Who hasn’t heard about Andrew Potter and his anti-Québec screed? If you missed it, I don’t think it’s available online anymore. The article has been pulled, because it was not an objective paper or column, but a venomous tirade reflecting the author’s frustrations, prejudices and – dare I say it – hatred.
Needless to say that his article caused such a tsunami of protest that he had no choice but to tender his resignation from his post at McGill University.
But allow me to say this about Québec and (English) Canada.
I, too, was incensed by Potter’s words, because none of it was true or even close to reality. Québec’s society is not dysfunctional (not more so than any society anywhere in the world today), nor is it “pathological” in the words of Potter.
As a matter of fact, having lived in many different places in Canada and abroad, I can honestly say that moving to Québec in 2014 was the best decision I ever made. I have never met nicer people than les Québécois et Québecoise pure laine.
Yes, it’s true: if you want to connect to true, real Quebecers, you must be able to speak French, or at least show you’re making an effort. If you waltz in here and speak only English, you will be shunned, make no mistake about it. (Personally, though, this is perfectly acceptable – unless you’re dealing with tourists, and they are always treated like royalty around here, when you move to any place to live and/or work, you must speak, or learn, the local language.)
However, there is the issue of the French language, as it is spoken in Québec. There are many regional dialects and variations, and quite often Quebecers themselves don’t always understand each other – from one town to the next. And even those who speak something resembling a Québécois standard, if you will, often make mistakes and speak too fast and too sloppily.
Which is why I have been quite happy to hear more French voices around where I live – mostly university students from France, etc. And if one recent newspaper article is to be believed, Québec is experiencing a huge influx of “Parisian French” speakers, which, it is to be hoped, will do wonders for the quality and standard of French spoken (and written) in Québec, at least in its major cities like Québec and Montréal.
Truth be told, most of the things that Potter accused Québec of actually apply to English Canada, for if you are looking for a society where people largely ignore each other, don’t even say hello, you’ll get your money’s worth in English Canada – and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver.