Archived - Address to the Quebec Community Groups Network 2011 Member Convention
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Montréal, June 17, 2011
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Thank you Linda (Leith).
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
It is my pleasure to be here in the Montréal region for the QCGN’s member convention and annual general meeting. I would like to thank Sylvia Martin-Laforge for inviting me to moderate one of your panels. It is always a special opportunity and privilege for me to address members of my community.
In this panel, entitled “A community of communities,” we will look for ways to create, reinforce and celebrate the links between communities within the Montréal region, as well as the Montréal region’s links with other parts of the province. With the help of three distinguished panellists, whom I will introduce shortly, we will explore new ways to make your community’s presence positive and vibrant in today’s Quebec.
First of all, I would like to say that Quebec’s English-speaking communities are now synonymous with unique linguistic and cultural strength. This community of communities has a rich historical past that contributed to shaping modern Quebec. Whether they are in the Montréal region, the lower North Shore, the Eastern Townships, the Pontiac or the Gaspé, your communities are an evolving and important part of Quebec's society.
Quebec’s English-speaking community is in a situation like no other community in Canada. It’s a community of diverse narratives, and it is this diversity of narratives, people and events that enriches our understanding of our history as Canadians.
Anglophones sometimes hesitate to identify with Quebec’s collective “we,” which feels distinct, if not distant. Quebec’s English-speaking community has greatly contributed to Quebec society—and still does. There is no question about it: you have a place in Quebec. So why does “we” feel so distant?
A collective, inclusive Québecois “we” is what is now being redefined. English-speaking communities are a thriving part of Quebec's society and should be seen and heard in a positive light. Each of your families’ generations is more bilingual than the last. Your ability to speak your neighbour’s language is not only an economic necessity, but also a sign of openness and respect.
It is now time for Quebec to say “oui” to a new “we” that includes Anglophone communities.
Last February, Dr. Paul Zanazanian and Dr. Lorraine O’Donnell organized a seminar at Concordia University entitled “What place should Anglophones have in Quebec’s collective narrative?” It addressed the issue of revisiting Quebec’s historical experience by including Anglophones in the collective narrative without ignoring the weight of past events, thus permitting its diverse society to move forward in the future. The simple fact that this seminar was held is a sign of progress. Perhaps times have changed, and Quebec is ready to rediscover forgotten parts of its history through the experiences and stories of its English-speaking communities. Revisiting the positive aspects of the English-speaking community’s role in Quebec's history seems like an excellent opportunity to shed new light on social perceptions and to move forward as a society.
The collective narrative constantly reinvents itself through the telling of stories. Canada needs to hear the stories of Anglophones growing up in a Francophone province—whether in the city, suburbs or more rural regions—in movies, on television and on the Web. That is how a new, nuanced reflection on the past will make its way into the collective consciousness. Quebec needs to hear stories in which Francophones are the majority, and Anglophones are okay with that—stories of coexistence where language is not a source of conflict, but rather an opportunity for discovery and a symbol of openness.
The Anglophone communities of Quebec have had a great cultural influence in recent years, whether it is with musical group Arcade Fire’s international success or movie director Jacob Tierney’s filmmaking. As you know, The Trotsky was set in English-speaking Montréal, as is the recently released Good Neighbours, an adaptation for the screen of Chrystine Brouillet’s novel Chère voisine. Perhaps more unusually, The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom, written and directed by Tara Johns, a Montrealer who was born in Calgary, was screened as the closing film of the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois. Quebec’s English-speaking community has rarely been seen in such a positive, creative light.
Before we meet our panellists, let me say that English-speaking Quebecers are models of openness and respect for all other Canadians. This is clearly demonstrated in the diversity of your communities and by the respect you pay to one another.
Without further ado, here are our three panellists for this morning’s panel. First, Senator Joan Fraser, former editor of the Montreal Gazette, who was appointed to the Senate in 1998, and currently serves on the Senate Special Committee on Anti-terrorism and the Senate Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. Next, Mr. Gerry Cutting, President of the Townshippers’ Association. Mr. Cutting was Director General at Champlain Regional College from 2000 to 2008. During his professional career he has served on a number of provincial committees that dealt with post-secondary education and has taken part in several international missions to the Caribbean, Mexico and the United States. And finally, Marian Scott, award-winning feature writer and diversity reporter at the Gazette. Marian joined the Gazettein the early 1980s, where she has covered every beat, from breaking news to lifestyles.
I hope everyone enjoys an interesting panel discussion.