In the last post, I discussed the circumstances surrounding the failure and collapse of the Estates-General of French Canada. Despite its failure, there were still many people across Canada (both Anglophones and Francophones) who believed that progress could be made in the absence of the weight and momentum which would have come from the Estates-General — despite the betrayal and non-participation of Québec’s delegates.
A quick reminder that I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history. It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years. It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.
Trudeau’s first attempt at a solution:
The Bi-Bi Commission made four major recommendations to the Federal government (in addition to other recommendations which touched upon various levels of jurisdiction). There were nuances to each of the recommendations, but notwithstanding the nuances, the four major recommendations were:
- The creation of bilingual districts in certain areas of Canada,
- The creation of Francophone education rights in areas of Canada where there were needed,
- That French and English become official languages of Canada,
- That Ottawa be declared bilingual.
Prior to the collapse of the Estates-General, there were perceived signs of a softening by several provinces towards increasing Francophone and bilingual services. However, in the wake of the collapse of the Estates-General and the pressure it would have brought to the table, Anglophone provincial governments were no longer so inclined to act of their own (in a sense, they too were “flipped the same bird” that Francophones outside Québec were “flipped” – so hey, what do you expect).
In the early 1970’s, the task was mostly left to the Federal government to take action alone, but their jurisdiction only reached so far (compared to the Federal government, the provinces held jurisdiction over many more matters which touched the daily lives of its citizens and Francophones across Canada).
The new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, did what he could within his power, but he could only deal with what was within the Federal government’s jurisdiction. He introduced greater bilingualism within the Federal government, and sought to protect Francophone rights across Canada at a Federal level.
However, with Trudeau having seen what happened with the collapse of the Estates-General, I would not be surprised if he felt as betrayed and as bitter as everyone else across Canada who expected a successful outcome of the Estates-General. As Prime Minister, Trudeau was now facing difficult choices.
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was initially advocating for a bi-cultural country… one in which new immigrants would integrate into Canada’s two linguistic cultures (in some people’s minds, had the Estates-General succeeded, pressure from the outcome of the Bi-Bi Commission could have led to spin-off changes as dramatic as immigrants in places like Saskatchewan having to take English and French lessons, and even being compelled to pass French and English exams to obtain permanent residency or citizenship).
Eventually, it was possible that new segments of Anglophones also would have had to have adjusted to a new bilingual and bi-cultural reality (over a break-in period of a couple of decades or course). One area being discussed was perhaps having to achieve a certain level of French prior to gaining a university diploma, or to be granted certain professional licenses. Anglophone companies may have been required to have a core number of bilingual employees in order to secure federal incorporation status (Federal incorporation is necessary for any incorporated business which wishes to operate beyond their home province). All of this would have made Canada a very different country than it is today. To a major extent, it would have involved provincial governments in a whole new way.
Some of the above views may have been overly optimistic. But had the Estates-General succeeded, there could have been a concerted, long-term movement in this direction all across Canada.
However, considering that Québec drew a line in the sand out of self-interest, I personally believe it led Pierre Trudeau to become fearful that accentuating that line, possibly by adopting an official policy of bi-culturalism, could increase the possibility for future betrayals – perhaps the kind which could tear the country apart in one fell swoop.
Thus, Trudeau did introduce a culturalism policy… but it was not bi-culturalism. It was multiculturalism. One of the people involved in the Bi-Bi Commission, Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj (of Ukrainian Cultural descent) advocated for multiculturalism. But I’m inclined to think that perhaps in Trudeau’s mind, multiculturalism served as much a tool to ensure that no single linguistic or cultural group could ever “highjack” the country again, as it did as a nation-building tool for accommodations in a country becoming increasingly diverse.
And the 1970’s roared on:
In the meantime, nationalism in Québec soared during the 1970s. It was actually quite ironic. On one hand, war-cries were heard coming from Québec that sovereignty was necessary because Canada was not changing. But on the other hand, much of what could have changed in Canada was killed by Québec’s own delegates during the Estates-General. What could have been the most likely engine for change across Canada over the coming 3 to 4 decades was blasted to smithereens by the actions of Québec’s delegates.
As a side note: Having grown up to a great extent in French in Alberta, I can attest to the fact that to this very day, there are Francophones outside of Québec and across Canada who remain bitter over what they perceive as having been betrayed and stabbed in the back by Québec’s delegates in 1967. Thus it should come as no surprise that the reasons invoked to support the sovereignty movement in Québec are viewed as pure hypocrisy on the part of many Francophones outside Québec.
The 1970’s nationalist movement in Québec served to build arbitrary mental walls around Québec’s borders. It created a “them and us” attitude at a time when grassroot movements outside Québec were trying to break beyond that notion.
This wall building exercise would have a conditioning effect on Québec’s people which continues to be felt today.
Trudeau’s job became more and more difficult. I do not know if he made right or wrong decisions. I do have thoughts regarding some of his decisions, but I have a difficult time concluding if my opinions are correct or not in light of the situations of the day (Should have Trudeau he chosen a different direction? Did he go too far with some of his decisions? Did he not go far enough on the socio-linguist front? I truly do not know…).
But I am pretty sure Trudeau was between a rock and a hard place. Either way, any decision he made would have left someone upset or disappointed (sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other).
Despite any errors he made, and despite if I or any others do or do not agree with his actions and decisions, he likely was acting in good faith considering the disappointing and “hand-tying” actions which came out of the Estates-General. Had the Estates-General advocated as one strong voice for change from sea-to-sea, Trudeau’s job could have been much easier. With the federal government in his pocket and the support of the Estates-General, it would have given him the ammunition and moral justification needed to go to all of the provinces to say “Fix this! Because I stand behind our people, coast-to-coast”. But that opportunity was taken away from him in 1967, and from all others across Canada who wanted to fix Canada’s linguistic inequalities in the 1970s.
Instead, Trudeau was left fighting a referendum in 1980, during which ultra-nationalists were asking Québécois to leave Canada because Canada was not changing (do you too see the irony?).
The story does not stop here. Numerous other events occurred after the 1980 referendum which provide background to today’s societal conditioning.
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