That’s a first!
The anonymous “Passerby” writes:
Erm, note to Americans recently moved to Montreal: there are many histories and families rooted in Montreal, and it is possible you have not yet mastered the life stories of all those who grew up here. Get over yourself.
I note that it goes by the standard, specious “you’re not from here and never will be, so you couldn’t possibly understand” line of reasoning, which south of the border is called “anti-immigrant” and generally frowned upon by progressive people. It’s also not very accurate, since I’m pretty sure “all those who have grown up here” also haven’t “mastered the life stories of all those who have grown up here” before making judgments about local cultural politics. It’s a classic double-standard to keep the natives and foreigners separate, and to mark one group’s greater entitlement to participation in local life and politics.
I’ve heard some version of the angry anglo spiel and to me it sounds pretty ugly. Changing names of streets may be annoying and silly — Parc should stay Parc — but it does not constitute oppression of a class of people.
I would be grateful if someone can explain to me how anglophones are actually oppressed in Montreal for being anglophones. Please use standard reason, evidence and argumentation to do so. Calling me out for being a foreigner isn’t going to convince me.
First, criticism is not the same as flaming: see Counterpunch for details. You state opinions — here, about what you see as the cluelessness of those who no longer live in Montreal, as to the reasons why they no longer live in Montreal. I challenged those opinions, using exactly the same derisive tone you did. Respect breeds respect, and the reverse is true, too: go figure.
Second, you ask why anglophones are oppressed in Quebec, and request “standard reasoning and evidence” to demonstrate that — but, of course, the “oppressed in Quebec” bluster is a straw man, since it’s the argument you set up, in your words, to knock down. (The standard of evidence is, of course, far greater than that displayed in your own statement. But that’s quite beside the point, I agree.)
The criticism was certainly not set in the terms of the “oppressed / not oppressed” straw man you set up, in other words. Rather, it was directed at your evaluation of the depth of feeling of anglophones who left Montreal, such as those apparently behind a National Post editorial. You dismissed their feeling by saying that, hey, anglophones are not oppressed in Quebec, and that an anglophone’s decision to leave Quebec was therefore the same as your own to leave Minnesota.
Well, no. First, and parenthetically, the last 50 years of Minnesota’s history is massively different than that of Quebec’s, and the conflation of the two demonstrates either a massive ignorance of anything at all about Quebec’s recent past, or an apparent unwillingness to engage with it. Neither is particularly impressive, and both leads directly to my evaluation: to the extent you confidently conflate the two histories, you indeed speak bringing absolutely no knowledge of this place to bear on people’s lived experience of it. But second, and more relevant, the distress that many former Montrealers feel stems from how this province treated thousands and thousands of families who came to this country, put down roots here, were actively discouraged from learning French, barred from French-language schools, managed to learn English … and then were promptly turned upon for not having learned a fluent French. And left a city they loved, and the only city on this continent in which they have any roots at all.
But you dismiss all that because, after all, anglophones aren’t oppressed in Quebec, and anglophones who leave Quebec are exactly who leave Minnesota. Americans have no clue? Not as a rule, plainly — but when they sneer at Quebecois’s experiences (at least that’s what the nationalists explain that we are to be called, since everyone is Quebecois) by framing them in their American experience and remarking that the two must be identical then, yes, absolutely.
Third, as to your “that’s what they say about immigrants” fallacy — the guilt by association fallacy is rarely a convincing one. That’s the argument they make against white peoplewho explain to the Arab world how it must behave itself. It’s also the bulk of the case against cultural appropriation. None of which really confirms or infirms the argument at hand, though, does it?
Fourth, as to the Park Avenue renaming issue, which is really what this is all about — have you actually been following any of the French-language debate on this at all, as opposed to the flag-waving stuff in the Gazette, Globe, Post, et al? Because, um, tune in to the most popular radio talk shows, tabloid editorials, and so forth and, I have to tell you, if you are as concerned about “the immigrants” as you profess to be … well, let’s just say the immigrants-who-don’t -speak-French-and-won’t-rename-their-street-anddisrespect-our-PM trope is not exactly hiding in the shadows.
Finally, seriously, if you’re going to have a blog, you may want to rethink your stance on the whole criticism-is-attack thing. As to the tone of that criticism, I consciously mirrored not only your tone but your actual language. If you want people to talk nice before you’re willing to countenance criticism, then I strongly suggest a little bit more nice-talking yourself. Even with regard to those you don’t think you respect.
Well, that was more than I bargained for. I fear this is one of those unproductive “point-counterpoint” internet debates that nobody wants to read unless it’s funny, so I will respond in the comments, which are only for the devoted.
First, thank you for the link to a list of logical fallacies and for your opinions on the nature of blogging. I look forward to reading your blog when you provide a link.
I guess I’m supposed to appreciate the personal attack, but I said that you “flamed” me because your original response contained its own logical fallacy– an ad hominem attack in the form of “you’re an American, not from here, and therefore have no right to speak on this matter.” Disagreement is just fine with me, but personal attacks, especially from anonymous posters (who don’t even provide a pseudonymous internet persona), seem petty and certainly qualify as flaming. I am very much an immigrant, just a relatively privileged one, and your attack about my “not being from here” is no more enlightened than the anti-immigrant talkshow behavior to which you and I both object. It’s not any more right in English than it is in French, regardless of your “rhetorical stance.”
Second, you are right that the Minnesota example was poorly chosen as a general case. Yes, I am fully aware that Minnesota and Quebec have different histories. In peeling off the post, it came out wrong. I was responding to an op-ed in the Post penned by a wealthy oil investor who claimed to be “in self-imposed exile” from Montreal. Which I still think is absurd and hyperbolic. He can live anywhere he wants. Today, he’s exactly as exiled from Montreal now as I am from Minneapolis, which was my point and that part I’ll stick by. Both of us moved to advance our careers. When I left Minneapolis, I did so because it would have been impossible to stay and practice my livelihood. His story is the same. Others may have had greater tragedy, for sure, but not him.
You seem to want me to acknowledge that a lot of people’s lives were shaken up by Francophone nationalism in Quebec during the 1980s and 1990s, and some of them no doubt were forced to change their lives in painful ways or had their livelihoods taken away from them (just as Francophones’ life chances were structurally limited in previous generations). So I will.
Still, I have no idea what you mean by “actively discouraged from learning French” since if people really wanted to learn it, I’d be surprised if much would stand in their way. I also suspect (though I don’t know) that you’re talking about something that happened 20 years ago or more. Today, anyone who wants to learn French and has $40 can take a course. So if that once was an obstacle, it’s not now.
Finally, I think your beef with me is in fact personal, because you seem to agree that it is impossible to demonstrate that anglophones in Montreal are an oppressed group. The Minnesota comment came out wrong, but I also think that if you actually read the blog, you’d also have to acknowledge that it’s full of observations about the specificities of Quebec and Canadian life (granted, you may not AGREE with them), and therefore not exactly the work of someone who equates Canadian experience with America. If you took offense to that specific comment, I take it back and I apologize. If you disagree with me about anglophones in Montreal being oppressed, or if you really believe that Americans have no business being here or talking about Canadian politics, then I guess you have another response to write.
It strikes this reader that your (apparently) non-oppressed anglophones are a tad…how we say…white. Perhaps it is just me. The history of race relations in Quebec are fairly complex, intersect with language debates, and national and provincial immigration policies and really (IMHO) muddy notions of oppressed and unoppressed…Big money and the ethnic vote ring a bell anywhere here? I must disagree with Passerby, not everyone gets to be Quebecois despite the language they learn to speak or what the language police might call them. And 40 bux might not go as far as you think.
The problem with these kinds of online debates is that they operate at the sentence level rather than at the level of ideas. Which probably is some kind of grand comment on the blogosphere. I know that $40 won’t make anyone bilingual, but certainly taking a class is more than many people have done.
And Ratbone, you are 100% correct on the whiteness point. I haven’t written a lot about race in Canada because (ironically, I see) I thought it would sound too much like an American coming in and saying Canada should do it Ameircans’ way. Which isn’t my point at all but there you go. I direct you here and here in the meantime.
I used to have a blog with my real name that would get repeated visits by unlinkable folks with pseudonyms who vehemently disagreed with me and did so at great length. I actually enjoyed the debates, but they were also time consuming and occasionally exhausting. The problem is, it’s tough to leave a diatribe sitting there in a comment box without responding.
And all of a sudden, I’m thinking of the lyrics to King Crimson’s ‘Elephant Talk.’ 🙂
I guess I’m supposed to appreciate the personal attack, but I said that you “flamed” me because your original response contained its own logical fallacy–an ad hominem attack in the form of “you’re an American, not from here, and therefore have no right to speak on this matter.”
Well, no — that’s a particularly uncharitable reading, but it is certainly not the only one, and obviously does not correspond to the reading I was hoping to write. A more charitable reading is: you’re totally dismissing their experiences without trying to understand them, and you’re doing so based not on any argument except a totally random irrelevancy (well, you weren’t oppressed, after all) — so all that’s left is not the argument, since you make none, but the authority of your pronouncement that ex-Montrealers have no clue about what it is to have lived in Montreal. And why should anyone lend any more weight to your own authority than that which you lend to theirs?
But that version takes a bit longer to write. I am very much an immigrant, just a relatively privileged one, and your attack about my “not being from here” is no more enlightened than the anti-immigrant talkshow behavior to which you and I both object. Uh huh. It’s plain and obvious by now, I think, that noone objects to “not being from here”; the objection is to the curt diss of those who relate their experiences of growing up here. It’s not any more right in English than it is in French, regardless of your “rhetorical stance.” I am not entirely sure what is meant by rhetorical stances, and obviously, if it pleases you to feel that you have been insulted for daring to wade into cultural politics because you have not lived here for very long, then you should feel free to do so. That’s certainly not what I have a beef with, though.
Disagreement is just fine with me, but personal attacks, especially from anonymous posters (who don’t even provide a pseudonymous internet persona), seem petty and certainly qualify as flaming. I’m sorry you felt you were attacked but, really, the language I used was neither stronger nor weaker — in fact, was almost identical to — the language with which you dismissed your National Post friend. Which was very much the point: you earn the respect you give.
As to being anonymous and “not even pseudonymous” … I had hoped that ideas, not personalities, were very much the point. You have returned to the idea a couple of times now that ad hominem, guilt by association, etc. fallacies are perfectly obvious standards of logic. If so, then surely you’d agree it’s useful to focus on what is being said, rather than who says it. Hence anonymity.
Still, I have no idea what you mean by “actively discouraged from learning French” since if people really wanted to learn it, I’d be surprised if much would stand in their way. I also suspect (though I don’t know) that you’re talking about something that happened 20 years ago or more.
Um, yeah, obviously — I am talking about how life in Quebec worked up till the 1970s. What else could I be talking about? After all, we were talking about ex-Montrealers, and why they frame their experiences they way they do, no? One interpretation is that it is because they are “absurd and hyperbolic”. I am offering another, which is where it fits in.
Finally, I think your beef with me is in fact personal, because you seem to agree that it is impossible to demonstrate that anglophones in Montreal are an oppressed group. I’m a bit lost — if we agree, then it’s personal? — but, sure, calling ex-Montrealers with a love-hate relationship to the city they grew up in, “oppressed”, is silly. Whether or not anyone was oppressed is not the point here. Dismissing what an ex-Montrealer has to say about not living here anymore on the basis that he is not oppressed, seems equally silly. My beef was with the idea that the standard is either oppression or Minnesota. I thought that was plain. Plainly it isn’t.
It strikes this reader that your (apparently) non-oppressed anglophones are a tad…how we say…white. Perhaps it is just me.
I think it’s just you. But I would be interested to hear what you mean. We are talking about a bunch of immigrant communities who came to Quebec, got told to learn English, learned English, got dissed for speaking English, and left, leaving a bunch of memories behind. Where does the U.S. racialist paradigm (white::non-white) fit in?
I must disagree with Passerby, not everyone gets to be Quebecois despite the language they learn to speak or what the language police might call them.
Oh. I thought I was being ironic: since in Quebec there exists no mainstream nationalist movement that does not insist repeatedly that everyone gets to be Quebecois, etc., I figure it’s time to hold them to that. But for the record, sure, those of us Quebecois who aren’t Tremblays talk about the Tremblay Quebecois as “Quebecois”, in French, as opposed, say, us.
I used to have a blog with my real name that would get repeated visits by unlinkable folks with pseudonyms who vehemently disagreed with me and did so at great length. I actually enjoyed the debates, but they were also time consuming and occasionally exhausting. The problem is, it’s tough to leave a diatribe sitting there in a comment box without responding.
I guess. I hit the blogs sometimes because it’s interesting, and because they are places to have debates of words, not personalities. Oh, the personalities creep in, but the focus is on what is said.
That’s a rare opportunity. In the real world, most of us end up having a lot less conversations with folks we disagree with, on matters we care about, than I believe we’re willing to admit. In fact, elaborate coping mechanisms to avoid speaking with people holding elaborate opinions are sort of de rigeur. In the blog world it has the potential, at least, of happening and, sure, it can be exhausting. The problem is, it’s tough to leave a diatribe sitting there in a comment box without responding. Ah, but sometimes even tough to leave a diatribe sitting there on a blog without dropping into the comment box.
Which is where it all started.
(Uh, “elaborate opinions” was a dropped cut and paste. Read: “different oppinions”.)
Jim hit it on the head. I suspect at this point, Passerby and I will simply repeat ourselves ad nauseum if we continue as we have. So, in the spirit of hearing from people with whom we may disagree: You have the floor, passerby, if you want to explain how you think I should view Montreal anglophones and those who left.
Ooo, the spicy stew of Quebec cultural politics! Ouch, it burns!
This has been an interesting thread to read. I liked the title of your blog, came here from Silver in SF, and lo and behold, an interesting if at times tense conversation. I can add my own thinking to the conversation, I think, as an American who lived in Montreal for some time working on a project comparing Canadian and US relationships to racial diversity and cultural politics, part of which was doing a lot of reading on the socio-linguistic history of Quebec and francophone nationalism.
Which I guess is what I would recommend to SuperBon, if such a project hasn’t already been engaged. The spectre haunting this conversation is the cultural politics of essential (“true”) Quebec identity (or Québécois/e identity, or Quebecker identity, or whatever nomenclature is now in vogue). Passerby’s references to the deep history of changing linguistic and political landscapes in the province is most definitely before 1980, and speaks to the transformation of the province from anglophone (minority) dominance to francophone (majority) cultural and economic nationalism grounded, to a certain extent, in decolonial methodology. In other words, notions and ideas of the people, whoever they are, and the geist of “the nation.”
In essence, one witnessed a shift away from anglophone normality grounded in economic and social power to francophone resurgence, through initially the Quiet Revolution, then the FLQ, the War Powers Act, the rise of the PQ, the language laws, the first referendum, the second referendum, etc. This Quebec historical nutshell is all to say that the politics of language and culture in the province are multi-layered, contested, contingent, and generally tense.
But, to cut to the chase (and I apologise for the school-marmy/eggheady reading here, but what can I say? I’m an egghead), and to return to your original query/challenge: Are anglophones oppressed? Well, in some ways yes and others no. Oppressed here is such a charged term, but suffice it to say that anglophones are not part of the national ideal as reflected in certain francophone nationalist thinking, by definition. The challenge here is somewhat sticky, and in some ways similar to the presence of whites in African nations like Zimbabwe and South Africa: Are they African?
Personally, I would say yes, in the same way that we (US and Canadians and everyone else in our hemisphere who is not indigenous) can say we are Americans. While indeed not indigenous (and with a difficult and violent past) we are invested in, from this land, right? Where else would we go, after 500 years? Similarly, are anglophone Quebeckers also Québécois/e? Again, *I* would say yes, but I have a broad understanding of that term. It may be politically incorrect to describe them as anything but in public (as Passerby alludes to in the response to Ratbone), but Passerby and Ratbone are both referencing the cultural politics which exclude anglophones and allophones from the “national” (or provincial) body by definition (e.g. Vielle Souche cultural politics)
In truth, cities like Montreal are too dynamic to be contained within the provincial (in a descriptive sense) parameters of decolonial nationalism as represented by the PQ and other francophone nationalist bodies, which is the tragedy of certain nationalist trends in the province. But, as usual, cities find ways to survive and thrive even in the face of those who hate them, as Montreal has, to a large extent. You are also in the province at more hopeful time. When I was there, during and immediately after the second referendum, the mood was considerably darker, and the politics more ridiculous.
If I may, I would recommend “The Reconquest of Montreal” (1991) by Marc V. Levine, an excellent primer on the linguistic shift from anglophone to francophone dominance in the city, and “Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec” (1988) by Richard Handler, a nice introduction to the idea of the nation in francophone (PQ) cultural politics. Also, I would trade you Minnesota for Montreal in a New York minute. You lucky duck you!
Je me souviens, souvent. 🙂
Thanks for your post and your blog looks good too (and I’m all for eggheadness). I’ll trade you links. I’ll also check out the books you suggest but I note that they are both from before the second referendum. I mention that because it seems to me, from talking with people who’ve lived here straight through or who came here through the 90s, that things are very different than they were in the 80s or even mid-90s. And I don’t just mean the cost of real estate (though I imagine that’s related). You point to this in terms of your “most hopeful time” comment.
For instance, in over two years of living here, I have been scolded/given an evil look/gotten flak for not knowing enough French exactly once, and that was in a yuppie healthfood store on St. Laurent from a guy stocking the shelves when I didn’t know the French for “textured vegetable protein.” That’s it, and it certainly qualifies as ridiculous. In my neighborhood, Hochelaga-Maissoneuve (and I am definitely in the Hochelaga part), it’s very working-class Francophone where a lot of people don’t know English, but as I go about my weekly errands and talk to people, either the conversation is in French and they work with me, broken grammar and all, or it’s in English, but not once has anyone been angry or upset that I’m not fluent. As I mentioned early on in this blog’s history, I get a free pass if I come out as American, but it’s rarer and rarer that I bother (though it happens in taxis most because eventually we get to “where are you from?”).
As for nationalism, the Francophones I speak with seem quite divided on the issue. Some people still hold onto the idea, others talk of some kind of multicultural nationalism, and still others say there’s no point to an actual nation but the threat of a referendum is good for Quebec. I realize that if I turn on the talkshows and read the tabloids I’ll get a different story, but then, I was never much of a talkshow or tabloid guy in the U.S. (and I wouldn’t mistake them for representing mainstream opinion). Maybe that side would win out in Quebec’s “national” politics, but I think the new, more corporate PQ is actually a more likely hegemon. I don’t like them either, but I also don’t like the conservative party. I wouldn’t mistake either as the true representative of their language-group.
My response to the oft-heard claim that “the idea of a Francophone nation is racist” is that of course it’s racist. What nationalism isn’t racist? Read Etienne Balibar on that one (or Wallerstein/Balibar Race-Nation-Class). Anglophone Canadian nationalism seems equally racist, if more sophisticated in its multiculti talk. See the recent discussions about dual citizenship and Lebanon. Certainly, race politics in Quebec are not the same as elsewhere but they do share some essential features.
Finally, lest I be further misunderstood, I am perfectly happy here. I was just saying that when I left Minnesota I didn’t want to — at the time I thought it was the center of the universe and my plan was to return. Having sampled more of the world, I’ve learned that I can be content anywhere, but that Montreal is a particularly wonderful place to live.
To end on the “most hopeful time” note: recent history around the world shows that ethnic and language politics can shift very quickly in one direction or another (as opposed to slow, gradual progress). I fully recognize that something could happen tomorrow and we could be right back where we were in 1980 or 1995 or at another time. Or it could turn worse in some way. But in the Montreal where I live, those fights seem like they belong to another age. And so when passerby wants me to acknowledge anger for things that happened 30 years ago, I can do that, but I also wonder why I should see that position as particularly productive or enlightened when so many others who live here–Anglophone and Francophone–seem to have let that anger go, even if they at one time felt it.
If you want to explain how you think I should view Montreal anglophones and those who left. As real human beings, I guess, instead of caricatures to ridicule. Feelings and all. As in: when passerby wants me to acknowledge anger for things that happened 30 years ago — happened many years ago, to people alive today. The trigger to all this, after all, was umbrage at sneering at some guy working out his feelings in a National Post interview.
And so when passerby wants me to acknowledge anger for things that happened 30 years ago, I can do that, but I also wonder why I should see that position as particularly productive or enlightened when so many others who live here–Anglophone and Francophone–seem to have let that anger go, even if they at one time felt it. I find this confusing — it’s certainly not a zero-sum game. There are lots of people in Montreal, some of whom define themselves around the Anglophone and Francophone poles you are invested in. That’s great. There are also many thousands living elsewhere. I spent my whole life in Montreal, but most of my siblings and cousins have left to other cities, and I’ve gotten to understand a pretty different perspective on things. You are free to ignore them, or pretend they doesn’t exist, or figure they are irrelevant. And in the grand scheme of things, this is all small potatoes. But on the topic you seem to be interested in, it might matter.
Personally, I would say yes, in the same way that we (US and Canadians and everyone else in our hemisphere who is not indigenous) can say we are Americans. While indeed not indigenous (and with a difficult and violent past) we are invested in, from this land, right? Where else would we go, after 500 years? Similarly, are anglophone Quebeckers also Québécois/e?
You know, I am beginning to understand the “white” comment above. I don’t think that the “white”/”not white” of American racial politics is really a very good way to understand the life of this city. On the other hand this idea of a city with homogeneous and all-encompassing anglophone and francophone communities really does not have much to do with reality as most of us experience it. I mean, visit Dawson. Take a trip over to Concordia. It’s a bit more involved. In essence, one witnessed a shift away from anglophone normality grounded in economic and social power to francophone resurgence. Yeah, that’s sort of the school textbook version, but the version a great many of us — the majority of actually-existing Quebec anglophones, I would wager — are more familiar with is getting whiplashed in between those. There wasn’t any “resurgence” of the francophone sector; it was a “surgence” of deciding that they were not going to be an ethnic group, they were going to run the show.
Again, I don’t really understand the whole emphasis on being “oppressed”. It’s totally beside the point for anyone I know. Passerby and Ratbone are both referencing the cultural politics which exclude anglophones and allophones from the “national” (or provincial) body by definition (e.g. Vielle Souche cultural politics) Oh, I don’t know. My family is Greek, and the PQ and BQ is thrilled to death if they can get anyone from my community to join up. It’s like a trophy.
Really, the whole nationalist politics thing is not such a big deal to most of us living here. It’s a minor irritant which comes back every once in a while; the whole “Quebec is a nation” line is cooked up to capture some important portion of the swing vote to which, in Quebec, Montreal is of course totally irrelevant. (We are too concentrated here.) There is an important distinction between life in Montreal, and the life of ex-Montrealers who have fanned out across the country. I feel bad for those people, and for people here in Montreal, too, especially from the older generation, who have really gotten screwed over royally by the stupid, stupid way in which the French Canadians suddenly changed all the rules.
But to try and shoehorn that into some cliched discussion about epic battles between anglophones and francophones, nationalist politics, and all the rest of us … it’s sort of changing topics, and it’s all a bit dreary and, I think, overblown with regard to a kind of nationalism which is pretty much the norm everywhere in Europe. Or, if you’re really looking for African metaphors, which has to do with South Africa’s English and Fr … I mean, Boers.
But that’s another story.
There’s a lot in Passerby’s comment regarding the francophone majority shifting from being an “ethnic group” to ‘running the show,’ not the least of which is that ethnicity in this instance has an implied relationship either to a dominant (Anglo) cultural model, or cultural pluralism, a theory which in fact is rather hard to live in real time. Suffice it to say that one could argue that francophone and anglophone relationships in Canada have historically been predicated on a racial/racialised understanding of identity (viz. MacLennan’s “Two Solitudes,” not to mention Vallieres’s “White Niggers of America”), and historic francophone (cultural) nationalism and its contemporary traces are deeply, profoundly racialised, in ways that would counter the ethnicity model. In other words, the self-understanding of Quebec’s francophones has typically been a racialised idea. This is where there indeed might be a racial connection (not necessarily white/un-white, although race is important in Canadian and Quebecois social and economic relationships), although we now generally no longer recognise whitenesses within themselves to form racial identities, per se.
I would also suggest that I for one don’t read this thread as shoehorning anything, necessarily. In any event it’s certainly not a generous reading. There is no teleology to these things, in spite of the desires of Hegel and Marx, but rather an attempt to understand, given limited tools. These things are by their nature complicated organisms which are in general poorly understood, resistant to analysis, emotive, reactive, and irrational. Quebec sovereignity and francophone cultural nationalism are always no big deal until suddenly, again, they are. This may speak to the difficulties of maintaining ployglot (or in Canada’s case, bilingual) confederacies when unilingual models of national identity (literally and figuratively, speaking the same language) are really the only ones we have, except for maybe Switzerland (which also has a singular language, that of money).
But in reality I would argue that it speaks to History’s (with a capital “H”) constant role as the return of the repressed. Conversations once distant and seemingly irrelevant can have longer half-lives than we may expect (this false expectation is especially true for most Anglophones in general, American, Canadian or otherwise; a trait I do think of as linguistic in nature, oddly enough). Indeed History may not explain everything to us, but it does give us a pathway to understanding how things have come to be, whether they are working or not, and what to do to change them. This for me at least is not changing the topic, it is the topic itself. But I am willing to entertain the notion that perhaps this is my own particular idiosyncracy.
The diaspora of Montreal’s anglophone populations (and a significant amount of anglophone capital) following the FLQ but especially after the first election of the PQ and Bill 101 was traumatic, perhaps unnecessarily so. Again, this conundrum speaks to the seeming irresolvability of the polyglot nation, but this was also an action of anglophones as well as a reaction. The nationalist argument was always that the tepid, mild bilingualism of pre-FLQ Quebec was really a slow death for francophones in the province. And some of the outraged responses to the rise of francophone power (not to mention the evacuation of the province in the seventies for Toronto) did demonstrate, on some levels, the deep (racialist?) loathing towards French and francophones, the echoes of which can still be heard, sometimes among the Montreal diaspora, and other times in conservative circles.
How and why subsequent PQ policies may have made this slow death worse is another story (e.g. “Le Québec me tue”). One of the real tragedies, arguably, is the lack of recognition on the part of francophones regarding the success in changing anglophone socio-economic dominance in the province as well as the understanding that francophone unilingualism (at least officially on a provincial level) does not guarantee social, cultural, or economic harmony, much less wholeness in a sort of German Romantic way.
Of course, the differences between the United States, Canada, and our sister white settler nation-states and the nation-state model as it developed in Europe in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries is that, unlike Europe, our nationalisms have generally been based on citizen principles rather than racial ones (jus soli v. jus sanguinis) officially (for unofficially they were indeed racial; arguably they still are). So, again in principle, cultural nationalisms are deeply offensive to that project, even if they are in fact the reality, and this was a criticism (deserved, IMHO) of francophone cultural nationalism in the province, especially of the first PQ government. It seemed out of time and place. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t felt (obviously, from the strong support of Bill 101 among francophones at the time). And that is where all of this gets a bit slippery, no? Feelings, that is, are slippery, in policy as well as in this thread. Democracy too here is a but loose: the PQ wasn’t a dictatorship, but an elected government, reflective of a certain mass will.
Complicated, and resistant to analysis indeed. But interesting, nonetheless.
Oso Raro, I am no longer able to follow exactly what it is you are saying, but to the extent that you frame all of this in terms of anglophones and francophones, shoehorning there still be, I think. That’s just not how many of us live it: we identify much more with various ethnic communities, with anglophone or francophone ability as a set of competencies layered on top of that which affects our identities, sure, but is not reducible to them, either. The idea that “francophone” identity is deeply racialised, as opposed to being ethnicized, is just not something I understand; nor do I understand who the “we” is in not recognising “our” “whiteness” — but certainly the examples you site, McLennan and Vallieres, basically excluded the non-English, non-French ethnicities who now form the vast majority of Montreal’s anglophones and of the Montreal anglophone “diaspora”.
Sorry, realized the above sounded snarky. When I say I’m no longer able to follow, I mean very honestly that I don’t get it all: my lack of doctorate and familiarity with all the references, not your fault.
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