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How summer vacation accentuates the “Two Solitudes” (#336)

You may recall that several months ago I wrote a post (in French) entitled “Faites le saut!” (Take the plunge).  

That post was a little nudge for everyone in Canada to take the opportunity to explore other parts of the country they may not know very well.  It was my own little way of giving a nudge (and a hint) to bite the bullet of apprehension (financially or on a personal-preference level), just take the plunge, and simply do it.

But actually, I wrote the post in French because Francophone Québécois were more my target audience than Anglophone Canadians in that particular post (there are Francophones who also follow this blog).

It has always been my “impression” that Québécois are much more apt to “stay home” (vacation in Québec) or “leave the country” during their vacations, than they are to step foot in another province or another part of the country (even very close regions).

This impression comes from the fact that I know many people in Québec who have never been elsewhere in Canada, even if they live only a 3 hour drive from New Brunswick, or a 90 minute drive to Ottawa (Ontario).

Yet, on the reverse, you often get the impression that Anglophone Canadians who have not traveled to other provinces (on multiple occasions to multiple provinces) tend to be the “exception” rather than the “rule”.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Anglophones traditionally move around Canada for work, school or simply a new adventure. Because of ease-of-language, Anglophones view such moves as natural as someone from Québec would view a move from Trois-Rivières to Québec City.
  • Because so many Anglophones live in towns, cities, and provinces different from those where they were born or grew up, it makes it so Anglophones have relatives and friends spread all over Canada. Thus vacations and holiday seasons are spent travelling around the country to re-connect with loved ones (just think how busy the airports are at Christmas with people travelling to see relatives and friends all around the country, and look at all the out-of-province license plates travelling across Canada during the summer).

Contrast this with Québécois:

  • Because of language, Québécois do not move their homes around Canada nearly as much as Anglophones (yet interestingly, I get the impression that Francophones who are originally from other provinces, such as Acadians from New Brunswick, or Néo-Terrois from the Northwest Territories, are just as apt to travel and move around Canada as Anglophones are).
  • This results in Québécois having only a fraction of the number of personal relations and relatives in other provinces compared to their Anglophone compatriots, and thus exposes them to fewer travel opportunities elsewhere in Canada.

Oddly enough (with emphasis on the word “odd”), in all my travels I have found that I have been more likely to run into Québécois in rural areas of the United States, Europe, and even far away rural regions such as steppeland villages in Africa, while backpacking in Tadjikistan, cycling around Bhutan, driving around the Caucuses, while 4×4’ing in Oman, or when taking a bus in Malaysia or Mongolia, than I would be inclined to run into Québécois in rural regions of Manitoba or British Columbia.

Dead Serious! (as odd as it is)

But you will without a doubt run into Franco-Colombiens or Franco-Manitobains often enough as you travel in rural BC or rural Manitoba, just as you would run into Francophones in other provinces who are originally from those provinces   😉  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of turning on your “Franco-dar” to pin-point them or flush them out in the crowd  🙂 

In my opinion, a lack of travel WITHIN Canada itself is a major factor which contributes to the notion of the Two Solitudes.

But I will say that I think the situation is getting better on a couple of fronts.

  • People view planes more as “buses” now than they do some exotic form of transport.  The last 20 years has seen people hesitate less about taking a plane to other parts of the country — and I am running into more and more Québécois on vacation across Canada, or who have moved to other regions of the country (especially to Alberta).
  • The internet has also drastically “shrunk” Canada over the past 20 years for many Francophones in Québec (just as it has for Anglophones).  The “need” for travel, in order to understand other parts of Canada is not as great as it used to be.  In a sense, we can travel freely and interact with other Canadians all without leaving the seat in front of the computer screen.

I think this might be a contributing factor (perhaps a large factor?) why the sovereignty movement has taken a nose-dive the past 20 years, and can’t seem to take flight despite all sorts of efforts from the pure-et-dure.  

In this sense, Québec’s independence movement and context is very different from that of Scotland and Catalonia.  Canada’s situation is more a matter of a geographic (which equals an emotional) disconnect — ie:  it is human nature for people to be “emotionally” attached to the land on which they live.  If you travel further afield on your own land, the more the opportunity to feel attached to a wider area.  Canada is a HUGE country (a 13 hour flight with two connections from St-John’s, Newfoundland in the far East to Whitehorse, Yukon in the far West).   So it makes sense that it takes an extra effort to travel the land (versus the efforts Germans have to make in Germany).

Fortunately, it appears the internet might be narrowing this geographic disconnect, especially with the youth (both Francophone and Anglophone).

A month ago, Radio-Canada came out with a well-written (but brief) article which provided numerous statistics to explain where Québécois and other Canadians spend their vacations :  Où partez-vous en vacances? La réponse en cartes (Where are you going on vacation?  The response in maps).

Out of all the maps and statistics in the article, one set of statistics stuck out – and confirmed my “impressions” which I just described.

Take a look at the following graph.  It’s self explanatory.

As a side note:  The graph compares Québécois and Ontarian travel patterns.

On that note, Montréal’s media is forever comparing Québec with Ontario… almost as if no other comparisons are to be found in Canada.  I find such a repetitive reflex quite bizarre – especially considering that I believe there are other areas/provinces of Canada which share more in common with Québec than Ontario — so forgive me if I find the repetitive “Québec-Ontario comparisons” excessively overused, and misplaced.  You’ll recall that in other blog posts I have spoken at length on this very topic.  Moving on…

Summer travels1

(Statistics from Réseau Veille Tourism juillet 2013)

People really need to travel more within the country – especially across the linguistic lines and linguistic regions.

There are a ton of places, regional cultures, and special characteristics to explore within Canada (from the Yukon to Newfoundland, and passing through everything in between).

With the Canadian dollar so low, the time has never been better.

And seriously, does the responsibility of bridging the Two Solitudes fall on the shoulders a low dollar?  (That would be pretty pathetic warped if it does).

One last thought:

If anything, this post should serve to demonstrate that the responsibility for bridging the Two Solitudes rests with people on BOTH sides of the linguistic line.