A United Canada
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 27 Nov 1919, p. 430-441


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Gouin, Leon Mercier, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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The British Empire, a free association of free nations bound together of our own accord, and by strengthening and developing this part of the British world, thereby contributing to advancing our common ideals and our common interest. Contributing effectively, truly and heartily to a closer union between our two races as our first duty as Canadians, and also as British citizens. Our division, our bitter racial controversies, our class and clan antagonisms, as shown in our Canadian newspapers. The need to undertake at once in the schools, in the press, on the platform, everywhere, in all groups, literary or popular, in all classes and races to create and to develop a true and effective patriotism. Why we are divided. Examples of countries whose people speak two languages which illustrate that toleration and fair play is the only solid basis for the strength and prosperity of nations. Applying this lesson to ourselves. A review of the relationship between French and English Canadians. What prevents us from living not only as good neighbours, but also as friends and partners. Instances of two men who were loyal to both their country and their native province: Laurier and Baldwin. An examination of patriotism. The home of both the French-Canadian and the Loyalist. Working for a United Canada; how to realize such a union. A practical lesson: some specific suggestions which would enable the Ontarians and Quebecers to become better acquainted with one another.
Date of Original:
27 Nov 1919
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
A UNITED CANADA
AN ADDRESS BY LEON MERCIER GOUIN.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
November 27, 1919.

PRESIDENT STAPELLS : It has been my privilege and pleasure to visit the province of Quebec every year for the last twenty years. I have been in every city and town in that province, therefore I think I know something about it, and its unlimited mineral resources, its fisheries, its timber, pulp and asbestos, its wonderful system of public highways, its fine technical schools, and its agricultural colleges. I know something about the people. I have dined with them and wined with them; (Laughter.) I have eaten with and slept with them; (Laughter.) I have argued with them, and I have almost fought with them; but, gentlemen, I have also partaken of their delightful hospitality. (Hear, hear.) I know of their refinement, their culture, their scholarship, and the eloquence of their public speakers in both languages. (Hear, hear.) I also know of their intense loyalty to Canada-and by the way, when a Frenchman speaks of home, don't forget that he means Canada, because his people have lived here four or five hundred years, whereas most of the people in Canada, when they refer to home, speak of England, Scotland or Ireland. I know of their loyalty to their church, and I admire them for it. I know of their claim

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Mr. Gouin as the eldest son of the Premier of the Province of Quebec and the grandson of the late Premier Mercier, understands the French Canadian side of Canada's problem very thoroughly. His education at Loyola College, Montreal, where he took his Bachelor's Degree in 1911, and at Oxford University, combined with his work as a lawyer in Montreal,, gave him an especially broad, sympathetic outlook. He has devoted special attention to the study of labor legislation and history.

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that they saved Canada for the British Empire, and of course their claim is historically correct. (Hear, hear.) I know that the public men of that province are firmly convinced that Canada cannot become the great country she is destined to become unless these two provinces work together with the other provinces in this great Dominion. (Hear, hear and applause.) Ontario cannot make Canada great without the assistance of Quebec, and Quebec cannot make Canada great without the assistance of Ontario. The older politicians of Canada cannot get together and solve the problems of Canada because they hold grievances before their eyes; but the younger men can get their feet under the table without those grievances, and deal successfully with the great problems that will affect Canada for the next few years. For all these reasons it is a very real privilege and pleasure for me, on your behalf as well as my own, to welcome our brilliant young fellow-countryman, Mr. Leon Mercier Gouin, a worthy son of a worthy sire. (Applause.)

MR. GOUIN was received with loud applause, the audience rising and cheering. He said: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I thank you most heartily for your cordial welcome, and I feel very much that I do not deserve the token of esteem I have just received from you; but just the same I accept it thankfully, because I understand it means that you people from the province of Ontario and we people from the province of Quebec wish really, truly and heartily to realize, once for all, the unity of Canada. (Loud applause.) Today I come to you most unofficially, because I have no official character whatever. I am only one of the young men of the French-Canadian race. I am only a young Canadian coming from the province of Quebec to discuss, like a friend, with friends from the province of Ontario, problems of vital importance not only for Canada but for the Empire as well. (Applause.) I will do my best to cause you to forget how young, how childish, I look, and I am sure you will forgive me, because, after all, youth is not a very great sin.

As the subject of this very short and very plain talk I have chosen a very short and very plain title--A United Canada--because your own motto, the motto of the Empire Club, is, I think, "Canada and a United Empire." And now, whether our goal is a policy of local autonomy here, or whether it is a stronger central power in London, whether or not after all we advocate Imperial federation, we must every one of us realize that we have, in common with the other component parts of this worldwide Empire, not only sentimental bonds and political ties but also identical economic interests and a common ideal of democracy, of freedom, and of religious toleration. (Hear, hear and applause.)

A Frenchman with an Irish name, Max O'Rell, called the British Empire and our Dominions, "The firm of John Bull and Company." In the eyes of this Parisian humorist, each one of our dominions was, so to speak, a branch of the main office in London. Now, whether we care exclusively for the main office and turn our eyes only to Downing Street, or whether we devote the best of our energies to our country individually, after all we are all co-operating towards the same end, because as Canadians we can work for the Empire only in and through Canada, and also as Canadians when we work for Canada we work at the same time for the Empire. (Hear, hear.)

The British Empire is indeed a free association of free nations bound together not by military despotism, but of our own accord, and by strengthening and developing this part of the British world, this Canadian branch of John Bull and Company, we are contributing to advance our common ideals and our common interest. I referred a minute ago, gentlemen, to your motto-"Canada and a United Empire"-and when you chose it you had, of course, the right to expect Canada in the very near future to enjoy internal harmony as well as external unity. But in my opinion-and I wish to be frank-and ire your opinion too, I am sure we are still very far indeed from national unity, and from inter-racial harmony. Laurier deplored our feuds-race against race, creed against creed. He knew that we lost, in those bickerings, the best of our energies, the best strength and activity of our young people. The great old man is dead, and I think I may say, here was a Caesar; whence comes such another? -and from Laurier's teaching, whatever may be your political allegiance, we have learned, every one of us in Quebec, and you also in Ontario, that as Canadians we must all have one ambition, namely, to contribute effectively, truly and heartily to a closer union between our two races, and, as I said a second ago, to realize our Canadian unity. (Applause.) I think this is our first duty as Canadians, and also as British citizens. To whatever party we belong, to whatever creed, race or class, we must with all our hearts and all our soul try to make out of this gigantic dominion, out of these nine splendid provinces, a really united Canada. This is essential not only to this country but also to our whole Imperial community. Patriotism, after all, as well as charity, begins at home; and indeed we need very badly throughout Canada a campaign of patriotic propaganada. (Loud applause.)

Read our Canadian newspapers-your papers from Toronto, ours from Montreal and Quebec-and you will see how divided we are, how bitter still are our racial controversies, our class and clan antagonisms. Through organizations such as your Club, Mr. Chairman, such as the Navy League and other associations, we must undertake at once in the schools, in the press, on the platform, everywhere, in all groups, literary or popular, in all classes and races, we must undertake everywhere and continually td create and to develop a true and effective patriotism. (Applause.) We are divided because our aspirations have not been coordinated; because we have lacked national pride; and it is a virtue more necessary than any other for young people like ours. Moreover, our patriotism must be broad enough to include every one of us, to allow everyone of us to remain true to the ideal of his particular race and faith and at the same time preserve undauntedly this blessed land of ours, our beloved federation. (Applause.) But one of my own fellow countrymen from Quebec might ask, "Can we place Canada above all and yet be true to our ancestral traditions?" Yes, we can be good Canadians though we speak two languages, though we pray to God in a different manner. Take the example of Switzerland, which is, after all, the mother and the prototype of all existing federations; it took many centuries to make out of its various cantons just one country, to mold them into one indivisible whole. The Swiss people have succeeded in this mighty task because they have respected the rights of their different races, because they have shown for their various creeds a truly Christian toleration. Take the example of Belgium, where the Germans have tried in vain to exploit the Flemish feelings against the Walloons. Take the example of South Africa. Take the world, and we see that toleration and fair play is the only solid basis for the strength and prosperity of nations, and that that is its only guarantee.

And now let us apply very frankly this lesson to ourselves. Owing to very unhappy misunderstanding, many Canadians have come to look upon the others either with scorn or with hatred; and of course we have in Quebec our own fools-and thank God, they are a rare species. (Laughter.) I hope I offend nobody, but at the same time I believe that in this very province of Ontario there are well-meaning citizens who are led astray by their ardent but somewhat intolerant patriotism. I believe a truly Canadian patriotism is a possible thing for both of us, (Hear, hear.) and I believe that the best thing would be that we each take good care of our fields, and that you endeavor to broaden the ideals of some of your fellow citizens. Every man in Ontario and in Quebec ought to understand that our country is large enough to harbor our different creeds and our different races. Nobody must try by strength or by violence to assimilate us. We will resist assimilation as stubbornly as we did in the past. All French-Canadians are ready to learn English and speak it much better than I do, but what we don't want is to be told that our French language is only a patois, and that it is not to be allowed to be learned adequately in our schools-our mother-tongue. But on all those controversies I will not dwell any longer, because I came here, after all, as a messenger of peace.

Writers from your own province have discussed these questions. They have used very plain words indeed, words which I could not use, because you can be told by people of your own language things which it would have been bad for us to tell you, because we would very likely have used useless violence. Each one in his turn-Mr. Moore, Mr. Hawkes and Mr. Morley, has treated these burning topics. Some of those books are awfully snappy, but, snappy or not, I must confess that for my part I believe they have contributed more than anything else to persuade every man in Quebec that it is possible to "bridge the chasm"; that the "clash" between our two nationalities can be prevented and ended by mutual goodwill and mutual respect. (Hear, hear and loud applause.)

We have become conscious of our birthright, and we want our national unity to be real and living, not to t-e only a constitutional unity; or, to use the words of a very great man, Robert Baldwin, not to be a united existence only in statutes, existing only on parchment. I do believe a truly Canadian patriotism to be a possible thing, and I say it is a most indispensable necessity not only for Canada but also for the whole Empire.

Gentlemen, what prevents us from living not only as good neighbors, but also as friends and partners? There are, above all, a good many errors about Canadian patriotism and its real meaning. Many people think, for instance, that a Canadian of French origin must sacrifice his race and his faith in order to serve our Dominion; in other words, we could not serve those two masters at the same time-our province and our confederation-and our racial instincts, as I would call them, would be incompatible with our larger patriotism, with the loyalty which we owe to our federal state. I believe this error to be a source of many evils, to be the very spring of our disunions. A man can be at the same time a good Scotchman and a good Britisher; a man can also be at the same time a good Canadian and a good Irishman or a good French-Canadian. (Hear, hear and applause.)

I do not come here to exploit, in any way, political capital, for I always stood aside from any political controversy; yet I think I might cite as an illustrious instance of a man who was true and loyal both to Canada and to his native province the great statesman who honored me with his friendship-Sir Wilfrid Laurier. (Applause.) Branded as a traitor to his race and to his creed in Quebec; branded as French and as a Roman Catholic elsewhere; Laurier, once he was dead, received from every one of us the tribute due to his great soul and to his ardent patriotism. In the same way I can cite the name of a man of whom you are all proud-Robert Baldwin. Baldwin's name is venerated in Quebec as a good friend to Baptiste, as a good patriot, and his name will never perish among us. Just a second ago I used the word patriotism and the word patriot. Patriotism is indeed a sacred thing, a thing as sacred as religion, but a thing most difficult to define exactly, and most difficult to practise. If I take my small English dictionary I see that patriotism is the love of one's country, and I see that a patriot is one who loves his country. The word "patriotism," as the Latin etymology shows, is precisely the love of the land of our fathers-terra patria, our own fatherland. Thus patriotism is, so to speak, an instinct which God has put in our hearts, which we inherit with the first feeling we receive when we are born. But besides that, patriotism must be, so to speak, intellectual, rational; it must be more than instinctive; it must be more than blind impulse; it must be the mature and enlightened conviction, not merely a blending of prejudice and bigotry. Patriotism is the love of one's country, and indeed Canada is the- country of every one of us; Canada is our own fatherland; and though we come from different motherlands, though we are stocks of different extraction, just the same we were born in this Canadian land or we came to it because we wished to make our home here. As such, we are Canadians, whether native-born or not, and as such we owe to Canada our love and our loyalty. (Hear, hear.)

As the chairman told us at the beginning of this meeting, this land for over three hundred years has been the only home of my own people, of the French-Canadian; and as to yourselves, people of Ontario, most of you issued from the Loyalists, and this beautiful province has been yours for over two centuries. It is yours by right of conquest. Other Canadians have come from the United Kingdom afterwards, from the United States, from different countries of Europe; but as all those immigrants have chosen Canada as their elected home we may reasonably expect every one of us to adopt our land, to love her as much as we do ourselves, and with the same undaunted love. (Applause.) We must all work for a United Canada. But how can we realize such a union? We can realize such a union by a better understanding between you and us, by toleration, and by mutual respect. Our land has wonderful resources; our constitution is the joint work of Macdonald and Cartier; it is splendidly adapted from the English constitution. We have everything in hand to progress nationally. We need only to bring our two races together to develop Canadian patriotism. We can live in harmony; we can develop our national life harmoniously and enjoy the blessings of our British parliamentary institutions; we can be not only good neighbors but also cordial friends if we only meet one another.

I am very young indeed, and very inexperienced. Your generous welcome is a great lesson for me. It proves to me once more that the supposed gap between us is, after all, almost only imaginary. (Hear, hear and applause.) By inviting us to come to you, by welcoming us in the charming way you have welcomed me, you persuade us that the only means to realize a united Canada is precisely to create closer relations between Ontario and Quebec. (Hear, hear.) Come to us more frequently. Let us come to you in the way you invited me, and sitting together at the same table, discussing together like friends our Imperial and National problems, we will see that, after all, the essentials of our patriotism are similar, and instead of laying stress only upon our differences, instead of exaggerating, so to speak, our variances and accentuating them, we will find a basis of common understanding. With good-will it will be easy to find it, for there is peace upon this earth for men of good-will, and there is peace and harmony in Canada for Canadians of good-will. (Hear, hear and applause.)

And now, gentlemen, to draw a practical lesson from my very short address, I wish to make a few suggestions which would enable the Ontarians and Quebecers to become better acquainted with one another. Of course we cannot expect the great mass of our two races to visit one another's provinces. Only individuals can afford such a pleasing luxury. But the press will afford us an excellent means of intercourse by devoting to the study of our national problems more space, and especially if your newspapers and your magazines invite contributions from our French-speaking writers, and if we do the same for you, I think our problems should be examined much more impartially and from a much more national point of view. Besides the press, I see also the universities. To create patriotism there is no better chosen centre than the university. The Right Hon. Mr. Fisher, Chairman of the Board of Education in England, whom I had the honor to have as my tutor in Oxford, has a maxim that intellectual life flows down from the universities upon the people. And so, here we can start our campaign of patriotic education in the following way by the university and by the school. Let our French-speaking students come to Toronto and to Kingston (Applause); let them learn here the English language, and also our Canadian ideal; let them become acquainted with you, and also with your aspirations; and in the same way, let your college men come to Montreal and to Quebec-they will be welcome indeed if they wish to come. (Applause.) Take, as a concrete example, the Rhodes' scholarships, which are given to Laval every three years; they are very attractive; young Montreal scholars scramble, so to speak, in order to get the advantage of spending three years in Oxford. But to send one Canadian to England every three years, while excellent, is not quite enough, I think. (Laughter and applause.) I appeal to everyone of you English-speaking Canadians, I urge you for the advantage of Canada and also of our united commonwealth and the Empire, to allow the youth of my race to have the privilege to become acquainted with you, as I had myself that privilege and that honor. If scholarships were founded in Quebec allowing, let us say, ten French-Canadians to come and study in Ontario either letters or sciences, we would enjoy immediately immense advantages; and in the same way if your own people would come to our colleges in Quebec to become acquainted with French literature-and also with our French-Canadian literature, which indeed exists-then we would easily find the means of a real, effective and powerful bonne entente, (Hear, hear and applause.) and as we could have an exchange of students, so also we ought to have an exchange of professors. (Hear, hear.) There exists an Imperial organization for that purpose; professors are sent from the United Kingdom to the colonies, and professors are invited to go from one colony to the other. In the same way we ought to have what I would call an inter-provincial exchange of professors. We have, after all, some distinguished men; you have some eminent authorities in various sciences. Why should not our men come to Ontario, and in the same way why should not your professors come to Montreal and to Quebec? For instance, I have been personally invited to give a lecture in Kingston, and I am delighted to accept such an invitation. In the same way Mr. Crainceau, Mr. Dessault, and Mr. Perrault, and all other professors of Laval University and its affiliated institutions, would be delighted to come here and address your college men on any subject within their special studies, and thus you would have from the province of Quebec firsthand information. Thus also we would receive from you first-hand information about the province of Ontario and about its economic situation, its social questions, its labor market, and thus we would easily obtain the formation of a truly Canadian patriotism, of a truly Canadian ideal. Thus we would succeed in securing that everybody would look at things from the Canadian point of view. (Hear, hear and applause.)

And now I thank you once more for your hospitality, and I wish you to understand that throughout Quebec there exists Canadian patriotism; that, after the lessons we have learned from Laurier, we believe our country is not only our province, but that our country extends from one ocean to the other; that you have sacred rights to your language and to your religion; that we do not wish in any way to violate such rights either in our province or anywhere else; that we do not wish to attempt any course whatever to force "Frenchification," as I think it is called; that on the contrary we respect the right of your Canadian nationality; that all we want is to be allowed to learn our two languages, to learn English and to learn French, and that what we want is to practise our faith, the faith of our forefathers, of those people who came from France-you know under what condition, of those people who, after all, explored this country which is yours, of those people who wrote the beginning of our Canadian epics. In the lessons which we find in our history, we see a grand common understanding which it is easy to find, but which is impossible, if, instead of working towards peace and harmony, we try to find between ourselves differences, and to create imaginary grievances.

Gentlemen, let us work harmoniously, let us work patriotically, for our Canadian country, and thus let us work for our whole community of free commonwealths within the British Empire. Let us use the patriotism of the Canadians of French origin by respecting their rights, and by persuading them that we have the self-same love for Canada, that blessed land of ours. I thank you. (Loud and long continued applause.)

PRESIDENT STAPELLS : I shall ask Mr. John M. Godfrey, who was largely responsible for the bonne entente movement, that did so much good here two years ago, to present the thanks of our Club to our distinguished guest.

MR. JOHN M. GODFREY: It was a little less than two years ago that many of us had the privilege of hearing in this room, and from exactly the same place, another eloquent message of good-will from the province of Quebec. The splendid oration of today convinces me that eloquence, like red hair, seems to run in some families, (Laughter.) as the former speech was delivered by the distinguished father, and today's address was delivered by what will be the no-less-distinguished son. Both of these addresses were delivered in languages which are not the maternal languages of the speakers. I often wonder, when listening to my friends from Quebec, really what they must be able to do when speaking in French. (Laughter and applause.) My experience with the bonne entente activities convinced me of the very sincere and honest desire by the vast majority of the people of Ontario to live in good harmony, good understanding and co-operation with their fellow French-speaking citizens. (Applause.) The reason for this deep-seated feeling I believe to be that this province, after all, is a British province, influenced by the British ideal which has always recognized, in the building up of this great Empire, the national aspirations and religious rights and race consciousness of the very people who make up this country. (Applause.) It is true that we have an infinitesimal number who have gotten from across the line a little of that melting-pot idea, and would like to melt these people down; but we do not want that, and it cannot be done, as the speaker of today has said. We do want, however, to work together with our splendid French-Canadian fellow-citizens to build up a united Canada. I am convinced that Mr. Gouin's message today, so admirably delivered, will do much to help to cement the good understanding which now exists between these two great races of Canada. (Hear, hear and applause.)

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A United Canada


The British Empire, a free association of free nations bound together of our own accord, and by strengthening and developing this part of the British world, thereby contributing to advancing our common ideals and our common interest. Contributing effectively, truly and heartily to a closer union between our two races as our first duty as Canadians, and also as British citizens. Our division, our bitter racial controversies, our class and clan antagonisms, as shown in our Canadian newspapers. The need to undertake at once in the schools, in the press, on the platform, everywhere, in all groups, literary or popular, in all classes and races to create and to develop a true and effective patriotism. Why we are divided. Examples of countries whose people speak two languages which illustrate that toleration and fair play is the only solid basis for the strength and prosperity of nations. Applying this lesson to ourselves. A review of the relationship between French and English Canadians. What prevents us from living not only as good neighbours, but also as friends and partners. Instances of two men who were loyal to both their country and their native province: Laurier and Baldwin. An examination of patriotism. The home of both the French-Canadian and the Loyalist. Working for a United Canada; how to realize such a union. A practical lesson: some specific suggestions which would enable the Ontarians and Quebecers to become better acquainted with one another.