Montreal philosopher Pierre Desjardins has an article in Quebec City’s Le Soleil about how horrible Montreal is. It’s getting some reaction from defensive anglo Montrealers who object to his suggestions that Westmount anglos control everything.
That, combined with some comments on Patrick Lagacé’s blog about the Office québécois de la langue anglaise has forced me to conclude that there are many unilingual francophones who need some education about the other solitude.
So as a public service, I’m going to dispel some myths concerning the Maudit Anglais (in a language that its targetted audience won’t understand, just to be ironic). Though there may be some anglos who fit these descriptions, they aren’t the majority.
Myth 1: All anglos want Quebec to be English-only
Hell no. You think we want another Toronto? We’re proud of the fact that Montreal is the most bilingual city in North America. We’re proud of its culture, its heritage, its women. Even militant anglos don’t want anything more than equal treatment of the two languages.
Myth 2: Anglos have all the political power in Quebec
Take a look at the politicians elected here. The number of anglophone MNAs and Quebec anglo MPs is enough to count on one hand. Elections are decided in the “régions” where the population is almost entirely francophone.
Myth 3: Anglos have all the economic power in Quebec
It’s true that, statistically, unilingual anglophones make a bit more than unilingual francophones in this province (PDF link). But neither come close to the median income of bilingual Quebecers. For young Quebecers (15-24), unilingual anglos in Quebec make slightly less money than unilingual francophones (probably due to the fact that it’s difficult for a unilingual anglophone to get a public-service job here). The economic situation of francophones here has improved much more than the situation of anglophones. The list of richest Quebecers includes some anglo names, but is dominated by francophones.
Myth 4: All anglos think English is in danger of extinction
The argument isn’t that English is in danger, but that French is not. Both languages can live on, our children taught to become bilingual, everyone having the freedom to use whatever language they prefer (or, in many cases, both at the same time). Bill 101, whether it was even necessary or not, has done its job. French isn’t going anywhere.
That said, there is a concern that small cultural communities might be in danger. There are some corners of Quebec with an anglophone heritage that it seems certain radical francophones would much rather see forgotten.
Myth 5: All anglos see themselves as Canadians but not Quebecers
Just because we don’t vote PQ doesn’t mean we’re not Quebecers. We take pride in our home towns, home provinces and home country. I look forward to a day when I can attend St. Jean Baptiste celebrations and have it not be a Canada/anglo bashfest.
Myth 6: All anglos want Quebec to become more bilingual, but the rest of the country to stay English-only
This is the part where we get confused with people from Alberta who think the federal government is discriminating against them because it wants service employees to be bilingual. While French is not in danger in Quebec, it is in danger in other provinces where the number of unilingual francophones is almost nil. But because the separatist movement has created this us-vs-them mentality, efforts to boost the French language have been focused only on this province, instead of in New Brunswick, Manitoba or Ontario where they’re badly needed.
Myth 7: Anglos don’t want to learn French
While some take pride in their ignorance, most unilingual anglos view their lack of bilingualism as a serious fault. Many come from out of the province, where French education is so basic as to be virtually useless. Learning a language is hard, especially for adults, and it doesn’t come overnight.
Myth 8: Anglos have different political views concerning non-language issues
There is a perception that anglos are more right-wing than francophones, possibly because Quebec is very left-leaning while Alberta is on the opposite side of the left-right spectrum. But anglos vote Liberal. And all of the Conservative MPs from Quebec represent francophone areas.
Myth 9: All anglos live in Westmount, the West Island, Mount Royal, Cote-St-Hamp-West and Hudson
Anglos, especially young ones, live all around the island of Montreal and even all over Quebec. They are concentrated in certain communities, mainly because of the same ghettoization that affects cultural minorities. If animosity were to ever die down, we’d see a lot less of that. The implication is that anglos are rich, living on high-value properties. But there are plenty of expensive areas like Outremont that are mostly francophone.
Myth 10: All anglos don’t want games/cereal boxes/movies translated into French
I think it’s ridiculous that some companies want to sell things here without translating them into the most common native language. (Even more ridiculous is some of the translations some of these companies come up with — movie titles for instance.) Government regulation to enforce this is entirely appropriate. Funding (or tax breaks) to encourage it is better.
Myth 11: English commercial signs are all over the place
Sadly, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and the rest (mostly American multinationals) have taken advantage of a loophole in Bill 101 by using registered trademarks in their names and outdoor signage. Much as we’d like to take credit for that, it’s not our fault. Stop going there and shop local, and they’ll start disappearing.
Myth 12: Anglos have horns growing out the sides of their heads
Only on the left side.