How Do You Call a Quebecois Who is Not a Minority?

with 131 comments


How do you call a regular generic Canadian?  You know, a white guy called Rob or Bill with a last name that starts with W and ends with ON?

Or what about an American (see description above)?

You just call him a Canadian or an American, right?  If need be you could call him an Anglo or a white guy or a WASP, but unless race or ethnicity is an issue, you just use the standard issue label, right?

That’s the way it was supposed to work in Québec too.  In French the label Québécois was taken up PRECISELY to shed the baggage of the old French-Canadian label that implied that you were White, Catholic and had way to many siblings.  A Québécois would be someone who lives in Québec.  Period.

Sadly, it seems that even Them, the Franco-French-North Americans of French Expression, have picked up the very sad and even dangerous English-language concept of using the word Québécois to define not anyone who lives in Québec, but specifically one group of people, the white French-speaking men an women who have at least one uncle in either Gaspésie or Saguenay.

I have friends, born here, French-speaking, not especially fervent Canadian patriots, who will say things like: « Mon boss est Québécois », as if, because of their Viet Namese or African Roots, they weren’t Québécois themselves.

People, for a variety of reason, need a word to identify THEM.  Whether it is to express solidarity, denounce exclusion or spew out racist prejudice for profit in Canada’s daily newspapers, people need a word that points to THEM.  Since we need to protect the use of Québécois as a generic label that includes all the members of our civil society, even those we don’t like, it is time we pick an official label for THEM.

Many are already in use.  Pick one, people:

Pur (Pure) Laine: The most commonly used word in the English language to designate the Them.  The notion of purity is part of the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars inspired vision of Canadian multiculturalism that celebrates a motley crew of men and women in easily identifiable folkloric costumes who fight evil separatists before returning to ethnically segregated ghettos.  This is what John Porter called the Vertical Mosaic in 1965.  Jews get +3 business ability points and Them get +5 in goaltending.  Just as in the Lord of the Ring, English-speaking white males with no special skills have all the command jobs.

De Souche: Literally « of the stump », as in a tree stump.  This is the more common word used in French to designate Them.  The tree is indeed a nice image to describe a people, any people.  Out of innumerable and invisible roots a common trunk emerges before, once again dividing up into hundreds of branches that reach to the sky (take that poet-laureate!)  Sadly the Québec version of the image carries the weight of it’s terminal loser syndrome, the stump symbolising where the tree was cut down to make way for a Tim Horton’s parking lot.

French-Canadians: French-Canadian has a quaint old fashioned feel that evokes horse-drawn sleds and midnight mass.  Although still commonly used by Them when travelling abroad to avoid the whole « What’s a kweebeekwa? » conversation, most don’t use it at home.  Federalists feel they are full patch Canadians and indépendantistes don’t feel they are Canadian at all.

Paleo-Québécois: As opposed to Néo-Québécois.  A commenter on this forum came up with that one.  It is the AngryFrenchFavorite.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm

131 Responses

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  1. …as if, because of their Viet Namese or African Roots, they weren’t Québécois themselves.

    Hrm. I wonder where they got that idea from?

    * no deli *

    May 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

  2. I like the word “French Canadian” to refer to those who live in the territory of Quebec, and “are White, Catholic have way to many siblings.” (Well not that many right now.) They also presently vote Harper, ADQ and tends to go on and on about “les maudits gaugauches séparatisses péquisses syndicaleux BS de luxe qui se payent des galas avec nos taxes” (don’t try to understand). I use it with a little bit of contempt. I also use it more neutrally as an ethnicity label (I’m French Canadian myself – it’s like having brown eyes, that’s just a biological fact of no importance whatsoever). But I don’t call THEM Quebecois unless they vote yes to referendum or are at least a little bit integrated in Quebecois culture. On the other hand, I don’t mind calling someone “un québécois” or even “un bon québécois” wherever he come from, especially if he vote yes. “A quebecker is someone who want to be”, said René Levesque. That’s at least a necessary condition.

    But I just don’t believe someone is a Quebecois just because he live in Quebec. Neither do I think you are a Canadian just because you live in Canada. That’s not even a volontary decision. I lived in the ROC for a while, and it would have taken me many more years to become a Canadian – the same way it takes time to become French or Brittish or Italian or whatever you can become (that is, a member of a group that do not self-identify ethically). I would have had to learn much more on the Canadian culture, to get references, to learn habits and customs, etc. to have been able to call me Canadian. It’s a slow process that is not unlike the one of catching an accent – and is often accompanied by it.


    May 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

  3. “group that do not self-identify ethNically”, sorry for the typo.


    May 3, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  4. Paleo-Quebecois. That could do.

    Would entrenched Anglos be Paleo-Quebeckers? *duck*


    May 4, 2009 at 12:28 am

  5. People in Mexico and the Spanish speaking countries of the Caribbean already have a one word term for French speaking descendants of the 17th century European settlers of the Bas St. Laurent: Tabar**co. And it is a neutral term AFAIK. Too bad that it wouldn’t catch on in French.


    May 4, 2009 at 5:40 am

  6. “But I don’t call THEM Quebecois unless they vote yes to referendum or are at least a little bit integrated in Quebecois culture. On the other hand, I don’t mind calling someone “un québécois” or even “un bon québécois” wherever he come from, especially if he vote yes.”

    So… if I get this straight… although I am French-Canadian, and although my roots in Québec go way back to a member of the French army who traveled to the Nouvelle-France in 1685 to marry the daughter of a “fille du Roi”, since :

    a) I am not separatist and I never voted “yes” or voted for the PQ or the BQ
    b) I prefer listening to Bryan Adams, Our Lady Peace, Theory of a Deadman rather than having to cope with the likes of Éric Lapointe or Daniel Bouchard or Les Cowboys Fringants

    … I am not Quebecois? Well well well… makes you wonder why some separatist can’t understand why some people feel like they’re acting like racists. Now that I think about it, thought, I do enjoy going to the “Cabane à sucres”, which means that I’m at least a bit integrated to Quebec culture. Man, I feel so much better now!

    On the other hand, I tend to call people like you, that :

    a) feel they know what’s best for Quebec and Quebecois
    b) think so high of themselves that they can decide what a “good Quebecois” is

    … I call people like you “dumba$$e$”.

    “A quebecker is someone who want to be”, said René Levesque. Those are nice words. But don’t think so high of yourself that you can presume to know exactly what René Levesque meant by that. Because clearly, you and He are not and never will be in the same league.


    May 4, 2009 at 9:27 am

  7. I have to agree with Vinster that this (quasi-essential) requirement for voting “Yes” to be a Québécois/Quebecers is very dubious. It even effectively excludes a large segment (perhaps 40%) of the francophone population of Quebec, many of which speak only French, and whose main identity is totally Québécois even though they still have some type of attachment to Canada (which sometimes can be quite weak and essentially symbolic).

    Tancrède is entitled to his own opinion of course but this view of who is Québécois based on referendum voting is very narrow. Even in the PQ, no one would even dare go down this road officially.


    May 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

  8. “b) I prefer listening to Bryan Adams, Our Lady Peace, Theory of a Deadman rather than having to cope with the likes of Éric Lapointe or Daniel Bouchard or Les Cowboys Fringants”

    Ça on appelle ça un colonisé.

    Not because you like OLP. Fine band. But because you obviously choose your music and culture based on politics and not merit and you have visibly interiorised a very Canadian way of belittling anything that comes from Québec.

    Who’s Daniel Bouchard?


    May 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm

  9. Daniel Bouchard is an anchorman for local Radio-Canada TV in Ottawa! He is a neighbour of a friend of mine in Gatineau.


    May 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm

  10. That ignorant probably meant Daniel Boucher


    May 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

  11. Amusant! Durant les moyen-âge, les paysans français appelaient les Anglais “les Godems”, parce qu’ils entendaient constamment les soldats anglais jurer: Goddamed!”

    Ainsi les Québécois seraient “les Tabarnacos”, les Français “les Putains” et les Américains, “les Fucked” …

    Un nom pour les Canadians?


    May 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

  12. Wow! Toi tu te prends au sérieux en “tabarnacos!”
    Slack un peu, ça va sortir mieux.


    May 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  13. My suggestions:

    To speak of the normative majority of Quebecers, you can say “Vanilla Quebecers” or “Prototype Quebecers”.

    Prototype Quebecers is probably the best, because some idiots could think one has to be white to be part of the root core with “vanilla”.

    Hey! “Rootcore Quebecers”, that sounds good for those of us Quebecers who are Quebecers and nothing else (by culture, by birth, by lineage for 10 generations or more).

    A good trick I want to share:

    When talking to people you know are not from Quebec, here is what you can do to acknowledge their difference all the while making them part of the greater US:

    So, where are you from? (I am from blahblahblah)

    Cool. So, how long have you been a Quebecer?

    You have to admit it is quite clever. I am really proud of that one. :-)

  14. That said I do agree whith you Vinster. Voting Yes (or liking the Cowboy Fringant) is not a prerequisite to be part of the team.


    May 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm

  15. Les TimBits.


    May 4, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  16. Residents of BC are British Columbians. Residents of Alberta are Albertans. Residents of… are…

    Now!… how would you call residents of Québec, if not Québécois?

    Pure Laine

    May 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

  17. Mais de toute façon, à la façon dont ils prononce “Québécois”, les anglophones semblent toujours y ajouter un coté péjoratif.


    May 4, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  18. AFG : “Ça on appelle ça un colonisé.”

    I just found what’s really annoying about you, sometimes, AFG : you tend to think that every choice is political. I didn’t choose to like BA, OLP or ToaD. I just happened to hear their songs and like them. There are lots of other bands that I like, lots of them americans, some english bands as well, and the ones I named are not my favorites. But over the years, I’ve happened to like lots of canadian bands. Lots of them, like Billy Talent and Matthew Good, I’ve discovered they were canadian after starting listening to them.

    But hey, whatever. If it pleases you to think that I choose my music according to my political opinions, go on. I didn’t decide that I didn’t like Eric Lapointe because he’s from Quebec. I just happen to not be a fan, and there’s nothing political about that. And I didn’t decided I’d take Muse as my favorite band because I’m passionately in love with the Queen… ;)

    But hey, with your comment, you’ve just proven something I’ve been saying for a while : separatist like to think they hold the truth to how things are, and how they should be. While the separatists are “bien pensants”, those of us that are not on that side of the fence are obviously “des colonisés” that indulge themselves in everything “canadian”…

    Kriss : “That ignorant probably meant Daniel Boucher”

    Yes, exactly. The ignorant meant Daniel Boucher, and then the b!tch had to be rude about it.


    May 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

  19. … faudrait pas voir le diable partout, quand même. Pour un anglophone, le son “ois” est loin d’être le plus facile à prononcer.


    May 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm

  20. If it makes you feel better, AGF, there are some bands from Québec that I do like. I used to listen to “Les Marmottes Aplaties” a decade ago, and the scientist in me really liked “N=1” when they released their only CD. But sadly enough, there are very few quality rock alternative bands from Quebec… and most of them sing in English, which obviously means that they hate their roots with a passion… ;)


    May 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm

  21. jasmincormier,

    Peut-être que tu devrais rencontrer d’autres anglophones.


    May 5, 2009 at 12:07 am

  22. Tancrède,

    That’s one of my favourite quotes by René Lévesque. You may notice that it completely contradicts your ridiculous assertion that one is a Québécois based on voting patterns. You’re essentially saying “the Québécois are not a nation. They are not a people. They have no collective rights. The term is absolutely meaningless outside of the polling station whereby (in Quebec, at least) one votes via secret ballot.”

    I think what you meant is that you feel the best way to self-identify with Quebec (as a Québécois) is to support its political journey towards sovereignty. You are very passionate about this and while not denying people the right to freedom of thought, you believe those who love Quebec as much as you or who identify with being Québécois as strongly as you do, but do not support the same political platform as you do are mistaken…. or something like that.

    I just spent a paragraph trying to save you from making an ass of yourself. Please continue the favour.

    You’re welcome.


    May 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

  23. I vote for “Whitey”.

    It’s succinct: one word, two syllables.

    It’s portable: white people can be found around the world.

    We’re all Quebecers here. Most of you just have very little melanin. That’s why the rest of us are “minorities”.


    May 5, 2009 at 12:26 am

  24. Honestly, I’m not sure we really need a word for Quebecers of primarily French Canadian ancestry. If we really need to talk about those people exclusively (even excluding other francophone Quebecers), we can always use “Quebecer of primarily French Canadian ancestry”.

    But honestly, while I won’t get angry if I’m being called a French Canadian, I won’t apply this word to myself. Not for political reasons: I have no problem using the term “Canadian” to describe myself, and this term is probably what I will use abroad when I can’t expect people to know what Quebec is, maybe specifying it as “French-speaking Canadian”. But because this whole “quaint old fashioned feel” evoking “horse-drawn sleds” and “midnight mass” is displeasing to me.

    I don’t feel much of a connection to French Canadian folklore other than going to the sugar shack each year. I think that Quebec has gone a long way since the time when its French-speaking majority was clearly inferior in every way that counts to its English-speaking minority. But this period, which is thankfully over, is what “French Canadian” really evokes to me, and I’d wager many people feel the same way.

    Most of what defines Quebec today post-dates the “French Canadian” period. But I feel (and AFG presumably does as well, from the look of his post) that the Canadian version of multiculturalism is trying to make francophones fit this old model which they’re desperately trying to forget. In fact, I’d say that if it is true that other Canadians cannot understand “what Quebec wants”, it probably is because they’re trying and failing to understand their French Canadians through their idea of what a French Canadian is. And they find it scary, especially with the specter of separatism. Ask me some time why I think Céline Dion became simultaneously so popular and paradoxically so derided in anglophone North America.

    Speaking of musical acts, I also like a few anglophone Canadian bands, The Tea Party and Great Big Sea to name a few. Most of my music is in English anyway. But I also enjoy Quebec artists, like Daniel Bélanger.


    May 5, 2009 at 12:26 am

  25. «Ça on appelle ça un colonisé.»

    Wait, so the Belgians brought the Rwandans bad taste in music?

    I could have sworn colonization was something different. Where’s my dictionary?

    My apologies to OLP (not a fine band).


    May 5, 2009 at 12:29 am

  26. Personnellement, je n’aime pas utiliser le terme “Quebecois” en anglais. Je suis un “Quebecer”, ou un “francophone Quebecer” si c’est nécessaire de le préciser, mais “Quebecois” a vraiment l’air bizarre en anglais, et en plus on ne sait pas vraiment ce que ça veut dire (viz. la résolution Harper disant que “les Québécois forment une nation” / “the Quebecois form a nation”). Et en plus, si on le définit comme ne regroupant que les Québécois francophones d’origine Canadienne française (ce qui semble être la signification la plus courante) ça me donne l’impression qu’on essaie de dire qu’ils ne forment qu’une “sous-culture” au sein de la culture québécoise. On a les “Quebecers”, et en dessous de cela, un des nombreux groupes auxquels on peut être exposés si on se perd quelque part au Québec est les “Quebecois”.

    D’un autre côté, je suppose que la langue anglaise a tendance à préserver les mots qu’elle emprunte à d’autres langues dans leur état originel plus que la langue française. En anglais on va parler d'”Iraqis” et d'”Israelis” alors qu’on parle d’Irakiens et d’Israéliens en français. Dans la mythologie judéo-chrétienne, il y a des anges qu’on appelle des “cherubim” et “seraphim” en anglais, tandis qu’en français ce sont tout simplement des chérubins et des séraphins, et ce second mot désigne en fait un avare plutôt qu’un ange en français québécois. Et, bien sûr, les anglophones appellent le président français “Monsieur Sarkozy” même quand ils parlent en anglais. Pour ma part, le premier ministre canadien est “M. Harper” quand je parle français et “Mr. Harper” quand je parle anglais (présumément “Sr. Harper” si je parlais espagnol), et je ne crois pas que je manque ainsi de respect pour son héritage ou quoi que ce soit.


    May 5, 2009 at 12:42 am

  27. I presume this discussion is being led by non-minorities. That’s not problematic, in and of itself, but when we’re trying to relate to Quebecers as a whole a more compromising approach may be needed.

    I remember discussing with AFG about whether there was a central ethnic group in Quebec. He felt I was using this to attack said group (old angryphone canard, not my style), but moreover he told me he didn’t identify this way. It made me think. Most white assimilated or marjority culture people in Quebec and ROC don’t see themselves as ethnics.

    It’s the “otherness” of being a minority that leads one to classify oneself this way. I remember being at a bustop in Winter, underdressed as usual and a man claimed that I must have been cold. I told him I wasn’t so much and he said that I should dress warmer since it’s very cold here, unlike where I come from. Obviously he was making conversation and trying to be nice. I asked where he thought I was from. Flustered, he guessed North Africa or the Middle East. I told him: the United States. He backtracked, well surely my parents were from elsewhere (which of course would not necessarily have bearing on what climate I grew up in). I said that they were from the midwest. He pressed on until he found that my dad’s family came as slaves before 1808, the year the transatlantic trade was outlawed) and my mum’s family was Italian and Jewish form Europe of the early 1900s and before.

    He said it because I’m not white. If people ask him and he says: Timmins, Toronto, Sherebrooke, Quebec City, Halifax. No one bats an eye (as long as the accent/language fits).

    Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be annoying while waiting for a bus and enjoying the silence of winter.

    It does undoubtedly create a different sense of identity. He is part of the normative identiy of place in Canada and Quebec. His sense of roots lie here.

    Mine lie elsewhere.

    There are a few problems though. One is that he will not accept that mine lie here. Two, he will ignore me not accepting that his lie here eg in the case that I insist he is European. Third is that there are prior peoples whose roots lie here.

    I would then ask that white people re-aquaint themselves with there ethnic heritage if for no other reason than to be able to say: we’re all Quebecers/Canadians/Whatever, some more recently arrived than others and some already here when others arrived.

    Barring that, we could just go with “whitey”.

    Now, my tongue is a bit in my cheek here, so I am open to other suggestions, but I would urge you to ask yourselves: What would I ask of non-minority Quebec to make me feel I belong if I were a minority?


    May 5, 2009 at 12:51 am

  28. But AFG is specifically talking about Quebecers of French Canadian ancestry. This excludes Christopher Hall and Aleksandra Wozniak even though they’re Whities as well.

    But by God, this becomes complicated to define. What percentage of French Canadian blood do you need to be one of *this group*? What is French Canadian blood in the first place, does it include Irish? At some point in time a French Canadian was a well-defined concept, but I don’t think it works in a modern Quebec society where you’ll find an increasing number of francophone Quebecers of mixed French Canadian and other ancestry. Maybe that’s AFG’s point in the first place, that we cannot separate the “Québécois de souche” from other Quebecers who are either francophone, or whose French is at a near-native level so that they live in this French-speaking society without being obviously minorities.


    May 5, 2009 at 1:02 am

  29. meh.

    Identity is supposed to be complicated.


    May 5, 2009 at 2:13 am

  30. By the way, I’m not belittling your point Marc. I was just being jestful. Carry on.


    May 5, 2009 at 2:16 am

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