Fighting Regulation 17 and Saving Hôpital Montfort: what is the historical significance of these events?


Learning objectives

The student will:

  • Use the inquiry process to determine the historical significance of the resistance to Regulation 17 and the movement to save the Hôpital Montfort  
  • Put the events into context, based on the historical sources presented in the virtual exhibition
  • Clarify and analyze the reasons why these events have particular historical significance
  • Clearly communicate ideas through teamwork and group discussions.

POWER components: Fighting Regulation 17 and Saving Hôpital Montfort  


Since its beginnings, Ottawa's Francophone community has faced many obstacles to its development and survival. These include Regulation 17, a measure of assimilation introduced in 1912 by the provincial government to prohibit the use of French at school, and to restrict teaching of the language. As soon as it was promulgated, the Regulation raised the anger and resistance of Ontario's Francophones, who got organized and fought hard to preserve their language rights. Ottawa is at the heart of this struggle to preserve French-language education.

Eighty-five years later, Ontario's only Francophone teaching hospital, Ottawa’s Hôpital Montfort, was threatened with closure in the winter of 1997. The government's surprise announcement from Mike Harris caused a shockwave in the province. Mobilization was quickly organized against this decision by a government which refused to negotiate or renounce its decision. At the time, recourse to the courts was the only option to reverse this political decision.

Based on an analysis of the "Fighting Regulation 17" and "Saving Hôpital Montfort" themes, what do you think is the historical significance of these events? Answer this historical analysis question in the form of a virtual inquiry that considers the contexts, perspectives and scope of these events.

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Activity description


The teacher reviews the process of inquiry necessary to complete the activity to analyze the historical importance of the resistance to Regulation 17 and the movement to save Hôpital Montfort. This process seeks to guide students in responding to the analytical question presented in the activity, using their critical sense. The process includes the following steps:

  • Formulate analytical questions (What is my initial question? What should I address?)
  • Collect sources and organize information (What sources and data are available?)
  • Analyze and interpret the information collected (What do the sources reveal? What is the evidence?)
  • Evaluate and draw conclusions (What conclusions can be drawn from this analysis?)
  • Communicate the inquiry results (What is my response to the question?)


The teacher tells students about the work to be completed during this activity, which is to determine the historical significance of the fight against Regulation 17 and the movement to save Hôpital Montfort, as presented in the virtual exhibition, and then to engage in a debate regarding the scope of these events.

The teacher explains that the concept of historical significance is essential to understanding the past, because it is historical significance that determines what and who form the foundation of our memory, work, recollections, research and what we learn about history. Without this understanding of historical significance, students cannot understand or appreciate how stories have developed, or why certain characters or events are recognized and legitimized (e.g. Béatrice Desloges, Gisèle Lalonde), while others are ignored or removed from speeches (e.g. Bishop Paul Marchand). Although we all have a personal interest in certain characters or writings, the methodical analysis of criteria leading to the selection or disregard of certain aspects of the past is essential to establishing historical importance and developing an understanding of history. 

To develop a good understanding of the idea of significance in history, the teacher introduces students to the following criteria:

  • The importance of the event to the period. Events take place in a particular historical period. It is therefore important to know if the people of the time regarded the event to be meaningful to them. It is helpful to consider the following specific elements:
    • Immediate recognition by witnesses: Was the event recognized as important at the time? How was it recognized? (e.g. newspapers, letters, photos, rallies, etc.)
    • Continuity through time: For how long did the event take place? What can explain the duration?
  • Consequences of the event. Events are not isolated in time, and they may have consequences for subsequent history. For example, the Conquest of New France had important consequences for the survival of Francophones in America. It is therefore important to evaluate the consequences by considering the following elements:
    • Scale: Did the event have repercussions on other events? (e.g. did the event lead to changes?)
    • Scope: Were the impacts of the event widely felt? (e.g. how many people or regions were affected?)
    • Duration: Has the event extended over time, or has it had a lasting impact? (e.g. how long did the effects last?)
  • The subsequent scope of the event. In history, it is important to assess the subsequent scope of the event when analyzing later events or culture in general. It is helpful to consider the following elements:
    • Commemoration: Does the event play an important role for a group, a community, or for historians? (How is the event commemorated?)
    • The revealing aspect: Does the event serve to better understand or grasp the relevance of a particular aspect of the past? (What does the event mean to contemporary society?)

The teacher also emphasizes that historical significance is not universal and unalterable over time. The particular historical context in which events unfold, and the consequences on subsequent history, directly affect our ability to judge historical significance. For example, an event such as the recognition of Canadian women as “persons” according to law in 1929 remained relatively unimportant to society at that time. It is only with the rise of modern feminism and social demands that this recognition has become historically and socially significant in the country.


The teacher : 

  • Explains to students the work to be completed during this group activity.
  • Divides the students into teams, ensuring that each team has access to a computer.
  • Provides each team with Worksheet 1: Analyzing the historical significance of the resistance to Regulation 17, which will be used to organize, analyze, and assess the information collected by the students.
  • Explains to students that their work to assess historical significance should identify:
    • the significance to the period
    • the consequences of the event
    • the subsequent scope.
  • Invites students to view the virtual exhibition sections, “Fighting Regulation 17” and “Saving Hôpital Montfort”.
  • Observes and guides student work in analyzing information and data from the virtual exhibition.
  • Encourages students to read and make sense of the historical sources included in the virtual exhibition to find relevant information and evidence to support their team decision.
  • Ensures that each team completes Worksheets 1 and 2, and provides a detailed answer to the inquiry question.


The teacher:

  • Asks each team to choose a spokesperson.
  • Invites the spokespeople to present their findings based on their team’s responses to Worksheets 1 and 2.
  • Facilitates a discussion with the class regarding the answers presented to assess the historical significance of these events for the French community, and for Canada.
  • Collects worksheets and provides written feedback to the teams.

Suggestions to encourage learning  

The teacher: 

  • Asks students to consider another historical event, this time in a contemporary context: Franco-Ontarian Day.
  • Asks each student to answer the following question: In your opinion, what is the historical significance of Franco-Ontarian Day, which takes place every year on September 25th?
  • Invites students to form teams and consult the virtual exhibition piece, “Franco-Ontarian Day.”
  • Instructs students to use the criteria for analysis of historical significance presented earlier in the activity and to answer the question in the form of an opinion editorial (also known as “op-ed piece”) which will be published on a local newspaper’s website. This one-page op-ed piece must include an analysis of the elements that justify the position expressed regarding the importance of Franco-Ontarian Day.