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Canadian-American Relations

ISSUE:  Spring 1944

Reconstruction in Canada. Edited by C. A. Ashley. The University of Toronto Press. $1.00. Canadian-American Relations, 1875-1911. By Charles C. Tansill. The Yale University Press. $3.50. Les Caiadiens Francois et Leurs Voisins du Sud. By Gustave Lanctot. Editions Bernard Valiquette. $3.00. Notre Question Nationals By Richard Ar&. Editions de L’Action Nationale. 80 cents. The Canadian Bom in the United States. By Leon Truesdell. The Yale University Press. $3.00. The American-Bom in Canada. By R. H. Coates and M. C. MacLcan. The Ryerson Press. $3.75.

The old quarrel between socialism (now known as State ownership) and free enterprise capitalism is headed for a fight to the bitter end in Canada. Because of “group antagonism,” this endeavor toward social betterment has become a melee in which—as always in similar situations—the Heavenly City desired by all is quite likely to suffer the fate of that snowball in Hell.

Disorderly in appearance though the Canadian scene may be, there is no warrant in authoritative literature dealing with insanity for calling Canada a “schizophrenic” nation, nor for applying congenital derogations to any of the various groups in Canada. Latter-day psychiatrists, turned politicians, are now labelling any social group with whom they personally disagree “schizophrenic,” “paranoic,” “psychotic,” or “neurotic.” This vogue of plastering upon whole peoples, or upon social groups, the characteristics of individual mental or physical disease is contrary to the teachings of all the truly great figures in this science.

Examples of this habit may be found in the condemnation visited upon the Irish by Adolph Meyer who coined the term “Hibernian Paranoia,” and in “The American Disease,” an expression, introduced in Europe, for “neurasthenia.” Political extremists, the chauvinist-inclined among all peoples, have been quick to copy this technique. How contagious this practice is may be seen in Jacques Maritain’s uninformed and indiscriminate use of the words “psychosis” and “neurosis.” Character analyses of national or of social groups founded on an haphazard knowledge of the nature of disease, and streaked with bars sinister uncritically borrowed from dictionaries of psychiatric terms, are embittering relations all around. Such tendencies are expanding in observations being exchanged by Canadians and Americans. This is not the time to give up the use of the English language, where words have a traditional and specified meaning, and replace it with an unpleasant Jabberwocky, where words have no meaning, and where the listener is supposed to be bemused or befuddled by the sound.

The books under review here are happily free of such approaches, and all the authors should be commended for their works, which are well designed to make Canada better known to Americans.

A large majority of all Canadians has been aroused to rebellious protest against the existing setup in Canada. British Canadians have rallied to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation; the French seem solidly massed behind Le Bloc Populaire. Together—though not in alliance —these two new political parties have won most of the recent by-elections, and it is believed generally that the two old parties, Liberal and Conservative, are far on the way out. The progress of the CCF toward power is sensational.

“Reconstruction in Canada,” a reprint of lectures given by the Teaching Staff at the University of Toronto and edited by C. A. Ashley, has been received by partisans of the CCF with an exasperation not unlike that of the countryman before the city fellow, possibly because the lectures are shaded by sophistication, possibly because the book is like the lecture of a professor trying to stimulate a class of adolescents into thinking, and surely because it is primarily an expression of bewilderment before the problems likely to confront any country during the coming world readjustment. The CCF have a program, definite, detailed, and as far-reaching as one that might be concocted here from the ideas motivating the CIO, extreme New Dealers, and Socialists.

However great the impatience of the CCF, the professorial bewilderment is stimulating; among the rare affirmations, “The right of a sovereign state to do what it please with respect to its external economic relations must be circumscribed” may be linked with the status of Canada in the British Empire as demonstrated by Charles C. Tansill.

Close students of diplomatic history will give Mr. Tansill’s “Canadian-American-Relations, 1875-1911” the great praise it deserves; all others will find it difficult to read. The various problems that have troubled the two countries are treated separately. The reader cannot get a whole view of the situation at any given time until he has absorbed a mass of detail, considered nearly two thousand footnotes, and studied the entire book. This is a considerable demand to make, but the effort to meet it is extraordinarily rewarding.

Through these pages stalk a crowd of Canadian and American officials, suspicious and belligerent, narrowly provincial, and though often moved by righteous indignation, far too often given to flag-waving in the interests of their respective political fortunes: all this not without danger to the remainder of the population. American diplomacy seems naive, idealistic—or crude. A Thomas F. Bayard, perennially optimistic, and not unlike the Chevalier himself, is followed in time by a Theodore Roosevelt swinging the Big Stick effectively, threatening to settle the Alaskan Seal dispute by exterminating the seals (save but a few) through “mercy-killings.” Canadian officials are rather unhappy throughout. Haunted by the spectre of annexation, compelled to recognize that Canada is not a sovereign nation, that it is merely a part of the Empire, and that they have no > real authority over its policy, they are often left to stew in the frustration that comes from paying a disproportionate price for the “sake of Imperial interests.” Though the British Foreign Office inclined toward brushing aside Canadian pretensions as childish, and American claims as only slightly less so, it was usually staffed by men who took a sensible, practical view of the problem at hand, though they needed prodding at times. Recognizing that American goodwill was essential to the far-flung Empire, they poured oil on troubled waters and proved adroit in conciliation. Nearly three hundred years after its beginning, the “fisheries” dispute was resolved. Many fish helped in this by no longer frequenting the disputed areas. Whether by design or not, and despite its ascetic allure, this book tells a highly entertaining story, presents an ironical picture of human frailty, and may possibly force reluctant conclusions upon many of its readers. We sadly need a Voltaire to popularize it.

The emphasis throughout “Les Canadiens Francais et lews Voisins du Sud” is on economics, a method of writing history seldom productive of acceptable synthesis. Furthermore, in most instances, Gustave Lanctot and his colleagues follow too closely upon commonly accepted American and British interpretations of French-Canadian history and culture. Alongside fragments of French-Canadian emotion (much of it justifiable, though not explained here historically or culturally) are predominant American ideas which have not been sufficiently understood by the authors to describe adequately the impact of American culture upon French Canadians. We are again served with the well-worn theory that French Canadians learned the idea of individual and collective political liberty, and the notion of political rights, from Americans. This is all very flattering, to Americans, but has now been sufficiently disproved.

Among other sources, confirmation that French Canadians had a clear idea of individual and collective liberty before the American Revolution, and knew how to maintain it despite the absolutism that prevailed in France, may be found in “L Administration de la Nouvelle France” also by Dr. Lanctot, which was published in Paris in 1929. This last is an authoritative work; it should be better known here.

Questionable statements abound in the book under review; nevertheless, it does contain much valuable information. The list of references given by Benoit Brouillette (fur-trading, explorations, missions, 1763-1846) is fascinating and writers of historical romances might well take note.

What we need is an outspoken, uninhibited, and affirmative statement that will reflect the feelings and the will which have motivated French Canadians throughout their history. French Canadians constitute a nation within a nation; this is not the creation of a few leaders alone; it is rather the result of conquest, and of the will inherent in the mass to continue functioning as a cultural unit. At times, the people have experienced great difficulties in finding leaders who would articulate their aspirations and will, and organize them for action consonant with their culture. But it is with these people, with these mass feelings and ideas, we must eventually deal. Notwithstanding Dr. Lanctot’s statement that American capital investments in Quebec passed their peak in 1936, the last decade has seen an enormous increase of American private and governmental investment in Canada, particularly in Quebec. For this reason alone, it would seem wise to know the facts, not to mention our interest in helping prevent a possible sharp break in the North American front.

Richard Ares in “Notre Question Nationale” has come close to producing such a book. It is the best integrated statement yet to come from a French Canadian of the present generation. Ares is a Jesuit, one of the younger men in the Order. His work is marked by all the logic and the discipline for which the Jesuit is famous. Soberly, letting the chips fall where they will, and in almost primer-like style, he describes the outstanding features of the status of French Canadians in the Dominion today, and achieves synthesis by factual historical analysis that will bear critical examination. Ares calls for action, and announces another book that will deal with the ideas and the doctrines underlying French-Canadian culture. This reviewer has examined Ares’ book carefully; he finds nothing in it conflicting with American ideals; it is filled with information we should know; his forthcoming book should be a noteworthy event.

The statistical studies of the Canadian element in our population (2,200,000 English speaking and 1,106,000 French speaking), and of the American stock in Canada (818,000), are invaluable reference works. The daily floating population of Canadians (visitors, business people, and so forth) in the United States numbers 84,000, while a daily floating population of 164,000 Americans circulates in Canada. The reasons for all this cross emigration, and daily movements across the border, are numerous and interlocking. Leon Truesdell in “The Canadian Born in the United States” makes little attempt to interpret the mass of figures he has assembled; R. H. Coates and M. C. Mac-Lean in “The American-born in Canada” are more venturesome. Such intermingling of peoples must rank first among the influences each country is having upon the other.

If we must use medical analogy to highlight the North American scene, let us do so within reasonable bounds. An illness is a process of adaptation to new conditions being imposed upon the body; during this period the body is struggling toward immunity, toward equilibrium and health; thus adaptation itself is a malady, a malaise. Something of the kind seems to be going on in Canada, in North America. Whole peoples, large social groups, are in a process of adaptation to each other. Malaise is clearly evident in contacts between these groups, has been acute at times, but it is also clear that initial attitudes of fear, suspicion, and antagonism are giving way to a growth of understanding. The body social of Canada, of North America, is struggling toward equilibrium, toward health.


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