French And English Relations

– A History Of Conflict Essay, Research Paper

A great man once said, “Love thy neighbor

as thyself?” Unfortunately in Canada, that is not the case. For many years,

hostility has existed between the two largest ethnic denominations in our

country, the French and the English. Both have tried to undermine one another

in aspects of religion, language, culture and politics. To understand the

cause of this continuing bitter saga, one must take a journey back in time.

Throughout the course of Canadian history, there were many occasions wherein

the French and English Canadians have clashed but three major historical

events tore the relationship into pieces: Red River Rebellion, Conscription

dilemma of World War I and the FLQ October Crisis of 1970 in Quebec. This

essay will discuss the importance of these situations and its impact on

the French and English relations.

The Red River Rebellion, led by Louis

Riel, was one of the first major event that created the rift between the

French and English Canadians. In 1869, when the Hudson’s Bay Company sold

the vast territory known as Rupert’s Land to the Canadian government, the

Metis were worried. “The Metis descended from the intermarriage of Europeans

with indigenous peoples and they possess elements of both cultures.” (Flanagan

1) They feared that the government would disregard their ownership of the

Red River Settlement because they did not have papers to prove they owned

the land. Louis Riel, a Metis man, took leadership and stood up for the

rights of his people. He set up a provisional government in Manitoba. This

act angered the English Canadians and was thought by the Canadian Government

as an act of rebellion. These feelings of resentment and hostility further

elevated with the execution of Thomas Scott. On the other hand, in the

Roman Catholic province of Quebec, many people said Riel’s actions were

justified. They felt sympathetic toward Riel and his government. As one

can see, this event led by a man of deep conviction and faith drove a wedge

into a crack between the French and the English Canadians. Francophones

regarded the Red River Rebellion a noble cause and Louis Riel a hero who

stood up to protect the rights of the French-speaking Metis. The Anglophones

saw the rebellion as a threat to Canada’s sovereignty and Riel a traitor.

This conflict of emotions would remain until the next major event.

“Conscription!” was the headline of almost

all the newspapers throughout Canada. During World War I, Canada contributed

to the war effort by supplying ammunitions, war vehicles and especially

soldiers. Albeit there was also a predicament involving conscription in

WWII, this was much worse. As the war dragged on, the number of casualties

was mounting and the number of volunteers was dwindling. In reaction to

this predicament, the current Prime Minister, Borden, asked the Parliament

to pass a conscription bill, meaning all able-bodied men would be drafted

into military service. Even just the mention of conscription brought a

storm of protest in Canada, especially from the French Canadians. When

the Military Service Bill was passed in 1917, the thread that bridged the

Anglo-Francophone relations just got thinner. “Although conscription provided

few troops for the war effort, it split the country. It was overwhelmingly

unpopular in Quebec, where there was a massive resistance to military service.”

(Reed, Hiebert 1) One reason why French Canadians did not advocate conscription

was they felt abandoned by France when their colony was conquered by British

Forces way back in 1760. Another reason why Francophones, did not support

conscription was because recruiters for the military were Protestants and

spoke mainly English. This Conscription Crisis was an added reason for

the resentment that already exists between the two feuding populace.

Decades have passed and it seemed that

the relationship had hope for peace, but to much dismay, it was to be further

crushed by a horrible event. On October 1970, a crisis in Quebec surfaced

involving the Front Liberation of Quebec (FLQ) and the federal government

that was to result in serious repercussions in later years. The FLQ was

a terrorist organization whose purpose was to gain Quebec independence

from the rest of Canada. Their violent acts reached its pinnacle when they

kidnapped Quebec Labour Prime Minister Pierre Laporte and British diplomat

James Cross. “The FLQ’s kidnappings were perhaps the most dramatic domestic

events in 20th century Canadian history.” (Watson 1) In reaction to these

events, Prime Minister Trudeau proclaims the War Measures Act, relieving

the civil rights of all Canadian citizens. Quebeckers thought it was an

overreaction that federal troops be sent it into their province. Some questioned

that it was a conspiracy to take over the Quebec government. However, those

who jailed were gravely outraged. Hundreds of people were arrested and

detained in holding cells just because of their nationalistic beliefs.

Anger and bitterness remain in the hearts of those that were wrongfully

persecuted and oppressed. Indeed, this most heinous act of terrorism in

Canada’s history is a crucial constituent in the degradation of the French-English


Canada’s past is littered with conflict

and struggles but none surpassed the enormity and gravity of the French-English

dissention. The Red River Rebellion?the Conscription crisis of World War

I?and the FLQ disaster in Quebec ? were key events in Canadian history

that “split” the French-English Canadian connection. This problem plagues

our country today and many measures were taken to try to improve the situation

but to no avail. Yet we must keep trying and keep Former Prime Minister

Laurier’s words in mind: “Two races share today the soil of Canada ? These

people had not always been friends. But I hasten to say it ? There is no

longer any family here but the human family. It matters not the language

people speak, or the altars at which they kneel.”


Hatt, Ken. et al. Louis Riel and

the Metis. Manitoba: Pemmican Publications.


Flanagan, Thomas. “Red River Rebellion.”

The Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia,


1998, ed.

Boulton, Major Charles. I Fought

Riel: A Military Memoir. Toronto: James


and Company. 1985.

Fournier, Louis. FLQ: The Anatomy

of an Underground Movement. Toronto:

New Canada.


Watson, Bradley C.S. “Front de Liberation

du Quebec.” The Microsoft Encarta


CD-ROM, 1998, ed.

Reed, Maureen and Daniel J. Hiebert.

“Canada.” The Microsoft Encarta


CD-ROM, 1998, ed.


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