The Animosity Continues
Attended Cinéma Beaubien — Regarding Quebec My Country Mon Pays
Never go to this theatre if you aren’t a Francophile! I went to see a documentary (which was in English ironically) on how Francophones drove Anglophones out of Quebec in the ’60s and ’70s and was treated just like the individuals the movie was about. How ironic. Will be writing the filmmaker about my experience.
Ne jamais y aller si vous n’êtes pas francophile! Je suis allé voir un documentaire (qui était en anglais ironiquement) sur la façon dont les francophones ont expulsé les anglophones du Québec dans les années 60 et 70 et ont été traités comme les individus dont le film concernait. Quelle ironie. Écrira le cinéaste sur mon expérience.
– Danielle Crossley
Watching your film was probably one of the most depressing things I’ve seen in years.
As someone born in Montréal in 1966 and still here with my French-Canadian wife and our two daughters, I was so disgusted with Arcand and his thinking that no one cares! Who cares? The economy of the province cares! It has been in the toilet compared to Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary due to small-minded separatists dreaming the dream of independence.
It isn’t until this dream is shelved that Québecers will be able to prosper.
I knew Falardeau was a fool but I was shocked to hear Arcand.
I’ve worked for an MP and have held a government post. I’ve worked hard for my family to prosper in Québec, but it remains a never-ending battle against the feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and paranoia.
I work in Ontario approximately 100 days a year and my wish is that Québecers see the prosperity a thriving economy brings in terms of property value, jobs, education, healthcare, and numerous other things.
Wake up Québec! You are being held back like the church held you back! But now it is the nationalists that play to your fears and insecurities and until you open your eyes and your minds to the rest of North America, you will remain a backwater like a Mexican province or a 19th century Mississippi.
Pro Quebecois or NOT!
Québec, my Country 1970
“Do you want to ride our mini-bikes today?” I asked my friend. “We can meet at my house after school.” “OK,” said my friend; and so was another fun-filled day of riding behind our house in what was referred to as the ‘Apple Orchard.’ I don’t have a clear memory of the exact day or time, but I believe it was in the fall of 1970. I say this because this period of my life was filled with many trials and tribulations. My parents were about to separate, school was not going well for me, and the crisis in Montréal was top-of-mind among the French and the English.
I have so many fond memories of my childhood, and to this day still feel like a proud Montréaler. My many happy times came when I was riding down the paths in the woods, not thinking about my family problems, or my school problems, or the awareness of disgruntles between the French and the English. However, I will never forget this one time my friend and I went for a ride on his mini-bike in the Apple Orchard. There was a feeling of tension during this period in Québec. I was about 13 years old and, as you can imagine, my concerns were about the kidnappings going on and the people wearing masks and spray-painting out the word “STOP” on our stop signs so only “Arrêt” would show.
“Are you ready, let’s goooooo!” Off we went, following the perfectly carved out path, weaving and avoiding fallen branches. There were so many paths to follow; we felt like we were riding for miles, twisting and turning, keeping an eye out for partridges, squirrels, and skunks to avoid. It was the best feeling in the world! Except, this one day, we rode over a tripwire across the path. This simple wire was there to make noise and alert two militiamen hiding in the woods, obviously bored, but doing what they could to protect the radio tower station that was (I believe) a part of the Dorval Airport. Dressed in military garb, carrying guns, and wearing helmets camouflaged with branches and leaves, they jumped out from behind the trees and stopped us by screaming in French, “Pro Québécois? Pro Québécois?” We were so afraid, we didn’t know what to say! I don’t remember how old they were, I’d say late teens or early twenties, but they were older than us and very intimidating—they had guns! And, they were speaking to us in French. My own French was basic and not good enough to convince them of us being pro anything! So, we replied “Oui!” They laughed and conversed between themselves while we just stared at them and waited, not knowing what to do or say. After what seemed like forever, they waved us on and went back into the brush, resetting their little trap for the next children who came along; or maybe to do the job they were there to do, protect the radio tower (from exactly what I do not know!)
I am now a 60-year-old man, and have lived this memory all my life. It is hard to understand all of what happened during that tumultuous period in Québec, especially as a young teenager. But the effect it had on me has been everlasting. I am as much of a Québecer as any—an English-speaking or French-speaking person who still lives in Québec or has moved away.
History will undoubtedly judge this period, and my memory may fade, but my feeling of how this incident shaped me will live etched in me forever.
Here’s one more reason to ask us to all get along, regardless our beliefs. I do not know for sure if this time period influenced me to not become bilingual, but I can say for sure it was a reason for me to have a negative impression of those who think Québec should separate and be their own country. We are all CANADIANS. The diversity of our vast country is exactly why I am a very proud Canadian and proud to say I was born in Québec, regardless of what language I speak!
– Ian Marc Smith, Pro Canada
I have often wondered why there are so few (or no) documentaries or news pieces telling the story of how disenfranchised the Québec Anglophones felt in the 70’s and 80’s. Unfortunately, many of the ‘decision-makers’ who uprooted their families are reaching their retirement or senior years and their stories will be gone forever. I truly believe Canada owes them a voice. There was a persecution of sorts, a fear instilled in people so deeply that they left their families, their land, and their friends to escape what they believed would be a grim future for them and their children if they were English speakers in a French-only culture. This was certainly true in Montréal, but it was no less valid in rural Québec. In fact, the opportunities for rural Anglophone Québecers went from small to zero in a matter of a few years, especially for those older than 40 who did not have the will or resources to re-train themselves or learn a new language well enough to work in it.
We had a very nuclear family, living in a small coastal town. With many cousins, aunts, and uncles on both my father’s and mother’s sides, family was at the heart of everything we did. We were country people who had no great wealth but were very happy with our collective lot in life. from 1979-1984 the entire family dispersed to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta, effectively changing our lives forever and creating distance where none had existed before. The family support structure was gone in the blink of an eye and I don’t even believe anyone realized at the time how much of an impact it would have on our lives. We moved to New Brunswick, my parents in their late 50’s to a place where they had no friends and no family, just the 3 of us, my older siblings having already left the house. I am very proud of what they did. It takes courage to move your family when necessary and become a “middle class refugee” in your own country. They made a life, made friends, and supported their family for their entire lives… but I do know that they missed their extended family terribly, and it was painful having to get news via phone or letters (as this was all pre-internet) versus walking or driving down the road for a visit.
The Parti Québécois made conditions as uncomfortable as possible for the Anglophone community to get them to move and reduce their numbers to solidify their own populous support and reach their end game of separation, and everyone stood by and let it happen. That was shameful, in my opinion, but maybe my life as an Anglophone and a Canadian is better for it now. I miss those times, those early years and the wonderful sense of family that we had. Unfortunately, my own children never had the privilege of growing up around my extended family and I feel guilty that I could not provide that to them to this day. Our lives are good, we have all found happiness and peace, but it does not make what happened then, in the dark years of Québec language division, anymore right.
I hope to see this film. There is always some comfort in knowing that your story is the story of many, and your feelings (resentment, relief, grief, and happiness) are shared with others that have traveled a similar path.
– J. Mullin
My story is typical of many third generation Montréalers who left Québec in the late seventies and eighties. Growing up in the exclusively English neighborhoods of Montréal, my contacts with French Canadians only began after graduating from McGill and entering the workforce in the early seventies. It became clear to me that fluency in a future Québec was essential—my French was poor—and that the career prospects in Québec for me were not encouraging. In addition, the political upheaval was ominously similar to events in Germany in the thirties, albeit far less extreme. I clearly felt unwelcome and made my way to California, to Silicon Valley, where the future looked brighter.
Looking back now almost 40 years later, I must admit that being encouraged to leave has worked out to my benefit in too many ways to describe. That said, I have many wonderful memories from growing up in Montréal. I still visit the city almost every year, but nowadays it lacks for me the sparkle and optimism that I experienced during the fifties and sixties. Perhaps this is more about me than the city itself.
I’m glad that my greatest fears for Québec appear to have faded away and the few friends and family who chose to stay are doing fine.
Growing up in Quebec
I was born and lived in Lachute, Quebec until graduating high school, spending school holidays with my cousin John Walker. I watched as many schoolmates who graduated with me followed those from previous years, heading West to work. I still remember how alarming the news was of the bombs going off in the mail boxes near my grandmother’s Westmount home, and of the daughter of James Cross being escorted from our High School by police, where she worked, when he was abducted.
I graduated from nursing at Dawson College, having lived and worked in Montreal the four years after high school. Although I thought I’d always live in Montreal, I left Quebec in 1975 and haven’t lived in the province since. In my case, it was following the men I would marry and their jobs that first took me to Ottawa, then to British Columbia and Alberta, then finally back to Ontario. To be near aging parents upon moving back East for my husband’s job in Brownsburg, we chose to live across the bridge from Quebec, in Hawkesbury, Ontario because we were not fluent in French. Many former friends and neighbours from Lachute had moved to that area.
With the passing of my parents, I sold our farm in Lachute in 1999, finally severing my ties to Quebec. Although Lachute will be always be my hometown and Quebec where I came from, it is no longer “home” for me, yet it is still home to aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Now, sadly, Quebec has become a place we visit and attend funerals.
– Linda Hanly Reid
1963 Truthfully Recalled
My neighbours get full credit for my being at Hoc Docs Theatre and seeing this film. I watched John Walker’s movie with both joy and sadness, and virtually cried at Denys Arcand’s blunt assertions about revolutions and the absence of Québécois sorrow at losing a few hundred thousand citizens.
Now a 30-year resident of Toronto, I suffered culture shock in the early years and attempted to downplay my displacement. I even drove to Ville d’Anjou to get my hair cut 2-3 times a year as part of a ritual to embrace my fading past.
As a graduate of MRHS (1963), I shared quite a bit of John Walker’s early life experience, him and I being almost the same age. Fortunately, we shared a few words in the lobby after the screening, but wished our brief chat could have been longer.
I will track down the movie and see it again because it encapsulated so much of the world that I left behind. I still feel a deep den of loss at what I left in 1986. Thanks, John. You made a movie that spoke with healing truth directly to a sad part of my soul. I am deeply appreciative.
– Doug C.
Moving to Quebec
I saw the first screening yesterday and was tremendously moved and stimulated by it. The film is visually beautiful and thought provoking. The room was full of Montreal expats, but I am a Torontonian who tried to migrate in the other direction. Attracted by the Quiet Revolution, I did my internship in medicine in 1967 at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital, living and working in French, with the intention of settling in the province. As poignantly illustrated by the film, speaking the language and loving the life in the province is not enough to be accepted into the main stream. I was offered a job to continue my training in Montréal at the end of the year, but I told the guy that I had no roots in the province and was going home to Toronto. With that said, I still love to visit Montreal. Bravo to John Walker on a wonderful film.
– Michael Schwartz
Email Subject: Montreal Girl Sees Movie, Finds Peace
Your film brings to the light of day, that which so many of us have not spoken about, that we never completely left.
It returns a sense of belonging… now I feel I can let something go and in so doing, look at mon pays in a new light. This is so healthy for the members of the almost silent diaspora. You have done a great service for all of us Mr. Walker: the last scene of you walking through the streets — it was hard to keep back the tears — no words needed.
– Susan Morrison