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Here is a short, but controversial post for you.
There are more than twice the number of Ontarois as there are Acadians (note: Ontarois(e) is the new name which people use more and more to describe Franco-Ontarians).
But strangely enough, outside Ontario, they do not garner nearly the same amount of attention as Acadians.
Yet, Ontarois also
- have a few distinct accents
- have a Francophone history just as long as Québec’s and Acadia’s (Samuel de Champlain also founded Ontario, just like Québec. He lived in Southern Ontario for over one to two years in 1615. His home was just North of present-day Toronto, in what is now Midland in Cottage Country. I guess he liked his cottage at the lake too! Even today, if you drive 90 minutes North of Toronto to the towns of Penetanguishene and Tiny-municipality – where he established the first European settlement in Ontario — you’ll see and hear wall-to-wall French with an Ontarian accent).
- have many Francophone media super stars (Marie-Mai and Véronique DiCaire among the most recent ones, but there has been a long line of Ontarois celebrities)
- have given Canada some of its foremost politicians and other personalities (the recent and former Prime Minister, Paul Martin, is Ontarois from Windsor)
- have a provincial government, hospitals, and grade-school & post-secondary education institutions which operate or serve its population in French
- live in a province where some areas are over 85% to 90% Francophone (even more Francophone than numerous areas of Québec).
- have their own extensive media industry
- Radio-Canada has numerous studios across Ontario,
- there are more Francophone radio stations in Ontario than anywhere elsewhere outside Québec,
- there are numerous Francophone newspapers, among which Le Droit is one of the largest daily newpapers in Canada,
- the Francophone Toronto-based television station TFO is one of (and possibly is) North America’s largest educational TV stations,
- the national Francophone TV station UNIS is based in Toronto, which broadcasts coast-to-coast-to-coast
- are growing in overall numbers (with those speaking French at home having grown by 9.5% from 2006 to 2011 according to the 2011 Statistics Canada census, one of Canada’s largest growth-rates of any community!)
- shares a province with an an Anglophone community, of which large numbers are able to speak both French and English, and thus lends much moral support and understanding for their Francophone communities (I placed the bilingual numbers on the above map).
Heck, when Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, recently won the mayoral election, the first words of his live televised victory speech were in French, not English.
Considering all of the above, I remain completely baffled as to why only Québecois and Acadians get the bulk of the attention when people outside these regions or outside Canada think about, talk of, or write about French in Canada or of Francophone Canada.
It looks like a case of the Two Solitudes on many, many different levels (Francophone-to-Francophone, Region-to-Region, Québec-to-Ontario, Country-to-Country, Anglophone-to-Francophone, and on and on).
I have some (rather complex) pet theories why this may be the case, but I’ll leave them for another post (check in a couple of posts from now… I have a stab at jotting my thoughts on the issue in a separate post).
I can give you an excellent example of what I regularly see. Yesterday a private foreign company published a post on their blog pertaining to French in Canada (I won’t mention who they are, so as not to single them out). Frankly speaking, from a historic and language-explanation perspective, it was one of the best “short” descriptions I have ever seen (better than any Wikipedia article). I was more than impressed. Yet, even though they said French in Canada has many dialects and is found across the country, they mentioned the most important and main French speaking areas in Canada are Québec and Acadia.
There was just one problem with this article (which was supposed to discuss Canadian French), there was zero mention of Ontario — one of the largest components in Canada’s overall French and Francophone realities.
It’s just not the above article either… In fact this happens over and over again all over the board when people write and talk about French in Canada. I find this chronic omission of anything Ontarois-related to be endemic and representative of many articles, blog posts, and general media coverage. Even I was guilty of falling into this trap in my younger years. Ontario is scarcely ever mentioned, whereas Acadia gets the lions share of the attention – either abroad or elsewhere at home.
Although I consider my own personal background more tied to Franco-Albertan, Franco–Prairien and Pan-Franco-Canadian culture than what I consider it tied to Ontarois (or Franco-Ontarien) culture, the longer I live in Ontario, and the longer I see and hear Ontarois in my everyday life, the more perplexed I become by this question.
On top of it all, I happen to live in one of the least Francophone regions of Toronto, yet I hear French in my neighbourhood more often than you’d think.
This lack of awareness of Francophone Ontario’s existence (versus an extravagantly large amount of attention accorded to a much “smaller” Acadia) is a real head-scratcher. One would think Ontario would find itself on near-equal footing with Acadia, in terms of attention from elsewhere in Canada or abroad (Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying… Acadia is certainly unique in many important ways, and does deserve every bit of attention it gets… But one would also think that Ontarois culture and Francophone Ontario should be right up there too).
Am I missing something here?? It sure makes you think, doesn’t it? What are your thoughts?
“Tant à découvrir”… Funny how the logo plays right into this theme. Ironic isn’t it?
SERIES: FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)
- ENG – “Les Ontarois”: More than double Acadia’s population, yet they rarely get outside attention (#219)
- ENG – Celebrating 400 years of Francophone history in Ontario (#220)
- ENG – Links related to everything “Franco-Ontarian” or “Ontarois” (#221)
- ENG – Why Franco-Ontarians are not better recognized in a pan-Canadian sense, or internationally – Part 1 of 2 (#222)
- ENG – Why Franco-Ontarians are not better recognized in a pan-Canadian sense, or internationally – Part 2 of 2 (#223)
There are a number of readers who have been following my blog for a few months. I’m happy to have been able to offer some insight, and I enjoy reading some of your emails.
It takes time to get a sense of another culture when there is a linguistic barrier or physical distance. However, for those of you who are regular readers, if you were to visit Québec, if you were to watch some Montréwood television, or even listen to some of the news, you would probably already notice that the pieces are now starting to fall into place, bit by tiny bit. Much of what you encounter should now be making much more sense.
I was recently in Montréal and I walked by Théatre St-Denis. It is one of the most famous stage theatres in Québec. It features acts of all types. Some of the biggest names in Québec’s pop-culture have seen their careers launched at Théatre St-Denis, and it continues to feature some of the biggest stars.
A quick glance at the sign made me realize just how much ground has been covered in just the few short months of blogging about Québec, its pop-culture, and many other topics related to Québec and Francophone culture in Canada.
For the regular readers of this blog, the signs (below) should give you an idea just how much you have already learned about Québec’s culture in the last few months. Give yourself a pat on the back for wanting taking the initiative to learn more, and for your desire to acquire a greater cultural context of what Québec and Canada are all about.
Simply from having regularly read the blog posts, a good number of you will certainly recognize some of these names. You now likely know who they are, what they’re about, and how they fit into Québec’s overall culture. Here are four which might jump out at you:
- Stéphane Rousseau
- Véronic DiCaire
- Lise Dion
- Rachid Badouri
The last time I was in Québec City, I also snapped a photo of the performance sign hanging in front of the Le Capitole (the most famous performance theatre in Québec city, and also one of the most famous stage theatres in Québec).
Again, some of the names you’ll likely recognize are
- Ginette Reno
- Véronic DiCaire
- Mario Pelchat
This could be proof that learning about Québec, its culture, and Canada’s Francophone culture in general is not an insurmountable task – even if you don’t speak French. I’m trying my best to cover topics which are relevant, and which pertain to what normal people see in the media, on the street, as well as what everyday common people talk about over meals, at work, and at home.
I would even venture to bet that should you travel to Québec, that you would already be in a position to begin to feel like you are in familiar territory (from a cultural standpoint) – regardless of your French language level. Regardless where you live in Canada, hopefully you’re even beginning to feel that aspects of Canada’s Francophone culture are part of your own culture, at a very personal level. That is a very commendable feat, and I’m quite humbled to know there is a good number of people who are regularly following my posts.
So to those who are faithfully reading this blog, thank-you. I’ll do my best to keep bringing you new topics as time allows. Let’s keep moving forward, and let’s keep building bridges! 🙂
The official websites for
- Théatre St-Denis is http://theatrestdenis.com/en/
- Le Capitole is http://www.lecapitole.com/en/index.php
Should you travel to Montréal or Québec City, these websites (in English & French) have performance information, showtimes, and tickets.