From Cold War to Present Day

Francophones in the Military

French Canadians and the Military

After 1945, Brigadier J.PE. Bernatchez was asked to look into the reasons for the shortage of Francophones in the army and to offer solutions. In the prevailing atmosphere of Canadian defence, his recommendations would not go far, except for that advocating the establishment of a school for Francophone recruits to receive instruction in their own language, which would be implemented in 1949. The armed forces had been reorganized after the war in response to political pressures and new realities, and there was little enthusiasm for further reorganization to reflect the French fact, as some would have wished. Changing the ways of a victorious army is not an easy task.

The Francophone presence in the expanding forces of the 1950s was marked by a series of studies involving the three arms. These were the first stirrings of interest in this problem, accompanied by observations that were clear to any Francophone, whether serving in the forces or not. Those who had thus far avoided thinking about the problem now learned that French Canadians perceived the Canadian forces as an English institution. A military career was not an option for Francophones who were unilingual, or even those who were less than completely fluent in English. Transfer to various parts of Canada precluded a Frenchlanguage education for their children and a full cultural life for their families. Surveys revealed that Francophones were well aware of this reality. It negatively influenced their participation in the military and thus the cohesiveness of Canadian defence activities.