Fusion in Canada
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE is another problem demanding attention akin to that of assimilation, and yet quite distinct and of scarcely less importance. This is the problem of fusion of races and the production of a distinctly Canadian type, neither English, French, or American, but Canadian. Perhaps few countries in the world have had so much to do with the question of race as Canada, and certainly in no country has it been handled with greater skill and success. The history and present conditions of Austro-Hungary, South Africa and some other countries are in sharp and painful contrast to the harmonious relations which exist in this country. Moreover, we have no doubt that these good relations and harmonious distinctions can be continued without friction indefinitely ; and yet, however harmonious, the race question always presents the thought of the possibility, under some unexpected conditions, of precipitating strained relations and grave national disturbances.
Not only, therefore, is it necessary that there be a fusion of the incoming people, but it is desirable for the highest good of the country that the two predominating races in the country should, if possible, be fused into something like a distinctive Canadian type. There can be no true national sentiment as long as we speak of ourselves as English, or Scotch, or German, or French, or Canadian ; such a condition indicates the adolescence of youth, and is incompatible with a strong national sentiment and a great future.
This does not imply any weakening of British sentiment, but rather the placing of upon a securer foundation. There is a splendid harmony between the two races now, and the French-Canadian has abundantly proven his loyalty and devotion to the British Crown. The two dominant races in Canada today represent the two most ambitious nations in the Old World, and who can doubt that a thorough fusion of the two would not produce a type of man where the best qualities of each would be more apparent ?
Moreover, let it be observed that there is no real or vital difference in the origin of these two races ; back beyond the foreground of their history they were one. "Differences of race in Canada are, when looked into, a complete illusion. The same Low Germans who occupied England occupied the northern part of France as far as Picardy, and their language was there the language of the country. The same barbarous Norsemen or Nor-mans who poured down upon the English coasts poured down upon the French, meeting in both the same Gallic or Celtic people. It was long before Celt mingled with Norsemen or Saxon in either country to produce a common race. In Britain the Teutonic language held its own. In France it gave way as the Gallic had done before it, to the Latin. The adoption of Latin gave the French the lead in culture and thus produced the all-conquering Nor-man race. It also produced the illusion we have spoken of, making the English think their Norman conquerers. were a different people from themselves, as it to-day makes the French-Canadian imagine the English intruder to be of different blood. Many of the most princely houses of England, Ireland and Scotland are proudest of their old Norman French blood. It is from that strain the British nation inherits much of its empire-building, world-conquering ambitions and dominating individuality."
However desirable this fusion might be, there should be no attempt made to precipitate it. This could only result in a tendency in the opposite direction. Its accomplishment should be left to natural influences and the progress of time, aided by sympathetic encouragement and mutual concession on the part of both races. There must be no struggle, or even ambition, for the dominance of either race or language or religion, for whether we speak English or French, or some other language, is not of so much importance as that we are one race, a Canadian race. The present duty of both races is to seek to break down, by mutual desire, the barriers, whatever they may be, which tend to keep the races apart.
There are in both races, no doubt, those who would intensify the distinctions between us ; English-Canadians, who would have all to be English, and French-Canadians who may cherish the ambition for the dominance of that people. Such attitudes can only intensify and increase the distinctions which are now apparent, and neither of these views represent the true patriot, but rather the enemies of this country. It is, however, gratifying to know that there are many in both races who are capable of looking at this question from a broad standpoint, and with a wider discernment as to what is for the country's future good.
There are evidences 'to indicate that this tendency toward ultimate fusion has already set in ; the foundations are surely being laid-quietly, yet deeply and strongly—for the fusion of all Canadians into one distinct people. The English Canadian has many characteristics quite apart and distinct from the Englishman, or the so-called American. There is no attempt made here to explain the causes of this difference ; it is simply a fact. Probably many factors contribute to these distinguishing characteristics. The same is, in a large measure, true of the French-Canadian, as compared with his blood relations in Europe. These differences are also with him being constantly and rapidly intensified. The French-Canadian has very little, apart from language and religion, in common with the France of today.
" Two centuries of existence on the American continent have made antipodes of the French Canadian, and, like the plants that grow in different soils, they have formed another variety of French-man, having the same sap, but a different foliage."
" In our educational, physical, social and commercial training are found equal parts of English, American and old French before the time of the Revolution. We can find in ourselves nothing that is in common with modern France, whose methods we ignore, whose mental culture and science we do not possess, and where we do not know a single relative."
Since we are neither English nor French, in the true sense of the word, each element with mutual desire and willing concession should strive to accelerate any movement by which the distinguishing features should be lost sight of, and by which the apparent, if somewhat mysterious, tendency to fusion could be promoted. It has been truly affirmed that " each race possesses sufficient qualities to complete the other and form a great nation." In the meantime, while this process goes on, let us have mutual respect and admiration for the other, and seek to look on affairs as far as possible from the standpoint of each other. There must be mutual forbearance.
"We Canadians who are of Anglo-Celtic origin cannot rightly blame French-Canadians for being proud of their French origin. We are always proud of the fact that we are of English or Irish or Scotch or Welsh blood. Why should not a French-Canadian be proud of his Gallic descent, and still be a loyal British subject ?
" A country which has seen such glorious epochs, a nation which has renewed its youth with almost an immortal vigor, a people who have risen swiftly and buoyantly from the most terrible calamities and flourished greater after every misfortune, represents a race whose blood is mingled with the best blood of Europe and America, and has lightened the world with its dreams of race autonomy. It has taken very many centuries to weld Celt and Saxon together into one race, and glaring facts prove that much remains to be done. Still, the Anglo-Saxondom of which we boast is as much Celt as it is Saxon, and it is a curious fact that when we hear a specially warm boast for Anglo-Saxondom it comes in the majority of cases, from a man bearing a Celtic name. Here is hope that in the long run the two races which live together in Canada, which are not really two, being composed of the same ethnic elements and differing only in religion and language, will some day become absolutely one."
There is no more heroic page in all history than the French conquest of Canada, and its reclamation from nature's savagery and man's barbarity ; the exploration of nearly the whole continent, and the establishment of civilization from the frozen north to the tropic south, and from the Atlantic seaboard to the shadows of the Rockies.
There is no more glorious record than the de-fence of the feeble, far-flung line of civilization along the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes from the attacks of the most cruel savages that ever tortured a help-less victim. There is no loftier instance of devotion than when the scattered colonists, aided by a few regulars, gathered for the defence of New France against the overpowering and disciplined armies and natives of Britain. " We will answer you from the mouth of our cannon," said grim, in-corrigible 'old Frontenac from the rampart of Quebec, when he was summoned to surrender ; and he kept his word. And when the end came, when- the feeble colony made its last great fight and lost, the valor of the defenders was recognized in the honor paid to the illustrious French General, Montcalm, whose name is linked in equal honor with that of his chivalrous antagonist, Wolfe. Such was the forbearing and generous treatment of the vanquished, that twice in our sorest need have they been a bulwark to our young and struggling country. Certainly nothing now is to be feared from the duality of races. They have long since agreed to live in amity, recognizing the fact that amity is necessary to prosperity. But complete fusion into a distinct Canadian type should be the desired goal of all.