In Quebec, who's celebrating being an anglo?

Posted 11.02.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | The Regional Association of West Quebecers (RAWQ) threw its annual gala recently, celebrating volunteers in various fields across West Quebec. About half of this year's winners are from the Pontiac, showing the depth of our Pontiac community. But RAWQ has minimal membership in the Pontiac, and the guest speaker for the gala addressed the history of anglo West Quebec with hardly a mention of Pontiac! If anyone's to blame for this, it's us.

RAWQ is the only organization representing the interests of our region's English-speaking communities. The francophone majority has plenty of public mouthpieces, from Quebec nationalists and political parties to cultural watchdogs like Imperatif français -- not to mention the entire Quebec government with its often nationalistic civil service.

Political parties include the PQ and Quebec Solidaire, plus several single-issue independence parties. Even the ADQ, which claims to stand outside the old sovereigntist-federalist dog-and-pony show, is dedicated only to the francophone community and culture. The new party being formed by ex-PQ minister Francois Legault appears to be following the same thrust, being conciliatory only in economic matters.

This is not a complaint. It is admirable that francophones will rally to support their language and culture almost to extremes, while anglophones appear to believe there's no minority-culture difficulties in Quebec, or in Canada. Why do English-speaking Pontiac and West Quebec residents feel there is no need to promote their own culture and language?

Francophones have an answer: all of North America is English-speaking; English culture is world-wide. So English-Canadian culture needs no promotion or protection.

Anyone who has listened to daily-life conversations among anglos knows this is not true.

Ottawa Valley English may be quaint and charming, but it is certainly poor English. Yet our schools are being squeezed, from budgets to entrance qualifications, and our cultural organizations receive very little support from our provincial government. Even the federal government's support of minority anglo culture within Quebec is disproportionate to its massive support of minority franco culture outside Quebec. Anglos in Quebec, about the population of Manitoba, are invisible.

We're not invisible, but we are weakly led and rarely mobilized. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

One reason is we want our next generation, our kids and grand-children, to be completely bilingual -- and for those who make the effort and obtain these skills, congratulations! Every anglo living in Quebec should be striving to be functionally bilingual.

There is more.

Our history and culture are worth something. There are, for example, people who argue that West Quebec was not settled by anglophones but by the French, and only later did anglos push out the French-speaking settlers. This is patently untrue, but if the big lie is repeated often enough and by local historians, this untruth will gradually be accepted as true. And that's one purpose of an organization like the Regional Association of West Quebecers. By our lack of support for RAWQ we are leaving the field open to these purveyors of the big-lie.

We are not supporting RAWQ. Its membership seems static, and mainly seniors. Its board of directors has one Pontiac member, Shawville's Rhonda Morrison; it has held annual meetings and other events in the Pontiac but attracted few people. Maybe linguistic battles are passé; I wish they were. When the next language crisis arrives, there'll be nationalist groups already at work. Quebec minorities will get no support from the federal government. We have to do it for ourselves, and RAWQ is the only show in town. Here's their number: 1-877-733-0177.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.11