At the root of the split in Canada is the reality that two European empires had colonized and dominated history after contact. Of course we talking about the tensions between Canadians of British and French backgrounds.
During the phase of the Canada’s early development after confederation frustrations on both sides often boiled over as result of Canada’s military contributions.
Boer War – Prime Minister Laurier decided to send volunteer troops to South Africa despite French Canadians vehemently opposing this support of the British empire. Many Anglo Canadians supported the decision. The Boer war exposed the exposed the English-French split in Canadian nationalism.
WWI – again the split revealed Canada’s fractured nationalism. By 1917, Britain began asking the empire for more military contributions. For many French Canadians, the voluntary effort Canada had contributed since the beginning of the war was enough. Now Borden was asking for Canadians to be conscripted into the army and forced to go fight in the field of Europe. An election over the conscription issue solved the dilemma despite the one-sided opposition to conscription in Quebec (62 of 65 seats in that election went to the anti-conscriptionist Laurier). Many Anglo Canadians had their brand of nationalism largely defined as being loyal to the British Empire and supported the idea. Again a great split! The deep wound would be re-opened again in the 1942 plebiscite over conscription. However, this time the wound never cut as deep.
The inter war years marked the beginning of Canada breaking free of British influence. As a result of Canada’s contributions on the battlefield it was had two seats awarded at the Paris Peace conferences. However, Lloyd George still signed for the entire British empire. Canada also became an autonomous member of the League of Nations. Several more steps were taken when Canada refused to simply follow British direction during the Chanak Crisis of 1922. Britain appealed to its colonies for help when Turkish troops threatened British control there. Prime Minister King insisted to Britain that Canada would not automatically follow the wishes of London but would instead ask Canada’s Parliament. On September 10, 1939 Canada fully declared was against Germany on its own!
In 1931, The Statute of Westminster had formally recognized the independence of Canada’s foreign and domestic affairs. Other judicial developments included the famous Persons Case decision were women in Canada were declared persons and thus eligible to become senators. Canada would finally receive full autonomy with full patriation of the constitution in 1982. A Charter of Rights and Freedoms would also be added. Thus, constitutional amendments no longer required the British Judicial Privy Council.
Other highlights of growing Canadian nationalism included:
- enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1947
- A Canadian Governor General for the first time in 1952 (Vincent Massey)
- Creation of the Canadian flag in 1965
- Creation of “Oh Canada” as Canada’s national anthem in 1967
The relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada is one of the most important issues facing the country. Since the end of WWII, changes in Quebec have caused many French Canadians to question their place within Canada. Some want the province to become a nation, others want to stay in Canada, but are demanding major changes in the relationship. Current problems began with Premier Duplessis.