Things Canadians don’t know about their own country # 736

with 40 comments

The next time you call the customer service line of TD Canada Trust, Telus, Air Canada or most other Canadian companies and hear the familiar "Press One service in English.  Appuyez  sur le 2 pour le service en Français" and feel all happy and proud that you live in a multicultural and bilingual country where all citizens are equal and live very close to a Tim Horton’s, think about this:

Those of us who press two wait twice as long as those who press one to get an answer because there is only one bilingual agent in the entire Mississaugua call center.

When you finally get an answer it’s in English because the bilingual guy doesn’t work on Tuesdays/weekends/Ramadan.

If you happen to reach the bilingual agent, you end up speaking English anyway because he was hired by someone who did not speak French and he actually has a hard time handling complicated concepts like, say, numbers, in French.

Very often, the system simply hangs up on you anyway.

Press two for Second Class Citizens, Canada!  

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 20, 2008 at 11:03 am

40 Responses

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  1. Yes but have you ever pressed 2 or 9 or whatever when you call to order at St. Hubert? It’s easy to be angry when you only look at one side of the issue.

    Jordan Black

    January 20, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  2. St. Hubert is in Quebec, it doesn’t need to serve people in English because Quebec doesn’t pretend to be bilingual.

    Eric Grenier

    January 20, 2008 at 8:38 pm

  3. Jordan Black,

    It is Ottawa which claims that Canada is bilingual, which it isn’t, apart from certain urban areas where sizeable and economically significant communities of English speakers and French speakers compete in ignoring each other’s presence. Naturally, it is always easier for English speakers to do what they do on the rest of the continent, which is to ignore the language of others and expect these others, whoever they are and wherever they come from, to understand some English.

    That a nation behaves that way in their own country is normal. It is what a free people does at home. The problem is that countries’ borders are often the result of wars and do not respect the rights of peoples. Luckily, in our case, the borders of Quebec make some sense. They comprise the whole of our homeland and more. This more happen to be the countries of other peoples, the Amerindians and the Inuit who should also be free to speak their own language at home. In their case, the borders created by war simply do not make sense and an independent Quebec should see that powerful governments be created for them and them alone on territories they can truly call their own.

    The wisdom of our National Assembly made our language policy carefully except the 11 non-sovereign peoples of Quebec so we do not crush them with our language. Unfortunately, Ottawa’s language policy of pushing English inside Quebec competes with the balance we are trying to create, which happens to be the will of our people.

    Quebecers or immigrants to Quebec simply should not expect that every person in Quebec is going to be bilingual French-English so they never have to use our common language. I do not mind that employers require English, Spanish, Japanese etc. when hiring waiters and waitresses in certain designated touristic areas, but it ends there.

    In principle and in practice, Quebecers do not disagree with bilingualism, they are favourable to it and think that people who do not speak our official language ought to make more effort to learn it (and be bilingual) and stop abusing the fact that French-speaking Quebecers are so numerous to be competent in English, their second or third language. We do not mind speaking English to American or Canadian tourists once in a while, we are happy to speak it when we travel in the USA or Canada, but we do not wish to speak English to our own co-citizens day to day.

    Why are so many Canadians unwilling to respect this, even after they were patiently explained the issue by bilingual Anglo-Quebecers who live here and know what they are talking about from experience and not hearsay?

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    January 20, 2008 at 8:45 pm

  4. I’m not quite sure what you think writing angry messages on the internet is going to do about things you consider to be real problems. The internet is only as real as !?

    Wet Hat

    January 21, 2008 at 1:02 am

  5. On the other hand, a common peeve for English Canadians calling a government phone number is this:

    Call the French line, and they answer in French.

    Call the English line, and they answer in French, then English.

    You live in a province where kids phoneing home to their parents on the school pay phone have been threatenned with suspension for talking in English. There is NOTHING like that in other provinces.

    Roger Strong

    January 21, 2008 at 1:28 am

  6. I think that’s an exaggeration, but if Quebec wasn’t so rigourous about its unilingualism, it would’ve been overridden with English…hell, even thirty some odd years after Bill 101 the province is struggling…Meanwhile, we all sit and boast internationally that we are so bilingual. On a legal level, i guess so, but I’d love to see a French person manage to get help at a grocery store in Vancouver, BC…I’m sure he/she’d have a lot harder of a time than let’s say an anglophone shopping in Trois Rivières or Chicoutimi.


    January 21, 2008 at 1:48 am

  7. hi afg,

    i think you have chosen a confusing example to make a point and that you are exaggerating. just the same, i hate telephone voice directories too! occasionally i end up talking to someone in mumbai, india with a difficult-to-understand accent who is not the least bit helpful. this is par for the course with large corporations. customer service is rarely a positive experience.

    try this:

    if that fails – find an airline that provides the service you require or switch to bell or in the last case try desjardins. we all have choices. me, when i call au coq for poutine – it’s all in french. they know i’m english and are very patient even if i stumble on my pronunciation – i often have trouble with numbers – but i think sometimes it makes them laugh. i know what i’m saying is not much help when you’re in calgary and your luggage is lost but it’s not as bad as all that.
    you already know how i feel about air canada and i’m not that fond of banks either.

    we live in a great country – this “pays bleu” – and i think you are not doing anyone any favours when you use the term second class loosely.


    January 21, 2008 at 2:15 am

  8. To respond to what someone said about St. Hubert, my friend was ordering from there and pressed 2 I guess (whatever the number is for English), yet she still got a French person on the phone… who didn’t understand a word of English. Kinda sucks when we get stuck with a French person when we asked for English, as I’m sure it is the other way around. So it doesn’t only happen to you.

    The internet speaks!

    January 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm

  9. To begin, I am an allophone; first generation Canadian. I speak 3 languages, Hungarian (that of my parents), English and French. I even fumble a bit of Spanish in a pinch.

    The concept that Canada is bi-lingual is FALSE. It is more accurate to say that it has 2 official languages and you can receive service in either from the Federal Government. Quebec and New Brunswick are likely the only Provinces that can claim bilingualism. Try ordering a meal in Newfoundland in French…

    Those who are bilingual (English/French) have more opportunities available to them in some fields, especially those where they need to communicate with people across the Country.

    As an anglo who has lived and worked in the US, let me just say that Quebecers have every right to be afraid that French will disappear. Perhaps I don’t agree with the approach of the Language Police, but there is something to it. I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of society to preserve a culture, not the government.

    That being said, on recent visits to restaurants in New York and Florida, I was served by people who did not understand or speak English. Fortunately, I knew enough Spanish to get by.

    A culture can be pushed out of its own home! If you live in Quebec, learn French, regardless of your first language. If you don’t want to learn French, live somewhere else or don’t complain when you can’t get service in English (or Spanish, Chinese, Hindu, Arabic, etc.). If you want to live in Canada, learn English and/or French. If you don’t want to learn either of these two languages, go home. This may seem callous, but we must remember that those who immigrate to our Country come here BY CHOICE. We have the right and obligation to preserve our culture. Those who come to live here have an obligation to preserve their culture as well, but not to expect everyone around them to change theirs to accommodate them.

    A culture can be overrun if not safeguarded.


    January 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

  10. Traveller,
    There are entire areas of Quebec which are primarily English-speaking.

    In view of what you just wrote, would you also say that “If you live in these areas, learn English, regardless of your first language”? Do THEY have a right and obligation to protect their culture?

    How about Canadians with other languages and cultures? I don’t mean recent immigrants – I mean people like my Mom’s side of the family, who’s first language is Ukrainian, despite the family being in Canada for over a century. (I even took some Ukrainian classes in school.)

    They have every bit as much “right and obligation to protect their culture” as the French.

    The difference is, they don’t believe that this right extends to forcing others to use Ukrainian – as the French insist with their language. They don’t insist that French be reduced to a *third* language, as the French would do with all other languages.

    This is what official bilingualism has done. If you think that getting your kids to be fluent in French is hard in an English world, just imagine what it’s like if people were insisting that after English, your kids’ alternate language be Spanish. It’s destroying multiculturalism, and that’s a shame.

    Roger Strong

    January 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

  11. There is a concept called “direct discourse”. It is the idea of seeing how the other side sees you. Perhaps the first step is for the French to see how the English see them, and vise versa. We cannot begin to truly fix the problems until we can truly see what each others real issues are.

    What I can also say is that neither the French or English has been 100% innocient in terms of the language war that exists in Canada.

    Canada cannot change the past in anyway, it sucks that those in power hundred of years ago really fucked Canada up in terms of French and English. The bottom line is that not everyone in Canada is bilingual. While we can’t force 70 year old Canadians to learn both official languages, we can force 4 year olds to learn both official languages. I think that BOTH languages should be taught in schools from day one. This is coming from an English man in his 20’s who is now struggling to learn french, and has a desire to be fully bilingual, and while i’m working on it, and can say that I am getting very close, had I been forced to take french sooner in school (and I CHOSE to continue taking French all through highschool and university) I may be able to speak both official languages with pride.

    I as an English-raised person will never be able to fully understand the struggles and un-fairness the French have experienced. A French person will never be able to understand the struggles and fustrations of an English person visiting Quebec, but rather than argue about who’s been shit on more and who’s had more trouble calling St. Hubert (p.s. Best Chicken in the country!)… we all need to realise that it will be nearly impossible to create bilingualism as a whole today… but with the right efforts maybe we can do it for the next generation with the right steps that our governments can take now. And just maybe the entire country should be required to hae bilingual signs… whether you’re in a rural town in Newfoundland or Montreal.


    January 21, 2008 at 9:34 pm

  12. I agree whole-heartedly with Roger Strong about the English areas of Quebec. Take for example the West Island. Although most of us here are bilingual, Anglophones still make up the majority.


    January 21, 2008 at 10:14 pm

  13. >> I think that BOTH languages should be taught
    >> in schools from day one.

    If you’re from – just one example – a 100+ year old Ukrainian community in the Manitoba Interlake region, you want your kids to learn Ukrainian. You have just as much right to protect your culture and language as the French do.

    Making a second language mandatory isn’t a bad idea, but there’s little reason why the second language should be limited to French. Let the individual communities decide.

    >> And just maybe the entire country should be
    >> required to hae bilingual signs…

    That was the trend, but Quebec killed it in the other provinces.

    The average person in Manitoba was convinced of the need to be bilingual back in the early 80’s. Bilingual road signs and packaging became normal. French emersion schools were popular. Parents were convinced that their kids needed to be bilingual to get ahead. The feeling was that it was a fair compromise with Quebec.

    Then Quebec overrode the Charter of Rights to stamp out the use of English. They weren’t going to be bilingual – they were going to be French only. Far from putting up bilingual signs, they were making them illegal.

    The march towards bilingualism in Western Canada stalled right there and then.

    Roger Strong

    January 21, 2008 at 10:25 pm

  14. Bilingualism is really just government sanctioned assimilation, as it was obvious from the get-go that francophones were going to have to do all the work and were going to be the ones who adopt bilingualism.

    Bilingualism is not a good thing and I am opposed to it. And I am happy that Quebec has decided not to fall in line and not adopt Trudeau’s plan to destroy Quebec’s distinctness.

    Quebecers only need to be bilingual if they regular work in another language or if they need to conduct international business. Aside from that, no Quebecer should feel the need to learn English or any other language.

    And the Ukrainians can protect their language all they want, but until they become a nation of people their project would not have the legitimacy of Quebec’s. Ukrainian-Canadians have Ukraine to look to as a homeland. France is not the homeland of Quebecers.

    Éric Grenier

    January 22, 2008 at 9:24 am

  15. >> francophones were going to have to do all the work

    Or the least amount of work. They’d be learning the language that is by far the most common in North America.

    Those Canadians who’s first language is neither English nor French are the ones who are stuck with the most work. Unlike the French, they must learn *two* additional languages.

    >> Ukrainians can protect their language all they
    >> want, but until they become a nation of people
    >> their project would not have the legitimacy of
    >> Quebec’s.

    Calling them a “nation of people” within Canada is equally valid – or invalid – as saying the same for the French within Canada.

    There are other examples, some better, some worse. The region around Gimli, north of Winnipeg was even a seperate country – New Iceland – before joining Canada.

    >> Ukrainian-Canadians have Ukraine to look to
    >> as a homeland. France is not the homeland of
    >> Quebecers.

    If France isn’t the homeland of Quebecers, then why do you think that the Ukraine is the home of Ukrainian Canadians? *Canada* is our homeland.

    Roger Strong

    January 22, 2008 at 10:42 am

  16. >>Or the least amount of work. They’d be learning the language that is by far the most common in North America.

    That is exactly the point. Francophones in Canada are probably one of the most bilingual people in the world. Something like 95% of francophones outside of Quebec and 55% of francophones in Quebec can speak English. Anglophones outside of Quebec are about 15% bilingual. Which is about the percentage of people in any country who can speak a second language.

    >>Those Canadians who’s first language is neither English nor French are the ones who are stuck with the most work. Unlike the French, they must learn *two* additional languages.

    Well, that’s fine. We have a country here that we have built. If people want to come and join us that is great, but they have to want to come and JOIN us, not just live among us. That is what a society is all about.

    >>Calling them a “nation of people” within Canada is equally valid – or invalid – as saying the same for the French within Canada.

    The only French in Canada are people from France. We have been here long enough to no longer be French and have had enough of our own societal institutions, culture, and identity to be something new. Ukrainian-Canadians are just that. Ukrainian-Canadians.

    >>There are other examples, some better, some worse. The region around Gimli, north of Winnipeg was even a seperate country – New Iceland – before joining Canada.

    Um…no. That was merely the name of a settlement, not a country.

    Éric Grenier

    January 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm

  17. >>If France isn’t the homeland of Quebecers, then why do you think that the Ukraine is the home of Ukrainian Canadians? *Canada* is our homeland.

    Canada is where you set up shop. It isn’t where your ‘people’ are from. The thing that separates Ukrainian-Canadians from British-descended Canadians is their Ukrainian ethnic heritage and their culture taken from the Ukraine. Without the Ukrainian background there is nothing that makes you different, and no one can ‘become’ a Ukrainian-Canadian.

    Quebecers don’t take their culture from France, we have our own. People can come to Quebec and become Quebecers, no matter what their ethnic origins. Look at someone like Roberto Luongo, the goalie for the Canucks. He is of Italian heritage, but he is also a Quebecois. He couldn’t become a Ukrainian-Canadian though.

    Understood? Immigrants don’t move to Manitoba and become Ukrainian.

    Éric Grenier

    January 22, 2008 at 1:21 pm

  18. I think English-Canada needs to implement some kind of Civic or Citizen’s education so they can start to understand their country. Let’s be fair, Quebec should probably do the same.

    Until that day:

    1.Canada is a federation. This constitutional arrangement is meant to allow different parts of the same country to have different policies adapted to different realities.

    2. The people of Québec have decided, as it is their right under the current constitution of Canada, that it would make French the only official language of Québec.

    3. 95% of North America speaks English. Less than 5% French. It is unlikely that that the language policies of one community is appropriate for the other.

    4. A person is bilingual. A country is not bilingual. The Canadian government is required by law to provide all services two all citizens in both official languages. No individual is required to learn French or English if it is of no use to them. The plan is not and never was to make every individual Canadian bilingual.

    5.If someone feels they are Ukrainian-Canadian first. That’s their prerogative. If they feel an injustice has been committed towards that community, especially in the West, I agree. If they feel the way to correct that injustice is to extend that injustice further with the linguistic and cultural assimilation of the still alive culture of French-Canada and Québec, I do not agree.


    January 22, 2008 at 3:24 pm

  19. Just a few points:

    1. It is important to stop confusing the French with the Quebecers. To our ears, it sounds as ridiculous as mixing up the English and the Americans as one and the same when they are in fact two distinct nations that would go to war against each other without hesitation if their interests did not converge.

    2. The issue here is the freedom of Quebecers to express their culture (Quebec’s own) in Quebecers’ language (Quebec French) in the context of their having been forcibly turned into a minority nation inside Canada.

    3. Quebecers do not want the triumph of French cinema and literature in their country over that of the Americans or the Canadians. They simply want their culture to occupy a just proportion of their own cultural universe. They want to look at the rest of the world from their own particular point of view (as do all other nations), and, as much as possible, they wish for their own representation of themselves to be accurately translated and reflected in other human cultures. A network of embassies and a seat at the UN is useful to that purpose. It also implies that some individual human beings will be bilingual and bridge all our national communities. Immigrants tend to be the individuals doing that.

    4. The keeping or losing of their language over generations the Ukrainian minority, the American minority, the Canadian minority, the German minority, the Chinese minority inside Quebec could not have any impact on the vitality of these large communities on our planet. Even if, speaking hypothetically, every single immigrant linguistic/ethnic minority of Quebec were somehow assimilated completely as “vanilla” Quebecers the whole of humanity would still enjoy the presence of all these peoples’ languages and cultures because they have HOMELANDS OF THEIR OWN secured by a SOVEREIGN STATES recognized by the UN.

    5. Assimilation is not necessarily bad for an individual, it may even be the result of a free choice. What is bad is the linguistic and cultural assimilation of an ENTIRE NATION which can only occur in utter violation of human rights. But this phenomenon happens slowly over generations and it is possible to not see it or prefer not to deal with such a complex human problem.

    6. Quebec nationalists are universally opposed to 5. happing either in general (when they have bothered to study the subject a little) or specifically to Quebecers (when they think they are the only ones on Earth to be the victim of such an atrocious injustice.)

    7. The only peoples whose language and culture are at stake inside Quebec are the 10 Amerindian peoples, the Inuit and Quebecers. Coincidence: they are all claiming the right to self-determination.

    8. Since Quebecers are very tired of renaming themselves, an independent Quebec will surely need a new name. Maybe the “Republic of Laurentia” was not such a bad idea. We could all be Laurentians like the English, Scots and Welsh can (theoretically) all be British without any ambiguity.

    9. The fact that Canadian culture and Canadian English are not threatened to disappear completely from the surface of the Earth as a result of events occurring inside Quebec (contrary to Quebec culture and Quebec French) does not mean that all English-speaking Canadians living inside Quebec after independence ought to leave. It only means that the pressure to do what many of them already do, speak French as a second language, will be greater.

    10. In an independence Quebec, Canadians will be a real national minority for the first time. They will need their institutions and luckily for them, the majority of their co-citizens will not be an indifferent bunch of monolinguals, they will be a majority that knows exactly what being a minority implies.

    Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote

    January 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm

  20. What amuses me about most of the arguements (NOT ALL OF THEM) is that we continue to play the blame game. Who cares who did what politcally…sure Quebec chose not to include English in their province, and sure you cannot order your meal in French in small town Saskatewan, we can either continue to complain about all of these “injustices” or we can do something about it.

    As far as non- French&English languages go, I’m sorry but Canada did not adopt Ukranian as one of it’s official languages. While I am in no way object to or intolerant of other cultures, keeping other languages in tact would have to be the choice of the individual. The reason for that is where do u draw the line… it is unrealistic to dial 4 for italian, 5 for spanish, 6 for japanese, 7 for etc… etc… Canada has selected 2 languages. It would be the same as me moving to Italy and expecting everyone to speak to me in the language of my choice. While I would choose to preserve the English Language FOR ME, I would also have to be realistic and learn Italian.

    And I do agree that immigrants/refugees do have the toughest time coming to Canada (by choice and not by choice) not speaking either language.

    Ultimately, I don’t think there is an over-night simple solution to a problem that has existed for over 100 years. But I do stick by my opinion to enforce ALL provinces to learn both languages in school from day one. This would help Canadians build a more united country and to have tolerance for both languages.


    January 24, 2008 at 10:01 am

  21. And one more thing…. could someone please outline for me what the REAL issues for Quebecors are? Please do so without giving your opinion on things AND without doing what a lot of people have done above and shit all over the other language. I am asking because I would like to know.


    January 24, 2008 at 10:14 am

  22. hey,

    im from ontario, and have no problem with quebecors (ignore my spelling :S ), i enjoy trying to recall the little french i learnt in the public school system when i see a french sign or something. I think that the key problem here is that the majority of the population is in their retirement/baby boomer life stage; whom of which didnt have to learn the same things in schools or carry the same liberal beliefs and values as my generation.

    The fact of the matter is, is that Canada is primarily English speaking…. this has resulted in most of Canadian companies originating from English speaking provinces. Since we do live in a democracy, where the majority does rule, companies like TD and such which make you wait longer to hear the french options and stuff do so because you are the minority. Its simple marketing; they are communicating to the largest market segment; English speaking people. It doesnt make sense for things to be in French first, then english, becasue most of people are english.

    However, this doesn’t hold true for french companies, who, although i haven’t dealt with, i assume put french first, becasue the majority of their customers are infact french.

    both languages are great, i wish i knew more french, hopefully in the future, as the school systems change, children will have to learn more of it.


    January 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  23. It is completely farfetch that we’d ask an anglo from the other side of the country who doesn’t need french in everyday life to learn it just because there are babies at the other end of the country that speak it. Les Québécois don’t like being forced to learn english, they understand when the rest of the country strikes back saying “no we won’t make it mandatory”. I do find when I go to Ottawa that I can get someone to speak some french to me pretty easily, because over there it is a case of open-mindness: young people especially are well educated and they have the choice to learn french, so they do it in a certain proportion. Tout à leur honneur. Would I get angry if I wasn’t able to get service in french over there? Hell no! Canada’s a bi-unilingual country, the rest is just leftovers from the trudeau era when beautiful words meant nothing.

    Quite frankly , i’m so happy when I get an English person that wants me to teach her/ him french. It happens all the time in Ottawa. But they don’t do it out of a sense of duty ( as in: it is MY LANGUAGE) but rather out of curiosity. Here in Québec french is not dominant because of curiosity: it’s our heritage. And when liberals/whoever say that Canada has a long tradition of french, well, technically they’re right. In deed, back in the days the word “Canadiens” referred to french Speaking persons who lived in what is now the province of Québec. We just had to change the name since they stole it from us in order to make us feel at home. And then anglos began appearing in Québec, so now we have to call ourselves ” franco-québécois”… A perpetual minority who just doesn’t care it seems.

    What really pisses us off is not the rest of the country not knowing our language, it’s the fact that they don’t understand that we’re not anything close to them. The only persons we’d hate for not speaking french are those that live here in Québec and don’t even give french a try.

    Also Mr.Strong, anglo quebecer have all the rights in the world to protect their culture. The thing is: their culture is called Canadian culture. I quite frankly don’t see many west islanders wearing fleur-de-lysées all the time, they prefer the red maple leaf. And let me know if I’m wrong, but English canadian culture is not in danger at all . And let me know if i’m mistaken again, but Québécois are one of the last nations (recognized as one,that’s the worst part of it) to not have a place they control and that they can call their home.

    Guillaume Charette

    February 12, 2008 at 10:13 am

  24. the only people on any American continent who deserve or even have a right to any sort of protectionism, are the indigenous peoples who were here before 1492. “quebecois” are unique? give me a break. we’re just another variation of the same basic culture that exists and is enveloping the globe. the mohawk, the iroquois, the pawnee, etc; those were and ARE truly unique cultures on the planet that deserve protecting. beyond that, whatever differences exist that make people here feel they are unique (and that NEITHER england, nor france can be considered their home) is that they existed side-by-side for so long that they became mutant, bastardized versions of both original cultures. what has given rise to the cultural variation that exists here in quebec is that the french, the english, and (early on) the amerindians lived here amongst each other, affecting and warping and shaping each other over generations. furthermore, nationalism of any kind is depressing and boring and sad,
    nighty night


    February 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  25. by the way, i am of european descent, some starving ancestors of mine having landed in gaspe a few hundred years ago. i feel dirty and wrong here; so should we all.


    February 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm

  26. To answer Mike:
    The real issue is the fear of the language and culture disappearing. Quebecois are surrounded on all sides by the English language and Anglo culture (I’m grouping together here all of English Canada and the United States). English is not only the dominant language, but it’s also easier to learn. I have known several native French-speakers who learned English by watching a lot of american tv. Very few people can learn French that way because, French is a lot more complex in its basic structure (compare English’s two simple verb tenses, the past and the present (am, was) to French’s 7 or so). The complexities of English are in the details and nuances. So it’s easier to learn an understandable English just by assimilation that it is to learn French or Chinese, for that matter. English being easier and more international, immigrants who move here who speak another language than our two as a native tongue mostly want their kids to learn English, not French. Add to this a low natality rate among native French speakers and the fact that many French speakers “have” to learn English to get a high-paying job and you have a very real threat. How many Quebecois who moved to the states to find work in the 1800s actually kept their language? Very, very few. So it’s this fear of assimilation that makes it such a sensitive issue to the Quebecois. Quebec is the province that has the largest French influence in culture, to the point that we kept French civil law while adopting English criminal law. There are other “details” like this that give it its unique flavour. There are cultural quirks as well that are wholly unique and a rather strong sense of national pride. The fear is to see this uniqueness drown in cultural globalization, if I may permit myself the term. There are traditions people want their children to learn, stories they want to keep being told in the language they were told in. Some things are very hard to translate and there’s a deep fear of loss. That’s the major issue, in the language debate. It’s a fear that the English side should know well since for a while, it was a fear they had, not so long after the conquest when francophones and deputies from lower Canada were suspiciously numerous. Many measures were taken then to assimilate the “Canadiens” and make them Canadians instead. It failed and we are now a bilingual country, with both sides still eying the other with suspicion.

    Shawn raised the issue of native americans in his post. They too have this fear to an even bigger degree, since they are ostracized, outcast and have very few laws protecting them. The province of Nunavut recognizes two inuit languages as official as well as English and French, but this is a small comfort. I agree that more should be done to protect them.


    March 21, 2008 at 12:59 am

  27. And Mike I totally agree that to become truly bilingual one must start learning both languages from day 1. I have a Quebecois father and consider myself Quebecoise, but I also have an American mother and therefore I parle the Franglais tres good. I have to say that I do consider the Quebecois heritage and language to be very, very important, just as the first nations peoples and languages are important and should be given more importance. The loss of a culture is always tragic. It’s happened already in several places around the world, where a whole people just died out. I believe that it is a real threat here and that measures have been taken to insure that it doesn’t happen. You don’t have to be a separatist to be Quebecois. You don’t even have to be a Quebecois de Souche (wouldn’t I be a hypocrite if I believed that). But you do have to have the sense of the language and the culture. People who lock themselves in their little anglo bunker in an anglophone pocket and who never bother to learn a word of French despite being surrounded by the opportunity to and who never learn the stories, the folklore, the mindset and yes, the pride that comes with belonging to our province will never be Quebecois in my mind. They will be Canadians. I do think that I should be able to go to the grocery store in Quebec and have one of the four people working there (at least) be able to communicate in passable French. I would not have this expectation in, say, Alberta. But in Quebec it does piss me off when I can’t get served in the supposed official language. Mainly this pisses me off because there’s so much opportunity to learn, especially in the service industry. My mother moved to Quebec speaking not a word of French. She’s been here 30 years now and she still has an accent, but she speaks and works French without any problems being understood. I know people who grew up here who can’t even order a coffee in French.

    Sorry if I’m writing volumes, it’s a subject that gets me worked up…


    March 21, 2008 at 1:14 am

  28. Can anybody explain me what does Quebec culture mean?
    One Qubecer plus two big dogs in the small 3 ½?
    Welfare starting18 vs. 65 and no break inside?
    Cabana sucre?
    6 pack beer twice a day?
    Ballet with Chaikovsky music?
    Symphony orchestra with Japanese conductor?
    Reject of the France legacy, so you came where from? Mars?
    Total under table work usually as a construction specialist (without license of course) Tabarnac, lo!
    Answer me! It seems to me I am narrow-minded.

    New Quebecer

    April 7, 2008 at 4:57 am

  29. And what is Canadian culture ? New Quebecer you are a moron. And what is your culture ? Racist monkey US culture ? Canadian culture ? Beer and hockey night in Canada with the nazi Don Cherry ?

    Marc Authier

    April 11, 2008 at 6:22 am

  30. OLF. PQ, BQ, 101 are getting more and more boring and useless. Canadian minority Quebecois de Souche (QDS) want to preserve their own culture and language. Let them do it. Let them call themselves Laurentian people, QDS people or another name they prefer. Like Hassidic people in Boro Park in New York who are speaking Yiddish at home and in the small businesses and successfully preserve their own culture and language. Do not pay so much attention at this. Let them accommodate reasonably themselves. Let them reject French culture and invent their own one. Let them reject French language and create their own one. That is their own life and might be very interesting for them. We new immigrants go another way. I spoke to one French immigrant in Montreal and he told me that he and his friends prefer to distance themselves from QDS people. Funny! What about us! Greeks, Italians, Arabs etc. The typical talk between two immigrants in Quebec: What do you think about these QDS people? OK, they are pretty good but many poorly educated, nervous and stayed in the 20 century.

    Last month March 2008), the Regional Association of West Quebecers lobbied the city of Gatineau, across the Ottawa River from the capital, to translate its bylaws from French into English, the Ottawa Citizen said.

    The city council agreed to the request last week, but in the meantime the group’s leader, Andre Hurtubise, reported to Gatineau police a violent e-mail threat had been received.

    “Haven’t the English already had the misfortune of going down this road in the recent past?” the message said. “Their memory seems short — maybe it is necessary to put lead in their heads.”

    The message went on to tell the group to drop its campaign as French is the only official language in Quebec and more than 80 percent of the population speaks French, the newspaper said.

    People, I see you are really nervous!
    We new immigrants in Quebec see no reason to to accept QDS culture. By force. 101 is funny! We need to get well-paid job in high-tech industry. These companies do not have any software in French. That is why we are studying in English colleges and universities because we know exactly that the future of the Canadian and global economy is in high-tech but not in the maple syrup production. In 1976 QDS people fired all English speaking management and replace them on there own ones. See the difference between Ontario economy and Quebec economy? How many natural gas suppliers in Ontario? Four. Good competition, chance to get good price. How many in Quebec? Just one. Gas Metro – monopoly.
    Almost all immigrants are studying like crazy. Guess who will be the managers soon?
    Your culture based on archaic socialism and nationalism. Who will support this except you? We not! You were fighting so many years with old English speaking Canadians. We are brand new Canadians, mostly allos and also do not support you. Maybe something wrong with your ideas?

    New Quebecer

    April 12, 2008 at 7:31 pm

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