French people

Opinion: Why I’m saying goodbye to Quebec

I like living in a French city. I embraced the language early on and made sure my child did too. But Quebec has never embraced me.

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I put you in my rearview mirror, like the rest of my family did a quarter of a century ago. Your diminishing sight makes me sad because I am the last remaining link here to a family that has roots in Quebec, both French and English, since the early 1800s. (I guess that makes me “historic”?)

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I could say it’s the fact that I’ve been recently widowed that pushes me beyond your restless borders, but that’s not it. I could say it’s because my only child left a dozen years ago, but that’s not it either. The reason is simple: I’ve had enough.

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I attended primary school during the October Crisis and showed up at my multicultural school in Park Ex to see ‘Damn English, English Go Home’ spray-painted on the walls. This troubled me greatly, and the sting never quite left. Now you get your wish.

Bill 21 made me ashamed of being a Quebecer; Bill 96 made me frustrated to be a Quebecer. The recent racist remarks of elected officials about immigrants (of which my father, never unemployed or violent, was a part) made me furious to be a Quebecer. But, let’s face it, I’ve never really been a Quebecer, or a Quebecer. Quebec has never embraced me. I am a Montrealer through and through. My love for this city runs deep. I like living in a French city. I embraced the language early on and made sure my child did too. But that was never enough.

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I’m sick of being blamed for something I had no part in. I’m sick of the constant divisions this nationalist government imposes on people, creating layers of citizens who are more or (more often) less accepted as entitled Quebecers. As a retired CEGEP English teacher, I deplore the fact that so many of my former colleagues are losing their jobs. I feel for all the French-speaking students who will no longer be able to study in English; they were among my favorites – open-minded, eager to learn. And I worry about English students who will now find it harder to complete their degrees. I’m also worried about all the smart young graduates who are going to leave this province.

Quebec, good luck. Good luck recruiting these much-needed workers once they learn about Bills 21 and 96. Good luck mending divisions that seem deeper than ever, even though on the streets of Montreal I witness hundreds daily beautiful links between the two solitudes.

I hope my beloved city can stay as unscathed as possible. I’ll be back in a few years to inspect the damage. However, I will not use the Lafontaine tunnel. I’m sure it will still be under renovation.

Lori Weber is a young adult novelist and retired CEGEP English teacher.

  1. Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies in 2021.

    Quebec sees a net increase in Anglophones from other provinces – a first in more than 50 years

  2. A woman holds a sign during the rally to oppose Bill 96 in Montreal on Saturday, May 14, 2022. The debate over the language bill has reawakened long-dormant tensions between English-speaking and French-speaking Quebecers and rekindled historic grudges that seemed to belong to a bygone era, writes Allison Hanes.

    Hanes: After a controversial debate on Bill 96, what happens next for English speakers in Quebec?

  3. Lightning Lou, by Lori Weber, is a mid-level novel published by Dancing Cat Books.

    Children’s books: how a boy almost became a great female hockey player

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