Anglo of the Day: Maria Stamadianos
This profile comes to us from Maria Stamadianos who lives in Laval and works in the Laurentians. She doesn't believe in linguistic labels.
Hi, my name is Maria and I'm an anglophone Quebecer. No, no. I'm an allophone Quebecer. No. Hold on, I'm Canadian. Well, actually, now that I think of it, my parents originate from Greece, so maybe I'm an ethnic minority. Excuse me, I meant to say that I'm part of a cultural community.
Now, I'm not sure if you follow because I'm having a hard time myself, but basically, what I'm trying to say, is that my name is Maria and I was born and raised in Montreal. I've been to school here, I've worked here and I pay my taxes here. Yet, somehow, every so often, I'm reminded of the fact that I'm an anglophone or some variation of one. It saddens me to say that as of late I haven't held the Anglo title with pride. Mainly because I don't want to be placed in the same category as many rude, angry Anglos that seem to be polluting my social media sites.
It's plain to see that the political situation in Quebec is a mess. Whether we're talking about the economy, the health care system or the educational system, they all leave much to be desired. Yet here we are, fighting over which language we're going to speak to each other.
Since the election of Pauline Marois, it's like we're in a constant state of reaction. My Anglo friends have become increasingly paranoid and are saying the most incredible things in reaction to news stories about linguistic bylaws, flags in the National Assembly, referendums and... pasta. They blame the francophones, they blame Mme. Marois, they swear, they name call, they threaten a great exodus but really all they're doing is giving ammunition. Giving the extremist, unilingual, separatist Quebecer more power. They are also shunning the majority of franco-Quebecers who are standing by us.
I work in a predominantly French area in the Laurentians. A small family business. I speak 'joual' a large part of my day. My French is not perfect but there has never been a real complaint. Sure, someone will poke a little fun at me but it's rarely mean spirited. The funny thing is, that contrary to the impression one would get from the media and the Internet, I have several clients who are happy to speak to me in the classic Montreal medley of Frenglish. I also have clients who ask me to speak to their children strictly in English. I have middle class clients who pay top dollar to send their children to a private English school.
Most people are very impressed and congratulate me for being able to speak three languages and I even have two French clients who speak to me in Greek! That's the reality I come into contact with every day. Yes, there are exceptions. There are people who will take the 'this is Quebec' motto a little too far but like in every good relationship we have to learn to let some things slide.
When I get to the cash register at the local grocery store, I don't weigh my options as to which language I'm going to use. I open my mouth and I speak. I don't insist on being spoken to in English but I don't necessarily switch it to French either. Believe it or not, the most amazing thing happens; we understand each other. One conversation, two languages. Then I realize that it's things like that, that make my city special. It's a phenomenon unique to the city of Montreal. The ability to switch between languages with fluidity is what makes us unique. It's what makes us Quebecers.
The fact is, that despite recent headlines, Quebec is a wonderful place to live. It is rich in culture, opportunity and natural beauty. It is home to hard-working people who care about each other and want to see their young grow up in a safe, prosperous place. Unfortunately, it's also home to two solitudes that we should now be trying to move past.
My name is Maria. I am an anglophone, an allophone, a francophone, a Montrealer, a Canadian. I am all these things and none of them because I am a Quebecer and as a Quebecer I implore you to take a moment and think the next time you're about to say you feel like leaving Quebec, or that all the French want is to drive us out of our homes.