Bienvenue Chez Nous

Bienvenue Chez Nous

This opinion piece, submitted by Peter Stuart, is is reponse to the article Racist, Inflammatory, or Just a Bit of Harmless Fun? that appeared on LifeinQuebec.com recently.  

The views expressed below are the author’s, and are not necessarily shared by staff and owners of LifeinQuebec.com.

‘BIENVENUE CHEZ NOUS’: NOT SO MUCH A ‘WELCOME HOME’, BUT ‘WELCOME TO OUR HOME’.

In response to Jacquelyn Smith’s article in last week’s ‘Life in Québec’, I have a few words to say of my own if you please. Miss Smith seems very shocked that the poster that was raised in the Rogers Centre could be put up in the ‘most multicultural city on the planet?’

Guess what sister; this is Canada, the home of the True North Strong and Linguistically Divided. We’ve been raking muck at each other across the interprovincial boundary for centuries, not to mention within Québec as well, and nobody has come out of it with anything worse than maybe some wounded pride at having lost a sports match or an election.

We’re great at sublimating our deep-seated ethno-linguistic rivalries through dialogue, sports and politics, leaving the nasty ethnic cleansing and genocide stuff to the folks in the emerging world. We had enough of all that stuff during the colonial period when we used to go on raiding parties and roast each other alive in our respective houses, then kill those who tried to escape the flames by shooting them in cold blood and scalping them for the bounty we could receive for it.

All this to see who would control the international trade in beaver skins so that fat rich guys could wear ridiculously funny-looking hats to lavish parties back on the continent, drink wine and probably hit on the ladies. Personally I think our current version of ethno-linguistic rivalry is tame compared to what I just described, or even to what I lived through only about forty years ago, when being a native English-speaker in Québec City quite often meant that you literally had to fight with your fists at school against your French-speaking classmates who taunted you and ganged up on you, often several at a time, calling you all sorts of dirty names, all the while that you were attending one of their schools to learn their language so as to better fit into the very province you were born and raised in!

So forget about Me.André Joli-Coeur being so magnanimous in his welcoming of Miss Smith to Québec. I think she misinterpreted his definition of ‘bienvenue chez nous’. That doesn’t mean ‘welcome home’, as in ‘welcome to your home’, but rather ‘welcome to our home’.

When Québécois separatists like Me Joli-coeur talk about ‘nous’, he’s talking about the native-born French-speaking Québécois people. When Miss Smith speaks of Me Joli-Coeur being so ‘open’ to English-Canadians coming to Québec to learn French and study Law, he’s simply covering for the fact that his separatist government’s Bill 101 essentially chased so many English-speaking Québecers out of the province, that the Parti Québécois now has had no choice but to embark upon a mission to try and attract a new generation of ‘French-friendly’ English-Canadian elite to Québec to essentially act as translators and go-betweens to fill the void left by the massive out-migration of mostly bilingual English-speaking Québecers such as lawyers, accountants, doctors and so forth towards Ontario and other parts of North America.

So I find it very amusing that Miss Smith falls all over herself saying just how willing everybody was to speak English when she first came here a few years back. That may be the case for this generation of French-speaking Québécois who now realize that English is essential for their success in the post-modern global marketplace, but it wasn’t at all the case for their parents, who grew up during my youth and who imbibed a heavy dose of ‘in your face’ anti-Canadian, anti-English, anti-American, anti-capitalist rhetoric from the mostly Socialist and Communist union and PQ Party apparatchiks who dominated the public discourse at the time and who portrayed anything English as anathema to the eventual ‘liberation’ of their ‘nation’.

So in the end, who won the Vanier Cup? Laval University! Who’s in first place? Laval University! What country is Laval University in? Canada!

What are the two official languages of Canada? English and French! (Or French and English, depending on who you talk to).

Where did football originate? The USA or Canada? The jury is still out on that one.

Whichever way you slice it, I really got a bang out of watching that photo of Laval’s Rouge et Or marching out onto the field at the Rogers Centre in TO in full regalia with that huge Laval flag, the swirling smoke, with that inflammatory poster lurking in the background. Those Lavallads truly looked like warriors marching out onto the field to do battle with the enemy.

My childhood friend Carl Brennan, who now coaches football forLaval’s Rouge et Or once observed to me that ‘football is the closest thing you can get in real life to genuine warfare without anybody getting killed’. Well guess what, Miss Smith; the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was re-fought at the Rogers Centre last week and guess who came out in first place: Canada!

Have a blessed day all of you.

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About the author:


Peter Stuart is a freelance writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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