As Emanuel Cleaver says, “There is more power in unity than division”, and unfortunately for Canada, there is a huge divide between French Canadians and English Canadians. Over time, Canada has struggled to build a relationship with the French Canadians and conflict has prevailed between the two classes of the country. To fully grasp the concept, one must take a journey back in time. There were a myriad of events that have worsened this catastrophic relationship, the events leading to this relationship includes; The Conscription Crisis, the Quiet Revolution, and the October Crisis.
Conscription in Canada had laid out a stampede of issues regarding the relations between the French and the English; it also influenced revolutionary acts. Headlines and propaganda posters were paraded across the country. The majority of English Canadians were proud and volunteered for the war, but the French Canadians were baffled by the idea.
Of the 400,000 Canadians who volunteered for service in World War I, fewer than one in twenty were French. This was because the majority of the French Canadians thought this was not their war to fight, but instead it was a far-away imperial dispute. Fingers were pointed, and the bridge between their relation grew thinner. Considering that there were not enough volunteers, Prime Minister Robert Borden was thinking of invoking conscription. The archbishop of Montreal, Monseigneur Bruchési sent a message to Borden, ” The people are agitated… In the province of Quebec; we can expect deplorable revolts.
Will this not end in bloodshed?” However, Borden heeded the warning and passed the Military Service Act; there were countless riots but the most violent opposition began when anti-war oppressors, drawn from the French-Canadians, initiated a violent week between March 28 and April 1, 1918. The riots started when the police held a French Canadian who had not handed his draft papers. Despite the release, an angry mob still formed. After days of uproar, soldiers were finally sent to drive back the protesters. This event was the straw that broke the back of the camel, and French-English relationships completely back tracked from there. The Quiet Revolution was a beginning of rapid change in Quebec, especially changes in the relationships between the French and English Canadians.
Lord Durham described the relationship as, “Two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.” French separatists were eager to change their position in society, and they went to extreme lengths. The loss of the Union Nationale, by the Liberal Party of Jean Lesage party prodded in the Quiet Revolution. The government worked towards betterment involving larger power over the economic resources of Quebec to change the position of the French Canadians in Canada. In 1963, the Royal Commision on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was passed, and in 1965, their first report stated that “Canada was in the midst of its most serious political crisis since Confederation.
” By the mid-sixties, Quebec was drastically changing and reconstructing the federal system. The political and social changes may have granted the French more sovereignty, but it also divided the French and English Canadians. Many conflicts arose; however this was a major event that was the tipping point of the relationship.
The October Crisis is a crucial part in understanding the growing conflict between French-English Canadians. The Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) was a terrorist group organized to achieve Quebec independence from Canada. On October 5th, 1907, they kidnapped James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner. The FLQ threatened to sentence Cross to death unless the government released twenty-three of their inmates.
At first, the government negotiated with the FLQ even letting them broadcast their manifesto. The broadcast explains how “Quebecers” will do anything to stop the big politicians, “We will be slaves until… all of us, have used every means, including dynamite and guns, to drive out these big bosses of the economy and of politics..
.” The statement said by the FLQ clearly elucidates the tension between the French and English Canadians. After five days, the crisis escalated and Pierre Laporte, the Minister of Labour, was kidnapped by the FLQ. French Canadians were tired of being told what to do, and a spark ignited beneath the separatists.
The enumerable riots and behaviour of the French led to the frustration of the English, resulting with the War Measures act being invoked, reliving citizens of their civil rights. A multitude of people were arrested, and bitterness along with irritation remained in the hearts of those who were wrongly accused. Decidedly, this most horrific act of terrorism in Canadian history is pivotal towards the deterioration of French-English relation. Canada has a history cluttered with conflict, but none exceeded the immensity of the French and English relations.
The Conscription Crisis, the Quiet Revolution, and the October Crisis were crucial events that heightened the terrible relationship between the French and the English. After countless years, this dispute still pesters Canada today and divides the line between unification and division. French Canadians and English Canadians must try to “remain civilized” because, like former Prime Minister Laurier said, “If we are to preserve civilization, we must first remain civilized.”