The one recommendation of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation that was not met with total indifference was the idea that we should revive the use of the term “French-Canadian” to designate the white, catholic descendents of the French settlers that are otherwise designated as “Pur Laine” or “Old Stock” Québécois.
The idea was universally ridiculed. Sovereignists objected that they were not Canadians. Federalists took offence that they should wear an hyphenated label in their own country. Third generation French-speaking federalist descendents of Portuguese immigrants wondered if the label applied to them or not.
The two wise men did have a point. If Québécois is to designate all the people of Québec, we need some sort of word to designate the white French-speaking majority, if only because without it the Canadian media will have to project all of it’s self-righteous fear of Others on the Americans, and that’s bad for business.
But on this Canada Day I want to bring to your attention the fact that there is second very important word missing from both the French and English languages. How do you call English-speaking Canadians?
Belgium is the name of the country shared two people, the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Wallons. Britain is the country shared by the English, Welsh and Scots. All these people can call themselves British without fear of losing their own national identity. European is a label increasingly popular with a younger generation that can use it without feeling like they are abandoning their French, Spanish or Greek identity.
Canada is the union of the Québécois and the, well, eh… Canadians….
If Canada is to remain united (for many reasons the AGF is not a supporter of a united Canada, but for argument’s sake, let’s suppose he is) it needs an umbrella identity that can be used as a label for all the people living in the federation without implying that their more specific identity is not valid anymore.
That label is probably… Canada and Canadian.
Canadian was until the 20th century the label used to describe exclusively the French-speaking North Americans. Since the second world war, the label has been embraced by English-speaking Canadians while it was rejected by a growing number of French-speakers. On early maps and journals by the settlers, Canadian was a word used to describe natives.
As a label that was once used to describe all three of Canada’s founding peoples, Canadian is the obvious choice for a general name for all inhabitants of the federation the way British is used for the English, Scots and Welsh.
So now the problem is: We need a name for those darn English-speakers!
Although it is sometimes resented for a variety of reasons, I say we should baptize English-Canada The ROC. I mean officially.
Beyond it’s etymological root of Rest Of Canada that some find reductive, ROC is the only name for English-Canada as a whole that has any sort of real use in current language.
ROC has some geographical grounding, evoking the Canadian Shield, the Rocky mountains and The Rock, Newfoundland. ROC also evokes English-Canada’s extremely successful music scene and the rugged rock and roll sport of hockey.
Not to be underestimated, ROC sounds cool. There are worst things that could happen to English-Canadians than to become known as Rockers!
If it was up to me, here’s what I’d give you for your birthday, Canada: I’d get the House of Commons to officially recognize the ROC Nation!
Happy Canada Day