In the last post, I introduced you to the Estates General of French Canada and its end goal.
For the rest of this post to make sense, I highly recommend you read the last post before continuing. You can read it by clicking here: The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279)
Keep in mind that I am presenting events from an angle of history which is not necessarily taught in Québec or in Anglophone Canada. Rather, it is from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.
Francophones from all across Canada were attending the Estates General with the goal of correcting linguistic and cultural inequalities which had lasted for generations. There was more than a good chance that it could / would lead to massive constitutional changes, a much more “egalitarian” Canada on the linguistic front, and major shift towards a broader “francisation” of Canada (much more than what exists in Canada today).
But what happened at the assize (round) of the Estates General in 1967 was unexepected, and completely different than what was planned.
The bombshell: The “FIRST Night of the Long Knives”
What occurred came to the shock (and horror) of Francophone delegates from Ontario, the Western Provinces, and the Atlantic provinces, as well as to the shock of Anglophones who were preparing to do their best to accommodate soon-to-be Francophone demands for inclusiveness across the country.
When it came time to introduce resolutions, without any warning the majority seat holders from Québec suddenly introduced and passed impromptu resolutions — none of which involved any prior consultation, examination, thought or the benefit of having their true implications examined. These resolutions were never discussed or planned during the earlier 1966 Estates-General (which was when all of the general motions were to have been disclosed to all delegates from across Canada).
Lead by the very nationalistic personality Jacques-Yves Morin (who would soon become one of the pillars of the 1970s and 1980s sovereignist movement), Québec’s delegates moved that:
- French Canadians constitute a “nation”
- That “Québec” is the “national territory” for the French Canadian nation
- That this new French Canadian nation (ie: Québec) is free to choose its future, regardless of what form it would take.
In the eyes of all other Francophone delegates from outside Québec, they had been stabbed in the back.
If one was Francophone, but had only ever had ties to their respective regions of Canada (such as Alberta, for example), pursuant to these surprise resolutions, they as a people were worth nothing in the eyes of their cousins in Québec. The anger and bitterness towards Québec on the part of Francophones elsewhere in Canada was unprecedented.
In 1967, Francophone delegates left the Estates-General and returned to their respective regions of Canada. They left as a fractured people with Delegates from outside Québec feeling bitter and betrayed. They never again met as one people under the same roof. For the first time in Canadian history, the Francophone family was broken and parcelled..
It is worth noting that in 1967, Canada’s Francophone population outside Québec was proportionally larger than it is now. Perhaps 20-30% of Canada’s Francophones resided outside of Québec at that time.
Two years later, In 1969, two major events occurred:
The last of the assizes of the Estates-General of French Canada took place in Québec. But the Francophone delegates from the Western provinces, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces boycotted it.
Simply put, they did so out of a feeling of having been betrayed by Québec’s delegates in 1967. When Francophones outside of Québec attended the 1967 assize, by way of agreements reached in 1965, they believed they were at the cusp of finally having the political and population clout behind them to change the status of French and Francophone society in Canada once and for all. This was shattered by what they viewed as self-serving and selfish actions on the part of Québec delegates during the 1967 assize two years earlier.
The Bi-Bi Commission’s final report came out at a time when, had the Estates-General not collapsed, it would have likely had enough wind in its sails to not only have been fully implemented at a federal level, but quite likely at various provincial levels as well (for matters of provincial jurisdiction).
However, the walls Québec erected around itself left Anglophones sympathizers in government and across Canada, as well as a newly fragmented Francophone population in other provinces all alone to try to pick of the pieces of the Estates-General fiasco. Those left behind could only manage to get by the best they could with recommendations of the Bi-Bi Commission’s final report.
The Estates-General of French Canada spelled the end of the traditional meaning of “French Canadians”, as one united people. Québec began to erect walls, disassociate itself from the rest of Canada on many fronts, and to disassociated itself from the immediate efforts to fix many of Francophone Canada’s inequalities.
My personal take on it: It was awful, a fiasco, and catastrophic. I personally have never used the word, but I know other Francophones outside Québec who say it was “treason” (that’s how high emotions ran following the actions of Québec’s delegates). Even today, when I go back to Alberta and Saskatchewan (which I do fairly regularly), this remains a very sensitive topic (It still floors me that Québec’s education system refuses to teach this equally valid angle of history).
It is for this reason that I call the Estates-General the First Night of the Long Knives.
Francophones outside of Québec felt they were stabbed in the back by their own people. Anglophones and those in government who were working in good faith to help Canada’s Francophone cause also felt betrayed, and we – as a country – are still feeling the consequences today.
Francophones outside Québec were left on their own to try to invoke change with their respective provincial and local governments. It was this event which gave birth to the notion of Franco-Columbians, Franco-Albertans, Fransaskois, Franco-Manitobans, Franco-Ontarians, and modern Acadians. Consequently, much of what they have achieved since 1967 (either as individual societies, or as a combined force) has largely been of their own efforts without the direct backing from Québec.
Had Québec’s delegates not done what they did during the Estate-General, and had the Estates-General succeeded, I believe it is quite likely that Canada today would be a very different country. The recommendations from the Bi-Bi Commission would have likely been implemented to a much greater extent, and much quicker… leaving a clear path for much deeper changes across the country. I believe Canada today would be much more bilingual, much more bi-cultural, and our muticultural fabric today would revolve around a bi-cultural nature — much more than it does now.
A newly created notion of hermetic walls around Québec had been formed, and a new type of societal and institutional conditioning was about to begin… that of “institutionalized Québécois nationalism”.
The next post will look at how history moved forward in the wake of the failure of the Estates-General, bringing us to the end of the first referendum in 1980.
SERIES: HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)
- Conditioning: A contributing factor in the notion of the Two Solitudes – Introduction (#275) Part 1 of 13
- Conditioning: And its affect on our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche (#276) Part 2 of 13
- Conditioning: The importance of gestures (#277) Part 3 of 13
- Conditioning: In the context of Canada’s “modern” history (#278) Part 4 of 13
- Conditioning: The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279) Part 5 of 13
- Conditioning: Modern Canada’s “First” Night of the Long Knives – a trigger for the all the rest (#280) Part 6 of 13
- Conditioning: What happened after the Estates General? (#281) Part 7 of 13
- Conditioning: From the 1980 referendum until present (#282) Part 8 of 13
- Conditioning: Wrapping up history and moving into the “now” (#283) Part 9 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post A (#284) Part 10 of 13
- Conditioning: A few words regarding the death of Jacques Parizeau (#285) Part 11 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post B (#284) Part 12 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post C – Closing post (#287) Part 13 of 13