Quebec has only one culture

Bonne Saint-Jean. François Legault has celebrated the day by emphasizing that Quebec has only one culture – his. As he’s been saying all along, new immigrants are expected to integrate and adapt to Quebec culture – the one, the only valued culture.

I don’t quite know what to say about that. My mother’s side of the family came here in the 1840s. I don’t know which of them spoke Irish as well, but they spoke English from the time they arrived. One g‑g‑grandfather was a blacksmith from Tipperary, the other a carpenter from County Meath who got his start here working on the Beauharnois canal. They and their wives and children are buried up in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and their descendants have scattered to the four winds, but I’m still here, four generations later – and I grew up speaking English.

Dad came here from England when he was 11. He lived in Hochelaga and soon learned to speak French so he wouldn’t get beaten up. But there were English-language schools in Hochelaga then, defying the truism that anglos did not live east of the Main, and he went to one.

My mother never got comfortable in French, but she did pick up some Ukrainian from her neighbours and co‑workers in the Point.

Both my parents worked, voted, paid their taxes. They did not integrate, not in the sense Legault means, but they were part of this society.

If I’d had kids, I would have spoken to them in English. What does that make me?