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La Franco-Fête de Toronto – la version torontoise des Francopholies (#309)

ADDENDUM 30-07-2015

Usually I add addendums at the end of blog posts, but owing to the significance of this one, I’ll it at the front.  By the end of this years Franco-fête in Toronto over the course of two weeks, 100 concerts took place with over 350 singers.  Estimates were that between 700,000 and 1,000,000 (million) people attended the concerts in Dundas Square at one point or another.  HUGE SUCCESS!

D’habitude j’ajoute des addendum à la fin des billets…  Mais compte tenu du succès de la Franco-fête cette année, je le crois une bonne idée de mettre cet addendum en haut du billet.   Durant les deux semaines de la Franco-fête, plus de 100 concerts ont eu lieu avec plus de 350 chanteurs participants dans la place Dundas à Toronto.   Les organisateurs croient qu’entre 700,000 et 1,000,000 (million) personnes l’ont assisté les concerts à un moment ou à un autre.  Un ÉNORME SUCCÈS!


I’m inserting a quick post about an event that is going on right now in Toronto (this will be of interest to followers in South-Central Ontario).

Franco-Fête is the Toronto equivalent of Les Francofolies de Montréal outdoor concert week (click here for last years’ post on Les Francofolies).  

Along with la Fête Franco-Ontarienne in Ottawa, FRANCO-FÊTE is one of the larger French-language concert weeks in Ontario.   This is my first year attending it, and there is no shortage of events!!

The main concerts are being held in downtown Toronto at Dundas Square, in addition to other venues all around the city.

A.C.Stg2

D.Sq.

Franco-Fête is going on right now.   Some of the big names, from various provinces this year are

  • Arianne Moffatt
  • Radio Radio
  • Swing
  • Zachary Richard
  • Lisa Leblanc
  • Kevin Parent
  • Louis-Jean Cormier

A good number of well-known Franco-Ontariens are also being featured, such as

  • Mélanie Brulée
  • Les Chiclettes
  • Yao
  • Stef Paquette

And there are many many others!

You can find the complete concert and event listings at

http://www.franco-fete.ca/

Last night some friends and I checked out the concert given by the popular Acadian group Radio Radio.

A.C.Stg

Have fun!!

flr

Is there a “personality difference” between Francophones and Anglophones? (#291)

Is there a “personality difference” between Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones?

That is a loaded question if I have ever heard one.

Take note that I am referring to “personality” (psychological) differences, and not “cultural” differences.

Over the years I have often heard Québec Francophones say they sense there are personality differences which distinguish Francophones from Anglophones.  It is an argument that I have heard more from Québec Francophones than I have from Canadian Anglophones.

I suppose I am perhaps not the best person to objectively evaluate such a statement.  I have always had Québec Francophone friends from childhood into adulthood, and a sizable portion of my colleagues, former bosses, and teachers at school and university have been Francophones from Québec.

Thus, any personality lines which do exist are likely more blurred for me than they would be from others.

But I have given the question a bit more thought lately.  A very good Québec francophone friend of mine resides in a small town in Anglophone Ontario (in the Loyalist belt of Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario).  From his experience in Prince Edward Country, he feels the personality differences between Canadian Anglophones and Francophones are to such an extent that he no longer feels comfortable living in small-town Ontario.

He is already starting to plan his move back to Québec.

His feelings of being “dépaysé” (a Canadian French word meaning one feels out of one’s skin owing to living in a new environment from what one is used to) has led me to pose some questions.

He is a good friend who tends to view the world quite objectively (in fact, a large part of his career involves crisis intervention and mediation).  I suppose this is why I’m left asking several questions.

They are questions which leaves me somewhat perplexed because I have lived in six provinces (including Québec), and I have rarely had a feeling that the personality differences between Anglophones and Francophones would be so large that they would warrant “retreating” back to Québec.

In a cultural sense, I admit it makes me somewhat uneasy (on the unity front, more than anything) whenever I hear that Québec Francophones feel they cannot comfortably live in other areas of Canada.

But such feelings of unease are easily mitigated by the knowledge that I know far more Québec Francophones who are happily living across across Anglophone Canada than who are not happy.  I know far more Québec Francophones would  not consider personality differences to be so large that it would be disruptive to their lifestyles.

I searched the internet to see if there are scientific studies which might explain what personality differences could exist between Anglophones and Francophones.  I was only able to find one study from 2008 conducted by Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, Québec).  It was a small study involving 50 Francophones and 50 Anglophones, split 50/50 between men and women.   It evaluated

  • extroversion (how extrovert one is towards others)
  • neuroticism (anxiety or indecision, and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment around others)
  • psychoticism (one’s aptitude to become upset, anxious, or angry)
  • one’s propensity to lie
  • open-minded to new experiences
  • conscientiousness
  • agreeableness
  • conservatism (traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness; more apt to advocate preservation of existing conditions or institutions)
  • altruism (unselfish concern for others, or devotion to the welfare of others)

The study found that Québec Francophones ranked higher degrees of extroversion, and psychoticism (thus they would be more vocal and engaging in public on a range of issues, including emotional issues).

Anglophones ranked higher on Conservatism (thus they would be less likely to “rock the boat”).  I would guess that such personality traits would be more internalized than externalized, and when externalized, they would be manifested through a greater degree of reserve (not as extrovert with a lesser outward display of public emotion).

The study found that Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones did not differ regarding the remaining personality traits.

I found the study to be very interesting because it reflects several observations I have made myself over the course of my life.

  • I can recall at school that when mixed with Anglophone Canadian students, Québec Francophone students would be more apt to speak in class, and and to comment on, ask or argue questions or ideas in class.
  • Anglophone colleagues would be less apt to advocate for change in the workplace or voice their views at work with superiors.
  • Francophone colleagues would be more apt to take vocal socializing and jokes into the workplace, and to likewise take the workplace outside of work (with drinks with colleagues after work, or week-end activities with colleagues).
  • Anglophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle changes are more often manifested through a “live and let live” standpoint;  meaning that they more than welcome societal / lifestyle changes (which they view as healthy for society), but that they believe such changes come about as a matter of natural societal evolution in the course of time.
  • This contrasts with Francophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle change.  With respect to changes they too believe are healthy for society, they often harbour a “make-it-happen” standpoint with respect to societal or personal lifestyles.   This means they believe in more direct intervention (through direct government intervention or direct changes in the established order).

The above are simply a question of approaches, and they are not insurmountable differences.  In fact, these are mixes which can add a nice touch of variety to any equation.

My own observations are my own personal inferences from my own experiences, and of course everyone is different.   Despite the above generalities (and they are just that; generalities), I can think of many individuals who I consider are exceptions to the above (both Anglophones and Francophones).

When I try to relate the above back to my friend’s unique situation in Ontario’s Loyalist regions (Prince Edward County), I tend to think the reasons for my friend’s uncomfortable adjustment tend to be more situation-specific than inherent.

Personally, I tend to think that his own conclusions are misplaced; in the sense that he believes his feeling of being “dépaysé” are related to personality differences between Francophones and Anglophones.  Yet, I tend to believe his feelings have more to do with a conflict between what he is used to from his own upbringing, and what lifestyle is lived by the inhabitants of Prince Edward County.

Prince Edward County has a unique culture, even from the rest of Ontario (I have spend a good deal of time in Prince Edward County over the past few months.  I know people there, and I have also been tracing a branch of my own roots in the region back to the 1700s).
PE Map3

Prince Edward County is a 2 hour drive East of Toronto, a 2 hour drive from Ottawa, and a 4 hour drive West of Montréal.

PE Wn1

Prince Edward County is Ontario’s second largest wine-growing region (after the Niagara Region), dotted with wine-estates, artisan works, fine-food gourmet shops, restored B&Bs in period housing, and hobby farms — a very laid-back lifestyle

PE Bc2

A photo of the beaches I took a few days ago when getting my feet wet at one of the many beaches in Prince Edward County.

Some factoids which I feel do play a direct in how newcomers to the region (both Francophone and Anglophone) may view Prince Edward County:

  • Prince Edward County was settled by Loyalists in the end of the 1700s / beginning of the 1800s.
  • The population is largely comprised of the descendants of those original settlers, and thus it has developed a lifestyle and culture which differs from other regions of Ontario.
  • People are perhaps less apt to leave the region, and there are fewer people who move to the region than other parts of Ontario.  People in Prince Edward County are thus more likely to know each other, to have grown up with each other, and to have many shared common experiences (which people from other parts of Ontario may even have difficulty relating to).
  • It is a wine-growing region, with many beaches, slow-paced outdoor activities, and hobby farms.
  • This leads to a slower pace of life and “let-it-be” lifestyle and attitude.

Yet my friend grew up in face-paced Montréal — a very different city.  He has always been surrounded by highly cosmopolitan environments.  In the past, he was spoiled by also having lived in Québec City with world-class outdoor activities and mountains within a 40 minute dive away (something which Prince Edward County does not have).

Just as important a factor, my friend does not have the best command of English (which prevents him from effectively being able to communicate with the locals in Prince Edward County).

I therefore tend to think that he has encountered a clash of personal-interests, in addition to a very “localized” cultural clash with the residents of Prince Edward County.  Despite his interpretations, I am not sure his unhappiness is related to a personality / cultural clash between Francophone Québec and Anglophone Canada.   Other Anglophones from elsewhere in Canada may also have the same difficulties in adjusting to Prince Edward County (I know several people Anglophone from Toronto who say they too would not be happy living in a rural setting like Prince Edward County).

On the reverse, through my friend, I have met other other Francophones in Prince Edward County who have specifically moved there for the slow-paced lifestyle and relaxed outdoor environment.  They have opened local businesses and have become highly involved in their communities.  Those people love it, and are very comfortable and happy with their decision.

Unfortunately, my friend’s own limited interactions with Anglophone Canada does not allow him to see it this way, and he has come to believe there are irreconcilable differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.

This is not the first time that I have seen people on either side of the linguistic divide (Francophone or Anglophone) confuse specific “local conditions” with a macro-cultural or personality divide (ie: the incorrect assumption that if this village is like this, then all of Canada and all Anglophones must be like this… or if these three people were rude to me or could not relate to what is being discussed, then all Francophones and all of Québec must be like this).

In the case of my friend, he was forceably transferred to Prince Edward County from his work for 3 to 4 years.  It was not by his own choosing.  I firmly believe that had he chosen to go there for its laid-back lifestyle, had he chosen to go there for its gastronomic character or its outdoor activities. his experience would have been completely different.

Likewise, knowing his personality and cultural preferences, I have a feeling he would be equally unhappy if he were transferred to the Beauce or very isolated Abitibi Francophone regions of Québec, simply because they do not fit his lifestyle.   To make the point, I know an Anglophone from Toronto who moved to Abitibi in Québec and loves it like nothing else, and I know three Francophones from Québec who moved to the small rural farming town of Vegreville in Alberta who absolutely love it and will never leave.  In these latter cases, they “chose” to move there for reasons offered by these regions, they founded business or integrated within the communities based on mutual interests, and they fit their lifestyles.

This is why is it so important to NOT confuse a very few minor personality differences on either side of the linguistic line with irreconcilable cultural or personality differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.  

Even more unfortunate, I caught my friend telling other Québecois out of frustration, based on his Prince Edward County experiences, how Anglophone Canadians and Québec Francohpones are two completely different worlds and completely incompatible.  Sad… very very sad.   When I heard this, I took it upon myself to give him a few stern words and to force him to take a good hard look at himself in the mirror.  But hey, I could get away with doing so — we’re actually very very good friends.   I Have been forcing him to try to view his circumstances a bit differently, and I think he is finally beginning to see the problem is with how his personal interests diverge from the immediate region in which he is living, rather than any problem with Anglophone Canada as a whole.

The ironic thing is that if my friend’s English language competencies were greater, and if he were to have lived in other parts, cities or provinces of Anglophone Canada which better match his personal interests, I do not believe he would feel there would be irreconcilable personality differences between Anglophone Canadians and Francophone Québécois.

I suppose it goes to show that

  1. poor French / English language proficiency (on the part of both Anglophones and Francophones), and
  2. a lack of travel / living in other regions / life-experiences from which to form reference points and knowledge…

still remain the two largest challenges to bridging the Two Solitudes.

(And if you’re wondering… I happen to really like Prince Edward County.  If I were hypothetically asked to move there, I don’t believe it would work for me either because my career and current lifestyle would not make a good fit under present circumstances.  But that doesn’t mean I feel it is irreconcilable with other parts of the country.  It simply means that it wouldn’t suit my current situation to move there at this point in my life.  Point made?).

L’Ontario francophone — Grand, fort, fier, mais souvent peu visible dans l’esprit des autres (#224)

Ce billet vous présente un résumé des quelques billets précédents qui faisaient partie d’une courte série portant sur l’Ontario francophone et les Franco-Ontariens.

Le fond de l’affaire portait sur quatre thématiques ;

  1. Le fait que la population Franco-Ontarienne est deux fois plus grande de celle des Acadiens, mais que l’Ontario Francophone n’attire qu’une fraction de l’attention qu’attire les Acadiens dans l’esprit des autres,
  2. Que les Francophones étaient le peuple fondateur de l’Ontario, et qu’ils y demeurent toujours depuis 400 ans – de l’époque de Samuel de Champlain, qui y a vécu juste au nord de ce qui est maintenant la grande région de Toronto.
  3. Qu’il existe un vaste réseau d’organismes et d’infrastructure francophone en place pour soutenir la population francophone de l’Ontario – au point où le nombre de gens qui parle français à la maison a subi une croissance de 9,5 % entre 2006 et 2011 – chiffre officiel de Stat-Can (Je crois bien qu’il s’agit du taux de croissance du français parlé à la maison le plus élevé dans toutes les Amériques… Assez dois-je dire pour dynamiter à néant ce que le PQ aimerait nous faire croire).
  4. Que malgré le fait qu’il n’a jamais été aussi facile de vivre et bâtir sa vie en français en Ontario, il reste encore certains défis, notamment comment rehausser l’image de l’Ontario francophone auprès des autres (du Québec, auprès des Anglophones, et auprès des pays à l’étranger) afin que les aspects positifs qui pourraient en découler d’une reconnaissance et d’une visibilité accrue puissent trouver leur chemin.

Official flag of Ontario Francophones and Francophiles - often seen flying province-wide in front of government institutions and by private individuals.

Parcourons bièvement chacune de ces thématiques :

Premier Point

Le fait que la population Franco-Ontarienne est deux fois plus grande que celle des Acadiens, mais que l’Ontario Francophone n’attire qu’une fraction de l’attention face aux Acadiens :

Quelques faits au sujet des Franco-Ontariens:  Ils / elles…

  • comptent plusieurs accents régionaux différents en français (j’ai déjà écrit un billet à ce sujet il y a quelques mois)
  • ont l’histoire aussi longue que celle des Québécois et des Acadiens. On peut même dire que Samuel de Champlain était, avec Étienne Brulé, le fondateur de l’Ontario.  Le coin où il a vécu et où il avait fondé sa communauté en 1615 parle toujours le français jusqu’à nos jours (Midland-Tiny-Penetanguishene, 90 minutes de route au nord de Toronto).
  • comptent une multitude de vedettes parmi leurs rangs, qui se sont tournées vers Montréwood pour favoriser leur entrée sur le plateau central (un peu comme le font les vedettes du Royaume-Uni, de l’Australie, du Canada anglais, et de la Nouvelle-Zélande lorsqu’ils se tournent vers Hollywood aux É-U afin de trouver la gloire et la fortune). Parmi les plus connues des temps récents sont Marie-Mai, Véronic DiCaire et Katherine Levac.
  • nous ont donné beaucoup de nos politiciens qui ont eu un impact sur nous tous au Canada, tel l’ancien premier ministre du Canada, Paul Martin (Franco-Ontarien de Windsor).
  • ont un gouvernement provincial, des hôpitaux, et des écoles de tout niveau qui desservent la population en français à travers la province.
  • forment 85% à 90% de la population dans certains coins de la province – des régions plus “francophones” que beaucoup d’endroits au Québec même.
  • ont leur propre industrie médiatique. Côté télévision, Rad-Can a des studios éparpillés un peu partout en province, UNIS diffuse partout au Canada à partir de Toronto, et TFO de Toronto est peut-être le plus grand diffuseur éducatif en Amérique du Nord.  Côté presse écrite, Le Droit d’Ottawa demeure un des plus grands journaux quotidiens au Canada.
  • partage leur province avec une des populations anglophones les plus bilingues au Canada et en Amérique du Nord (en 2011, on comptait 1,500,000 personnes bilingues en Ontario, qui peuvent tenir une conversation en français, selon Stat-Can). Ce fait facilite beaucoup l’accès aux services et à l’infrastructure en français à travers la province – car les rouages gouvernementaux tirent de cette population bilingue afin d’offrir ses services en français.

Les gestes et les avancements sur tous ces fronts progressent à un rythme du jamais vu depuis plus que 100 ans – au point où que les premiers mots du discours de la victoire de 2014 du nouveau maire de Toronto, John Tory, furent prononcés en directe à la télévision en français, et non pas en anglais.

Mais malgré tout ce progrès, malgré une population aussi enracinée que celle de l’Acadie et du Québec – et malgré une population deux fois plus grande que celle de l’Acadie, l’Ontario Francophone demeure toujours relégué loin derrière l’Acadie dans l’esprit des Québécois, de beaucoup d’Anglophones ailleurs au Canada, et d’autres pays.

C’est un mystère qui me bafoue – et beaucoup de Franco-Ontariens le trouve choquant.

Deuxième point :

Cette année en Ontario, les Francophones et anglophones célèbrent ensemble le 400e anniversaire du français en Ontario, et la fondation des racines de la province par Samuel de Champlain – un héritage qui parle fort jusqu’à nos jours.

La célébration s’appelle “ONTARIO 400” – qui durera l’année longue, partout en province.   Le site web se trouve ici : http://ontario400.ca/.  Croyez-moi quand je vous dis qu’il vaut vraiment la peine d’y jeter un coup d’œil.

Troisième point

Le réseau d’organismes et d’infrastructure francophone mis en place pour soutenir la population francophone en Ontario en est parmi les plus grands au monde, en dehors de l’Europe.  Ce que je trouve fascinant, c’est que la grande partie du réseau demeure indépendante de tout gouvernement.   S’il vous intéresse, j’ai offert quelques liens qui ne sont que la pointe de l’iceberg :   Links related to everything “Franco-Ontarian” or “Ontarois (#221)”  

Quatrième point

Il reste toujours un défi de savoir comment rehausser l’image de l’Ontario francophone auprès des autres (au Québec, auprès des Anglophones, et auprès de ceux à l’étranger) afin que les aspects positifs qui pourrait découler d’une telle reconnaissant et d’une telle visibilité accrue puissent trouver leur chemin en Ontario.

J’ai abordé onze points que je soupçonne d’être à l’origine des raisons pour lesquelles les Franco-Ontariens ne bénéficient pas d’une plus grande reconnaissance à l’extérieur de ses frontières.   Certaines des raisons invoquées sont assez controversées – au point où queleques uns des points suivants ne sont que rarement discutés publiquement, hormis un chuchotement très discret parmi les francophones en Ontario eux-mêmes.  J’ai l’impression personnelle qu’il n’y a pas grand monde qui ose en parler publiquement.  Mais moi, j’y ai osé dans le billet précédent en anglais (et ce, en détail).

À tort ou à raision, la voici la liste des raisons telle que je les voie:

A.  Une dilution institutionnelle – Par ceci j’entends dire que beaucoup d’institutions fréquentées par les Francophones sont des institutions partagées avec les Anglophones de la province (des institutions bilingues). À titre d’exemple, les hôpitaux à Toronto et ailleurs offrent leurs services en français.  Et ça va de même pour beaucoup d’universités.  Mais au fond, elles sont des institutions “anglophones” qui offrent des services en français.    Puisque ces institutions ne sont pas “Francophones unilingues”, elles ne bénéficient pas du même niveau de reconnaissance que les institutions Francophones de l’Acadie.

B.  Le parcellement de la population francophone – La population francophone de l’Ontario se trouve aux quatre coins de la province. Il faut se rappeler que l’Ontario est 10% la grandeur de l’Europe (40% plus grand que la France), mais ne compte que 613,000 Francophones qui ont le français comme langue principale à la maison.  Même avec deux fois la population de l’Acadie, les Francophones de l’Ontario sont dilués par la distance qui les sépare les uns les autres.

C.  L’Éloignement géographique Les régions les plus francophones de la province (où tout se déroule en français) sont quand même très loin des grandes villes (à titre d’exemple, l’haute-région francophone de l’autoroute 11 se trouve à 12 heures de route directement au nord de Toronto – c’est loin 12 heures!).

D.  La province, dans son ensemble, n’est pas “officiellement bilingue” Tout le monde reconnait les Acadiens en grande partie en raison du milieu dans lequel ils vivent. Malgré tout, c’est le Nouveau-Brunswick qui est officiellement bilingue dans son ensemble.   En Ontario, il existe plusieurs grandes régions qui sont officiellement bilingues (au même niveau du bilinguisme que l’on trouverait au Nouveau-Brunswick).  Cependant, la province elle-même n’est que “fonctionnellement bilingue” et non pas “officiellement bilingue” (il existe une différence, et une juridiction dite “fonctionnellement bilingue” n’attirerait pas autant d’attention dans l’esprit des autres).

E.  Une sphère médiatique franco-Ontarien “peu visible”Si la société dans laquelle vous vivez compte un grand nombre d’organes médiatiques hautement visibles, tels des réseaux de télévision qui penchent fortement sur les nouvelles, ou même des télé-divertissements populaires (un peu comme on voit à TVA, LCN, etc.), votre société serait plus visible aux autres. En Ontario, on a des organes médiatiques, mais elles sont spécialisées ou elles font partie d’un réseau pancanadien et ne sont pas “franco-ontariens” en soient.  C’est en partie la raison pour laquelle les vedettes québécoises sont toujours les invités d’honneur en France, et mêmes les vedettes acadiennes (comme Roch Vosine, Natasha St-Pier, etc.).   Mais jamais les Franco-Ontariens (pleinement bizarre!, et décevant — c’est vraiment décevant d’ailleurs)

F.  Des accents franco-ontariens qui s’assimilent facilement à ceux du Québec lorsque les artistes Franco-Ontariens font le grand saut à Montréwood Beaucoup de vedettes Francophones qui quitte l’Ontario pour trouver la gloire à Montréwood (la scène artistique et des médias à Montréal) est souvent confondue avec les vedettes du Québec.  Oui, les accents en Ontario sont différents, mais ils font partie de la même branche d’accents de ceux du Québec (une branche qui les relient tous auprès de la même famille d’accents qu’on voit aussi loin que la Colombie-Britannique, les Prairies, l’Ontario, et jusqu’au Québec).

Côté personnel, c’est justemment pour cette raison, que lorsque je voyage au Québec, si souvent on me prend moi-même pour quelqu’un de la Côte-nord du Québec, malgré le fait que mon accent porte plutôt des traits franco-albertains.  C’est justemment parce que le français des prairies fait quand-même partie de la même branche que le français de l’Ontario et celle du Québec).

Cela fait que les Franco-Ontariens ne soient pas aussi “perceptibles” à Montréwood que le sont les Acadiens, qui parlent avec un accent et un style de langage très différent (le français des Acadiens vient d’une branche à part vue ses origines)

G.  Un manque d’entreprises et de sociétés à “grande-échelle” en Ontario qui ont le français comme langue de travail Des sociétés à grand-échelle qui génèrent de l’argent captent l’attention du monde entier (et certainement à l’intérieur du même pays). Il existe une multitude d’entreprises francophones en Ontario, mais lorsqu’ils atteignent une certaine grandeur, leurs opérations internes se font généralement en anglais.  Cela veut dire que l’Ontario Francophone aurait perdu cette visibilité côté affaires.

H.  Il existe toujours les “deux solitudes” entre Québec et les autres Francophones du CanadaAu Québec, en école et dans les médias, on n’apprend carrément rien sur l’Ontario Francophone, mais on en apprend sur l’Acadie. Probablement les raisons trouvent leurs origines dans les vieilles chicanes politiques qui datent de l’année du siège.  Dans le temps, le PQ et ces prédécesseurs ultra-nationalistes faisaient tout ce qu’ils pouvaient pour se distancer de l’Ontario.  On voyait l’Ontario comme une méchante province “Anglophone”, et on se foutait de tout ce qui avait rapport à l’Ontario, y compris ses Francophones.  Heureusement la donne change petit à petit – mais il prendra encore un bon bout de temps avant que l’Ontario francophone s’enracine dans la conscience collective du Québec.

I.  Une participation internationale assez “douce”La nature du statut bilingue du Nouveau-Brunswick fait que la province puisse se joindre à plusieurs organismes internationaux — telle la francophonie internationale — à titre de membre à part entier (au même niveau que la France, le Canada et le Québec). L’Ontario n’a pas ce droit;  peut-être parce que le gouvernement n’y met pas l’accent, peut-être parce que la province n’est pas officiellement bilingue.  Un manque d’adhérence aux organismes internationaux (au nom des Franco-Ontariens) nuit à la visibilité et au prestige des Franco-Ontariens à l’échelle internationale.

J.  Ottawa (la ville), au plan civique, n’est pas encore “officiellement bilingue” Ottawa est déjà une ville dite “fonctionnellement bilingue”, mais non pas “officiellement bilingue”. Qu’elle est la différence?  En réalité, sur le terrain, il n’y a pas une si grande différence.  La ville se permet déjà d’offrir tous ses services en français.

Une désignation “bilingue” serait plutôt une question de dignité et de respect pour les habitants de la ville, de la région, et du pays en général.  Mais une désignation bilingue pourrait ouvrir la porte à d’autres mesures, telles l’obligation d’un affichage extérieur bilingue au niveau des entreprises – et même plus encore.   Mais je crois que la plupart du monde qui se lutte pour une désignation bilingue se contenterait d’une désignation simple (plutôt que d’amener le débat et ses implications aux extrémités de la terre).

Cependant, c’est un débat qui court depuis les années 1960.  Le débat, irait-il un jour mener aux protestations dans la rue?  Peut-être – mais je ne suis pas sûr.  Si on veut hausser le ton, bien-sûr la possibilité est bien là.   Il va dépendre la volonté des Francophones, de leurs alliés et amis Francophiles et Anglophones, et la façon dont ils s’organise pour mettre le projet de l’avant (25% de la population côté “ouest” de la rivière est francophone.  85% de la rive “est” est également francophone.  Les sondages démontrent que 25% à 35% des anglophones de la ville sont, sans équivoque, dans le camp des francophones sur la question de faire d’Ottawa une ville bilingue.  Et une grande partie de ce qui reste de la population “n’est pas” forcément contre l’idée.  D’autant plus, les Anglophones ailleurs au Canada — et surtout les Francophones ailleurs au Canada — ne sont pas contré l’idée).

K.  Manque de pouvoir d’attraction aux yeux des immigrants francophones:

Les immigrants s’installe où il y a des emplois en français.  Ce n’est pas dû à l’existence des “programmes d’immigration” qui les incitent à s’installer en Ontario.

Si on veut des immigrants, il faut créer une économie qui fonctionne “en français”.

Alors, plutôt que d’entamer des nouveaux programmes d’immigration, il faut créer des institutions qui soutienne l’épanouissement de l’industrie — et des sociétés qui opèrent en français.

Sans ça, les immigrants viendront pas, point.  (Croyez-vous qu’une personne qui parle le finlandais irait immigrer dans un zone où le travail se déroule en suedois?  Bien sur que non!   Si vous le croyez, il faut maintenant arrêter de rêver en couleur).

Solution:  Ceux qui militent pour la survie des communautés francophones en milieux minoritaires doivent arrêter de mendier auprès du gouvernement fédéral et doivent fonder des:

  • banques de développment
  • sociétés privés de gestion des pensions pour ceux qui travaillent dans des sociétés qui opèrent en français
  • universités “privés”, indépendants des gouvernement, pour s’assurer un main-d’oeuvre qui alimente les sociétés francophones en milieu minoritaire
  • un movement de révolution tranquille en Ontario – penché sur les affaires.   Autrement ces militants seraient eux aussi en partie responsables pour la mort de la communauté “à petit feu” — et non seulement l’inaction de nos gouvernements.  Désolé, mais ne mâchons pas nos mots.

Au fur et à mesure que la société Franco-Ontarienne continue d’évoluer et de se diversifier, il serait fort intéressant de voir comment son profil, aux yeux des autres, changera avec le temps.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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Why Franco-Ontarians are not better recognized in a pan-Canadian sense, or internationally – Part 2 of 2 (#223)

This is a continuation of the last post (part 1).   In the last post I offered six reasons why I believe Franco-Ontarians do not garner as much attention as Acadia, despite being twice as populous as Acadia, despite having a higher growth rate of French used at home, and despite having a much larger bilingual population around them which supports its Francophone institutions.

This post will offer you six additional reasons why I believe Francophone Ontario does not receive more attention.  However these six points are much more controversial than the previous six.  I’m also going to be quite blunt (but sometimes blunt is the only way to spur action).

They are also “elephants in the room” which I feel many people do not wish to touch.  Provincial and federal politicians may not be willing to discuss them, and Franco-Ontarian columnists may not be comfortable discussing them for fear of upsetting a balance which took decades to achieve, and to avoid risk jeopardizing government funding.   But if Francophone Ontario wishes to garner more support, more recognition, and continued growth, I believe they are topics which should be talked about and addressed head on.  Otherwise it will be difficult and slow for Ontario’s Francophone society to continue to grow in an economically healthy and dignified manner.   It is time a serious discussion begins.

Here are the last five reasons why I believe Francophone Ontario does not garner more attention outside its borders:

1.  A lack of “large-scale” businesses in Ontario which operate in French:

Societies are often judged by their business and economic strength – full stop, period.

In Eastern Ontario, I know of a couple of business which employ over 50 people, and which operate primarily in French.   There are also many small businesses which operate primarily in French throughout Northern and Eastern Ontario.    But I know of no large-scale businesses which operate primarily in French.

If you have a society (or even a city) with 600,000 people, but yet it does not have one single business which employs over 100 people which operates in the language of that society, what would your perceptions of that society be?  Would you think they’re a strong, vibrant society?   Would you give them much thought?  Would you write about them or speak much of them, either across the country or internationally?  Would you think they should garner as much attention as the society next door which has the same language, but which does have very strong business sector and business presence?

This is precisely the situation Francophone Ontario is facing.

Acadia may not have many French-language companies with over 100 employees.  But because Acadians live and work together in a very concentrated society, without being diluted by vast distances, their business environment is conducted in French – and thus they get attention as one cohesive society.  They are noticed.

What I find bafflingtruly baffling… is that there are many entrepreneurial Franco-Ontarians out there who operate large or growing companies.  Yet, once they reach a certain size (ie: more than 10 people, beyond just family members), they generally begin to internally operate in English.   Yes, of course they have to provide their services in English to be able to attract Anglophone clientele.  But I’m not talking about services to the public.  I’m talking about the internal language of business operations.  Is it a lack of confidence?  Is it a lack of entrepreneurial spirit?  Is it a fear of how they will be perceived?  Is it all of these reasons and more?

I do not understand why Francophone-owned companies in Ontario do not continue to internally operate in French once they begin to significantly grow (after all, they can still do so while still maintaining services and offerings in English to their Anglophone clientele).

Of all the provinces outside Québec, it is in Ontario and New Brunswick where it should be very easy to operate a business in French.  The government of Ontario, and its major cities have gone to great lengths to ensure that Francophone business can operate in French (actually… I know this because I run a business in Ontario, and from day one the provincial government has always given me the option to conduct all my interactions with it in French).   You can do all your interactions with the Ontario and Federal governments in French.   Ontario’s major cities (and even many smaller centres) allow you to interact with their local governments in French.  You can do all your health and safety procedures in French.   You can hire French-speaking accounting and law firms in Ontario.  Your staff hiring can be done in French (you’re not going to get wrapped on the knuckles for discrimination if you hire employees based on their ability to speak French…  it is legally ok to do so).  Everything can be done in French.

So why are Francophone in Ontario not jumping on board?  Why are Franco-Ontarians not doing this on a grand-scale?   Why do we not see French-language companies in Toronto (or other parts of the province), which operate primarily in French and which have 100, 300 or 500 employees?

I simply don’t get it.

Furthermore, there is a reason why I don’t understand it.    I have a business associate who has perhaps 200 employees in Toronto, and the language of internal operations of that company is Spanish (even the signs within the building are in Spanish, right down to the employee time cards, and the men’s & women’s washroom signs).  I know another company in Toronto with 50+ employees, and the internal operating language is Portuguese.  I know of two other companies in Toronto; two with over 200 employees, and one with over 400 employees – and the internal operating language is Chinese! … in Toronto! (accounting staff, warehouse staff, internal emails & reports, staff meetings and all!)

With 600,000 Francophones in Ontario, and 1,500,000 people who can hold a conversation in French in Ontario, I find it scandalous that Francophone associations in Ontario are not concentrating more on promoting an entrepreneurial spirit (on a grand scale) to Ontario’s Francophones.  I do not understand why so many Francophone organizations concentrate solely on things like the arts & plays, or history projects, or dotting the landscape with a monument or plaque here or there, or asking the government for more money for feel-good projects.

Yes, these are important things, but I do not understand why they do not seek more ways, as Francophone associations, to help Ontario’s Francophone society create more money for the government of Ontario, for the benefit of all Ontarians, and for the benefit of their own community.  If you create more money, then more money will come back to you, and the momentum simply grows.

Not many things gets a government’s attention more than successful businesses and the jobs they create.  It would be a win-win for Franco-Ontarians.  (The money starts ‘a runnin, and the politicians come ‘a knockin).

I’ve always been a fan of the Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”.   In this context, Ontario’s Francophone associations should be asking “Ask not what your province and government can do for you, but what you can do for your government, your province, and how you can contribute to its economic growth on a grand scale!”  (I warned you this post was going to be controversial 😉 ).

I make the above statement in the spirit of being someone who is 100% for the promotion, strengthening, and growth of French in Canada.   I want to see Canada’s French fact and society thrive.   In this sense, I urge Francophones, and the organizations and governments who represent them to take the bull by the horns and economically do something about it.  Francophones in Ontario have the numbers, infrastructure and tenacity to make this happen.   They have the ability to become an economic powerhouse.  I wish we saw more people take the initiative in this direction.

2.  A lack of ability to attract immigrants:

Personally, I believe many advocates for minority Francophone communities have got it so wrong on this front.  I feel many people completely misunderstand the most important factors which dictate how immigrants chose where to live.   I myself was an immigrant to another country (I immigrated from Canada to China — Chinese green card, house purchase, car ‘n all!).   And I’ll tell you what attracts immigrants.   It is NOT federal or provincial immigration programs, as many advocates would have you believe (that is simply the bureaucratic paperwork end of things).

Rather, it is JOBS! JOBS!! AND MORE JOBS!!!

I’ll give you an example:  If you’re an immigrant, and you speak Finnish, are you want to immigrate, will you immigrate to a place where the jobs are in Swedish or in Finnish?  Of course you are going to immigrate to a place where the jobs are in Finnish.  There is no way you are not going to immigrate to the place where the jobs are in Swedish.  Get your head out of the sand if you thought otherwise (by the way, Finland has both Finnish and Swedish speaking regions).

This plays into the first point.

Minority Francophone community advocates in Canada need to shift their focus.  They have to start concentrating on creating French-language jobs on a massive scale.  Put bluntly — they have to start creating the wealth rather than asking governments to provide it.

How might this happen?  Well, it might just take a Quiet Revolution, “hors Québec style”.

Advocates for the growth of minority-setting Francophone societies should be:

  • cooperating with our our governments to create a Francophone business development bank
  • grouping themselves and our various Francophone associations to found private Francophone pension funds (like our teacher’s pension funds or other private insurance pension funds) into which Francophone workers in Francophone companies (which prove they operate in French) can contribute
  • working with Francophone associations to found “private” universities (if individuals in the Canada and the US can form private universities, then our Francophone associations can do the same thing, INDEPENDENT of any government).   This will ensure a steady and reliable stream of trained Francophones for a Francophone work-force
  • Founding French-first-language banks, insurance companies, etc which are found province-wide

Advocates should be lobbying for immense tax credits and special operating capital loans for construction companies, utility companies, and any company which employ over 100 people outside Québec, and which proves they operate primarily in French (place a bar on it to qualify, ie: 90% of employees speak French at a Federal government C-level and internal operations are all in French, subject to independent annual inspection).

It’s the “carrot and stick” approach… not the panhandling approach.  It’s huge paradigm shift.  If Québec could do it in the 1960s, then why the heck can our Francophone communities outside Québec not do it (under the umbrella of our numerous Francophone associations).

  • Is anyone doing this?  Nope!
  • Yet, are their cries out there saying that various Francophone communities are already past midnight minus one?  Yup.
  • Are those making such cries saying it’s not their fault?  Yup.
  • Is that the right approach?  Hell no!

If anything is responsible for killing our Francophones communities “à petit feu” due to a lack of being able to attract Francophone immigrants, it’s a lack of grandiose economic actions which which to attract Francophone immigrants, as much as it is a lack of government initiative.

I love the expression that says “when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you”.   This is a perfect example of one such case.

I am a business owner, and I’m more than willing to take a stab at making a big chunk of it fly in French.  Who knows, it may even go national within a few years.  But, guess how much support there is for me out there on the part of advocates for the protection of Francophone communities outside Québec?   Zero!   (Thank-you very much).

If I hire Francophone immigrants, it will be because I go out of my way to find them… not because they chose to settle in Ontario with the hope that people like me would try to find them out of the goodness of my heart (Told ya this post would be controversial).

3.  The Two Solitudes which exists between “Québec and other Francophones of Canada”

The border between Québec and Ontario sometimes is more than just a mere line on a map.   There’s often a psychological rivalry and division in the mind of many people on both sides of the border.  It stems from years of political posturing and opportunism on both sides of the Ontario-Québec border.   Québec, in part, has historically defined itself by defining how it is different than Ontario.

At various times in history (especially when the PQ was in power or when PQ partisans went to town with Ontario-bashing), there has been a posturing of outright hostility from powerful Québec personalities towards Ontario — simply to score political points.   With time, political scars have formed and have clouded perceptions in Québec of what Ontario is all about (and yes, this works in the other direction as well).    Under such circumstances, people’s imaginations shift into overdrive, and non-issues tend to become issues in the minds of significant segments of the population.

Example:  When I lived in Gatineau, across from Ottawa on the Québec side of the river, I knew of Ontario Anglophones who would not cross the river from Ottawa into Québec because they had the absurd notion that Québec police were specifically on the hunt for Ontario or other Canadian license plates with the sole aim of giving them a traffic ticket for amusement.   These same Ontarians also feared that if they ever had a traffic accident or other incident in Québec, that Québec police and courts would never side with them (sounds absurd, doesn’t it?!?!).   Likewise, I knew Francophones who would prefer to drive from Gatineau to Montréal on the old Québec 148 highway (a 2.5 hour drive) rather than cross the river into Ontario and take the faster 1 hour 50 minute Ontario 416 expressway from Ottawa to Montréal (they too felt Ontario police would hunt down Québec license plates, and they also didn’t want to give Ontario their sales tax money in the event they became thirsty and decided to buy a soda en-route).  — Major sigh! —

I am seriously not kidding you here – I have met such people on more than one occasion — as unbelievable as it seems.

As someone watching all this from the sidelines, I feel the above notions are grossly exaggerated by those who dream up such absurd ideas.   They are notions which are untrue, strange, unnecessary, counterproductive, immature and frankly pathetic.

Despite the fact that most people do not hold views as bizarre or extreme as those above, the fact remains that certain influential individuals and organizations in Québec go to great efforts to distance themselves from anything Ontario related (the PQ, la Société St-Jean Baptiste, the Snyder/PKP duo, TVA-LCN television networks, Le Devoir newspaper, a good deal of actors & actresses, the proverbial Clique du Plateau, etc. etc.).

Damage occurs over time, little by little, when the views of the above few are conveyed in a very public forum – and they begin to slowly shape public psyche and perceptions.

Francophone Eastern Ontario is only a short 30 minute drive away from Montréal.  Therefore it never ceases to amaze me that for many people in Montréal and Québec, it might as well be on another planet.   You have no idea how many people I have met over the years from Montréal who have never been to Ontario – even Eastern Ontario — just a short 30 minute drive away.

Yet, a number of these same people will be the first to find some reason to blast and criticize Ontario on some front or another.   They’ll come up with all sorts of strange, twisted reasons to talk negatively about Ontario:  be it their belief that Ontario harbours

  • an unfair hidden-agenda regarding trading practices,
  • a hidden agenda to entice Québec manufacturers to move to Ontario,
  • a hidden agenda to capitalize on Canadian Constitutional mechanisms to the detriment of Québec,
  • a hidden agenda of Ontario MPs in Ottawa against Québec,
  • a hidden agenda to assimilate Francophones,
  • an agenda in this direction, that direction, and every other direction.

And it is all topped off with an incorrect perception that Ontarian views and values are completely misaligned with those of Québec.   Yet every day I see just how similar people in Québec and Ontario are (despite their differences).  Thus it all just leaves me shaking my head in utter disbelief.

I’ll say first and foremost that Québec’s education system fails its citizens miserably on this front.  If you go looking through Québec’s texbooks, you’ll only find silence on this subject and many other subject related to Ontario (unless they have to do with distant historical injustices induced by people who are long dead, and who frankly shouldn’t even matter anymore).

For years, the sovereignist camp has constantly sung a song that Ontario is one big federalist entity which operates against the interests of Québec… and I suppose that eventually this has to have some type of psychological effect on the overall population, despite a recent dip in support for the sovereignist camp.

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You may recall the above map from the accent series (“Our 32 accents” Series: Post 4 – The Three big accents“)

Take a look at the yellow at the far left of the map.  This is part of Eastern Ontario, and part of a region which has around 200,000 people who speak French with an Eastern Ontario French accent.

Look how close it is to Montréal.  It extends right up to Montréal’s Westernmost edge (like I said, Eastern Ontario is only a 30 minute drive from Montréal).  Yet many in Montréal and elsewhere in Québec don’t even know that it, or that its Francophone population exists (however, it is one of the most Francophone regions of Ontario).

But when it comes to Acadia, at least an 8 hour drive away from Montréal, everyone in Montréal and Québec knows all about it.  Thus, you can see how it blows my mind how “Francophone Eastern Ontario” can remain a completely unknown to so many (and perhaps most) Québécois.  It is only a 30 minute drive from Montréal.  Eastern Ontario’s Francophone population is the same as Acadia’s (Acadians also constitute around 200,000 people), and it very much resembles Acadia (as you drive though Francophone Ontario, many of the towns are 70-80% Francophone and the main societal language of these towns is French, not English).

It really makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Here is the danger:  If Quebec continues to give Francophone Ontario the snub over Acadia, other Francophone countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland, and international organizations such as the EU and UN, will also not give it as much attention – despite any efforts Ontario’s own government makes on the international scene.  It’s all one big chain reaction.

It’s not fair, and it is not just:  Yet these are two principles which Québec conversely and consistently demands Canada’s federal structure applies to Québec on all fronts… Thus, do you see the hypocrisy?

Keep in mind that I say this as someone who also has Québec’s interests at heart.   Frankly speaking, I have said the following many times to friends in Québec (and most are more than open to, and completely understanding of the following criticism):  Sometimes it takes your best friends to point out your worst faults — simply because others will not, or are too timid do so.

4.  A lack of International Participation

This concept plays into the above paragraph.

The Ontario government and various Francophone organizations have invested vast amounts of time, energy, and resources over the past two decades to build and reinforce Ontario’s Francophone civic infrastructure.

However, despite these efforts, I do not believe the Ontario government’s efforts to raise the profile of its Francophone population comes anywhere close to that of the efforts of New Brunswick’ government.   In this respect, New Brunswick punches far above its belt (New Brunswick is even a full-fledge member of La Francophonie, at the same level of independent countries).

Ontario can learn much from New Brunswick’s example.  Ontario can take many more actions on the home front to raise its Francophone profile and interests, both domestically within Canada and internationally.

5.  A lack of Francophone (French-first-language) institutions

Among other things which Ontario can learn from New Brunswick are the creation of Francophone universities and hospitals (instead of simply settling for a network of bilingual universities or a network of Anglophone hospitals offering bilingual services).   These are attention-grabbing, economy-building, tax-generating initiatives.  They garner societal recognition and strength, they grant dignity to those who use them, they form economic and societal polls of gravity, and they serve a practical purpose.

6.  Ottawa is not yet designated as an “officially bilingual” city

Declaring Ottawa as officially bilingual would be a good first step in reinforcing Francophone Ontario society.  It just makes sense – not only from the perspective of reflecting Ontario’s French fact (after all, a quarter of Ottawa’s residents have French as their first language), but it also makes sense from a national perspective.   There are also a good number of Anglophones in Ottawa, in Ontario and across Canada who likewise support this initiative.

Unfortunately, we have had a series of mayors in Ottawa who have not seemingly understood this, and there has been a series of premiers who have not been willing to take the initiatives necessary to get there (although some have come closer than others).  But at some point, public dissatisfaction will catch up to them, and things will change.   However, the arguments, and the importance of such a gesture to Francophone Ontario’s overall international and national recognition must be better articulated to those in power.

What I am about to say is quite controversial and sensitive, but I feel it needs to be said (I believe many think it, but there are not many who dare to say it — but I will).   In Ontario’s Francophone media, I have been hearing and seeing a consistent grumbling and complaining that Ottawa has not yet been declared bilingual.   To those in Ontario’s Francophone community who constantly complain, I say the following:  If you truly believe that your lobbying efforts to have the city of Ottawa declared bilingual have been effectively planned, then Ottawa would have already been declared bilingual.  This means that existing lobbying efforts have not been good enough, nor have they been successful.

Thus, as Franco-Ontarians, if this is truly something that you really want, and if you know this is what is needed to increase your dignity as a society, and to raise your profile as a society to a level it deserves (similar to that of Acadians in New Brunswick), I offer the following words of advice:  Sometimes in life, if things are not going your way, you have to take a hard look at your own efforts and ask yourself why things have not worked (instead of pointing fingers at others).   Just as I too blame our politicians, I also believe that Franco-Ontarians are equally guilty for not succeeding in having Ottawa declared a bilingual city.

If, as Franco-Ontarians, having Ottawa declared officially bilingual is truly something you want, but if 20 years of assertive lobbying has not worked, then it is time to realize you perhaps have come to a cross-roads.

At this point you have two choices:

  1. On one hand you can say you tried but it didn’t work, and you can just be content with having tried (at which point you should stop complaining, and perhaps hope that the stars and moons may someday mysteriously align and that the politicians may eventually say “yes”).
  2. On the other hand, you can ramp things up.  If you are not content to settle, and you are not willing to stop complaining, then at least put your money where your mouth is and crank things up a notch or two.

If you are willing to take the second option and ramp things up, there is much you can do.   I personally have never been one for civil disobedience, but this might actually be a case where it could be acceptable (peacefully, of course).  One quarter of Ottawa’s population on the West side of the river is Francophone.  On the east side of the river, 85% of the region’s population is Francophone.  Polls indicate that at least another quarter to a third of Ottawa’s Anglophone population outright supports declaring Ottawa officially bilingual, and the rest are not completely opposed to the idea (most see the logic).    If these numbers were to take to the streets, they could essentially shut down Ottawa if the protests were channeled properly.  Imagine what would happen if Ottawa were to basically be shut down for two weeks.  It would be felt far and wide… from city hall, to Queens Park, to the House of Commons, and right across Canada.

The topic of Francophone rights is so sensitive and emotional for such a large segment of Canada — at least 40% – 50% of the country as a whole (from the Pacific to the Atlantic) would back your fight.  It is the “good fight” after all.  It would be political suicide for the Federal, provincial and municipal governments to not concede to your demands in the face of such organized (and peaceful) civil disobedience.  You likely would succeed, and likely very quickly.

You’ve been placidly lobbying for 20 years (actually even more, since the 1950s and 60s) but Ottawa has still not been declared officially bilingual (granted, there is “functional bilingualism”, but it’s not the same from the standpoint of personal dignity and visibility).  It is becoming obvious things may not change for a very long time unless your demands are taken to the next level.   You are at a cross-roads.  Make a choice.  But whatever your choice is, come to terms with it and live with it.

Québec has had its Quiet Revolution.  It is perhaps time that Francophone Ontario has its own.  But it will be the “loudness” of the “quietness” which will dictate how fast and how far the changes will come.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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Why Franco-Ontarians are not better recognized in a pan-Canadian sense, or internationally – Part 1 of 2 (#222)

Let’s continue this mini blog-post series on Francophone Ontario.  I recognize that the next couple of posts will be controversial.  If you agree with what I’m about to say, then wonderful.  If you do not, then just take what I am about to say with a grain of salt.  Regardless, I hope you find them insightful and through provoking.

The first post in this mini blog-post series put forth a number of statistics concerning Francophone Ontario (see “Les Ontarois”: More than double Acadia’s population, yet they rarely get outside attention”).   I also discussed that Francophone Ontario is often greatly overlooked by other Anglophones and Francophones – both within and outside of Canada.  In many ways, Francophone Ontario unjustly gets the short end of the stick in terms of national or international recognition.

I highlighted the fact that Acadian culture and language often garners much more attention than Francophone Ontario…

  • despite that Acadia’s population being less than half that of Francophone Ontario’s,
  • despite that the rate of growth of French as the spoken home language in Ontario (9.5% growth from 2006 to 2011) far outpaces that of Acadia’s (and even Québec’s), and
  • despite the fact that Ontario’s drive towards bilingualism has reached the point that almost 1,500,000 residents in Ontario are now able to hold a conversation in French (the above numbers all come from Statistics Canada, 2011).

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Based on the statistics, Francophone Ontario is seemingly leaving Acadia behind to eat its dust (strong words – and I do not mean to “slight” Acadia in any way.   But on the surface, the statistics seem to indicate that Ontario’s weight in this respect far outpaces Acadia’s on many fronts).

So why then does Francophone Ontario (and why do Franco-Ontarians) not receive more attention and recognition outside Ontario – or at least as much attention as Acadia?

This is the magic question.  It is also a very controversial question.   I believe it all comes down to nuances.  I’ll let you know some of my thoughts on the various reasons:

1.  Institutional Dilution

Although Ontario has institutions throughout the province which provide medical, long-term healthcare, post-secondary education, banking, commercial, transportation, and other services in French, there is a lack of institutions which provide services solely in French (there is no “Francophone” university in Ontario like there is in Alberta, New Brunswick, Manitoba or New Brunswick – something which absolutely boggles my mind considering the size of Ontario’s Francophone population).   Francophone institutions tend to stand out and get more attention in people’s minds than “bilingual” institutions.   Example:  Everyone knows Université St-Boniface in Winnipeg or the Université de Moncton.   They’re strong and loud symbols of a province’s Francophone nature.

Even though Franco-Ontarians can attend university in French at institutions such as Guelph University, the University of Ottawa, York University, Laurentian University, University of Sudbury, and others, these universities are first and foremost “thought of” as Anglophone universities – and most non-Francophones are not even aware of their bilingual nature.  (L’Université de Hearst is the sole university in Ontario which operates completely in French – but it is small, remote, and most people have not even heard of it).

Unilingual minority-language operated institutions can vastly bolster a minority’s presence, vitality and notoriety.  McGill and Concordia Universities in Québec are perfect examples.  They operate in English in a minority language setting in Montréal – and everyone knows of Montréal’s and Québec’s Anglophone community (which is even smaller than Ontario’s Francophone community!).

Regarding health care services, there is one French-first-language hospital in Ontario, Hôpital Montfort in Ottawa, but considering that Ontario’s Francophone population is greater than Regina’s, Saskatoon’s and Moncton’s total Anglophone and Francophone populations combined, you would think there would be more than just one Francophone hospital in Ontario.  More hospitals certainly would add more visibility.

2.  Population Parcelling

Ontario’s Francophones are spread throughout a vast land.  Ontario is huge.  If you were to enter Ontario at its Westernmost point on the Trans-Canada, it would take 25 hours of straight driving (two to three days at 8 to 12 hours every day) to reach the province’s Easternmost point (where the Ontario 417 or 401 expressways enters Québec).

Unlike Acadia’s Francophones, or Québec’s Anglophones, Ontario’s Francophones are not (for the most part) concentrated in one single area.   Because of this (with the exceptions of Eastern Ontario and the Highway 11 corridor), you would not necessarily hear French every day when walking down the street in Ontario.  This leads to an inaccurate perception of “invisibility”.  Toronto may have tens and tens of thousands of Francophones, but their presence is diluted by the sheer size of Toronto’s Anglophone population (in terms of numbers, Toronto has the second or third largest Francophone population in Canada outside Québec, but at first glance you would not necessarily notice it owing to the dilution of the Francophone population by the size of its Anglophone population).

3.  Geographic Remoteness

The most Francophone communities in Ontario tend to be quite remote, in the sense that they are very far from Ontario’s most populous regions.  This has given rise to a phenomenon of a “parcelling” of Ontario’s Francophone population, of its accent zones, and its various lifestyles (city versus rural, North versus South, East versus West — all with huge distances in between).

Hence, Francophone Ontario becomes a case of “out of sight, out of mind”.   Example:  Even though the towns all along the “Highway 11 Francophone Corridor” have populations which are 85% to 95% Francophone (even more “Francophone” than many parts of Québec), it is nonetheless a region which is a 12 hour drive from Toronto.  Many people I met in Toronto have never even heard of Ontario’s Highway 11 Francophone Corridor (I was stunned when I moved to Toronto and found out that local Anglophone Ontarians had no idea of how Francophone Ontario’s far north tends to be.  When driving through it, you could easily believe you were driving through Québec).  Most people are ignorant to the fact that anything along a 300 kilometre stretch of highway 11 basically has French as its first operating language.   From Toronto, you could drive to Nashville (Tennessee), St. Louis (Missouri), Charlotte (North Carolina), or Edmundston (New Brunswick) in the same amount of time (or less) than what it would take to drive to the Highway 11 Corridor.   Like I said… “Out of sight, out of mind”.

4.  A lack of a designation of “Official” Bilingualism

Unlike New Brunswick, Ontario has not declared itself “officially bilingual” (it has simply declared various “regions” of the province as officially bilingual).  Because New Brunswick is “officially” bilingual as a whole, it garners a LOT of attention.  There is instant recognition everywhere that there exists a reason why New Brunswick is officially bilingual.

Although Ontario offers “functionally bilingual” services at a provincial and municipal level, and although in practical terms there is not much difference between being “functionally bilingual” and “officially bilingual”, the difference in perceptions can be night and day.

Perceptions are formed from gestures, and actions speak louder than words.  If the gestures are not there (such as declaring the province officially bilingual), then outside recognition of the French fact simply does not follow.  It may not be fair, but that’s how it works.

5.  A lack of certain types of “Highly Visible” popular mainstream television media in Francophone Ontario

Right or wrong, societies are often judged by the strength of their television media.  If a country or society has a strong TV media presence with a very strong home-grown news and entertainment component, such societies tend to garner external recognition as being a strong, healthy, influential society (television is influence, and it serves as a statement in itself).  Imagine if Argentina had no home-grown news networks or no major home-grown popular entertainment television networks, but if Chile did.  The outside world’s perception of Chile versus Argentina would be very different (Argentina probably would likely be afforded very little thought).

Francophone Ontario is sort of facing a similar situation.  There are three major Francophone TV networks operating out of Ontario;   UNIS, TFO and Radio-Canada.  However, despite having sizeable Ontario studios, UNIS and Radio-Canada are not seen as home-grown or Franco-Ontarian, since they operate everywhere in Canada and are viewed as “national” in character.  TFO is considered too much of a specialty channel (an education channel with much of its focus on children’s programming or non-Ontario origin movies / shows).  Thus is tough for Franco-Ontarians to be taken seriously as a strong, vibrant community in the eyes of others when such a community of this size doesn’t even have its own popular television networks which operate along the lines of TVA, LCN, or others.

6.  A lack of a distinguished French “accent” when Franco-Ontarians make the pop-culture jump to Montréwood

When Franco-Ontarians make it big in Montréwood (ie:  Marie-Mai, or Véronique DiCaire), they tend not to get labelled as Franco-Ontarians, and often are incorrectly labelled as Québécois.  (It’s quite similar to a phenomenon which Anglophone Canadians face when they take Hollywood by storm, ie:  how many Americans or people elsewhere in the world know that William Shatner, Justin Bieber, Pamela Anderson, Michael J. Fox, Jason Priestly and many many others are Canadian and not American?)

Because the style of French spoken in Ontario is of the same “branch” as Québécois French (a branch of French which exists from British Columbia, through the prairies, across Ontario, and all throughout Québec), Franco-Ontarian celebrities in Montréwood simply “blend in”.  (Of course there are some exceptions, such as Katherine Levac who kept Her East-Ontario accent when she made the jump to Montréwood).  However Acadian-style French is from a different branch of French and sounds completely different.

Therefore, when Acadians make it big in Montréwood, they tend to stick out like a sore thumb — just as the British do when they take Hollywood by storm, ie: Sean Connery or Adele.

The above offered you six reasons why I believe that Franco-Ontarians are not more visible on a pan-Canadian stage, or international stage.  However, I believe there are five additional reasons — fivereasons which are much more controversial than the above reasons.

The next post will offer you what I believe are these five additional reasons.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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