My plans to write about the film “Québec, My Country, Mon Pays” today became heightened after the past weekend’s tragedy at a Québec City mosque. My heart goes out to the people who were practicing a peaceful prayer, their families, and the community, that includes us.
I lived in Québec City. J’ai vecu a Québec. I know that when we say “a Québec” (in Québec) as opposed to “au Québec” (also, in Québec) that the former means the city, and not the province, the latter. I spent 4 years there. First, studying French. Secondly, studying acting at Le Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique de Québec.
Then… I moved to Montreal. Where my Dad grew up, partly. And, that’s when I relate to the film Québec, My Country, Mon Pays. No, I wasn’t an Anglophone who was born there, but I certainly can relate to some of what is discussed in John Walker’s documentary on being an Anglophone in the Québec French community. It’s not always easy.
The documentary goes back to prior and during the FLQ crisis when the province became a more dangerous place to reside as an Anglophone. Extreme measures were taken by a small group that grew in its power and intention. Bombs were randomly placed in English communities in Montreal (way more than I realized) and living became stressful. Not for the French.
As a result, there was a massive exodus which suited the French quite well. More “space” for them. Not all French agreed with this movement. However, around 300,000 “anglos” left between the 60s to the late 80s. Some stayed. Director, John Walker’s sister ran away from Toronto to return to Montreal after their family had joined the exodus. She is still determinedly there, with her own family.
I left in 1992. I wanted to remain. I loved Montreal. I loved that I had learned the language and could perform now in my second language. I had learned all about a culture and came out of my school as the only English person to have done the Conservatoire in over 50 years. (I think I was an experiment!). I loved my walk up apartments and the crazy tradition of so many people moving in the spring once leases were up. I loved the variety of cultures, the food, the energy, even walking in the snow.
But. It was hard for me to find work as an actor, an English actor. Roles went to the French first. And, I got disheartened by all the “A louer” (to rent) signs everywhere.
So I moved to Vancouver.
After viewing this film, I remembered why I loved being in Québec, and I recalled all of Dad’s fond memories and his sadness when his family uprooted to Toronto. He always regretted that he could have learned piano from Oscar Peterson who lived just down the road.
For the French who also left for the West, you might feel a pang of nostalgia when you watch the documentary. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll feel validated in your choice of leaving.
Me? Moi? I have mixed feelings.
Come and see “Québec My Country My Pays” as part of the Rendez-Vous French Film Festival in Vancouver, on Sunday February 5th, 4:00pm and stick around for a wonderful line-up of shorts by Wakiponi, at 6pm and a second documentary on the uprising in Spain, 7:00pm, “Le Peuple Interdit“. Themes are all about self-identity. A timely subject in our tumultuous times.