I received a friendly message shortly after publishing myend of year message a few months ago from a follower asking me questions about Quebec - our predominantly French-speaking province. This person suggested that it would be interesting to get my overall general perspective on this specific region’s culture and what truly makes it a unique province, while the rest of the country – usually referred to as “English Canada” - continues to embrace different variations of multiculturalism policy. This will be tough to summarize in my usual five-paragraph form, so I will do my best highlighting some important basics. I apologize for taking so long to delve into this topic but I am pleased to share some of my personal ruminations on "La Belle Province".
|View of the Marché Bonsecours in Montreal, Quebec|
I possess a deep admiration for Quebec and its people, having lived most of my recent history in Southern Ottawa, within about 30 kms from the border with Gatineau. During the past 12 years, I have travelled on several occasions to different cities, towns and villages, only to enjoy the landscape, discover the treasures of a breath-taking land and meet the locals. The Québécois are proud people and I mean this in the most positive way. Their territory is a significant part of them, running through their patriotic veins, which may explain why they carefully preserve every inch of their colourful and picturesque settlements as if they were all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These people are among the few North Americans that are really in touch with the Pachamama (sacred land in the quechua dialect). They are excellent hosts – I have never experienced hostility as a visitor, perhaps due to being a native French speaker – and after spending time there on numerous occasions and different places, I always come back wishing I could just have started a brand new life among these passionate and expressive people instead of coming back to my regular digs.
Montreal used to be the centre of Canada’s economy yet it remains one of the country’s most vibrant cities. People come from far and wide to visit the Old City, the Mont Royal Park and some even the casino. I often call this place, the "Paris of North America" – I possibly may not have coined that phrase, but it is a more than suitable adjective that I borrow from the famous “they”. As you take a stroll down the busy Ste. Catherine Avenue, you will immediately witness any day of the week a fashion-show, with the elegant and trendy city dwellers parading latest styles in urban fashion. You don’t need to bust the bank to look like the latest fashionista, but some definitely do here. Young and old, everyone places an importance on their individual appearance hoping to showcase the very best of their persona to the discriminating observer. If you are famished, never fear as there is an immense variety of multiethnic and local gourmet restaurants able to cater to relatively any budget. Afterwards, hop aboard affordable taxis – compared to most big cities in North America - to ferry you for a digestif and then from one hot spot to the next. The nightlife never stops and is unsurpassed by any other downtown core in the country, guaranteeing you will have made brand new friends before you start a new day. Samuel de Champlain lived by the motto: “Party on, dudes!”
Should you tire from the hectic urban lifestyle of the Montrealers, or you simply favour the quiet embrace of Mother Nature, there are numerous safe havens all around the province waiting for you. The accommodations are designed according to the sophisticated pallets of the innovative and welcoming Quebecer. They certainly have the know-how in providing quality comfort for different budgets, something that the Torontonian travelling to Muskoka cottage country severely lacks. It is unfortunate too, because we have some pretty amazing nature in Ontario, just nowhere really nice to sit around and breathe it all in. When it comes to paying for your stay, it should be less about the quantity of bills – as seems to be the rule in Ontario – but quality when you are investing that hard earned cheddar on your leave – as I have found through multiple experiences throughout Quebec. Again, there is a sense of pride that comes across, especially when visiting places such as Mont Tremblant, which resembles a perfectly drawn up village from an animated Disney movie. You will always be a return customer.
|Cruisin' with my dogs around Montebello, Quebec|
Quebec has successfully nurtured the attribute that has been used to define it as a very distinct and unique society within Canada. Traditionally, its governments have adopted a more conservative approach towards the evolution of their national culture in regards to immigration, opting to protect themselves from the Anglophone majority that surrounds them in the North American continent. The rest of Canada has been perhaps excessively liberal, with many of its traditions taking a back seat – beyond the cheap seats and more in the parking lot outside the stadium – in order to accommodate a growing minority of foreign-born groups and Canadian-born people who don’t appreciate or know their own history. Many societies bank on their past, teaching the lessons learned to their youth. I believe as a whole, we should promote a ‘middle of the road’ approach where newcomers maintain their customs and traditions while respecting and practicing Canadian and provincial heritage. We owe it to our forefathers to remember their accomplishments, celebrate today’s cultural diversity together with our own roots that define our present, in hopes to forge a promising future for generations to come.