Hubby and I decided to take a few days and visit Quebec City, Canada. The city is beautiful, and to say it is very French is an understatement. Quebec seems to be more French than France. I’d say it is the center out of which all the Frenchness in Canada flows.
Since, I visit Vancouver and Victoria BC fairly often, I thought Quebec might be similar with perhaps a bit more French spoken. I’ve often laughed on my visits through British Columbia about all the signs being in French and English and how redundant they appear to me.
Loren and I have traveled to France and French Polynesia, but nowhere, have I had to rely on my college level, but long forgotten, French as I did in Quebec. I came prepared to chuckle over signs in French and English. I didn’t see much English anywhere. All day, I translated menus for Hubby and read signs. He may have had a more colorful trip than most tourists because of my inaccurate translations of signs on buildings and shop fronts. I confess, when I got tired, I started making stuff up. “Oh look Honey, shoes made out of mushrooms,”–or whatever.
While it is fun to be amused over my challenges in a forgotten second language, Hubby saw a display in the museum that shocked him. He knew Quebec was French until some treaty gave the territory to England. What he’d never learned before was that the English attacked the city and conquered it. The citizens were not happy. The people of Quebec had no say in their fates, so like many powerless peoples, they rebelled in the only way they could, refusing to speak English and clinging to French architecture and culture.
The rest of Canada seems to tolerate the uniqueness of Quebec. I’ve heard friends from Vancouver or Yukon Territory or Alberta snort and say, “Those people. They really are not like the rest of Canadians.” An eye roll frequently accompanies this statement. However, Canadians in general are pretty nice about most things, except hockey, so this bi-cultural arrangement works for them, most of the time. They’ve had some bumps along the way with threats to secede, but have worked things out.
I guess the significant fact here is that the people of Quebec became part of Canada against their will. While some people recognized the benefits of being part of England—particularly an end to constant bickering with their English neighbors, they saw no reason to change their identity and language.
While Quebec has formed a decent relationship with the rest of Canada, these people have prompted me to ask, “How many other places around the world are like Quebec? Cultural groups may be aligned with a particular nation, but don’t identify with the majority in the country?”
Looking at the sharp language and cultural differences in Quebec City forced me to think about civil unrest around the globe. How many times do we hear of rebel forces here or there, who are no different, really, from the people of Quebec. They just want to speak their own language, eat their own food, and worship in their own way, or to go about their lives without the threat of genocide hanging over them.
As I continued to think about this problem, it occurred to me that the world has a wonderful resource in the people of Quebec and Montreal. Perhaps these people should be our advisors in how to handle a situation where a group with different ethnic ties from their government comes into conflict with their government over those differences. I’d like to hear their opinions.
Delinda McCann writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist and has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.