I read two pieces in the Gazette today that seemed to fit in a narrative I’ve seen developing lately about the place of Quebec in Canada and that of the Anglophone population within Quebec: It seems that people are accepting that both Quebec can thrive in Canada and that the Anglophone population of Quebec needs to take its place as a fundamental part of our province’s cultural and business communities instead of as outsiders living within a majority.
First, Don Macpherson makes the very apt case that Bill 101 has proven that Quebec’s main language and culture can be and are well protected within the Canadian federation:
In a broader sense, however, everybody who now lives in Quebec is a child of Bill 101, because of the social and economic changes resulting from it.
If, as (former PQ minister Pierre) Duchesne said, voters under 35 are less “sensitive” about identity, it’s because Bill 101 made them more secure about theirs.
Duchesne and Marois are the latest to acknowledge a situation about which sovereignists have been complaining for decades: young Quebecers act as though Quebec is already sovereign.
When the PQ passed Bill 101, it showed French-speaking Quebecers that their identity could be protected within Canada, eliminating what had always been the strongest argument in favour of sovereignty. The latter might still be a desirable end, but it was no longer worth the trouble of seceding from Canada.
In a second piece, writer Colin Standish discusses some myths about Quebec’s Anglo community (notably that it isn’t one, single-minded group). What stood out to me was the section on Anglo Quebecers being tied to their home province and about how picking up and leaving isn’t so easy or desirable:
Myth 3: Unhappy anglophones can simply leave the province
On this, I am sure that I am not alone when I bristle with resentment over remembering the times when I was told, “If you don’t like the way things are in Quebec, you can leave.” As if I might be as comfortable in Kentucky as I am in Knowlton. René Lévesque once said, “Quebec is the one corner of the world that we can call home,” and this rings true to English-speaking Quebecers. However, it must be acknowledged that dislocation is the unfortunate path most English-speakers, more than 50 per cent of those born in Quebec, have chosen.
Regarding Standish’s comments on staying/leaving specifically, I think it’s important important we acknowledge that this is a home-grown problem. Never mind the worst parts of the Francophone community that tells us to leave – they’re the Donald Sterlings of language bigotry and frankly, I don’t care what they have to say. No – what’s more relevant is stemming the tide of bad feelings in our own families.
I was fortunate to grow up within a family that chose to stay and grow here, but we did lose a lot of cousins in the mass exodus of the 1970s. While they left and our families stayed, it’s not uncommon to hear a Baby Boomer parent tell his/her children that their goal should be to get a good education here and leave for greener pastures. That’s the dialogue that has to stop before we can truly take our place in Quebec.
This is our home just as much as any pur-laine Québécois and we need to own our place in it. Personally, I’ve embraced the Québécois descriptor for myself and my own family. We don’t call ourselves “Quebecers” in the Sidel household – we are Québécois, and nobody is going to take that from us. Our families have been here for generations and my wife and I are raising our children to be proud of being NDGers, Montrealers, Québécois, Canadian and Jewish. Those are some of our many identities and no one can take that from us.
No, we’ll never be “as comfortable in Kentucky” or Ontario, for that matter. This is our home and we are part of its past, present and future.