In focus

The Oblates and the fight against Regulation 17

By the beginning of the 20th century, Francophone Oblates from France have become “Canadianized.” They are more willing to take part in the big political and linguistic debates that have plagued the country since Confederation in 1867. Many play particularly active roles in the Franco-Ontarian resistance to Regulation 17 which, from 1912 to 1927, prohibits the use of French in Ontario schools beyond the second year of primary school.

The Ottawa Oblates are highly engaged in this chapter of Franco-Ontarian history. In 1910, they play a leading role in establishing the Association canadienne-française d’éducation d’Ontario and in its activities. Father Charles Charlebois is part of its executive for many years. Three years later, the Oblates launch the Le Droit daily newspaper to advocate for the Franco-Ontarian cause. The same Father Charles will lead the daily until 1934.

In 1923, while French is almost completely banned from the Ontario school system, the Oblates make the bold move to establish an entirely French-language teacher education school associated with the University of Ottawa. The political commitment of the French-Canadian Oblates, however, fuels dissatisfaction among their English-speaking colleagues, who persuade the Pope and his advisers to call for moderation among the most militant French-Canadian nationalists. In the aftermath of the Regulation 17 crisis, the Oblates, who still contribute to the French community’s development, are less quick on the draw.