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.


3 thoughts on “The Ghettoization of Anglo-Québecois Culture”

  1. The english are only reaping what they have sown.

    They have excluded the french from the political process for two centuries, and the fact that we waited so long before asserting our place is a testament to our patience and tolerance.

    Had the roles been reversed in 1763, the english would have kicked the french less than 10 years later!

    How can the english dare call themselves “second-class” citizens when they have their own newspapers, TV stations and hospitals? Why do we need to make two super-hospitals, one for the french and the other one for the english who are not even 10% of the population? How can they claim to be persecuted when they are, in fact, quite pampered???

  2. Too much exaggeration. Am I to assume you don’t live here anymore?

    The are certainly some residual problems, but the future of this city belongs to those who embrace problem-solving, not hand-wringing and sighing.

    If there’s one thing I”d like to see change in this city, it’s the Anglo mentality that all is lost.

    Frankly it’s pathetic.

  3. 1) Outmigration has lessened because people who were able to move: the young and rich, have already moved. Who is left are the elderly and the poor. And by poor I mean they can’t just move to Toronto on a whim because they can’t afford to put down $3000 to secure an apartment. I was one of those. Stats Canada believes the english community is shrinking so fast through outmigration, death of the elderly, and lack of immigration that it will not survive the decade.

    2) The language laws are getting worse. When I was living there a month did not go by without some proposal to tighten the language laws. But the fact that there are ANY language laws does defacto make english people second class citizens

    3) Major new developement projects?? I checked out the Montreal 2025 website, there are 4 projects: Quartier des spectacles, which is mostly demolishing abandoned buildings and making them into parking lots without the parking spaces. Havre de Montreal: Cancelled. The developer pulled out. Montreal Technopole. Not sure about that one but I can assume it is the same as the Quartier de Multimedia, where I gained most of my work as a computer programmer, where the government gives places to companies rent free and subsidizes all the employees’s salaries if they work in french only. Scary. It is like they are “faking” an economy by paying computer programmer’s salaries by adding to the public provincial debt.

    The sad truth is that the montreal that existed in the 1970s, multicultural, multi-lingual, diverse, the economic powerhouse of canada and the cultural powerhouse too, is long dead. I have heard over and over and over and over again montrealers telling me that “it is getting better” or there is a renaissance but as someone who has lived in 4 cities, I simply don’t see it. I see people desparate to cling on to any sign of hope for the city rather than face the truth that the root of the problem will never be fixed. The separatists will never go away. The language laws will never go away. And because of that the international business will never come back, and montreal will never have the tax base to support their current standard of living. The debt continues to rise, the city continues to crumble, and the state of mass denial continues to rise to almost religious ferocity. I expect many more articles like this from within montreal but those of us who have better lives now just read them and shake their heads.

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