The Battle of the Hatpins (French: Bataille des épingles à chapeaux) was a 1916 protest that occurred in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, over the effects of Regulation 17, first passed in 1912 and more strictly enforced beginning in 1915–1916, which restricted French-language education in the province of Ontario. Over 70 women used common household objects such as hatpins and frying pans to fight off 30 police officers intent on arresting two sisters, Béatrice and Diane Desloges, for teaching in French. The battle was part of a cultural resistance movement that led to bilingual education eventually being officially reinstated in 1927. Regulation 17 was apologized for by the Ontario government over 100 years later.
The stated rationale for Regulation 17 was to ensure quality English-language instruction, but it was perceived as a xenophobic reaction to the arrival of a significant number of French speakers from neighbouring Quebec. The regulation angered Franco-Ontarians who wanted to have their children continue learning in their own language. Teachers in "écoles de la résistance" (literally "schools of the resistance") defied the government and continued to teach in French.
The battle developed in l'école Guigues in Ottawa, where the protests were led by sisters Béatrice and Diane Desloges. In October 1915 the school board replaced the pair with English-speaking teachers, and the Desloges instead began teaching secretly elsewhere in the community. The unsuitability of these spaces for instruction in winter prompted parents to invite the Desloges back to the school to teach in January 1916. The school was then ordered shut down by the provincial government.
Battle of the Hatpins
When education officials, accompanied by police, arrived at the school to implement the shutdown order, they encountered 70 local women, mothers of children at the school, armed with hatpins and other household items who prevented their entrance; the Desloges sisters, dubbed the "Guardians of Guigues", instructed in French inside the school, disregarding an order forbidding them from entering the grounds. Franco-Ontarian newspaper Le Droit announced that "les demoiselles Desloges ont repris possession de leurs classes" (the Desloges ladies have retaken possession of their classes).
Three days later "30 police officers armed with clubs broke down the door...But the women fought back with rolling pins, cast-iron skillets and hatpins and drove the police officers away". "One officer had his eye blacked and another his thumb chewed", a lawyer representing the government was "pelted with ice", and the sisters "were quietly spirited into their classrooms through a side window". Parents armed with makeshift weapons continued to guard the school for several weeks and protest marches were held objecting to the policy.
This protest is said to have "inspired people across Ontario to fight for French-language education". Canadian archivist Michel Prévost suggested that this protest represented "a movement dominated by women" which was rare given their marginalization at the time, as well as "part of a constant struggle for recognition faced by Ottawa’s Francophones". As a result of the Battle of the Hatpins, the government abandoned efforts to prevent French-language teaching at Guigues. Bilingual schooling in Ontario was officially reinstated in 1927. On 22 February 2016, the Ontario government issued an official apology for its actions against French-language education. France Gélinas put forward a private member's bill in the provincial legislature to officially proclaim 29 January as "Battle of the Hatpins Day".
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- Daniel Kitts (25 February 2016). "Why Ontario once tried to ban French in schools". TVO.
- Chantal Sundaram (5 March 2016). "Women's history: Franco-Ontario's 'Hatpin Girls'". socialist.ca.
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- Justine Mercier (29 January 2016). "Il y a 100 ans, la bataille des épingles à chapeaux". Le Droit.
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- Robert Craig Brown, Ramsay Cook (2016). Canada 1896–1921. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 9780771003486.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- "Ontario apologizes for 1912 regulation banning French in schools". The Canadian Press. 22 February 2016.
- "Bill 164, Battle of the Hatpins Day Act, 2016". Legislative Assembly of Ontario.