Meeting the Threat at Home and Abroad
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Nov 1977, p. 122-140
Danson, The Honourable Barnett, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Now the largest military buildup in history. The disturbing fact of this buildup. Differences now and in 1938-39. Some numbers. The size of Canada's forces. Details of Canada's forces. A brief overview of the future of our defences. Canada's military priorities. A discussion of non-military priorities. The irrational war between the French and English-speaking peoples of Canada. The failures of both French and English Canada in this regard. Changes in the French-English situation. Military transformation. A commitment to the Official Languages Act. The state of French Canada's culture. Some misconceptions. The external economic problems Canada faces now. The importance of a unified nation.
Date of Original
24 Nov 1977
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
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.
Empire Club of Canada
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
NOVEMBER 24, 1977
Meeting the Threat at Home and Abroad
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant


Ladies and gentlemen: Charles G. Power described a politician as, "anyone who manages to get elected. More to the point, he is someone who gets elected again." Our guest of honour today, the Honourable Barnett (Barney) Danson, is one of those who has been elected and elected again for he has been in the House of Commons since 1968 and so we must conclude that he is definitely a politician.

Further, he is a reasonably rare politician since he is a federal cabinet minister who comes from the great, good, and hospitable city of Toronto.

Barney Danson has always managed to stand out. Claire Hoy, writing in The Toronto Star in 1971, said, "Since his election in 1968, Danson has risen quickly from the crowd of metro area back-benchers to become Trudeau's parliamentary secretary and, in effect, the chief spokesman for Metropolitan Toronto in the prime minister's office."

And Danson is a Torontonian at heart-about a third of his riding is in Metropolitan Toronto and that's the area he worries about most.

"It's a funny thing," he says, "but rural people seem to be able to settle their own problems over the back fences.

They know who to go to. Communication in that urban region south of Steeles Avenue is very difficult. You call a meeting and people won't show up. I bet half of them don't know who their MP is." But it's not through any fault of Barney Danson's that they don't know who he is--since he has spent most of his political career getting better known.

On his appointment as Minister of Urban Affairs, The Globe and Mail, under a headline reading DANSON SHOULD ADD COLOUR TO CABINET said, "Mr. Danson is that Liberal from York North who thinks Pickering Airport is fine as long as it's located somewhere near Kingston. Barnett Danson is a name you'll be hearing. He is not unobtrusive."

Danson agrees. His quote in the same article was, "I like to speak my mind. I'm not going to be a quiet person. I hope to be thoughtful but I'm going to be deadly serious about what I'm after."

Barney Danson has the background to be a political individual. He grew up and was educated in Toronto, joining the Queen's Own Rifles at eighteen and going immediately to war. While he was serving in France, he was severely wounded--critically, in fact--but his wire to his wife, who was pregnant with their first child at the time, was, "Slight head wounds. Am well. All my love." He was at the time in very bad shape in a wheelchair.

"I came out of the army feeling strongly that I wanted to go into politics to take part in the decision making." But on his return to Canada he went, instead, into private industry.

He has been a member of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and is a former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada.

However, he never abandoned his military interests and was installed as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of his former regiment, the QOR, in 1975 which may, or may not, have been a portent of his present ministry which he took over in 1976.

While it is true that every new minister brings a new point of view and a new aspect to a ministry, Barney Danson's impact on Defence may be somewhat startling. For example, Danson has been quoted as saying, "I'm a great believer in the theory that he who pays the piper calls the tune. I think it's a very dicey situation when one level of government does the taxing and the other spends the money."

And Defence is in a spending cycle at this moment--with Leopard tanks having been purchased and consideration being given to a new contract for fighter aircraft and ancillary parts.

But Barney Danson isn't one to bend to pressure. "Our society is strong enough to withstand free speech--if it isn't, it isn't worth preserving," he says. And by free speech one presumes he is also talking about free and unsolicited opinion.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to introduce to you a man who has been quoted as saying, "Really, we've got to look at Toronto as part of Canada," the Honourable Barnett (Barney) Danson, the Minister of National Defence, who will address us under the title, "Meeting the Threat at Home and Abroad".

THE HON. BARNETT DANSON: Distinguished head table guests and ladies and gentlemen: That was a very interesting introduction. I don't know who does your research. There was a lot of detail there that had slipped from my memory!

I have a special feeling of warmth when I speak in Toronto--when I come home. Just last week I had a few engagements in town, and instead of scooting back and forth to Ottawa, I spent a couple of days downtown, getting to see things again and meeting friends on the street--an opportunity I rarely have. We have a great city. It gets greater every day. Every time I come back, I seem to see a new building that has sprung up. But it's also special because I see so many old friends who bring back fond memories.

I never thought I'd be part of the floor show in the Imperial Room! In fact, the closest thing to being in a floor show relates to my military experience. Before the war, in 1939, when the King and Queen were here, I was on a Guard of Honour in the Queen's Own Rifles, outside the Union Station. We wore green uniforms in those days! I think the reason I was chosen for the guard as a relatively new recruit was because they only had a certain number of uniforms and they had to find people who fitted them.

In any event, we stood out in front of the Union Station and the King and Queen came out, and we presented arms and did all the other things you do properly on a Guard of Honour. The King and Queen drove off in, I think, a convertible Lincoln. They rushed us back into the Oak Room in the Union Station and changed us into khaki uniforms and off we went by streetcar, or something, to Queen's Park. And we formed another Guard of Honour outside as the King and Queen went into the Legislature. Actually, the Governor General's Horse Guards had a guard too, so the wrong ends of the horses stood in front of us. They weren't very polite horses, either, I might say. Then they moved us down University Avenue, and after they drove out of Queen's Park and down the avenue, we presented arms again. Then they moved us to a few more places. Then over to St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls. And finally, they took off to the United States on the Royal Train.

Well, the King got so excited by this great army that he had in Canada that he declared war three months later! But things have changed. Now, of course, we have integration of the armed forces, but there is still a feeling of the spirit of service. For example, when I first came into the job, I met with General Chouinard who was Commander of Mobile Command at that time (that's the Army!) and General Carr who was in command of Air Command and Admiral Boyle who was commanding Maritime Command. Each of them was talking about the bravery and courage of his troops.

General Chouinard said, "I'll show you how brave my troops are. Come on out to Petawawa and you'll see some real courage." When we got out there, he called a young trooper of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and he said, "Trooper, I want you to stand right there and not move a muscle, no matter what happens." Then he called a sergeant, and he said, "I want you to go out there, crank up the tank and head right for that trooper and don't deviate one inch until I give you the command over the inter-com," So the sergeant went out and cranked up the tank and headed right for this poor little trooper, and when he was about ten feet away General Chouinard said, "Turn right!" So he turned right and just brushed the trooper's buttons, but the trooper didn't move a muscle. So the General said, "You must admit that my soldiers have real courage."

General Carr said, "That is true courage, I'll admit. But you come back to Uplands with me and I'll show you the courage of my airmen."

When we got there, General Carr called to an airman, and pointed to a 101 Voodoo. "You take that up to 30,000 feet and go into a straight dive and don't do anything till I give you a command over the inter-com." So the pilot went up 30,000 feet and came zooming down in a straight dive, until at about a thousand feet the General said, "Pull out!" The pilot just made it, scraping the runway, but he had obeyed orders to the letter. The General said, "Gentlemen, you've got to admit that's bravery, that's courage."

Admiral Boyle said, "I'll admit that's courage, but you come down to Halifax and I'll show you something." So we went down to Halifax and got on the Huron. The Admiral said, "Leading Seaman, I want you to climb up that mast right to the top and then follow my instructions." So the Seaman climbed up to the top and the Admiral said, "All right, jump!" The Leading Seaman said, "To hell with you, Admiral!" Now, that's real courage.

Things have changed from the old days at the Union Station. A few weeks ago I was in Oslo as part of a tour to Norway, where we have a commitment on the north flank, as many of you know. I was walking through the Resistance Museum in Oslo with Mr. Hansen, who is their Defence Minister. At the height of the war there were 450,000 occupation troops in Norway--the country at that time had a population of three and a half million. And I wondered if, had we had an alliance at that time, prepared and equipped, would we have had those invasions? If the Germans had known that there was someone there to stop them, would they have gone ahead? Would all of that have happened? Would Hitler even have been able to hold office for another year?

If we had had something like the North Atlantic Alliance at that time, it would have been a deterrent. It has been said that those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it. Sometimes I wonder at the comparisons between the present time and those years then.

We now see the largest military buildup in history. It is frightening in its proportion and in its cost. But I really don't believe that the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Union want to go to war. I've been in Moscow, and Leningrad, and Kiev, those cities that lost a third or two-thirds of their population in the last war and they don't forget it. They don't let their people forget it. Nor do they let those of us who go there as visitors forget it. I can't believe that war is what they want.

But the fact that this tremendous capability exists is disturbing, because intentions can change. Governments can change, even in those countries, or leaders can change. And with that capability, all the options are open, unless there is someone to say, "No, we will not allow this to happen." And this is not just a matter of military preparedness, but of political will.

Things are different from 1938-39. We do have a capability. At the speed with which things move today, there is no time for a long leisurely mobilization. We cannot take young troops and march them off to war with just a kitbag over their shoulders. Instead of some 3,000 regular troops scattered across the country as we had in those days, we have 78,000, moving up to 83,000, plus 37,000 civilian backup in the Department of National Defence. They are in formations, with assigned tasks and a very high degree of professionalism--indeed the highest in the world in my view and in the view of most other observers.

Sometimes people ask me, when I go to NATO and other meetings, "Are you not embarrassed by the small size of our forces?" I'm not embarrassed. I'm very proud, because all of those commanders, Haig and others, never cease to speak of the high standard of our forces. They are absolutely first-rate. They are very fine Canadians, great representatives of all of us.

We have had a run-down, both in numbers and of capital equipment, but that is now on the upswing, starting with the Aurora, the long-range patrol aircraft, now under construction at Lockheed in Burbank--on schedule and without price over-runs, you will be pleased to know. There is some $465 million in offsets, plus the possibility of considerably more, up to about $800 million, in offsets or industrial benefits. There are the armoured personnel carriers, being built in London, Ontario, by General Motors Diesel. There are 350 of those; about a hundred of them will go to reserve units across the country. There is the new Leopard tank--a fine battle tank--very much needed to replace the old Centurion. And now we are in the process of procuring our new fighter aircraft, primarily to replace the aging 101s and 104s. This is the largest military purchase in Canadian history, spread over a number of years because delivery takes that long, and the selection is a very well-organized and well-handled process under a team leader, Brig. General Paul Manson who is doing an excellent job.

When they first announced that program, two billion and eighty million and seventy-seven dollars, people asked "What percentage of offsets do you expect to get?" because these aircraft will likely not be built in Canada. I said, "How about 125%, for openers?" They thought I was being facetious, but I'm not. I was really looking for industrial benefits, not offsets.

Offsets means that if we buy 150 aircraft, we'd build 150 wings (or 300, 1 guess, if you want them to fly!), and that would create employment for a short period of time. But I'd rather do those things, or see those things done that we do well. We are good in communications, in radar, in sensing devices, short takeoff and landing aircraft. There is a wide range of areas, military and non-military, that we do well. I would rather have those industrial benefits, than argue about 60% or 80% in offsets. We need a certain percentage, so that we can maintain these aircraft. But I'm much more interested in arguing for 50 or 60% in the right type of investment in Canada, where we can be competitive, and which will remain part of the industrial fabric of our country on a continuing basis. Not necessarily military hardware or technology, but many other areas, because military expenditures do go up and down. Hopefully, statesmen will reach the day when ministers of defence do not have to talk about intentions and capabilities; we will have reached a higher state of humanity where we can talk about not building arms at all. But that is not the case today.

In the meantime, we should do something that is solidly part of our economy, that we can identify with. I don't think Canada, by nature, wants to be a major arms producer to the world. But we can use these major expenditures, as leverage, to help build the type of industrial base and high technology base that we need for the future. If it is continuous and remains part of our economy for a long time it is of much more value, and we should use those purchases for this purpose.

Right now, we are in the middle of developing a new ships program, which will also be major, spreading over some twenty years. It is a long-range plan to replace all the ships in the navy, starting where the priorities and needs are greatest, on the older ships of the St. Laurent and Restigouche class. Again, I would rather not see a great flurry of activity in our shipyards that soon ends. The long-range process builds a rational base for the shipbuilding and shiprepair industry in this country, perhaps at a lower level, but one which is sustainable for a long period of time. It's better for the navy, better for the industry, better for the communities and better for the country.

That is a brief overview of the future. But I think it is important to remember also what our military priorities are. Our first is defence of our own sovereignty over some four million square miles of land mass, and some six million air, when you consider our two-hundred mile economic zones. And a country that would make its own sovereignty anything other than its first priority has its priorities mixed up. Our second is our arrangements for the defence of North America, primarily through NORAD. These two tie in together extremely well. The Americans do not feel secure unless there is a secure Canada and we co-operate closely in that partnership.

Our third priority is the Western Alliance, the defence of western Europe, of which NORAD is part, because if we do not have a free western Europe we are not going to have a free North America and the reverse holds true. But none of us can do that alone. We must do it in concert with our allies.

Our fourth priority is peacekeeping. That is a role which I do not divorce from the others because the flash points in the world today can affect the whole military balance of the world and can cause something to explode which would be beyond our imagination and might precipitate actions that would never otherwise take place.

That is an important role that we do well. Canada has been the largest contributor to peacekeeping in the world on a continuing basis. It is a drain on our forces, I might say. These people leave for six-month tours of the Middle East or Europe, they are not replaced in their units, they are specialists, sometimes they work under less than ideal conditions. But they do us proud. It is the type of role that Canadians welcome as long as it is necessary.

But I would like to talk about some of our non-military priorities. The other day I came across a passage from Henry James. He wrote, "The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes. They always dwell within their own borders."

Naturally, as Minister of Defence, I am concerned about the possibility of war, about the ability of Canada and its allies to survive it, but mostly how to deter it, to prevent it from happening. But today I am with James. Our first defence priority is our national sovereignty, as I said, and our most imminent threat comes not from without, but from within. We are in the decisive phase of a long political struggle, a war of words for the loyalty of Canadians, and no less dangerous in political consequences than real war, because the fate of our country depends upon resolving this dispute, resolving it before terrible uncertainty cripples our economy and withers our national spirit.

Sometimes I think that the gods of war are laughing. Here are Canada's French and English cultures fighting their final battle, just as Canadians are close to adjusting their differences. Here we are, poised on the brink of division, just when fraternity lies within our reach.

All wars are irrational, but I think this one more than most. The separatists are fighting for an idea which, I would suggest, has been largely bypassed already by facts. Nations are founded on ideas, ideas steeped in emotion. The United States and Canada both grew out of ideas whose time had come. Ideas build nations and hold them together, as long as these ideas are valid. But ideas grow old, and if truth deserts them they can tear a nation apart, they can leave us mired in illusion unsupported by fact, clinging by our emotions to opinions that are passe. Opinion, not truth, not logic, governs the world.

It is said that war is a failure of wisdom. Our failure in English Canada was to take Quebec for granted, to think that the Quiet Revolution was just a newspaper term, to let our options on French Canada lag behind the facts. Quebec was held back, until 1960, by political and religious conservatism. The government of Jean Lesage created departments of natural resources, family and social welfare, cultural affairs, and began in these areas a very real revolution. Quebec is no longer a rural priest-ridden society of large families. It is an urban secular society with the lowest birth rate in Canada. It is a new Quebec, an aroused Quebec, a nationalistic Quebec. It is a province in the midst of a cultural renaissance that has tuned nationalism to a very high pitch.

But it is not a negative nationalism. It is a positive, unashamed patriotism. The Quebecois are proud of their history and their heritage. Most are neither anti-English nor racist. Unlike their government, they are not trying to put others down; they are busy trying to lift themselves up. They are an island of five million French-speaking people, encircled by 250 million English-speakers. For centuries they have felt like a people living on a slowly-melting ice floe. They lived in fear of losing their culture, their language, their identity, so they clung to the concept of survival. "Without my culture," a French Canadian friend of mine once told me, "I would feel like a man with amnesia. I wouldn't know where I came from or who I was."

Nationalism is central to the lives of most Quebecois and a little separatism is latent in it. Usually this nationalism is rational, but it's also deeply emotional. If it's blocked it evokes an emotional response. If, for example, you tell a Quebecois that he hasn't any more rights than a member of any other minority, you are very likely to turn him or her into a separatist. There's a fine line in French Canada between nationalism and separatism, and if we English-speaking Canadians care about keeping our country intact, we have to take care that we don't recruit more separatists. It's the uncommitted francophones who are going to decide our fate and we can't afford any further failures of wisdom.

Where French Canada has failed, I think, is in matching perception to progress. Quebec in less than two decades has moved into the twentieth century, economically, socially and politically. But emotionally, I think separatism is still in the nineteenth century. I think its ideas were born in the legitimate frustrations of the past. It still holds an outmoded conception of Confederation as an instrument of Anglo-Saxon oppression. It contends that Quebec's surge toward self-affirmation "Doesn't mesh," in Mr. Levesque's words, "with the federal system."

I think Mr. Levesque is wrong. I don't think separatism represents, as he claims, the "inevitable" logic of the future; I think it represents the emotional frustration of the past. I think he is fighting a war for rights that are already largely won, or could be won without destroying the country.

What are these rights that Quebec wants? We know what the separatists want--and nothing we can say or do is likely to change them. And we know what the moderates--the Quebecois majority--want; at least we know what they've been telling us for years.

They've said they want a fair share of federal jobs at all levels and equality in our government for their language. In Quebec they want an equal chance for the better-paying jobs, in business, industry and finance. They've said they want more control of immigration to Quebec. They want to keep in touch with other francophone countries. They want to preserve and develop their culture. In short, they want, like everyone else, to feel both secure and free.

Can we, the English-speaking majority, help them achieve this? Can we do it without endangering our unity as a nation? I think, I'm sure, we can. I think we will, though we've still some way to go. But I think we've already come a very long way.

Twenty years ago, even fifteen years ago, the French-Canadian who came to Ottawa came to a foreign country, a country that didn't understand him and didn't want to. He had to conform to foreign customs. He had to work in a foreign language. If he wanted to write to another French-Canadian in his government, his letter had to be translated into English, answered in English, and then translated back into French. He was made to feel inferior even if he spoke his language well. He couldn't get ahead unless he gave up his French identity, which our constitution guarantees, a situation which, if reversed, we anglophones would not tolerate for a moment. Even then, he always worked at a disadvantage, because public servants are judged mainly on how they express themselves. So the most capable French-Canadians seldom sought a federal career, and then we said that French-Canadians weren't capable.

All this has changed. Now French and English have equal status throughout the federal government. Francophones, now 27 per cent of our population, make up 25 per cent of our public service. Their share of jobs is still too low in some categories--administrative and foreign service, technical, scientific and professional--but the catchup rate for the past five years is dramatic. At the top, francophones hold 20 per cent of executive positions and their present rate of increase should take them to parity in the early 80s without sacrificing the merit principle.

It's sometimes said that the military is hidebound, but I think the armed forces illustrate this transformation. During the war I served with a brigade that was half French-speaking, and I managed to become a reasonably effective NCO and officer--thanks to training manuals written in English. But if that wasn't easy for me, what about my French-speaking comrades, who had to use the same training manuals that I did? Even up to the 70s, francophone recruits in the armed forces had to take their basic trades training in English. Their failure rate was 45 per cent, compared with 10 per cent for English recruits!

Now we give training in French for half of our 96 different trades and the francophone success rate has shot up to 90 per cent. We have seventeen units and a destroyer in which the language of work is French, and another seventeen French units are proposed. All reports and forms and manuals are published in both languages. We handle enquiries and provide services in both languages. We have French-language newspapers and magazines in our messes and French-language books in our libraries. I might add, one of the most distinguished Canadians, one of the most distinguished soldiers in our history, our recently-retired chief of the defence staff, General Dextraze, is an outstanding son of French Canada of whom we should all be proud.

We haven't accomplished these changes in the armed forces without some misunderstanding, a feeling that maybe the change has gone a little too far too fast. Well, nobody in the service gets promoted who isn't qualified, but everything else being reasonably equal, yes, some francophones get the nod in categories where they're under-represented. The francophone level in the service has now reached 23%--somewhat less in the middle and senior officer ranks. I wouldn't call that a takeover, but I do think it ensures that by 1987 servicemen of both languages will be represented with fairness for the first time.

This transformation has taken place almost everywhere in government, but it hasn't come easily, as you know. It's been tedious, wearing and irritating. It was often carried out in a negative atmosphere. Some people, instead of welcoming it as a new experience, a new skill, a new and enjoyable cultural asset, resented it, and this attitude--and the need for haste--spawned volumes of sometimes excessive regulations.

Canada is committed to the Official Languages Act, but we're not committed to excesses or errors in execution. Its intent is not to make all Canadians bilingual. It's to let francophones, like anglophones, serve their federal government, and be served, in their native tongue. We don't need to label a job as bilingual where both languages aren't required. We don't need to give language training to people nearing retirement. We don't need to create resentment in creating a public service that gives French-Canadians a fair shake and equal status. But when the resentment has faded and we look back on this era, we may agree that the waste and mistakes were a necessary part of the cost of redressing a hundred years of injustice in a decade. Because this is what we have tried to do--and are doing--in Canada.

It amazes me that it took so long to unearth the incredible surge of talent that has emerged from French-Canadians, once they were given an opportunity, talent we had assumed was not there.

The situation in the fifties in Quebec's business world was much the same as in the Canadian government. A French-Canadian had to speak English to move up the ladder and unless he spoke it well the boardroom was closed to him. English-speakers controlled about 80 per cent of Quebec's industry, and in 1957 Quebec's per capita income was around 70 per cent of Ontario's.

By 1975, it was 83 per cent, breaking a pattern in force since Confederation. True, the incomes of French-speaking workers are still behind English-speaking workers in Quebec, but the gap is closing at a fast clip. And it's true that in Montreal's executive suites francophones are still outnumbered. But Bernard Finestone, the president of the Montreal Board of Trade, recently noted that they're moving into top management in Quebec firms at what he calls "an astonishing rate".

There is still some way to go but the economy of Quebec and the place of the francophone in it is secure--except for the hemorrhage of capital, knowhow and brains brought on by the threat of separation.

Quebec's greatest concern, of course, has been in the field of culture. In the early fifties, francophones, like the rest of us, were worried about the American cultural invasion. So the federal government built a national television network and set up production centres in Montreal and Toronto. Not long afterward, the National Film Board moved to Montreal. Filmmakers, trained by the NFB, began to develop an industry, and the board nursed this infant private sector with one-third of its budget.

Today, French Canada's culture is one of the healthiest in the world. Montreal produces more live television in French than the national network of France. Seventy-five per cent of the films shown in schools in Quebec are French-Canadian originals or versions. French-Canadian filmmakers like Claude Jutra, Denys Arcand and J. P. Lefebvre are known in the twenty-seven countries that show their work. Theatre, ballet, opera, concert music, all are thriving.

More French-language books are published and bought in Quebec than in France. And Quebec chansonniers have for years been the toast of Paris.

There is no longer cause for concern. But there is cause for pride. And this is primarily due to the federal presence in Montreal.

In all the areas where francophone moderates in Quebec have demanded a change, that change is taking place. And it's taking place within Confederation. We have a remarkably flexible constitution. It gives Quebec its own school system, tax system, pension plan, welfare plans, economic policies, property rights and health services. We have federal-provincial consultation. We have federal-provincial collaboration, known as "co-operative federalism", which is steadily whittling away our areas of conflict.

Some say Confederation has been a failure. Yet it's given us one of the highest standards of living of any country. It's given us a high degree of political freedom; our government is the world's most decentralized federation. I think we have every right to consider it a success, and separatism as opposed to Quebec's aspirations, merely an excess of emotion, a shadow which misconception casts on reality.

One of these misconceptions is the choice that Mr. Levesque is offering to the people of Quebec. He says they must choose between a sovereign Quebec associated economically with Canada and what he calls the status quo.

The choice he is offering is a non-choice. A separated Quebec will be an isolated Quebec, surrounded by English-speaking Canadians embittered by separation with a centre of gravity shifting to the west, and English-speaking Americans whose immense economic pressures reinforce their concept of the melting pot. His hope of an economic association is, in my view, an illusion.

The other option is equally unrealistic. We have no status quo in Canada. Our system isn't static, it's adapting, it's evolving. It's something we're still revising, a creature of our will. Our federal-provincial conferences are a continuing debate, a process with a constantly changing balance point. As Jean-Claude Falardeau has said, "Canada is not a starting point, it's a goal."

Our goal is a bilingual multicultural country. We're a long way from Cartier's dream of a bilingual Canada coast to coast, but I do think it's ironic that separation should threaten us just as the first dim outline is taking shape.

I know that bigotry hasn't disappeared but I do think it's decreasing. In a recent CTV survey, three out of four anglophones said they wanted Quebec to stay in Confederation. We've a million children studying French in elementary schools in English Canada, a rise of 40% in seven years. In Katamavik, the national youth service for which I'm responsible, young adults are working on community projects across the country in bilingual teams.

The test of progress is not in words but in results. And our war of words isn't part of our ongoing evolution, it's a hangover from the past, a reaction. Most wars are outlets for emotion rather than exercises in logic.

Today our primary defence lies in adjusting opinion to fact. Old ideas, like old soldiers, may never die, but they do fade away. And as soon as we cease to fight the battle between the past and present, we'll begin to take the question-mark out of our future.

Why does the Minister of National Defence come here to talk to you about national unity? It's because I'm a politician. I'm not a soldier. And as a politician I must do all that's possible to ensure that our security is protected, the security of a country to which we are passionately devoted and which is a dynamic entity, a country reaching its potential in richness, in beauty and prosperity.

Canada is a nation facing too many external economic influences, as well as its own internal economic problems, to be facing the spectre of uncertainty about its own survival. Canada is a country which is making incredible, if long overdue, strides towards correcting the mistakes of our history and meeting the imperatives of our present. It is time for the separatists to get off the backs of those they purport to serve, to use their considerable talents, their energies and passions to fulfill our mutual aspirations and the unlimited potential we possess as a unified nation, a nation to which English, French and a myriad of other cultural strains have contributed.

Canada's history is partly written in twenty-two hundred tombstones in a small cemetery at Normandie, where many of my friends' shattered bodies still lie. There are Macraes, Johnsons, O'Neills, Lezinskis, Savoys, Harrises, Rayners, and Thibaults, Gougeons, Tessiers and many others from the Regiment des Chaudieres. Rows of crosses are interspersed with Stars of David to remind us of the composition of our society, the price we have paid to preserve that which was, and still is precious, too precious to dismember through smallness and bitterness, too great not to make us rise to an equal greatness in peacetime, at this time when this nation we cherish above all is in peril.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Mr. Joseph H. Potts, C.D., Q.C., a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Meeting the Threat at Home and Abroad

Now the largest military buildup in history. The disturbing fact of this buildup. Differences now and in 1938-39. Some numbers. The size of Canada's forces. Details of Canada's forces. A brief overview of the future of our defences. Canada's military priorities. A discussion of non-military priorities. The irrational war between the French and English-speaking peoples of Canada. The failures of both French and English Canada in this regard. Changes in the French-English situation. Military transformation. A commitment to the Official Languages Act. The state of French Canada's culture. Some misconceptions. The external economic problems Canada faces now. The importance of a unified nation.