The figures I provided in my last post were misleading. I put the post aside.
In the sombre days of imperialism and colonialism, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald created “uniform” schools where English was the language of instruction. He minoritized French-speaking Canadians. As immigrants arrived in Canada, their children had to attend English-language schools. Children could not be educated in French outside Quebec. He made Quebec their only home.
Québécois would like to retain their language. They have done so since Nouvelle-France fell to Britain. But the obligatory francization of businesses is unacceptable. Quebec is trying to assimilate its anglophone population and drive it away from Quebec. No company should be asked to obtain a Certificate of Francization. Quebec is a province of Canada, and Canada is officially bilingual. Moreover, anglophones have the right to bilingual services in such areas as the Eastern Townships.
John A. Macdonald created uniform schools, and l’Office de la langue française is creating a uniform province.
The figures (list of colleges) I am providing show that Quebec is home to both anglophones and francophones. I would hate to think that we cannot live together happily. Many Anglophones live in Montreal. They have their literature, songwriters, artists, and institutions. McGill University is a monument to the world of learning.
Doctors at the Montreal Neurological Institute work miracles. Imagine Quebec has the Montreal Neurological Institute, but Quebecers cannot find a doctor. That situation is infamy. So much of our tax dollars is spent on doctors, but medicine is deficient in Quebec.
In this respect, I would like to repeat that, in Quebec, learning French as a second language should be in the curriculum. Moreover, I would not prevent French-speaking students from enrolling in an English language CEGEP, a two-year post-secondary programme, or similar institutions. Finally, I would recommend improvements in the teaching of French as a mother tongue.
Moreover, Harvard’s new course on North America’s francophonie may prove an excellent initiative. Canada’s founding nations were France and Britain, but the French opened the North American continent. Francophonie overrides the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. It also overrides the expulsion of the Acadians, many of whom live in Louisiana. Moreover, 900,000 French Canadians moved to the United States between 1830 and 1930. They could not find work in Canada. They may no longer speak French, but they are part of North America’s francophonie.
La Patrie littéraire, the Literary Homeland
I could not write my book on Molière during my last sabbatical leave because I was asked to prepare two new courses: Animals in Literature and a course on contemporary Quebec literature. That year, however, I lectured in Stuttgart, Germany. One of my lectures was on la patrie littéraire, the literary homeland. In his Report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838, Lord Durham stated that French Canadians had no history and no literature.
They are a people with no history, and no literature. The literature of England is written in a language which is not theirs; literature which their language renders familiar to them, is that of a nation from which they have been separated by eighty years of a foreign rule, and still more by those changes which the Revolution and its consequences have wrought in the whole political, moral and social state of France.
My contribution to this concept is an analysis of Antonine Maillet‘s Pélagie-la-Charrette, the above-mentioned La Patrie littéraire: errance et résistance. Pélagie-la-Charrette is a novel which earned its author, Antonine Maillet, the prestigious Prix Goncourt 1979. The novel features Pélagie, the narrator, and a group of Acadians travelling up the east coast of the United States pulling a cart, la charrette. They are returning to Acadie. Pélagie presents her characters as “the son of” or “the daughter of:” le fils à or la fille à: “Bélonie à Bélonie,” providing a lineage for her characters. Our ancestors are larger than we are. They validate us. So, Pélagie-la-Charrette is an anamnèse and a creation of things past. The term anamnèse is used in medicine where it lists the medical antecedents of a patient, but Pélagie-la-Charette is also uneanamnèse. Pélagie builds a past.
I will close here, concluding, first, that French should be in the curriculum in Quebec’s English-language schools and that the teaching of French as a mother tongue could be revised. I also wish to emphasize that a nation may be une patrie littéraire. French Canada will always be a sum of its literary works and other achievements.