The Association canadienne-française d’éducation d’Ontario (ACFÉO) fights against Regulation 17 on all possible fronts, including the press. Le Droit, founded by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Ottawa in 1913, is ACFÉO’s main comrade in arms. Le Droit awakens public opinion, mobilizes people, and communicates ACFÉO instructions and watchwords from Ottawa to the rest of Ontario.
Le Droit’s motto, “The future belongs to those who fight” effectively translates the ambition of its founders: the daily should be a protest newspaper, akin to Le Devoir in Montréal and L’Action catholique in Québec. It presents its “program” in the inaugural edition, published on March 27, 1913:
Given the painful situation facing French Catholic schools in our province, the directors of the “Syndicat” considered their first duty to be publishing a daily newspaper to better inform our people and prove to our adversaries that we intend to fight until the end with loyal weapons. (...) When the future of half a million French Canadians is at stake, it is not acceptable to neglect any means of defence. And what better weapon than a newspaper, especially a daily newspaper that is first and foremost devoted to serving the Catholic religion, the French language and equal rights for all.1
This inaugural edition of Le Droit, with 10,000 copies printed, is very modest: a dozen advertisements – mostly from businesses in Lowertown, where Le Droit chooses to reside – and a grand total of fifteen columns published on ... six pages. But the directors of the newspaper warn those who would judge its value by its size:
Our publication is very unassuming; we do not pretend to have a monopoly on good ideas, and even less on good deeds. Every day Le Droit will offer around fifteen columns of sound and instructive reading, for no other purpose than to be useful to its readers. To judge the value of a newspaper by the number of its pages would be to “measure men in fathoms,” and the French Canadian public does not seem disposed to fall for that ploy.2
Le Droit experiences difficult beginning. ACFÉO, scarcely better off, cannot lend a hand. Subscription campaigns are organized among elites and organizations that share Le Droit’s ideas. Management also turns to Quebec to replenish the coffers. The situation stabilizes rapidly and, for the next century, the Ottawa daily accompanies Ontario Francophones in their struggles to secure their future.
1 Le Droit, « Notre programme », le 27 mars 1913, p. 1 (translated from the original).
2 Le Droit, « Notre journal », le 27 mars 1913, p. 1 (translated from the original).
Linotype workshop, Le Droit newspaper, Ottawa, [ca. 1923]. Photo : Studio Déry, Hull.
University of Ottawa, CRCCF, Fonds Le Droit (C71), Ph92-25.