• Menu

Two Solitudes And One Loneliness

O Canada...
O Canada...

Not only I betrayed France by crossing the Atlantic Ocean, but apparently I also betrayed French language. Oh, that’s great.

Summary: Quebec’s official language is French. Not English. Not both languages. French. The province is also quite a fighter: given its heritage and the preponderance of French, there’s an ongoing debate regarding the status of Quebec. Some want to separate from Canada (they are known as separatists or sovereignists), some wish to separate in theory but wouldn’t actually vote “yes” in a referendum and some are fiercely against separating from Canada (they are known as federalists).

The issue is complex and highly political. It took me years to understand it and yet, I sometimes quite don’t get everything. It’s also one of Canada’s most touchy subjects, so it’s hard to speak without offending anyone. Not that I care anyway.

Some Quebecers would argue as follow: philosophically, the province isn’t a province but a nation, where people speak the same language and have distinct society. Culturally speaking, Quebec is different: it has its own artists, its own musicians, its own writers. And Quebec has a painful history: English have for long dominated Canada and therefore, Quebec.

But the whole issue mostly revolve around languages. Quebec is the only province in Canada where French is the official language (only the province of New-Brunswick is bilingual). And it’s also the only place in North America where French is widely spoken. Despite some Canadian leaders’ efforts, the country is not bilingual yet, even though French is much more than a foreign language in a lot of places in Canada. So, French language has to be protected in North America. And the best way to do that would be for Quebec to be a nation. Otherwise, French language would be doomed forever.

And here I am. I’m French, almost Canadian now. I speak French and English. And I live in Ontario, not Quebec. See where I’m going? My seat isn’t always comfortable.

Regardless, note that I’m a French teacher, so I must care somehow. I do. I like French language – I like languages as a matter of fact. I’m just not sure how far you can go to protect one. I was born as French and this language was given to me at birth. I like it because I can make nice sentences and read literature. But I don’t think it should be a burden on my back nor a “gift” I should defend no matter what. That’s probably why I chose to live in Ontario and why I chose to live in English, except at my current work where of course I speak French most of time.

It’s not because French is disappearing in North America, as I’ve heard many times, that I will take arms, move to Québec and run with the pack. I try to make my students love French, that’s about it. I don’t convert – I offer.

According to some Quebecers, speaking French outside Quebec is useless and bound to fail. Basically, all French speakers should all gather in Quebec and defend French. Besides, the dream of a bilingual country is naive at best. English on one side, French on the other. That’s it. Canada’s bilingual and bicultural culture is often expressed in this term: the two solitudes.

How much time did I hear that? Too many. I was even called a collaborationist by a few Quebecers. Sold to the enemy, like the French who collaborated with Nazi Germany during WW2. Ouch, it hurts. Their stupidity I mean, not the comment.

I don’t want to live in Quebec. I have nothing against it, but I just don’t feel close to the culture. Like I wouldn’t feel like living in Paris, or Munich for example. Nothing personal. It’s just not for me. I feel comfortable in English Canada: I like its multiculturalism, its politics, its culture and its people. It’s my home now.

Immigrating to Canada – or to anywhere in the world – also means landing in the middle of battles we, immigrants, neither started nor are responsible for. Yet, we are “forced” to take a side. Or try to make things better, somehow. We can’t see the issues the same way locals do because we don’t usually have the same background and we don’t always share the same history. But it could be seen as a chance: how about resetting everything? How about forgetting the old resentment and rivalries?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *