The Quebec of my dreams

It would speak French. And mix curry with maple syrup.

Left and Right: Getty Images. Montage: Maclean's.

Lise Ravary is a columnist and blogger for Le Journal de Montréal

A few months ago, I wrote about the largely white, mostly Francophone and very boring reality of the Montreal area where I live. It came back to me as I pondered the Québec the Parti Québécois wants to build and the accusations of self-loathing thrown at those who do not practice identity nationalism.

Why does it bother me so much? I am a Canadian and I belong to the Québec people. I am proud of my French Canadian roots and of the culture that nurtured me. I grew up in a working class part of town. We did not go to Place des Arts to hear classical music. We watched québécois sit-coms on TV. I am proud to be a native French speaker.

I attended university in English. The experience didn’t assimilate me or turn me into the stereotypical West Island Anglo hag. If anything it reminded me that the Quebec of my dreams would speak French and would work to keep it that way. Like the Danes are proud to be Danish and speak Danish. Since we live amongst some 340 million English speakers, we would all speak English well enough. We would stop believing the canard that only Québec has an original culture.

We would get rid of our inferiority complex. We’ve been around since 1534. We have lived under the British, the most powerful colonial master of its time and yet, our culture and language have remained strong. The biggest threat comes not from immigrants or Anglo Québécois: it hails from Hollywood.

Of course, we would speak and write impeccable French. We need to teach it love and use it with care. And keep our accent brought over from Old France: I like the fact that it bothers the French.

The doors of Québec would be open to all the peoples who share our values of liberty, equality and secularism, but never would we ask them to shed the culture into which they were born. It is sad to meet the child of Italian immigrants who cannot speak Italian.

The Québec of my dreams would host many religions: Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Orthodox, Jews, Evangelicals, Mormons, Wiccans, all living in harmony with the local “Cathatheists,” a homegrown yes-no faith. In a generation or two, curry, cumin and coriander will mix well enough with maple syrup to ensure that the children and grand children of immigrants are as pure laine as those of us with Québécois ancestors.

It takes time to build a Québécois, whether she or he hails from Bordeaux, Casablanca or Shanghai. Speaking the same language only ensures linguistic integration, no more. I am not French. Never been. Never wanted to be. The way of life in France is as alien to me as any other European country. My ancestor, François Ravary dit Francoeur, came to Québec in 1733 from Le Mans, in the Loire region of France. I have never been to Le Mans, and there are many other places on my list of places to see before I die.

As a child, sadly, I was not taught about the authors and the thinkers from other French-speaking countries: African countries, Arab lands, Haiti and other Caribbean nations, Switzerland, Belgium, French South Pacific islands, Romania even. It was always France, France, France. And now, today, it’s all Québec, Québec, Québec.

Secularism would protect the rich diversity of religions. Secularism is about separating church and state, not making religion disappear. Police officers, teachers, judges and other representatives of the state would not be allowed to wear obvious religious signs. At the hospital, you take the doctor you get, male or female, unless you are elderly. You want the windows of our gyms covered because you don’t want to see women exercising ? Cover your own. Want to preach God? Have some serious credentials and obtain a permit, like any other peddler.

It would not be OK to go around in public with one’s face hidden behind a veil or a hood, we’d be quite strict about that. And yes, masks are OK on Halloween, Purim, and on a ski slope.

Montréal will never be a Megapolis. But, what the heck, let’s act big—big like Boston, as Jacques Parizeau used to say. When everyone is the same, it’s as dull as watching paint dry. We need to enrich our art with the creativity of others. We have painted enough rural scenes of the Charlevoix area to last us a couple of centuries. There are many ways to be a Québécois. Otherwise, life here would be so boring.




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The Quebec of my dreams

  1. “As a child, sadly, I was not taught about the authors and the thinkers
    from other French-speaking countries: African countries, Arab lands,
    Haiti and other Caribbean nations, Switzerland, Belgium, French South
    Pacific islands, Romania even. It was always France, France, France. And
    now, today, it’s all Québec, Québec, Québec”

    To some extent the same would be true of Anglo Canada – but not for 75 years or more now, when being “British” was a cut above the rest – at least for some. Hopefully one day Quebec will have enough self confidence to step out into the big wide world without fear of losing anything. Hopefully when that happens they’ll still choose to do so as Canadians.

    Anyone else find the author’s meaning hard to follow after the para starting – “Secularism would protect…”

    There’s a strange sea change. It’s almost as if the woulds might be shoulds?

  2. Nice piece. I’m in the same boat.

  3. Then speak Metro and not Quebecois…be the European Montreal that used to exist and not something smaller than Toronto, but with smoked meat.

    Get over the Habitant history and join the world.

  4. The Quebec described as that of the author’s dreams is basically identical to the one that the Parti québécois espouses. All the major points are there: secularism, integration of newcomers into the French-speaking majority, greater ties with the other French-speaking nations of the world, etc.. The only difference is that the PQ believes that independence is necessary in order to achieve this, and for the most part they are right.

  5. Typical Franco-Quebecer even when you’re supposedly trying to be open minded you are closed and you are oblivious to “it”. You talked about the exotic and the anglos within the Quebec border but you did not acknowledge once the most important part of the Canada/Quebec equation- the rest of Canada. The fact that we Quebecers are raised to know nothing of our own neighbours – the other provinces – is disgusting. But you choose to complain about not learning of far off lands. Why do you not care of your own country and the truth behind the issues that drove you to write this? All this talk about how we have special needs because we’re so special just because we say so and choose not to knwo different. People like Marois think franco-quebecers are special because they are too ignorant to look at their neighbours…the ones that pay the price for Quebec’s stupidity. People like that animal refer to Canadians outside of Canada as “the rest of them” like they are one big army of replicas. Disgusting. Newfoundland has more culture than Quebec and an anglo Nova Scotian is not a Manitoban and vice versa just because they MAY both speak english. But guess what! The the hypocrisygets better as Quebecers refuse to acknowledge francophones outside of Quebec. Yes, Quebec is not the only place in Canada that speaks french. Quebec is destroying other French-Canadian communities with their cultural greed and demands for franco dominance. Anglos are the ones under threat. The USA is destroying their culture while they pay (literally) so that we can have our own movies, TV shows and social programs to keep our culture. DISGUSTING. YOU did not acknowledge Canadians in your little stupid piece. You ARE NOT NICE or open-minded. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Yes, paranoid francos worry about the immigrants but the bigger problem is the double standard BS Quebec puts out to the rest of the country.

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