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Speech to the Congress of the Association des hebdomadaires de langue française du Canada, August 17, 1963

Mister President, you have the right to be proud of your association and of each of its members. The weekly press fulfils a role of primary importance because it accomplishes its work of initiative, information and also training in the foremost ranks of human activity, i.e., at the family level, at the municipal level, within the framework of a region. It is therefore mankind, the Human Being almost individually, in which you are interested rather than the mass readership. International politics, the national problems are no strangers to you, but it is primarily the local economy that you serve, and there is only you who can fulfil such an important role effectively.

This endeavour is carried out across the country by more than a thousand weekly newspapers, but it is necessary to recognize that you, the journalists of the French Press, you bring something more, you play a distinctive role by collaborating in the maintenance and in the constant progress of the French culture in this land of America.

Canada is rich and privileged in more ways than one, but above all because it is the repository and the beneficiary of two great cultures. Your association extends beyond the geographic borders of the province of Quebec because its members are also recruited in the Atlantic Provinces, in Ontario and in the Prairie Provinces. You are therefore the very image of French Canada affirming itself in every part of the country.

It is important, I believe, to continually emphasize this fact and this recognition in order to make Canada a truly bilingual country with two fundamental cultures, to which others have been added to our greater advantage.

American Cultural Invasion

Canadian unity is currently experiencing another difficult period. These difficulties stem from common causes. For several years now, English Canadians have, more than ever, been aware of the American cultural invasion and they feel that they are gradually losing control of their economy. On the other hand, they realize that their standard of living, which they do not want to see lowered, depends to a very large extent on exporting our products to the United States and the importing of American capital. They therefore feel that the invasion they rue is the very source of the prosperity they desire. This is why they understand that their political independence cannot effectively prevent an invasion that has become inseparable from prosperity.

This situation inevitably spawns frustration. A very small number of English Canadians feel some regrets and look back towards the past. Others are tempted to abandon the fight and become Americans. Most, however, have decided to react positively to the American invasion, to emphasize their identity and to draw closer to French Canadians.

Not Flight but Fight

In a nutshell, the solution to this invasion problem is not in flight but in fighting it. When we cannot prevent this invasion, * we need to try to assimilate and control it. Such is the great task that faces French Canada. It must first rebuild society in line with the problems and needs of the modern world and I could say the same of English Canada. The two groups must also come together and know each other better, because I am convinced that more continuous relations can be mutually beneficial. I also believe that the causes and the common aspects of English Canada�s problems and those of French Canada will enable us to come closer together and understand each other more than ever. Because, basically, we are suffering the same difficulty to different degrees and, to find an effective remedy, we need each other. In this sense at least, we are inseparable.

We are also inseparable in the sense that hundreds of thousands of English-speaking Canadians live in Quebec, while nearly a million French-speaking Canadians live outside Quebec. This latter fact was officially recognized by the Government of Quebec when it created a Department of Cultural Affairs. In this sense, Quebec is more than a province  --  it is a Motherland  --  but a Motherland within a confederation  --  associated on the national level.

Slow but Genuine Change

The rapprochement between the two groups requires among other things that English Canada become more aware of the aspirations of French Canada and that French Canada not be too impatient if it finds that this awareness is slow in expressing itself. Some genuine progress is being made from one generation to the next. For example, the Bourassa doctrine on Canadian nationalism, which was considered heresy one generation ago, is now accepted by almost all of English Canada. After all, if we are not evolving at quite the same pace, we are at least changing in the same direction. In my opinion, that is what is essential.

It is necessary to recognize, from the historic and cultural point of view, that our country is primarily formed of two peoples and that these two peoples must have equal rights and an equal opportunity in the expansion and also the direction of their economy. But we must also recognize that it just so happens that the Canadian nation is a combination of these two peoples who founded and made our country grow. When the day comes when we will no longer be able to speak of Canadian unity in our country, Canada will have ceased to exist and then our two cultures will be in grave danger.

At the time when we are preparing to celebrate the centennial, it is appropriate that our Confederation be reshaped and that it meet the requirements of the present time. What we all want is a 1963 model.

Our federalism must be designed with enough flexibility to allow the existence of a Canadian Government that is strong within the limits of its jurisdiction so it can play its role fully among the great nations of the world, while also ensuring the progress and well-being of the Canadian population.

We also want to give the provinces all the responsibilities and powers vested in them by the constitution, as well as the means to exercise these powers.

I would like to repeat that we must agree on a cooperative federalism, i.e., a federative formula free of any unacceptable centralist thinking.

New Era of the Confederative Plan

At the closing of the recent federal-provincial conference, the Premier of Quebec wanted to stress that the confederative plan has entered a new era. I am convinced that more frequent encounters will enable the leaders of the provincial governments and the country to find solutions to current problems, and I have no doubt that a permanent agency will also be able to play an important role in federal-provincial relations. All this will allow a better understanding of our respective problems and also of the common problems. It is in understanding that good relations, friendship and collaboration are established.

Like you, I know that the province of Quebec is different from the others because, while being a province of Canada, it is the fatherland of people who live in other provinces. It needs the means to remain itself; Quebec must have the means to act, to cope with current needs and also to satisfy the aspirations that date back several centuries.

Unity in Diversity

It should be admitted on the other hand, that Canada also needs the means to be itself and to act for itself, at both the domestic and international levels, especially in its endeavours to ensure peace and security in the world. As much for ensuring the revitalization of our economy as for the continuation of our role in the world, we need a united Canada. A unity in diversity, a unity of action as associates, equal associates. It is within a sound Canada that the aspirations of Quebec can be achieved.

The government that I lead, Mr. President, will do its utmost to reach equality between the two partners by starting to ensure an improved understanding, an easier exchange of views and opinions.

I am basing the greatest hopes on the Commission of Inquiry into Biculturalism [tr], which we have just created.

Measures Already Taken

We have already taken the actions for not only officially recognizing the French language in the Government of Canada, but even more, this is what is important, that it be used more and more commonly. We want French to be able to be used just as easily as English in all the sectors of the federal administration. I know we will attain the desired result: a bilingual bureaucracy.

It is in this spirit of sincere cooperation that Canada must turn towards its future and I have no doubt that the Canadian press, and especially the weekly press, will want to contribute the collaboration that we deem indispensable.

I am asking you, ladies and gentlemen, for this collaboration, so that all together we can make the causes of unease disappear and so that we can find permanent solutions to the problems which arise naturally in a bi-ethnic and bicultural country.

A Very Important Problem

Our country has no problem more important to resolve, apart from those of peace and work for the population, than sustaining and developing the Canadian Confederation, based on an equal association, the sole cornerstone which makes a Canadian nation possible.

I have already spoken of the problem of saving the Canadian nation, of maintaining our Canadian identity against the inevitable pressures from the United States of America, pressures that are stronger because they are amicable and because, in many ways, they have produced good results for us.

But some Canadians are beginning to ask themselves why we should be worried about �saving� Canada from the American invasion if we do not believe there is a Canada to save, a Canada that is greater than its parts.

It is my conviction that there is such a Canada, of which we should all be proud to be citizens  -  whether our language is French or English.

I believe that there can be a Canadian nation, within which the two fundamental cultures can develop fully and in an equal association.

I know that this can only be accomplished by respecting and understanding the point of view of the other partner and by fully appreciating the contribution of the partner in question to the building of the Canadian Confederation. This can be achieved; I know it.

I refuse to believe that in a world subject to all the perils and where there is no security, where universal fraternity is the solution to the threat of extinction, where it is absolutely necessary for men to draw closer together in spirit as they are now closer in fact, I refuse to believe that in this world all Canadians cannot live together, work together, grow together in friendship and understanding, rejecting the dangerous counsels of extremism whence they come, so that together we can achieve the great destiny of Canada.

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Source: Pearson, Lester B. Text of Speech delivered by the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada, at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian French Language Weekly Newspaper's Association, August 17, 1963. Ottawa : Library of Parliament, 1963. 7p.


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