Page 4, 25th October 1968

25th October 1968
Page 4
Page 4, 25th October 1968 — French with some tears

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Organisations: Quebec Government
People: M. Cardinal
Locations: Toronto, Ottawa


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French with some tears

like other politicians, will experience a turn of favour and then the secessionists may get another chance.

But for the moment they are out of popular favour and French nationalists have transferred their interest from the political to the educational field. The Canadian Constitution gives a federal guarantee of religious freedom but education is a subject reserved to the provincial governments.

The argument of the Quebec nationalists is that French is the language of their province and that therefore French should be the language of its schools. All schools in the province are religious schools—Catholic or Protestant. The great majority of the Protestant schools are English-speaking.

Of the Catholic schools some are English-speaking, some are bilingual, but the majority are French. The ambition of the French nationalists is to eliminate the bilingual schools to allow indeed the English-speaking Catholics to keep such schools as their numbers may justify but above all to insist that Catholic immigrants into the country from Italy or central Europe—who are neither French-speaking nor Englishspeaking—should have their children educated in French. many places have to travel an inordinately long distance to their schools.

But, whatever the English grievances, the main objections to this new policy come not from established Englishspeaking parents but from the immigrants who are dubbed neo Canadians — most of them Italians. They, knowing neither language, are most vigorously determined that their children should be brought up to speak English rather than French. They consider that English would be of far more value to them in earning a living.

Some of them have even threatened to go Protestant if they cannot get a Catholic education for their children other than in the French language—and it is said, though the exact evidence is difficult to come by, that some have actually gone Protestant.

The parents, despairing of receiving any consideration from the Quebec Government and its Minister of Education, M. Cardinal, have organised a gigantic descent on Ottawa to see M. Trudeau. The Prime Minister has made clear his sympathy with them but unless he is prepared to fight the action of the Quebec education authorities as a matter of religious discrimination, his right to interfere is limited.

At first sight the determination of the French to make Italian children be educated in a language other than that of their parents' choice seems fanatical. Yet there is a bit more to it than meets the eye. lit is easy to understand the French desire that a French way of life be preserved in Quebec—particularly in face of the American threat and the appalling record of violence across the frontier from which Canada is so happily free and determined to remain free.

Until recently the French, although recruiting no immigrants, have been able to preserve their position through their gigantic birth rates. The great change of recent years has been a catastrophic fall in the French Canadian birth rate so that the French, who until recently have been so rapidly increasing, are now barely reproducing themselves. Thus if all the immigrants should become English-speaking the French would soon be a minority in Quebec.

Lessons of U.S. violence

The French fear is therefore intelligible. But. is their solution a solution? What is likely to happen is what is indeed happening—that the Italians if they find that in Quebec their children are prevented from learning English will go instead to Ontario where they will be under no such disability.

Toronto is today one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Since the war it has grown from a city of 700,000 to one of two million and it has now one of the largest Italian colonies in the world. The Italian immigration has been sufficient quite to destroy its old character of an Orange stronghold.

English-Canadians have in the past all too often been guilty of boorish ill manners towards the French and the French are up to a point justified enough in being on their guard against them. But today all Canadians, whether French or English or of another nationality, are terrified of the violence and anarchy in the United States to the south and are determined that such habits shall not spread into their country.

The English are far more ready than they have been in the past to recognise that French culture is a bulwark against American infiltration, to welcome it and to desire its preservation. The French would be wise to understand that their best hope of preservation lies in friendship and cooperation with Canadians of other nationalities rather in making any attempt to try to compel others to accept French culture against their will.

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