Glassford on Cecillon, 'Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928'

Jack D. Cecillon
Larry Glassford

Jack D. Cecillon. Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2013. 404 pp. $110.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7735-4161-0.

Reviewed by Larry Glassford (University of Windsor) Published on H-Canada (August, 2016) Commissioned by Corey Slumkoski

Two Language Groups Warring in the Bosom of a Single Church: The Case of the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928

As the mayor of Ford City, a new industrial suburb near Windsor, Ontario, attempted to read the Riot Act (1714) on the steps of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, he was mocked and jeered by scores of angry parishioners. Meanwhile, on the verandah of the nearby rectory, a dozen elderly women swung brooms and sticks at billly-club-wielding police officers who were seeking to force their entry into a side door of the blockaded building. Moments earlier, the loud ringing of the church bells had summoned a multigenerational crowd of nearly three thousand neighborhood residents, determined to prevent the entry of Father Francois-Xavier Laurendeau, newly appointed priest for the parish, and Father Denis O’Connor, a diocesan official. A tense standoff between a dozen police officers and many hundreds of normally law-abiding citizens had been broken moments earlier, when the constables raised their billy clubs and even revolvers, and moved toward the blockaded doors. They were momentarily driven back by a shower of bricks and stones, only to resume their slow advance, this time swinging their clubs at the resisters. In the ensuing twenty-minute melee, ten people would sustain serious injuries, though none were life-threatening. Along the way, nine male protesters were arrested and escorted to the nearby Ford City jailhouse. By the time a military detachment, one hundred strong, of the 21st Essex Regiment arrived, an hour after the riot had begun, the police were in possession of both church and rectory. Though some remained to heckle, the bulk of the crowd had already begun to disperse. Peace, it seemed, had returned to this river city. The date was Saturday, September 8, 1917.

The year 1917 is associated with many tumultuous events in world history. Canadians will think of the bloody battle of Vimy Ridge, the troubled passage of a military conscription law, the cynical formation of a coalition government, and a divisive general election that did open the door a crack for women’s suffrage. Beyond our borders, Europe was enveloped in a mindlessly destructive military conflagration known at the time as the Great War. Russians overthrew their czar, sued for peace with Germany, and then succumbed to a second, even more cataclysmic revolution. The United States of America finally ended its uneasy neutrality, raised the banner of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and then plunged into the war against Germany and its allies. Yet, in the border communities of Windsor and Essex County, tensions boiled over not about military conscription, domestic price gouging, social class conflict, or ethnic prejudice, but about the right of a duly-appointed Catholic bishop residing in London, Ontario, to impose his choice of priest upon a recalcitrant parish congregation in the peninsular periphery of Ontario. Students of Canada’s labor history will be familiar with the famous Ford Motor Company strike of 1945, which played out in this very same neighborhood. But the Ford City riot of 1917? Most Canadians—even the historically minded—have never heard of it.

Jack D. Cecillon’s masterful account of the Ontario Catholic Schools crisis, as it developed in the Windsor border region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is about much more than one colorful, though shocking, episode of popular resistance to clerical authority. Nonetheless, his account of the Ford City riot typifies the book’s deft balance between exposition and narrative. His interest in the larger question of how Windsor-area francophones responded to Ontario’s restrictive bilingual language policies, he tells us in the book’s opening pages, was stimulated by a summer research job back in the 1980s, when he first heard about “a long forgotten riot by francophones at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in East Windsor” (p. ix). Ostensibly studying current-day statistical evidence of assimilation rates among francophone teenagers in Windsor-area schools, he became fascinated by the bits and pieces of information passed on to him by witnesses and survivors of the earlier riot, now well into their eighties and nineties. Some were eager to talk, determined that the conflict, and the struggles it represented, not be forgotten. Others were reluctant, even decades later, to discuss the “scandal” that it represented in their memories (p. x). The aptly chosen main title—Prayers, Petitions, and Protests—successfully conveys that broader account which the author provides through this book, an adaptation and extension of his earlier doctoral dissertation.

Cecillon builds his account around three key themes. In his words, “this study’s initial aim was to determine the degree to which francophones in the Windsor border region resisted Regulation 17” (p. 7), a controversial edict issued by the Ontario government in 1912 that restricted the extent of French-language instruction in the province’s bilingual schools and limited the use of French as a language of communication between students and their teachers. Secondly, he attempts to “measure the potency of the French Canadian nationalist project in this isolated outpost so far from the Quebec homeland” (p. 14). During that era, a number of leading intellectuals in the province of Quebec were expounding a vision of a French Canadian nation that included kindred communities all across Canada, and extended even into the neighboring New England states, where thousands of francophone Quebeckers had migrated during the nineteenth century in search of work. Key elements in this national vision were the French language and culture, as well as the Roman Catholic faith. Growing out of these two themes, the author articulates a third focus for the book in the form of a question: “why did the francophone resistance to Regulation 17 fail in Essex and Kent counties” (p. 14)? Elsewhere, in eastern and northern Ontario, the French-speaking population refused to yield to provincial dictates about the language of instruction and communication in publicly funded schools. Not so in the Windsor border regions. Why?

Clearly, the author is conversant with the main bodies of scholarly work in this field. Among those he cites is Robert Choquette whose book, Language and Religion: English-French Conflict in Ontario (1975), deals with the Ontario bilingual schools issue and places a strong emphasis on intra-church divisions, with a particular focus on the central role played by Bishop Michael Fallon. Where Choquette was quite critical of Fallon, a doctoral dissertation by Pasquale Fiorino depicts the bishop in a more favorable light, as one determined to carry out the Vatican policy for church adaptation, to ensure Catholic survival in a modernizing age of urbanization and industrialization.[1] A key book by Roberto Perin, Rome in Canada: The Vatican and Canadian Affairs in the Late Victorian Age (1990), notes the challenges facing the Catholic Church in a rapidly changing North American environment, where pro-British imperial sentiments and nationalistic pan-Canadian currents pushed for cultural homogenization in a projected English-speaking and Protestant domain. Two books by Yves Roby (Les Franco-Americains de la Nouvelle - Angleterre: 1776-1930 [1990] and Les Franco-Americains de la Nouvelle - Angleterre: Reves et realites [2000]), which examine the experience of French Canadian migrants to New England, provide an interesting comparison to Franco-Ontarians also seeking to preserve their language and faith outside of the officially bilingual and largely French-speaking province of Quebec. Cecillon is aware of the scholarly debates over, first, the nature of French Canadian nationalism postconquest, and second, the genesis of a Franco-Ontarian identity. Among the scholars that he cites regarding the latter topics are his former dissertation supervisor, Yves Frenette, and one of his doctoral committee readers, Marcel Martel. Finally, with regard to local history, E. J. Lajeunesse—author of the authoritative The Windsor Border Region (1960)—was in fact one of the people who urged the young Cecillon to track down the full story of the Ford City riot. Evidently, our author is familiar with Lajeunesse’s work, and also with a collection of essays edited by Cornelius Jaenen, titled Les Franco-Ontariens (1993).

With a solid base in the existing scholarly literature, Cecillon has drawn on a rich vein of primary sources in order to construct his own investigation and interpretation. Among the archival papers he consulted were those of Bishop Fallon, Lionel Groulx (a prominent French Canadian nationalist scholar), Howard Ferguson (a former Ontario premier), and the Ontario Ministry of Education. He was able to consult a number of parish registers and numerous Ontario government documents, including school inspector reports. During the late 1980s, he took the opportunity to conduct oral interviews with five Windsor-area survivors of the linguistic battles of the early twentieth century. Among the most prolific sources the author consulted were the newspapers of the day, particularly those published in French and based in the border city region: Le Progres, Le Clairon, and La Defense.

The book is organized chronologically, though the narrative is frequently augmented with cogent points of analysis. In chapter 1, Cecillon sketches the historical background of the longstanding French-speaking inhabitants in the Windsor border region. One part of the francophone community dates back to 1701, when the French trader Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established a fur trading post on the north side of the Detroit River, across from present-day Windsor. A scattering of soldiers, trappers, and tradesmen soon established a permanent village there, and gradually farmers were granted land along the riverfront, including on the current Canadian side. French migration to the Windsor border region ended in the 1770s, but the francophone settlements remained intact under British rule, and by 1820, they numbered just under four thousand people. A second wave of French speakers moved to the region from Quebec between the 1820s and the 1850s, many coming as loggers and staying to become farmers. These French Canadian migrants clustered along the south shore of Lake St. Clair, and sent back to Quebec for the necessary professionals: doctor, notaries, and priests. By the time of the 1901 census, there were really two quite distinct francophone communities in the region, what Cecillon has typified as the Fort Detroit French and the Lake St. Clair French Canadians. Together they numbered more than sixteen thousand out of a total Windsor and Essex County population of nearly fifty-nine thousand, or slightly more than a quarter of the total population.

Also in this chapter, the author notes the rapid economic and social changes coming to the Windsor area at the beginning of the twentieth century. The arrival of the Great Western Railway to Windsor in 1854 had been the first harbinger of modernization for this one-time provincial backwater, but the establishment by Henry Ford of a large auto assembly plant among the farms of Sandwich East Township, just beyond Windsor’s city limits, in 1904 proved to be a much bigger change agent. Rapid urbanization and industrialization brought with it a sizable influx of English-speaking Canadians, and also large numbers of European immigrants who spoke neither French nor English as a first language. The new factories and businesses offered many job opportunities, but in most cases, also demanded a fluency in English, the accepted lingua franca of business and government. The threat to the survival of the two French-language communities was obvious. These rapid and irreversible changes would put enormous pressure on the existing system of French and bilingual schools—including from francophone parents who wished a bright future for their children.

The second chapter focuses on Bishop Fallon and his role in forcibly altering teaching practices in the French and bilingual Catholic schools of the Windsor region. Cecillon rightly points out that the Catholic hierarchy, from the Vatican on down, was gravely worried at this time about losing their followers to the assimilating pressures of evangelizing Protestants, particularly in a modern world of industrialization and urbanization. In a predominantly anglophone environment like North America, that might well mean giving up French-language instruction in order to protect Catholic separate schools. Such a position, though, was anathema to French Canadian nationalists who saw the French language as the guardian of their faith. The irresistible force faced an immoveable object. “This clash of two conflicting agendas within the North American Catholic Church,” Cecillon writes, “pitted the homogenizing integrationism of English-speaking prelates and their superiors in Rome against a vocal French Canadian nationalist elite committed to cultural and linguistic survival” (p. 44). Fallon, who served as the bishop of London with responsibility for southwestern Ontario from 1909 to 1931, was an outspoken opponent of bilingual schools. He justified his aggressive policy of French-language restrictions in the schools under his direction by pointing to Manitoba, where, in the 1890s, the Catholic separate schools had been eliminated, in part because of concerns about ineffective bilingual instruction.

The new bishop lost no time in acting upon his beliefs. He ordered an end to French instruction in the bilingual schools of Windsor proper. He replaced francophone teaching sisters with anglophone orders in several Catholic schools. He ordered the closure of the Sandwich bilingual normal school. When word came to him of some schools in French-speaking parishes evading his dictates on de-emphasizing French-language instruction, he summoned his priests to a diocesan retreat, where he laid down the law. Further resistance, such as appeals to Rome from some of the more pro-nationalist priests, led to public rebuke from the bishop. Fallon’s most influential opponent proved to be Father Lucien Beaudoin, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake parish in Ford City. It was no coincidence that the bishop cut Beaudoin’s flock in half by summarily creating an all-English parish centered in Walkerville out of it and threatened to have him transferred elsewhere if he would not submit to Fallon’s wishes. Beaudoin continued to resist the obliteration of the French-language schools he had done so much to create and nurture, but he was forced to oppose his bishop more quietly and from behind the scenes.

Fallon was not the author of the notorious Regulation 17, as some of his opponents alleged, but he was strongly and publicly in support of it. A policy directive issued by the provincial government, it restricted the use of French as the language of instruction and communication to Form I, essentially grades one and two. The intent was that all French-speaking children were to receive improved English language instruction. As Cecillon notes, “for francophones, the message of Regulation 17 was to restrict the use of French in Ontario’s schools” (p. 76). Chapter 3 outlines the bishop’s enthusiastic support for the new policy and countervailing attempts at resistance to it in the French-language parish schools of the Windsor border region. Fallon maintained publicly that he was not opposed to French-language instruction but only to the bilingual schools that he claimed had been proven ineffective in teaching the necessary language fluency in both English and French. Nonetheless, it was clear from his public pronouncements, and some private correspondence that was leaked to the press, that he intended to make English-language instruction predominate in all the Catholic schools under his supervision, regardless of the linguistic composition of the surrounding parishes.

Province-wide resistance to Regulation 17 was spearheaded by the Association Canadienne-Francaise d’Education d’Ontario (ACFEO), centered in Ottawa. While seeking to lobby the decision makers in Toronto and courting allies within and beyond the province, this organization’s main weapon was the school boycott. Parents were advised to keep their children home, unless and until the school authorities permitted French-language instruction. There was a local branch of the ACFEO in the Windsor border region, and it sought to coordinate community resistance against the imposition of the new language restrictions. Particularly noteworthy in the resistance were the village communities of River Canard, Tecumseh, St. Joachim, Stoney Point, Paincourt, and Grande Pointe. Noticeably absent from this list were the major urban centers, particularly the city of Windsor. The bilingual schools there had been stripped of French instruction by Fallon’s fiat issued prior to the appearance of Regulation 17 in 1912. Community leaders in Windsor focused on getting permission to offer the one hour of French instruction provided for under that policy, which would be for them an improvement over the status quo. Within two years of its issuance, the large majority of bilingual schools in the area were compliant with the dictates of Regulation 17. “While the resistance raged on in Ottawa and eastern and northern Ontario,” Cecillon notes, “only a handful of schools in the Windsor border region continued to oppose the provincial school regulations” (p. 95).

Not content with overall success, Bishop Fallon was determined to root out all opposition to his plans, and this meant confronting some of the more militant French-speaking priests in his diocese. Not without merit, he suspected that school resistance to Regulation 17 could be traced to the French Canadian nationalist beliefs held by the parish priests in these same communities. When he learned that eleven priests had signed a petition sent secretly to the Vatican that took Father Beaudoin’s side in the dispute over the division of the latter’s parish, Fallon was incensed. He demanded they apologize and retract their support. Some who refused were suspended; one was expelled; and several were summoned before a diocesan court where the bishop acted as plaintiff, prosecutor, and one of a panel of judges chaired by his close friend and associate, Father Denis O’Connor. Beaudoin refused to submit, however, and made skillful use of his own network of contacts within the church to fight off the bishop’s blatant attempts to intimidate him. When the Vatican court finally ruled, it upheld the bishop’s right to divide the parish as he saw fit, but in an attempt to calm the situation, it also ordered the newly created parish to provide financial compensation to Our Lady of the Lake for losses associated with the transfer of property assets. Fallon’s response, though, was to initiate court proceedings against Beaudoin, whom he regarded as a traitor.

Chapter 4, which Cecillon has titled “Standoff at Ford City,” serves to connect the big-picture concerns in the language-of-instruction issue to the violent confrontation on the church grounds of Our Lady of the Lake parish. By now fully apprised of the nasty conflict in Ontario between anglophone (mostly Irish) Catholics and their French Canadian coreligionists, the Vatican sought to dampen down the heated rhetoric and boiling emotions on both sides. In a 1916 encyclical titled Commisso divinitus, Pope Benedict XV sought to change either/or into both/and. He noted that “two requirements are to be met, namely a thorough knowledge of English and an equitable teaching of French for French Canadian children.” However, for both Bishop Fallon and the nationalist leaders of the ACFEO, the key element in the encyclical came one sentence prior to that soothing phrase. “Nevertheless,” it proclaimed, “let the Catholics of the Dominion remember that the one thing of supreme importance above all others is to have Catholic schools and not to imperil their existence” (p. 116). When push came to shove, the top priority was to preserve the existence of publicly funded Catholic schools. When the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain confirmed that Regulation 17 was intra vires, soon thereafter, Fallon’s triumph seemed complete. But before long, he would be publicly humiliated by events in the Windsor region.

Amid all the turmoil of 1917, which included a nationally divisive debate over the adoption of military conscription, the much-beloved Father Beaudoin died suddenly of a stroke. At his funeral in Ford City on August 22, the grief-stricken parishioners were shocked and dismayed to learn that their bishop had already appointed Father Francois-Xavier Laurendeau as their new parish priest. Of at least thirty French-speaking priests within his diocese, Fallon had chosen the one most likely to raise the hackles of Our Lady of the Lake parish. Laurendeau had served as secretary of the diocesan court that had suspended two French Canadian priests, expelled a third from the diocese, and threatened their own priest with an arbitrary transfer, or worse, if he did not stop defending his beliefs and the rights of his parish. In the minds of many, the bishop’s aggressive persecution of Father Beaudoin was the real cause of his unexpected and sudden death. The latter became a martyr to them, and the former an undoubted villain. Within minutes of the news leaking out, an impromptu human chain was formed to prevent Father Laurendeau from entering the rectory. At a mass meeting that evening, picket schedules for three eight-hour shifts per day were organized, and the ringing of the church bells were determined as the emergency signal for the entire community to rally around the blockade. A petition was circulated, signed, and sent off to Rome. ACFEO officials from Ottawa were consulted, and the local English-language daily newspaper was kept informed of developments. For seventeen days, the standoff continued. Cecillon’s analysis of the motivation for this unprecedented—in the local context—action is judicious but perceptive. “Fallon’s lobby against the bilingual schools and his vocal defense of Regulation 17 were overriding factors,” he states. “Peaceful efforts to bring reform by way of petitions to London and Rome had failed to produce any meaningful results from Fallon’s seven years as bishop. Denied any democratic expression within the framework of the Catholic Church, hundreds of Ford City’s francophones revolted with a blockade” (p. 135). And worse was to come.

Following the riot at Our Lady of the Lake on Saturday, September 7, a mass rally was held that very evening at a nearby farm. The angry parishioners committed themselves to a collective boycott of the next day’s worship if the despised Father Laurendeau should be the priest saying the Mass. He was, and they did. While a mere handful of worshippers attended the official service, many hundreds attended another open-air meeting up the road. Over the next several weeks, a number of public rallies were held in support of the boycott, the largest in the village of Tecumseh, where an estimated ten thousand from the whole border region gathered to hear a series of speakers denounce Bishop Fallon, support the Ford City parish, and urge vigilance in defense of French-language rights. Petitions and resolutions were signed and sent off to the diocesan office in London, and to the Vatican itself. In the early days, there was much optimism, but as the days grew shorter, and weather colder, cracks began to appear in the ranks of the rebels. Bishop Fallon was not moved to reconsider his appointment, nor change his policies. He publicly denounced the blockade, riot, and boycott as the handiwork of a few outside agitators. When the boycott committee released their side of events to the English-language press, he replied in kind, then followed up with a lawsuit, alleging libel. While the insensitivity of his initial designation of a loyal henchman, Father Laurendeau, initially united all of the French-speaking factions in opposition to his perceived bullying, this commonality of purpose did not last. Some of the oldest French families had long since reconciled themselves to the need for accommodation to the reality of an English-language-dominated milieu. A second group were fully in favor of protecting French-language rights, but wished to do so by methods more in keeping with the “sunny ways” approach made famous by the former Liberal prime minister of Canada, Wilfrid Laurier. Finally, there was a third group of much more militant French Canadian nationalists prepared to fight to the last ditch in defense of their views. Keeping these three groups united proved to be an impossible task.

All parties to the dispute awaited word from Rome. When it came, it seemed once again to vindicate the position taken by Bishop Fallon, who had further alienated Franco-Ontarians of all stripes by publicly endorsing both the Union government that denied the beloved Laurier a return to power and the policy of enforced military conscription for overseas service. In another provocative move, Fallon had summoned his priests to a retreat in Stratford where he demanded they sign a resolution of support for his actions. When five French Canadian priests, all close associates of the deceased Father Beaudoin, refused, the bishop censured them publicly. So, when the Roman court, a full year after the riot, ordered the parishioners in Ford City to cease all opposition and submit to their bishop’s will, it was clear that the “Francophone militants had suffered another defeat at the hands of Fallon” (p. 172). What Fallon did not make public was the fact that high church officials “did chide the Bishop for his poor decision-making and antagonistic method of handling this crisis situation” (p. 174). Privately, he was even encouraged to accept a transfer to another diocese. Fallon refused the offer, but the message was clear. Quietly, he dropped his lawsuit, and in the future conducted himself with a bit more public dexterity and restraint. For the next decade, as Cecillon makes clear in the sixth and seventh chapters, the most serious obstacle to francophone school rights in the Windsor area would be their own internal disunity.

As resistance to Regulation 17 in the publicly funded bilingual Catholic schools in the Windsor border region subsided, and then disappeared, the militant nationalists decided on a new strategy: the creation of an independent elementary school that would offer full instruction in the French language. Alas, the growing disunity in the leadership of the francophone militants led to the establishment of not one but two French-language schools, neither of which was ever in a robust financial position. The more viable of the two, Ecole Jeanne d’Arc, had an enrollment of one hundred students at its peak, but could afford only two teachers. The cost of a new building further decimated the limited fiscal resources, and the school closed its doors for good in October 1927, after only five years of existence. The other independent school, Ecole Saint-Stanislaus, lasted only half as long, never had more than thirty students, and was attended largely by the children of two large local families. Recriminations between the supporters of the two failed independent schools served to inhibit other attempts to shore up the linguistic and cultural survival of the Windsor-area francophone communities. One such project, the formation of Club Lasalle, was only moderately successful in boosting morale, building bridges of understanding, and heightening appreciation of their French and French Canadian cultural heritage. When the newly elected Conservative provincial government led by Howard Ferguson established a commission to investigate concerns about the impact of Regulation 17, and then modestly adjusted the means of implementation, most French-speaking residents of the Windsor border region were ready to acquiesce in the new status quo.

In his concluding chapter, Cecillon returns to the three key themes he had set out at the beginning of the book. First, he notes that “resistance to Regulation 17 in Essex and Kent Counties, while at times passionate and vocal, never unified the entire francophone population” (p. 242). Consequently, the overall response to the forcible de-emphasis on French as a language of instruction and communication in formerly bilingual schools was uneven across the region, with only a few parish schools offering a deliberately focused and sustained opposition. Second, he concludes that “the Windsor border region featured a francophone population that responded rather weakly to the potency of the French Canadian nationalist ideal, with the exception of a few specific French-speaking communities of recent settlers” (pp. 244-245). Compared with other Franco-Ontarian communities in the eastern and northern parts of the province, the Windsor-area French-speaking population was less susceptible to the argument that the French language was the best guardian of the Catholic faith among francophones in an Anglo environment. These two conclusions lead Cecillon to a third one. “The collapse of the resistance to Regulation 17 in the Windsor border region,” he writes, “can be directly attributed to the divisions in the militant leadership and francophone community, as well as the interventionist role of Bishop Fallon on the bilingual schools question” (p. 243). Compared to eastern and northern Ontario communities where resistance to Regulation 17 was solid and determined, the Windsor-area French-language community exhibited much more diversity of composition, outlook, and opinion. And, Cecillon stresses, these other Franco-Ontarian communities did not have to cope with the single-mindedly ruthless Bishop Fallon.

The merits of this book are many. The author tells his story in very readable prose, skillfully combining elements of narrative, exposition, and analysis. He builds on existing scholarship in the field, then adds to it his own research in archival records and statistical data. Events at the center of his narrative are carefully placed in an appropriate context, both chronologically and conceptually. Through his research and writing, he has given voice to players in a historical drama that unfolded a century ago, only to be forgotten or covered up in the years since then. His approach demonstrates that a political approach to history, when politics is construed in terms of conflict, power, and influence over time, can be remarkably insightful. While designed as a localized case study of the politics of language, religion, and schooling, Cecillon’s work nonetheless expands the knowledge base of the generalist scholar as well.

The book’s limitations are few. The author might have paid more attention to the part played by First Nations in the earlier eras of French and British rule in the border region. Not for nothing are two of the busiest present-day Windsor streets named Huron Church and Wyandotte. One might also wish for a bit more socioeconomic and cultural context for the two chapters dealing with the post-World War I decade. At the same time that a few nationalist militants were bickering over the viability of a couple of independent French-language schools, most Windsor-area residents were caught up in the excitement of Prohibition, rum-running, and the advent of the automobile age. These are mere quibbles, however. Cecillon has taken a fascinating, yet forgotten, incident in the local history of the Windsor border region of southwestern Ontario and constructed a layered account around it that successfully combines narrative description with expository analysis. It will appeal to specialized scholars of education, language, and religion, while also satisfying the informed general reader. Prayers, petitions, and protest, indeed. Bring it on.


[1]. Pasquale Fiorino, “Bishop Michael Francis Fallon: The Man and His Times, 1910-1931” (PhD diss., Gregorian Pontifical University, 1993).

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Citation: Larry Glassford. Review of Cecillon, Jack D., Prayers, Petitions, and Protests: The Catholic Church and the Ontario Schools Crisis in the Windsor Border Region, 1910-1928. H-Canada, H-Net Reviews. August, 2016. URL:

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