AngryFrenchGuy

Acadians and Using Language Politics to Avoid Speeding Tickets

with 91 comments

Acadian Congress

Like most well informed Québécois passionate about North American Francophonie, I know just about nothing about the Acadians.

Acadie is a State of Mind of a Nation of about half a million French-speaking people spread around at least five canadian provinces and a couple of american states who’s history and culture is completely different from Québec’s.  They came over from a different part of France at a different time in history and are extremely proud about their distinct heritage.  The Québécois don’t know or care about this and just assume  they’re some families from Beloeil who got lost on their way to Cape Cod.

In that way, Acadie is to Québec what Canada is to the United States.

All I know about Acadie I learned from my sister who figured out she could skip Cegep and graduate a year early by going to the Université de Moncton, the only major French language university in Canada outside Québec.

(Here’s another cool Acacheat: Because New-Brunswick is Canada’s only officially billingual province police officers must address you in the official language of your choice, but a significant number of Anglo cops don’t actually speak French.  Next time you are pulled over for speeding in NB, politely but firmly demand to speak French and the the policeman will legally be obligated to radio in a colleage to give you your ticket.  He is more likely to let you off with an (English) warning.)

My sister spent five years living among the Acadians, learning their stories and their language, Shiak, a blend of French and English.  (Which, of course,  is completely different from Québec’s Joual which is a mix of English in French).  She also learned the difference between an Acadian and a Brayon and the strange diet of this strange place wher poutine has nothing to do with cheese and gravy.

She told me about how there weren’t many Québécois at the Université de Moncton except for hockey players on scholarships.  Apparently Acadians can’t skate.   Who knew?  There were a lot of Franco-Canadians from other provinces, however.  Many militant Francos who wanted to study in French but were extremely bitter over Québec wanting to separate from Canada and the Québécois’ tendency to treat French culture outside their province as moribund, or, in the words of author Yves Beauchemin, as a still warm corpse.   Francos from the strangest places–Yukon and a village in Alberta eight hours north of Edmonton–travelled thousands of miles to Moncton specifically because they didn’t want to study in Québec.

There were also kids from France, Gabon, Mali and Luxemburg and today, even though Moncton is still a mostly English-speaking town, most immigrants and newcomers are part of the French-speaking community.  That’s Acadia succeeding where Québec still struggles.

At my sister’s graduation the valedictorian was an algerian Berber who’s life as an emmigrant had actually started in Glasgow.  (You can just imagine the scene when he arrived in New-Brunswick and some bureaucrat decided he couldn’t possibly be speaking English because of his scottish accent and sent him to French school.)  To this day he wears an Acadian flag pin–a France flag with a yellow star in the corner–on his vest when he teaches math at the École de Technologie Supérieure engineering school in Montreal.

Oh Yeah…   just about every single one of my sister’s acadian friends are now living in Montréal because it turns these militant Francos figured out you can’t work in French anywhere except in Québec.

Respect Acadie.  Nous Vaincrons.

Check out the Acadian National Congress, on now.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

91 Responses

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  1. Thanks, AFG. I’ll check it out. I had no idea. I heard about Acadians a few times, but never in enough detail to be interested. Your post is a good start.

    Now, I am curious to find out how come Acadians can better integrate their immigrants in French when theirs is not a French province.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 8, 2009 at 10:46 pm

  2. Well written piece.

    In Nova Scotia about 20 years ago I did business with Acadians who insisted upon only speaking French (their version) and I can attest to the fact that it is exactly what AFG says it is.

    I still understand Haitian French better than I understand Quebec French or Acadian French.

    Tony Kondaks

    August 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm

  3. All this talk about Acadians got me thinking about a “Cajun” restaurant here in Mesa, Arizona.

    It’s pretty good…I love their sweet potato fries! and their gumbo.

    But their name is “Pier dé Orleans” (I copied and pasted the words from their website…I don’t have accents on my keyboard).

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the French spelling of the name is incorrect on at least two levels:

    1) It should read “d’Orleans”; and

    2) If the “dé” was to stand alone, it should be “de” without the accent.

    3) And I couldn’t find the word “pier” in my online French-English dictionary. I assume because it is a seafood restaurant that they mean “pier” as in English.

    Am I correct on at least the first two points?

    Here’s their website in case anyone’s interested:

    http://www.pierdeorleans.com/

    Tony Kondaks

    August 8, 2009 at 11:30 pm

  4. AFG: Immigration is a recent and still marginal phenomenon in Acadia. A few dozens immigrants, tops, live in Shippagan (pop. 2,800), where the World Acadian Congress is held this week.

    These immigrants are skilled and highly educated; in Shippagan, most of them come to teach at the local university campus. And since their numbers are minuscule, there is no problem.

    The same phenomenon happens all the time in smaller centers right here in Quebec, like Rimouski or Rouyn-Noranda for that matter. I’m sure that you’ve seen footage of mayer Michel Adrien of Mont-Laurier by now.

    ClaudeB

    August 8, 2009 at 11:34 pm

  5. I meant Angry French Girl…

    ClaudeB

    August 8, 2009 at 11:36 pm

  6. It’s like saying Scots is mispelt English. Cajun comes from a different region and era from the French which is spoken in modern France.

    Dé is the same as ‘de’ in modern standard French. It is found not just in cadien (although I’m not sure whether it would be considered correct modern usage in cajun but an archaism), but also Jèrriais for example (the French spoken on the Jersey Isles – have a look at http://members.societe-jersiaise.org/geraint/jerriais/pierres_de_le.html).

    As for pier, I’m not sure of its etymology, but I know you find it used in Belgium, although it’s not standard French. Whether it’s a borrowing or has archaic origins I’m not sure.

    There are a lot of archaic usages in cajun, arcadien and even Québécois French, some words that looks like English loan words are in fact old French words that were borrowed by English in Norman times and after.

    Hamish

    August 9, 2009 at 3:28 am

  7. Sorry, I somehow ended up having the same acronym for a name as AngryFrenchGuy. ;)

    Thanks for the clarifications–I’ll check it out when I have more time. It seems that the fact that there is not that much immigration yet in Acadia helps them to better integrate their immigrants. I wonder, though, if there ever were to be massive immigration in their parts, would they end up having the same problems we have in Montreal? I find that immigrants in Montreal are hardly ever integrated, some on purpose, some by accident. What with all those ghettoes…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

  8. Indeed, with all the ghettos plaguing Montreal … and the dark people. Oh!

    X.

    August 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm

  9. Snob.

    Jean Naimard

    August 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm

  10. (I copied and pasted the words from their website…I don’t have accents on my keyboard).

    Snob.

    Jean Naimard

    August 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

  11. now why would that be? Do you own sweatshops down there or..?

    James

    August 9, 2009 at 7:03 pm

  12. Which one of you is the more angry?

    That way, you could differentiate yourselves from each other by the acronym VAFG (“V” for “very”).

    Tony Kondaks

    August 10, 2009 at 12:28 am

  13. X,

    You think having all of these separate communities (ghettos) here in Montréal is okay? (who gives a shit . . .right?)

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    August 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  14. “Oh Yeah… just about every single one of my sister’s acadian friends are now living in Montréal because it turns these militant Francos figured out you can’t work in French anywhere except in Québec.”

    But it seems from many comments on this board – including from AGF- that one of the problems is that you cannot actually properly work in French in Montreal…

    AM

    August 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm

  15. As others have said, immigration to New Brunswick is quite low in general, and for the Acadian community the phenomenon these days ranges from a tad more than negligeable in the Moncton area to virtually nil in the more rural areas that are almost totally Acadian.

    Note also that the integration that takes place in Moncton is almost completely related to the Université de Moncton dynamic. Even though the city is about 65% anglophone, the French-only U de M is really the only largish university in town and so a large part of the city’s cultural, intellectual and élite life revolves around it and takes place in French or at least with a strong French presence. (Note that there is an English university about 45 min. outside Moncton in Sackville: Mt. Allison.)

    In any event, the U de M has given a distinctively francophone/Acadian edge to the Moncton scene. However, this is quite limited to anything university-related. Outside of that, pretty much everything in the city functions in English: retail, industries, the service sector, etc. So yeah, the U de M milieu does integrate Algerian, Cameroonian and Vietnamese people that come to it (though note that most of these people do arrive in NB with some knowledge of French already). How francophone their kids grow up to be after having lived most of their lives in Moncton outside the francophone university environment is another story.

    I should also point out that all of this only means that the Acadian community in Moncton attracts and integrates *some* immigrants (perhaps higher than its share of the population). But Moncton also draws non-francophone immigrants who have nothing to do with the U de M, and all of these would integrate into the anglo community and very few of them would ever learn any French at all.

    The same phenomenon exists in Ottawa as well, where some immigrants (usually with knowledge of French before their arrival) gravitate around local Franco-Ontarian institutions like La Cité collégiale, the French school system, the Montfort, and the programs offered in French by the University of Ottawa. Like the kids of U de M profs at Moncton, a lot of their kids eventually get anglicized simply by growing up in the broader Ottawa community. (Though a small portion do remain francophone as adults and provide much-needed new blood to the Franco-Ontarian community.)

    Acajack

    August 11, 2009 at 8:56 am

  16. Just because there are more opportunities to work in French in Montreal than in Moncton doesn’t mean that you can *properly* work in French as you should in Montreal. Just that it’s better than in Moncton.

    Acajack

    August 11, 2009 at 10:27 am

  17. “Many militant Francos who wanted to study in French but were extremely bitter over Québec wanting to separate from Canada and the Québécois’ tendency to treat French culture outside their province as moribund, or, in the words of author Yves Beauchemin, as a still warm corpse. Francos from the strangest places–Yukon and a village in Alberta eight hours north of Edmonton–travelled thousands of miles to Moncton specifically because they didn’t want to study in Québec.”

    I see something similar at work with Franco-Ontarians. It seems that most Franco-Ontarians would rather study (and also raise their families eventually) in southern Ontario cities like Barrie, Cambridge, Guelph, etc. than anywhere in Quebec, just because they are located in Ontario. I know people are going to say that the economy in southern Ontario is stronger than in Quebec but this has not necessarily been the case in recent years. Many people I know have had job offers in Quebec (in Montreal in particular) but have refused them, because they want to remain in Ontario.

    To me, it’s just bizarre how a Franco-Ontarian named Marie-Josée Tremblay from Rockland who still speaks French and apparently wants to pass it down to her children would feel more at home in a southern Ontario city that is six hours away from home and where francophones are less than 1% of the population, than in Montreal or environs, which is just an hour and a half away from home.

    But that’s the way a lot of people feel. What can I say. Guess they’re more franco-Ontarian than Franco-ontarian.

    Acajack

    August 11, 2009 at 10:34 am

  18. It seems that most Franco-Ontarians would rather study (and also raise their families eventually) in southern Ontario cities like Barrie, Cambridge, Guelph, etc. than anywhere in Quebec, just because they are located in Ontario. I know people are going to say that the economy in southern Ontario is stronger than in Quebec but this has not necessarily been the case in recent years.

    No it sure hasn’t, and take it from someone who hails from SW Ontario, and who’s been back there of late attending to some family business, that whole band of territory from Essex Co. along the littoral of Lake Erie up to St. Catharines is in a real economic free-fall. This includes a number of communities whose industrialization produced significant pockets of franchophones – Welland, Pointe-xux-Roches/Windsor, etc. If something doesn’t give soon, that whole area, which I love, is going to become one big Toledo or something.

    James

    August 11, 2009 at 12:32 pm

  19. I was always amazed at the contrast between the prosperous Canadian and decaying American sides of the border in the Lower Great Lakes region.

    As you surely know, a series of factors protected southern Ontario from Rust Belt-type decline, most notably the Auto Pact, but also the absence of a Sun Belt in Canada where people and business could flee to, and even to some degree the enduring legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy that gave Ontario industries a tremendous head start in filling up to 80% or more of every single cupboard from Haines Junction, Yukon to St. John’s, Newfoundland with their products.

    Acajack

    August 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm

  20. There’s something different about a French Canadian when it comes to the question of Quebec sovereignty.

    A French Canadian can say “they can’t do it”, and then they are just disparaging those others, those Quebecers.

    A Quebecer has to say “we can’t do it”, which is a bit more of a downer since he or she is saying her own people are inadequate.

    Éric

    August 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm

  21. People shouldn’t feel obligated to choose between place and language. Franco-Ontarians are Ontarian, Just as Anglo-Quebecers in rural Quebec may wish to stay in Gaspé, Estrie or the Outaouais rather than move to Montreal. People feel attached to their place and often make a stand to live in and promote their culture there. It’s really not that hard, if you think about it. There are a few communities in Montreal (which actually, despite AFGirls intimations actually has a very low percentage of immigrants for a city its size), where people can get by without either English or French. Getting by in French in Ontarion may be a bit challenging, but it is far from impossible.

    Fon

    August 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm

  22. Sure, you can get by in French in Casselman, Hawkesbury, Hearst and perhaps a few dozen other small communities in Ontario.

    But moving to the larger cities I mentioned is virtually a cultural exile for a francophone. Now, I am not suggesting that they shouldn’t do it – if that’s what they want. People are of course free to move wherever they want and to *become* whatever they want. It just seems to me a tad inconsistent and unrealistic for someone to who claims to be so gung-ho about their francophone identity (and keen on raising their kids in it) to willingly move to a place where it is virtually non-existent.

    But if they want (their kids in particular) to be linguistic cannon fodder in the Great Canadian Language Tug-of-War, they can be my guest.

    Acajack

    August 11, 2009 at 1:35 pm

  23. Well Chantal Hebert grew up in Ottawa and Toronto and I don’t think she’s lost her French. Now it may seem anecdotal, but I’m merely asserting that it is possible.

    Fon

    August 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  24. “But if they want (their kids in particular) to be linguistic cannon fodder in the Great Canadian Language Tug-of-War, they can be my guest”

    What tug of war? It is clearly obvious where the knot is situated with respect to the line. Of course, one could say be bilingual and learn both…which of course is of no benefit to 90% of the country as a whole. So , why would they bother? In the end it is really one or the other and what we are doing now is nothing more that silly games.

    The Quebecois, from what I can gather could care less about french canadians outside of Quebec.

    The french canadians outside of Quebec are not all that enamoured with the Quebecois which continue to threaten separation.

    So what is better for all ACJ??

    I predict that if Quebec doesn’t separate and make their own way, that in perhaps 2 decades they will be totally integrated into anglo society. Just like the Quebecois who live in the West Island and really would rather speak english than french.

    Maybe I am wrong, but, I don’t think so. Given the statistics.

    Time will tell the story.

    Anonymous

    August 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

  25. I remember when I started working for a company in Cambridge a couple of years ago and there was this guy called Jake from Welland who kept gravitating towards our little French-speaking crowd. None of the guys from Québec had ever heard of Welland or could even understand that there were Franco communities by the QEW. None of the Anglos could figure out why Jake could speak French. Jake was kind of out of place with both groups. He clearly enjoyed the opportunity to speak French and was proud of his heritage and identity, yet he was so obviously and thoroughly FROM ONTARIO.

    Identity is a cruel thing.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 12, 2009 at 12:25 am

  26. “Well Chantal Hebert grew up in Ottawa and Toronto and I don’t think she’s lost her French. Now it may seem anecdotal, but I’m merely asserting that it is possible.”

    There are exceptions to every rule you know.

    I believe that Chantal Hébert’s father was a producer for Radio-Canada (French CBC), which likely means that she grew up in a household that valued the French language a lot (Radio-Canada people are like that), and also hung out with the families of her dad’s colleagues, all of whom were likely to be francophones. The vast majority of kids growing up in francophone households in southern Ontario aren’t exposed to such a pro-French environment.

    And even then, it would be interesting to know if Chantal has any siblings and if they are still francophone, or if they have all become pretty much anglicized.

    In my family, although no one has forgotten their French completely (yet), I am the only one of my generation who can be said to have a francophone family and social life. The others may *know* French, but they *live* almost entirely in English.

    Another point about Chantal Hébert is that she appears to be in her late 40s. Assimilation can occur at any time in a person or family’s existence. It didn’t happen in my family until my parents were in their mid to late 50s. Up until that point, everything in our family was French-French-French. But then, that’s when spouses and partners who don’t speak French start showing up, and you get grandkids who don’t speak it either, or at least are more comfortable in English.

    Witnessing this change in my own family, I remember telling myself that this must be how immigrant languages disappear. As long as the family nucleus is made up of people from the same ethnic origin, Italian, Ukrainian, German, etc. are likely to persist. But throw even just one non-speaker into the mix and the whole family switches to English.

    Of course, all of this is unlikely to happen to Chantal Hébert as I believe she is raising her kids in Quebec now, though I am not sure if she made the move for linguistic reasons.

    Acajack

    August 12, 2009 at 8:17 am

  27. My wife and I often talk about this. Even though we are moving in on 20 years of life in Quebec, and almost all of our friends are Québécois, we often feel like we will never really be 100% at home anywhere. In the way that a Quebec born and bred francophone can feel 100% at home in his province, or an anglo from Ontario feels totally at home there.

    You see, we still have a francophone-hors-Québec side to us (barely perceptible to our Québécois friends but still there deep inside), yet we would also be waaaay too francophone to fit into mainstream Ontario.

    It’s not really an intolerable situation to be in, but it does mean we sometimes feel like we’re sitting between two chairs (bad translation of “entre deux chaises” I think).

    Acajack

    August 12, 2009 at 8:47 am

  28. “People shouldn’t feel obligated to choose between place and language.”

    Sure, but language does have a geographic dimension, if only because you need to have to people who understand and use the same “code” (language) as you in order to be able use that code.

    Language is all about interaction with other humans. You can’t be a whatever-phone by yourself.

    Acajack

    August 12, 2009 at 9:00 am

  29. Correcting myself here: Chantal Hébert is 54 or 55.

    Acajack

    August 12, 2009 at 9:16 am

  30. “we often feel like we will never really be 100% at home anywhere”

    It seems like nothing, but psychologically it’s very hard. I know it first hand.

    Recently, I read an article about British muslims of Asian origin (Pakistani, Bangladeshi, etc…). Born and bred in the UK, they speak English as their first language (with typical British accents), yet after being told countless times by the Brits that they don’t really belong, they turn to their country of origin. That’s until they realize that people in their own country don’t want to have anything to do with them either. To them, these guys are Brits who grew up in the UK, speak like Brits, carry British passports, etc…So essentially these guys go through life looking for something to identify with, without really finding it.

    allophone

    August 12, 2009 at 10:08 am


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