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  • The Globe and Mail describes a salvage archaeology operation in Cape Breton, on the receding shores of Louisbourg at Rochefort Point.

  • Katie Ingram at MacLean's notes
  • The National Observer reports on how Québec has effectively banned the oil and gas industry from operating on Anticosti Island.

  • This La Presse article talks about letting, or not, the distant Iles-de-la-Madeleine keep their own Québec electoral riding notwithstanding their small population.

  • Will the Bloc Québécois go the way of the Créditistes and other Québec regional protest movements? Éric Grenier considers at CBC.

  • The National Post describes the remarkable improvement of the Québec economy in recent years, in absolute and relative terms. Québec a have?

  • Francine Pelletier argues Québec fears for the future have to do with a sense of particular vulnerability.

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  • In The Globe and Mail, Ian Brown and Nam Phi Dang's photo essay tracking the adventures of a bus of Chinese tourists who went from Toronto to the Island and back is insightful and amusing.
  • Alex Ballingall's account in the Toronto Star of his week-long trek along the Trans-Canada Trail from Niagara to Toronto is enlightening. Would I could do this ...

  • Mark Milke in MacLean's argues that, regrettable excesses aside, Canadians should be proud of our British heritage.

  • The Montreal Gazette's Brendan Kelly wonders why a supposedly Canadian music compilation does not include any French-language songs.

  • In the Toronto Star, Emma Teitel points out that visibility, including corporate visibility, is hugely important in Pride.

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Detail, The Death of General Wolfe (1770)

Early in January, before my trip to Montréal, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum where I saw--among other things--the museum's copy of Benjamin Wolfe's painting The Death of General Wolfe. This famous tableau's depiction of the death of James Wolfe, the commander of the victorious British forces in 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham that saw the fall of French Canada and the end of New France but who barely lived to see the end of the battle himself, is literally iconic. This moment marks the end of one empire and the expansion of another.

Was the end of New France inevitable? Quite a few fans of alternate history suggest that it was. In perhaps the classic few, the value of France to colonize its North American territories nearly as thoroughly as England (and later the United Kingdom) did theirs ensured that, ultimately, New France would be overwhelmed by the colonists. Some even go so far as to argue that New France was a failing colony, that the failure to expand French colonization much beyond the Saint Lawrence valley demonstrates a fundamental lack of French interest. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was irrelevant.

I'm not sure that I buy this. Conceivably there could have been more French settlement in New France, perhaps with a bigger push under Louis XIV, but it isn't clear to me that France in America was a failure. New France's economy was built substantially on trade with indigenous peoples and not on (for instance) the plantation colony of many British colonies, making increased French settlement irrelevant at best and potentially harmful at worst. As it was, French Canada was actually a dynamic society, the St. Lawrence valley becoming home of a colonial offshoot of France with outposts stretching far west into the basin of the Great Lakes and, not incidentally, managing to hold off conquest by the British for nearly a century and a half. New France was not nearly as populous as the Thirteen Colonies, but that no more proves that New France was a failure than (say) the fact that Spain's Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was less populous than Portuguese Brazil means that the Spanish colony was a failure. At most, there was underexploited potential. If French Canada has since largely contracted to the frontiers of modern Québec, it is because successive British administrations have taken care to hem it in.

Had the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gone even slightly differently, there could have been a French victory. The end of the Seven Years War could have seen the French flag continue to fly in Canada. Even if Canada had fallen, that it would be kept by Britain was by no means preordained: Had Britain preferred to keep the valuable French sugar island of Guadeloupe, or had the French government different priorities, Canada might have been restored to France in the peace.

What would this surviving French Canada have been like?

It's certainly possible that a continued French presence in Canada would have helped discourage the Thirteen Colonies from rebelling against the British Empire, especially if it was perceived as a threat. It's not clear to me that this would automatically be the case, especially if New France had been weakened in the conflict, demilitarized and/or territorially diminished. Perhaps, in this timeline, the Americans might revolt against Britain in anger that their interests were neglected in the settlement of the final peace. We might not see a conflict like the War of American Independence, but then again we might. If this war, or another great power Anglo-French war does come about, then France will face the same cascade of dysfunctional public financies than in our history triggered the revolution.

What will become of Canada in all this? I can imagine that it might, or might not, receive more attention from France. I suppose that, if history runs along the lines we are familiar with up to the French Revolution, Canada might be in an interesting position versus the metropole. (A French kingdom in exile?) It is imaginable that a populous French Canada might stay French, especially if the Americans are allies and Britain has interest elsewhere. The case can be made that French Canada could survive, within borders not wildly different from that of modern Canada, into the 19th century.

Here, I'm stymied. It is not easy to imagine the development of French Canada as a French territory for the simple reason that France had no colonies of settlement like (for instance) Britain had Canada. French Algeria eventually became a destination for European immigration, but most of these immigrants came from elsewhere in the western Mediterranean (Spain and Italy particularly) and they arrived in a territory that never stopped being overwhelmingly Arab-Berber and Muslim in nature. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, also received substantial numbers of settlers relative to the native population, but the absolute numbers were low. There is no close parallel, not in the second French colonial empire, to a colony like Canada, a vast semi-continent with a substantial population mostly descended from French colonists.

I do think France could certainly colonize Canada as thoroughly as Britain later did, especially if France enjoys stability and peace. Franco-Canadian relations were broken by the Conquest and only began to pick up again a century later, as the French became dimly aware that the Canadiens survived. In a timeline where the relationship between France and Canada was never disrupted, Franco-Canadian relations would be far more intense. Trade and investment flows aside, we might see well see substantial amounts of French immigration to a prosperous Canada, and more immigrants coming from outside France, just as in the case of Algeria. The details depend critically on the borders of this Canada and its relationship to its neighbours, but I see no reason why French Canada could not be successful.

Even if--a big if--French history remains largely unchanged up to the mid-19th century, the existence of a large, populous, and growing French Canada will eventually change the French polity rapidly. How will the millions of Canadiens be represented in French political life? A populous American branch of the French empire will have very substantial consequences.

What do you think?
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The National Post has a feature from Graeme Hamilton noting the controversy associated in Québec with the flag of the Patriote rebels of 1837.

On May 22, as the rest of Canada celebrates Victoria Day, Quebecers will get a day off in honour of les Patriotes, the 19th-century rebels who fought to bring responsible government to what is now Quebec. It’s no surprise that the mostly French-speaking province isn’t terribly keen on paying tribute to a long-dead British monarch, and such Patriote leaders as Louis-Joseph Papineau, Jean-Olivier Chénier and Wolfred Nelson are worthy of celebration. Yet last week, Quebec’s Liberal government angered nationalists by blocking a proposal to have the Patriote flag fly above the legislature in Quebec City.

Q: Who were the Patriotes?

Charles Alexander Smith via Wikipedia
Charles Alexander Smith via Wikipedia"Assemblée des six-comtés", a painting depicting the Assembly of the Six Counties, held in Saint-Charles, Lower Canada on October 23 and October 24, 1837
A: The Patriotes was the name given to Papineau’s Parti canadien and the popular movement he and others inspired to rise up against British colonial rule in 1837-38. “The primarily francophone party, led mainly by members of the liberal professions and small-scale merchants, was widely supported by farmers, day-labourers and craftsmen,” the Canadian Encyclopedia says. They advocated democracy and the right to self-government, but at the same time they were in no hurry to get rid of the seigneurial system. After the rebellion was crushed, many participants were imprisoned, exiled or hung.

Q: What is the Patriote flag?

A: The flag was introduced in 1832 by Papineau’s political party and was carried at political speeches and into battle during the rebellion. It is a simple design consisting of three horizontal bars, green, white and red from top to bottom. The flag was seen by the Montreal aristocracy as a revolutionary symbol, and in 1837 the Montreal Herald wrote urging people to destroy it. Some early versions also featured a beaver, a maple leaf or a maskinonge fish. Today, the flag often has the profile of a musket-toting, toque-wearing, pipe-smoking rebel superimposed in the centre.
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Je me souviens (2)

Montréal's Papineau subway station is named after the nearby avenue Papineau which in turn is named after Joseph Papineau, an early politician known for his advocacy of the interests of the Canadiens under British rule. The murals in the station, by Jean Cartier and George Juhasz, all deal with the 1837 rebellion against British rule led by his son Louis-Joseph Papineau.
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Kate Sheridan's article in the Montreal Gazette looks at an ongoing effort to revive the Irish language in that city. What I particularly like is that this places the current effort in the context of Québec's long Irish history.

The Irish language, or Gaeilge, is experiencing a mini-Renaissance in Montreal with the help of Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish Studies and Comhrá, a non-profit group that organizes Irish language classes and events.

Siobhán Ní Mhaolagáin has been teaching the language in Montreal since September, when she first arrived to accept a year-long position as Concordia University’s Ireland Canada University Foundation Irish language scholar. Comhrá had restarted its Irish language courses in the summer and when organizers asked if she’d like to teach their classes in the fall and winter, Ní Mhaolagáin said yes.

“People in Ireland sometimes don’t believe that I’m over here teaching Irish,” she said. “I’ll say, I’m heading off to teach Irish in Montreal. And they’ll be like, ‘Why?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, there are Irish speakers in Montreal.’ And they’ll say, ‘You’re having a laugh.’ “

The Irish language is notoriously complex; the unusual sentence structure and confounding phonetics can create a steep learning curve. It’s also “definitely endangered” in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. There aren’t many people who speak Irish here — certainly fewer than in Ireland, where 25,000 students attended an annual event in November that challenged them to speak Irish, and only Irish, as much as possible for 24 hours.

In Montreal, about 20 people attended a satellite event, which Ní Mhaolagáin helped organize, to celebrate the Irish language with music, dancing and movies and to speak it as much as they could muster.
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Geocurrents' Asya Pereltsvaig wrote about the history of the French language in California, strongly associated with a long history of immigration and cultural prestige.

While today fewer than 1% of Californians speak French, some 150 years ago this language played a prominent role statewide, especially in northern California. The first Frenchman whose presence in California is documented is Pierre (Pedro) Prat, a doctor in the 1769 expedition headed by Gaspar de Portolà and Junípero Serra. Not long after, in 1782, a French-speaking sailor from Brittany, Pierre Roy, shows up at the new mission at San Buenaventura. [. . .] There must have been some French Canadian merchants and trappers who made it to Alta California in those early years, but there is no documented information about their visits. Additional settlers must have come from the French-speaking Midwest.

In the first half of the 19th century, California, then under Spanish and subsequently Mexican control, established trade relations with the rest of Spanish-speaking America and New England, as well as with many European countries, including Russia and France. French-speaking immigrants continue to arrive in this period, coming chiefly from western regions of France (Normandy, Brittany, southwestern regions), as well as from Belgium and Quebec. Each regional group typically filled an occupational niche: people from the southwestern regions of France were often winemakers and carpenters, those from the Pyrenees were mainly merchants and teachers, while immigrants from Brittany and Normandy were often sailors. They settled in Monterey, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and elsewhere. Many of the French-speaking immigrants learned Spanish and some married Mexicans, but typically they continued to speak French at home and even outside the French-speaking community (Foucrier 2005: 236). In multilingual early 19th century California, each tongue occupied its own niche: Spanish as the official language, English as the chief language of trade, and French—which was at the time the international diplomatic language—as an important political and cultural vehicle. Being able to speak French helped talented and ambitious young men like Victor Prudon and José María Covarrubias to became personal secretaries of influential men and thus to serve as intermediaries in the complex politics of the era. In May 1843, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo wrote to the governor Manuel Micheltorena suggesting that Victor Prudon be named prefect of the newly created Sonoma prefecture, pointing out that the young man had an advantage of speaking three languages: Spanish, English, and French. Vallejo himself is characterized by a Swedish traveler who visits him in 1842-1843 as “speaking good French and passable English” (Van Sicklen ed. 1945: 84).

[. . .]

The Gold Rush, which started with the discovery of rich gold deposits in 1848, changed the demographics of northern California. Masses of hopefuls began to arrive in 1849; among them were no fewer than 25,000 French speakers from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and Louisiana. Unlike earlier French immigrants, many of those attracted by the prospects of finding gold came from Paris. While many of these newly arrived francophones looked for fortunes at the gold mines, many settled in the cities as well, including San Francisco. French neighborhoods were established, as were French social organizations and clubs. Unlike earlier French immigrants, those of the Gold Rush era typically did not speak English, nor were they motivated to learn it as they hoped to get rich and to return home within several months. Most were happy to get by with only one member of a group speaking (or perhaps only thinking that he spoke) English. The others would turn to such “designated interpreter” with Qu’est-ce qu’il dit? [‘What did he say?’]. As a result, the French prospectors got a nickname keskydees. In later years, as the gold mines were exhausted and xenophobic attitudes started to surface, obstinate refusals on the part of the francophone gold-seekers to learn English provoked distrust and hostility, on occasion even violence (Foucrier 2005: 239).

But the Gold Rush era was also the golden era of the French community in San Francisco. Cafes and restaurants in the City’s French quarter prospered. Several institutions were established to aid French-speakers in need. In 1851 a mutual aid society was founded to help sick francophones who did not speak English; hospital visits of such patients by French-speaking doctors were arranged. Two years later a French speaking volunteer fire brigade, the Compagnie Lafayette, was organized to combat the frequent fires and to insure proper communication during such emergencies. San Francisco’s French community also had its own church, numerous newspapers, and theaters. The most important French-language newspaper was the Echo du Pacifique, which, beginning in June 1852, came out three times a week on four pages: three in French and one in Spanish. In December 1855, it became a daily. For a few years, French theater flourished as actors and directors—fleeing economic and social turmoil in France in the wake of the 1848 revolution—brought the best and the latest of Parisian comedies, vaudevilles, and operas. This golden age of French theater in the City by the Bay was short-lived, however, as the fires that ravaged the city in May and June 1851 destroyed a number of theater buildings. But already in July of that year, the rebuilt Adelphi theater opened its doors to the public; sometimes its facilities were used for balls and other special events in the French-speaking community. All in all, life in California for the French immigrants of the mid-19th century must have been rather good. In fact, so many Frenchmen were leaving for the United States at the time that some politicians in France and French Canada feared a mass exodus. As a result, negative representations in newspapers and novels proliferated (Lemire 1987, Lamontagne 2002).</
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I was alerted by an item describing a paper by Charles Calomiris. Keeping the French Canadians of early British Canada down, he argues, led to the current stable Canadian banking system. The paper was summarized succinctly in a Wall Street Journal blog post.

Since 1790, the United States has suffered 16 banking crises. Canada has experienced zero — not even during the Great Depression.

It turns out Canada can thank the French for their stable system, according to a paper by Columbia University’s Charles Calomiris, presented at the Atlanta Fed’s 2013 Financial Markets Conference.

When it became a British colony, the majority of Canada’s population was of French origin — and the French inhabitants hated the British government.

So to keep the colony firmly within the Empire, British policymakers steered toward a government structure that would limit the power of the French-majority while also giving Canada more and more self-government. The eventual result was a highly-centralized federal government which controlled economic policy making and had built-in buffers for banker interests against populist forces, the paper argues.

That anti-populist political system — known in political science as liberal constitutionalism or liberal democracy — is a key ingredient in Canada’s stable banking track record, Mr. Calomiris contends in his paper, which is a summary of a much longer book he’s written with Stephen Haber due out in September. That’s because this kind of political system makes it difficult for political majorities to gain control of the banking system for their own purposes, the authors contend.

Populist democracies like the U.S., on the other hand, tend to create dysfunctional banking systems because a majority of citizens gain control over banking regulation that steers credit to themselves and to their friends at the expense of the citizens that are excluded from the banking system, he said.

Calomiris' paper is available online here.
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I posted recently about the possibilities of Québec City Cardinal Marc Ouellet being elected to the office of the papacy. He wasn't elected, as it happened, not least because he doesn't seem to have wanted to become Pope. (His history of controversial conservative rhetoric wasn't a factor.) René Bruemmer's Montreal Gazette article makes the point that, even if Ouellet was elected Pope, the shift in Québec towards secular values--at least values different from the conservative norms of Roman Catholicism Ouellet favours--has been much too significant to be bridged by contentious symbolism.

Which raised the question of whether having a hockey-loving hometown boy from La Motte become pope could have raised the fortunes of Catholicism in Quebec — a land where the number of faithful attending church dropped precipitously starting in the 1960s, yet at the same time, 6 million Quebecers still identify themselves as Catholic, baptize their children, bristle at the idea of removing the cross from the National Assembly, and say they would return to the fold, if only it reflected their beliefs.

In the opinion of many local theologians, the answer is probably not. The pendulum has swung too far toward secularization and more liberal values, while the Vatican’s stance on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, contraception, priestly celibacy, religious teaching in schools and allowing women into the priesthood remain too far out of step with the province’s mindset.

Even naming a pope from the ’hood would have made little difference in terms of putting more people back in the pews.

And if that pope had been Cardinal Ouellet, who proved a controversial figure during his tenure as archbishop of Quebec City from 2003 to 2010 for his conservative and unyielding viewpoint even in the opinion of many bishops in the province, the answer is a much more emphatic no, historians agree.

“In my opinion, I think it would be catastrophic for the Catholic Church if he were to be named pope,” Louis Rousseau, a retired professor of theology at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said on Tuesday. “The enemies of the Catholic Church should hope for that.”

[. . .] Quebec society rejected the Catholic Church’s control over politics and institutions such as schools, hospitals and trade unions. Weekly attendance at Sunday mass dropped from more than 80 per cent of Catholics in the 1960s to less than eight per cent today, (as compared with 18 per cent Canada-wide) according to some surveys, as Quebecers quietly abandoned the strict tenets of the church and its control over their lives for a more liberal society. Other shifts, like the decision to deconfessionalize schools in the late 1990s, came after years of public debate.

When Ouellet was appointed archbishop in 2003, he seemed distinctly out of step with modern Quebec society, including the province’s bishops. They had been heeding the population’s call for less church influence in the provincial institutions, much to his dismay.
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"Could a Canadian become the next pope?" is the title of the CBC article on the prospects of Marc Ouellet--archbishop of Quebec, Primate of Canada, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops--succeeding Benedict XVI to the office of the Papacy.

Three Canadian cardinals will be part of the conclave to elect a new pope, and one is considered a leading contender to take over after Pope Benedict XVI steps down Feb. 28.

The selection of a Canadian as pontiff would be unprecedented. A non-European cardinal has never been chosen to lead the church.

The Canadians involved in the decision-making process are Cardinal Thomas Collins from Toronto, and Cardinals Jean-Claude Turcotte and Marc Ouellet, both from Quebec.

[. . .]

Cardinal Ouellet is the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops and joins Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, as potential successors to Benedict.

Cardinal Ouellet was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Quebec in November 2002, and elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals one year later. He participated in the conclave that led to the papal election of Benedict in April 2005. He is also prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

In his current role in the Vatican, the cardinal oversees the appointment of bishops and is active on numerous Roman Catholic commissions and committees. His special interests have included Latin America.

In an interview with the Catholic news organization Salt + Light TV published online last April, Cardinal Ouellet was asked whether he had hopes of becoming pope.

"I don't see myself at this level, not at all ... because I see how much it entails [in terms of] responsibility," he said. "On the other hand, I say I believe that the Holy Spirit will help the cardinals do a good choice for the leadership of the church, the Catholic Church, in the future."

It's worth noting that Ouellet belongs to what is quite possibly the last generation of strongly Roman Catholic French Canada. Canadian Francophones never formed more than 30% of the Canadian population, but they form--and still form--half of Canada's Roman Catholic population. In the past half-century, as Québec has secularized with a vengeance, Roman Catholicism's strength as anything other than a badge of identity has weakened sharply. Ouellet appeared here in 2010 in connection with the overwhelmingly hostile reaction in Québec to his statement that abortion was never justifiable, not even in cases of rape.

Were Ouellet to become Pope, he would find himself fulfilling a lot of records: the first non-European, the first Canadian, the first Francophone in centuries. I would expect quite a few people in Canada, and in Québec more specifically, to be rather proud of him. I would not expect
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Facebook's John some time ago linked to this essay by one Stuart Parker analyzing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Parker thinks that Mulcair--English by language, but born in Québec--has what it takes to succeed in English Canada substantially because he demonstrates a sort of uninhibited traditional masculinity that plays really well.

English Canada fell in love with Pierre Trudeau in 1968 because he angrily seated himself in the direct line of fire of bottle-throwing separatists, not with calm and decorum but in an obviously enraged response both to the separatist rioters and to the handlers who sought to whisk him off to safety. Trudeau’s healthy libido, ability to shamelessly date (and even marry) mentally unstable women less than half his age, his willingness to order the assault of protesters and roll out tanks in the streets of Montréal and his expressions of contempt, punctuated with the odd obscene gesture endeared him to crucial voting blocs in English Canada.

[. . .]

In English Canada, men’s eligibility to join the elite is conditioned, in large measure, by their capacity to reflect the Victorian ideal of manliness exemplified in Upper Canadian culture. Like Hawaiians, Upper Canadians build their patriarchal culture around understated theatrical demonstrations of restraint, physical, emotional and sexual. Elite English Canadian men are not to shout; they are not to brawl; and, if they must engage in it, they keep their promiscuity invisible. Just ask the mayoral candidate who could have saved us from Rob Ford, Adam Giambrone, felled by what Torontonians called a sex scandal and what Parisians wouldn’t have called anything.

While I would never suggest that restraint and sensitivity have nothing to do with elite masculine status in Québec, I will suggest that they have much less to do with it. To non-elite men and women in English Canada, the relative freedom of powerful Québecois men from these standards is a powerful force, especially for non-elite men descended from Southern European immigrant communities that struggle to identify with the smallness and coldness of Anglo nuclear families and the disturbing bloodlessness of the surrounding culture. For Anglo chickenshits like Harper, aggression is often celebrated but when it is, it is always “serious business,” an exotic phenomenon; it takes a Chretien or Trudeau to indicate a real comfort with it by joking about violence (e.g. “I put pepper on my plate…”).

We remain a culture that is rooted in millennia of patriarchy. And generally, Canadians only hand majority governments to a party when one leader is able to embody the multiple definitions of masculinity that, together, comprise a majority, while the others are not. And, overall, the more bellicose, less restrained kind masculinity we find in French Canadian culture has resonance with more people in more places. It has resonance amongst working class Anglos in industrial towns; it has resonance on reserves; it has resonance in immigrant communities not yet domesticated to the passive-aggressive, restrained masculinity of neo-Victorian elites with its slut-shaming and excessive concern over female modesty. Really, the only place it doesn’t sell especially is Québec, where people are more used to it and, consequently, a good deal more tired.

But to us Anglos, a Trudeau, Chretien or Mulcair is a Tarzanesque figure, a creature from a world of which we know little, who has swung in on a vine to right wrongs and expose the hypocrisy, emptiness and veiled rage of the smug, little chess club patriarchs like Harper who run Anglo society. He can slam his fist on the table and threaten to break Peter van Loan’s nose if he steps an inch closer to Nathan Cullen — you know, that nice, mild-mannered House Leader, half a head taller than Mulcair and nearly a generation his junior.
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CTV reports on the commemoration, at the battlesite in France, of the 95th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The site of a Canadian military victory over the Germans in the First World War, the success of the Canadian offensive is frequently cited as one of the signal elements in the birth of a Canadian nationality.

I have some qualms about the battle's role as a reference point--Is referencing a bloody First World War battle as key to nationhood a good thing to do? Can Vimy Ridge continue to serve as a reference point with all of Canada's veterans dead? Given the opposition of French Canada to the war what does this imply?--but I don't see any harm in the commemoration as such.

Thousands of Canadians gathered at the site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge Monday, to mark 95 years since the fight in northern France that some say was a turning point in forging Canada's identity as an independent nation.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney joined 5,000 young Canadians for ceremonies at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, which overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge.

Blaney said he saw some students with tears in their eyes as they toured sites that were once trodden by soldiers from the four divisions of the Canadian Corps that launched their assault on this day in 1917.

"They are really carrying the sacrifice…we can see the emotion," he told CTV News Channel in a phone interview from Vimy.

Standing on the Vimy monument's terrace, it's possible to look down at an expanse of fields and hills, places where Canadians battled and died. Blaney said visiting the spot was a life-changing experience.

"It's not about the triumph, or only about victory. It's about the loss of a young nation," he said. "That's why it's so important."

Canada lost 3,600 men in their bid to capture the ridge that French and British forces had already fought the two years prior to capture at a cost of some 100,000 lives.

It took four days of battle for Canada to seize control of the entire ridge.
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The Acadians on my Facebook friends list have reminded me that today the 15th of August is the Fête nationale de l'Acadie, the Acadian national holiday selected by the first national convention of the Acadians in the New Brunswick community of Memramcook back in 1881, picking the day of the Assumption of Mary so as to honour the virgin mother of Christ who is the patron saint of the traditionally very Roman Catholic Acadians.

Besides being a holiday of note, the 15th of August is important because it is doubly proof of Acadians' self-identified peoplehood, not only as a people full stop but as a people distinct from the much larger French Canadian community (now Québécois, Franco-Ontarians, and others) descended from the Canadiens of New France. Acadians, as English Wikipedia notes, made it clear that the then-two centuries of separate existence were set to continue.

Abbot Marcel-François Richard, who favored August 15, is believed to have had an influence on the decision with the speech he gave at the convention. His arguments were:

... In fact, it seems to me that a people who, for over a century of hardships and persecutions, was able to preserve its religion, language, customs and autonomy, must have acquired enough importance to affirm its existence in a solemn way; and this could not be accomplished better than by being able to celebrate its own national holiday... Allow me, at this time, to point out a few of the motives that will encourage you to choose Our Lady of Assumption as National Acadian Day instead of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Since Canadians have chosen Saint-Jean-Baptiste as their patron, it seems to me that unless you wish to mistake our nationality with theirs, it is crucial that Acadians choose a particular holiday. It is important to stress that we are not descendants of Canada, but of France. Consequently, I see no reason why we should adopt the Saint-Jean-Baptiste as our national holiday... We must choose a holiday that reminds us of our origin. I am even going to go as far as to affirm that the Assumption has always been, and must always remain, National Acadian Day, since Acadians are descendants of the French race. Louis XIII vowed to give his empire to the Blessed Virgin and he wanted the Assumption to be the kingdom's national holiday. However, not long afterwards, he sent colonists to take over Acadia. They did, however, have to bring the customs of their homeland along, and if unfortunate circumstances prevented them from celebrating their national holiday in a regular manner, it is true that the national devotion of the Acadians is their devotion to Mary.

So did Acadians decide that Acadia would continue to exist, a nation without a state of any kind. (The Parti acadien of the 1970s that hoped to create an Acadian province of Francophone northern and northeastern New Brunswick never took off.) So does it exist today.
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There was recently news of a push to get the city to officially recognize a "French Quarter" in Toronto on the pattern of Toronto's other ethnic neighbourhoods.

A number of francophone groups in Toronto want to see a section of Carlton Street between Yonge and Parliament streets designated as the city’s French quarter.

From Little India in the east end to Little Italy in the west, Toronto is famous for its neighbourhoods, and Rolande Smith said francophones want a section of the city to call their own.

Smith is the president of Toronto's French History Society. She made her comments standing in front of Sacré-Coeur church on Sherbourne Street.

Built in the 1930s, it's the first French church in the city, and in the future it could be in the middle of Toronto's own French quarter.

“That would anchor us,” Smith told CBC News. “That'd be an anchor for a lot of activities that are scattered here and there, and give the impression that there's really nothing in French.”

[. . .]

According to the last census, more than 50,000 Torontonians identified themselves as francophones.

I've blogged in the past about Franco-Ontarians. Broadly speaking, the population--while very sizable, even numbering in the tens of thousands in the Ontarian provincial capital--is substantially hit by assimilation.

Ontario's Franco-Ontarian community, amounting to perhaps a half-million people or 5% of the province's population, is the largest Francophone population in Canada outside of Québec, larger even than New Brunswick's Acadians. Unlike the Acadians of that Atlantic Canadian province, who mainly live in compact territories where they form a majority population and have a strong group identity, however, Franco-Ontarians represent a diverse group, including long-settled French Canadian populations in northern and eastern Ontario and large populations of more recent immigrants from around the Francophone world, and form minority populations almost everywhere. Partly as a result, language shift to English among Franco-Ontarians is quite high; in the northern Ontario city of Sudbury, where Francophones make up 28% of the total population and can claim access to a broad variety of governmental, educational and even media resources, the shift to English remains quite high, with only 64% of the current generation of Francophones passing on their language to their children. Even Vanier, a long-established Francophone community in Ottawa that has served as something of a cultural centre, is increasingly Anglophone.

Toronto's Francophone population does stand out, not least because it's probably growing. The important thing to note is that unlike the traditional Franco-Ontarian community that's the product of French Canadian migration west across the Ottawa River from Québec, Toronto's Francophone population is heterogenous, product of immigration from across the Francophone world--Europe, Africa, the Caribbean--as well as across Canada. I hear a reasonable amount of French spoken on Toronto's streets, but most of the people doing the speaking are of an immigrant background.

Most urban Francophone enclaves in English Canada, like Ottawa's Vanier and Winnipeg's Saint-Boniface, are pre-existing communities engulfed by an expanding city. Toronto's French neighbourhood would stand out in beign a creation de novo. To, such a French Quarter would stand out as unique among Toronto's ethnic neighbourhoods in that whereas the community was created by immigration from a single country or region--Portugal, Italy, South Asia--Toronto's French Quarter would represent Francophones from potentially dozens of different countries.

Can this project work? I think so. As noted above, there is a critical mass of Francophone institutions and--more importantly--people in that neighbourhood and arguably in Toronto as a whole, a geographic focus for Canada's other official language community in its largest city makes sense, and there definitely seems to be a desire by people from across Toronto's diverse Francophone community to create the neighbourhood. Why not?
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The annihilation of the Bloc Québécois, the party losing 43 of the 47 seats in the federal parliament (including the seat of then-party leader Gilles Duceppe) has played almost entirely to the benefit of the New Democratic Party, which now draws almost half of its caucus from Québec. Including ridings in northern Ontario, Ottawa-Gatineau and New Brunswick with large Francophone populations (but not eastern Ontario), the case can be made that the New Democratic Party--a federalist party--is now the leading political party of French Canada.

(Oh, even one week ago I never would have believed that.)


The NDP is orange, if you're curious. The Conservatives have some ridings on the far side of the St. Lawrence river from Québec City, the Bloc Québécois some scattered ridings in eastern Québec and one in downtown Montréal, and the Liberals a half-dozen in Montréal, but that's it. The NDP is hegemonic in Québec.

The major problem with this remarkable new dominance is that the NDP has historically been quite weak in Québec. The only NDP parliamentarian in Québec before the election was downtown Montréal MP Thomas Mulcair, who himself was only the second NDP member in federal parliament ever elected from Québec. 58 of the 68 seats gained by the NDP--59 of the 102 total--were gained in Québec. Might the spectacularly rapid growth lead to growing pains, especially since the overwhelming majority of these parliamentarians are new to politics?

NDP Leader Jack Layton defended his youngest, least-experienced caucus members Tuesday morning after Quebec voters elected three McGill University students and a pub manager who doesn't speak French or live in the Francophone riding she'll represent.

“I don’t share this notion that a young person is somehow not qualified, and evidently the people who voted for these new MPs in Quebec feel the same way,” Layton, now the leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, said in Toronto just 12 hours after his party saw its best-ever election results.

The NDP crushed the Bloc Québécois in the province, taking 58 of 75 seats. But the orange wave of popularity that decimated the other parties in the province swept several newbies to the House of commons, including three students, a karate instructor and the pub manager.

Layton promised all the new MPs will work as hard as those with more experience.

"First of all, we also have a lot of experienced MPs who are judged by most of the people who watched the Parliament as some of the most effective," he said.

"And we will have a lot of new blood, new energy, new talent … when people vote for change, that's what they're hoping happens."

While the NDP fits the generally left-leaning political culture of Québec, and given general fatigue with the Bloc Québécois, distrust of the Conservatives, and disinterest in the Liberals was the only alternative, it's possible that if the NDP flirtation doesn't work out--if the sovereignty movement complicates the NDP's life, or if the new MPs don't grow quickly into their positions--there could be a breakdown. Then again, if the NDP manages this all and cements its position as the only political party including both Canadian solitudes, its chances of becoming a viable party of government would become that much stronger.
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John Ibbitson's note in the Globe and Mail is about as good a summation of the differences between English and French Canada re: multiculturalism as I can think of. In the aftermath of some Sikh men's ejection from Québec's National Assembly for wearing their kirpans--ceremonial daggers--clear thinking's important.

“Religious freedom exists but there are other values,” said Louise Beaudoin, the PQ’s designated critic for secularism. “For instance, multiculturalism is not a Quebec value. It may be a Canadian one but it is not a Quebec one.”

That there exists such a position as secularism critic boggles an English-Canadian mind. But it’s true that the two cultures often have a difficult time understanding each other.

Try spending a day at Harbord Collegiate. For almost 120 years, Harbord has graduated the brightest and best of each generation of Toronto students. Today, its halls teem with infectiously happy and ferociously bright teenagers of Chinese, Filipino, South Asian, Latino and African background. Half the student body belongs to a visible minority, except they aren’t the minority any more, at least not at Harbord.

Toronto and the other large cities of English Canada don’t think too much about reasonable accommodation. The opposition parties have no critic for secularism. Partly that’s because Quebec is a nation – a community bound by language, history and culture – while the rest of Canada is something that could best be described as postnational, worried less about protecting and more about encompassing.

Partly that’s because English and French Canadians sometimes employ different approaches when considering social challenges. As Robert and Isabelle Tombs observed in That Sweet Enemy, their fine history of Anglo-French rivalry, the French are inclined to look at the big picture. Here is a problem; what does it say about the system in which it is embedded? What changes should we make to the system to eliminate the problem? The English tradition favours ad hoc fixes, while avoiding grand designs. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses; each can seem perverse to the other side.

That two such disparate world views can live in the same political space remains a miracle. We should remember that on weeks like this, when everybody is yelling at everybody else.

Go, read.
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I'd like to thank an anonymous LJ friend for linking to this study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 2009, "Believers’ estimates of God’s beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people’s beliefs" by Epley, Converse et al. I'll quote their abstract below.

People often reason egocentrically about others’ beliefs, using their own beliefs as an inductive guide. Correlational, experimental, and neuroimaging evidence suggests that people may be even more egocentric when reasoning about a religious agent’s beliefs (e.g., God). In both nationally representative and more local samples, people’s own beliefs on important social and ethical issues were consistently correlated more strongly with estimates of God’s beliefs than with estimates of other people’s beliefs (Studies 1–4). Manipulating people’s beliefs similarly influenced estimates of God’s beliefs but did not as consistently influence estimates of other people’s beliefs (Studies 5 and 6). A final neuroimaging study demonstrated a clear convergence in neural activity when reasoning about one’s own beliefs and God’s beliefs, but clear divergences when reasoning about another person’s beliefs (Study 7). In particular, reasoning about God’s beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning about another person’s beliefs. Believers commonly use inferences about God’s beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears especially dependent on one’s own existing beliefs.

And now, their conclusion.

We believe these findings provide important insights into the origins and variability of religious beliefs and have interesting implications for their impact on everyday judgment, decisionmaking, and behavior. First, these data join a growing body of literature demonstrating that religious beliefs are guided by the same basic or natural mechanisms that guide social cognition more generally (4, 10, 25, 26). Religious beliefs need not be explained by any unique psychological mechanisms, but instead are likely to be the natural outcome of existing mechanisms that enable people to reason about other social agents more generally. Insights into the basic mechanisms that guide social cognition are therefore likely to be of considerable value for understanding religious experience and belief.

Second, these data provide insight into the sources of people’s own religious beliefs. Although people obviously acquire religious beliefs from a variety of external sources, from parents to broader cultural influences, these data suggest that the self may serve as an important source of religious beliefs as well. Not only are believers likely to acquire the beliefs and theology of others around them, but may also seek out believers and theologies that share their own personal beliefs. If people seek out religious communities that match their own personal views on major social, moral, or political issues, then the information coming from religious sources is likely to further validate and strengthen their own personal convictions and values. Religious belief has generally been treated as a process of socialization whereby people’s personal beliefs about God come to reflect what they learn from those around them, but these data suggest that the inverse causal process may be important as well: people’s personal beliefs may guide their own religious beliefs and the religious communities they seek to be part of.

Finally, these data have interesting implications for the impact of religious thought on judgment and decision-making. People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.

I find this fascinating research, since it pegs not only with my personal experiences and the experiences of my friends but with what I know about the sociology of religion. Religion, even so-called universal religions, are very frequently often intimately associated with ethnicity and nationality, ethnic religions in fact if not in name. It's not just a factor present among ethnoreligious minorities like Jews and the Amish--just think of Roman Catholicism's association with French Canada and Poland, say, or Orthodox Christianity with Russia, or Shinto with Japan, or Shi'ite Islam with Iran, or the religious differences between immigrants and natives in many societies. Many members of these communities stop practising their religions entirely or mostly, instead using it as a marker of group identity. Wide-spread conversions from one faith to another are actually pretty rare, precipitated often by state action (think of the emergence of Anglicanism) or by some systematic failure of the old religion or particular attractiveness of the new religion (the appeal of Islam to lower-caste Hindus in South Asia, say). If a common religion helps define a community of identity, why wouldn't said religion reflect other shared elements of identity, whether political or sociological?
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Acadian French is a unique dialect of Canadian French, having developed in isolation from the Canadiens who went on to dominate Québec and settle areas to the west of the Ottawa River. Vocabularly and pronunciation are quite different from Canadian and international standards. But this variant?

Two linguists from l'Universite de Moncton have put together a dictionary for doctors and doctors-in-training to help them communicate better with their Acadian patients.

The dictionary lists French and Chiac words that are unique to New Brunswick Acadians. Chiac is the dialect spoken by Acadians in southern New Brunswick.

Lise Rodrique and Gisele Chevalier put together the dictionary called Les Mots Pour Parler des Maux or The Words to talk about Aches.

Rodrique said doctors-in-training at the university were having trouble understanding their patients who speak Acadian French.

"I wasn't really surprised because the linguistic situation in Moncton is very particular with the Chiac and also with the older people who still have old Acadian words in their vocabulary," she said Thursday.

"So, when you mix both of them together it can be a bit confusing for people who are not used to hearing that terminology."

Examples in the dictionary include using the word "cholera" to describe "diarrhea," or in the Chiac section, using the word "barfe" for "vomiting."
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I've a post up examining how the Catholic Church in early 20th century French Canada and contemporary Mexico examining how the Roman Catholic Church first tried to prevent then tried to regulate emigrants and their behaviours, with suggestions that this sort of transnationalism might be present right now.
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Joseph Nadeau's article in the Pawtucket Times, "Nous parlons francais", takes a look at the efforts of Franco-Americans, descendants of French Canadian migrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, to maintain something of their language and heritage in the old industrial city of Woonsocket.

It’s possible to listen to French being spoken on local radio programs, and you can still find older city residents at the Woonsocket Senior Center who chat in French as easily as they do in English.

The problem for area Francophiles, however, is simply that there isn’t a lot of coordination between the various French-oriented events held in the area or the French Canadian resources located here, such as the American-French Genealogical Society library at 78 Earle St.

Dominique Gregoire, president of Alliance Francais de Providence, hopes to change all that with a new week-long celebration of the area’s French and French-Canadian ties, to be held in conjunction with International Francophone Day on March 20.

Gregoire, a native of Brittany, France, and resident of Rhode Island for the past 22 years, said the events to be held in Rhode Island starting March 19 are intended to bond the various groups already here into a more active network promoting Gallic culture.
During an announcement of the new collaboration at the Musee du Travail et de la Culture de Woonsocket (the Museum of Work and Culture), Gregoire said he sees the upcoming Semaine de la Francophonie 2009 (French Speakers Week) as an idea that can only grow.

“The Italians in Rhode Island have their day, and the Irish have their day, and now the French are going to have their week,” he said.

The concept of a week celebrating the area’s ties to the Province de Quebec, Canada, France, and to many of the 40 other French-speaking countries around the world, was raised at a meeting of a small group of like-minded Rhode Islanders about a year ago. It has since been expanded to include members of 10 Rhode Island organizations as well as French officials in the area.


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