Anglo myths exposed

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.

10 thoughts on “Anglo myths exposed

  1. heri

    hey fagstein, i will have to reflect the points you just made about anglos, but i just read pierre desjardins’s column and it “sounds right”. i agree with him about lack of architecture, problems with roads, infrastructure, economic problems. someone should step up for this.

  2. Tremblay L.

    Great post. The article on Montreal in the Soleil is disgusting. The Montreal the guy (who’s that guy anyway??) is describing is awfully pessimistic and outdated. I doubt the author is even living in montreal.

    I’ve been born and raised in 99.9% francophone, catholic Lac-St-Jean. I’m personnaly separatist for my reasons. I love Montreal as you do for it’s mix of different cultures. Montreal wouldn’t be what it is without anglos and francos. The Montreal I love is bilingual, multicultural and most importantly open-minded.

    The problem is one of communication and education. Some Anglos need to realize separatists aren’t english-haters and some Francophones need to realize most anglos are just like them and they love quebec’s culture. And we need to talk. There should be a tv show or something on radio-canada where a reporter would meet people from the english-communities and talk to them.

    We gotta fight against ignorance and misconceptions.

  3. french panic

    “We’re proud of its culture, its heritage, its women”.

    Very interesting that Montrealers are still bizarrely proud of such a trite genderalization: Montreal as a mecca comprised of hot women. Are you referring to the throat-cancered croakers of a certain age with high waisted leather pants and brittle blonde-bleached or red-hennaed hair? Or all those fat Wal-Mart/Costco shoppers in the burbs? Or is it the 20 something anorexics with the geometrically-challenged hair cuts that you are referring to? They look pretty, yes, but have you ever had to sit next to them on the bus or metro? Bad breath and horrifying body odour. Seriously gross. (Okay, that was just during one morning commute, but having a stinking hairy armpit waved in my face by one smelly lass followed by her companion yawning her deathbreath all over me… it’s left a lasting impression.)

    Montrealers being proud of “its women”? What sort of crazy irresponsible pap is that? Women are trophies to be lauded? WTF?

  4. Pamplemousse

    While I appreciate you defence of anglos in Québec, as I am one, I have to take you to task for encouraging even more myths, specifically comments regarding Alberta.

    I am from Alberta. I am not especially proud of that, but I’m not ashamed either.

    First off, I have rarely heard any thing more disparaging to the french language other than ‘those frogs sure sound funny, eh?’ Nobody seems to be seriously put out that federal jobs often require french language skills.

    Why? Because there actually are very vibrant and healthy french communities across Alberta. Entire towns where french is the primary language. That goes for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario aswell (I’m not as certain regarding BC).

    Add to that that almost every grade school kid has to be exposed to french class at some point and that many, many people, such as myself, are the products of french immersion. The University of Alberta actually has a faculty that operates entirely in french (in a neighbourhood of Edmonton that is largely french speaking).

    Although Alberta has a love affair with conservative politics, I would encourage you to look at a map and realize that it is a largely rural province with an awe inspiring bible belt all of its own. According to Québec’s little Reasonable Accommodation Commission, one can quickly surmise that Québec has it’s own issues with right wing politics and a similar belt of religion, (as does Ontario… anyone else remember Mike Harris?)

    Ignorance is not the sole property of the right. An ex-boss of mine here in Montréal, decided that I was not terribly intelligent because of the fact that I came from Alberta. Had he not been dumb enough to tell this to another employee, I may have only been able to guess that he saw me as a country bumpkin.

    And while I am capable of saddling a horse, shooting a rifle, and driving a quad up a mountain, I can also read books without pictures, enjoy a documentary, drink fine wine and tell the difference between good coffee and that swill at Tim Horton’s.

    Perhaps a critique of generalisations should not include more generalisations.

  5. Fagstein Post author

    My comments about Alberta were based mostly on comments from Conservative (then Canadian Alliance) MPs that bilingual requirements for hiring were discriminating against anglophones.

    Mind you, now that I’m looking it up, the two MPs I found with statements of that nature came from Saskatchewan and Ontario, not Alberta. Other comments can be seen here about the issue.

  6. Christopher DeWolf

    You know, I also grew up in Alberta, and I have to say that an anglo transplant from that province is probably more likely to speak French than an anglo transplant from BC or Ontario. French immersion is hugely popular in Alberta, especially among upper middle-class and immigrant families. There are also a lot of ex-Montrealers in Calgary (they came in two waves, one during the 1970s and the other in the 1990s) and they seem very concerned about making sure their kids speak French.

    On a similar note, I’m not sure why McGill gets so muck flak. Its FRSL courses are really exceptional. Two years of French at McGill will do way more for you than 12 years of “core French” education at any ROC school.

  7. princess iveylocks

    Myth 12: Anglos have horns growing out the sides of their heads

    I also have a tail growing out of my… never mind.

  8. Dur Yodhan

    English is an official language of Quebec, all laws still have to be written in English when formulated. It was only in 1974 that Quebec Liberal party under Robert Bourassa declared French the official language of quebec. Also since non francophones and anglophones didn’t do much about it then that things like Bill 101, bill 104 keep getting shoved down every quebecers throat.

    Even today constitutionally Quebec school system is obligated to open up the English schools to all children that are canadian citizens that have taken any kind of education in English or come from English speaking countries. That right there would open up at least 15 000 to possible 25 000 students to English school in quebec, concentrated in mostly on Montreal Island.

    In the end even if Bill 101 is found unconstitutional there has to be backbone in the federal government to actually enforce the canadian constitution, which is ignored by most governments in canada anyway.


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