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Conditioning: Modern Canada’s “First” Night of the Long Knives – a trigger for the all the rest (#280)

In the last post, I introduced you to the Estates General of French Canada and its end goal.

For the rest of this post to make sense, I highly recommend you read the last post before continuing.  You can read it by clicking here:  The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279)

Keep in mind that I am presenting events from an angle of history which is not necessarily taught in Québec or in Anglophone Canada.   Rather, it is from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.

Francophones from all across Canada were attending the Estates General with the goal of correcting linguistic and cultural inequalities which had lasted for generations.  There was more than a good chance that it could / would lead to massive constitutional changes, a much more “egalitarian” Canada on the linguistic front, and major shift towards a broader “francisation” of Canada (much more than what exists in Canada today).

But what happened at the assize (round) of the Estates General in 1967 was unexepected, and completely different than what was planned.

The bombshell: The “FIRST Night of the Long Knives”

What occurred came to the shock (and horror) of Francophone delegates from Ontario, the Western Provinces, and the Atlantic provinces, as well as to the shock of Anglophones who were preparing to do their best to accommodate soon-to-be Francophone demands for inclusiveness across the country.

When it came time to introduce resolutions, without any warning the majority seat holders from Québec suddenly introduced and passed impromptu resolutions — none of which involved any prior consultation, examination, thought or the benefit of having their true implications examined.   These resolutions were never discussed or planned during the earlier 1966 Estates-General (which was when all of the general motions were to have been disclosed to all delegates from across Canada).

Lead by the very nationalistic personality Jacques-Yves Morin (who would soon become one of the pillars of the 1970s and 1980s sovereignist movement),  Québec’s delegates moved that:

  • French Canadians constitute a “nation”
  • That “Québec” is the “national territory” for the French Canadian nation
  • That this new French Canadian nation (ie: Québec) is free to choose its future, regardless of what form it would take.

In the eyes of all other Francophone delegates from outside Québec, they had been stabbed in the back.

If one was Francophone, but had only ever had ties to their respective regions of Canada (such as Alberta, for example), pursuant to these surprise resolutions, they as a people were worth nothing in the eyes of their cousins in Québec.  The anger and bitterness towards Québec on the part of Francophones elsewhere in Canada was unprecedented.

In 1967, Francophone delegates left the Estates-General and returned to their respective regions of Canada.   They left as a fractured people with Delegates from outside Québec feeling bitter and betrayed.  They never again met as one people under the same roof.   For the first time in Canadian history, the Francophone family was broken and parcelled..

It is worth noting that in 1967, Canada’s Francophone population outside Québec was proportionally larger than it is now.  Perhaps 20-30% of Canada’s Francophones resided outside of Québec at that time.

Two years later, In 1969, two major events occurred:

First event: 

The last of the assizes of the Estates-General of French Canada took place in Québec. But the Francophone delegates from the Western provinces, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces boycotted it.

Simply put, they did so out of a feeling of having been betrayed by Québec’s delegates in 1967.   When Francophones outside of Québec attended the 1967 assize, by way of agreements reached in 1965, they believed they were at the cusp of finally having the political and population clout behind them to change the status of French and Francophone society in Canada once and for all.   This was shattered by what they viewed as self-serving and selfish actions on the part of Québec delegates during the 1967 assize two years earlier.

Second event:  

The Bi-Bi Commission’s final report came out at a time when, had the Estates-General not collapsed, it would have likely had enough wind in its sails to not only have been fully implemented at a federal level, but quite likely at various provincial levels as well (for matters of provincial jurisdiction).

However, the walls Québec erected around itself left Anglophones sympathizers in government and across Canada, as well as a newly fragmented Francophone population in other provinces all alone to try to pick of the pieces of the Estates-General fiasco.  Those left behind could only manage to get by the best they could with recommendations of the Bi-Bi Commission’s final report.

The Estates-General of French Canada spelled the end of the traditional meaning of “French Canadians”, as one united people.  Québec began to erect walls, disassociate itself from the rest of Canada on many fronts, and to disassociated itself from the immediate efforts to fix many of Francophone Canada’s inequalities.

My personal take on it:  It was awful, a fiasco, and catastrophic.  I personally have never used the word, but I know other Francophones outside Québec who say it was “treason” (that’s how high emotions ran following the actions of Québec’s delegates).  Even today, when I go back to Alberta and Saskatchewan (which I do fairly regularly), this remains a very sensitive topic (It still floors me that Québec’s education system refuses to teach this equally valid angle of history).

It is for this reason that I call the Estates-General the First Night of the Long Knives.

Francophones outside of Québec felt they were stabbed in the back by their own people.  Anglophones and those in government who were working in good faith to help Canada’s Francophone cause also felt betrayed, and we – as a country – are still feeling the consequences today.

Francophones outside Québec were left on their own to try to invoke change with their respective provincial and local governments.  It was this event which gave birth to the notion of Franco-Columbians, Franco-Albertans, Fransaskois, Franco-Manitobans, Franco-Ontarians, and modern Acadians.  Consequently, much of what they have achieved since 1967 (either as individual societies, or as a combined force) has largely been of their own efforts without the direct backing from Québec.

Had Québec’s delegates not done what they did during the Estate-General, and had the Estates-General succeeded, I believe it is quite likely that Canada today would be a very different country.   The recommendations from the Bi-Bi Commission would have likely been implemented to a much greater extent, and much quicker… leaving a clear path for much deeper changes across the country.  I believe Canada today would be much more bilingual, much more bi-cultural, and our muticultural fabric today would revolve around a bi-cultural nature — much more than it does now.

A newly created notion of hermetic walls around Québec had been formed, and a new type of societal and institutional conditioning was about to begin… that of “institutionalized Québécois nationalism”.

The next post will look at how history moved forward in the wake of the failure of the Estates-General, bringing us to the end of the first referendum in 1980.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279)

The next couple of blog posts regarding the Estates-General tend to discuss quite controversial and emotionally charged matters for many people – both Anglophone and Francophone.

I’m going to talk about some events which many Anglophones may not be aware of.

I am going to present events from an angle of history which is not necessarily taught in Québec, but rather from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.

Nonetheless, I believe the events I am about to talk about should not be overlooked (as they often are).  Having a more complete picture from various angles is always beneficial to understanding nuances so as to move forward.

The “Estates-General of French Canada”

By 1966, the Quiet Revolution in Québec was in full swing.  I don’t need to elaborate much on the Quiet Revolution.  It is something all Anglophones and Francophones in Canada study in school.

But I will say that it was a response to two major factors:

  1. It was a modernization and societal affirmation in response to a fast changing and re-ordered, post-WWII world, and
  2. it was a societal “realignment” to counteract perceived obstacles Francophones in Québec faced vis-à-vis Anglophone dominated industry and national (federal) politics.

But something else was occurring at the same time — something which is not taught in Anglophone Canada, which is only lightly skimmed over in Québec history books, and which is poorly understood in both Francophone and Canadian societies (Francophones outside of Québec perhaps know its history more than any other people in Canada).  It is an event which spanned from 1966 to 1969, and which we call the Estates General of French Canada (Les États-généraux du Canada français).

Prior to the 1960s, Canadians of Francophone heritage saw themselves as one cohesive group, regardless of where they lived in Canada.  Picture it this way… Imagine two whole maps of Canada.   Let’s say one map is coloured green and represents Anglophone Canada, and the other is coloured red and represents Francophone Canada.  Now superimpose those maps on top of each other, and the map of Canada turns yellow (red + green = yellow).   This is how Francophones used to view Canada as whole.

In a general societal context, Francophones did not view themselves in terms of a distinctive Québec or Francophone society which was demarcated by borders (the view many hold today).    There were no “Québécois”, or “Franco-Albertans” or “Franco-Ontarians” and even the term “Acadien” did not have the same significance as it does today.   There was only one term and one way of viewing oneself:  “French Canadian”… coast-to-coast.

But what happened in the last half of the 1960s at the Estates-General was a major game-changer.  It set much of the tone for the rest of Canadian society’s modern history – socially, constitutionally, and politically.

Post WWII Canada was rapidly changing from coast-to-coast.  It was having a tremendous effect on Francophone society across Canada, and Francophones saw themselves at a cross-roads.

On one hand, there were high degrees of Francophone assimilation across Canada.   But on the other hand, aspects of Post WWII Canadian society made it so that Anglophone Canadians were more “open” and “worldly” than they had ever been at any other time in Canadian history.  People were travelling on an unprecedented scales, television and radio made people aware of issues they never knew or thought about in the past, and people were becoming sensitive to the needs of others around them.  Francophones across Canada felt that a window of opportunity finally opened with which to allow them to affirm themselves, as one people, from coast-to-coast, and thereby not only counteract assimilation, but to also grow their societies on equal footing with Anglophone Canadians.

In 1966, Francophone delegates from across Canada gathered in Montréal.   They were comprised of large numbers of “French Canadian delegates” from all regions of Canada.  Most were French Canadian community leaders, union heads, or French Canadians who had constant interaction with their local or regional governments.  They gathered in Montréal to discuss how to advance French Canadian culture in a national context so as to be able to adapt to, and thrive in a new Post WWII Canada.

The assizes (rounds) of the Estates-General were to take place annually, starting in 1966.  The goal was to come up with resolutions to seek changes to the Canadian federation, from coast-to-coast.  They were to make Canada a country where all Francophones (and Anglophones) could live, and feel at home – regardless of the region of Canada.   In a sense, it was like an unofficial “Francophone parliament”.   The clincher was that the Estates-General has such a large population backing it (more than 30% of Canada’s population), that its clout would be difficult for Canada’s provincial governments and federal government to ignore.   For many, a sense of change was in the air.

The timing of the start of the Estates-General was appropriate, and telling.  Québec, as a province, was going through its own Quiet Revolution.   But many other aspects of Canadian society and various provinces were also going through their own styles of a “Quiet Revolution”.

Alberta was set to make the leap to abandon a Social Credit philosophy-based government and to embrace a massive movement of secularization, economic realignment, and industrial nationalization.  Saskatchewan was embracing a new wave of political progressivism and secularization.  BC’s, Manitoba’s and Ontario’s industries and governments were undergoing tremendous changes and adapting to a new era of trade and international interactions.   The Atlantic provinces were having to completely restructure their way of interacting with the rest of the country – politically and economically – to keep pace with the changes in what was quickly becoming a new, modern Canada (one in which a Post-WWII realignment saw Atlantic province prosperity shift more and more towards Central Canada).

The first assize (round) of the Estates-General of French Canada took place in 1966.  It was simple in the sense that it was not meant to pass resolutions.   Rather, it was to set the agenda for future Estates-General – so that everyone was on the same page (it could be considered the “negotiating stage” to ensure that all delegates were on the same page).

The planning of the Estates-General did not go unnoticed in English Canada.   Changes were in the wind within Anglophone Canada itself.  Anglophones in Post-WWII Canada were coming to the realization that French was to be treated on “equal-footing” in English Canada.  In the early 1960s, the Federal government’s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was mandated to look at ways to correct linguistic inequalities.  Various provincial governments were also looking at similar matters.

Anglophone Canadians across Canada, who previously had no prior interaction with any aspect of Francophone culture were actually beginning to take notice — and to take an interest.   A good number of concerned unilingual Anglophones launched was became the very first French immersion programs (in the late 1950s in Central Canada, eventually spreading to parts of Western Canada in the 1960s).

Francophones themselves were educating their provincial and local governments across Canada, and dialogue was finally beginning on a level never seen before in the history of Canada.

I don’t want to make it sound like everything was picture-perfect.  It was not.  There were many challenges to be overcome.  There would be a long road for all Francophone demands to be met.  But the time was better than it had ever been to undertake such a journey.   And the chances for success were better than at any other point in the past.

Anglophone Canada was beginning to brace itself for major linguistic changes – socially and politically.  For the first time in history, Anglophone Canada was preparing to carve a new prominent place for Francophones in Canadian society – from British Columbia, stretching all the way to Newfoundland.    It would likely occur on an asymmetric basis, with variances between the provinces – but national change appeared to be coming.

The second assize of the Estates-General of French-Canada took place in 1967 with all of the above happening in the background.   Again, it was made up French Canadian delegates, nominated from across Canada – over 1600 in fact (with the majority being from Québec).

In the minds of most delegates, this was going to be the start of a major push to bring about sweeping changes across Canada – once and for all.  And many believed that the time was right for it to work.

The Estates-General were going to deal with, and attempt to put into action a plan which would finally resolve (in a national sense) Francophone matters of

  • the status of French in Canada (including its use as an official language federally, with windows and options open to push for it to be adopted as an official language in most, if not all provinces — at least in some capacity)
  • radio & television (with the establishment of local stations and networks in all provinces and major cities… much larger, deeper, and wide-reaching than the current status of Radio-Canada),
  • work legislation (so that companies across Canada would be better able to deal with Francophone customers and staff from ocean to ocean, and resolutions which could influence provincial civil services),
  • social services and health matters (bilingual and Francophone services, hospitals, and benefits -all across Canada),
  • education advancement
  • family affairs
  • agriculture
  • finance and banking
  • Canada’s international relations
  • other resolutions as deemed necessary.

As an aside:  Just to give you an example of how significant the Estates-General could have been…  I know numerous people in British Columbia who still recall talk of potential legislation in the 1960s, to be implemented in the 1970s, with which to mandate all restaurants to provide bilingual French/English menus – in British Columbia!  That’s how wide-reaching an impact the pressure from the Estates-General could have been.

For the first time in history, there was actually much excitement about being able to resolve many of the above issues.  The Bi-Bi Commission’s preliminary report had come out in 1965, and it was becoming clear that Anglophones were taking note of issues they historically had not paid much attention to.   But with the advent of Post-WWII modernization, international integration and mobility, such issues were difficult to ignore any longer.

However what happened next, during the 1967 assize of the Estates-General, forever changed the course of French Canada’s history, and that of Canada as a whole.   It was a case of shock and horror — which I will discuss in the next post.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: In the context of Canada’s “modern” history (#278)

In the last post, I spoke about negative consequences (and misunderstood realities) when conditioning provides an incomplete picture of Canada’s bi-cultural and bilingual reality – within the realms of Canada’s two dominant societies:  Francophones and Anglophones.

In this post (and the next few posts), we will look at the “modern” historical context which has played a major role in shaping much of our current conditioning.

There are a number of events in recent history which have shaped our national psyche, which in turn has given rise to a certain conditioning set”, and thus affects how Francophones and Anglophones view each other (or do not view each other).

For lack of a better term, bluntly stated, this has led to numerous “mental blocks” within Canada’s Two Solitudes.  Such mental blocks provide momentum for a viscous circle, and the continuation of the Two Solitudes.

What in Canada’s recent history “triggered” such mental blocks?

We can re-word the question to ask :

  • “In the past 50 years, what happened to condition” Canada’s Francophone and Anglophone societies to act in a manner which continues to perpetuate the notion of the Two Solitudes?”

Canada’s history can be divided into major periods:

  • Canada’s “earlier” history and
  • Canada’s modern” history.

What distinguishes these two histories is that the witnesses, players and decision makers from Canada’s “earlier” history are mostly gone, or will soon pass away.   The witnesses, players and decisions makers in Canada’s “modern” history are often still alive or can still be remembered, and are sometimes still in a position to be able to influence the outcome of the future.

It is a natural emotional response that human beings accord value to “pride and honour”.  Thus it is no surprise that so many people around the globe accord more weight to “earlier” history than they do to “modern” history (that is why we see wars and agendas being fought today on the basis of events which occurred many generations or even centuries ago).

Yet, I have always believed that such weight tends to be misplaced.  We cannot hold people accountable for the actions of past generations.  Past generations lived in a different value system, and frankly in a very different culture (to the extent that people of past eras would be from a completely different planet if they were to be compared to modern generations).   That is why I shake my head when I hear arguments for sovereignty based on past events such as 1914 conscription, the consequences of the patriot riots in the 1800s, or school abolition acts in the 1930s.

The way I reconcile such issues is by asking myself the following two questions:

  1. Would those events be promoted, valued, or exacerbated in our modern society if someone were to attempt to re-create them today?, and
  2. If not, are steps being taken today, at a societal level, to correct mistakes of the past (to the extent that they can be corrected within existing mechanisms and in a modern context)?

As events in and of themselves, Canada’s “earlier” history should be left to history, rather than to the whims of emotional response.

The “modern” history equation:

Owing to the illogical nature of granting greater weight to earlier history than to modern history, we can and should place greater emphasis on our “modern” history.   Yet, there are also dangers in according too much weight to modern history as well.  Modern history is not immune to mistakes or events stemming from misunderstandings.   But modern history affords us the luxury of making corrections to the mistakes of the the recent past before they become etched in society’s collective consciousness.

Our “modern” history is a tale of so many nuances.  Thus, we should view it as many shades of grey, rather than as black and white.

In the most general of terms, more hardcore elements of Québec’s sovereignist movement unfortunately tend to view our modern history as black and white, as do certain entrenched aspects of Canada’s unilingual Anglophone political establishment, headed by certain unilingual Anglophone politicians and community leaders.

For the purposes of this series on conditioning, I will define Canada’s modern history as the period in which many witnesses are still alive, and in which major changes occurred which gave rise to most of our modern value sets.   Therefore, we can say that Canada’s modern history began roughly around the mid-1960s.

View it this way… prior to the mid-1960’s, people lived within a very different value set.   Thus, for the purposes of the next few posts, let us wipe the slate clean from anything prior to 1965, and let’s start to look at things from that point on.

Viewed in this manner, we can say that the first major national Anglophone / Francophone event after 1965 would also be the first major event in the modern story of the Two Solitudes – the point which set the tone for later events.

In the next post I will discuss what I believe is this first major event in the modern story of the Two Solitudes… The Estates-General of French Canada (les États généraux du Canada français).


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning; The importance of gestures (#277)

In the last post, I discussed how “conditioning” can affect our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche – and more importantly, how, in a broad sense, it is not necessarily a bad thing.   In fact, in Canada’s unique context, owing to vast distances and numerous regional differences, “cultural conditioning” (ie: laying the foundations of cultural “expectations” with respect to how Canadian citizens interact with each other) strengthens to our national cohesiveness.

I ended the last post by saying that negative consequences can arise from conditioning if our upbringing has led us to be conditioned (ie: led to expect, or believe) that Canada’s reality is one thing, when in truth it is another — OR if we are only aware of part of the overall picture.

A word to Anglophones on the negative consequences which can arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning

In an Anglophone Canadian context, such negative consequences arise when Anglophones think of their country only in an Anglophone context.  This often leads to charges from Francophones that they are being ignored, misunderstood, or not accounted for in the overall context.   It goes without saying that such conditioning is not the best for national “cohesiveness”.

If you are Anglophone and if you have been following this blog for the last year, you are undoubtedly aware that many of my blog topics cover matters which many people are unaware of.  This is because many Anglophone Canadians (primarily unilingual Anglophone Canadians) have been conditioned (either by way of geographic regionalism / isolation, school, or silence in the media) into not realizing that there is a need to look beyond Anglophone culture to be able to view and understand Canada in its entirety.

It is an unfortunate reality, because frankly speaking, this “is” one the major reasons why Québec’s sovereignty movement exists.

Some of the things unilingual Anglophone Canadians may not be aware of (including unilingual individuals in Canada’s Anglophone media, political and education systems) – but which exacerbate the notion of Two Solitudes — have to do with

  • understanding Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone culture,
  • who is talking about what issues withing French Canada and Québec,
  • how those people’s views are valued and weighted within Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone society,
  • what Québec’s primary societal values are and what weight is accorded to those values,
  • what discussions may be different in Québec than in English Canada,
  • what actions in the rest of Canada can lead to Québec’s collective sense of alienation from the rest of Canada, and finally,
  • what simple things can be done in the rest of Canada to make Francophone Québécois feel more valued, better understood and a more complete part of Canadian society — just as an Anglophone would feel in any part of Anglophone Canada.

I have always said that we need to avoid a situation in which Anglophone Canadians feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in 80% of their country, but in which Francophones can feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in only 20% of their country.  I truly do not believe we are at this stage (yet)… but many people in Québec have been conditioned to believe we are at this stage.   Once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

I can give you a perfect example of this latter statement.   I have a Francophone friend (originally from Québec) who lives in a small town in Ontario.  He feels that he has been mistreated by a few Anglophones owing to a cultural misunderstanding.  Ever since then, I get the impression he has been “actively” on the lookout for repeated patterns owing to this prior and unfortunate conditioning.   Invariably, any time I talk to him, he always seems to have found a new story of “mistreatment at the hands of Anglophones” to tell me about — despite the fact that I think he is finding issues where issues do not exist.  I’ve been repeatedly pointing out to him that I see other people around him — especially Anglophones — who are experiencing the same things that he is in this smaller community.  I’ve been trying to point out that it is not a Francophone/Anglophone issue, and he just ran into a few bad apples.  But owing to the conditioning stemming from these few experiences, I’m having a tough time getting this point through to him.  His conditioning, owing to these few experiences, has tainted his view and now he believes the issues are deliberate, targeted against him as a Francophone, and it has made him quite unhappy.

Likewise, I have a good Anglophone friend in Montréal who I have known for almost 15 years.  He moved to Montréal four years ago from another part of Canada, before which he immigrated to Canada several years back.  During his first two years in Montréal, he worked in a hostile work environment.   It is important to make the distinction that work environment was Francophone and hostile — not hostile because is was Francophone.  My friend was hired into an English-only high-technology position for which the company could not find Francophones to fill the position    Yet, because my friend was new to Montréal, and because he did not speak French, he was came to the conclusion that he was being harassed because he could not speak English.  As someone looking from the outside in, I could see that he worked in such a toxic workplace that he would have been harassed regardless if he was Francophone or Anglophone.  But his experiences conditioned him into believing the harassment was owing to the fact that he was Anglophone.  His conditioning led him to become so bitter that he refused to learn French out of pure spite.  Needless to say, it is not the most pleasant experience to visit him in Montréal, and I’m actually at the point of urging him to leave Montréal (and Québec) — not only for his own sanity, but for the sanity of those around him (I can see that Francophones around him are now incorrectly holding him up as an incorrect example of what Anglophones are like… It’s just not a good situation all around.  I’m actually surprised to see how it spiraled out of control).

I find it very interesting how both of the two friends above (one Francophone, one Anglophone) believe they are being mistreated at the “hands of the other linguistic group”.  Yet, from the outside looking in, I can see that it is not the case and that these two friends have simply become overly sensitive.   I would love to bring them together to share their experiences and compare notes — precisely so they could see that their emotions are skewing reality (and I might some day).  However, their “conditioning”, which is based on traumatic events, has led them to actively search for reasons to believe that everyone in a particular language group has it out for them.  So they can see that their view of reality is incomplete and skewed, I’m trying to get them both involved in their communities more — to do volunteer work, to join a sports team, or to find a club of people with similar interests.  But it is an uphill battle… especially when emotions are running high.  This is a very poignant example of negative conditioning.

Like I said earlier, once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true.   The sovereignty movement would not exist if a critical mass of people did not have these types of conditioned sentiments, regardless if I or you believe such sentiments are baseless or not.  You can argue facts, but it is impossible to argue emotions.  Thus it is impossible to tell someone their emotions are “wrong”.

That is why gestures are so important.   Gestures and overtures are what influence emotions.

A word to Francophones on the negative consequences which arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning

This leads me to the next point…

Likewise, in a Francophone Québec context, negative consequences can arise when conditioning prevents Francophones from being aware of the realities, context, changes, evolution and nuances of what is happening elsewhere in Canada.   This often results in many Québécois unnecessarily (and often unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally) erecting emotional walls between themselves and the rest of Canada.

It is unfortunate when this occurs, because it can often be based on inaccurate pretexts and preconceptions (false “conditioning”).  It leads to a sense of being more and more detached from the rest of Canada.  The problem is that this sense of isolation is as much to do with (or even more to do with) Québec’s own “wall building” as it is with any unilingual Canadian’s disconnect from Francophone culture.

This blog is primarily for Anglophone Canadians.   But I am told that more and more Francophones have been reading it over the last several months.  If you are Francophone, and you have been following this blog over the past year, you perhaps have become aware of various things about the rest of Canada you were not aware of (things not mentioned in school, in Francophone media, and certainly not by politicians and interest groups interested who seek to score political points by way of playing the nationalist card).

Perhaps some of the things you have probably learned are that there are quite vibrant underpinnings of Francophone society outside Québec and across Canada.  They are vibrant because they continue to evolve and adapt to a changing world.   Francophone society across Canada is increasingly shifting to the online digital world (making it so that a Francophone’s community is available at the touch of a button in any village, town or city across Canada).

Francophone society across Canada is indeed seeing proportional challenges arising from increased Anglophone immigration, but Francophones have been adapting.  In many cases, Francophone immigration is breathing new life into areas where Francophone society was struggling only 20 years ago (Southern Alberta and the Edmonton area are prime examples of regions where Francophone communities have grown by large numbers over the past 15 years owing to international and inter-provincial immigration).

You perhaps have learned from this blog that Francophone society in other regions of Canada comes in many different sizes, colours, and accents – different from one province to another.  You have read how Francophones are working with their local governments (provincial and municipal) to build infrastructure and greater service networks within their communities and across the country (including schools, universities, health and other government services).

One of the more poignant things you perhaps have learned from this blog is the tremendous change in openness which is occurring on the part of millions of Anglophones towards Canada’s French fact.   I have been citing many of my own observations, experiences, as well as many statistics on this topic.  One such example is Canada’s immersion program — a truly ground-breaking program by any global measure.   Other countries are now looking at Anglophone Canada’s grass-roots immersion movement which is transforming a nation.   In absolute numbers, bilingualism is on the uptick and it is “sensitizing” politicians, governments, and the Canadian population as a whole.   Changes are being made across the country.  Courts are recognizing these changes and are providing extra “nudges” in areas where there has been some “slacking off”.   If “conditioning” were to come in the form of a reset button, it is an understatement to say that more than a few Anglophones have pressed it in the past two decades.

In the next post we will look at the “modern” historical context which has shaped much of our current conditioning.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

“Conditioning”: and its affect on our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche (#276)

In the last post we looked at what conditioning is, and how it can affect how people relate to one another in various contexts.

In this post, we’ll look at how conditioning plays a role in Canada’s own national and cultural story.

Human conditioning affects how we view the world and others around us.  In the case of the Two Solitudes, if affects how we relate to our own country, and view our country.   It can have the unfortunate effect of giving us (Anglophones or Francophones) only part of the picture – an incomplete picture.  It often results in us making decisions with respect to our societal interactions which do not necessarily take our entire national context into consideration.

Breaking the cycle of the negative side of conditioning is extremely difficult, but very necessary if we’re going to break the cycle of the Two Solitudes.  I do not believe anyone holds any expectations that the wall which forms the Two Solitudes can simply crumble with one big strike of a hammer.  However, breaking it down – little-by-little, one brick at time – is possible, and it is happening on many fronts.

There are signs we have been moving in this direction for quite some time (with Canada’s immersion programs, readily available information from the internet age, various provincial government initiatives across Canada, and others).  But there is still a very long way to go.

Media and pop-culture platforms as major factors of personal conditioning

Due to the vast geographic nature of Canada, it would be unrealistic for most Canadians to break the constraints of conditioning through physical exposure alone.

One cannot expect an Anglophone mother from Yellowknife (NWT) to spent three months in Victoriaville, Québec to learn about certain pillars of Francophone culture.

One cannot expect a Francophone high school graduate from Rivière-du-Loup (Qc), who is about to enter a very intense university program in journalism, to spend three months in Saskatoon to learn about pillars of Anglophone culture.

That’s not to say these things couldn’t happen, but reality and statistics simply tell us that in the vast majority of cases, such physical exchanges do not occur.   The country is just too big, personal finances are always a factor, and everyone has their own lives to worry about (let alone having to worry about a different linguistic group’s cultural tid-bits, especially when the nuances can take a lifetime of exposure to fully understand).

Thus, in a country like Canada, media and pop-culture platforms become our major (and often only) possibilities to break the cycle of unilingual cultural conditioning.  Therefore, media and pop-culture platforms are most Canadian’s only major tool with which to begin to tear down the Two Solitudes.

Owing to the sheer size of Canada, for Anglophones, it is our media and pop-culture platforms which more-often-than-not give a sense of “one-country” and of a united “Anglophone Canadian culture”.   The following are some very simple examples.

Without media or pop-culture platforms:

  • a person from Quesnel, BC would have never known Shania Twain (from Timmins, ON) or any other such singer which promotes our Canadian styles of country music.
  • those with an interest in Canadian history in Cornerbrook (NL), or Thunder Bay (ON) may have never known the late Pierre Burton (who regularly appeared on television) and how he taught two generations of Canadians about our nation-building history.
  • a whole generation of children across the country would not have known The Friendly Giant, Pokadot Door, or Mr. Dress-up (which remains a bonding point of reference of a 20 year spread of Canadians who are now in their late 20s to late 40s).  On this point, I can remember children’s programs I used to watch in BC and Alberta which were often filmed around the unique “Toronto-styled” brick-faced “corner stores” (the type with all the flowers sold outside the doorstep in older Toronto neighbourhoods).  Thus, even though I had never set foot in Toronto until I was 20, in my mind these corner stores were already a familiar part of “my” culture, even before I ever first saw my first “Toronto-style” corner store in person.
  • people from coast to coast would not have known David Suzuki, issues he champions, and matters he has brought to the fore through his television programs and radio appearances over the past 40 years (all of which have helped to shape our collective psyche on the environmental front).

I could write a book of such examples.  Little-by-little all of these have added to a sense of our collective national psyche… to a sense of Anglophone Canadians being able to share the same experiences and reference points — be it with our neighbour, our employer, our politicians, or our compatriots on the other end of the country.

Just the other day here in Toronto, I (from Alberta) had a conversation with my secretary (from Nova Scotia), and an acquaintance from Toronto.  The conversation made numerous references to things we used to do as kids – and much of it had to do with points of reference we all experienced from shows we saw on television, songs we used to sing as kids, or other matters conveyed to us as kids through Canadian media.   The experiences we were referring to were uniquely Canadian, and involved having acted out, as children, things we saw on Canadian children’s programs.  Here we were, from three different parts of the country (West, Central, and East), a distance spanning more than 5000 kms – but yet our Anglophone childhood experiences were the same, filled with uniquely Anglophone Canadian reference points, owing to shared cultural experiences stemming from Canadian television programs we watched as kids.

This is a perfect example of just how powerful media and pop-culture platforms are with respect to forging national identity.  But even more important is that we all had the pre-conceived expectations that all of us would have these share experiences, even if we had not spoken about them.  The expectation component is called conditioning.

As you can see, conditioning is not necessarily a bad thing.   It’s all about expectations – and those expectations can be very important (and powerful) when we hold the expectation that our compatriots can (and will) be able to culturally relate to us.

In the above example, the three of us were “conditioned” to believe we would share certain childhood experiences (even if we had not spoken about them) by virtue of simply haven grown up in Canada (in an Anglophone Canadian settings).  We were “conditioned” to believe that those experiences had played a role in shaping our lives – from coast to coast, and that they remain major factors in our collective Canadian experience… pieces of what makes us culturally Canadian.  And thus it was natural and logical that we would have a conversation about many of the little things we had in common as children, despite 5000 kilometres of separation in three different provinces.

As an aside, you might ask how immigrants can fit into this shared Canadian experience — after all, more recent immigrants may not have these same shared Canadian experiences.  Does it make them any less “Canadian”?.  That is a legitimate and very good question to ask.   It comprises a whole other topic, but I can briefly say this:  Immigrants tend to first adapt to a Canadian value set before they will (or are able to) adapt more intricate and time-based shared cultural references.  However, with respect to “shared cultural experiences” immigrants “pick-up from where they jump in”.

This means that even if they may not share cultural reference points from the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s, they will nonetheless begin to share in cultural reference points occurring from the moment they land in Canada, and they will build on those shared experiences, little-by-little from that point on.

They therefore move forward with all the rest of us (just as earlier generations of immigrants have – be it German, Irish, or Ukrainian migrants 80-100 years ago, Italian and Greek immigrants 50-60 years ago, Vietmanese immigrants 35 years ago, or Hong Kong immigrants 20 to 30 years ago).   Over time, everyone eventually shares the same experiences and cultural reference points, and the country continues to culturally build upon itself.

The next post

Three paragraphs above, I mentioned that conditioning is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it can have negative consequences in Canada’s national context if it gives Canadian the expectation they are culturally all from the same cloth without taking Canada’s bilingual/bi-cultural context into account (and I say this notwithstanding Canada’s multicultural nuances — but it is not necessarily to discuss multiculturalism in this context because the expectation is that multicultural communities very much operate within Canada’s two Anglophone and Francophone dominant spheres).

Just as conditioning can form a sense of collective cohesiveness through the expectation that we have shared cultural experiences, conditioning can also cause major problems in national cohesiveness if it only provides one half of Canada’s entire cultural picture.

If our conditioning gives Anglophones culturally shared experiences from only an Anglo-dominant sphere, or if conditioning gives Francophones culturally shared experiences from only a Franco-dominant sphere, problems then arise when both groups, as a consequence, begin to culturally diverge.   Because each linguistic group may not know what is being experienced in each other’s respective cultural spheres, a chasm results.  We call this chasm the Two Solitudes.

In the next post, we will look at simplified examples of how “incomplete national conditioning” (and perhaps “incorrect national conditioning”) can result in reinforcing the notion of the Two Solitudes.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)