Henri Bourassa and the First World War
Clubb, Warren Alexander
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Henri Bourassa, 1868-1952, was a Canadian politician and journalist. He was a Member of Parliament from 1896-1904 and from 1926-35 and editor of Le Devoir, the Montreal daily he founded in 1910, from 1910-32. As a Canadian Nationalist, he attacked closer imperial ties between Britain and Canada and fought restrictions on the use of the French language throughout the Dominion, in the two decades prior to World War I. Both these struggles climaxed during the war. Imperialism in Canada reached its zenith in 1917 with the adoption of conscription and the institution of the Victory Loan campaign. The fight for French language rights climaxed in Ontario in 1915-16. As well as criticizing imperialism and French language restrictions, Bourassa pointed out the problems Canada would face unless she ended her war effort. He wanted his country to be independent and neutral in North America. As the war progressed, he realized that the conflict in Europe was destroying Christian civilization. Only the adoption of Pope Benedict XV's peace proposals by the belligerents could prevent this development. Canada also had to follow Christian principles if she was to reconstruct herself from the destruction she had suffered during the war. Only these principles could combat the imperialism and materialism that had caused the conflict. By the end of the war, Bourassa was placing less emphasis on Nationalism, more on Christianity.