June 29, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Georges Henri Boivin



In February, 1916, I had the honour of addressing two large recruiting meetings at Massey Hall in Toronto. I am not pretentious enough to believe that my voice was required to urge the people of Ontario to enlist, but I took advantage of the invitation to thank them for what they had done and were doing for Belgium and Prance, as well as for democracy and civilization.
I had my own province in mind when I went to Toronto to address those meetings.

I was anxious that Quebec should do its duty and I was already aware of a few of the reasons which rendered some, if not all of my compatriots, less enthusiastic about recruiting than they would otherwise have been. At that meeting I deprecated the speeches made by Bourassa and Lavergne in the province of Quebec, but in doing so I warned my audience that the school laws of Ontario were being used by many as an argument against recruiting in my province. Striking Regulation 17 from the school laws of Ontario would have sent more French Canadians to the front than this Military Service Bill. Remember, Sir, that I did not then discuss, and I do not propose to discuss now, the merits or the demerits of Ontario school legislation; that is a matter for Ontario to decide. But I say once more to the people of Ontario: even if you are justified in making the law you have made; even if the law is not as unfair to the French Canadians as they believe it to be; even if their refusal to obey the law is deserving of censure-would not the sending of 25,000 more men from Quebec to fight Germany have been worth the price of meeting the French Canadians half way and of giving to their children the right to study their geography and history and arithmetic in French? What reply can the recruiting officer or the public man who is appealing for recruits in Quebec, give to the man who says: You ask me to go and fight for liberty and democracy under the British flag. You want me to fight for the rights of small nations and minorities to govern themselves and enjoy their own religion, language and laws. You compare my liberties with those of German subjects. But what about Ontario and Manitoba? Are they not British provinces? My brother, my uncle, or my cousin, who lives there, tells me that he is deprived of the right to have his children taught their own language.

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