QUEBEC, OLD AND NEW
AN ADDRESS BY
JACQUES DUMOULIN, K.C., M.L.A.
The Vice-President, Mr. Charles R. Conquergood.
Thursday, March 30, 1944
MR. CONQUERGOOD: It is a custom of The Empire Club once a year to invite to our platform a citizen of the Province of Quebec to address our members.
A year ago we were honoured by the presence of a distinguished churchman, Monsieur L'Abbe Arthur Maheux, who addressed us on "Canada Victorious, Happy and Glorious". It was a message which was greatly appreciated.
Today, our guest speaker comes to us from our sister province of Quebec, Monsieur Jacques Dumoulin, K.C., M.L.A.
Mr. Dumoulin was born in Quebec, studied at Loyola College and Quebec Seminary. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Laval University. Read law at Laval, obtaining the degree of Doctor of Laws, and was called to the Bar in 1921. Ten years later, in 1931, he was appointed King's Counsel.
In 1939 he contested the riding of Montmorency and was elected to the Quebec Legislature. He is a member of Provincial Council of Public Education, Member of the Council of the Quebec Bar Association and a Director of the Quebec City and District Savings Bank.
Some years ago, I recall that a speaker from the Province of Quebec, used a phrase when addressing a meeting in Toronto which I still recall. He was referring to the manner in which the traditions of the past were transferred to hopes and aspirations of the future, and pointed out that there came a time in every man's career when he found it necessary to turn from being the son of his father to becoming the father of his son.
Something of the past and something of the future is suggested in the title our guest has chosen, "Quebec Old and New". I have the honour to present to The Empire Club, Monsieur Jacques Dumoulin, K.C., M.L.A.
MONSIEUR DUMOULIN: You have had some very kind words, and I cannot but hope that the audience will share your indulgence.
My situation towards you is somewhat akin to that of an American politician who, being introduced to the Governor's wife, was effusively told by this lady: "Oh! Senator, I've heard a lot about you!" "Possibly you have, Mem," answered that office-holder, "but you can't prove anything."
I may be pardoned, I trust, for the candid impression that today's meeting rouses your curiosity.
The Empire Club's customary guests are culled from the roster of the great: Premiers, Cabinet Ministers, famed justices, financial magnates or scientific wizards.
You are now recoiling from that exalted species Vir illustris to the lack-lustre home vulgarus.
Your humble servant, gentlemen, is destitute of all the trappings of celebrity, having gone so far as to refuse his subscription to Who's Who. Should he appear in that Domesday-Book, it must perforce be in forma pauperis.
You practically ignore who I am, the little I may have done and the great deal I haven't done; if I have a wife or not and, in the affirmative, whether or not she is happy with me. You can just conjecture.
Such are my motives, Mr. Chairman, for holding that your distinguished members are possibly tickled at resting their understandably fastidious gaze upon a mere man in the street, and, for a more precise reference, from St. Peter street, Quebec.
As the well-known Chinese philosopher, Mr. Lin Yutang, would put it, I purpose to talk about my Country and my People. This subject, probably is not a novel one to you, but is the topic about which I may submit personal information and opinions.
Quebec is frequently the butt of misrepresentations, either wilful or involuntary, so that an attempt at refocusing the picture may not be amiss.
My people began trickling into Canada shortly after 1608, under Champlain's Governorship. Despite tremendous odds and frightful hardships, they opened tip strip after strip of land along the St. Lawrence, from Tadoussac, on the North Shore and Matane on the South, up river to Montreal.
They contended against the primeval forest, a harsh, inexorable climate, dire poverty, the ever recurring Iroquois.
To Indian forays, were soon added graver concerns: the incursions of English fleets, the New Englanders' inroads by way of Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Richelieu.
These embattled colonists tilled their alloted portion of soil in spring and summer; deftly and joyously crept into the trackless wilds, the Governor's edicts notwithstanding, when late October frosted the ground.
No river, large or small, no stream, brook or lake, but that these part-time coureurs-des-bois came to know from inlet to outlet. With musket and brandy keg, they hunted and bargained for pelts, enjoying to the full the grim but exhilarating freedom of space unlimited.
Practically the entire continent, from the Acadian vales to the Rockies, to the Mississippi and the marshy flatlands fringing the Mexican Gulf, witnessed the pioneering exploits of these unshorn, unwashed, yet untamed and unfettered adventurers.
Bold always and quarrelsome with men, I venture to think not a few amongst them meekly subsided into occasional subserviency before the sex as, doubtless, the shades of many a toothsome squaw might testify.
What these modest but unsurpassable explorers originally were, in far away France, agriculturists, laborers, or obscure craftsmen in provincial towns, I couldn't tell you; let us judge them solely by their deeds.
Scores untold have passed into oblivion, whilst an immortal band blazed their way to History's shrine. Their names: Joliette, Marquette, La Hontan, Mantet, La Corne St-Luc, Hertel de Rouville, Nicolas Perrot, the seven Lemoyne brothers, under the leadership of their illustrious senior, Lemoyne d'Iberville, flashing conqueror of Hudson Bay, who fought and won a hundred frays, only to die in Cuba, duelling over some lady love.
So much for the reckless urge of worldly ambitions. A word, now, about New France's spiritual pioneers who, at risk of life and limb, spread Christian ideals unto the innermost fastnesses of hostile tribes.
The names of Fathers Brebeuf, Lallemant, Garnier, Chabanel, Jogues, Goupil, receive the reverential tributes of coreligionists and dissenters alike.
Assuredly, in the Huron stockades at St. Mary, St. Ignatius, St. Joseph, a transcending love of God imparted to the martyrs a superhuman fortitude.
The heathen's fury, however, was kindled through prompting that had little to do with the spiritual. These children of the woods resented most the missionaries' unrelenting attempts at instilling a modicum of Christian ethics, decency and equity in their lawless lives. Warning was given the redskins against treating their wives and children as so many beasts of burden; against race-killing lewdness, and the prevalent practice of clubbing to death the aged and the lame; an economical but too drastic form of old-age pension.
Also; the fathers unflinchingly deterred the Indian from flittering away the product of his exacting pursuits at the beck and call of whisky goading extortionists.
Let us pause a moment and consider that the heroes of 1646, 1648 and 1649 bore witness, at the torture post, to civilization itself. "Their virtues," writes Francis Parkman, shine like diamonds and gold in the gravel of the torrent."
Immigration, despite Louis the Fourteenth's sporadic efforts, never was a potent demographic factor in New France. Still, as you possibly realize, we seem to possess a romantic and compensatory formula; for additional information, kindly apply to Callender, Ontario.
Even so, in 1759, New France's population amounted to 65,000 as compared with a million inhabitants in New England and other British-American colonies.
The fact that France's population, at the time, more than doubled that of England, fully vindicates my previous contention of a low migratory stream to our shores.
Between 1660 and 1760, date of the last pitched battle for the possession of Canada, a hundred years of conflict ensued.
A hard, cruel, century of pitiless raids, or border settlements burned to the ground, and thriving villages stormed in the dead of night, put to the torch, while those inhabitants, unable to escape, were either killed outright or hurried off to a distant captivity.
We had Hertel de Rouville, for instance, as a partisan leader; you ended up with Rogers and his Rangers. Action called for retaliation, retaliation brought about reprisals; thus was the Devil's Code of Honour followed to its bitter finale.
How could a community so restricted in numbers, beset with continuous warfare, deprived of effective outside help, keep on subsisting, even though on a meagre scale? Those were the halcyon days of readily accepted rationing, when fishing or the hunt made up for many a deficient larder.
Intermittent exchanges with the French Antilles; agriculture in its exacting, initial, phase; catering to the scanty requirements of local needs and, above all, the fur-trade, brought a precarious flow of blood to the Colony's economic veins.
To promote this latter end, the fur trade, forts and blockhouses were built from Niagara, the narrows at Michillimakinac, onwards to the future site of New Orleans.
Military annals unfold a heroic story of capture and recapture, taking and retaking of strategic points. Until this slow approach was completed, Wolfe could not triumph and die on the Plains of Abraham.
This fatidic day, September 13th, 1759, had its sequel, eight months later, on St. Foye's slopy grounds. April 27, 1760, saw the Chevalier de Levis leading the remaining French troops, fused with Canadian Militiamen, put to flight Murray's Grenadiers.
No tangible results followed. Shortly after, Montreal surrendered; France's Golden Lilies recrossed the Atlantic to be finally dissolved in the Revolution's blood bath.
Surely, none will begrudge us the forlorn consolation of holding that our forefathers gave up to yours a victorious sword.
The fray is over; what next? Officers, petty noblemen, and some others composing the erstwhile officialdom, hastened back to France.
Even then the name was not new, still, don't you agree that the sixty odd thousands who, in the agony of disaster, never imagine, one single moment, they might do aught but see it through in their homeland, acquired an added right to the appellation of "Canadians".
Penniless Habitants and small townsfolk were thus left to shift for themselves, under the benevolent guidance of impoverished "Seigneurs" and a depleted clergy.
Strange to say, I am rather prone to suspect the Canadians did not regret overmuch the departure of their European lords.
If so, why? The French, except for a certain outward arrogance, were, on the whole, decent administrators, debonnair people.
The reason, I think, is simple enough: a century and a half had evolved in the minds and souls of the native born an inchoate, but nevertheless authentic strain of national consciousness.
Canada, they felt, belonged to all who meant to live and die there, and not to temporary appointees of an unfamiliar Metropolis.
A title deed, in the oaken chest, whetted the Habitant's possessive instinct and, in his stubborn mind, loomed as equivalent to God's own franchise.
The 17th century emigrant to these barbaric parts must have been, knowingly or not, a passionate seeker after a freedom, ready to acquire a new mode of life and gradually forget about his former existence.
More than a hundred years later, his great-grandchildren were guaranteed, by the Treaty of Paris, the free exercise of their religion, their language, property and individual rights, under the public laws of England and French civil law as it then obtained in the Colony. Nimble-minded historians may dissect the Covenant, attempting to read in or out of it whatever they choose. In 1763, the French-Canadian did not stoop to such niceties. Grasping one essential fact: that he was granted sufficient elbow-room, he unhesitatingly resolved to make the best of a hard matter.
The Cession, I believe, found this country possessed of definite traditions of her own.
Intercourses between Old and New France had, of necessity, been limited in the extreme.
Books were a rarity, learning, notwithstanding some creditable colleges and convents, remained a privilege of the very few.
As time went by, scores of colonists had even allowed their names to lapse, and assumed new cognomens. Among these, some alluded to the bearer's racial stock: Lafrancois, Langlais, L'Italien, Lallemand, Breton, Normand, Picard. Others depicted local geography: Lariviere (the river), Lamontagne (the mountain), Lavallee (the valley), Desruisseaux (the stream).
Others, still, flaunted flowery patronymics such as Lafleur (the flower), Latulippe (the tulip), Laviolette (the violet), Lapalme (the palm), Larose (the rose),
Laurier (the laurel). Carefree, rollicking, characters also received due consideration: Bonenfant (goodchild), Sanssouci (worryless), Sanschagrin (sorrowless).
All this, I hope, will illustrate, however poorly, the capital feature that, by the close of the Old Regime, a national trend of mind unquestionably existed.
Politically, and to a degree, intellectually, the Colonists were no longer French; shortly after they refused to become Americans; then, what else could they be but pre-eminently Canadians?
Moreover, this natural evolution is not a peculiar trait of French Canada. What about the thirteen British Colonies in New England, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland?
Did the Stamp Act, and its corollary reaction, the Boston Tea Party, suffice to transform otherwise contented communities into so many fighting units?
Numerous fiscal measures had preceded this particular impost, without provoking any popular flurry worthy of mention.
Early American history, when attentively perused, reveals a widening breach between Imperials and Colonials. There, as here, similar facts necessarily brought about analogous results: American interests, an American mentality and will.
The New World's infancy was now over. A vigorous, youthful nation, the United States, had arisen who would, in the course of time, exert a certain influence over its Canadian neighbour.
One should not forget that, in 1776, French Canadians declined to merge their lot with the Americans, although royalist France lent the latter active aid. Due allowances made for loyalty, practical considerations signalled out the risk of combining 80,000 French speaking Canadians with over a million English speaking Americans. So my people chose to await the coining of yours, in lesser numbers, and definitely unite with them in the common undertaking of building up our own country.
From 1774 to 1867, the main public affair, the paramount political preoccupation in Quebec, consisted in obtaining for this colony a full measure of responsible government and the recognition of our treaty rights. In the pursuit of constitutional rule, Upper and Lower Canadians more than once joined forces.
On a memorable occasion, 1937, an unwritten alliance associated your former Mayor, William Mackenzie with our Louis-Joseph Papineau. By the way, just fancy these fiery leaders were fighting against bureaucracy. Well, it's any man's guess whether or not they achieved final results.
I don't at all contend that the French-Canadians were alone confronted with hard problems and acute difficulties. Settlers in the Maritimes, Ontario, Western Canada, also displayed grit and courage of the highest order. Your pioneer womenfolk and ours deserve an equally unstinted praise.
Yet, your collective or individual tasks were not hampered with the constant dread of having your community rights: language, faith and customs, infringed upon.
Fate had given us a stepmother, England; we gathered she would act as a lady toward us and as a mother toward you. We didn't harbour envy, but we had to be watchful.
So, French-Canadians set to work with a will. Step by step, year in and year out, the grinding job of moulding a nation was relentlessly prosecuted. With scanty material, a total lack of financial backing, no outside help, some thousand farmers, artisans, tradesmen and their descendants, shaped, in keeping with their needs and likings, a body politic, a type of society, which gave rise to present day Quebec.
Quebecers, of the past, had neither the means nor the leisure to travel, and outsiders who visited the Province were scarce indeed. As an instance of this, the first ship from France to sail up the St. Lawrence, since 1760, was the man-of-war La Capricieuse, who cast anchor off Quebec in July 1855.
My point is that no external attraction influenced in any real degree our social growth. If we delved into the past, we perceived a long vista of Canadian traditions; as for the present and future, our expectations, our hopes, were national in their inception and scope, and centred all on Canada.
Before proceeding further, allow me to say that I merely express my own opinions. I represent no group, clique nor faction and stand proxy for no one. I only am the captain of my soul and, at best, that's a one-man submarine. Addressing The Empire Club is a great honour for me and the most suitable manner of expressing my appreciation consists in putting before you certain impressions as honestly as I can.
Matters of public import should not be dallied with; furthermore you surely are above welcoming trite eyewash.
We plainly realize that numerous problems confront us; consequently, as practical men, a candid summing up of the questions at stake cannot fret our tempers nor cripple a generous intent of smoothing over obstacles in a spirit of justice and national unity.
Picking up the loose threads of this lecture, we shall hear a voice long since stilled, that of Sir Hippolyte Lafontaine, twice Premier of Canada, jointly with your own Baldwin. About 1857 or so, Lafontaine, definitely out of politics, penned the following sentence: "Le Canada est terre d'Amerique,"="Canada is an American country.", Eighty-seven years ago, a former Prime Minister thus summarized a situation which, to his practical acumen, manifested itself with a compelling force.
Are we to discern in this crisp statement a faint echo of the Monroe Doctrine, formulated in 1823? Such a view seems hardly tenable; Sir Hippolyte Lafontaine's analytical brain reached its own independent conclusions.
You grasp at once the obvious implications: Canada, a North American entity, must fall in line with the pulsating rhythm of her particular continent. In this pronouncement, you have the gist of Pan-American policy. Since the last war, and more especially since the Statute of Westminster, Quebec public opinion, both among the younger and older generations, seems strongly inclined to look upon this maxim in the light of a political tenet.
Not only is Canada an American country but also a mature though expanding one. Her needs are manifold and continually invade new, costly, fields of social assistance unheard of thirty years ago.
We readily admit, down home, that contingencies arise which baffle human wisdom and frustrate man's foresight.
Of such occurrences we claim to have shouldered our share along with the remainder of the nation. Still, however binding these necessities may be, they don't prohibit us from visualizing some hard facts. In 1914, our total debt amounted to three hundred and thirty ($330,000,000) million dollars; today, the nation's indebtedness is something like fifteen billions, and as you read, or rather read, on Johnnie Walker labels, "Still going strong".
So, in thirty years, our debt has been multiplied fifty times over, whilst the population passed from seven and a half millions to eleven and a half, a ratio of only fifty percent.
Such is the price of duty, will you say; even so, may we deem paying off that load a lesser, escapable, duty? Jean-Baptiste is worried; that thrifty farmer would like to find out from what inexhaustible source the requisite funds will flow.
Quebecers, as I strove to show a moment ago, acknowledge Canada as their one and only Motherland. They are confident that, in due course of time, the entire country shall either share or, at least, fully understand this view.
Every day we are told this nation is an autonomous, sovereign one. If that is so, and we feel it should be so, then it seems logical to pattern our internal and external commitments in accordance with our requirements.
Our Government, whatever its political leanings may be, is primarily entrusted with the safeguarding of national welfare; therefore its decisions must be of untrammeled inspiration and should conform, in every respect, to the joint dictates of Canada's limitations and interests.
In their proud capacity of senior Canadians, my people sincerely believe they are useful to the country by keeping a wary eye on her international policy.
For clarity's sake, let me sum up our attitude on the matter, not in Mr. Bourassa's, or any Bloc Populaire leader's words, but in His Excellency Lord Tweedsmuir's polished style.
Addressing the Institute of International Affairs, on October 12, 1937, the Governor General said: "She (Canada) is a sovereign nation and cannot take her attitude to the world docilely from Britain, or from the United States, or from anybody else. A Canadian's first loyalty is not to the British Commonwealth of Nations, but to Canada, and those who deny this are doing, to my mind, a great dis-service to the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth, in a crisis, is to speak with one voice it will only be because the component parts have thought out for themselves their own special problems, and made their contribution to the discussion, so that a true common factor of policy can be reached. A sovereign people must, as part of its sovereign duty, take up its own attitude to world problems."
To this statement we have not an iota to add nor have we an iota to detract from it. Never before, never since, was our opinion regarding this transcendent concern so aptly and generously worded.
And now, gentlemen, I have nearly reached the end of my allotted time. Before the sand glass lower cone is filled, I must needs remind you of the Senior Province's proved devotion to the cause of Canadian unity. This magnificent land, through God's decree, is our country and yours from Cape Breton Island to the furthest Pacific-bound speck of soil.
Regional life in Quebec, for imperious reasons, may be more intense than in the Sister Provinces; which sentiment does not in the least hinder our loyalty towards greater Canada from standing on a par level with any man's.
You are aware that in bygone ages, the world's noblest monuments, St. Denis in France, Westminster Abbey, and other repositories wherein the epics of nations shine eternally, were perfected not through mercenary toil, but mostly by the pious labours of the lowly, who thereby blended a portion of their drab, flitting existence with immortality.
Do we not, every one of us, owe a like duty to the country, to her physical and spiritual unity. Should we not willingly dedicate a portion of our energy to the eradication of whatever may be unsound in the land, and delay Canada's oneness of soul.
What with the merits my people may have, what with your great qualities, your practical soundness, virile outlook, generosity of mind, and that inimitable English trait, you possibly don't even suspect, a compelling inclination to lend assistance, nothing seems beyond attainment if we make proper use of these precious materials.
While on this closing topic, allow me to pay a well deserved tribute to the Honourable Howard Ferguson and Mitchell Hepburn who, in their endeavours for the just recognition of minority rights, truly were nation builders. Nor would I, Mr. Chairman, resume my seat, without respectfully greeting the revered name of your illustrious centenarian, Sir William Mulock, Laurier's friend and confidant. To Sir William Mulock, it is my privilege to offer the affectionate regard of his former colleague, our own venerable ex-Senator Choquette, a young man of 90 years of age. Both these gentlemen sat in the House of Commons when none of us were yet sitting on our mothers' laps.
These statesmen and patriots' deeds are the compass pointing to Canadian Unity. Storms and gales may blow before the journey is over; even so, in a spirit of un shakable confidence, let us remember that storms and gales there are which serve to hasten a sturdy ship closer to port.