Saturday, September 08, 2012
The Confessions of a Quebec Anglophone
The other night I wrote about how shocked I was by the senseless act of cowardly violence that stole the life of poor Denis Blanchette.
And how stunned I was to see his deranged killer scream "The English are rising!!!" As if he was acting in our name, as if we the Anglos of Quebec shared his crazy views and his blind hatred.
When we most definitely do not. We are a peaceful community, we live in harmony with our French-speaking neighbours, friends, colleagues, strangers, lovers. We have our little quarrels like any others. But all the Anglos I know, live in Québec because they LOVE it.
And what we dearly wish is that all sides in The Great Quebec-Canada Debate would stop using us for their own purposes. The federalists who would have us waving Canadian flags like idiots in downtown Montreal. The anti-Quebec kooks who make it sound like we're living in Nazi Germany, waiting for the dreaded language police to knock on the door.
The New Jesuits in the PQ who would make us appear like a threat to the future of French on the island of Montreal, to win votes from those who do not know us. The French and English media who would turn us into caricatures, to suit the prejudices of their readers.
Not long ago, the magazine L’actualité ran a story that claimed that the Anglos were stubbornly refusing to integrate, didn't care about the protection of the French language.
And estie crisse de tabarnac, didn't even know who the pop starlet Marie-Mai is !!!!!
When the reality is far more complex, and far more encouraging.
So I was really happy to see that the great Montreal writer, filmmaker, and funny guy Josh Freed, has replied to that L’actualité article, and that at a tragic time like this one it couldn't be more BEAUTIFUL.
Here's the original article.
And here's my slightly edited for length translation:
Hello, My name is Josh and I admit it, I'm an Anglophone. I'm a pretty typical Montreal Anglo, I'm Jewish. Like most Jews here, I went to a Protestant school, because at that time, Catholic schools did not really want us. I spent every morning of my childhood learning traditional Christian songs that only Jewish Montrealers sing: Like Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, and Onward Christian Soldiers .
Unfortunately, as I learned all those Protestant hymns, I did not learn much French. At that time English schools in Quebec did not teach that language well. In high school, my French teacher was Mrs. Schwartz. She taught me French three hours a week with an English accent from the West End - which was partly Paris and partly Cavendish Mall. But my French became incomprehensible as soon as I went east of Schwartz's Delicatessen.
I grew up on a Montreal street named Deleppy. At age 15, I learned its real name was De L’épée. I discovered that when I took a taxi for the first time and the French driver passed twice under the sign with the name of my street without finding it.
Slowly, I learned to adapt, to speak French better, and live in this French city full of francophones, allophones, xylophones! I worked in French, I flirted in French, I even voted for René Lévesque in 1976 to boost the power of French.
My wife (also English) and I sent our son to French schools for eight years. At first, he spoke a language with bastard phrases like: " Dad, I want a collation (snack). ' Even today, he believes that "depanneur" (convenience store) is a regular word in Canada like "metro" and "autoroute".
Our goal was to make sure he spoke French better than me. And we succeeded. At age 16, he is bilingual and totally embarrassed to hear my Anglo-before-bill 101 accent, which makes me say ' Longay ' instead of Longueuil.
And I think my story is typical of many of us. The community around me has changed and adapted a lot in 30 years. Our grandparents and their ancestors did not speak any French, they were too busy with their daily struggle to survive. Now, almost all send their children to English immersion or French school.
And many of these children have the Quebecois accent of a lumberjack and the sophistication of a sommelier. " Dad, passe-moé le Grand Cru Château Dépanneur 2004, s’il te plaît. "
To borrow a joke from Yvon Deschamps: "We can't make fun of our anglophones anymore, they have become bilingual! They understand us. "
That said, it seems that we do not know Normand Brathwaite, Véronique Cloutier, nor many other French stars L’actualité asked us about. Even I don't really know Marie-Mai. But hey, I don't know 99% of young English-Canadian pop singers.
Yes, many of us are in solidarity with the dreams and fears of francophone Quebec, but as l'Actualite discovered, many are simply tired of Quebec politics. The important thing is that 80% of Anglophones say they define themselves as Québécois in the survey, something we never would have done even a decade ago.
We Anglos chose to stay here while hundreds of thousands of others left (although many of their children returned to study and live here because they missed their hometown). We Anglos like Montreal, while too many francophones have left it for the suburbs. Maybe we need a new law "301", which prevents francophones from leaving the island to ensure that Montreal stays French?
Like many Anglos, I have tried to live elsewhere, but I've always missed my city... I have Montreal in my blood. It is a city that I love, a city totally unpredictable, chaotic and vibrant like no other in Canada. It is a tolerant city, sometimes frustrating, but always fun.
This is a great laboratory where French and English mingle and mix as in no other city on the planet. A place where the stand-up comic Sugar Sammy can make a show that combines English and French and sell more than 30 000 tickets. No, Anglos and Francos do not mix enough in their personal lives ... It will take time.
The important point is that things are improving rapidly in Quebec, our English-speaking community is growing faster than many others in the Western world. Quebec is a fascinating place and it has made us anglophones more interesting too.
Just like my journey from Deleppy Street to De L’épée, our community has come a long way over the years. But it is a journey that has just begun, and we must all have patience, generosity and empathy to help it along.
With that, I think we can build a strong anglophone community in a strong French Quebec, a place where the two solitudes will be one.
My name is Josh and I admit it, I'm still an anglophone. Until next time!
Yup. Good boy Josh. Sometimes we have to speak for ourselves eh? Tell the New Jesuits tasse toé câlisse or shut up, and the angry Canadians to just fuck off.
So we can live in peace, haul our asses down to the corner depanneur or dep, pick up a case of beer, give thanks we can only do that in Quebec.
And ask ourselves the existential question: When our kids start to say moé, the slang version of moi, is it all over, or have we finally arrived?
And as for me who does know who Marie-Mai is, what I want to know is it OK to say that I don't like Justin Bieber either?
But say instead that I prefer a group like Vulgaires Machins, that dedicated the following song to, among others, the striking students, the artists, the drug addicts, the gays, the feminists, the nudists, the lazy, the crazy, the unemployed, the hippies, the pacifists, the parasites, the professional troublemakers, the whores and the marginalized.
In short: just about everybody who lives in this wild and wonderful French nation in Canada.
And invites them all to shove it up the asses of the Quebec Liberals and the Harper Conservatives.
I thought so eh? That's my Québec.
And this is my musique...
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