Quebec Division First Bilingual Annual Reports

Date / Period
Object Type
Books, Guides and Manuals
Canadian Red Cross
Fundraising and Communications

The Quebec Division of the Canadian Red Cross published its first bilingual (English/French) annual reports during the Second World War (1939-45). This reflected a new level of interest in the Red Cross by francophone Quebecers during the war, and the society’s desire to engage them. These reports mark the beginning of a new relationship between the Red Cross and francophones in Canada.

Montrealers were active in the Canadian Red Cross from its late-19th century beginnings. However, these supporters were anglophones, and Quebec society featured sharp social, cultural, economic, and political divides between English-speakers and French-speakers. The two groups did not usually mix in voluntary (or other) organizations, and the Quebec Division of the Red Cross functioned solely in English.

During the First World War (1914-18) some francophones worked for the Red Cross in Quebec, and special joint-fundraising campaigns by the Red Cross and the Canadian Patriotic Fund in the later years of the war strove to appeal to French-speakers, with some success. But French- and English-Canadians disagreed strongly over the war and Canada’s role in it, and this conflict had the effect of limiting francophone support for the Red Cross.

The society’s public health work in the 1920s and 1930s helped establish a new image for the Red Cross in Quebec, separate from that of the divisive war years. Although the Division’s leaders were still all anglophones when the Second World War broke out, they deliberately tried to engage francophones in Red Cross war work. This included recruiting capable francophones for leadership positions, gaining the support of French Catholic community and religious leaders, and translating Red Cross materials into French for the first time.

This concerted effort paid off, as the contents of the Quebec Division’s bilingual annual reports from these years attest. Some parish priests in rural Quebec even gave French Catholic women permission to do Red Cross work (such as knitting) on Sundays – the traditional Christian day of rest. The French-speaking population comprised the majority of the province’s citizens, so this new support meant Quebec Division gained a massive infusion of new energy, talent, and financial donations. 

The Second World War example of cooperation across the linguistic divide in Quebec inaugurated a new relationship between francophone Quebecers and the Red Cross. Since then, the Canadian Red Cross has always spoken to, and been supported by, Canadians in both of the country’s official languages.

Quebec Division First Bilingual Annual Reports

Stay Informed & Stay Connected