What's that you say, Sir Laurier?

I came across a quote today, passed around by Canadians outraged at the Liberal win on the October 19th federal election of this year, that's been misattributed in order to argue in favor of cultural assimilation and religious intolerance.

It's being spread around on social media and in other corners of the internet that Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the 7th Prime Minister of Canada, spoke the following words in 1907:

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes a Canadian and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet a Canadian, and nothing but a Canadian.

There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is a Canadian, but something else also, isn't a Canadian at all. We have room for but one flag, the Canadian flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the Canadian people."

Right. There are a few fairly nasty gotchas in this speech - the first being that we have room for but one flag. In fact, prior to the 1960s, we had several flags, called the Red Ensign - all of them with the British Union Jack and individual coats of arms for each Province. The Royal Canadian Navy flew blue variations of these.

The second gotcha is in the statement that we have room for one language. It had been long established that Canada has two languages - English and French.

The third gotcha is that Sir Laurier was a Liberal party leader who won popular opinion and a federal election with a platform built on minority rights, particularly the rights of the aboriginal and Métis people following the hanging of Métis rebel leader Louis Riel. He would never have said Canada had one language - English - because he was sympathetic to the causes of aboriginal and Métis people and was, himself, French.

Canada has long prided itself in being a cultural mosaic, rather than a melting pot like our sister country, the U.S.A.

So who said this?

After a little bit of research (i.e. less Googling than most people do to find free internet porn) I discovered this quote from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907:

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American ...

There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag ... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Oops.

Here are some real quotes from Sir Wilfrid Laurier on cultural diversity in Canada:

"Two races share today the soil of Canada. These people had not always been friends. But I hasten to say it. There is no longer any family here but the human family. It matters not the language people speak, or the altars at which they kneel."

"Let them look to the past, but let them also look to the future; let them look to the land of their ancestors, but let them look also to the land of their children."

"Fraternity without absorption, union without fusion." - June 25, 1901

And on civil liberty:

"We have no absolute rights among us. The rights of each man, in our state of society, end precisely at the point where they encroach upon the rights of others." -June 26, 1877

And on politics in general:

"The great mass of the electors are ignorant, and a great majority of them never read, and remain as much in the dark as to what is going on in this country as if they were residing in Europe." - July 10, 1882

"In my judgment there is no more urgent reform than educating public and private opinion to unselfishness, & until that reform is achieved all other reforms are impossible." - December 1882

If you really prefer the sentiments in the quote from Roosevelt, check out more of his arguments in favor of assimilation and then consider perhaps that you'd actually be happier living with our neighbours to the south.

Author

Jeff Szusz

I'm a professional web developer, a novice videography nerd, and I love a good book or games with friends. I'm @jeffszusz on twitter!