Last week, a good friend of mine noted how important it is for Quebeckers to recognize that there is a vibrant anglophone and allophone community dwelling in the province. He was referring to the Quebec government’s policy of automatically allocating our school taxes to the Roman Catholic system unless taxpayers instruct them (in writing) otherwise.
This fluently bilingual Quebecker used my fax to return the French-only form to the bureaucrats. He said how fortunate it is that he could read French, so that he could easily understand the question. And, as required, he ticked off the box indicating that he’d like to support the anglophone school board. While discussing this situation, I encouraged him to request that any further communication be sent to him in English, which he did.
He noted, too, that people such as he who are fluently bilingual can too easily overlook how important it is to stand up for English-speaking rights in this province. He made the point that he deliberately always uses English when dealing with the Quebec government, even though he was raised with both languages and is fluent in French. Why? Because he wants to ensure that in his home province of Quebec that his Irish-English heritage is recognized, and that government officials realize that the English-language-speaking population must be served in its language of choice.
I concur. Although I’m not fluently bilingual, I’ve travelled the province with my husband Eric in order to research our book Quebec Off the Beaten Path (first and second editions, and we’re about to embark on our third edition’s research trips). Eric understands French better than I do; I speak it better than he does. So, we have had great fun while travelling the backroads, met wonderful people, and communicated effectively in French. Both of us love the language, our French-Canadian “neighbours” and the vibrant French heritage of Quebec. It’s one of the many reasons why we’re comfortable making Quebec our permanent home.
Travelling throughout Quebec as we do, in “hinterland” communities as well as the major cities and touristy venues, we’ve been surprised at how early allophone and anglophone pioneers and settlers have been dubbed “ethnics” by the Quebec government tourism representatives we’ve met. Not all, but several tourism officials throughout the province, who have happily and warmly introduced us to their town/city/rural area, use this terminology.
It’s an interesting usage of the word “ethnic.” Case in point was in the little town of Rawdon, north of Montreal. A delightful community, it was settled by French, Scottish, English and Irish peoples at first (for forestry/logging) and later on by Russians at the turn of the last century. The picturesque village boasts churches that reflect various faiths: Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic and, if my memory serves me well, a Russian Orthodox church. Certainly, there are Russian gravestones here.
We took all of this in, as we explored Rawdon. However, the Quebec tourism guide assigned to us that day claimed Rawdon was French only. When pressed about the village’s heritage, she noted that there were a few “ethnics,” but only named the Russians. When we enquired about English-speaking settlers, she denied there had been settlers from the British Isles. Frankly, although we encountered this repeatedly in our research trips, it never ceased to amaze us, particularly because the guides were usually in their early twenties, more or less fresh out of college. Evidently, she didn’t know the history of the region she was representing. Too bad.
Revisionism is an effective way of denying a people full disclosure about their past.
If Quebec is ever to come of age as a province and as a “people,” residents must come to grips with their collective past, warts and all. We must understand the rich diversity of peoples who embraced this New Land as their home. Then, after the past is truly debated and truly presented, then and only then can Quebeckers really stand forth and be proud of who we actually are in 2002 and beyond.
So along comes QAHN, the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. Located in Lennoxville, Quebec, the organization’s brochure claims it “is a non-partisan umbrella organization linking societies and individuals interested in local, regional and provincial anglophone history of the province of Quebec.”
Regarding Anglophone heritage, the brochure notes, “Many Quebeckers have links to anglophone heritage even though they may see themselves as having some other language or cultural attachment. Anglophone heritage is simply our subject of study. QAHN is about those having an interest in heritage, is non-political and totally inclusive.”
I heard about this organization because I’m a member of the Historical Society of the Gatineau. Imagine my delight when I received the HSG’s last newsletter, to find that QAHN has published a set of four brochures chronicling “heritage trails” in Quebec. And, on the cover of the HSG’s newsletter was an image of the “Outaouais Pontiac Heritage Trail” pamphlet.
Immediately I sent away for all four brochures that QAHN produced this year. The three others are of Megantic County (north of Sherbrooke), Old Quebec City, and the Chateauguay Valley.
After having received my free copies, I can recommend all four. Of course, all of us know Pontiac well, so we can be particularly appreciative/critical of this brochure. However, knowing Quebec as I do, I know that the Quebec City pamphlet is an excellent resource outlining the English history of the only walled city in North America … a reality that earned it international recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although the Quebec City brochure is English-only, the three others are bilingual. It is a pity that all four are not English-language only, with a second brochure available in French, because the Pontiac is simply not given enough coverage. The Outaouais/Pontiac’s self-guided road trip commences in Deschênes Rapids, then covers Aylmer, Shawville, Portage du Fort, Bryson, Campbell’s Bay and Fort Coulonge-Davidson. Thanks are duly given to Enid Page of the Aylmer Heritage Association and Bonnie Richardson of Shawville Revitalization, after a disclaimer, which notes, “Space constraints prelude mention of all possible sites.”
Yes, well we’re sorry too. The Outaouais is not well represented because it is a vast territory extending from east of the Gatineau River to the western extremity of Pontiac. Just keeping Pontiac in mind, however, it’s a shame that there is no mention of Ghost Hill, Breckenridge, and Luskville. There’s no mention of Quyon, or of Norway Bay and Bristol. Ladysmith is given a five-line nod of recognition in which the German community is mentioned, but sadly, there’s nothing on Otter Lake and those rugged Polish Hills so-called because of the Polish immigrants who settled there. If, as in the Quebec City brochure, the funds could have covered English and French versions for all four pamphlets, the job would have represented our region far better. The map, sadly, doesn’t depict other Outaouais villages other than Quyon (which has been given no precise location). “Mansfield et Pontefract” is listed with a dot… and “Parc de la Gatineau” is shown.
Notwithstanding the omissions, it’s a useful brochure that (if actually distributed effectively) will assist the public in understanding the fascinating social fabric that defines modern Quebec.
Want to get copies of these brochures, or more information about QAHN? Contact QAHN, 257 Queen Street, Suite 400, Lennoxville, QC J1M 1K7; Tel: 819-564-9595; Fax: 819-564-6872; E-mail: email@example.com; Website: www.qahn.org; Toll-free in Quebec: 1-877-964-0409
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer who lives north of Quyon, Quebec.