You may have noticed that Julie was not offended by the comment I left in response to a comment/question someone left on her blog. Since most of the readers of aMMusing are unilingual anglophone and there would be way too much to translate in the back-and-forth on Julie’s blog, I’m only going to give you the Reader’s Digest version of what got me going. It’s also interesting to see how a simple, tongue-in-cheek post in a blog can spark a conversation that is only partially related to the initiating post.
Essentially, Julie posted an entry she titled, “The Bloc Québécois in Moncton Soon!” with a screenshot of the BQ’s website. She explained that when she entered her postal code on the site’s “Find your candidate” page, the site returned the message, “The nomination meeting in this riding will be held soon.” Of course that’s not true, since Julie is in New Brunswick and the BQ is running candidates only in Québec. So it made perfect sense for her to make a little joke about that.
That should have been the end of that, and we all would have had a good laugh. But then someone posted that comment/question that got me going. It’s not that the guy who asked the question was rude or offensive in any way; in fact, he was very articulate and polite. And the guy is by no means a dummy, either. Perhaps he’s myopic in his views of the virtues of Québec separation, but that’s not unusual nor a crime. He asked [loose translation by me]:
Should Québec sovereignty happen, what would the Acadians do? In my view, logic would dictate that Québec and Acadia should form a single country. Culturally, there is no doubt that the Québécois are very close to the Acadians. I think that in the long term, it would be in Acadia’s interest to integrate into Québec to ensure its survival and the emancipation of the French language.
I also think that most Québécois would view favourably the integration of Acadia with Québec even though, from an economic standpoint, it wouldn’t be very advantageous for Québec. But what would the Acadians say? I have an Acadian friend and he’s an avid federalist. But what do the others think?
Is it possible to think that after Québec independence, Acadia could in turn hold a referendum to join Québec?
See the smoke coming out of my ears. This guy has lived and studied in Belgium, where the right-wing Flemish independence movement seems on the verge of realizing its ideal, and he seems to assume, with little or no criticism, that separation along linguistic and cultural lines is good, necessary or inevitable. Period. Full stop. But it’s completely inwards-looking. For the sake of comparison, this kind of attitude or this kind of assumptions by Québécois regarding Acadians compare to the stereotype of what most Americans think and know of Canadians, or Australians of New Zealanders.
Anyway, I just went nuts.
Unlike Québec, Acadia has no territory; it’s more of a diaspora. Except for northeastern New Brunswick, francophones/Acadians form a minority. And in northwestern N.B., few are the francophones who identify themselves as Acadians. And what should we do with the small pockets of Acadians in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island? Even if we were to trace a line from the northwest to the southeast of N.B. to include Moncton/Dieppe, as was proposed by the Parti Acadien in the 1970s, there would be a lot of anglophones who wouldn’t hear of such a project.
There’s a reason why most Acadians, like your friend, are avid federalists, not least of which statements like “most Québécois would view favourably the integration of Acadia with Québec.” (Awwh… Suddenly Québec would show some concern for its poor little Acadian cousins…) Yes, Acadians have had to struggle, and must continue to fight, to earn their rights and ensure their cultural survival. However, they have managed, and they did so within the Canadian federation which includes Québec and has led to the recognition of New Brunswick as the only officially bilingual province in the ’82 Constitution. Since the odds of an annexation of “Acadia” to Québec are less than slim, and admitting that the Atlantic provinces could manage to remain with the rest of Canada despite the presence of a nation between the two remaining parts of Canada, many Acadians fear they will lose the rights they’ve gained within Canada, which would be reduced to about 1 million francophones against about 23 million other “Canadians.”
I am Québécois, but I was born and have grown up among Acadians. Had it not been for that twist of fate, I would probably be living somewhere in Québec and I would be counted among the “pure laine” (“pure blood”) able to trace his ancestry back to the 1650s in the Lower St. Lawrence region. Like my aunts, uncles, and cousins who have always lived in Québec, I would probably be an avid sovereignist. But my heart and my soul have been nurtured by the Acadians; consequently, I feel torn. I verily believe that the francophones outside Québec will be the ones who will pay the highest price for a sovereign Québec. Indeed, the cost of “the emancipation of the French language” in the Americas will be, in my opinion, the French language and culture in the non-québécois Americas.
Julie, who is a proud Québec sovereignist living in Moncton, amplified my point while agreeing that Acadians simply don’t have a territory they can call their own. In summary, she made the following points.
- She doubts very strongly that Acadians are very attached, culturally, to Québec. She explains that, in the Deportation, “Acadians lost their land, their villages were burned, women were raped in some cases, families were divided men / women and children, and the Acadians were placed on boats destined to nowhere. The Acadians’ resistance in Nova Scotia and then in southern New Brunswick is what led to the Québecois being spared the same fate. By the time the English arrived in Québec, they were tired of fighting to deport the French, so they let them be. Yet, historically, Québec has never recognized the role the Acadians played in their own survival.”
- Citing several striking current examples of how the Québécois “do not respect” Acadia, she goes on to conclude that the “Québécois have a tendency to think of themselves as the Canadian francophonie. If it’s good and it’s franco-Canadian, it automatically becomes québécois instead of attempting to understand the other cultures, including the Acadian culture. That … frustrates a lot of Acadians.”
- She expresses her belief that the separation of Québec could be good for the remaining franco-Canadians, particularly Acadians, her reasoning being that the rest of Canada’s ego would be bruised by its lost of status as a bilingual country and it might double its efforts to protect that minority to restore its bilingual status on the international scene.
- Finally, she points to how the BQ has been advocating on matters of great interest for all francophones, including those outside Québec.
I have to admit that I have always tended to think that, should Québec separation occur, the remaining non-francophone Canadians would be bitter towards the remaining francophone minority and would not so politely tell it to go fuck itself. I’d like to believe her third point above; I’d like to believe they would look at what’s left of the federation and recognize that modern Canada WAS indeed founded by two peoples and there are still francophones left in the absence of Québec. But then I think about Ontario monarchists and western/Harper conservatives who are increasingly looking like intolerant U.S. conservatives, and I lose my sense of optimism.
So what’s my mood or feeling tonight? Well…
- If Québec goes, it must go completely. No sovereignty- association bullshit. I’m not saying that the Canada/Québec relationship should be like India/Pakistan; rather, it should be like Canada/U.S.
- If Québec goes, I will likely move there before the separation is finalized.
- If Québec goes, Canada will lose its soul. Canada outside Québec is still stuck in the paradigm of defining itself in terms of what it is not (i.e., not like the U.S.), whereas Québec has managed to define itself in terms of what it is.
On the last point, I simply need to think of my hometown of Moncton for a microscopic example. The Moncton area would be a very dull and gloomy place — more than it already is, right Steph? 🙂 — if it weren’t for the Acadian cultural, educational and economic influence. Similarly, a Canada without Québec would be very dull and gloomy. The cleavage between English and French has forced Canada to mature into a nation of international stature. And time and time again, I find myself wondering the same thing: Though not likely to be bloody, does Canada really have to go the way of Yugoslavia (worse-case scenario) or Sweden/Norway (best-case scenario)?