NOVEMBER 10, 1969
Quebec in the Confederation of Tomorrow
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Jean-Jacques Bertrand, B.A., LL.D.,
PRIME MINISTER OF QUEBEC
Joint Meeting of the Canadian Club of Toronto and the Empire Club of Canada
CHAIRMAN Mr. D. W. McGibbon,
The Canadian Club
I wish to extend a warm welcome to you all--but especially to the members of the Empire Club of Canada and to those guests who have joined the Canadian Club of Toronto for this important meeting to hear an address by the Honourable Jean-Jacques Bertrand, Prime Minister of Quebec.
We Canadians have been caught up in an environment of rapid changes--changes that are affecting our social, economic and political attitudes. The pressures that have been generated are affecting our relationships as Canadians, one with another, and with our governments as well as the relationships between governments both on the same level and at different levels.
These are matters of concern to all of us and we should endeavour to be as well-informed as possible so that we may contribute to an amicable and equitable resolution of the pressures we see developing around us.
Our sister Province of Quebec is not without her problems and we should know more about them. We are fortunate indeed to have as our guest today the Prime Minister of that province to bring us up-to-date. Mr. Bertrand has held office for little more than a year but he has already impressed observers with his foresight and courage.
Mr. Bertrand was born in Quebec at Sainte-AgathedesMonts where he received his early education. He graduated in Arts from the University of Ottawa and obtained a Law degree from the University of Montreal. After being called to the Bar in 1941, he began practising Law in Sweetsburg where he early became interested in municipal politics and community activities. He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1948 and has been re-elected at every general election since -1952, 1956, 1960 and 1966.
On October 2, 1968, Mr. Bertrand was sworn in as Prime Minister of Quebec, Minister of Justice and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Mr. Bertrand was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1950 and has received honourary doctorates in law from Bishop's University, the University of Ottawa (1959), the University of Sherbrooke (1967), the University of Montreal (1969) and from Laval University (1969).
Gentlemen, I have great pleasure in introducing the Prime Minister of Quebec.
I do not think it necessary to go into the customary introduction usually given at the beginning of a formal speech, for I do not feel like a stranger among you.
Just a few months ago, in June 1969, Quebec and Ontario signed a cultural agreement that will, I am sure, set a pattern for all of Canada to follow.
It was also in this City of Toronto that, in the Fall of 1967, with then Prime Minister, Daniel Johnson and some of my colleagues, I attended the constitutional Confederation of Tomorrow Conference, promoted and organized by the Prime Minister of Ontario, The Honourable John Robarts.
What is happening in Quebec? I will not use a cliche and say that a new Quebec is being born. Or that Quebec is adapting to the twenty-first century, although that is true to a great extent.
What is going on in Quebec is the logical last stage in a step-by-step definition of her identity. I say "logical" on purpose, for that is the description that will come to the minds of those who will take a careful look at present and past events in Quebec. For, the definition of identity permeates every pore of what some future great historian will call "The Quebec Story".
The actions of some extremist movements--which exist in one form or other all over the world--should not be confused with the global collective quest of an identity.
You will note that I do not use the terms "search for an identity". I avoid those terms because Quebec has already found her identity, an identity shaped by her many philosophers, writers and creators, who, throughout her history, have delved into the soul of the French-Canadian people.
The Quebec of today is simply looking for the best ways to apply her own definition of her own identity.
We should all bear in mind that nationalists are not automatically separatists or extremists.
We define nationalism as the pride of being what we are and we consider nationalism as a positive and creative element of patriotism.
Without nationalism there would be no Canada. For Canada is neither the result of our artificially drawn geographical frontiers, nor product of the natural lines of trade and commerce which run north and south.
Canada owes its existence to ideas, sentiments and even obsessions. That is the basic substance of Canadian nationalism.
Within this Canadian nationalism there exists a Quebec nationalism which can also be considered a powerful creative force.
The Laurendeau-Dunton Commission has clearly acknowledged the fact that there are in Canada two distinct societies, two majorities, two cultural communities.
Countless English-Canadians have acknowledged that same fact at one time or another in our country's history.
Eugene Forsey said in 1961, "Most of us are deplorably ignorant of French Canada . . . We need to ask ourselves constantly how we'd feel if we were a relatively small English-speaking island in an ocean of French-speaking people, and what rights we'd feel we had, and what we'd expect the majority to do about it".
At that same time, Murray G. Ballantyne was saying, "We will never understand the French-Canadians until we accept wholeheartedly that they are very different, that they have a perfect right to be themselves and therefore different, and that the difference is a good thing and an enrichment of our own national life. Vive la difference".
Mr. Ballantyne, earlier, had a very revealing phrase when he said, "I am not quite the same man when I speak French".
It is not necessary for these two nationalisms to constantly oppose one another and in the contest destroy Canada. For, historically, these two nationalisms have not been opposed to one another.
French Canadians were strong Canadian nationalists long before becoming nationalists. They clamoured for the independence of Canada long before becoming involved in Quebec's independence.
They demanded a truly Canadian flag long before they considered adopting a distinctive flag in 1948.
They laboured hard and long in Canadian political parties many years before the creation in 1936 of the first Quebec political party exclusively dedicated to the interests of Quebec.
They sought a new Canadian constitution years before they thought of drafting a Quebec constitution.
Therefore, Quebec and Canadian nationalism do not necessarily oppose each other.
It is in many ways our obligation to work out a mutual understanding . . . and to become aware of the fact that without this mutual understanding Canada and Quebec would not fulfill their great destiny. I have always said, and will say again, that I am proud to be "un Quebecois et un Canadien".
Yes, Quebec is different--but that difference is no longer what for many years some believed it to be.
For many years, it was said that Quebec was a backward province--perpetually held down by an obsolete educational system controlled by the clergy, which was more interested in promoting its own ends than in the advancement of the people, whom it over-sheltered. This has always been for me a very unjust statement. And it cannot be considered a valid assessment.
For many years it was said that because of the nature of the education received, Quebec's best minds, generation after generation, were more inclined to become humanists and thinkers, poets and philsophers; it was felt that if Quebec continued turning out this type of elite, she could never hope to cope with the economic demands of North America.
That can no longer be the total assessment. There is no longer any ground for this belief.
It must be understood that while most of America was busy conquering, settling and organizing, French-Canadians had their hands full simply ensuring their survival, struggling to keep their individuality alive.
This struggle for survival has often been called a useless adventure; but whatever it was, it has worked.
The fact is we have survived. We do exist as an entity, one which has transformed the simple act of survival into an extraordinary and acute sense of living. An entity that is six million strong--unique in America.
And this survival would not have been possible without the creative energy of positive nationalism, as the survival of Canada would not have been possible without positive Canadian nationalism.
The fact that French-Canadians, and Quebec in particular, have refused the melting pot principle has been a positive element in the definition of Canadian nationalism. And our present effort to promote a wider knowledge and use of the French language is an additional guarantee of the existence of Canada. And this we are doing without depriving other Canadians of their rights.
The French language is the essential vehicle of a different culture, a manifestation of creative energy at work.
We now have begun to translate this creative energy into economic achievements of a new kind.
Out of our wilderness we have created the most gigantic hydro electric complex in the Western world. Out of the waters of the St. Lawrence we have conceived and built islands on which the greatest national event in Canadian history took place for the world to see.
A research centre on electricity, unique in its kind in the world, is being built at Boucherville and, as well, in Ste. Foy the first sod has been turned on a huge science centre which will be the envy of all to see.
Out of the long winters we have dreamed of a new sport and created and marketed the machines that make this new leisure activity available to the world. And Quebec, through the pods of the lunar module, was on the moon before the American astronauts.
And, because it is already well known, I will not dwell on the fact that Quebec writes more poetry, composes more songs, writes more books, stages more plays, shapes more sculptures, paints more paintings, produces more television, and produces more movies than the rest of Canada combined.
The engineering, economic and cultural achievements I have mentioned are but a sample of our vitality and of our strength. It is a climate, a way of being that must continue if Canada herself is to continue.
A new generation is coming of age in Quebec--it has the benefit of a modern educational system that combined the basic ability to create with the discipline of the North American ways. It is a creative generation already in step with the seventies.
Keenly aware of its worth, its assets and its capabilities, the rising generation demands prosperity for Quebec.
It is aware of the extraordinary amount of natural resources and potential wealth that Quebec commands within its borders.
These young people know that Quebec will need 75,000 new jobs every year for the next five years if they are all to be absorbed in the labour force.
The new generation has a choice in Quebec. The choice of living independently at any cost, or of remaining within the established pattern. I have made a choice. And the choice I have made is for Quebec to remain in Canada, and in conjunction with the other provinces and the central government, to find ways and means to adapt the established pattern to the needs, problems and aspirations of our time.
And this is the ground on which we must meet--for a new generation has also come of age in the rest of Canada.
You have reached an enviable potential in the world of management and capital.
While we were busy surviving and expressing ourselves you have produced planners and co-ordinators, managers and executives; people with an intimate knowledge of the exact science of economics.
Allow me to remind you that the world's fortunes have been made by the cleverly balanced association of capital and creative ability.
The fortunes of today and tomorrow will continue to be made in that fashion. If not fortunes, at least the achievements needed for greater growth. And this is a prerequisite for Canada's survival.
Quebec now constitutes a powerful pool of resources and creative energy; and creative energy is the driving force behind all expansion and progress.
Quebec is ready to share with you, to prosper with you, and to achieve with you the colossal country called Canada.
Mr. Bertrand was thanked on behalf of The Canadian Club and The Empire Club by Mr. Ian Macdonald.
As President of the Empire Club of Canada, I am indeed honoured to express to you, Prime Minister Bertrand, our gratitude not only for what you have said here but also for the great responsibilities which you have undertaken in your province. Canada is filled today with self-appointed students of Quebec, mainly motivated by genuine concern about the future of this country. Yet, there remains a great danger that the analysis of the problems which confront Canadian federalism will become so excessively complicated that the more obvious solutions will escape our gaze. You have helped immeasurably in bringing home to us today some of the important, yet basically simple, issues which we must recognize in viewing Canadian federalism through the eyes of the Quebecois.
The body politic of a great country such as Canada cannot afford to have one-third of its people feel separate from the rest of the citizenry without risking the strong possibility that separation will become a political reality. Our task is to consider what we must do and what the troubled members of our federation must do to prevent eventual separation. I am certain that everyone in this room appreciates the work being done by you, Sir, to prevent that unhappy conclusion. We are deeply aware that, on a day when burdens in Quebec City would have made a decision to remain there quite understandable, you have thought it important to speak in Toronto to members of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club. We recognize this decision as a measure of your continuing devotion to the Canadian Confederation.
Monsieur, nous sommes sensible de la grande responsabilities que vous portez, pas seulement pour l'avenir de votre province mais egalement pour l'avenir du Canada. Nous savons que les difficultes qui confrontent le Quebec ne seront ameliorees que part notre comprehension et votre determination. Nous vous remercions de votre visite aujourd'hui. En plus, nous voulons vous offrir notre appui complet en ce concerne toutes les mesures que vous avancez pour assurer un Quebec fort dans un Canada progressif et uni.
Sir, we recognize the great responsibility which you bear for the future of your province and, in turn, for the future of Canada. We recognize that the difficulties which Quebec faces will only be relieved by understanding on our part and determination on yours. We thank you for your visit today and we want you to know that you have our complete support for all measures to ensure a strong and happy Quebec in a progressive and united Canada.