Canadian And French Relations In The Past

100 Years. Essay, Research Paper

Throughout the ages, many colonies of earlier empires have arisen from

their colonial status to become their own country. For many of these, such

as the United States, French Indochina and many African nations, their was

a common culture which served as a base for uniting their population. In

Canada however, their were two very different cultures present, the French

and the English. These two peoples had originally had many battles to see

who would hold dominance over the colony, and now they had to unite if

their was any hope of achieving confederation. The French people of lower

Canada and the English people of Upper Canada had many differences, and

weren’t extremely trustworthy of each other. The French Canadians were in

a tough spot when the call for confederation came around. They were afraid

of losing their culture if they joined the Canadian confederacy, but they

also didn’t want to get assimilated into the United States. The French

Canadian attitudes towards confederation in the eighteen sixty’s, can best

be seen through the views of the leading French Canadian politicians of the


In French Canada around the period of confederacy, their were two main

political parties, the bleus and the rouges. In the 1860’s, the leading

French Canadian party was the conservative bleu party. This party, had the

largest bloc of French Canadian legislative seats in parliament.1 The

leader of this party at the time that confederacy was being debated by

leading Canadian politicians was George Etienne Cartier. Cartier was born

in 1814,2 and his grandfather had been a member of the Lower Canadian

assembly in 1809.3 Prior to becoming a French leader in the move towards

confederation, Cartier had been involved in the Rebellion of 1837 that was

lead by Louis Joseph Papineau.4 When the question of confederation came

up, Cartier was quick to add his support to the movement. At the time,

their had been debates whether the current Parliament like assembly should

be elected on the basis of representation by population. This was not an

idea that any French Canadian would have been in support of, because of the

substantial population difference between the English and the French. This

idea of “rep by pop” had many French Canadians worrying about losing their

culture because of the lack of governmental representation for their

people. Cartier was one of the leading opposition to “Rep by pop” in

Canada. He didn’t want to see the French Canadian culture squeezed out of

the people because the English were making all of the laws.

One of the main problems that many people saw with Canadian confederacy

was the differing cultures. No one thought that these cultures would be

able to work together in running a country. The leading English politician

of the time, was John A. Macdonald. He and Cartier were long time

political allies.5 When Cartier heard Macdonald’s plan for confederation

he was quick to jump on the confederacy bandwagon. Cartier`s opinion was

that the local control of provinces under confederacy would be instrumental

in the survival of French culture.6 Cartier thought that a federal union

would prove to be very prosperous, and no one culture would come to

dominate it, because of the diversity of the nations population.7 Also on

the subject of differing cultures, Cartier compared the confederation of

Canada to the United Kingdom. He said that their are three very different

cultures residing in the United Kingdom, and that hasn’t stopped them from

prospering, or becoming one of the most powerful nations in the world.8

Cartier didn’t seem to think that the differing cultures were that much of

a problem. He believed that having multiculturalism within the nation

would lead to each party involved contributing to the general wealth of the

nation and that because of this, prosperity of the new nation would


Another one of Cartier’s concerns for French Canada was if they didn’t

join the Canadian confederation, that they would be annexed into the United

States and completely lose their French identity.10 In the end, Cartier’s

attitude towards Canadian Confederation can be summed up in one of his

speeches in parliament in 1865 when he said “Shall we be content in mere

provincial existence, when, by combining together, we could become a great


All of French Canada’s politicians weren’t as optimistic about

confederation as Cartier. Joseph Perrault a member of Quebec’s Rouge

party didn’t share Cartier’s view of a United prosperous Canada. Perrault

thought that under the new confederate parliamentary system, French Canada

would not have enough representation to hold up their views.12 Perrault

felt that if confederation occurred, French Canada would have to be in

constant defense of their own political rights because of their lack of

representation in the new parliament. Perrault’s party shared his

pessimistic view of confederation. They thought that confederation was a

threat to the culture of French Canada.13 One of Perrault and his parties

other concerns was that within the new parliamentary system, the two French

Canadian parties would have to ban together to get any voice heard, and if

they did this, the English parties would ban together and crush the French


Another member of Quebec’s rouge party, Antoine Aime Dorion shared

Perrault’s view on confederacy. Dorion, leader of the rouge party in

1865, thought that the power given to the federal government under

confederation to control the local legislatures was the same as Britain’s

veto power that was held over non-confederate canada.15 This is

illustrated in Dorion’s speech at the debates on confederation in 1865 in

Quebec when he said “Now, sir, when I look into the provisions of this

scheme, I find another most objectionable one. It is that which gives the

General Government control over all the acts of the local legislatures This

power conferred upon the General Government has been compared to the veto

power that exists in England in respect to our legislation”16 The main

concern for most French Canadians in respect to Confederation was their

lack of representation in the federal parliament causing them to lose their

culture and identity. Dorion believed that all French Canadian voters

under confederacy would go to the polls and all vote for the same party

just so they could have a chance of a large representation in parliament to

protect them from losing the French culture.17

The opinions on confederation within the political forum in French Canada

were vary differing. Hector Langevin, a member of Quebec’s conservative

party felt that under confederation, French culture would be protected and

that English and French cultural interests would remain as they are.18

Langevin firmly believed that under the new confederate parliamentary

system, that the local legislatures would have complete control over

everything that goes on within their given province without federal

interference. This is illustrated in Langevin’s speech at the

confederation debates in Quebec in 1865 when he said, “I may add that,

under confederation, all questions relating to the colonization of our wild

lands, and the disposition and sale of those same lands, our civil laws and

all measures of a local nature-infact everything which concerns and affects

those interests which are most dear to us as a people, will be reserved for

the action of our local legislature.19 Although Langevin was a firm

believer in the confederacy movement, not all of his partymates had the

same view as him.

Christopher Dunkin, also a member of Quebec’s conservative party saw

confederation a lot differently than Langevin. Dunkin beleived that the

English majority Federal government with the power over the local provinces

legislature would have clashes of interests and exercise their power to

veto legislature.20 Dunkin, like many in Quebec opposed to confederation

disagreed with “rep by pop” and was against the federal governments power

over local legislatures. The French Canadian population simply didn’t want

to lose their identity under a British dominated Confederation. Their

choices were slim because of the threat of annexation into the U.S if they

did not join Canadian Confederation.

Another prominent French politician of the time was Sir E.P Tache.

Tache, was the French Canadian premier in 1865.21 Tache did not agree with

Dunkin’s views and thought that confederation would allow French culture

and institutions to remain intact because of the provincial legislatures.22

Tache agreed with Cartier on the point that confederation was the only

answer to being annexed into the United states and losing their cultural

identity completely.23 Tache was a firm believer in the Parliamentary

system that would be set up under Confederation. He thought that

Confederation would save the French culture in Canada, and also save French

Canada from being annexed into the United States.

French opinion on the Confederation idea throughout the 1860’s was very

different depending on who you talked to. Even members of the same party

had very differing views on the topic. The whole idea of setting up a

parliamentary system that the French knew they would be a minority in

didn’t sit well with some. French Canada had its full of supporters and

opponents to Confederation. G.E Cartier, leader of Quebec’s bleu party was

a firm believer in confederation and thought that without it, French Canada

would surely be annexed into the United States. Also, he believed that

French culture would be preserved under confederation. Sir E.P Tache,

premier of Quebec around the time of confederation shared his views on both

subjects. On the other hand, Joseph Perrault and Antoine Dorion of

Quebec’s rouge party saw things a lot differently. They believed that

confederation would mean the demise of French culture and that the

parliamentary system would not hold enough French representation.

Conservative Christopher Dunkin agreed with the rouge parties arguments

while Conservative Hector Langevin agreed with Cartier and Tache. As one

can see, the attitudes and opinions of the French Canadians on

Confederation in the 1860’s was very different throughout the political

forum. No one side held dominance until Confederation was achieved in



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Bliss J.M, Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1966. Toronto: Ryerson

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Crowe S. Harry, Mcnaught Kenneth, Reid Stewart H. A Source-book of Canadian

history. Toronto: Longmans Canada Limited, 1959.

Keshen Jeffrey, Morton Suzanne. Material Memory: Documents in Post

Confederation History. Toronto: Addison Wesley, 1998.

Martin, Ged. The Causes of Canadian Confederation. Fredricton N.B:

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Christopher Moore, 1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal. Toronto: The Canadian

Publishers, 1997.

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Toronto: The Canadian Punlishers, 1968.


1)Christopher moore, 1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal. (Toronto: The


Publishers, 1997) p141.

2) ibid.p138

3) ibid.p138

4) ibid. p138

5) ibid. p137

6) J.M Bliss, Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1966. (Toronto: Ryerson



7) ibid. p.112

8) ibid.p.113

9) ibid.p.113

10) Christopher Moore, 1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal. (Toronto: The


Publishers, 1997) p.142.

11) ibid.p.142

12) J.M Bliss, Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1966. (Toronto: Ryerson



13) Christopher Moore, 1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal. (Toronto: The


Publishers, 1997) p.148.

14) J.M Bliss, Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1966. (Toronto: Ryerson



15) Jeffrey Keshen, Suzanne Morton. Material Memory: Documents in Post

Confederation History. ( Toronto: Addison Wesley, 1998) p 4.

16) ibid.p.4

17) ibid.p.5

18) ibid.p.5


20) ibid.p.7

21) J.M Bliss, Canadian History in Documents, 1763-1966. (Toronto: Ryerson



22) ibid. p112.


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