Home News Working to find a place for anglophones in Quebec

Working to find a place for anglophones in Quebec

by Adrian Saldanha February 15, 2011

Fifteen years ago, the Task Force on the Teaching of History suggested that Quebec’s historical narrative be more representative of the province’s English-speaking minority. But what has actually changed?

“Quebec is a society in search of its collective identity,” Concordia professor Peter Gossage said. “One which faces a number of challenges. Namely, the difficulty of convincing a large and well-established English minority to consider itself part of a larger Quebecois society.”

Gossage was speaking at a one-day seminar last Friday at Concordia entitled “What place should anglophones have in Quebec’s collective narrative?”

He listed three possible narratives into which this elusively defined group can be integrated. The first is the narrative of harmony which suggests that, despite the legacy of conquest, relations between the French and English have been quite good. The second possibility is one of struggle, where the two groups are trapped in constant bitter struggles with one another. Finally, the last of the three is a narrative of solitude, which would suggest that for the most part, the two groups have existed in indifference of one another.

“None of these are sufficient,” he said however, explaining that in reality Quebec’s history is rife with elements of all three narratives.

Furthermore, the struggle the francophone majority had to face prior to the Quiet Revolution was not strictly one of language. “Class-based inequalities in Montreal have been conflated with the ethnic and linguistic relations in Montreal,” Gossage said.

Concordia Professor Ronald Rudin also spoke at the seminar. With many francophones and anglophones of all opinions in attendance, Rudin, an anglophone, chuckled nervously as he listed all the areas he explicitly wanted to leave out of his talk – namely the newest education bills – garnering a laugh from the audience.

Rudin spoke of how the exodus of Quebec’s English-speakers between 1966 and 1981 poses a problem for defining the idea of what an anglophone is. Prior to the Quiet Revolution, there was no anglophone identity that stood in contrast to a francophone one, he explained. Today’s English-speaking population includes groups like the aboriginals of Kahnawake and the Irish of Montreal and Quebec City. Groups that would be “turning over in their grave at being called English-anything,” according to Rudin.

“The pertinence of the concept of English-speaker is neither natural nor fixed, but constructed,” he added.

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1 comment

Susan Guindon August 26, 2015 - 16:06

My parents, both of Quebec, one English, one French, born in 1921 and 1924, made me keenly aware of the conflict between French and English in Quebec. All I had to do was watch their lives, and listen to their stories of childhood, war times, and trying to find their way in their home province. French before the Quiet Revolution were truly 2nd class citizens to the 1st class English. The undercurrent as well was Catholic v. Protestant, French v. English. I am glad the Quiet Revolution happened because it had to happen to try to bring balance. Unfortunately balance was not attained, the pendulum swung too far and thus the max exodus. The French did not want to share their Belle Province with their English neighbours. Not many see it this way, but to me it smacks of ethnic cleansing in sheep’s clothing. The English that stayed had to live their lives speaking French outside their doors. Living bilingually was no longer an option. I remember over the years I would speak to my Auntie whose English and French was good when I was young, and she’d struggle with English when we visited and break into French when she got excited. I asked her about it, and she said well I have no-one left to speak English so I lost a lot of my English. No balance, Canada is supposed to be bilingual, French Quebec did not accept that. The English speaking peoples were brave to stay, they loved their Belle Province just as much as the French. As my Auntie once said to me I won’t allow the French to run me out from my home. Sad times, I wonder if Quebec will ever become a bi-lingual province again, where both English and French can live and work without tyranny.

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