CJAD’s Leslie Roberts speaks with teacher Robert Green about the Quebec government’s proposal to introduce a financial literacy course at the expense of the Contemporary World course. Click here to download the podcast.
The following article was written by Perspectives II High School teacher John Commins following his participation in the Comité Elargi (2003-2007) that was responsible for vetting the most recent changes to Quebec’s History curriculum.
Pour lire la version originale écrite en français, cliquez ici.
First thanks for this opportunity and the thematic of the ENJEUX. My assumption is that the vast majority of you who will read this article are members of the French origin majority community, so I will be writing to you. I will try to describe what its like to teach history to English speaking kids in Quebec specifically and broadly what it is like being an English speaker who enjoys teaching Quebec history. Be aware that this work is my own; it comes from my personal journey and perspective. Keep reading and I guarantee this article will have a happy ending.
First lets talk about language, yes we have to this is Quebec! In Quebec I am referred to as an Anglophone. I hope that I am among the last generation that will be referred to as Anglophone. When English speakers are together they rarely if ever identify themselves as Anglophone, it is usually when the interlocutory is part of the French origin majority community that that designation is made. It is more striking amongst allophones, “ I am a what….. an allophone?”
When identity is searched for amongst English speakers it’s usually ethnic. Irish, Greek, Italian, Jewish, Portuguese, sometimes Montrealer, Quebecer or Canadian and very rarely….English. This is the nature of the English speaking community in 2012. The English speaking community of Montreal is as diverse as any in urban Canada. When I am at my school the staffroom is comprised of teachers of Greek, Italian, German, Eastern European, Sri Lankan and Irish backgrounds, except for our Principal, Jacques Monfette, he is from Shawinigan and is French origin.
The turn to linguistic designations to describe what I would argue are concerns that are ethnic in nature, provides us with non-racial language that is becoming less and less productive. Lets be honest using linguistic terms to discuss ethnicity has become a way to avoid talking about ethnicity, and specifically the French origin community’s ethnic insecurities. After all at the end of the day I am also a francophone, and proud of it. I am also hoping the children of Law 101, after completing twelve years of scholarity in French would be considered francophone, if not what do these linguistic designations mean, do they only change with assimilation? If that is the case why won’t people say it?
When the PQ was elected in 1976, it was a necessary electro-shock for the English speaking community, including my 15-year-old self. It was a rupture with the past that would require English speakers to start recognizing that not speaking French was not only counter productive, but bordering on insulting. To be a full partner in the Quebec state, speaking French was now key, to be a full citizen of the Quebec state speaking French was necessary. The idea of what language you spoke at home was not, that’s been a more recent and troubling change amongst a small fringe in the nationalist community. Along with the new reference to Quebec’s “ historic” English speaking community, which is obviously an attempt to marginalize the English speaking community. With 94% of Quebecers now able to speak French, French is our common language.
There is an English speaking community in Quebec it has existed here for 250 years, it is a community that will continue to exist, a community tied to institutions like Concordia, and to neighborhoods like N.D.G.. It has always has been a community in transition and I believe a community that can make a positive contribution to this state, culturally, socially, politically, especially our kids. Now who am I?