That I’m leaving Quebec for Ontario is of some interest to a few folks who have gotten know me hereabouts over the past eight years.
‘Pourquoi mon ami?” This from a local who flew his Quebec flags proudly on La Fete des Patriotes. “Why are you leaving us?”
He seemed genuinely puzzled and maybe somewhat concerned.
‘I’m going home”, I said.
“Home? You have a home, ici. Lyana’s family are all here. Quebec is their home. Yours too, maintenant.”
“Quebec was my home, years ago. But I left in the early 70’s as a young man. Hamilton and Burlington are home to me. Always will be. I spent more than half my life there and now it’s time to return.”
“Bon, OK, so what is different in Hamilton and Burlington, other than you speak English 24 hours a day and you have a hockey team down the road in Toronto which last won Le Coupe Stanley when most people in Canada today weren’t born.”
Somehow in Quebec all arguments and debates engaging the rest of Canada (the ROC), seem to eventually filter to Les Canadiens. It’s as predictable as the next sovereignty referendum.
“It’s not just language, although I’ll admit I’m fed up with the force-feeding of le Francais, particularly at times it appears ridiculous,” not really wanting the language issue to derail the nuts and bolts of the conversation.
“Like when two Menchies Frozen Yoghurt restaurants are visited by Office de La Langue Francaise inspectors who become so desperate to find language infraction, they are reduced to complaining about and demanding the removal of Menchie-shaped spoons displaying the words “sweet moosic. And let’s not even mention Pastagate.” (You may recall the 2013 furor over OQLF inspectors citing Montreal’s Buonanotte restaurant for displaying the word pasta on its menu. Imagine. An Italian food restaurant advertising pasta.
“An excess of zeal” was the eventual verdict and “pasta,” after the OQLF became the object of provincial, national and international ridicule, was permitted to stay.
“We protect our culture and language” offered my Quebecois friend, “and you do not.”
I wasn’t going there. The conversation had drifted into the almost inevitable and murky waters of “nous et vous”, (we and you).
I returned to the much safer topic of a certain hockey team we both support.
“Mon ami, if the ‘yes’ side ever wins a referendum on Quebec opting out of Canada, what will you do with the name “Les Canadiens?”
“We’ll keep it, of course, just like the dollar.”
It was time for me to leave. An entirely different argument was about to take shape.
As I left, I looked back to see my friend grinning wickedly.