English Canada: they hate just like us!

Philippe Gohier: The year is still young, but here’s the lede to beat so far for 2010:

“English Canadians have a more favourable view of immigrants and Jews than they do of Francophone Quebecers.”

To put the story in context, it’s about a poll done for Jack Jedwab’s Association for Canadian Studies. The survey found that the only ethnic (is that right?) group more disliked by English Canadians than Aboriginals was Francophone Quebecers. And as the Journal de Montréal’s lede makes clear, their shock in all this doesn’t stem from the fact Quebecers aren’t all that popular, but that they’re less so than EVEN THE JEWS AND THE IMMIGRANTS !!!

Imagine that.

Martin Patriquin: Ha! That’s cute. This is the newspaper, remember, that has been torquing Jedwab’s surveys for fun and profit for as long as I can remember. (A note: “immigrants and Jews?” Imagine if these two mystical forces combined to make some sort of immigrant Super Jew. Hell hath no blintzes.) When it comes to ‘identity’ stories, this is what the Journal does (and it does it well): it provokes French Quebec’s insecurity on issues of language and culture, then sells it back to Quebecers, headlines blazing.

Me, I’m a glass half full guy. And the glass is arguably more than half full. If you parse Jedwab’s numbers, as Jean-François Lisée did recently, you’ll notice that it actually isn’t a love/hate thing at all. Apparently, the bastion of anti-Quebec hatred is in New Brunswick (in part because of this). Just over 14 percent of New Brunswickers hate us. About nine percent love us, which means 77 percent of the province is neither here nor there on Quebec. Alberta? 17 percent love us, about 12 percent hate us. (And, thanks to their petro dollars, they all send us transfer payments so we can pay for our bloated social programs. Merci, les amis.) I don’t notice the love/hate thing as much as the great, big mushy middle.

It’s also worth noting that 6.5 percent of Francophones ‘detest’ Jews, while the same percentage of English Canadians ‘detest’ Native Canadians (or Amerindians’) as the survey puts it. So, French and English Canada might hate different minority groups, but we hate them to the same degree. There’s hope for this country yet.

PG: I don’t think the survey itself says much that wasn’t already known. Part of my job involves reading all the stupid comments that get reported on this site and it’s quickly disabused me of any notion that we’re on the cusp of widespread harmony.

Besides, I wouldn’t even know how to answer a question about whether I have a favourable or unfavourable view of an entire group, if only because I often love and hate a people for the same thing. (For example, I both love and hate the fact Torontonians think whole-wheat baguettes are a good idea. So long as I don’t actually want a decent baguette, that is; then, I just hate them.)

That said, I’m surprised at how forthcoming English Canadians were regarding their animosity towards Quebec Francophones. I mean, even in Ontario, where I’m pretty sure it’s a government-mandated duty to pretend to like everyone and everything about their culture in order to embody some platonic ideal of Orientalism, only 60 per cent of people are cool with Francophone Quebecers. What gives?

MP: That’s a good point. Asking if you love or hate an entire ethnic/cultural group is sort of inviting blanket declarations, isn’t it? It’s assuming that you have feelings/thoughts/notions about entire groups of people. You might or you might not, but just asking the question seems to assume that you do. Not only that, the survey does the work for you by whittling down the choices to four.

As to your question about animosity towards Quebec Francophones: I put the question to Jim Duff once–yes, the devoted and formerly angry Anglo who, it should be said, loves Quebec and all its petty miseries to death–and he said there is a streak of Loyalist resentment running through much of Ontario, particularly outside of Toronto, where people still believe they conquered the French, and that the French should start acting appropriately. I wish I could find the email, because he described it way more eloquently. He has a point: this is where The Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada (paging Senator Runciman!) and other associated mouthbreathers inevitably start.

Of course, this only accounts for Ontario–though Ontario is the centre of the universe, as you well know.

PG: I’m not sure I buy into old-timey Loyalist affections as the reason Ontarians or anyone else resents Francophone Quebecers, no matter how eloquently it’s expressed. It’s entirely possible, but something else appears to be at play here. With the notable exception of Aboriginals, the one thing that pops out from survey is that it’s not familiarity that breeds contempt among Canadians and Quebecers. There are, after all, virtually no Jews in Quebec outside Montreal and there are relatively few Francophone Quebecers outside la belle province. And yet, both those groups rank pretty high on the Jedwab animosity-o-meter. Granted, it’s a very small minority in both Quebec and Canada that harbours these resentments, but in both cases they seem to be drawing from the same well of cultural conservatism. Perhaps English Canadians and Francophone Quebecers, especially the ones that hate each other, have a lot more in common than they ever thought.

MP: Maybe it’s partly a urban-rural split thing. For example: Quebecers outside of Montreal often have strange and magnificently ignorant notions about the city. For the most part people from outside Montreal don’t know that proverbial Jew/immigrant/minority/what-have-you; these non-MTLers only have a vague idea that, because they are from the cesspool of greed and filth, these “groups” must be inherently greedy and filthy. I’m generalizing, but you get the idea.

Similarly, people from outside of Quebec often have vague and wrongheaded notions about the province–notions fed by what they see in the news (Quebec is whiny; Quebec only wants more; the separatists eat babies, etc.) It’s easy to hate from afar, I guess.

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