that we all enjoy which do not need the
sanction of law, the right to live, to breathe, the right of
property--these are rights which do not need the sanction of law, that
is, of any special text of law, but belong inherently to all individuals
and everyone is entitled to their enjoyment without any text of law.
These rights are the necessary attributes of individual freedom.

The rights of the minority in the Province of Quebec with reference to
their religious tenets and their language have no other and no better
foundation than the same rights of the French or Catholics in the
Province of Ontario. If we are deprived of the right to use the French
language in our schools in the Province of Ontario, and if that is
constitutionally sound, there is nothing to prevent the government of
the Province of Quebec from saying that in the English schools of the
Province of Quebec there shall be no word of English spoken. I should
think the contemplation of such a thing would make you shudder. It is
really inconceivable with anyone in Quebec.

I have tried to show you the conditions at Confederation. I said I would
give you authority for my statements, and I am going to give you the
authority of different and most competent people. First of all, I will
give you the authority of Sir Oliver Mowat. He had no doubt on this
matter, nor had Sir George Ross, and both of them said so in very clear
and unmistakeable language. As long as their authority lasted the use of
the French language in the Province of Ontario was not interfered with,
but was treated in a broad and sympathetic way. I will quote also from
Doctor Ryerson, who was the father of the Ontario school system, and who
for thirty-five years exercised undisputed sway over the schools of that
province. I will likewise cite Sir James Whitney.

Sir Oliver Mowat, in a speech made at Woodstock, on December 3rd. 1889,

    "French-Canadians cherish their own language lovingly; they
    wish their children to love it and be educated in it; but
    they know it will be for their interest to be familiar with
    English also, and to be educated in English, as well as
    French. Proscribe French, their mother tongue, and they will
    hate you and have nothing to do with your schools. Permit
    their own language to receive attention, and they are glad
    to have their children learn English also as soon and as
    fast as it can be imparted. Such was the view of the
    Commissioners as to the proper policy; it is the view of
    this Government; and it is the view of all intelligent men,
    except our political opponents. It was the view of Dr.
    Ryerson and his Council of Public Instruction, even to the
    extent of putting no pressure whatever on French or German
    schools, and of awaiting their own spontaneous action as to
    English and other matters.

    "Our opponents insist that the Government should insist on
    all instruction being given to the French children in the
    English language. No such regulation was suggested by the
    Commissioners, and none such has been made, because such a
    regulation would be absurd; and, instead, of serving the
    cause of education, would often prevent education
    altogether. How can you teach in a language which the
    children do not understand?"

Gentlemen, I want to quote also a letter of Dr. Ryerson, whose name I
have just mentioned, dating as far back as 1857, and this letter,
although it contains but four lines, contains the whole thesis upon
which this question rests. I invite your special attention to every word
of this letter, not only because of the man who wrote it, but on account
of the significance of the words he uses. It is as follows:

    "24th April, 1857.


    "I have the honour to state in reply to your letter of the
    OF THE COUNTRY, as well as the English, IT IS QUITE PROPER
    TAUGHT in their schools to children whose parents may desire
    them to learn both.

    "I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,

    "Your obedient servant,

    "(Sgd.) E. Ryerson."

I also stated that I would quote Sir James Whitney, and that is very
much more recent history. Within a few months of the promulgation of
regulation No. 17, in fact on the 25th of July, 1911, Sir James Whitney
caused this letter to be written:

    "25th July, 1911.

    "Reverend and Dear Sir:--

    "I am directed by the Prime Minister, Sir James Whitney, to
    acknowledge your letter of the 21st and to state that no
    change has been made in the school law or the department


    "(Signed) A. H. U. Colquhoun.

    "Deputy Minister of Education."

This letter was written to Reverend Father Chaine, of Arnprior, a town
not far from Ottawa.

I spoke to you a moment ago of the right to appoint trustees. I want
you, gentlemen, many of whom I have the honour of calling my friends,
and whom I see before me, my Protestant friends of Quebec, how would
you like it if the Roman Catholic School Committee in this province were
to arrogate to itself the right to appoint the teachers in your
dissentient schools, and to define their duties? How would you like it?
Would you think that was keeping faith with the British North America
Act? Would you think that was keeping faith with the Confederation
partnership? How would you like it if this same Committee, not only
would assume to appoint your teachers and your inspectors, and would
take good care also to appoint Catholic inspectors in your Protestant
schools--how would you like it? Will you not take that suggestion home
with you, gentlemen, and think it over? How would you like this
regulation No. 17 to be applied to the Province of Quebec?

Let me read the two or three most important sections of the regulation
and substitute the word "French" for the word "English" and vice versa
wherever they occur, and I want you to take that home also and think it
over. Let us read section 3 of the regulation No. 17:

     3. Subject in the case of each school to the direction and
     approval of the superintendent of Education (I use that
     term advisably as corresponding to the term used in
     Ontario) the following modifications shall also be made in
     the course of study in separate schools.


     (1) WHERE NECESSARY, in the case of English-speaking
     pupils, English may be used as the language of instruction
     and communication; but such use of English shall not be
     continued beyond Form 1 (that is the first two years the
     child goes to school) excepting that on the approval of the
     Superintendent of Education, it may also be used as the
     language of instruction and communication in the case of
     pupils beyond Form 1, who are unable to speak and
     understand the French language.

Now, gentlemen, will you seriously consider that? How would you like
that kind of thing, you the English-speaking people of the Province of
Quebec, if you could use your language in your schools, as a means of
instruction and communication in the first form, that is during the
first two years, only if and when the Superintendent of Education for
this Province, after examination of your children, might say it was
absolutely necessary to use English?

As a subject of study let us carry on the same process. I will read
further from regulation 17, making the same transposition:

     "English as a subject of study in separate (or dissentient)

     4. In schools where English--(remember, gentlemen, we are
     now in 1912)--has HITHERTO been a subject of study, the
     separate (or dissentient) school board may provide, under
     the following conditions, for instruction in English,
     reading, grammar and composition in Form 1 to 4, in
     addition to the subjects prescribed for the separate (or
     dissentient) schools.

     (1) Such instruction in English may be taken only by pupils
     whose parents or guardians direct that they shall do so,
     and may, notwithstanding section 3 above, be given in the
     English language.

     (2) Such instruction in English shall not interfere with
     the adequacy of the instruction in French, and the
     provision for such instruction in English in the time-table
     of the school shall be subject to the approval and
     direction of the Superintendent of Education, and shall not
     in any day EXCEED ONE HOUR in each class room, except where
     the time is increased upon the order of the superintendent.

Would that be agreeable to you, gentlemen, to have only one hour of
English in your school, and that confined to reading, composition and
grammar, and nothing else, and just one hour--and more than that if it
pleased the Superintendent of Education to say that you should have
English for one minute only each day, would you be satisfied with that?
That is Regulation No. 17 in all its simplicity!

Are you surprised, gentlemen, that the French-Canadians of Ontario have
strenuously protested and intend to continue to do so, and have asked
the support of the Province of Quebec under conditions of that kind? We
have sought the support of our French-Canadian friends in the Province,
and we have got it; but I for one am very much more anxious to have the
sympathy and the help of the English-speaking people of the Province of
Quebec. If I accepted the invitation to come here within half an hour
after getting the telegram from my good friend Mr. Paradis, it was
because I thought that I might contribute in some small way to assist my
English-speaking friends in the Province of Quebec to a proper
understanding of the real meaning and object of this very troublesome

Perhaps you may think it impertinence on my part, but will you not allow
me to say that you owe it to yourselves first of all to look carefully
into this matter. To-day it is a question in Ontario, but to-morrow it
may be a question in Quebec. Don't you owe it to yourselves to consider
this most carefully? But, to put it on a higher ground--because I have
unbounded confidence in the feelings of justice and fair play of the
Protestants in the Province of Quebec--don't you owe it to us
French-Canadians, in both Provinces, to come to our assistance in the
Province of Ontario, where we are seeking the preservation of our most
elementary rights? I think you owe it also to Canada, to Confederation,
to take a part in this matter. I am not trying to convince you of
something which is not right or just or fair, but convince yourselves,
gentlemen, look into these questions, and if you are not satisfied with
the explanations that I have given, come to me, or go to some one else
in whom you may have more confidence, and find out--learn about it all.
Permit me also to say to you, with all the solemnity and earnestness of
which I am capable, that it is your duty, because the present is as
grave and as dangerous a situation as ever arose in Canada. I say Quebec
is as much a partner in Confederation as the other provinces.
Confederation is a partnership in which we are all jointly and severally
responsible for the performance of duties and obligations assumed by
every one of the provinces, and for that reason I am sure--I hope at all
events--that you will agree with me, that it is incumbent upon you to
look into this very serious matter and do what you can to bring about a
just settlement of it.

Nay more, I say in the interests of the Empire--and I am one of those
who believe in some form of a united Empire--though no one seems to have
yet found the formula, yet I hope it will be found some day--is it not
necessary that we should first have national unity, Canadian unity,
before we can seriously consider Empire unity? How are you going to
bring it about? And is national unity, in Quebec, in Ontario, in Canada,
or the British Empire, dependent upon unity of language? How shall we
have a united Empire if all parts must speak the English language? How
and when are you going to change the 144 dialects of India into English?
Then there are Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and other places where
French is spoken. And what about South Africa? Here is a colony which a
few years ago was under arms against England, and did everything it
could do to break the British power. When the time came for England to
deal with the Boers she treated them not with her ancient generosity
only, but with a measure overflowing--she treated the Boers in a way in
which we are not treated in the Province of Ontario. To-day in the Boer
States the Boer language and the English language are on an absolute
equality. They do not have to ask a superintendent or any one else for
one hour a day in the school to learn their national language. And are
we, the French-Canadian people, the descendants of the race who
colonized not only this country but a large portion of the North
American continent, who explored it from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of
Mexico and from the St. Lawrence to the Rocky Mountains, to leave behind
us and bury for ever, a history which has never been surpassed anywhere
in the world, for courage, devotion and heroism; are we the descendants
of these men, in this Canada of ours, to be deprived of the use of the
language of our forefathers? Are we to be told that in order to have a
united Canada and a Empire we must forever renounce and deny our origin,
our traditions and our beloved language? I ask you, gentlemen, is there
any man in the city of Quebec, any Protestant or English-speaking man,
who would not despise me if I threw all this to the winds? If I did so I
would richly deserve your supreme contempt and you would not be slow in
extending it to me--and yet this is what we are asked to do.

And was there ever a time, gentlemen, less than the present, when
Frenchmen any where in the world, let alone in Canada, could be asked to
forget their origin and their language? When the France of 1915 and 1916
has compelled the unbounded admiration of the whole world for her
sublime courage and devotion. And yet we are asked, we who speak the
same language as the men, our full brothers who have fought so nobly in
the trenches in Flanders, whose defence of the Verdun forts is the
finest and most glorious event of the present horrible war, to forego
our French language and all that it carries with it, we are told that
our children cannot learn it, and must despise it and allow it to die an
unnatural death in Canada. I ask you, my English-speaking friends of the
Province of Quebec, will you not come to our rescue and look into this
question? I believe that there is not one who has done me the honor to
listen to me to-day, and who will take the trouble to seriously ponder
over the matter, but will say: Yes, I am going to help our
French-Canadian friends in Ontario to solve this question and obtain
justice and British fair play.

I hope the appeal which you have permitted me to make to you will bear
some fruit, and that the interest, the influence and the sympathy of the
English-speaking minority in the Province of Quebec will be aroused, and
that you will take such steps as you may think proper to bring about a
solution of a question which, I repeat, is of the very gravest
character, a question which, if not solved promptly, will bring about--I
dare not say what--I would rather let you draw your own conclusions. We
French-Canadians of Ontario have done all we can in the Province of
Ontario to enlighten public opinion. But all in vain. There is not one
English newspaper in the Province of Ontario which has printed or paid
the slightest attention to any of the arguments which for four years we
have advanced. All our literature has been thrown in the waste-paper
basket--not one newspaper has taken the trouble to investigate the
question. Our arguments have been met with nothing but contempt and

Now, I say again, I, for one, wish to appeal as earnestly, as solemnly
as I can, to you English-speaking Protestants and Catholics of the
Province of Quebec, for your help and succor in the solution of this
momentous situation. I wish to again offer you my most grateful thanks
for your very kind attention and indulgence.

The Honorable Mr. JUSTICE McCORKILL:--Mr. Chairman and Senator Belcourt,
fellow-members of the Quebec Canadian Club. When I left the Court House
to come here, I had not the faintest idea that I was going to be singled
out for the duty of moving a vote of thanks for the lecturer of to-day.
I came here because I am a Canadian, because I think I have a proper
appreciation of the French race and the French language, and thirdly
because I have known Senator Belcourt for a good many years. We were
students at the same time--I am sorry to have told you that, because you
will think that he is older than he really is--and I knew that what we
would hear to-day would be worth hearing.

The English Canadians of the Province of Quebec have been puzzled--I
mean the English-Canadians native-born, those who have been brought up
with the French-Canadians, who have spoken with them in their language,
who have played with them in their school grounds, as I have done, on
the lacrosse fields, who have served with them in the ranks of the
militia, and in the Legislature.

I am sorry that I was not given warning of the task that was before me.
I came here determined to listen, and I have listened. Nothing has gone
through my mind as to what I am to say, except to express my humiliation
to think that we English-Canadians here have listened to a French
lecturer who can speak our language as well as his own, as well as we
can ourselves. Of how many of us could the same be said with regard to
the French language?

I may say, as far as I have known the speaker of to-day, he is a
thorough Canadian, and I am sure that the fact that we all listened to
what he has said to-day will produce an effect. I am sure he was moved
not only because he is a French-Canadian, but because he is a Canadian,
to come here and address us on this occasion. It is a very serious
question agitating the Province of Ontario, and we English here, as I
said a moment ago, cannot understand how such a feeling should arise.

I have some friends in the Province of Ontario, and I must say they are
imbued with the same idea as those who passed regulation No. 17. I am
sorry for it; I have done my very best to convince them they were wrong,
and I knew they wouldn't feel as they did if they had had the experience
I have had with French-Canadians.

I need not tell you that I have been a student of Canadian history from
the very earliest days. I have read with the greatest interest the
history of the old regime, the opening up of the country, and then of
the abandonment of the people by their country, so to speak, and of the
tremendous efforts they made to keep the country for themselves. I have
read the history of the country under the British regime, and how they
have fallen in so well with the administration of justice, the
administration in our Legislatures and municipalities under the British
system. I believe that a certain French-Canadian at Ottawa is one of the
greatest parliamentarians under the British Constitution that we have in
any part of the Empire.

They have adopted our system, but there are two things they have clung
to, their religion and their language. I believe that their national
sentiment is even stronger than their religious sentiment--I really
believe so. The national feeling among them is intensely strong, but I
would ask you English, Irish and Scotch descendants born in this
country, and brought up here, supposing a regulation similar to No. 17
were passed in the Province of Quebec, what do you think our duty
towards it would be? Supposing Sir Lomer Gouin--I cannot imagine it--but
supposing he did have the courage, or the nerve, so to speak, to pass a
regulation of that kind. There would be a rebellion in this Province, I
think. And here we have our French-Canadian brethren in the sister
Province who by constitutional means are trying to obtain the repeal or
the modification of the regulation, or some other settlement of the
question which would be satisfactory to all concerned.

Gentlemen, you didn't come here to hear me, and I am not going to detain
you any longer. I wish to express, on behalf of the members of this
club, our sense of pleasure and obligation to Senator Belcourt for
coming here to address us on this question. I am delighted to see so
many English-Canadians here to-day. Some may have felt it required a
little extra courage to appear, but I do not think so. It does not mean
that you are all in sympathy with everything that has been said, but it
means that you want education and enlightenment on this matter. And I am
sure the appeal the Senator has made to us to study the question will
have its effect. And I will agree with him, in the hope that they may
have our sympathy and co-operation in bringing about a satisfactory
settlement of the question in Ontario.

[Illustration: Decoration]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bilingualism - Address delivered before the Quebec Canadian Club, at - Quebec, Tuesday, March 28th, 1916" ***

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