Were the Quebecois ever considered higher-class because they spoke French?

Were the Quebecois ever considered higher-class because they spoke French?


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For a very long time, French was, well, the lingua franca. All courts spoke French, from England to Russia. Everyone else, as always, tried to emulate what the nobles were doing, and learned French if they could.

This made me wonder - what did that mean for bilingual nations? The Quebecois have a unique position in that their side was the losing one, and Canada was an English possession. But they still spoke French, this fancy language of the courts and nobles. Did this ever work in their favour - were they seen (either in Canada or abroad) as more sophisticated than their English-speaking countrymen?


In short, no. The only time les habitants were ever considered superior to the colonialists was when they were under the dominion of the French king. When Wolfe had vanquished the French armies at the Plains of Abraham, it was always assumed that the British would hold domain over these settlers. To prevent further conflicts, the British armies would relocate French colonialists living in Acadia and transported them to Louisiana.

To maintain peace, an act and a treaty was signed by the King: The Treaty of Montreal and the Quebec Act. This allowed the French language to survive in Quebec and allowed their allies (the Mohawk) to control some lands for themselves. Under this arrangement, the narrows of the St. Laurence would be administered in both French and English. However, English would always remain superior.

When Canada entered Confederation in 1867, the importance of British control was contentious. The Tories who descended from the Family Compact ensured that English would be of increasing importance. The key moment that indicated the erosion of the esteem and participation of the French language within Canada was the Manitoba School Question, 1891. The following period up until the death of Premier Ministre Duplessis in 1959 would see several setbacks for the use of the French language.

It is curious to note that between USA and Canada, the trajectory of the role of the French language would switch in 1960. French would be ascendant in Canada while the French dialects of the US (Cajun, Acadian and Paw-Paw) would become endangered under differing educational policies. Only the métis creoles like Mitchif would become extinct in Canada.


No. Quebecois were very definitely lower class.

The stereotype was British overseers and Quebecois workers.

The reactions to this class/language discrimination very much influence Quebec even today.


Were the Quebecois ever considered higher-class because they spoke French? - History

Why We French Canadians Are Neither French nor Canadian

An Intimate Family History of New England's Franco-Americans

T. Pariseau Ladies’ Outfitter, one of many businesses created and owned by Franco-Americans in Manchester. Photo by Ulric Bourgeois, 1915.

By Robert B. Perreault
December 7, 2017

Whenever my family visits Québec, people other than our relatives are surprised to hear Americans—even our grandchildren, ages five and six—speak fluent French. They’re amazed to learn that French is our mother tongue and that we also speak English without a French accent. Likewise, if we leave our native New Hampshire to travel elsewhere in the United States, we get blank stares upon mentioning that we’re Franco-Americans from New England.

“Franco-American, as in canned spaghetti?” some ask.

I roll my eyes and sigh. “No connection whatsoever.”

Geographically, Franco-Americans resemble Mexican Americans in the Southwest because we also live near our cultural homeland. But unlike Mexican Americans, we’re unknown outside our region. Quite accurately, Maine journalist Dyke Hendrickson titled his 1980 book about Franco-Americans Quiet Presence. The source of this inconspicuous group identity lies in our ethnically and religiously mixed relationship to the United States, Québec, and even pre-revolutionary France, which has given Franco-Americans a highly varied and personal sense of what our identity means.

From the earliest French expedition to the Carolinas in 1524, to the founding of Québec City in 1608, New France eventually extended across North America from the Appalachians to the Rockies, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. But over time, through conquests, treaties, and land sales, French North American colonies became part of the British Empire, or of the United States. The only exceptions were islands near Newfoundland and in the Caribbean, plus an independent Haiti.

For socioeconomic and political reasons, as second-class citizens under British rule in the very country they had founded, roughly 900,000 French Canadians left Québec between the 1840s and the Great Depression. Many settled in New England and eastern New York state. The earliest migrants, mostly farmers, engaged in agriculture or logging in rural areas, or in the manufacture of textiles, shoes, paper, and other goods in urban areas. After the Civil War, when migration increased drastically, members of Québec’s business and professional classes settled among their compatriots. Today, Franco-American descendants of the original French Canadian immigrants total more than three million.

Among the region’s mill towns, there emerged four with Franco-American populations significant enough to vie for the unofficial title of French-speaking capital: Lewiston, Maine Manchester, New Hampshire Lowell, Massachusetts and Woonsocket, Rhode Island. These cities and others had Franco-American neighborhoods called Petit Canada (Little Canada), comprised of residences, churches, schools, businesses, social organizations, newspapers, and other institutions designed to preserve the French language and Franco-American culture. There, one could be born, educated, work, shop, pray, play, die, and be buried almost entirely in French. Streets with names such as Notre Dame, Cartier, and Dubuque were lined with multi-family houses in whose yards there might be a shrine to the Sainte Vierge Marie, the Sacré-Coeur de Jésus or to one’s favorite saint. From those homes came the aroma of tourtière (pork pie), tarte au sucre (maple sugar pie), and other delights.

Unlike other groups who’ve become well known, most Franco-Americans tend to live and practice their culture in intimate, unassuming, and conservative ways. In my opinion, the root of this unobtrusiveness lies in our history.

The 1789 French Revolution didn’t merely topple the king and replace the monarchy with a republic, it also attacked the Roman Catholic Church and made freethinkers of the French masses. Having left France a century earlier, our ancestors missed that Revolution.

Bird’s-eye view of Manchester looking from downtown toward the mills of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and beyond to the Franco-American West Side. Photo by Ulric Bourgeois, 1925

Fast-forward to Québec’s Révolution Tranquille (Quiet Revolution) of the 1960s, which had somewhat the same effects on the previously Catholic-clergy-dominated Québécois as did the French Revolution on the French people. But by the time of that revolution, Franco-Americans were already living in the United States.

Yet even though the Franco half of our collective psyche missed both revolutions and remained in the past, the American half of our dual identity experienced the future-focused sociocultural revolution of the 1960s in the United States. This phenomenon applies mainly to baby boomers, whose Franco identity was already on the wane by the 1960s, while their American identity was susceptible to influences of the times, as is evidenced by the subsequent rise in outright secularism or, in adherents of cafeteria Catholicism, the rise in divorce, cohabitation, contraception, and other practices considered taboo by the Catholic Church.

In fact, each family—and each person, really—has a slightly different sense of what being Franco-American is. Consider my hometown, Manchester, New Hampshire, where the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company (1831-1936) attracted immigrants from Québec and Europe from the mid-19th through the early-20th centuries. With Manchester’s total population at 78,384 (1920 U.S. Census), Amoskeag’s work force peaked at 17,000, some 40 percent of whom were Franco-Americans. At its highest, Manchester’s Franco-American population reached nearly 50% of the city’s total. To serve their needs, they created their own institutions—for example, eight parishes, all of which included a church and a grammar school, and in some cases, a high school. The social services sector comprised orphanages, hospices for the aged and the indigent, and a hospital.

I was born in 1951 and, unlike many Franco-Americans, my family lived across the Merrimack River from Manchester’s Petit Canada, where we were the French family among Scottish, Irish, Polish, Greek, Swedish, and other ethnicities. Although my father’s relatives spoke French, they favored English. Other than belonging to St. George, one of Manchester’s eight French-language parishes, they weren’t members of any Franco-American institutions. By contrast, my mother’s relatives spoke French exclusively and were heavily involved in various aspects of Franco-American culture. Out of respect for my maternal grandparents, French was the chosen language in our home when I was a young child.

My awareness of the difference between our family and others increased when I started school. Nearly every neighborhood kid attended either the public school around the corner from our house or an English-language parochial school somewhat farther away. Meanwhile, I attended St. George, which was Franco-American. There, French and English were taught to us on an equal level, each during its half of the school day. We had to be fluent in both languages upon entering first grade.

In New England’s mill towns one could be born, educated, work, shop, pray, play, die, and be buried almost entirely in French.

Our most important subject was catéchisme, almost as if French were the official language of heaven. Surprisingly, l’histoire du Canada wasn’t taught, nor was Franco-American history. In fact, I don’t recall the term Franco-American having ever been pronounced in class. And as for Acadians, a separate branch of French North Americans, I learned of their existence and that of their Cajun cousins only through my research as an adult!

These terms themselves show how difficult it is to describe the multi-faceted identity of being Franco-American. That term in French—Franco-Américain—is something my maternal grandfather, uncles, and aunts all used. My mother always said we were Canadiens, despite our having been born in the United States. Anglophone kids called us French, and some adults called us French Canadians and still do. Franco-American seems to be a term used mainly by community activists.

Nowadays, much of the daily culture that Franco-Americans once lived by is practiced outside the home during festivities such as the feast of the French Canadian patron saint, la Saint-Jean-Baptiste on June 24. In Manchester, one can eat some of the aforementioned traditional foods in a few restaurants, including the popular Chez Vachon, a must-stop for candidates during New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. There, the specialty is poutine (French fries and cheese curds in gravy), a late-20th-century Québécois invention some call a heart attack on a plate.

Franco-American identity manifests itself more strongly through organizations such as the Franco-American Centre/Centre Franco-Américain, which offers French classes, films, lectures, and other events, and the American Canadian Genealogical Society, where Franco-Americans from all over the United States come to Manchester to trace their ancestral roots.

With every generation, most Franco-Americans have put a bit more American water in their French wine. Many today don’t speak French and know little about their ethnic heritage. In the United States, pressure from proponents of the English language and American culture has accelerated this evolution. Whereas people once spoke French on the street, in stores, in restaurants, and elsewhere, and whereas Manchester almost always had a Franco-American mayor, such phenomena are now things of the past.

Though many Franco-Americans are such in name only now, our family is an exception. My wife is the first woman I ever dated who introduced me to her mother in French. We raised our son in French. He and his wife, a former student of mine, are doing likewise, the seventh generation of French-speaking Perreaults living on U.S. soil.

To us and to a minority of Franco-American families in our region, the French language and our Franco-American culture are gifts we lovingly pass on from generation to generation.

Robert B. Perreault has taught conversational French at St. Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire, since 1988. He is the author of a French-language novel, L’Héritage (1983), set in Manchester’s Franco-American community, Franco-American Life and Culture in Manchester, New Hampshire: Vivre la Différence (2010), and a new book of his original photos, Images of Modern America: Manchester (October 2017).


Identity Politics and Multiculturalism in Quebec

Given the plight of most minority cultures today in resisting assimilation into the vortex of stronger, dominant cultures. French-speaking Quebecers - the Québecois as they are known - represent something of a success story. IN the last three decades, driven by a powerful and dynamic ethnonationalist pride, they have managed to tackle the stigma of colonial conquest and overturn more than two centuries of exclusion from Canada's major networks of social and economic development they have come out of almost total political and institutional marginalization and succeeded in tending off near cultural asphyxiation. Although still unsuccessful in establishing themselves as a sovereign nation-state - largely because many among that it is the proper course of action to satisfy their national aspirations - they now exercise quasi - absolute control over a strong provincial state with extensive legal, administrative, and policymaking jurisdiction. The Quebec state has come to occupy a highlu significant place in the political culture of Quebec. It plays a central role in symbolizing and maintaining the cohesiveness of the nation québécoise against what Quebec nationalists perceive as the steamrolling and centralistic dispositions of the English-Canadian state. Quebec, many would argue, has become a virtual state within the state.

Among the other achievements that are often cited as the Québecois' coming of age is the emergence of a genuine, homegrown. French-speaking business elite with ever increasing socioeconomic clout. Artistic, literary, and scientific manifestations of their distinctive culture have won Québecois international acclaim within and outside the frasncophone world. Clearly, Québecois have developed and consolidated a vibrant culture of their own, solidly entrenched in the parameters of modernity.

Admittedly, the remarkable ascent of the Québecois bears few scars of brutal and unremitting oppression by a neighboring ethnic or cultural group. Theirs is not a story of overt victimization, genocide, dispossession, or persection. Unlike many other minority cultures, they have benefited from their inclusion in and acceptance of a modern, liberal, and democratic system of government. In this context, their demographic superiority (around 82 percent of the total Quebec population) has eventually played in their favor. Nevertheless, their record is, objectively, no less notable if one considers that hardly thirty-five years ago, they seemed condemned to being no more than a mere folkloric curiosity.

To the outside observer, Québecois may appear as having achieved ethnocultural and socioeconomic hegemony within the confines of their province. Given the demographic balance of power and the depth of the Québecois' historical attachment to their land, such a situation would seem quite normal in other national contexts. In Canada, their apparent hegemony is seem as an irritant and is often thought by members of other ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups to be detrimental to their own collective and individual self-realization.

Have Québecois really reached hegemonic status? In more ways than one, this question gives dramatic relief to the very complexity of the multicultural predicament in Quebec and Canada. To ask it is to strike at the heart of the issue of multiculturalism and pluriethnicity in that part of the world.

No one can deny that the rapid and at time radical socioeconomic, political, and institutional transformations that have marked Quebec society over the past thirty-five were largely aimed at redressing two centuries of second-class status, two centuries of injustice and inequality. Those transformations were animated by a strong nationalist determination to take full control of the nation's destiny and exorcise the inferiority complex which plagued the Québecois' collective imagination and social comportment for so long. Québecois have developed as a result a strong, forward-looking sense of themselves as achieves, fully entitled to claim the land on which they live as their own and as essential to their further self-development. The perception that other Quebeccers (anglophones, immigrants) have of them as an hegemonic group then it is not totally unwarranted.

On the other hand, the exercise of this so-called hegemony is not easily carried the administrative and political confines of the Canadian state. Manifestations of its will to self-determination, whether expressed in rallies for political sovereignty or in demands for administrative latitude, have always been interpreted as a direct threat to the integrity of the Canadian state. Even Quebec's insistence that Canada is best expressed in the idea of a compact between two founding nations. English and French, is seen as suspect in many quarters. Implicit in this ides is the claim according to which both English and French Canadians have equal say in the control f the machinery of government. Also implicit in this view of the Canadian federation is a justification for Québecois to aspire to a distinct society status and demand sociopolitical treatment at least equivalent to that enjoyed by the English-Canadian majority.

The making of Canada into an officially bilingual (English and French) country in 1969 was partly meant to address Quebec's understanding of the Canadian federation and correct, at least symbolically, some of the socioeconomic inequality historically suffered by all French-speaking Canadians (not only those living in Quebec). It implicity recognized the social and political importance of the French constituency in Canada by giving them the right to state services in their own language from Victoria to St. John's, However, it also implied that English-speaking Canadians should equally expect to have access to state services in their mother tongue in predominantly French-speaking Quebec.

Indeed the official bilingualization of Canada, just like the policies on multiculturalism that were to follow in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Constitutional Reform Act of 1982, were all premised on a narrow egalitarian conception of society and politics: Canada is comprised of a large variety of people with different ethnocultural backgrounds they must cherish their different and distinct individuality, they must respect each other's right to express it but, at the end of the day, they are all Canadians and they must all be treated equally by the federal state, their ultimate representative.

Behind the apparent generosity and humanism of such an approach lies a strategy of containment of Quebec's administrative and political aspirations. The message is clear Québecois are Canadians too, and they cannot invoke their being a "founding nation" of the country to claim special status or privileges within the Canadian federation. This message was repeatedly driven home in no uncertain terms by large segments of the Canadian population outside Quebec during intense public debates over the constitutional future of Canada between 1987 and 1992. Governmental attempts to accommodate some of Quebec's minimal demands were met twice with public reprobation: in 1990 with the demise of a federal government-initiated proposal for constitutional reform -the so-called Meech Lake Accord - aimed at appeasing Quebec's historical demands by entrenching its distinctive character and special status in the constitution, and aghain in 1992 at a national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, a watered-down version of the Meech Lake package. Both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown acords were presented by their proponents as an ultimate effort to keep the country united. Both have had the dubious distinction of further exacterbating the senitment of exasperation which Quebec and the rest of Canada feel for each other.

By becoming the mainstay of national identity. Canada's "ina bilingual framework" has reinforced the identities of minorities that have no territorial base other than the Canadian political community. It lends support to a political cutlure increasingly bent on removing all references to duality, to the notion of two founding majorities, and to that of a distinct political community in Quebec. In the current Canadian political framework, one identity is worth as much as another: a hierarchy of identities, as the idea of two founding nations implies, can no longer be tolerated. Unsurprisingly, aboriginal peoples maintain today that they are the one and only original founding nation, and representatives of immigrant communities are making clear that they cannot endorse a two or even three-nation definition of the country.

The political and constitutional developments of the past fifteen years in Canada have led to the actual negation of Quebec's specificity and to the trivialization of the Quebecois aspirations. IN this sense, their so-called ethnocultural hegemony over Quebec is highly relative. The Québecois' will no nationhood and self-determination is constantly questioned and castigated outside and within their province.

Québecois are at a crossroads with regard to the future configuration of their polity. The long-established and still powerful anglophone minority, immigrants, and aboriginal peoples are pressing down on them to define the content of their sociopolitical project and explain just how all those who are not French ethnics figure in it. The task at hand is not an easy one and begs a heartwrenching question: how can Québecois make sure they will not lose out in the ongoing politics of recognition? To what extent should they aim for the establishment of a democratic, inclusive, pluriethnic, and multicultural society without jeopardizing their own identity and the fragile socioeconomic hold they have on Quebec, without, in other words, running the risk of being made culturally, socially, and politically irrelevant in the long run? Quebec stands as an interesting showcase of the challenges facing ethnic pluralism in modern democracies.

THE CHALLENGES OF INTERCULTURALISM

Although substantial numbers of immigrants have regularly landed in Quebec throughout the 20th century, the reality of immigration - the reality of "otherness," of social heterogeneity - did not hit the political and cultural imagination of Quebecers until they started to modernize and open up to the world in the 1960s and 1970s. Their social inwardness, maintained by a conservative and ubiquitous clerical elite, made them essentially oblivious to the surrounding social environment. English and French lived in separate social and institutional universes so was it as well with the immigrants.

In the emancipatory and self-assertive atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s, immigration and interthnic relations took on a political salience that they never had before. At issue was the insertion of immigrants into they mainstream of the new Quebec society - a society in which French language and culture were to figure ads the principal and dominant sign-posts of interaction.

The language legislation enacted during the 1970s eventually made French the official language of the province and the only acceptable language of commercial signs and public transactions. New immigrants to Quebec were also forced to send their children to French schools. Such legislation caused much tension between the French majority and the anglophone and immigrant communities in those years. On the one hand, Québecois felt justified in imposing their language and culture for reasons of survival and development on the other hand. Anglophones and other ethnocultural minorities vented their their frustration at being made to feel like strangers in a land where many of them had roots as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries. At stake was the historical and sociopolitical clout that the anglophone minority always had in Quebec society, but stood to lose - and indeed partly did lose - as a result of the language poliices.

In all fairness language policies and, more generally, the Québecois' manifest will to social power did not amount to the overt marginalization of ethnocultural minorities, however difficult and uneasy interethnic and intercultural rapport may be at times. A full range of health, welfare, and educational services financially supported by the Quebec state are accessible to the anglophone minority in its onw language. These include hospitals, schools, and universities whose working language is English Since the 1970s, the Quebec government has implemented a series of programs has implemented a series of programs designed to facilitate the integration of immigrants into Quebec society. Language courses, manpower training, antiracist and antidiscriminatory measures, as well as various forms of accommodation are regularly put into place. In the mid-1980s, the Quebec government officially recognized aboriginal languages spoken on its territory and the existence of the province's aboriginal communities as distinct nations.

In the face of such realizations, it could be easy to boast that Quebec's record in matters of multicultural and pluriethnic coexistence is an enviable, if not remakrable one. A 1993 survey commissioned by the Quebec Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities showed rather positive results regarding public opinion on racial and intercultural relations. It appears that in recent years, intercultural contacts have increased substantially. A majority of Québecois feel at ease with and support openness towards immigrants and other ethnocultural groups, and agree that their government should invest in a campaign to educate people about the reality of pluriethnicity and foster intercultural relations.

Yet in spite of what seems like encouraging results, a more circumspect analysis is needed. A more detailed examination of the global picture reveals gray zones. In that same survey, a majority of respondents confessed to feeling uneasy with members of ethnocultural groups with distinctive physical or vestimentary traits. Indians, Pakistanis, and West Indian Blacks were most often cited as examples. Two in three respondents also saw is insufficient efforts on the part of immigrants to integrate into the mainstream of Quebec society.

Clearly, even with the best of intentions, interculturalism does not go down easily, Acts of rampant racism in the predominantly white, male, and French-speaking Montreal police force, the increasingly vocal exasperation of growing segments of the population with aboriginal land claims and pleas for self-government, the high rates of unemployment among minority youth, public denunciations of civil authorities by representatives of ethnocultural minorities are all recurring indications that the reality and implications of pluriethnicity do not make for an easy fit between Québecois and immigrants.

Indeed, the situation is not any worse in Quebec than anywhere else in the Western world where generally white host communities have to grapple with the immigration question. In fact, compared to other countries, Quebec (and Canada for that matter) would seem to be a rather tolerant society well on the way to inter-ethnic and intercultural harmony. Since 1975, Quebec has had its own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which explicitly protects and promotes the expression of ethnocultural differences (see sidebar at end). The Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities regularly works to find appropriate way to accommodate difference in public institutions and reduce public and private discriminatory practices there are at least three government-funded major research units on ethnic studies and intercultural relations now in operation in Quebec universities, immigrants with political refugee status are fully supported by the state until settled, and various immigrant and anglophone lobbying groups receive financial support from the state and are generally consulted on policy matters regarding immigration and intercultural relations.

Still the prospects for a sound, convivial, and integrated multicultural society seem fraught with misunderstanding about what Québecois, on the one side, and Anglophones and immigrants on the other, should expect of each other. The bottom line question is: who are Québecois? Only the French ethnics, or every single resident of the Quebec territory regardless of his or her ethnocultural background? It is essentially a matter of inclusion - symbolic and real - and identity definition. It resonates with issues of citizenship and democracy.

Official rhetoric, even in nationalist/sovereignist quarters, calls for as inclusive a definition of Québecois as can be. Yet Jacques Parizeau, leader of the soverignist Parti Québecois and in all likelihood the next Premier of Quebec, declared at a political rally last year that Quebec's sovereignty could easily be achieved without the support of the anglophone and immigrant communities. Noting that in the 1992 referendum 67 percent of francophones rejected the constitutional offers but that only 8 percent of anglophones and allophones voted with them. Parizeau concluded: "Yes, we can get a majority to agree to the national cause we are promoting, even if nearly no anglophones or allophones are behind it.

What it means is that Québecois can attain the goals they set for themselves even if essentially it's almost exclusively old stock Québecois who'll vote for them."

Anglophones and immigrants have always been opposed to sovereignist objectives and are often considered major stumbling blocks in the democratic process toward Quebec independence. Parizeau's intimation suggested that the issue of sovereignty was for old stock Québecois to decide, and that other peoples' opinions were unimportant on this matter. His words stirred a wave of protest from spokespeople of anaglophone and immigrant communities. Parizeau remained undaunted by his detractors and publicly reiterated his position a week later, arguing that criticism of his "statement of facts" smacked of political correctness, hysteria and hypocrisy.

While Parizeau's view is not necessarily shared by all Québecois, it nevertheless elicits a sense of malaise which pervades anglophone and immigrant communities as to their role and place within Quebec society. A few years ago a survey by the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities showed that three in four immigrants primarily identify themselves with their country and culture of origin and feel only marginal loyalty to Quebec, Language policies may have succeeded in making immigrants, use French as a language of everyday transactions but did not, however, elicit a deeply-rooted sense of belonging to their host land.

Part of the misunderstanding responsible for the distance between Québecois and other ethnocultural groups has to do with ignorance. Ninety percent of immigrants and member of ethnocultural groups other than Québecois live in the Montreal metropolitan area. This means that those who reside outside the Montreal region live in solid, white, homogenous, French-speaking social environments which hardly ever bring them in contact with minorities or cultural expressions other than their own. To them, immigration and pluriethnicity are almost an abstraction.

Fear is also part of the equation: an irrational, unavowable fear of what is foreign, unknown, and ill-understood. Until the 1970s Europe provided the bulk of immigrants settling in Quebec - white, Judeo-Christian, often highly educated and culturally similar to Québecois. They integrated with relative ease within the mainstream of society. Today, close to fifty percent of immigrants to Quebec originate from Asia alone. Large contingents of immigrants from Caribbean, South America, North Africa, and the Middle East have also made Quebec a land of predilection in recent years. Virtually half of all new immigrants speak neither French nor English. The signs of this diversity are everywhere in Montreal, which has become a truly cosmopolitan and multiethnic city. The pressure to adapt and grapple with this new reality is great on the host population which, by and large, is unequipped to develop a more inclusionary society. Issues of ethnic and racial discrimination in housing, employment, educational institutions, and in relations with the police force are constantly raised and create a sociopolitical gap between minority groups and the host society, which public authorities are often at a loss to address adequately. The unemployment rates of minority youth reach staggering high sixty percent among Jamaicans forty-five percent among Haitians close to thirty percent for vietnamese and Cambodians and over twenty-five percent for Latin Americans. By contrast, unemployment among young Québecois stands at seventeen percent. Systemic socioeconomic inequalities between minorities and mainstream populations are solidifying mainstream populations are solidifying and will be, as time goes by, very difficult to resolve.

Admittedly, Quebec is not unique, Other advanced capitalist countries also experience immigration from the Third World countries, but almost thirteen percent of Quebec's population were born outside the province. By comparison, immigrants make up only about six percent of France's population, eight percent of West Germany's, and six percent of the USA's. Historically, Quebec was but a land of passage for many immigrants they would head to other parts of Canada, mainly Ontario, or the United States. Today, nearly three in four immigrants settle in Quebec permanently or at least for an extended period. Immigration is thus deeply inscribed at the heart of the social, political, and policy dilemmas now facing Québecois.

IMAGINING THE COMMUNITY: WITH OR WITHOUT OTHERS?

"No nation imagines itself conterminous with mankind," wrote historian Benedict Anderson in his admirable Imagined Communities. Québecois do constitute an imagined community in the sense Anderson has described a community, a collective being, which imagines itself with reference to a common past, a common culture, and system of communication shared by all its members. Québecois, like all national communities, have a visceral perception of themselves, a perception which inevitably excludes others. The democratic framework of their polity makes them more open in theory, but the visceral mindset often finds its way to the surface. Jacques Parizeau's declaration best exemplifies this. In fact, the attitude of Québecois towards immigration and the manifestations of otherness are fraught with ambivalence typical of a nation whose own future is uncertain, whose minority status leaves it at the margins of history. It constantly oscillates between a laudable democratic impulse - which longs for sociopolitical inclusiveness and an en-larged citizenship - and the fear of losing parts of the historical identity, f seeing the imagined community fall into political irrelevance.

This ambivalence is entrenched in the whole set of policies devised by successive Quebec governments over the years with regard to the insertion of immigrants and the so-called "cultural communities" into Quebec society. The language legislation of the late 1960s and 1970s, premised on the will to protect and promote the language and culture of Québecois, ethnicized the Quebec state and unequivocally stated that Quebec was to be a francophone state and a francophone society. Throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s, other legislation and policies aimed at defining the conditions of immigration and the criteria of intercultural living in Quebec recognized the existence of so-called cultural communist. Paradoxically, those policies widened the divide between Québecois and other ethnocultural groups. Under the guise of fostering peaceful intercultural and interethnic coexistence, respect for cultural differences, and promotion of diversity, they contributed to formal cultural categorization and to identify formation outside the realm of Québecois culture. The policies implemented over the past decade or so have in effect dichotomized the Quebec population between the majority of Québecois (us) and a minority comprised of all other ethnocultural groups (them). In everyday life, this dichtomization may not be experienced by individuals in a conscious way, but in the public sphere it has created implicit boundaries along ethnic, cultural, and even racial lines. It is a rather pernicious process, for if the public discourse claims that being Québecois applies to everyone residing in Quebec, in reality access to Québecois culture is restricted to those who were born into it. Speaking French does not buy a membership into the imagined community.

The novel by LaQuébecoise by immigrant Quebec writer Regine Robin emphazies this reality quite forcefully. La Québecoise is precisely about the plight of immigrants in Quebec. At one point, the main character laments:

What anguish, some afternoons - Québécité - québécitude - I am other. I don't belong to the We so often used here - Us, "Nous autres" - the others,"Vous autres." We must speak to each other here at home . Inecorable strangeness . Other, apart, quarantined . in search of a language, of simple words to represent otherness, the density of strangeness, of words, broken, undone, fragmented, desemanticized.

Quebec cultural and immigration policies are the products of a fundamentally contradictory and ambiguous approach while the state pretends to include, it excludes by pigeonholding people into ethnocutural categories outside which their existence seems unjustified. In fact, such policies proceed from an inrrevocable tendency to typecast ehthnocultural communities into static socioeconomic roles. In the final analysis, this tendency only fragments and divides society it results in increased tensions between Québecois and others. This essentialism results in increased political tensions between Québecois and others. Strengthened by the official recognition granted them, cultural communities feel vindicated in questioning and even opposing the monopoly Québecois claim to have on the social and political definition of Quebec. While intercultural and interethnic relations in Quebec have not yet had disproportionate consequences, the potential for damaging, irremediable conflicts is real. The armed standoff of the summer of 1990 between the Canadian army and Mohawk Indians as Oka, just outside of Montreal, stands as a reminder of the fragility of pluriethnicity and pluriculturalism in Quebec. The sad, public displays of racial intolerance which became the trademark of the "Oka crisis" did nothing to alleviate mounting tensions between Québecois and Quebec's aboriginal communities.

Although pessimism is a poor advisor, one may legitimately wonder if there is a truly satisfying solution of Quebec's multicultural predicament. If the current international context of emerging national and paritularist identity claims is any indication, and in light of Quebec's own history of naitonalist affirmation, one is led to think that it is highly improbable that québecois will alter their conception of their national self in the short run. If anything, heterogeneity has become a permanent fixture of Quebec's socio-political landscape. The problem posed by multicultural coexistence may in fact only continue to fester in that Canadian province.

The liberal paradigm which underlies the political framework is incapable of adequately the issue of plurality. On the one hand, liberal political thought glorified subjective and individual identities underlying ethnocultural differences on the other, it actualizes itself in political systems which emphasize formal equality and identical treatment of individuals and communities. It celebrates diversity but calls for the homogenizing fusion of all identities into one neutral system of government. Liberation is steeped in a highly contradictory political stance which in fact only complicates the management of ethnocultural diversity.

This is not unique to Quebec, but the Quebec situation may increasingly bear witness to the sociopolitical inefficacy of liberalism. The will no nation-state embodied in Québecois nationalism implied the leveling-off of ethnocultural differences, in spite of public discourses to the contrary. Indeed, it implies the eventual negation of all other cultural expressions in the public place. As such, it is painfully ad odds with the growing and irreversible heterogeneity of the current social fabric of modern Quebec. Unless a new ethics of interncommunal relations is developed, the construction of a truly open and accepting multicultural society in Quebec is nowhere near realization. To succeed, such a new ethnics would have to transcend the moral and sociopolitical parameters of liberalism. There is no sign that this is about to happen in Quebec and Canada.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.


Why We French Canadians Are Neither French nor Canadian

T. Pariseau Ladies’ Outfitter, one of many businesses created and owned by Franco-Americans in Manchester. Photo by Ulric Bourgeois, 1915.

By Robert B. Perreault | December 7, 2017

Whenever my family visits Québec, people other than our relatives are surprised to hear Americans—even our grandchildren, ages five and six—speak fluent French. They’re amazed to learn that French is our mother tongue and that we also speak English without a French accent. Likewise, if we leave our native New Hampshire to travel elsewhere in the United States, we get blank stares upon mentioning that we’re Franco-Americans from New England.

“Franco-American, as in canned spaghetti?” some ask.

I roll my eyes and sigh. “No connection whatsoever.”

Geographically, Franco-Americans resemble Mexican Americans in the Southwest because we also live near our cultural homeland. But unlike Mexican Americans, we’re unknown outside our region. Quite accurately, Maine journalist Dyke Hendrickson titled his 1980 book about Franco-Americans Quiet Presence. The source of this inconspicuous group identity lies in our ethnically and religiously mixed relationship to the United States, Québec, and even pre-revolutionary France, which has given Franco-Americans a highly varied and personal sense of what our identity means.

From the earliest French expedition to the Carolinas in 1524, to the founding of Québec City in 1608, New France eventually extended across North America from the Appalachians to the Rockies, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. But over time, through conquests, treaties, and land sales, French North American colonies became part of the British Empire, or of the United States. The only exceptions were islands near Newfoundland and in the Caribbean, plus an independent Haiti.

For socioeconomic and political reasons, as second-class citizens under British rule in the very country they had founded, roughly 900,000 French Canadians left Québec between the 1840s and the Great Depression. Many settled in New England and eastern New York state. The earliest migrants, mostly farmers, engaged in agriculture or logging in rural areas, or in the manufacture of textiles, shoes, paper, and other goods in urban areas. After the Civil War, when migration increased drastically, members of Québec’s business and professional classes settled among their compatriots. Today, Franco-American descendants of the original French Canadian immigrants total more than three million.

Among the region’s mill towns, there emerged four with Franco-American populations significant enough to vie for the unofficial title of French-speaking capital: Lewiston, Maine Manchester, New Hampshire Lowell, Massachusetts and Woonsocket, Rhode Island. These cities and others had Franco-American neighborhoods called Petit Canada (Little Canada), comprised of residences, churches, schools, businesses, social organizations, newspapers, and other institutions designed to preserve the French language and Franco-American culture. There, one could be born, educated, work, shop, pray, play, die, and be buried almost entirely in French. Streets with names such as Notre Dame, Cartier, and Dubuque were lined with multi-family houses in whose yards there might be a shrine to the Sainte Vierge Marie, the Sacré-Coeur de Jésus or to one’s favorite saint. From those homes came the aroma of tourtière (pork pie), tarte au sucre (maple sugar pie), and other delights.

Unlike other groups who’ve become well known, most Franco-Americans tend to live and practice their culture in intimate, unassuming, and conservative ways. In my opinion, the root of this unobtrusiveness lies in our history.

The 1789 French Revolution didn’t merely topple the king and replace the monarchy with a republic, it also attacked the Roman Catholic Church and made freethinkers of the French masses. Having left France a century earlier, our ancestors missed that Revolution.

Bird’s-eye view of Manchester looking from downtown toward the mills of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and beyond to the Franco-American West Side. Photo by Ulric Bourgeois, 1925

Fast-forward to Québec’s Révolution Tranquille (Quiet Revolution) of the 1960s, which had somewhat the same effects on the previously Catholic-clergy-dominated Québécois as did the French Revolution on the French people. But by the time of that revolution, Franco-Americans were already living in the United States.

Yet even though the Franco half of our collective psyche missed both revolutions and remained in the past, the American half of our dual identity experienced the future-focused sociocultural revolution of the 1960s in the United States. This phenomenon applies mainly to baby boomers, whose Franco identity was already on the wane by the 1960s, while their American identity was susceptible to influences of the times, as is evidenced by the subsequent rise in outright secularism or, in adherents of cafeteria Catholicism, the rise in divorce, cohabitation, contraception, and other practices considered taboo by the Catholic Church.

In fact, each family—and each person, really—has a slightly different sense of what being Franco-American is. Consider my hometown, Manchester, New Hampshire, where the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company (1831-1936) attracted immigrants from Québec and Europe from the mid-19th through the early-20th centuries. With Manchester’s total population at 78,384 (1920 U.S. Census), Amoskeag’s work force peaked at 17,000, some 40 percent of whom were Franco-Americans. At its highest, Manchester’s Franco-American population reached nearly 50% of the city’s total. To serve their needs, they created their own institutions—for example, eight parishes, all of which included a church and a grammar school, and in some cases, a high school. The social services sector comprised orphanages, hospices for the aged and the indigent, and a hospital.

I was born in 1951 and, unlike many Franco-Americans, my family lived across the Merrimack River from Manchester’s Petit Canada, where we were the French family among Scottish, Irish, Polish, Greek, Swedish, and other ethnicities. Although my father’s relatives spoke French, they favored English. Other than belonging to St. George, one of Manchester’s eight French-language parishes, they weren’t members of any Franco-American institutions. By contrast, my mother’s relatives spoke French exclusively and were heavily involved in various aspects of Franco-American culture. Out of respect for my maternal grandparents, French was the chosen language in our home when I was a young child.

My awareness of the difference between our family and others increased when I started school. Nearly every neighborhood kid attended either the public school around the corner from our house or an English-language parochial school somewhat farther away. Meanwhile, I attended St. George, which was Franco-American. There, French and English were taught to us on an equal level, each during its half of the school day. We had to be fluent in both languages upon entering first grade.

Our most important subject was catéchisme, almost as if French were the official language of heaven. Surprisingly, l’histoire du Canada wasn’t taught, nor was Franco-American history. In fact, I don’t recall the term Franco-American having ever been pronounced in class. And as for Acadians, a separate branch of French North Americans, I learned of their existence and that of their Cajun cousins only through my research as an adult!

These terms themselves show how difficult it is to describe the multi-faceted identity of being Franco-American. That term in French—Franco-Américain—is something my maternal grandfather, uncles, and aunts all used. My mother always said we were Canadiens, despite our having been born in the United States. Anglophone kids called us French, and some adults called us French Canadians and still do. Franco-American seems to be a term used mainly by community activists.

Nowadays, much of the daily culture that Franco-Americans once lived by is practiced outside the home during festivities such as the feast of the French Canadian patron saint, la Saint-Jean-Baptiste on June 24. In Manchester, one can eat some of the aforementioned traditional foods in a few restaurants, including the popular Chez Vachon, a must-stop for candidates during New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. There, the specialty is poutine (French fries and cheese curds in gravy), a late-20th-century Québécois invention some call a heart attack on a plate.

Franco-American identity manifests itself more strongly through organizations such as the Franco-American Centre/Centre Franco-Américain, which offers French classes, films, lectures, and other events, and the American Canadian Genealogical Society, where Franco-Americans from all over the United States come to Manchester to trace their ancestral roots.

With every generation, most Franco-Americans have put a bit more American water in their French wine. Many today don’t speak French and know little about their ethnic heritage. In the United States, pressure from proponents of the English language and American culture has accelerated this evolution. Whereas people once spoke French on the street, in stores, in restaurants, and elsewhere, and whereas Manchester almost always had a Franco-American mayor, such phenomena are now things of the past.

Though many Franco-Americans are such in name only now, our family is an exception. My wife is the first woman I ever dated who introduced me to her mother in French. We raised our son in French. He and his wife, a former student of mine, are doing likewise, the seventh generation of French-speaking Perreaults living on U.S. soil.

To us and to a minority of Franco-American families in our region, the French language and our Franco-American culture are gifts we lovingly pass on from generation to generation.

Robert B. Perreault has taught conversational French at St. Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire, since 1988. He is the author of a French-language novel, L’Héritage (1983), set in Manchester’s Franco-American community, Franco-American Life and Culture in Manchester, New Hampshire: Vivre la Différence (2010), and a new book of his original photos, Images of Modern America: Manchester (October 2017).


Separatism Weakening in Quebec

Pierre Falardeau wants his fellow Quebecers to know that they are lazy, stupid and far too self-satisfied for their own good.

For Falardeau, Canada is an evil and stifling place, and the filmmaker and stalwart separatist has made a career of cataloguing the country's "neo-colonialist" treatment of French QUEBEC - often with generous subsidies from Telefilm Canada. These days, though, the rusty-throated polemicist has another, somewhat surprising, target: the ever-increasing number of Quebecers who have effectively turned their back on sovereignty.

"Quebecers have become imbeciles," Falardeau barks over the phone. "This is a population that lives in the suburbs and shops at Wal-Mart. It's a collective problem. Where are the intellectuals? Where are the artists? Where are the thinkers, the ones who are meant to make us reflect?" It isn't the first time the 60-year-old Montreal native has decried his brethren for their lack of separatist sang-froid - his most popular movie, Elvis Gratton, is a 1981 satire about an ultra-federalist Québécois slob who drapes himself in the Maple Leaf - but his diatribe is more remarkable now because it has never rung so true, at least as far as sovereignty is concerned.

Forty years after French President Charles de Gaulle declared "Vive le Québec libre" from the balcony of Montreal's City Hall, and after the formation of two separatist parties, two referendums, and several rounds of constitutional talks, the sovereignty movement has rarely seemed weaker. Quebecers' indifference to the anniversary of de Gaulle's speech - arguably the watershed moment in nationalist history - has the pur et dur ranks in a funk. "It was not as big of an event as it should have been, and it shows the morose state of the separatist movement," Jean Dorion, president of la Société Saint-Jean Baptiste, told a newspaper recently. And Canada doesn't have its politicians to thank for this: that honour goes to the vast majority of Quebecers themselves.

Mario Dumont's ACTION DÉMOCRATIQUE DU QUÉBEC stormed into official opposition largely by attracting the prototypical suburbanite who hasn't much use for or interest in Quebec's favourite obsession - the very type of voter Falardeau decries. And after suffering its worst electoral defeat in 34 years, the PARTI QUÉBÉCOIS has "deferred to the intelligence of Quebecers" and placed the party's referendum platform on hold indefinitely.

A recent poll published in La Presse showed some 86 per cent of Quebecers think the sovereignist option "has stalled or regressed" since the 1995 referendum. The same poll also revealed a sentiment that may surprise those who think the province always has one foot outside Confederation: 85 per cent of French Quebecers said they were proud to be Canadian, the highest it's been in 20 years.

According to a similar Léger et Léger poll, the majority of avowed sovereignists no longer believe the province will ever separate from the country. Even former Péquiste premier Bernard LANDRY says "being Canadian isn't dishonourable" - high praise from a man who once referred to the Canadian flag as "a piece of red rag."

All this has hard-liners of Falardeau's ilk in a froth. "We aren't lying to ourselves, the independence movement is currently in crisis," says Patrick Bourgeois, publisher of the separatist newspaper Le Québécois. "I don't want to sound condescending, but we have a population that is politically unmotivated and doesn't have a knowledge of its own history."

"Quebecers have become sheep," echoes book publisher Michel Brûlé. "We have a small people's mentality."

It wasn't meant to be like this. To hard-core nationalists, Quebec sovereignty is a grand and noble cause, the final and ultimate righting of all injustices visited upon the French throughout Canadian history. The Parti Québécois has long had a somewhat romantic notion of its typical voter: he is likely unilingual French, working class, and has nothing but contempt for his English neighbours next door and at large.

Flash forward 30 years and the only disdain some sovereignists seem to possess is for Jean Q. Publique. "This is what interests them: bingo, lottery tickets, swimming pools, fast food restaurants and hot dogs," wrote one pur et dur on the Le Québécois website. "Our people will die of stupidity," wrote another.

"We are getting into the age of Elvis Gratton," Michel Brûlé complains, referring to the oafish caricature of the Ugly Quebecer. "When you have two million people watching something like [French reality television show] Loft Story, you have to ask yourself questions." Bourgeois sees Quebecers descending once again into "comfort and indifference," the title of Denys ARCAND's 1982 film excoriating Quebec's rejection of sovereignty in the first referendum: "For many Quebecers, it's about individual accomplishments, like having a good career and a nice family. They say, 'Why should we break our head over collective problems?' The collective is no longer in fashion."

"We are scared, we are frightened," says noted firebrand Yves Michaud, a close friend of Landry's. "French Quebecers vote 'No' because they are scared and because big business is allied with the English minority."

Whether it be fear, demographics or simply frustration with the endless chicane over Quebec's future, this much is true: that prototypical Péquiste voter is certainly a scarce being. Today, the average Quebecer is more likely to be bilingual and long ago moved to the suburbs or the exburbs (Quebec is home to seven of the country's 20 fastest growing municipalities). It's also home to Canada's oldest population, chock full of baby boomers for whom sovereignty remains a dream that, while pleasant enough, pales in the shadow of health concerns, pension cheques and many other of life's realities.

"There are a lot of people who are sovereignist at heart but who say, 'I'm 55 years old, I'm close to retirement, the fight is behind me, and if it's so complicated I prefer to forget about it,' " says Jean-Frédéric Légaré-Tremblay, a political scientist, journalist and former aide to Péquiste MNA Jean-Pierre Charbonneau. While that voter may not yet have a Canadian flag flying in the yard, he is no longer taken by the sovereignist furor required for the collective push out of Canada. Quite simply, he has other things on his mind.

Even Quebec's artists, long the movement's bards and boosters, now for the most part shy away from any political label that might hurt their bottom line. "Artists are scared today," laments singer and actor Luck Mervil, one of the few to declare his political affiliation in the last provincial campaign. (A sovereignist, he supported Québec Solidaire.) "They aren't stupid. There are subsidies they can lose. They don't want to offend any of their potential audiences. Look at our biggest selling artists. They don't pronounce themselves, they don't talk about it."

For sovereignists, the outlook is grim even amongst the province's youth, traditionally the hotbed of nationalist sentiment. Young people today, wrote newspaper columnist Stéphane Laporte recently, are more likely to "listen to Arcade Fire and are more interested in saving the planet than their language."

Others still, particularly in the Quebec hinterland, don't see themselves in the PQ's stubborn leftist perch, says Légaré-Tremblay: "The PQ has taken the young people for granted. They haven't done anything to recruit young people. As the leaders got older they assumed the young people would take their place. They haven't." (The PQ isn't helping its own cause: the party's youth website still features a 30-second clip of former leader André Boisclair urging young voters to "get rid of Mr. Charest" - nearly four months after Mr. Charest was re-elected and two months after Boisclair himself quit under pressure from party hard-liners.)

While the young and old stay away in droves, the movement faces yet another threat: its persistent inability to draw support from immigrants, on which the province depends to prop up its sagging birth rate. Not only does Quebec have difficulty retaining immigrants - the province loses more immigrants to other provinces than it attracts from them, notes lawyer and demographer Patrice Vachon - those who remain are more often than not staunch federalists who, according to a number of surveys, would vote overwhelmingly 'No' in a referendum. It seems the 'ethnic vote,' as former premier Jacques Parizeau derisively put it in 1995, continues to plague sovereignists.

"It takes time," concedes Bernard Landry, today a professor at Concordia University. "We chose the route of democracy, and it is slow, but I like this more than violence."

Despite Parizeau's odious comments, and though Landry himself has said any referendum goal higher than 50 per cent plus one "gives veto rights on our national project to our compatriot brothers and sisters in the cultural communities," the resolute sovereignist maintains the movement is making inroads with immigrants. "I'm almost certain that we have the majority of Latino-Americans on our side," Landry says, adding, "anyone attempting to discredit the sovereignist movement on ethnic lines is dealing in urban legends."

Perhaps. But for people like Patrick Bourgeois, for whom outright separation remains the be-all and end-all, new arrivals pose a particular conundrum. On average, first-generation immigrant women have three babies, nearly double that of a Québécoise de souche, and are more likely to move to the Montreal region than anywhere else in the province.

This bodes well for sovereignist parties like the PQ, at least in elections, because their support comes from the regions outside the city. But in the event of another referendum, the lion's share of Montreal's 450,000 immigrants, what Vachon calls "a very important voting block," will likely go "No." Though Jean CHAREST's Liberals won the last election, it received the lowest francophone vote in the party's history. "The Liberal Party of Quebec is nothing but a party for immigrants and Anglos," wrote one nationalist on l'Actualité's website.

This, of course, is if there is another referendum at all. Mario Dumont has said repeatedly that staging Quebec's exit from Canada isn't in the cards. "There is not going to be a referendum" in the event of an ADQ government, said ADQ spokesperson Jean-Nicholas Gagné. "Not in the first mandate and not in the second."

Meanwhile, newly minted Péquiste leader Pauline Marois took the job on the condition that the pursuit of sovereignty, the party's raison d'être and article No. 1 of its charter, be mothballed indefinitely - effectively neutering the party's hard-core sovereignist flank. "Support for the PQ has been eroding since 1994" because of the party's referendum obsession, Marois wrote in her inaugural message to party stalwarts. "In trying to do what we thought best for people, we forgot to listen to what they thought was best for themselves." (Marois declined to be interviewed for this story.)

She had yet to return from a post-coronation vacation when that flank began to fight back, and it remains to be seen whether she will be able to keep it in check. History hasn't been kind to PQ leaders who dare sway from sovereignty's path: every one save for Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry was pushed out of office as a result. "A party that fails to promote its reason for existing cannot inspire the confidence of its electors," sniffed Université de Montréal professor Denis Molière recently. "How can public opinion change in favour of sovereignty if no one talks about it, discusses, promotes and explains?"

How indeed? Were it left up to former MNA Yves Michaud, the PQ would indeed forgo another referendum until it had put in place several of what he calls "acts of sovereignty": establish Quebec citizenship and a constitution, send a Quebec delegation to the United Nations and pursue an "extremely aggressive" family-friendly policy to ensure a bumper crop of newborn Québécois.

Michaud also hopes the PQ will make French CEGEP mandatory for all incoming immigrants so that they are more likely to become sovereignist - meaning many recent arrivals to Quebec would be able to vote, buy liquor and join the army but not take college courses in the language of their choice. "Half of the immigrants go to English CEGEP. They might speak French, but how many of them would vote 'Yes'?" he asks.

Given the high percentage of supposedly proud Canadians in Quebec, you'd think the Maple Leaf would be hanging from every lamppost and sewn on every backpack. At the very least, you'd think the federal or the provincial governments could have coughed up at least one official to march among the thousands of attendees at Montreal's Canada Day parade. But no as unpopular as another referendum might be, Quebec's nationalist discourse rules the day and support for sovereignty remains at a steady 40 to 45 per cent in successive polls. To some it is the ultimate contradiction to others it makes perfect sense.

"There is an attachment to Canada, but it isn't as strong as the attachment to Quebec," says André Pratte, chief columnist for La Presse, arguably the province's most influential newspaper. He is a perfect example: a federalist considered a patsy and/or the Antichrist by most sovereignists, Pratte nonetheless considers himself to be a Quebecer first. "There is nothing harmful that Quebecers consider themselves Quebecers first and Canadians second. If you asked the same question in Newfoundland people would first consider themselves to be Newfoundlanders. That's normal in a country as diverse as Canada, and the country's challenge is to protect all this so that people can keep their identities and participate in the Canadian project." Support for separatism is stable between 40 and 45 percent, he says, thanks in part to old constitutional wounds like Meech Lake and Charlottetown, as well as a sense that the rest of the country doesn't quite understand Quebec's need to protect its language and culture.

The trouble in Quebec, Pratte suggests, is that for all its apparent benefits, federalism simply isn't sexy. The sovereignty movement appeals directly to Quebecers' collective heartstrings - it can't be printed on a T-shirt or a golf ball, as the country found out during the Gomery commission. Tapping the fury of Quebec nationalists is simple enough, but finding a proud Québécois federalist is like fishing without bait: you know they're there, but damned if you can catch one.

"When Quebec sovereignists speak there are very few people to answer them, because federalists don't speak all that often, and not very loud. It's a shame, because if you look at the history of all the conflicts between Quebec and the feds, you see that most of the problems get solved. Look at worker training, fiscal imbalance, immigration. These were all major problems that sovereignists argued necessitated independence, but they were solved. It means separatists have to change their target all the time."

The targets may change, but the rhetoric stays stubbornly the same. Predicting the death of the sovereignist movement is an exercise in futility "the movement will weaken under the circumstances but it will never disappear," says Légaré-Tremblay. Unable to vote for André Boisclair, thousands of separatists parked their votes with the ADQ during the last election, and it remains to be seen if they will come back with Marois at the helm.

This much is certain, however: the strength of the sovereignist movement is inversely related to the amount of venom its luminaries are willing to spit at Quebecers themselves - which is a whole lot these days, if Pierre Falardeau's mouth is any indication. "Quebecers are messed up," he says of the people he claims to love. "They've always been messed up and they are still messed up. To read the media we have, it's not surprising that people are such cretins."

It is a breathlessly presumptuous argument: all French Quebecers, Falaradeau and company argue, want separatism they're just too weak-willed to achieve it. Given the state of sovereignty, though, one wonders if Quebecers are even listening anymore.


Why Has French Culture Almost Died in Louisiana But Thrived in Quebec?

Only about 3% of people in Louisiana list French as a spoken language in the state, while that number is in the 90% range in Quebec.

Living in Canada, we see how strongly Quebecois protect their culture and language, so I am curious

We know all about you from Letterkenny.

My college Cajun French professor told this story of when she started going to school she didn't speak English and barely understood it because they only spoke Cajun French at home outside of Gueydan. First day she asked to go to the bathroom in French and was reprimanded for speaking in French and wasn't allowed to go unless she asked in English. She wet herself. Following days, despite being thirsty, she didn't drink before school because she was so afraid. Eventually her mom found out and taught her how to ask to go to the bathroom. Can you imagine denying a child a basic right because they can't answer in English? She went on to become an active CODOFIL member and taught hundreds of students her native language.

Yep - basically everyone in south Louisiana/Acadiana has the story of their paw paw being whipped at school for speaking French.

Interesting. I'm from Shreveport originally, and we all had mandatory French in elementary school in the 80s.

Damn this is horrible, and reminds me the same thing happened in southern france with all the languages they had there. Nationalism in the 20th century was a hell of a drug..

Might as well ask why Detroit's Greektown is so small these days, why so few people in the Midwest speak German and Swedish, why Sicilian isn't spoken on the northshore. America loves assimilation and has often ruthlessly stamped out traces of ethnic heritage. We also go to war a lot, and man, when your people are on the list of those who may have to go to camps, I bet you learn to switch to English and shut grandma up real quick.

The Quebecois have fought to retain their culture, but they also have substantial political capital and a line of leaders from that background to help that process. Those gains were often hard won. It's a lot more complicated than that, but the Cajuns did not come with power. They came after a long, exhausting voyage down from Acadia, losing members along the way, often becoming indentured in various places, finding refuge only in the deep country of new Acadia. They weren't powerful or wealthy or particularly educated. When Louisiana passed laws barring Cajun speech, they couldn't fight back, and anyway, speaking other languages has long been viewed with suspicion in this country. Still is, depending on your locale and language.


FILM Where Films Made In English Can Seem A Cultural Betrayal

WHEN Denys Arcand stepped onto the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall here earlier this month, he had reached the end of a long road. His first major film in seven years, ''Stardom,'' was the opening-night offering at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Mr. Arcand, 59, a French-Canadian Montrealer, was enjoying a welcome reserved for native sons. Local newspapers had plastered photographs of Mr. Arcand and interviews with him all over their arts sections, heralding the film's arrival, and on the red carpet Mr. Arcand himself seemed to glow amid the adulation.

But the premiere of ''Stardom,'' a film that tracks the fickle gaze of fame as it falls on a small-town girl (Jessica Pare) and transports her to the world of fashion modeling, signaled more than a jubilant return for the director. It put him even more firmly in the camp of prominent French-speaking directors who have turned to English for their films -- a sore point for some in a place where language is an emotional gauge of cultural health.

Among these directors, Lea Pool, whose French-language film 'ɾmporte-Moi'' (''Set Me Free'') was a modest success in the United States last year, and the internationally known theater director Robert Lepage, whose play ''The Far Side of the Moon'' opened in New York earlier this month, are only two of the most conspicuous. Beyond them, a host of filmmakers seasoned by years of French production are entering the vast English-language market, lured by larger budgets and the promise of escape from the subtitle ghetto. For these directors, English production is a financial necessity. As the director Richard Roy put it in the French-language Montreal daily newspaper Le Devoir recently: ''I have projects in French, but I have to live.''

But such a phenomenon doesn't sit well in Quebec, a province of roughly seven million people, 80 percent of whom are French-speaking. Fervently protective of its language and culture, the province is fond of referring to itself as a 'ɽistinct society.'' Indeed, it has held two referendums in the last 25 years in which Quebecers were asked to vote on whether they wanted to separate from Canada. (They said no both times, but not by much: the most recent referendum, in 1995, failed by just a single percentage point.)

The distinction, nonetheless, is clear: on both the big and small screens, an entire star system has evolved, unique to the province and entirely outside the North American mass-culture orbit. For some, the thought of Franco-Quebec filmmakers working outside this sphere reeks of betrayal -- particularly now, when Quebec, like most of the world, is facing an ever-larger influx of films from the Hollywood production machine.

Odile Tremblay, the film critic for Le Devoir, wrote about the phenomenon recently, and the undertone of crisis was apparent: ''The danger is that we'll lose our best Francophone players in the ocean of the language of the other. There's also the danger of choosing English and sweeping our national realities under the carpet.''

For Franco-Quebecers, the notion of national reality -- of a distinctive culture -- has been so closely tied to language that the two are almost inseparable, says Peter Wintonick, the Montreal documentary filmmaker who made ''Manufacturing Consent'' and, most recently, 'ɼinema Verite.''

''Language certainly is the touchstone,'' Mr. Wintonick says. ''There's disappearing species, flora and fauna, but the disappearance of language is a major crisis. There is this struggle, for people whose culture is identified with language, to preserve it. It's really sort of sad, because cinema is really an expression of your culture, and in this case, the language is such a large part of the culture.''

For Ms. Tremblay, the struggle is palpable: ''We have a small film community. We are a small society. So there is always a fear. There will always be French films in Quebec. But if all the important filmmakers turn to English, the loss will be there.''

That sense of loss is rooted deep in the province's cinematic history. Through the 1960's and 70's, the National Film Board of Canada was based in Montreal, and its presence generated an entire generation of documentary filmmakers, among them Claude Jutra, who directed ''Mon Oncle Antoine'' (1971), still considered one of the finest Canadian films ever produced. From the documentary tradition sprang a method of narrative filmmaking that echoed the cinema verite movement in France it came to be known in Quebec as ''Le Direct'' -- a sincere, often bleak portrait of Quebecois daily life.

Mr. Arcand, too, is a member of this school, his skills honed on documentaries at the film board in the late 60's. He went on to establish himself as an auteur -- a visionary director who could draw an international audience by virtue of his name alone -- with French-language films like ''The Decline of the American Empire'' (1987) and ''Jesus of Montreal''(1989), both of which received Academy Award nominations for best foreign film. But even now, he says, his filmmaking owes a debt to those formative years. For ''Stardom,'' which opens in New York on Oct. 27, Mr. Arcand spent years interviewing former models, photographers and stylists, passing hours backstage at fashion shows, recording every detail: ''I just amassed tons and tons of documents and information before beginning, which is the way a documentary filmmaker works. And I've kept that. All my films are done like that, are part of that tradition, in a sense. That's where I come from.''

And yet, through his 30-year career, Mr. Arcand has moved on from the priorities that shaped his early work, priorities that were, in the early years, necessarily focused on French-speaking Quebec. Even for films like ''The Decline and Fall of the American Empire'' and ''Jesus of Montreal'' -- both in French -- the language was incidental, in service of broader themes. '' 𧷬line' could have taken place anywhere -- it was a universal subject,'' he says of the film, which examined the dynamics of marriage and infidelity among four couples in Quebec. ''The same is true of 'Jesus' -- or 'Stardom.' It's a very personal film, like all my films. It's not a Quebecois film anymore. It's a film by me.''

Mr. Arcand's statement speaks of ambition and aspiration, qualities both essential and expected in an artist pursuing international success. But what is a natural yearning for most can easily be politicized for a talented Franco-Quebec artist. When Mr. Arcand made his first English-language film, ''Love and Human Remains'' (1993), he had no political motive he was simply drawn to a play about sexual frustration and failed ambitions wrapped around a murder mystery by Brad Fraser, an English-Canadian playwright. And yet at the time he was roundly criticized in the French-language press for it. Even before the film's releas, Ms. Tremblay, writing in Le Devoir, was looking for weaknesses: '' 'Love and Human Remains' doesn't correspond to our Quebecois sensibilities,'' she wrote. ''Some accuse Arcand of having adopted American methods by calling on focus groups and betraying the cause of auteur filmmaking by flirting with producer-driven cinema.''

Loyalty and betrayal are common themes among Quebecois filmmakers whose priorities lie on different sides of the debate. Pierre Falardeau, a Montreal director known for his politically charged work, makes no secret of his allegiance. ''When you're an artist, you have a responsibility,'' he says. ''The reason I make films is this: when I was young, the only films I saw were John Wayne movies, and stupid Elvis Presley films. And when I was 17, 18, I discovered that there were guys on the screen dressed like my father, who spoke like my father, or my neighbors. And I realized film does not have to be stupid. It can say something about our culture.''

The culture Mr. Falardeau refers to is unmistakably Quebec's. He speaks fondly of early Quebecois directors like Pierre Perrault, who made films about daily life among the French-speaking residents in the province's eastern regions. And his own films crystallize his priorities: ''Octobre'' centers on the October crisis of 1974, in which the Quebec politician Pierre Laporte was kidnapped and murdered by members of the radical separatist group the Front de Liberation de Quebec. His next film, set for release early next year, is called '✕ Fevrier 1839,'' the date that a revolution by the French failed in English-speaking Lower Canada.

Mr. Falardeau's position is hardly a new one. In the 70's, Mr. Jutra, a devout separatist, deliberately skirted political issues in his work, and suffered criticism for it. When ''Mon Oncle Antoine'' became a success outside of Quebec, some rejected it as a non-Quebecois film. ''He was often accused by the more ideological separatists of betraying the cause because he didn't make films about the issue,'' said Jim Leach, who recently published a biography of Mr. Jutra. ''It's something like Spike Lee working in Hollywood. You're not just Spike Lee making a film, you're representing the black community.''

Mr. Lepage, whose ''Possible Worlds'' had its debut at the Venice Film Festival before screening in Toronto, says, ''That pressure, both then and now, is the product of the insecurity of a young culture, but one that Quebec is slowly outgrowing.

''I know Denys Arcand very well, and I know that, for a while, he felt that there was a bit of animosity in Quebec because he started doing things in English a few years ago. And I said 'No, Denys, that's a false debate now.' '' He adds, ''I think Quebec is ready to be like other countries that still try to conserve their culture, but recognize that the market is in English.''

For Ms. Pool, a 50-year-old director who came to Quebec from Switzerland 25 years ago, the liberation of which Mr. Lepage speaks has been a long time coming. Having made films in French throughout her career, she has just completed her first English film, ''Lost and Delirious,'' starring Piper Perabo and Ms. Pare as boarding school girls on the verge of discovering their sexuality. And she is betraying no one, she says -- most important, herself: ''The idea that, if you speak in English, and you make a film in English, you're a different person -- that's completely stupid. I'm sure they will be looking a little closer at me, to see if I have not sold my soul to Hollywood. But the reason I made this film was that it was very close to me, to what I do. Of course, I knew that if we made the film in English, it would be easier to get the money. I knew it was easier to find name actresses. But when I was asked why I made this film in English, it was because I didn't want to translate it into French. That's the main, main reason. It's a screenplay by an American playwright, Judith Thompson, based on a novel by an American author -- Susan Swan's 'Wives of Bath.' What else would I do?''

MS. POOL recalls when one of her films was refused by a Quebec film festival because it was deemed to be ''not Quebecois.'' ''I made all my films here, so what is a Quebec film?'' she asks, incredulous. ''What is the parallel between Pierre Falardeau's films and Denys Arcand's films? They cannot be compared. They're completely different.''

All the same, Quebec may be warming to a more international perspective. Mr. Lepage recalls the inaugural Jutra Awards (named for the director) last year -- the Jutras are Quebec's own film awards, a sort of provincial Oscars -- and the big winner was ''The Red Violin,'' an English-language film directed by the Montreal filmmaker Francois Girard, but starring Samuel L. Jackson and a host of Anglo-Canadians.

Laughing, Mr. Lepage says: ''Suddenly we had all these English-Canadian actors accepting all these prizes, and speaking their broken French, saying 'Thank you,' and feeling very uneasy, because they're in the French Quebec bastion that is deciding to give them some credit. That started a bit of a buzz at that moment, and I think that Quebec will learn as it gets more productive in its film industry that it is an industry where a lot of creators will want to exploit larger markets -- not just subtitles.''

Indeed, Roger Frappier, who produced ''Jesus of Montreal'' and now runs his own production company, Max Films, believes a new generation of Quebecois filmmakers is blossoming, for whom language is secondary to the film itself.

''I think that we cannot listen to the word 'globalization' for years and years without its having an effect on the minds of young people,'' says Mr. Frappier. He points to Denis Villeneuve, one of his young directors, as an example. Mr. Ville neuve's new film, ''Maelstrom,'' a stylistic experiment narrated by a fish, had its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and, says Mr. Frappier: '' 'Maelstrom' has nothing to do with Quebec and everything to do with Quebec. It's a new form of cinematography that has no boundaries.''

For some, the films made in Mr. Frappier's stable are ideal: an expression of Quebecois culture that does not rely on language. ''When Lars von Trier makes a film in English, he is doing a film only he can do,'' Mr. Frappier says. ''He has roots. And that's what we should never lose when we make a film, even if it's in English, or has universal appeal: that it comes from here, and it has a specific vision.''

For Mr. Lepage, reaching that point is a simple question of confidence: ''The only thing that really shakes the basis of Quebec's assurance in its identity is the fact that it's a very, very young society. Our writers, our filmmakers, our theater people are all alive. They're young, somebody like Michel Tremblay, who's probably our equivalent of Shakespeare, or Schiller, or Horst Strindberg -- you can call him on the phone and talk to him.''

'ɻut I feel very strong,'' he went on, '�use I've toured the world many times and I could sense how Quebec culture has its place, whether it's translated into English or not. It has a mark, it's very strong, it's very specifically Quebecois. So am I nervous about this? Not as nervous as others might be.''


A Year After The Quebec Mosque Shooting, Has Anything Changed?

The deaths of six men last year revealed a terrifying strain of Islamophobia in the city — one the province has failed to confront. In the wake of the violence, Yousseff and Mulka Cherif wonder if they are better off leaving Quebec altogether.

By Sadiya Ansari Updated January 29, 2018

Mourners place candles and flowers at a memorial for the victims, following the shooting. Photo by Roger Lemoyne.

*Names of the Cherif family have been changed.

On a sleepy Sunday evening late last January, Yousseff Cherif, a 44-year-old IT professional in Quebec City, was preparing to leave the house, hoping to catch isha, the final prayer of the day at the Grand Mosque, one of two mosques in the city run by the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec. It would take him 12 minutes or so to drive from his quiet suburban neighbourhood, a trip he made frequently, shuttling his nine-year-old son Ramy to the mosque for weekly Arabic classes, and catching up with friends after prayers. Yousseff’s wife, Mulka, was unable to go as often since she cared full-time for the couple’s six-year-old daughter Shayma, who has disabilities.

“Why don’t you stay?” Ramy piped up from the couch. Yousseff glanced at the time. It was 7:25 p.m. Prayer would start in five minutes and he was already late so he opted to stay home, chatting with Ramy until the boy went to bed 20 minutes later. Just after 8 p.m. Yousseff received a call from a panicked friend, asking if he was at the mosque.

Shortly after isha ended on January 29, 2017, a man parked his car in front of the men’s entrance to the mosque. As he stepped inside, armed with a rifle and handgun, he opened fire on the first two worshippers he encountered, Ibrahim Barry, 39, a public servant and Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, a computer technician. The gunman continued firing, killing Azzedine Soufiane, 57, a butcher who owned a nearby shop Khaled Belkacemi, 60, a Université Laval professor Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, a public servant and Aboubaker Thabti, 44, an employee at a poultry processing plant. Another 19 people were injured, including Aymen Derbali, 41, who had heroically attempted to distract the gunman to protect others. In all, the shooting left six women grieving their husbands, and 17 children without fathers.

Half an hour after the attack, a 27-year-old French-Canadian named Alexandre Bissonnette, called police to turn himself in. A Laval student who lived near the mosque, Bissonnette was later described by peers as having recently gone through a transformation, from a harmless campus conservative to a far-right troll who espoused anti-immigrant and anti-feminist views.

The city — and the country — was in shock. Quebec City has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and there had been just a single homicide in all of 2016. Yousseff and Mulka were devastated. They knew anti-Muslim sentiments existed in the city, but never imagined it would translate into this kind of violence, and led to the deaths of people they knew and cared for.

In the following days, their anxiety was partially soothed by an immediate and widespread show of solidarity. Teachers and staff at Ramy’s school took extra care with him. Mulka, who wears the hijab, was embraced by strangers expressing their condolences. Vigils were held across the country, and politicians spoke out forcefully against the attack.

Addressing Parliament the day after the shooting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “This was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith. Make no mistake: This was a terrorist attack.” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard asked Quebeckers to stand with Muslims. “Quebec and Canada have to remain a beacon of tolerance,” he said. “It’s normal in times of crisis to talk about inclusion, but the real challenge will be to maintain that two weeks from now.”

Couillard was right — this mood of solidarity quickly dissipated. Even though Bissonnette had turned himself in, the name of a second suspect emerged the next day. Laval student Mohamed Belkhadir, who went to the mosque after hearing gunshots while shovelling snow nearby, was detained overnight after running away from police when he mistook an officer for the gunman. Belkhadir’s name was widely publicized, fuelling a conspiracy theory that falsely claimed Muslims were behind the attack. Fox News in the U.S. left their incorrect story online so long that the prime minister’s office issued a directive to the network to take it down.

Yousseff and Mulka were among those who felt a sharp turn from sympathy to impatience with their mourning within the first week after the attack. Mulka was terrified by the volume of hateful comments she heard on TV and read online while following news coverage. Commenters said they should stop acting like victims, that their religion wasn’t welcome in Quebec, and that they weren’t welcome, either. “People [online] were enraged with Muslims,” she told Chatelaine at her home in November. She was disturbed by the dissonance between the great decency she felt among her neighbours and the vitriol she encountered online.

The mosque attack coincided with the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency in the U.S., and his proposed travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. At the time, many Americans held up Canada as a beacon of tolerance in comparison. But following the shooting, Canadians began asking themselves: How could an attack of this scale and fuelled by such hatred happen here? And now, as we approach the anniversary of the tragedy, it’s clear the country has still not yet reckoned with the hateful ideas that inspired it.

For Yousseff and Mulka, the shooting and events of the past year have forced them to consider questions that cut much closer to home: Are they safe? Will their children ever be seen as Canadians and Quebeckers? After spending years building a life in Quebec, would they be better off leaving? If so, where else could they go?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to a large crowd gathered near the Grand Mosque for a vigil the day after the shooting. Photo by Roger Lemoyne.

According to Chedly Belkhodja, a professor at Concordia University who studies immigration policy and integration, the focus on Muslims in Quebec is, in part, a response to their increased visibility over the past 15 years. The majority of Muslims living in the province are newcomers and nearly half of them have arrived since 2001. This is the result of the province’s own recruitment efforts: Quebec is the only province that controls its own immigration and it favours Francophones, many of whom are from Muslim-majority countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, which are former colonies and protectorates of France. (Most immigrants in Quebec, however, are not from Muslim countries.)

The growth of Muslim immigrants reflects the province’s recruitment efforts to boost its labour force and combat its aging population. Despite bringing in around 50,000 immigrants annually since 2009, employers are still dealing with shortages.

As young, educated French speakers who wanted to settle down and raise a family, Mulka and Yousseff are exactly the type of immigrants that can help offset Quebec’s aging population and labour force shortages. The couple met in Tunisia. Mulka came to Canada first in 2001 when she was 20, to pursue a marketing degree at Laval. She held American citizenship, but the violent crime rate and lack of healthcare coverage dissuaded her from settling there. Canada was a much more attractive option, and Quebec especially so because of her deep love of the French language. Yousseff followed three years later, deciding to pursue an MBA at Laval, and the two eventually married.

The couple lived in Montreal for three years, but they settled in the smaller, picturesque city up the St. Lawrence River to raise their family it was less congested, there were solid job opportunities, and they didn’t want their children to be isolated in an ethnic enclave. Of the approximately 243,000 Muslims living in Quebec, fewer than 10,000 are in Quebec City, a city of over half a million. “If you want to live with Quebeckers, with Canadians, [to be], as they say, Quebecois de souche, [then Quebec City is] really the place you can do it,” Yousseff says, referring to a French term meaning “Quebec from the root.”

He had a great job and Mulka decided to stay home for the first few years of her children’s lives. Shayma, who was born in 2011 with a rare genetic syndrome, has already had a dozen surgeries, Mulka has been devoted to her care full-time since her birth.

Yousseff and Mulka feel Quebec has been good to them and good for their children. They’re grateful for the excellent care Shayma has received, at the hospital and at accessible daycare programs, and now at a public school that caters to students with special needs. In turn, they have invested heavily in Quebec. “Integrating is not forgetting your roots and becoming like the other person,” Mulka says. “It’s understanding the other, knowing their history.” But often, she has found that others are disinterested in her culture and history, or worse, hostile towards it. She worries this climate has affected her son: Ramy went through a phase before the shooting where he was embarrassed to have her around because she wore the veil.

Belkhodja says that Quebec’s approach to integration is distinct from the rest of the country because Quebeckers tend to view the Canadian model of multiculturalism as a patchwork approach to identity with “no common ground.” Instead, he says, interculturalism is emphasized — a recognition and respect for diversity with the understanding that there is a dominant French-Canadian culture to which immigrants should adapt.

“Quebec wants to recruit immigrants who speak French because they want French to be the dominant language in Quebec,” he says. “But they also want immigrants integrate into [their] culture. It’s different from the rest of Canada — there’s a strong attachment to [Quebec] identity, to a French background… and a strong sense of homogeneity.”

Accommodation and integration can sometimes feel like a one-way process. Yousseff says common understanding and acceptance shouldn’t be solely the responsibility of newcomers. “It takes the effort of both sides,” he says. “You, yourself as an immigrant, but the other side needs to integrate you — in their minds.”

Police and forensic experts gather outside the mosque the day after the shooting. Photo by Roger Lemoyne.

Tensions over immigration and accommodation aren’t problems unique to Quebec, of course. Canadians can be quick to point out our national politics don’t have the tribal tendencies of our neighbours (see: “meanwhile in Canada”), but a scan of recent events proves otherwise. The 2015 federal election was marked by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise of restrictions on the niqab, while two of his cabinet members, Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch, suggested a “barbaric cultural practices hotline.”

That same year Statistics Canada reported a 60 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims compared to 2014. In February, two windows at a Muslim high school in Montreal were punctured by what appeared to be bullet holes. In June, a kabob restaurant owned by two Muslims in Calgary found “f—k Islam” spray-painted outside of it. And in November, a 30-year-old Muslim woman in Toronto was punched repeatedly after being approached by two men yelling profanities at her, including “terrorist.”

These kinds of incidents led Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid to introduce M-103 in December 2016, a non-binding motion for Parliament to recognize Islamophobia and commit to studying systemic racial and religious discrimination. A week after the Quebec City shooting, M-103 become the centre of a peculiar controversy. Many prominent Conservatives, including those running for the party’s leadership, claimed recognizing Islamophobia would stifle free speech. The most outlandish claim the Khalid heard was that M-103 was the beginning of sharia law in Canada. “I just didn’t see the connection,” Khalid says. “To me it [revealed] a level of ignorance that led to that fear, which is in very bare bones terms is the very definition of Islamophobia.

Khalid became the target of hate mail, including death threats, some of which she read out in the House of Commons to make the point that the backlash to M-103 was evidence of the very type of hate she was trying to get Parliament to acknowledge.

Hostility towards newcomers and members of particular religious group has a long history in Canada. Roman Catholics and Jewish immigrants were routinely accused of being loyal to their faith before their country, says Doug Saunders, a columnist at the Globe and Mail and author of the 2012 book The Myth of the Muslim Tide. But he says intolerance has taken on a different dimension when it comes to Muslims. Terrorist attacks in the name of Islam have coincided with Muslims migration to Canada, reinforcing myths that the religion is violent and its followers want to destroy Western civilization. And in the digital age, these conspiracy theories are more rampant and viral than ever.

Saunders notes that Bissonnette was a consumer of these ideas and acknowledges that extremist attacks could happen again. He’s more worried, however, about the normalization of anti-Muslim sentiment and “the rise of intolerant beliefs among people who are otherwise quite tolerant.”

If these myths take hold within mainstream politics it could mean limits on immigration, bans on the hijab and aggressive racial profiling. In Saunders’ view, Islamophobia hasn’t been as successfully politically mobilized here as it has in the U.S and parts of Europe. But he’s not convinced that Canada is immune. “My worry,” he says, “is that there is possibly a [political] victory through bigotry and intolerance in Canada.”

A service to honour the victims was held shortly after the shooting at the Maurice Richard Arena. Photo by Roger Lemoyne.

One jurisdiction where these ideas have gained some political traction is in Quebec. While Muslims aren’t the only religious minority to bump against the Quebecois commitment to secularism, it’s certainly the religion that is used the most often as an example of this tension.

The Quiet Revolution of the 1960s severed the heavily influential Roman Catholic Church from public life. Since then, secularism has been a marker of Quebecois identity, says Geneviève Zubrzycki, a professor at the University of Michigan and the author of Beheading the Saint: Nationalism, Religion, and Secularism in Quebec.

This resistance to religious influence has sometimes revealed an ugly side when it comes to non-Christians. The town of Hérouxville famously passed a code of conduct for immigrants in 2007, banning the stoning of women and endorsing co-ed swimming. Even though no Muslims lived in town, the code was largely understood to be targeting them.

Controversies like these led to the Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, an inquiry led by academics Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor. Their report, published in 2008, found that Quebeckers had fears about losing the gains made during the Quiet Revolution, including gender equality and secularism. It also found that, at times, immigrants can become scapegoats for these complex insecurities.

One example: in 2013, the Parti Quebecois government put forward a “Charter of Values,” a bill that sought to ban all public servants from wearing religious garb. It would have affected those who wear kippahs and turbans, but it was hijab-wearing Muslim woman who were seen as most representative of religious oppression and anti-secularism.

“Muslim women have become a symbol of a certain form of religion that a lot of Quebecois reject,” Zubrzycki says. “As in France, the hijab is becoming the core of the debate.” She adds that Muslim women’s expression of faith raised particular concern for some non-Muslim Quebec women who remembered life before the Quiet Revolution. These women had fought hard for equal rights and some view the hijab as a throwback to an overbearing symbol they associate with the Catholic church — the nun’s habit.

Whatever the cause of discomfort with the hijab, niqab and burqa — whether it’s rooted in this history or is the result of ignorance or intolerance — the consequence for Muslim women is the same. Women who cover their hair or face are a visible target. Mulka experienced this even before the mosque shooting. She’s has been the object of stares, middle fingers at red lights and confrontations with strangers in shopping malls.

During the debate over the Charter of Values, the climate was ugly enough for Mulka and Yousseff to consider leaving Quebec. “I was really scared and stressed during that time,” she recalls. She was particularly worried about her kids’ futures, and how they would feel growing up in a place where they didn’t always feel welcome. But at the time Shayma was a toddler and in and out of the hospital frequently, so they dropped the idea of leaving without exploring it more seriously.

In 2014, the Parti Québécois and its Charter were defeated, but there remained a rising tide of anti-Muslim narratives within the province. On popular talk radio shows — nicknamed radio poubelles, or “trash radio”— right-wing shock jocks like FM 93’s Éric Duhaime and Radio X’s Jeff Fillion routinely slurred Islam and Muslims. And these views proved to be extremely popular: A 2015 report by Dominique Payette, a Université Laval journalism professor and former Parti Quebecois candidate, found low-budget newsrooms used provocative opinions to drive ratings, targeting “angry white men” and stoking xenophobic fears.

In 2016, just six months before the shooting, a bloody pig’s head had been delivered to the mosque in the middle of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. The head, wrapped in cellophane, was accompanied with a note reading, “Bonne [sic] appetit.” The president of the mosque at the time, Mohamed Yangui, expressed his community’s hurt, while Premier Couillard called the act “despicable.”

Duhaime, formerly a Toronto Sun columnist and Rebel media contributor, dismissed the incident as a joke on his show: “Where does it say in the Criminal Code that I don’t have the right to give a pig head?”

Mohamed El-Hafid, an imam who was at the Grand Mosque the night of the 2017 shooting, was a guest on Duhaime’s show after the pig’s head incident. He was horrified by Duhaime’s dismissal of it, and what it seemed to presage. “I asked him, ‘Are we going to wait for people to die?’ That’s what I said,” El-Hafid recalls.

La Meute and Storm Alliance march through the streets of Quebec City on Nov. 25, 2017. Photo by Sadiya Ansari.

A year after the attack at the Grand Mosque, the story that gripped the country so fiercely seems to have been largely forgotten. And the hate that motivated it — an anger towards Muslims so great that it led a young man to shoot innocent people in their house of worship — has largely not been confronted.

Despite the prime minister characterizing it as “a terrorist attack,” Bissonnette has not been charged with terrorism. He has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. Saunders sees this as an extension of the general attitudes towards the attack. He says Canadians haven’t fully processed the pervasive and influential nature of hateful ideas about religious and racial minorities, and that even one person willing to act violently could result in another tragedy like the one we saw last year.

“The general neglect of this incident was fairly shocking,” Saunders says. “Usually there’s a long period of national self-examination. Certainly, this Quebec City shooting goes on the list of truly horrific events carried out in the name of intolerant ideals — yet it basically disappeared from the Canadian consciousness very, very, quickly.”

Attempts to mark Jan. 29, the anniversary of the attack, as a day of action against Islamophobia by the National Council of Canadian Muslims haven’t been successful. Premier Couillard rejected the idea, as did the province’s two largest opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec. “We believe that it is better to emphasize collectively our commitment against the phenomenon of racism and discrimination, rather than singling out one of its manifestations,” Couillard said in early January.

But there’s evidence that hatred against one particular group continues to thrive. In Quebec City, from 2015 to 2016, the number of hate crimes grew from 25 to 57, 21 of them targeting Muslims. By late 2017 there were nearly double the number of incidents against Muslims in Quebec City as the year before. Some of these incidents targeted the very mosque where the shooting happened.

In July, a defaced quran was delivered to the mosque as a debate raged over a proposal to build a Muslim cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire, a small town of 6,000 outside Quebec City. The quran was accompanied by a note suggesting the mosque build the cemetery on a hog farm.

The project had been in the works since 2016, and while city council had approved it, surrounding landowners had the final say. The proposal was quashed by a vote of 19 to 16 in a local referendum of those landowners. “I see this as a phenomenon of fear,” Saint-Apollinaire mayor Bernard Ouellet told The Globe and Mail at the time. “People put all Muslims in the same basket and see them as radicals.”

On Aug. 4, the municipality of Quebec City sold land to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec to build the cemetery within the city. Two days later, the car belonging to president of the mosque, Mohamed Labidi, was torched. It took police more than a month to find suspects and consider labeling it a hate crime. Mosque officials and Mayor Régis Labeaume were perplexed, with the mayor telling the media that “it would be a strange coincidence” if the two events weren’t related. A few days later, excrement was thrown at the mosque.

That month, the provincial Liberal government amended its proposed Bill 62, which bans anyone who covered their faces — effectively meaning Muslim women who wear a burqa or niqab — from working in public service. It added new provisions to exclude anyone with a covered face from giving and receiving public services — in essence, denying them access to daycare, transit, libraries and schools. Despite widespread outrage, the government passed Bill 62 into law in October.

Meanwhile, threads of the same narrative that inspired the bill — that Muslim women are oppressed by their culture — have been picked up by far-right, anti-immigrant groups. A study by researchers Barbara Perry, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Ryan Scrivens, a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia, found there are at least 100 white supremacist groups in Canada, and that number has likely grown since the conclusion of their study in 2015. While some of anti-immigrant groups gaining followers in Quebec, like Storm Alliance and Germany-based PEGIDA, have members across the country, others, like La Meute, are homegrown.

La Meute and Storm Alliance joined forces in November to protest the government’s plans to hold consultations on systemic racism in Quebec. The groups, along with Quebec’s opposition parties, claimed the Liberals were putting Quebeckers on trial for racism. In response to these claims, the government scrapped the inquiry in favour of a day-long consultation on discrimination in employment, scrubbing racism from the initiative’s title altogether. Afterwards, La Meute held a march through the streets of Quebec City.

The visibility and influence of these far-right groups feels new to Mulka — and it shocks her that they’ve become so prominent following the attack on the mosque. “After the shooting, I went to their [Facebook] pages. I started reading all these comments, and they were all focused toward Muslims — it’s pretty scary,” she says. “I always wonder, where are these people? Do they live here? Are there some in my son’s school?”

Given the trauma the community has experienced, it was disheartening for Mulka and Yousseff to see the government scrap its plans to study how racism impacted people like them. It’s a political game,” and sometimes Muslims pay the price for that,” Yousseff says. For a second time in the year following the shooting, the couple seriously discussed leaving the province. They considered Ottawa — it was a similar size, and family-oriented. They had friends there and best of all, it was one of the few places outside Quebec they could keep speaking French.

Inside the Grand Mosque during afternoon prayer in November, 2017. Photo by Sadiya Ansari.

At a Friday prayer in late November 2017, the Grand Mosque is as busy as any other mosque on the holiest day of the week, as men and women trudge their way through snow from their parking spots a few blocks away. New security measures slow everyone down. The drop-off area in front of the men’s entrance has been blocked off by two concrete slabs and each member of the mosque has a key fob to scan for admission. But there are still friendly faces opening doors for those who don’t have fobs — after all, the mosque is meant to be an open space, a community centre for Muslims in the city. The women’s section upstairs is full, including a dozen or so remarkably well-behaved children — a young girl pats her brother’s forehead, encouraging him to fall asleep before the prayer starts.

At first glance, it appears the community has moved on from the tragedy. The carpets downstairs in the men’s section where the shooting happened have been scrubbed of blood stains and the splatter on the walls has been painted over. But visible traces remain, a bullet-hole in a door, as well as less visible ones, like the hum of nervous energy in a holy building that congregants used to feel safe in.

The sense of safety that attracted many Muslims like Mulka and Yousseff to settle in Quebec City was shattered last January. And the year that followed has put them even more on edge. From the brazen slurs on the radio, to the spike in hate crimes to the lack of recognition that this was a terrorist act — it hasn’t been easy to move on. Nearly every day, the congregants encounter traces of the ideology that motivated the violent attacker who killed their friends, husbands and fathers.

As for Mulka and Yousseff, they’ve decided to stay for now. The stability Quebec has provided for their daughter outweighs both daily reminders that they aren’t welcome and the threat of another attack. Mulka knows the majority of Quebeckers don’t hold extreme views, but she continues to watch the rise of the far-right in her province. “If there is one guy from La Meute is a little more crazy, a little more extremist, what can he do?” she asks, “What else can happen?”


Quebec : a past that is still alive

Samuel de Champlain was the next explorer to come to Quebec in 1603 to explore the territory, and he returned in 1608 to officially establish a colony in Québec city. That year, 28 people settled for winter in the &ldquoAbitation&rdquo, but only 8 people survived. Champlain also explored the St. Lawrence River all the way to Ottawa, as well as the great lakes Huron and Ontario and the north-east coast of the United States. In 1609, at the boarder of Quebec and the United States, he discovered a lake to which he gave his name. In 1612, he gave Île Sainte-Hélène the name of his wife.

The great changes

About a century later, the English and the French each had attempted to colonize New-France with the highest number of inhabitants possible. Unfortunately for the French, the English were higher in number. In 1759, a major battle took place on the field that is known today as the Plains of Abraham. The English were well organized and defeated the French, who were less in number and less organized. The French then had to live under the rules of the English, and most of all use their language that most of New-France inhabitants did not understand. Luckily, the Quebec Act was signed in 1774. This law gave Quebec its current territory and, among other things, restored the French civil law in the province.

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WI: Canada accepts Article Eleven and joins the United States?

I read somewhere that France had limited colonization as far west as Montreal but not further.

The biggest factor is that from 1760-1780 when France lost the colony in the 7 year war and it was transferred to Britain to the ARW we only talking about 1 decade. So it really not enter people mind and if it did they not act on it by moving to the St Lawrence Valley.

the people in the 13 colonies were already moving west of the Appalachian mountains with the Ohio area and northern New York as the most desired. There really was no demand for st Lawrence valley.

Flashman

Ok valid points but please stop referring to Quebec as Canada. It was Quebec only. The English speaking colonies to the east are not represented here.

this was Americans trying to get French speaking Catholics to rebel against the British nothing else. As you mention the English speaking Protestant rebels had no idea or cared about the population that lived there only that they revolt.

Lusitania

VaultJumper

Lusitania

Belisarius II

Some things to consider:
-you have to decide which Quebec is rebelling. The British newcomers to Quebec, or the historic French population. As someone pointed out above, there's a difference.
---a French population agitated into rebellion is going to (A) be poorly received by the Continentals. Used as canon fodder, but not given much of a say in matters. (B) be antagonistic against the British interlopers who have been taking over their lands, whether they're loyalists or Patriots. This rebelling Quebec is going to kick out the British overlords, then sit out the war. The Continentals are quickly going to show their true colors regarding French Catholics
---a British population which joins the rebellion is going to be better received by their southern cousins, but I'm guessing are going to be tainted by the papist smell of their colony.
-a Quebec that has been in a state of unease is going to have a lot more British troop presence, necessary to enforce the police. Can't just insert ATL and assume same troop presence. I also doubt you can assume as clean a break as many of the southern colonies were able to achieve. There's going to be a protracted loyalist-patriot battle for much of the war, and don't look for much help from the lower 13.
-not really sure of the numbers of either population, but I think it's pretty safe to say both are pretty sparse compared to the southern colonies, and a lot of their manpower is going to be spent at home, guarding against loyalists from within, and defense against British attempts to reconquer. They have no manufacture to speak of, and no access to the sea (St Lawrence mouth is still going to be British). So, Quebec has little to offer the revolution, except one thing:

-that one thing is no more northern border for the war. The British will not be able to assemble and attack from the north. Gee, what major attempt went south (literally, and figuratively), leading to perhaps the most important battle/turning point in the war, which was quite important in sparking France to declare war?

-another important thing, which may crop up during the war, or post: the northwest territories. They are administered by Quebec, are going to be claimed by Quebec, and almost all the northern of the 13 colonies are going to say hell no to that. That'll be part of the diplomacy during and after the war. Quebec may spend the war shoring up control there rather than actually helping win the war.

Belisarius II

VaultJumper

Dan1988

Because its OTL military occupation of the Montréal area in 1775-6 was awful enough on the Francophone population, including mass seizure of supplies when the Americans refused to pay in specie (which Canadiens desperately needed and were long accustomed to, in response to persistent currency shortages under the French) but wanted to pay in worthless Continental currency instead, mass arrests of anti-American elements, and the rampant anti-Catholicism within the Continental Army at that time (which turned even other indifferent Canadiens who may have lost their Catholic connections into hostile anti-American types that would not stand for the attacks on their national church and their flexible attitudes towards it), all things considered elsewhere in the US.

All that one needs to get *Canada to break away from the US is just to dial the hostility of the occupation up even further, based on what already happened. Even with Wooster gone (who was the main instigator of most of those policies), it seems that anti-Catholicism and everything else were common enough sentiments within the American troops that would not simply go away, with or without the Quebec Act. While some of the projection gets exaggerated over time with nationalist myth-making, the simple fact of the matter is that the English/French rivalry cross-hatched here with anti-Catholic feelings among Americans, even with the exceptions - only replace English/French with American/Canadien, and the expectation among Americans that Canada would join the US that simply did not materialize because Canadiens in general were not interested. Now, it's true that it's not inevitable the British would come back, but that did not necessarily mean discounting British support completely if it was properly explained to the British Army and Royal Navy. (After all, later on, Britain was a big supporter of Haitian independence, and that did not have Haiti become recolonized by Britain in the process.)

Belisarius II

Because its OTL military occupation of the Montréal area in 1775-6 was awful enough on the Francophone population, including mass seizure of supplies when the Americans refused to pay in specie (which Canadiens desperately needed and were long accustomed to, in response to persistent currency shortages under the French) but wanted to pay in worthless Continental currency instead, mass arrests of anti-American elements, and the rampant anti-Catholicism within the Continental Army at that time (which turned even other indifferent Canadiens who may have lost their Catholic connections into hostile anti-American types that would not stand for the attacks on their national church and their flexible attitudes towards it), all things considered elsewhere in the US.

All that one needs to get *Canada to break away from the US is just to dial the hostility of the occupation up even further, based on what already happened. Even with Wooster gone (who was the main instigator of most of those policies), it seems that anti-Catholicism and everything else were common enough sentiments within the American troops that would not simply go away, with or without the Quebec Act. While some of the projection gets exaggerated over time with nationalist myth-making, the simple fact of the matter is that the English/French rivalry cross-hatched here with anti-Catholic feelings among Americans, even with the exceptions - only replace English/French with American/Canadien, and the expectation among Americans that Canada would join the US that simply did not materialize because Canadiens in general were not interested. Now, it's true that it's not inevitable the British would come back, but that did not necessarily mean discounting British support completely if it was properly explained to the British Army and Royal Navy. (After all, later on, Britain was a big supporter of Haitian independence, and that did not have Haiti become recolonized by Britain in the process.)

First off the Americans couldn't have paid in gold if they wanted to. British policy had drained almost all the gold out of the 13 Colonies, reducing them to almost a barter economy. That was one of the major reasons for the Revolution. It would be hard to blame the French, who'd been gone for more then 12 years for the French Canadians not having much gold, since the British did the same thing to them.

The condition of this TL is that the Canadians accepted the Patriots offer, and didn't sit on the fence, as in the OTL. The policies during the occupation of Montreal did antagonize many French speakers, but that wasn't the main reason for the defeat of the attack on Quebec. Poor organization, short term enlistments, supply shortages, in a winter campaign, and the outbreak of smallpox in the Patriot army were the main reasons for the failure. After Wooster left the policies were reversed. It would be hard to say they ever would've been imposed if the Canadians had accepted the offer, or if Quebec had been captured relations wouldn't have improved. People tend to side with the winner.

I didn't say the British wouldn't try to take Quebec back, I just said it would be very difficult to capture the City, with the French Canadians, and Patriots holding it. Unrelated to this the British did try to conquer Haiti, but like the French failed, with massive loses. They supported Haitian independence as an anti French measure, they were still concerned about slave revolts on their own sugar islands.



Comments:

  1. Aglaval

    I believe that you are wrong. I can prove it. Email me at PM, we will talk.

  2. Norman

    Competently written and very convincing, tell us in more detail how you yourself worked it out

  3. Beolagh

    What necessary words ... Great, an excellent thought

  4. Yayauhqui

    The good thing!

  5. Haslet

    I actually didn't like it)

  6. Faurn

    oh ... how lovely ...



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