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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)
This documentary, “Le Garage”, caught my eye the moment I first saw a short 20 second clip, and now I’m hooked!
I’ll provide you with trailers, and an official link for online viewing a little further below.
This is one of the most “real” documentaries I think I have ever seen. I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before; one which has surprisingly left me with a feeling of having a strange bond with the people featured in it, despite never having met them.
At the very bottom, I’ll provide you with links to official sites where you can watch the full hour-long documentary, officially approved for internet viewing.
The Trailer: Here’s how the film maker, Michel Demers, describes his film (translation) : “It is along the banks of the North Coast where we find The Garage. Between forest and sea, adults, children, and grand-parents all gather in the garage to tell their stories and to gossip. In an atmosphere in which everyone has each other’s back, you can sample the moose meat, trout, and mussels that everyone has pitched in to bring home together. Norman and his sons are mechanics, and are under the ever-so-watchful eyes of those who drop in and who watch from the side-lines”.
C’est à Longue-Rive sur La Côte-Nord que nous retrouvons LE GARAGE. Entre mer et forêt, adultes, enfants et grands-parents s’y rencontrent pour raconter histoires et menteries. Dans une atmosphère de solidarité et d’entraide, on déguste orignal, truites et moules que l’on a capturé ensemble. Normand et ses fils y font de la mécanique sous les yeux des gens qui “veillent” dans le côté salon.
THE STORY LINE:
The film maker’s brother, Norm, lives in a very small village, Longue-Rive, in the relatively remote region known as Québec’s North Shore. Norm is a mechanic in the village, and works out of his garage set up on his property. In small towns and villages across Canada, particularly those which are quite remote, neighbours have grown up together and/or know each other very well. In such places, people often do not lock their doors at night, and villages take on a family atmosphere of sorts (you can walk into your neighbour’s homes without knocking, everyone knows where everyone’s chilren are at all times, and adults spend a lot of time with each other.
In Longue-Rive, there is no bar or cafe. But the blue-collar nature of the small town makes it so everyone has a garage where they work (either professionally or as a hobby), and everyday life revolves around the garage (much like everyday life may have revolved around kitchens 50, 70 or 100 years ago).
I’ve personally driven through Long-Rive a while back, as well as many other communities like it along the North Shore, and all across Canada. In villages like these, it tends to be more cultural the norm, rather than the exception, to see homes with detached garages, in which residents work or whittle away their time (even in my own family, we I have a number of relatives whose lives semi-revolve around their garage).
Culturally, it is very Canadian to see this phenomenon in remote, rural settings, in all provinces. It’s something I have never really thought of before, but I think it’s an aspect of our rural culture. It’s a part of our culture which the film maker, Michel Demers, has captured beautifully.
In the absence of a bar or café in town, Norm’s garage doubles as the local hang-out for family and friends. People drop by in their free time, pull up a chair (or a “living room recliner”) and meet for a beer, to chat, to eat, organize group activities and just pass away the time. And it’s not only the village men who have turned Norm’s garage into their local “hang-out”. Women and children also gather to gossip, joke, and play.
Because everyone shares the same lifestyle (a love of the outdoors, catching up on community news, bonding as a community, hunting, trapping, fishing, clam digging, ski-dooing, etc.), there are more than enough topics for everyone to talk and laugh about. There is rarely a dull moment. People bond, and the entire village becomes one big family.
WHAT I TOOK AWAY FROM WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY:
What I love about the film is its simple and genuine nature, its innocence, and how life is uncomplicated for those we see on the screen. If one member of the community falls on hard times, there will be a whole network of others around to help pick him/her up by their bootstraps and step in until that individual is back on their feet.
Although I now living in our largest city (with Toronto at the heart of the “Golden Horseshoe” which counts over 10 million people), and even though I have lived in a few cities overseas which have ranged from 8 million, to 17 million, to 25 million people people, a film like this still resonates so strongly with me because I see so many echoes of my own early childhood in it; be it clam-digging close to home with my family, ski-dooing with my dad and his buddies, spending time with my dad as he did odd things around his own garage, or simply growing up in a small, isolated community in which neighbours spent the bulk of their time together. I talked about many of these things in a couple of earlier posts:
It find it quite interesting that so many aspects of life on the North Coast of Québec (where the St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic) are almost identical to many aspects of life on the North Coast of British Columbia (where the Skeena meets the Pacific), and a good number of other places. Fascinating stuff!
Apart from the various Canadian cities in which this documentary has or will be screened (both inside and outside of Québec), it is also set to be screened or has been screened in cities as far away as Moscow, Marseilles, Brussels, Chicago and Mexico.
A NOTE ON THE STYLE OF FRENCH USED :
The French accents and expressions spoken are those commonly heard in Québec’s North Coast region. This style of French has more in common with French spoken in Québec’s Gaspé region, the Atlantic Province’s Acadian regions, and the older generations of Prairie French speakers than it does Western Québec (which includes Montréal) or Ontario. (You can click the above links for more information on these various accent styles).
However, if your French is at an upper advanced level, and if you’re used to hearing a couple of different Canadian French accents to a fluent level, you should not have much difficulty understanding what is being said. Just be aware that even if your French is perfectly fluent, or even if French is your first language (such as for those from Montréal or Québec City), but if you are not used to hearing a North Coast accent, the super-strong accents of a couple of Normand’s buddies may throw you off here and there (there were a couple of times when I had to rewind to catch the words in a couple of different phrases).
SOME ADDITIONAL OUT-TAKES:
Here are some clips of people in the documentary talking about their lives and their”Garage” culture:
Here are some clips of reactions from local residents in Long-Rive when they first viewed a showing of “Bienvenue chez Normand”.
The documentary’s official website: http://www.micheldemers.com/?cat=67
HOW TO VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY ONLINE, FOR APPROVED VIEWING:
The documentary will be available on Radio-Canada’s “Tou.tv” website for free viewing until approximately September 2015.
The direct link is as follows: http://ici.tou.tv/les-grands-reportages/S2015E189
Subtitles (in French) are available in the video if you need them (click the subtitle button at the the bottom of the screen).
Happy viewing !!