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Regulation 17

Regulation 17 (French: Règlement 17) was a regulation of the Ontario Ministry of Education, issued in July 1912 by the Conservative government of premier Sir James P. Whitney.[1] It restricted the use of French as a language of instruction to the first two years of schooling. It was amended in 1913, and it is that version that was applied throughout Ontario.[1][2] French Canada reacted vehemently, and lost, dooming its French language Catholic schools. This became a central reason why French Canada distanced itself from the war effort, as its young men refused to enlist.[3]

French reaction

French Canada reacted with outrage. Quebec journalist Henri Bourassa in November 1914 denounced the "Prussians of Ontario." With the World War raging, this was a stinging insult.[4] The policy was strongly opposed by Franco-Ontarians, particularly in the national capital of Ottawa where the École Guigues was at the centre of the controversy. The newspaper Le Droit, which is still published today as the province's only francophone daily newspaper, was established by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1913 to oppose the ban. Faced with separate school boards' resistance and defiance of the new regulation, the Ministry of Education issued Regulation 18 in August 1913 to coerce the school boards' employees into compliance.[5]

Ontario's Catholics were led by the Irish Bishop Fallon, who united with the Protestants in opposing French schools.[6] Regulation 17 was repealed in 1927.[7][8]

In 1915, the provincial government of Sir William Hearst replaced Ottawa's elected separate school board with a government-appointed commission. After years of litigation from ACFÉO, however, the directive was never fully implemented.[9]

The regulation was eventually repealed in 1927 by the government of Howard Ferguson following the recommendations of the Merchant-Scott-Côté report.[2] Ferguson was an opponent of bilingualism, but repealed the law because he needed to form a political alliance with Quebec premier Louis-Alexandre Taschereau against the federal government. The Conservative government reluctantly recognized bilingual schools, but the directive worsened relations between Ontario and Quebec for many years and is still keenly remembered by the French-speaking minority of Ontario.

Despite the repeal of Regulation 17, however, French-language schools in Ontario were not officially recognized under the provincial Education Act until 1968.

The Ontario Heritage Trust erected a plaque for L’École Guigues and Regulation 17 in front of the former school building, 159 Murray Street, Ottawa. "L’École Guigues became the centre of minority-rights agitation in Ontario when in 1912 the provincial government issued a directive, commonly called Regulation 17, restricting French-language education. Mounting protests forced the government to moderate its policy and in 1927 bilingual schools were officially recognized." [10]

Further reading

  • Barber, Marilyn. "The Ontario Bilingual Schools Issue: Sources of Conflict," Canadian Historical Review, Sept 1966, Vol. 47 Issue 3, pp 227–248
  • Cecillon, Jack D. Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928 (MQUP, 2013)
  • Gaffield, Chad. Language, Schooling, and Cultural Conflict: The Origins of the French Language Controversy in Ontario (1987)


  1. ^ a b Barber, Marilyn. "Ontario Schools Question", in The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved November 20, 2008
  2. ^ a b SLMC. "Regulation 17: Circular of Instruction No. 17 for Ontario Separate Schools for the School Year 1912–1913", in Site for Language Management in Canada, retrieved November 20, 2008
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Leclerc, Jacques. "Circular of Instructions No. 18", in L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, retrieved November 20, 2008
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Jack D. Cecillon, Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928 (2013)
  9. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook of Bilingualism, by Hon. N. A. Belcourt K.C., P.C. Bilingualism Address delivered before the Quebec Canadian Club, at Quebec, Tuesday, March 28th, 1916
  10. ^ Ontario Heritage Trust plaque
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