Adrien Arcand (1899-1967) was the undisputed leader of the Quebec fascist political movement, and an ardent antisemite. Fashioning himself as the “Canadian führer”, Arcand used his day job as a Montreal journalist to establish a series of weekly newspapers with Joseph Ménard. These included Le Miroir and Le Goglu, which began publication in 1929. Though some scholars have claimed wide circulation, from what can be ascertained through recent research, these papers had relatively small readerships. Their viewpoints, though, contributed to an already unwelcome atmosphere for Jews in Quebec in the 1930s. The kinds of opinions espoused in these papers included the idea that Jews should be “resettled” in Hudson Bay. Angered by the 1930 enactment of the David Law—developing a Jewish school system in Quebec—Arcand’s conservative newspapers took a radical turn to explicit fascism, an opinion that he already personally espoused. Arcand soon formed a political party in 1934: Le Parti national social chrétien. He also collaborated on an early campaign, the Achat chez nous movement, which co-opted the genuine economic and nationalist frustrations of French Canadians into a boycott explicitly aimed at Jewish stores.
Though Arcand and his ilk were generally ignored by most Canadians, they certainly caught the attention of Canadian Jews. Indeed, a Lachine merchant, A. Abugov, attempted to sue Arcand’s newspapers for libel on behalf of the Jewish community. Arcand’s influence was also noticed outside of Canada: in July 1938, the American magazine Life chronicled the “menacing” problem of “militant Fascism” in Canada when it reported on the first public assembly of the new National Unity Party (a coalition of parties including Le Parti national social chrétien). Life reported that 1,500 attendees from across the nation had chosen Arcand as their leader, a man who controlled “militarized battalions of 3,600 men”.
In May 1940, Arcand was arrested under the Defence of Canada Regulations, and interned for the duration of World War II; the National Unity Party was banned. Upon his 1945 release, Arcand restarted the party, but the fallout of World War II left him with relatively few fascist allies. Arcand, nonetheless, attempted to parlay his party into the federal political scene. In 1949 he ran in the riding of Richelieu-Verchères as a National Unity Party candidate, and in 1953 he campaigned in the Berthier-Maskinongé-de Lanaudière riding. He came in second place both times.
In 1965, two years before his death, a National Unity Party banquet celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Arcand’s release from internment. The guest of honour was Arcand, who delivered an 80-minute long speech to 650 revellers in which he decried biculturalism and “the world-wide Rothschild interests”. Arcand lived the remainder of his life in relative obscurity in the farming village of Lanoraie, never relinquishing his antisemitic views.
Compiled by Sarah Woolf
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*Images courtesy of the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives.
*Videos courtesy of TV5Monde and Lux Éditeur.