Vive le Québec français !

In 1996, after twelve years of regular service in the Canadian Forces all over this country and abroad,  I hung my shingle out as a civilian in this town, quickly finding myself recruited onto the board of Voice of English Speaking Quebec.   In those days some members of the province's English community were devoting considerable resources to the "language politics" of the time.  

As a member of the executive committee, I was proud to be part of a movement that refreshed the public face of the English language ROQ, the Rest of Quebec outside Montreal's Anglophone community.  Our work, in conjunction with that of other community groups such as the Townshippers and CASA lead to a strengthening of the Quebec Community Groups Network, albeit at the expense of the vocal "out front" member group Alliance Quebec, a Montreal-based association that persisted in claiming to speak for all Anglophones across the province, and from which VEQ had voted to dissociate by the turn of the millenium.

In the seven years years since I left the VEQ executive, we have enjoyed a prosperous period of bridge building and local community development as English speakers in the Quebec City region.  Alliance Quebec is no more.  I am now distressed to witness signs of  rebirth of the spirit of Quebec's  "language wars" on both pro and anti-English sides.

I subscribe to the vision of our community as an Official Language Minority Community within Canada.  I am not threatened by this province's language legislation; this somewhat leaky umbrella against the constant deluge of English from the rest of North America and the world onto this tiny French-speaking society.  I do as the Romans do in Rome.  If  the Romans of this town were not always French nationalists or even French before the upheavals of the Quiet Revolution, they are French now.  On a broader scale we are even now witness to the spectacle of all federal political parties (and not just the Bloc)  reaching out to embrace this French-speaking "Quebec Nation" from Ottawa!

So who or what is this Quebecois Nation that Canada's  House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to recognize three years ago?  Stephane Dion was the first public figure to quip that this Nation simply includes anyone who wants to be a member.   So I guess that would include me; first generation "English Canadian" - born in Ontario, raised in BC, choosing Quebec.  My Quebecois nation is a nation that conducts its public life in French, just as Albertans and Nova Soctians live their lives in English.  As a Quebecois, then, I am happy and proud to participate in this society in French, even if, like everyone else I know, francophone and anglophone alike,  I prefer my Hollywood summer blockbuster movies in their "version originale anglaise" .

I believe I am part of a silent majority of the citizenry that is tired of this sempiternal "entre-déchirement" over language rights.  Three years "Post-Quebec Nation" do we really need a second resolution, this time in our National Assembly, recognizing some disparate Anglophone Nation within Quebec, perhaps scrapping Quebec's Language Charter to boot?  I think not.  "Give Peace a Chance", said some Englishman once upon a time in some imperialistically named Montreal hotel.

Like most Quebecois my age, I leave it to my kids to do the Saint Jean Baptiste thing on the Plains of Abraham.   But I'm pretty sure I will be there in the crowd with my compatriots, Anglo, Franco and Allo alike, for Sting, another Englishman (not in New York this time) of planetary stature appreciated by all Quebecers.   Now, if you'll kindly excuse me, I really must get back to my barbeque before things start to burn...

Alec Cooper, MD

So Alec, you're saying we should just sit back and let things take their course? I don't think so. This "discrimination nation" is discriminatory against one language, (the most used in the world, as you well know), and people should at least question the idealism of it all. There are restaurants in this city (Quebec) that describe themselves as "Ristorante" in big letters on the front of their establishments, and apparently that's OK. IGA now has a new slogan "Convivia" whatever that means, and that's OK too. So it's acceptable to advertise your product in Italian, Greek, or any other language, but English. What language are we trying to protect here? Strange! "Arrivederci e grazia".