Other People

"I ask myself: Wouldn't I be better off, if we gave up speaking French? This is a question that my children, and everyone in Quebec should ask themselves every day." The question was not entirely rhetorical. Like many French-Canadian intellectuals, Georges favors secession but broods over the price he and his people had to pay for insisting on an independent Quebec. Although it was really none of my business, I told him that he was only asking Esau's question. Was his French birthright worth more to him than an Anglophone mess of pottage?

For the majority of French-Canadians in Quebec, the answer is unequivocally "yes," even for those who voted "non" in the last referendum on independence. The Québécois are an older race than either the Anglo-Canadians or the Anglo-Americans of North America, and, in some respects at least, they are haunted by the same memories that bedevil American Southerners. Quebec's national motto, printed on every license plate, might have been drafted by Mel Bradford: "Je me souviens," I remember. In the course of several days in Quebec just before Christmas, I met a lawyer who had voted no, because she did not like Jacques Parizeau's leftist polities, and a businessman who voted yes, but refuses to join the PQ, because it is too much part of the "establishment." I spoke with Québécois who opposed...

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