La Fete de Saint-Jean-Babtiste
Today is the historic holiday of La Fete de Saint-Jean-Babtiste. In Quebec it is now officially known as La Fete de Nationale du Quebec.
It has been celebrated in French Canada since the French colonists arrived in the 17th Century. Over time it has been transformed from a religious holiday to a holiday of all things French to the special holiday for French Canadian Nationalists, a secular statutory holiday in Quebec. For some it is seen as an exclusive holiday for those who aspire for the creation of an independent separate French Nation. We were reminded of this when a few booed the couple of English speaking Quebec bands performed at a concert. Eventually it may come to be a celebration of Quebec culture which includes Quebeckers other than the Quebecois: the anglophones and allophones and the First Nations people.
The Quebec Flag
The Franco-Ontarien flag.
This flag was developed here in Northern Ontario and first flown at Sudbury University. Today in recognition of Franco-Ontariens and Saint-Jean-Babtiste Day it if flown over the Ontario Parliament Buildings.
The flag is in two parts, representing the two founding cultures. The green and white also stands for the two seasons of Summer and Winter. On the green panel is a fleur-de-Lys and on the white segment is a stylized trillium, the official flower of Ontario.
Today I am reminded of a discovery of mine a few years ago when I was doing work at the local museum. I was sorting through a box of material of an organisation with the initials OJC on it. It was little more than a few lists of names, of local families and some ceremonial banners. I asked around of the other people at the museum as to what it was all about and what did OJC stand for. No one seemed to know. Finally, I discovered on a scrap of paper "Ordre de Jacques Cartier.
"This was the name of the organizations to which these materials belonged. I had some difficulty finding out what kind of organization it was. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-34970928_ITM
I was discussing this with a woman in our little village who had deep roots in the area. She is a bit of an amateur historian. Finally, she told me that it was a secret French Canadian organiztion. And, it would still be hard to find anyone who would discuss it with me. She told me of an older person in the area who she knew had been a member and he might talk to me about it. I never did locate him but in time I learned it was a men's organization, organized like a religious order. It was so secretative that some men did not even tell their wives that they belonged. It was connected with the French Catholic Church as most French groups were in those days, I imagine the priests had some leadership role or at least were very influential.
The OJC was an organization founded to promote French language culture: social, educational, political. It involved such things as helping a promising Franco-Ontarien student get to University to help organize and work in French language institutions: Caisse Populaire, (Credit Union), Richilieu Club ( social and philanthropic club), Saint Jean Babtiste Society, Association des Jeunnesse Francaises, Les Chevalier de Coulombe (Knights of Columbus). etc.
One needs to know that in 1926 French Canadians were a much oppressed group, treated as second class citizens in Canada. Even in Quebec, the minority English were the managers and the professionals while the French were the workers and labourers . Canada was still a predominantly rural country with most people working in farming, foresty and mining, particularly the French.
At a time when Canada had an official policy of cultural genocide toward First Nations' people, the French , outside of Quebec,(where they had some rights under the British North American Act, as to their language, culture an civil law.) struggled with the French language and culture officially discouraged. This too was a form of cultural genocide.The best example of this was Regulation 17
which limited the teaching in the French Language.
Canada was a very different country in 1926 than it is today. It was in this context that the OJC was founded to quietly promote the French agenda of the broadening of the acceptance of the use of the French language and recognition and strengthening of French culture.
The OJC was founded in 1926 in Vanier, Ontario under the leadership of Cure Barette. It eventually was established across Canada in French speaking area. It lasted until 1965. Ironically, it ended as an organization with the rise and militancy of the Quebec Separatists. Outside of Quebec the French Canadians decided they wanted to remain part of Canada. Over the years they had struggled and continued to struggle to win a place where they could be comfortable within Canada and maintain their French language and culture. They did not want to be part of a separate French Nation. To this day, French Separatists have written off French Canadians outside of Quebec as a lost cause, to be obsorbed by English Canada, that they should not waste their time over and try to speak for all the French Canadians in Canada. For them French Canada is Quebec.
Canada being declared a Federal bilingual and multicultural country under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau those French Canadians ouside of Quebec were rewarded. I suspect the work of the Ordre of Jacques Cartier behind the scenes had an important part to play. French institutions they helped create were ready to serve a growing and thriving French community. As an example in our area we have strong French institutions that serve all the people. I bank at the Caisse Populaire, I shop at the Regionale Cooperatif de Nipissing, and if I want to learn Spanish I would have to go to College Boreal. We have a French language high school, Franco Cite as well as a bilingual high school. Our small hospital serves us equally in French and English. When I sought some counseling I went the the L' Alliance. Retail stores are fully bilingual and of course there are French speaking social and philanthropic clubs. One would not dream of holding a public meeting without everything being done in two languages, even though virtually all French speakers are fully billingual. The spirit of the Ordre de Jacques Cartier group is reflected in all this.
While the OJC contribution to the evolution of Canada to what it is today may never be fully known I suspect without them Canada might not have become what it is and may have even split over the separatist forces.
That there was group in this rural area gives witness to the extent of it's influence throughout French speaking Canadians.
This is about the only book written about the OJC. It is only in French as far as I can find out. In fact, virtually all the important articles on the OJC are in French and in the archives of the French speaking Universities. English Canada knows little or nothing about this organization and its place in Canadian History.
For those who speak a little French here is a video of on L'Ordre de Jacques-Cartier from a recent broadcast of Panorama
on French TV.
Note: I always feel I must apologize for dropping the accents on the French words. I cannot find a way Blogger will easily allow you to include the accents. I do recognize that the accents are important parts of the words. The only way I know I could include them is too time consuming. It requires the writing the accented letters on a page in Word, or another word processing program and then copy the letter from there and paste it into the Blogger text. If anyone knows another way that works I would appreciate hearing from you.