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Detail, War Memorial,
Elgin & Wellington, Ottawa

Botha or Bourassa?

Editorial in The Globe
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
March 30, 1918

Amid the grim and graphic cables chronicling another chapter in the bloody battle raging on a fifty-five mile fighting front in France-the crucial struggle between desperate Hun determination to dominate and dauntless and undismayed men who stand for freedom and world welfare, a struggle in which thousands of gallant young Canadians are participating this Easter-two significant dispatches from wide-apart overseas Dominions found place in the news columns of yesterday’s issue of The Globe. They interpreted the spirit and told the story of some of those, descendants of other races, who now share the citizenhood of the British Empire, who enjoy the liberty insured by British institutions, and whose fellows are gladly giving service and sacrifice to perpetuate that heritage for generations yet unborn.

One of these dispatches came from Cape Town, South Africa; the other from Quebec, Canada. The Cape Town despatch records that General Louis Botha, erstwhile enemy in the Boer War, now Premier of South Africa, in the course of an impressive speech to the Parliament of the Union, “expressed the desire to move as an unopposed motion” a tribute to the forces of Field Marshal Haig bespeaking “our deep sense of the tenacity shown by them in the great battle now progressing.” General Botha’s resolution concluded: “We are proud to think that our brother South Africans have acquitted themselves like men in this great test. We fervently pray the Almighty to grant success of arms to Great Britain and her Allies, and we trust that the success of the Allies may lead to a lasting peace among the nations of the world.”

The Quebec despatch tells that members of the Dominion Police and several civilians were injured in a riotous clash between officers and civilians in connection with the administration of the Military Service Act in that city. “A mob of 5,000 persons,” the despatch states, stormed the station in which the officers entrusted with the enforcement of the Act had taken temporary refuge. A summons was sent for the Fire Department, the calling out of the militia was threatened, and the city policy had to hold the mob back “with revolvers in hand.” Again last night, as recorded by despatches, in another part of this issue, the tumult was renewed in deliberate and more serious form, and the offices of The Chronicle newspaper, which had criticized the rioters, were raided and destroyed.

Why this contrast between Cape Town and Quebec-this contrast so tragic to Canada? Responsibility cannot lie wholly at the door of our misguided French-Canadian fellow-citizens. The gallant service of many of their soldier and sailor sons testifies that their race has lost none of its indomitable courage, none of its dashing heroism. It must be that the home-staying French-Canadian has missed something essential that has been given in large and noble measure to the home-staying South African. He has not the same appreciation of the supreme issues at stake. He has not the same understanding of the world situation which has to be determined in the clash of cruel combat on the fields of France and Flanders. He does not realize his own stake and the stake of his children’s children in the outcome. He has not grasped the fateful fact that victory for the Allies is the only thing which can “lead to a lasting peace among the nations of the world” - a peace based upon democracy, self-determination, and recognition of the rights of minorities and little nations, the very things which he contends.

The splendor of Cape Town and the tragedy of Quebec lie, in the final analysis, in leadership. The contrast is the contrast between Both and Bourassa. The achievement of the Boer in building about him a contented, happy, prosperous, and patriotic people, in bridging the chasm from Krugerism to British liberty, in healing the wounds of war, in discouraging sectionalism and internal strife, in developing national sentiment to its noblest expression, has made his people big and great. To make his people narrow and small seems to be the purpose of the man who professes to lead the spurious “Nationalism” which afflicts Quebec. Left by the twisted, tortuous happenings of the electoral campaign of 1911 in “little brief authority,” this unworthy demagogue has devoted his energies and abilities to the development of a discontented, unhappy, suspicious sentiment among his compatriots. If there were grievances, he sought to magnify them. If there were wounds, he salted them. And if there were none, he persistently plotted to create distrust, to bring about misunderstanding, to breed sectionalism and strife between race and race and creed and creed. When war came he served the Boche. Its extremity was his satisfaction. When heroic Beland eagerly pledged his service to Belgium, the unworthy Bourassa fled to a French port and hastened homeward under the protection of the British navy, there to launch with renewed zest and bitterness his disloyal and dishonest propaganda.

Unfortunately the contemptible work of this disloyalist in the sister Province of Quebec has been unwittingly aided and abetted by extremists in Ontario. Sectionalism clashed with sectionalism; bigotry combatted bigotry-and both toughened in the conflict. In his own Province loyal leaders of public thought were too lackadaisical or too indisposed to voluntarily jeopardize their popularity by embarking with fierce fervor in an educational clash which called for ferocity and intense consecration rather than pleasant worlds and platitudinous exhortation. As a result Quebec stands tragically contrasted with Cape Town in the most crucial test of the Empire’s history, and the Canadian records being written in imperishable flame on the fields of Old France are sullied by scenes in the citadel of her descendants in the new world.

Surely it is not yet too late to restore throughout this Dominion national unity of ideal and endeavour. The obligation is upon each citizen and upon every Province. Is there no common rallying-ground for all Canadians? Is there to be no whole-hearted “getting together” in inspiring rivalry of service for the cause which is as much ours as it is France’s or Belgium’s? Is there not opportunity for more of the noble Botha spirit in public and private life? Is there not need to throw the miserable Bourassas of every Province on the national scrap-heap?”