In visiting Quebec City for the first time a little over a month ago, the damp air, narrow streets and towering cliffs impressed upon me the sensation that I was in an older, more sophisticated Canada: a fortress.
Here in la ville de Québec, all is under siege and all is well-protected.
It was my first time to visit ye old world and as we creaked in on the train, I was instantly seduced by quaint buildings, winding streets and a different kind of Amerique du nord. I was spoiled by my Quebecois host who’s a “social arts engineer”, a job that could only exist in Quebec City where the facilitation of the arts is as culturally valued as equal access to healthcare.
Québec City is the cultural and political heart of a fierce and controversial nation which has managed to establish its loud, important voice in an aggressive sea of Anglofolie. This is no small feat and a truth that the rest of English Canada so often ignores…or resents?
I wonder why we’ve forgotten about our French better-half? Or rather, I wonder why we’re not just a little more curious, inspired and fascinated by their throaty accents, Descartian personalities, haute vocabulary, and cabane-a-sucres?
What do I mean when I say ‘we’? Of course I mean us English-speaking Canadians. I know, I know. It’s not our fault. It’s possible that we wanted to learn French but were forced, or didn’t like our teacher, or maybe it was boring. Above all, we felt that French-Canada didn’t welcome us, didn’t want us around, and was in opposition to our values.
I’m over it; over the wall that divides us culturally. I want understanding and appreciation. I want English-Canada to be proud of their Quebecois counterparts. I want them to feel how much Quebec enriches their lives, how wonderful it is to tour through Quebec on holiday . I want Quebecois to embrace their multi-faceted, complex identities in their ever-changing multicultural nation. I want us northern-hemisphere’ers to invest in each other and reach a Canadian nirvana.
C’est ma souhaite. Bain oui.