According to a poll done for CBC News, 1 in 4 anglophone Quebecers say they don't feel welcome in their own province. Andrew Change tests the mood in a town with a rich Anglo history
Set aside the politics of language and sovereignty, and a majority of Quebec anglophones say they value their relationship with francophone Quebecers and feel welcome living in the province.
An EKOS research poll commissioned by the CBC found 58 per cent of respondents feel welcome in Quebec, and 57 per cent say they feel integrated into Quebec society.
"I feel integrated," agreed Steve Victory, a Côte-des-Neiges hairdresser who moved to Montreal from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1987.
"I don't see language as life…I don't see language as a barrier. First of all, I see respect, and I have respect for those who respect me."
"Are they saying they feel welcome by the government of Quebec, by the Parti Québécois?" asks Jack Jedwab, a demographer and the executive-director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies.
"No. It's true that a lot of anglophones, as they've said in this poll, are unhappy about the language debate, the reinforcing of the language law and the politics of Quebec society." "That notwithstanding, they're saying in this survey that they really like living here."
Leaving 'with a heavy heart'
Dwane Connors had been optimistic about living in Quebec when he moved back from a job in South Africa with the United Nations two years ago. Now the Morin Heights resident is packing his bags again and heading for Alberta.
"We don't feel welcome, being an anglophone," Connors says. "I look at the 'distinct' culture of Quebec as being a conversation where half the conversation is in French, half of it is in English…Yet, what they're actually trying to do is not create a distinct society, they're actually trying to erode English."
"Of course, there are a lot of French people who are not like that, but specifically, I speak about the separatists."
As CBC Montreal reported on Monday, the random telephone survey of 1,001 anglophone Quebecers found 42 per cent have considered moving out of Quebec in light of last September's PQ victory.
"It's clear they'd leave with a very heavy heart," says Jedwab. "They don't like the language laws, but that's not something they're thinking about every single day. They're saying, 'Despite these irritants, I think there are opportunities here.'"
Belief in success a sign of confidence
Indeed, the poll shows 65 per cent of anglophones believe they can succeed in Quebec, and 61 per cent believe their children can succeed.
Jane Jenson, a professor at University of Montreal and the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Governance, says that is a sign of confidence in the future.
"In times of uncertainty, that (65 per cent) is quite a high measure."
"It shows they are optimistic," said Jenson. "You get a picture of much more than a majority that feels quite satisfied, both for themselves and for their children."
Knowledge of French culture crucial, most say
A strong majority — 85 per cent — agree that it is important to know about Quebec's French culture.
That includes older anglophones, born and raised in the province, like Alex Frizzel.
"I've got nothing against having the French culture," the Pierrefonds resident said, though he admitted his own knowledge of French culture was a bit spotty.
'You get a picture of...a majority that feels quite satisfied, both for themselves and for their children,'—Jane Jenson, Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Governance
"I know the history from high school, but I forget most of it."
Frizzel, now retired, said he worked mainly in English and can get by in French when he encounters someone who isn't able to speak English.
He belongs to the 18 per cent of Quebec anglophones who say they can understand what is being said in French but don't speak the language that well. A strong majority – 64 per cent of anglophones -- say they are completely proficient in French conversation.
Few consume French media – unless it's hockey
Despite that, a distinct minority of anglophones consume French language media on a daily or even a weekly basis.
Thirteen per cent say they read French language newspapers daily, while 20 per cent read them on a weekly basis. Thirty per cent say they watch French TV, at least weekly.
Both Jenson and Jedwab caution against reading too much into how people consume media.
"So I'll glance at a French newspaper from time to time, but I'm not going to read a book in French," Jenson says, adding that people don't need to consume culture to feel integrated. "They might not want to read a website in French because most websites are in English…and the CBC tells you about French culture, right?…You can learn about French musicians and films, without necessarily consuming (French) media."
"I watch the hockey games in French," says Stephen Gillis, a transplanted New Brunswicker. "It's a much better production."
'ROC' doesn't care about us, say most anglos
Gillis moved to Quebec six years ago, to marry a woman from Montreal's West Island suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
Asked whether the rest of Canada is concerned about English speaking Quebecers, Helen Gillis says they are.
"I think they do think about us, and they feel sorry for us," she says.
Only 26 per cent of the EKOS poll respondents agree with her. Fifty-three per cent, including her husband, don't believe the rest of Canada is concerned about English-speaking Quebecers.
"I really don't think they care...at all," says Stephen Gillis. "I've lived in Ontario. I've lived in Alberta....Honestly, there is zero preoccupation with Quebec in the rest of Canada."
French-English relations good overall, poll finds
Having lived elsewhere, Stephen Gillis does find strangers don't interact as much as they do elsewhere in the country, rarely stopping to chat in grocery store line-ups or on street corners.
"They're maybe afraid of talking in the wrong language," he guesses. "That sort of feeds into tensions between the two language groups."
Still, close to seven out of ten Quebecers – 69 per cent – describe the relationship between anglophones and francophones as excellent, good or acceptable.
And a full 96 per cent of anglophones say it is important to improve that relationship.
Steve Victory – the Cote-des-Neiges hairdresser – says he has a prescription for that.
"It's simple. Smile," Victory says. "A smile says it all."
The EKOS poll results are based on a telephone survey conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 23 with a random sample of 1,001 anglophone Quebecers.
The margin of error is +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.