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Last revised:
23 August 2000

French Canadians and Jews

On the Patriotic Path
Editorial by Edmond Turcotte, in Le Canada,

Wednesday June 20, 1934, p. 2

The revolt of the internes of Notre-Dame, and of their colleagues and allies of Miséricorde, Hôtel-Dieu and Sainte-Justine, gives to citizens cause for grave reflections when their reasoning is still straight and strong, and refuses to capitulate before the passions of the populace.

We have watched, with amazement, young people lower to the level of a "job" the most humanly noble of profession, abandon their post without shame, betray the most sacred duty, all the while invoking the name of French, a name that for centuries has been synonymous with generosity, tolerance and enlightened humanism.

The shameful "gogluante" press [Note from the translator: this is an allusion to Le Goglu. This weekly newspaper was published between 1929 and 1933. It was an anti-Semitic sheet written by Adrien Arcand who was to become the local fuhrer. Other newspapers of the same ilk, all short-lived followed the Goglu. The papers were crude in their depiction of Jews.], and the spiritual descendants and slimy individuals that control it, bear a terrible responsibility in the spread of a type of morbidity that has taken over the centres of self-defence of the national organism of French-Canadians. The venom comes in a continuous stream. It first started to infect the weak of mind, the ignorant and credulous masses. It was inevitable. Always, a virus penetrates organisms through the point of least resistance. Unfortunately, once introduced into the organism, it attacks its sanest parts. That also is inevitable. One would have hoped to find greater resistance in the environment where humanistic culture should defend the mind against the anti-Semitic aberrations [...] If the intellectual elite follows the unreasonable practices of the masses, where will we end-up?

Racial hatred and religious persecution are fatal principles in a society where the religion of love taught by Christ is the light and the foundation of life. From this point of view, our people are threatened. But that which is best in us is still capable of the most vigorous reaction. And it was with a sentiment of unreserved admiration that we saw the Board and the Medical Council of Notre-Dame Hospital invoke the most honourable traditions of the profession, and respect for the given word, to firmly reject the thoughtless ultimatum of those young men whose patriotism was, in this case, more ardent than enlightened, and of whom the Montreal Gazette wrote on Monday that "they have a very imperfect conception of their profession", that they "will one day regret this inconsiderate action", and that "they have made a very bad start in an honourable career". It was also with a sentiment of pride and thankfulness that we saw several hundreds of nurses remain at their post, refusing to be disturbed by the agitation which they were witnessing, and remaining faithful to the duties of their office, thus keeping intact that reputation for devotion which they have inherited and which constitutes the true mark of the nobleness of the French Canadian woman. Lastly, it was with a sentiment of relief, and of hope for a future based on reason, that we saw Le Devoir ( a newspaper that nobody will suspect to have toward Jews more sympathy than that which any well-born Christian ought to at least have) criticise the rebels for what the Board and the Medical Council called "a breach of discipline", an "act of insubordination", and "desertion".

After the manifestation of so many marks of disapproval, both public and silent, we wish to believe that the public apology which the internes made when they were reinstated is something more on their part than a simple gesture of repentance made from the lips whilst their heart was elsewhere.

Anti-Semitism is a social monster that rears its head in the trouble periods of history when men are unhappy, when they are fearful of the future, when physical and moral misery affects the multitude, when social conflicts become more cruel and determined, and when people harbour toward each other a deadly hatred because the preservation instinct runs deeper than human society and the laws that govern it. In the periods of famine, human beings tear each other apart as predators do around a prey that is too meagre. Then, pity the weak, as even the most civilised of men recognise only the rule of the jungle, and there is protection only for the strongest and the most numerous!

This is the case of post-war Germany, where defeat and despair have led today to a catastrophic failure of intelligence, to a collective collapse into a bastard paganism that envelops in its persecuting hatred the God of the Hebrews and of the Christians. It has also been the case, since the beginning of the Great Depression, of the people of Eastern Europe, Central Europe and in the Balkans, where humanism has only ever cast but a dim light in this ocean of darkness, and where unfettered tyrannies have governed throughout history.

The progress of this epidemic does not justify healthy bodies from abandoning the good fight. The West is a repository of a certain ideal of humanism, of justice, of tolerance, indeed of sympathy towards men of different origins and beliefs. This heritage was accumulated by generations of humanists from all countries, chief of which was France. We French-Canadians share that heritage, and true patriotism for us consists in safeguarding that legacy intact, in nurturing it further for our children. This form of patriotism is perhaps more obscure and less attractive than the kind that finds expression in noisy demonstrations that strike the imagination of the multitude: but it is much more effective. In any case, it is much worthier of the title of man, and of the name of French.

There is amongst French Canadians an incontestable revival of the national spirit. It is of a nature to rejoice the hearts of all men of good will. But if the patriotic will is increasingly strong, one cannot say that it is always exercised wisely. We have just again received one more proof of that fact.

Mr. Mussolini has never permitted anti-Semitism to rear its head in his country. The patriotic sagacity of Il Duce which safeguards the national spirit against all that might appear abroad as weakness ought to be a matter for serious meditation for those among us whose patriotic fervour ill supports the principle of fraternity between the races, classes and beliefs, and which we associate generally with nations still living under a democratic system.

© 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College