French and English Relations - A History of Conflict

French
and English Relations - A History of Conflict

A great man once said, "Love thy neighbor
as thyself..." Unfortunately in Canada, that is not the case. For many years,
hostility has existed between the two largest ethnic denominations in our
country, the French and the English. Both have tried to undermine one another
in aspects of religion, language, culture and politics. To understand the
cause of this continuing bitter saga, one must take a journey back in time.

Throughout the course of Canadian history, there were many occasions wherein
the French and English Canadians have clashed but three major historical
events tore the relationship into pieces: Red River Rebellion, Conscription
dilemma of World War I and the FLQ October Crisis of 1970 in Quebec. This
essay will discuss the importance of these situations and its impact on
the French and English relations.

The Red River Rebellion, led by Louis

Riel, was one of the first major event that created the rift between the

French and English Canadians. In 1869, when the Hudson's Bay Company sold
the vast territory known as Rupert's Land to the Canadian government, the

Metis were worried. "The Metis descended from the intermarriage of Europeans
with indigenous peoples and they possess elements of both cultures." (Flanagan

1) They feared that the government would disregard their ownership of the

Red River Settlement because they did not have papers to prove they owned
the land. Louis Riel, a Metis man, took leadership and stood up for the
rights of his people. He set up a provisional government in Manitoba. This
act angered the English Canadians and was thought by the Canadian Government
as an act of rebellion. These feelings of resentment and hostility further
elevated with the execution of Thomas Scott. On the other hand, in the

Roman Catholic province of Quebec, many people said Riel's actions were
justified. They felt sympathetic toward Riel and his government. As one
can see, this event led by a man of deep conviction and faith drove a wedge
into a crack between the French and the English Canadians. Francophones
regarded the Red River Rebellion a noble cause and Louis Riel a hero who
stood up to protect the rights of the French-speaking Metis. The Anglophones
saw the rebellion as a threat to Canada's sovereignty and Riel a traitor.

This conflict of emotions would remain until the next major event.

"Conscription!" was the headline of almost
all the newspapers throughout Canada. During World War I, Canada contributed
to the war effort by supplying ammunitions, war vehicles and especially
soldiers. Albeit there was also a predicament involving conscription in

WWII, this was much worse. As the war dragged on, the number of casualties
was mounting and the number of volunteers was dwindling. In reaction to
this predicament, the current Prime Minister, Borden, asked the Parliament
to pass a conscription bill, meaning all able-bodied men would be drafted
into military service. Even just the mention of conscription brought a
storm of protest in Canada, especially from the French Canadians. When
the Military Service Bill was passed in 1917, the thread that bridged the

Anglo-Francophone relations just got thinner. "Although conscription provided
few troops for the war effort, it split the country. It was overwhelmingly
unpopular in Quebec, where there was a massive resistance to military service."
(Reed, Hiebert 1) One reason why French Canadians did not advocate conscription
was they felt abandoned by France when their colony was conquered by British

Forces way back in 1760. Another reason why Francophones, did not support
conscription was because recruiters for the military were Protestants and
spoke mainly English. This Conscription Crisis was an added reason for
the resentment that already exists between the two feuding populace.

Decades have passed and it seemed that
the relationship had hope for peace, but to much dismay, it was to be further
crushed by a horrible event. On October 1970, a crisis in Quebec surfaced
involving the Front Liberation of Quebec (FLQ) and the federal government
that was to result in serious repercussions in later years. The FLQ was
a terrorist organization whose purpose was to gain Quebec independence
from the rest of Canada. Their violent acts reached its pinnacle when they
kidnapped Quebec Labour Prime Minister Pierre Laporte and British diplomat

James Cross. "The FLQ's kidnappings were perhaps the most dramatic domestic
events in 20th century Canadian history." (Watson 1) In reaction to these
events, Prime Minister Trudeau proclaims the War Measures Act, relieving
the civil rights of all Canadian citizens. Quebeckers thought it was an
overreaction that federal troops be sent it into their province. Some questioned
that it was a