Address to Her Majesty Praying Her to Restore the Legal Status of the French Language in the Provincial Parliament of Canada
|To the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty (1845)
|Source: Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, February 21st, 1845|
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Canada, in Provincial Parliament assembled, most humbly beg leave to approach Your Majesty, for the purpose of renewing the expression of our faithful attachment to Your Majesty's Person and Government, and of representing,—
That, sensible of the advantages we enjoy from Your Majesty's care and protection, and which we trust may long be continued to us under Your Majesty's parental sway, it is, at all times, our duty to submit for Your Majesty's most gracious consideration, such matters as may have a tendency, with any class of Your Majesty's subjects, to diminish the contentment which we are well assured, Your Majesty desires should exist in every portion of Your dominions.
That the French is the native language of a very large class of Your Majesty's subjects in this Province; of this class the great mass indeed speak no other language;—in it the largest portion of their laws and the books on their system of jurisprudence are written; their daily intercourse with each other is conducted; it is the language in which alone they can invoke the blessings of Heaven on themselves and all that is dear to them. A language indispensable to so many of Your Majesty's faithful People, cannot, they will believe, be viewed by their Sovereign as foreign, when used by them.
That Your Majesty's Royal Predecessors placed the languages spoken by the two great classes of Your Majesty's subjects in this Province, on the same footing; affording, in this respect, equal justice and equal facility to all.
That this principle was never departed from until the Act re-uniting these Provinces was passed.
That we do not question that the best intentions and designs influenced the minds of those who enacted the provision which declared:
"That all writs, proclamations, instruments for summoning and calling together the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, and for proroguing and dissolving the same, and all writs of Summons and Election, and all writs and public instruments whatever relating to the said Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, or either of them, and all returns to such writs and instruments, and all journals and entries, and written or printed proceedings of what nature soever of the said Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, and of each of them respectively, and all written or printed proceedings and reports of Committees of the said Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, respectively, shall be in the English language only."
But, that in the very first Session of the Legislature, under that Act, it was indispensable to translate into French every public record and document. That the debates were not and could not, unless a portion of the Representatives of the People were silenced, be carried on without its use; that in Courts and judicial proceedings it was found equally necessary as before the Union, and for every other practical purpose, it is as much used as it ever has been.
That the only distinction which exists, then, is that the French is not permitted to be the legal language of Parliamentary records; a distinction of little value perhaps in itself,—one which cannot produce any beneficial result on the feelings or habits of the People using it; while it gives rise to a feeling among them injurious to the peace and tranquillity of the Province, namely, that this limited proscription of their language conveys, however undesignedly, an imputation of unfavourable distinction words themselves.
That desirous that the hearts of all men in this Province may be joined in unity, in their attachment to and support of Your Majesty's Person and Government, we humbly pray Your Majesty to endeavour to remove this cause of discontent, and to recommend to the Imperial Parliament the repeal of that portion of the law which has given rise to it; assuring Your Majesty that such a course will be hailed, by Your Majesty's loyal Canadian people, as an additional mark of Your Majesty's solicitude for their welfare.