Québec and Canada: More solitary than ever before

I’m an optimist. I like to think that it’s possible for my home Belle Province to take its rightful in this country, that I also love. But the latest events around the student strike tell me that this might be too much of an idealist approach.

It’s more than a matter of language, of course, but it all begins with it. It begins with Québec’s more socialist leanings compared to the rest of the country. It begins with the fact that we’ve developed a strong local cultural, political and media apparatus that doesn’t really communicate with the rest of the country.

CanCon and strikes

Quebec Walls

Melbow on Flickr

Let me put this in perspective. Yesterday afternoon on CBC Radio, I was listening to the archival show that’s on every

Thursday afternoon. They were discussing CanCon, or the famous Canadian content requirements for Canadian media broadcasters. The instigator of this CRTC bylaw, whose name I can’t recall right now, was arguing that only in Québec did you have local theatre, local television shows and local musicians being played. The rest of Canada presented mostly American content.

There’s always been a sense that Québec is, indeed, different, and that what affects it has no influence on the rest of the country. And that’s why the English Canadian media is not covering (maybe not caring) about the now 11-week long strike against tuition hikes.

In 2004, I was at UQÀM during the 7-week strike against cuts in the loans and bursaries program. Basically, the (same) Charest government wanted to stop giving a certain amount of money in bursaries and turn it into loans instead. Back then, the government backed down and the students got most of their requests.

There are hundreds of thousands of students taking to the streets every week. They are requesting a long promise of the Révolution Tranquille: free post-secondary education. You see, Québec sees education as a social good rather than as a personal investment, as the rest of Canada does.

Mutual ignorance


Socialist Québec, Socialist Canada on Flickr

In any case, this isn’t about why the English media isn’t covering the strike. It’s about how the English media (except for the CBC and local stations) isn’t talking about Québec at all. It’s about how the two cultures are really different, and not really compatible, despite being geographically close and politically joined.

I get it, this is a big country. Most interesting news are either of regional or national importance. What happens in other provinces is often overlooked by the media, especially when it has to do with Québec. However, see what happened with Alberta’s election: it made national news because what happens in Alberta is seen to affect everyone in Canada. Why is this not the case for Québec?

Québec and the rest of Canada live in mutual ignorance. Québec has its own cultural and media infrastructures that makes it more or less independent at this level. I feel extremely disconnected out here, even though I do make an effort to follow on Québec news and issues. But it’s not as easily accessible as simply watching the news or listening to the radio.

Can we talk?


Marcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr

I don’t know if English Canada will ever care about talking with Québec. Maybe this narrow but deep abyss will never be bridged; maybe the language and political barriers will never be broken. I’m no separatist, but sometimes, I get their point. If the rest of Canada doesn’t believe that Québec has anything of value to give them, can you blame them for wanting to try developing on their own? Québec feels like it owes nothing to English Canada, that it doesn’t have any influence on it and thus can live without it. Or, at worst, it believes that Canada has a negative influence.

From the other side of this, would English Canada be willing to sit down and think about what Québec brings to this country? Are there mutually positive contributions that could be discovered or enabled? Is there anything that can be used to bring the two solitudes just a bit closer? Should we introduce, like in Switzerland, mandatory bilingualism for the entire country?

Québecers don’t really like to get out of the province because they don’t think that Anglo-Canadians want to see them or hear from them. They feel irrelevant, especially culturally, when they get out of the province. I’ve felt this way; I still do sometimes. And sometimes I still hope that I will feel like I somehow belong without totally giving up my culture, but it seems increasingly hard, and I’m forgetting more and more every day.

Push and pull

I’m homesick, and I feel like home is calling me. But I don’t think I can ever see Québec the same way again; closed unto itself, with its own cultural, racial and political issues, unwilling (or unable) to participate in the larger life of this country. I wonder how many Québecers who leave eventually come back, unable to stand losing their language and their culture because there is no community to cultivate it here. Beyond the ability to eat poutine and listen to Céline Dion, is there a place for Québecers in Canada?

When we come back home, to our land and our roots, what are we? Traitors, translators or monsters? Are we ever able to take root again?



Filed under Culture, Personal, Thoughts

8 responses to “Québec and Canada: More solitary than ever before

  1. encyclocrat

    Greetings, it is unfair to say that the protests concerning the subsidizing of Quebec’s education system is not being particular attention to due to cultural differences; there just is not much interest from currently in Quebec. In Ontario tuition fees rise bewilderingly high (Education at UfT for a deregulated program such in Business ranges from 11,000-13,000); this alongside other factors such as the slashing of various grants offered by the provincial government makes it difficult to sympathize when students are in such dire straits.

    There is of course a disturbingly minimal coverage of information relating to Quebec, a casual glance at the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star over a period of time would agree with you.

    Yet at the same time why should the news have covered the BQ and their campaign for independence? It was only in this election that the BQ was swept aside by the NDP; so this is indicative (hopefully) that Quebecers feel that they can place some faith in English speakers once more.

  2. Eastern guy

    You said a lot here. I still live in Quebec and let me tell you that some of what you say is true but not everything.

    First, not the entire province is in favor of the students strike. The province is pretty devided in half on this position. This being said, half of the province is the socialist and the other half more like English Canada but who lives in Quebec.

    What frustrates me is that the medias in Quebec are leading and managing to keep people here ignorant because they mostly do not understand English. If you do and watch the news at CTV or CBC you’re good to get to know what’s going on in the entire country. I hate media here, they all suck and publish whatever they want since it keeps people here in their little bubble and make them think that their province is the best of all… which in my own opinion is totally wrong.

    What I found, since I travel the entire country, is that people in Quebec are as much different as the Albertan to someone in B.C. to anyone in P.E.I. The only thing that keeps people in the unknown of what’s going on on each side is the language barrier. I went to university in Ontario and that’s how I got to learn English, but if I had followed my super province’s plan, I’d still be confined to my province because I couldn’t understand clearly what’s happening around me. That’s how they keep people ignorant, medias (Especially TVA) tells them what is important here and are making Harper look at a far right side politically and are bashing on everything he says. While you watch the same news in English and you find out that the medias are approaching the news differently with another opinion and it’s finally good for the country.

    In Quebec it’s always been the right left side and the ugly wrong bad right side. Don’t even say the work capitalism… medias are going to kill you.

    What’s killing me is that the message in the media doesn’t reflect what people think, but what the socialist medias are trying to make you think is good. They don’t let you make you’re own opinion. They dict you how to think. There is only Mario Dumont who almost won the election with the ADQ party back in the early 2000’s.

    I am totally sick of it and seriously thinking about leaving this province, not because I don’t like it, because everything you hear is the loud minority and not the quiet majority. The loud minority’s message is so predominant and medias are letting so much exposure to them that seems to be the most of us. But it’s not.

    I personally don’t think that our province is managed by our PM right now but by the medias that are making the news sound like they want them to be, the over powered working unions and the loud minority.

    Finally, it is no wonder why the English Canada does not cover anything anymore in Quebec, I don’t remember the time I’ve seen a good news on TV. It always about a small group of people complaining about something they’re not happy about and asking the PM to resign his position… seriously.

    And yes when something happens we do have news from other provinces, but it needs to be serious like, wild fire, float, storms. We got a little bit of the Alberta election but only on V tele which is the less popular media of the 3 and the most centered politically.

    Like I said, I am now seriously considering moving out of here and hopefully to get something better. I’m thinking about Calgary or Vancouver we’ll see.

    • Anabelle

      I didn’t make a judgement on the legitimacy of the strike. Having been in one, but also having lived outside, it’s hard for me to take a definite stand. Sure, it’s cheaper there, but they also pay much more taxes. And education has a different value, which should change the value that the government gives to it.

      In any case, don’t move to Vancouver–see my super crazy viral blog post about it. Just search it. There are no jobs here, at least no interesting ones to make a career out of. Go to Calgary, you have a much better chance of making a good salary. It’s flat and dready, but the money is good.

  3. Eastern guy

    And about your felling of homesickness, trust me you do not want to come back. Your first language is only a state of mind, as long as you speak a language and you can make people understand you you are good to go, whether it’s French, English, German or Spanish, the language is only a way to communicate with other.

    • Anabelle

      I don’t really agree with you on that point. Language shapes the way you think and the way you see the world. Your original culture is the one you compare everything to and your cultural compass. I can’t stand English humour and I miss Québec humour so much because there is nothing like it out here–just an example.

  4. Eastern guy

    You are probably in a better place than I am to say if there is jobs in Van city or not. But I think it depends on the industry and sector you are in.

    I’m going to speak only to myself, and job I am doing right now is somewhat well paid. a bit over 60k to 80k depending on performance. However, I looked over the internet for job posting and saw multiple jobs in business that are paying 30 to 50k more that I do right now in Quebec. I’m not talking about Calgary cause it’d double. I’m just not sure about Alberta and prairies.. I think I’ll get bored or have to get to the rockies every week-end.

    I also read your post on Vancouver and all the hundred comments beneath it. I understand your point and it is legitimate. I have also read lots of other opinion and I can tell that it is about 60% who succeed and totally love it over 40% who don’t. There is nobody in between.

    So I guess it’s really depending on your chances and what you do. People who love it and enjoy… are usually people who work hard and love outdoors during week-end and evenings.(from what I heard) I am not really moving for the city itself but for everything around it.

    I know it is expensive to live there, but right now in Quebec house prices are booming and even if we’re still not paying the same price, our income tax rate and good are so high… that we barely can afford to buy more then 300K and let me tell you… you get a single detached bugalow with 2 bedrooms for that. (I mean for young professionals not baby boomers we all know they have money)

    I kinda agree with you for humor… but I didn’t find it too much different. I also noticed that when I am with englos they’re all like, man your so open and doesnt seem to be offended by anything… but that’s the way I am cause even in Quebec people say that to me. It’s more about the people you are with and meet then anything else. I found that if you meet people with the same interest and hobbies, activities etc… you’ll get along with everyone on the planet the since its become more of a worldwide lifestyle then a local perspective… we are not in the 50’s anymore… people connect and chat from anywhere.

    About the language, I am not going to argue with you since it is a personal feeling of a culture or way to communicate. We have our own way to see it and it’s totally understandable.

    I am not suggesting, but if you want to, come back, you’ll see you will probably wanna go back.

    It’s too bad that the politically correct Quebecer way of thinking doesn’t fit with mine, cause I like it here… you’ve get good (not great) mountains, with the st-lawrence and lots of nice little towns and history. But it makes me angry everytime I turn the TV on and watch the news and see where our… (my)… generation is heading.

    I say all that because this is what I see everyday from here. I am not saying it is perfect elsewhere.. but I am sure there is better and somewhere that my way of thinking, political view and economics understanding would fit in.

    I don’t mean to be mean at all, but I think everyone has to find his own place, and I don’t think Quebec is mine, but great if its the one for somebody else.

    • Anabelle

      No, I totally get your point. If you’re in the right kind of field, yeah, Vancouver can work. It really depends. You’re sure to make REALLY good money in Calgary, and you’re basically at the foot of the Rockies. Like literally, it’s closer than Mtl-Laurentides. It’s a different kind of landscape, but it has its beauty too.

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