The Ghettoization of Anglo-Québecois Culture

Anglo Gothic - work of the author, February 2009

Just found a fascinating NFB documentary entitled “The Rise and Fall of English Montréal“; four parts and worth watching, though for some reason I can’t find it on the NFB site.

Filmed around 1992, the 350th anniversary of the founding of Ville-Marie, this documentary presents a Montréal which, in many ways, no longer exists, though I’ll let you determine whether you think it’s for better or worse.

The day-to-day realities for young Anglophones living in Montréal back in 1992 were rather bleak:
Р300,000 Anglophone Qu̩becois emigrated out of the province, and by extension, the City of Montr̩al.
– At least 100 Anglophone schools were closed – this despite the fact that parents in various affected communities petitioned to share surplus space in Anglo schools with the over-crowded Francophone schools. Not much has changed here, as local School Boards continue demonstrating not only their incompetence, but their role in petty power politics as well. Guess who loses out here: poor people who need to learn both languages!
– At least 600 major corporations, industries and businesses: this includes Sun Life, Canadian Pacific, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank to name but a few of the really big names. The countless smaller enterprises hurt the local and provincial economy just as much.
– At least three ‘anglophone hospitals’ (like they’d refuse anyone based on language) serving small Anglo enclaves in NDG, Verdun and Lachine were closed around this time as well.

In addition to these issues, the traditionally Anglophone western edge of the city had come on hard times and was badly neglected. Institutions were being renamed and lifelong residents, even multi-generational, established Montrealers were splitting for fears their rights would be gradually eroded until they were second-class citizens. I still feel those who left over-reacted, though this doc does a good job in contextualizing the multiple reasons why some Anglos felt threatened.

At the very least, 2011, unlike 1992, is faced with a separatist movement in steep decline, a recovering and stable local economy, and many major new development projects. Though Anglophones continue to emigrate out of the province for lack of opportunities (or at least the perception thereof), the local Anglo population is 93% bilingual, and the out-migration is now considerably less than it once was. Perhaps those who stayed truly discovered their identity as Québecois.

And the language laws aren’t nearly as enforced as they used to be either; perhaps its because the guy behind the counter can converse freely in several languages, perhaps because the OQLF has realized French is better appreciated and encouraged when not deliberately enforced.

As far as the documentary is concerned – check out the many panoramas of 1992 Montréal; for all the hype of the anniversary’s related re-development projects, there are still many regions which looked god-awful; consider the overhead shot focused on Guy and Boul. De Maisonneuve for instance.