I write for a regional audience — The Sherbrooke Record, CBC Radio, Life in Quebec — and then I post what I write on this blog for the world to see. And when I do that, I realize just how specifically Quebec-oriented much of my content and references are. And when I step back even further, when I start thinking about how to make these references understandable to the rest of the world, I realize that Quebec is nuts!
Being English in Quebec provides a person with a slight immunity to the madness but only in a way that, say, you’re not at the hospital with the flu but you’re definitely running a fever. In many ways, though, it’s worse, like running a fever with multiple personality disorder.
Being English means that you’re part of a minority community in a French population, which is itself a minority community within Canada, and as an English person, you’re actually part of that national majority and so you’re sympathetic to the fact that French needs protection within the even larger entity of North America, and yet as a minority anglophone you abhor the erosion of English rights, and now everyone reading this is feverish and dizzy as well.
To fully understand the audio piece below that I recorded this week for CBC, for example, you have to understand that the Quebec Soccer Federation banned players from wearing turbans, and how this ties into Quebec’s attitude towards immigration and the province’s desire to encourage/force immigrants to buy into/not dilute French culture, as opposed to the Canadian approach which embraces multiculturalism. You have to know that a surprising number of Quebecers (far more than respondents in the rest of Canada) really did say, in a poll, that they feel their identity is threatened when they see someone wearing a turban, hijab or kippa. You have to know that when I say “Quebecers,” the implication is “French Quebecers,” which adds a hint of bigotry to my criticism and makes me as bad as those whose intolerance I criticize, and that as an anglo I feel guilty about this. You have to know that among Quebec stereotypes is the Speedo-wearing male.
For Quebecers, none of this subtext needs explaining because it’s part of the everyday background noise of life here in what is truly a wonderful part of the world. Honest. And we wonder why no one gets us…
Does this happen elsewhere? Are humorists in, for instance, Kentucky saying, “You’re probably not going to get this but, trust me, ’round here it’s funny as hell…”?
And so, if that hasn’t put you off, enjoy!