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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)
Did you happen to guess the answer and cultural context for the last post?
If you missed the last post, click here to see the hilarious advertisement with half of “Dong”:
The answer to the last post is “Ding et Dong”.
Perhaps you recall I mentioned in the post on Elvis Gratton that Québec had a couple of close equivalents to Anglophone culture’s Cheech & Chong, with Elvis Gratton being one of them (the on-screen component), and Ding et Dong being the other (the stage comedy component).
Ding et Dong were a very popular comedy duo from the 1980s. But as you can see from the last post, people are still talking about Ding et Dong — to the point that we still see very regular pop-cultural references to them, such as in the advertisement which was the subject of the last post.
With time, Ding & Dong have become pillars in Québec’s cultural psyche. In this sense, they mean much more to Québécois culture than mere comedians.
Ding et Dong was a stand-up comedy duo, played by Serge Thériault and Claude Meunier. They came as an inseparable pair.
This inseparability was also the metaphor for the punchline of the jokes in the advertisement in the last post. The advertisement in the last post was from the Testicular Cancer Society, warning men to be vigilant and have regular health checks, otherwise, you may lose half of the “pair”. (In Anglophone North American culture, it could be as if the Breast Cancer Society made an advertisement stating “Thelma and ________” in order to entice women to seek regular check-ups).
As a pair, they (Thériault & Meunier, that is) spun off acts which later created some of the greatest successes in Québécois comedic and pop-culture history – most notably, the sitcom series La Petite Vie (the most successful sitcom in the history of Canadian and Québec television) and the “Les Boys” movies (again among the most successful movies in history of Canadian and Québec cinema).
I was quite young when Ding et Dong were in their hayday, but I still recall bits & pieces of their acts from when I was a child. As I grew older, many of their punch lines became part of everyday vocabulary and jokes between friends.
Claude Meunier and Serge Thériault have reunied on the odd occasion over the years, and have brought Ding et Dong back to life for special one-off shows. We may see some more of these rare stage-reunions in the coming years — and I guarantee you they will be the hottest tickets in all of Canada the moment any such show is announced!
Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now — I have to drive right now from Toronto up to Témiscamingue on the Québec-Ontario border for some work-related business (that might make for interesting post in itself). But I can already see some potential posts on the horizon relating to Les Boys, Claude Meunier, and Serge Thériault.
Have a great start to your week !