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Last revised:
23 August 2000

Siegfried: the Race Question

By Francis W. Grey*

THE approaching tercentenary of the founding of Quebec makes, it may fairly be argued, any fresh presentation, however inadequate, of this lutte séculaire, as M. Siegfried justly terms it, not only timely, but almost, as one might say, of real necessity. For three centuries, our French fellow citizens have dwelt on that portion of the continent which they first discovered, settled and civilized; for one half of that period they have been under British rule. And to-day, as in 1759, the problème des races, to quote the same author's definition of it, the question of the relations of one race to the other, has come to be seen as the most vital and pressing of all the problems which the Canadian nation is called upon to deal with, to solve, if possible, on peril of its welfare, if not of its very existence, since " every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation."

What, in a word, are the real, as distinguished from the official relations between the two main elements of Canadian nationhood? Will the angel of peace (1), that is to say, typify an attained, or at least an attainable reality, or merely a Utopian aspiration? There will be assurances, at the forthcoming celebration, fervid and rhetorical, as to mutual respect, good-will, and understanding, assurances, doubtless, as sincere as could be expected. The question is, how far are they to be accepted as statements of sober fact?

For, that an antagonism, religious as well as racial, the damnosa haereditas of Old World quarrels, has existed between the French and English colonizers of the American continent, since the very beginnings of their settlements, is a fact that merely needs to be stated. Nor are the causes far to seek. England which, for centuries, had been the bitterest and most relentless enemy of France even when the two countries professed the same faith, was no less bitter an enemy in the struggle for supremacy in the New World between Puritanism and Catholicism. But, if the Puritan hated the Catholic with a hatred for which Philip II. [sic] and his Invincible Armada was largely responsible, the French Catholic, in his turn, was equally intolerant of a " heresy" professed by the only nation whose rivalry was seriously to be feared. That this same antagonism exists to-day, after a century and a half of fellow-citizenship, is a fact both affirmed and denied, but of which the affirmation is more susceptible of proof than the denial, since the very existence of religious differences, both sides being equally sincere, necessarily connotes some measure, at least, of antagonism. When to these are added racial differences, jealousies, and misunderstandings, there can be no further doubt as to the reality of the antagonism.

Its special causes, in the case of Canada, are to be looked for in the policy of the dominant race. England, according to M. Siegfried, in conquering New France, wholly failed to destroy or assimilate the people whom she found there. M. Siegfried, it is not difficult to gather, is not wholly free from a certain traditional anglophobia, traces of which are to be found in Rameau de St. Pierre's Colonie Féodale, in Father de Rochemonteix' Jésuites et la Nouvelle-France, and, indeed, in not a few French Canadian writers, and which is, certainly, not wholly inexcusable, all things considered. Yet that to some extent, and in a very definite sense, England attempted a forcible unification, religious as well as racial - as distinct from unity - must, I think, be admitted by anyone who studies the history of the period between the Cession and the Quebec Act. That the same unification, again as distinct from unity, is the aim of a certain section of English-speaking Canadians, is the conviction of not a few French Canadians to-day, and accounts, in great measure, for a strenuous, embittered antagonism which should long since have ceased to exist.

The true domain of this unconquerable race, M. Siegfried continues, is the Province of Quebec, adding that " c'est le bassin du Saint-Laurent qui demeure le théâtre de la destinée française dans le Nouveau Monde." It may be of interest to note, that, on this point, he is in accord with the writer of the article on Canada, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Sir Daniel Wilson, who states that " the results of Confederation are already beginning to diminish " the influence of the French element on the character of the country as a whole, " and to limit the French population to the old Province of Quebec."

It is this very limitation indeed, this sense of an inevitable loss of influence in the destinies of the Dominion, of being hopelessly outnumbered in their own land, which is accountable for much of the antagonism existing, or said to exist, between the French-speaking minority and a majority which they can only regard as alien in race, speech, and religion. Moreover, it is this minority which may be truly said to constitute their chief ground for maintaining an attitude of antagonism and intransigeance in sheer self-defence, or so it seems to them. It is the essential tragedy of their race, a tragedy which the Quebec celebrations cannot fail to recall, in a fresh bitterness, that some two millions of their kindred should be voluntary or involuntary exiles in a foreign land, when they should have taken possession, by the best of all possible titles, of the fertile prairies of the North West, - a tragedy compared with which the expulsion of the Acadians is as of no account. The Acadians have, for the most part, returned to their own land, but what hope is there for these countless exiles? Nor should this tragedy, this sense of minority, be lost sight of by English-speaking Canadians, if only that they may learn to make allowance for an antagonism which, otherwise, might appear unreasonable and causeless.

But it is to religious differences, as already said, that this antagonism must be chiefly attributed. " Les querelles religieuses," M. Siegfried writes, " sont à la base de toutes les divisions Canadiennes [sic]," and any unbiased observer of Canadian conditions must admit that the assertion is merely the statement of an unquestionable fact. If so, it is, at least, something gained to be able to define one of the principal, if not the main cause of the antagonism between the two races. Other, grave causes, as has been shown, there doubtless are, but this must be taken into account first, and above all others.

The antagonism, according to M. Siegfried, is most marked between the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. " Entre ces deux provinces," he writes, on page 3, " qui sont le coeur du Canada, la jalousie est aiguê [sic]" due, though he does not say so, first to their very proximity, and, not less, to the French " invasion " of Eastern Ontario, practically their only territorial gain. " La race dominante," he continues, " subit la présence des citoyens français, ne pouvant faire autrement. Mais à leur langue elle oppose passionnément la sienne; à leur influence catholique leur influence protestante; à leur civilisation française sa civilisation anglo-saxonne. C'est une guerre ouvertement déclarée, dont il est inutile de vouloir dissimuler l'âpreté."

Without following M. Siegfried into all the details of his able presentation of the various causes and influences which go to make up the race problem and the race antagonism of which he speaks; without, possibly, accepting even his summary as wholly accurate or unbiased, we may express our obligations to him for calling our attention, so effectually, and in so novel a manner, both to the problem and to the antagonism. The phrase, indeed, " said to exist," used above, might well have been omitted, except in so far as it may be taken as typical of a certain official attitude of mind, the attitude, that is, which blandly denies the existence of ugly facts, which will, doubtless, deny them still more blandly, for the edification of our distinguished visitors, at the forthcoming Quebec celebrations.

Some points, however, of M. Siegfried's presentation of the problem under consideration are deserving of special note. If it be an advantage, according to the poet's petition, " to see oorsels as ithers see us," we are certainly indebted to our French critic for affording us ample opportunity of doing so. Yet, M. Siegfried, if, like the proverbial looker-on, he sees most of the game, and views, possibly, its fuller and ultimate issues in a truer perspective than those actually engaged in it, labours, nevertheless, under the disadvantage of not understanding, of not being able to understand, the real motives of the players, the real ends which they have set themselves to attain. These, it may be said, no one, except each individual, can pretend to understand, and he for his own case only; for, " what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him? " Still, as I hope to show, M. Siegfried has certain other, and very definite limitations.

In regard to these, we may begin with his estimate of those of his own race and speech. M. Siegfried is, evidently, a "liberal" of no particular religious affiliations; briefly, a free thinker, and, as such, unconsciously but very distinctly prejudiced not only against Catholicism, but against all dogmatic religion, as tending to the " enslavement " of the human intellect. Now, if there is one characteristic which, more than all others, differentiates the French Canadian from the Frenchman of modern France - a difference which M. Siegfried fully admits - it is, first and above all, his fervent, unquestioning loyalty to the teachings and authority of his Church ; secondly, and as it were consequently, his adherence to older, pre-Revolution ideals, social, educational, and even political. The Frenchman, in a word, even though a Catholic, and, therefore, unwillingly, is the heir of the Revolution, as truly as every Englishman is the heir of the Reformation, though to each the heritage be as hateful as that of original sin; the French Canadian, on the contrary, has, to all intents and purposes, escaped - or been debarred from, as may be maintained - the effects of both the earlier religious, and the later social, cataclysm. The " liberal " Frenchman is, therefore, to the extent to which he is the willing heir of the Revolution, incapable of rightly estimating the deepest motives and highest ideals of the Catholic French Canadian. Indeed, since the non-religious man is wholly and utterly out of touch with the man whose life and actions are governed by religion, such a " liberal " is even less fitted to form a just estimate of the religious French Canadian than is the latter's Protestant fellow-citizen, who has a real and definite faith, however widely different in expression, of his own. The motive, at least, in each case, is, in reality, the same. This "liberalism" of M. Siegfried's must, accordingly, be taken into account, when considering his estimate of the French Canadian's attitude both towards the Church and towards the school, and of their influence on him in turn. Nor must this attitude, in respect of both, be lost sight of by those who are desirous of arriving at a right understanding of the race problem, and, still more, at any satisfactory solution of it, if, indeed, any real solution be humanly possible or attainable. That sense of limitation which, as already stated, is chiefly accountable for the antagonism existing between the French minority and an alien majority is, once more, no less religious than it is racial or political, more intimately so, in fact, than either. All three, moreover, are, for the French Canadian, so closely connected as to be, practically, inseparable the one from the other, and the loss or limitation of his political influence, of his full share in shaping the destinies of the Dominion, means, to him, a loss or diminution of religious autonomy, a curtailment of those Divine prerogatives which, he is convinced, belong to the Church in the domains of conscience and of education. In other words, and at the risk of repetition, it must be insisted on that the race problem in Canada is primarily, and before all else, a religious one. It is a non-religious Frenchman who has once more called our attention to this fact, which no official assurances or courtesies can alter or eliminate; an influence which not the very angel of peace can exorcise or banish. It is for non-Catholic Canadians, of all denominations, or of none, to recognize both its existence and its significance.

But, if M. Siegfried's " liberalism " imposes limitations on his estimate of the French Canadian of a civilization older than his own - which dates from 1789 - he is equally, as a Frenchman, incapable of forming a just and impartial estimate of British political ideals, as developed under the newer conditions of our Canadian Federation; and, equally, in the case of British Protestantism. Towards the former his attitude is that of one living under a professedly logical, written constitution towards those who are governed, politically, by tradition and precedent; in respect of the latter, he stands in the ambiguous position of a " liberal " unconsciously influenced by a Catholic ancestry nurtured in a somewhat narrow and bigoted expression of Catholicism, ignorant, if not contemptuous, of all forms of " heresy," not least of a " heresy " professed by a " natural enemy." His political logic makes him intolerant of traditional constitutionalism; his " liberalism," equally logical, while it is, doubtless, a revolt from an intensely national form of Catholicism, has not disencumbered itself of the prejudices of the faith, as understood and professed by his Gallican and, possibly, Jansenist forbears.

How far, indeed, it is possible for so acute an observer to go astray, even on an elementary point, may be gathered from his use of the word " Anglo-Saxon " to define the civilization of Ontario, and of English-speaking Canada generally. The word is, at its very best, misleading, if not inaccurate, in view of the incalculable influence which the Celt and the Norman-French have had on the growth and formation of British civilization, to say nothing of influences and tendencies best, perhaps, defined as European. Our Canadian civilization, influenced largely, and in a great measure unconsciously, by the presence, in our midst, of the descendants of seventeenth century French colonists, and, still more appreciably, by our proximity to the United States, is ceasing, if it has not already ceased, to be " Anglo-Saxon " in any sense in which that epithet can justly be applied. It is departing just as surely, if not so rapidly, as that of our neighbours to the South - wisely or unwisely, for better or for worse - from its British original, and it is only the presence of the French element, strongly attached to the older European ideals, which has retarded, and must continue to retard, the process of development into a New World, that is, into a definitely American, civilization. To say so much as this is not, however, to admit that, as a recent visitor appears to fear, such a development must involve a practical alienation from a distant centre of Empire, and assimilation with, if not into, that of our " cousins " across the line - which God forefend! But it does mean that, being transplanted to a new soil, and placed in a wholly new environment, it must, if it is to live and grow, develop on lines, and under forms, widely differing, outwardly, if not essentially, from those of the parent stem.

Yet it is this very divergence between Old World and New World ideals, between those of seventeenth century France and those of twentieth century America, which serves, materially, to complicate our race problem, for the reasons above referred to. French Quebec has, in a word, come to be the last stronghold, on this continent, of ideals and traditions, social, and, more especially, educational, which are, essentially, no less British than French, no less Protestant than they are Catholic; the traditions and ideals of the Churchmen of Virginia, of Puritan New England. Essentially, since, in their ultimate terms, they may be defined as adherence to two main principles; first, that " the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; " and, secondly, that any system which attempts to resolve the child's nature into its component elements, spiritual, mental, and physical, and neglects the first and most vitally important of the three, is in no true sense education.

But, to revert to M. Siegfried, it may be said that, making all possible allowance for the limitations indicated, he is well worth listening to, in reference to these very points of religion and education. Speaking, on page 21, of the fear felt by the authorities of the Catholic Church in French Canada, of the influence of " British " Protestantism, he says: " La dispersion et l'absorption sont deux dangers qui menacent sans cesse l'unité de notre race au Canada." Herein, he touches, one may say, the very quick of the problem at issue, since a race so threatened must not only assume, inevitably, an attitude of antagonism towards those whom they credit, with or without reason - and men, in the mass, are not prone to sober reasoning - with designs against their unity, if not against their very existence as a separate entity, but also tend to ultra-conservatism, and too rigid an adherence to certain lines of policy which might, otherwise, be safely abandoned. It is to this antagonism, or fear, again, that he attributes, on page 22, the realization - or shall we say the conviction - on the part of the Church authorities, that isolation is the first safeguard " of an individuality threatened, on all sides, by the environment of the New World." Both the fear and the conviction must be fully taken into account, and not least by those who see, most clearly, the price which must, in the very nature of things, be paid for such isolation.

Of this isolation, the maintenance and perpetuation of the French language constitutes, obviously, the most important factor; is, indeed, of its very essence. This difference of speech has, therefore, as M. Siegfried points out, on page 23, raised a real barrier between the two races, a barrier which, he says, the clergy have done nothing to break down. Why, it may fairly be asked, should they? Being human, no less than Churchmen, and to the full as racially patriotic as their lay neighbours, why should they be expected to favour a policy which, they honestly believe, must ensure the inevitable absorption of their race in the great mass of an alien population. For a century and a half they have preserved their identity amid surroundings and under conditions which, at first sight, must have appeared to make such preservation and continuance as hopelessly impossible as could be conceived. And the key to their success is their twofold loyalty, to their faith and to their language. It is very possible that they are mistaken, not least, in making loyalty to faith even seem to depend on any human motive, however pure or noble; but the passionate loyalty to race and speech exists, and must be taken into account.

Yet, as M. Siegfried is careful to point out, on page 27, this attitude, on the part of the clergy, is not inspired by any anti-English spirit, but is due, solely, to a perfectly legitimate dread of Protestantism and religious liberalism. To them, these are dangers from which the souls entrusted to them must be guarded at all costs; national " unity," the growth and development of a " homogeneous Canadian nation," if it entail spiritual danger to any one member of their flocks, is to be avoided, not to be desired. If it be charged against them that their outlook is a narrow one, it may fairly be maintained, in their defence, that it is the only outlook possible under the circumstances. It is on this ground, of race preservation before all else, that the clergy in Quebec have always opposed annexation to the United States, knowing that once drawn into the vortex of the American whirlwind, le tourbillon américain, the religious and racial isolation, by which they set such store, would be at an end. If it be said that this is, in effect, the chief incentive of their unswerving loyalty to Great Britain, a loyalty to which governor after governor has borne eloquent witness, it is none the less genuine because founded on the highest, and least selfish, of all possible motives, the welfare, temporal as well as spiritual, of their race.

Concerning the Church's influence on social life, M. Siegfried writes, naturally, as a " liberal " Frenchman, and will, possibly, secure the assent of a majority of non-Catholic Canadians. He writes, that is, as one who questions, if he does not deny, the claims of the Church to supremacy in all matters, political, educational, or social, which nearly or remotely affect the higher, that is, the spiritual interests of mankind. In so far, therefore, as Canadians, not of the Roman obedience, are disposed to endorse his attitude on this point, it may be taken as indicating their real, if unconscious divergence from the older, Puritan standards, which made conscience the supreme arbiter in all things, temporal as well as spiritual, and set, literally, no bounds to its dominion. And, since this " domination of the Church," this " priestly tyranny," as it has come to be regarded, is of the essence of a problem which above all else - let it be repeated - is religious, it may, I trust, be permissible to point out here that, with a Catholic, the authority of the Church is binding only in the domain of conscience. When, therefore, it is asserted that the Catholic Church claims supreme control over all matters which, in human affairs, are, in any sense, sacred; over all which, directly or indirectly, concerns the salvation of souls, it needs only to be borne in mind that this supremacy, while totally independent of the individual conscience, since its origin is divine, is, ultimately, assented to and recognized by that conscience rightly instructed, in order to make plain the essential agreement, in this respect, between the Catholic French-Canadian and his Protestant fellow citizen, to whom, as to him, the voice of conscience is the Voice of God Himself. Such a recognition may, it is to be hoped, serve to clear away some, at least, of the religious misunderstanding which embitters, so unnecessarily, a problem difficult enough in any case.

It is in this sense, further, that M. Siegfried's concluding estimate of the Church's influence on French Canadian life must, in all fairness, be interpreted. " Its influence," he writes, on page 68, " has made the Canadians serious, moral, hard-working, and prolific ; their domestic virtues are universally admired, their health and vigour show a vitality which is not likely to disappear." If the Church has done all this, has trained her children in so many civic virtues, which, be it noted, are no necessary parts of her Divine mission, but only, as it were, the incidental results of its acceptance, what complaints has our author to make against her, with his inevitable " But " ? The old ones; intellectual subjection, old-fashioned religious ideas, the consequences of which are, he says, that the French Canadians are rendered unfit to compete, in things temporal, with their modern and emancipated " Anglo-Saxon " rivals.

The charge, if true, and it must again be repeated that it is no part of the Church's task to fit men for worldly advancement and prosperity, but only to save their souls, must, obviously, refer to the Quebec system of education, to which M. Siegfried returns, in due course. Yet what, after all, does the charge amount to? That the clergy have insisted, to the exclusion of less important matters, on " the whole duty of man," namely, that he should " fear God, and keep His commandments," that he should " seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness," and have left " all other things " to be given or withheld as The Giver should see best? Again, if true, is it a fault for which they are to be blamed, or was it their duty to teach every modern religious novelty, to be " carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness of men," to inculcate the latest and most successful methods of twentieth century finance? Seriously, if they have kept their flocks in " intellectual subjection," or, in other words, failed to instruct their people after the current fashions of the faddists in " education," has it not been due, largely, if not wholly, to the circumstances in which, on M. Siegfried's own showing, their race has been placed, in the very midst of an alien population far outnumbering them? The faith and the existence of their people have been, in the estimation of the clergy, of such paramount interest as, possibly, to cause lesser matters to be relegated to a position of too little importance. Yet, even so, they may fairly claim the indulgence of those, at least, who are still loyal to the alder, and less worldly ideals, to whom the spirit by which a race is governed is of greater moment than its learning, its wealth, its trade, or its temporal prosperity.

It may be permissible, however, at this point, rather than later, to consider, briefly, this charge of " intellectual subjection " which, as has been said, amounts, in fact, to an arraignment of the school system of the Province of Quebec. Apart from the general statement, which might in itself, perhaps, be taken as a sufficient rejoinder, namely, that the whole trend of modern " education " during the last thirty years has been in the direction of over-elaboration and over-instruction, the circumstances peculiar to the Province and the people must, obviously, be taken into account, before and beside all else. In so doing, moreover, we must go back to the very beginnings of French colonization in this continent. We have to do, that is, with a community almost wholly agricultural, and by no means wealthy; the system of education most suited to their needs must, therefore, be subject to the limitations which these two characteristics necessarily involve.

That the trend of all modern rural " education " has not only been towards the over-elaboration and over-instruction just referred to, but, also, away from the true needs and requirements of an agricultural community, is, surely, too evident to be called in question. That, further, rural " education " has, in the main, been as unsatisfactory as it has been over-elaborate and unsuitable, hardly demands proof. It has been crippled, if we choose to put it so, by lack of appreciation, as well as by lack of means, and, in this respect, school boards composed of small tradesmen and agriculturists have, unquestionably, been more at fault than either parson or priest, for the simple reason that they are less independent of popular approval than either. If to all these general conditions you add the special ones affecting French Canada, isolation from the main currents of national life being not the least of them, it becomes evident that the " intellectual subjection " of which M. Siegfried complains is, rather, the inevitable result of circumstances - to which clergy and laity are alike subject - than of a deliberate " clerical " policy.

More might be said on this point, but it would lead too far from our main subject. This much may, however, be added here. The test of any system is its efficiency, which can be measured, roughly, by the percentage of illiteracy. The figures for Quebec, as for the other Provinces, may be obtained from the Dominion Census Returns, or, more easily, perhaps, from the comparative statements, for all the Provinces, contained in the Atlas recently published by the Department of the Interior. Lastly, since efficiency of education depends, primarily, on the amount of funds available, it may be of interest to note, here, that the sum contributed to education in the Province of Quebec for the year 1905-06 was, according to the last Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, $4,338,552 (p. xxvi); the actual cost being $4,039,730.99 (p. 243). The Report, together with the statistics above referred to, may be studied to advantage by those interested in such matters, and may serve to qualify, if not to dispose of, some of M. Siegfried's complaints against the French Canadian clergy; though, indeed, the charge is of the vaguest and most characteristically " liberal," since " intellectual subjection," in some form or another, has been the condition of the great mass of mankind in all ages, and will, to all seeming, continue to be till the end. It is the despair of all teachers that their pupils cannot be brought to " think for themselves," an accomplishment acquired by fewer of us than we are disposed to admit. It is merely a question, for most of us, not as to the fact of our " intellectual subjection," but to whom we are subject; and there exists no intellectual tyranny, at the present day, so complete and absolute, as that aimed at, and, to a great extent, attained, by M. Siegfried's Republican friends in France.

But, if M. Siegfried - to whom it is time to return - his limitations notwithstanding, has that to say concerning the influence of the Catholic Church in Canadian national life, and on the race problem, which is well worthy of our attention, he is no less deserving of it in his estimate of the influence of Protestantism, even though his limitations be, as suggested, even more clearly defined, in this respect, than in regard to a religion with which he is, at least, familiar. "Protestantism," he says, on page 69, " holds no less a place in the formation of English (Canadian) society " than Catholicism holds in that of the French race in Canada. Beginning with the most numerous of the Denominations, the Methodists, he has something noteworthy to say about each of them; the critical judgment of a shrewd, and not unsympathetic, yet wholly unbiased observer - unconscious, that is, of any bias, but not, necessarily free from it. As bearing, therefore, on the religious aspect of the race problem - the only aspect that needs to be taken into serious account - it may be allowable to quote his words, on page 73, to the effect that, " the Methodism of Ontario is the centre of anti-French opinion, and of aggressive Protestantism." To make such a statement is not to criticize, still less to impute blame; it is only, moreover, by a clear recognition of such facts as these - if they are facts - that we shall arrive at a just estimate of the problem we are considering.

Rightly or wrongly, then, the Methodists are credited with a hatred of " Popery " and of " French Domination," which, be it said, they have a perfect right to hate, on their view of both. But, on the same principle, and as a free-born British subject, the French Canadian has an equally good and inalienable right to hate Protestantism, and to resist " English Domination." And it is this antagonism, well or ill-founded, reasonable or unreasonable, which, it cannot be too often repeated, constitutes the very essence of the Canadian race problem. Contiguity, if it has engendered a measure of mutual respect, more or less hostile, has, assuredly, not engendered mutual understanding, forbearance, or toleration.

It would, in fact, be a great mistake, as M. Siegfried assures us, on page 79, to doubt, or, we might add, to underestimate, the depth of anti-Catholic feeling among Canadian Protestants generally, which attributes to a certain " aggressiveness " on the part of the Church, in the Colony, as contrasted with her methods in England. It would be no less serious an error, in view of what may be gathered, not only from his preceding pages, but also from the most casual observation, to doubt the anti-Protestant sentiment of the great majority of French Canadians, including not a few of the lower clergy. It is an antagonism, however, which dates back to the founding of Quebec, to an age when the " heretic " was rigidly excluded from New France, and when it was death for a Jesuit to be found within the limits of Puritan New England. It is an antagonism, moreover, the continuance of which is due, in no small measure, to the fact that both communities are, in a very real sense, theirs of a tradition which has survived here in a more strenuous form than in the Old World, and are, so to speak, less affected by the currents and influences of religious and social life to which European nations are subject, than, perhaps, Canadians themselves might be ready to admit. And, while this is truer, probably, of the French Catholic, than of the English-speaking Protestant element, there can be no doubt as to the extent to which both are affected by it. Nor does the fact that it may be taken to indicate a more sturdy and uncompromising loyalty to truth, as each understands it, than is compatible with the tolerant indifferentism of Northern European nations, tend to lessen, but rather to increase, the antagonism between the two elements. The question, therefore, is not as whose "aggressiveness " is to blame, seeing that it must, in all fairness, be pretty evenly distributed between Popish pot and Protestant kettle, but, rather: Is this age-long antagonism to continue to exist under the shadow of the Angel of Peace, after so many years of fellow citizenship in the greatest and freest empire the world has ever seen? If so, it must be asked, once more: What, then, shall the Peace Angel symbolize? A goal to be attained, or one that is hopelessly unattainable?

Before, however, venturing to suggest that there may, possibly, exist a solution of this race problem, a means of ending this secular conflict; that, out of this root of hatred, there may yet spring the flower of peace and mutual charity, it may be well to consider, briefly, M. Siegfried's estimate of a cause of difference which, as it lies at the very foundations of religion and nationality, lies by so much the nearer to the innermost essence of our problem: the question of education.

It has been said of the Quebec system, that it is the necessary result of conditions and circumstances originating with the first beginnings of French colonization in this continent. It may be said, here, that these conditions and circumstances were not only left unchanged, but accentuated, emphasized, by the cession of Catholic New France to Protestant Britain. And, lastly, that between the ideals of French and of British Canada there exists a new and vital difference to-day, which did not exist a century and a half ago. British Protestant and French Catholic, however widely they might differ as to the essentials of religion, were at one in this, that education must be, first of all, and above all, religious. And, as an inevitable consequence, they were agreed that the twofold right, of parent and of conscience, was inviolable and supreme. To this ideal the French Canadian Catholic is as loyal, in 1908, as he was in 1608; or in 1759; it is his Protestant fellow citizen who has transferred to the state that supremacy over the child which his forbears conceded to the parent. The divergence may, perhaps, be better expressed by asking, simply: Is the State supreme, or God? That is Canada's education problem, and on its solution depends that of the resultant race problem.

The education question has, in fact, as our author points out, on page 81, inevitably become the shuttlecock of national and religious ambitions. Two races, he continues, live together under the same laws, who speak different languages, and are of different faiths. Each is so wedded to that which constitutes its individuality, that it would not yield a particle of it for the sake of national unity. We have here a statement of fundamental facts, or principles, simple enough of themselves, out of which have grown the infinite complexities of our various provincial systems, and prevent the attainment of the true ideal, namely, that since education is a national concern, it should be paid for by the nation, due regard being had to the rights of conscience and of the parent. But, in the main, these are the facts which we have to take into account. To the French Canadian Catholic, the primary school, all education, indeed, is, above all else, the nursery of religion and of race loyalty, the very innermost stronghold of his faith and of his nationality. To lose that, is to lose all. To the majority of English-speaking Canadians, as to most Americans, the school is, primarily, the agent of national unification, and, in both countries, those who hold aloof from the " national " system are regarded, more or less openly and resentfully, as " disloyal " and " unpatriotic." Yet it may be that, even in this, the French Canadian sees more clearly, and is better advised, than his English-speaking fellow citizen, since the unification which is built on a common speech and a common school system does not, necessarily or logically, stop short at an arbitrary political boundary. If, therefore, absorption is, of all else, that which the French Canadian most dreads, next, of course, to any danger, as he conceives it, to his children's faith, how can he possibly accept the English Canadian's solution of the school question? Why should his "patriotism," his zeal for the " unification " of and with an alien people be expected to go as far as deliberate race suicide; the extinction, that is, of his race as a separate element in Canadian national life? And lastly, would not the nation lose, rather than gain, by such a unification?

Yet, even here, as in respect of the main problem, the solution may not, after all, be so impossible of attainment as it certainly appears to be, provided, only, that it is approached in the spirit worthy of a great and growing nation, heirs to a threefold heritage, Saxon, Celtic, and French, the proudest and noblest in all human history. Recognizing, as we must, the existence of religious and racial antagonism, in what must its chief cause be said to consist ? The answer is, surely, plain enough. In the misunderstandings which inevitably arise from the very conditions in which we are placed. Religiously, as well as racially, we speak different tongues, how can there fail to be misunderstandings ?

It may be well, therefore, in conclusion, to recapitulate two main points, religious and political, as briefly as possible. If it were understood, plainly, by every honest non-Catholic, that the " Dominion of the Church " resides, for her children, in that supremacy of conscience which is admitted by all good men, one fruitful ground of misunderstanding, at least, would, in large measure, be removed, both in respect of religion and education. If, on the other hand, it were possible for the French Canadian to realize that his " heretical " fellow-citizen is as surely guided by the dictates of conscience as he knows himself to be, he would have gone a long way towards a better understanding of one who, hitherto, has been an incomprehensible alien, if not an inveterate and relentless enemy, bent on the destruction of his race and his religion.

Again, if the English-speaking Canadian could be made to realize that the racial aspirations, ideals, and traditions, the political status in a word, of his French-speaking fellow British citizen are entitled to at least as much weight and consideration as he rightly demands for his own, and vice versâ [sic], the race problem would be advanced yet another stage towards solution. Moreover, it is on the English-speaking majority that this duty of a courteous consideration primarily rests; of whom this recognition of the inalienable rights of others is chiefly demanded, if for no other reason than that they are the majority.

Of all of which it may be said that it is, essentially, in a right understanding of good citizenship, in the cultivation of mutual respect, forbearance, and of that charity which " thinketh no evil," that any hope of a final solution of the race problem consists. This citizenship, moreover, is something higher and nobler than even that which every British subject boasts, though from a truer conception of that, with its obligations and privileges, we may surely look for much. But the citizenship here referred to, and which I venture to commend to all patriotic Canadians, is that of which the Quebec Angel of Peace is to be the symbol and expression; the citizenship of all "men of good-will," whereof the charter, as Saint Paul tells us, is in Heaven. It is as citizens of that Kingdom, which is peace, that we shall understand, bear, and forbear with one another, and only as Canadians of whatever race, creed, or speech, rise to, and realize, its dignity, its obligations, and its privileges, may they hope to find the solution of a problem which must, otherwise, remain insoluble, and will as surely bring, in the future as in the past, the full measure of its merited penalty.

(1) [Note from the Editor: this is an allusion to the symbol of the celebrations of the Tercentenary of Quebec which took place in 1908.]

* Francis William Grey [1860-1939] wrote a novel entitled The Curé of St. Philippe: A Story of French Canadian Politics [1899]. The book was written in the context of the aftermath of the school debate raised by the Manitoba School Question. In his novel, Grey pits the Ultramontanes against the Liberals who fight against clerical interference in politics. The book is said to have shrewdly analysed "education, religion, politics and French-English relations in a small town".

Source: Francis W. Grey, "The Race Question", in The University Magazine, Vol. VII, No 2 (April 1908): 212-230

© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College