Cornwall Ontario – I’m a refugee of Quebec. One of the multitude of Anglos that left (along with a lot of Francophones) for a multitude of reasons. I write this the day after helping empty my Mom’s Cote des Neiges apartment and finding an album of pics from the two short films I shot in Montreal back in the 90’s. Different time. Different place.
At this weekend youth wing of the party confab in Lennoxville Premier made a gesture inviting we Anglo refugees to come “home”, but for most of us Quebec has long ago ceased to be a home.
The pendulum swings with the majority sometimes being more or less “tolerant” of we “blokes”.
The vast majority of time things are fine, but then there seems to always be “that person” who says or does something that those of us non “pur laines” just shake our heads and either leave or be glad that we have.
Anglo Quebecers don’t have it the hardest. There are far worse places. Quebec has a lot to offer. Montreal even more. It’s truly a wonderful and warped city, but at a certain point you get tired of having to live in a dual society. In Toronto for example, it seems every language and culture is embraced, seen, and heard, but there is one common language. It’s not against any laws if you happen to not use it. The same sadly can’t be said about Montreal or Quebec.
I will only share from personal experience. The linguistic attacks from the Liberal governments on language, healthcare, and education to the anglophone community are such that if there was any violence they would be labelled a form of genocide. It’s certainly been a form of Cultural Genocide in my opinion. What has survived has been in spite of systemic favoring of francophones as though they had more rights purely because of being…francophone. Instead of life being based on merit it seems it’s always coded linguistically, right up to who can coach the Canadiens.
Until Quebec truly and collectively lets go of those kind of chips any major return of Anglos is up there with the pipe dream of separation.
The reality is Quebec has two solitudes. Montreal, and most of the rest of the province. It’s akin to Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe around it. Rob Ford land. Very different than that amazing, vibrant, multi cultural gem that so many former Quebecers helped build.
That’s the choice that Quebecers have to make. Personally there’s a part of me that would love to move back “home”.
I have journalist and filmmaking friends that encourage me to return far too often. I had a friend offer me a house on the West Island, but then my Westmount doctor of 32 years gave up his practice (not practicing medicine) because of Quebec’s abuse of GP’s. The mess that is the new hospital is frightening. The never ending construction mess that is Montreal, and of course the crazy taxes are reasons to not move back.
But the call of the Plateau, of walking downtown on a muggy Summer night, the amazing culture and people ring through and I make the best of it by visiting regularly.
Things change. Life changes. Will Quebec?
If Premier Couillard and his party truly want us to return it’ll take more than words. It will take solid action from evolving Bill 101 and language restrictions; at least in the Montreal area, and attracting those of us who’ve found places like Toronto, Calgary, almost all of BC, and even Ottawa more attractive to consider to contribute to life.
People are pretty much the same, English or French. We tend to all want the same things in life. It’s not rocket science.
And ultimately Quebec will have to let go of some of the way it rolls if it wants to truly attract new blood and get some of its old blood back.