“The Penniless Pensioner: Misaligned, Maligned but Marvellous” : Chapter 19: Escaping Quebec Nationalist Fervor in Montreal to Hogtown!

I graduated with two law degrees from the University of Cote St. Luc Law School in Montreal. Despite the fact I spoke very good French having learnt this noble language at the King’s School for Young Men in Bombay my French was tres Parisian and nowhere near the joual of the Montreal working class. I was a “L’etranger” and a “Tete Carré” to the locals. Quebec at this time was going beyond its “Quiet Revolution” and trying to neuter the English or anyone not born in La Belle Province. The nationalistic Quebec Government’s Bill 101 criminalized all languages but French. In any city in Canada you could advertise in any language you wanted without any restrictions but oh no in Quebec you could only advertise in French with any other language secondarily measured in centimetres below the French text. This is how bureaucratic bean counters save a culture. Anyone perceived as English was penalized for the defeat of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham by the English in 1759.Oddly penalized for not completely wiping out the French population and giving them certain fundamental and cultural rights. No need to further discuss lest the FLQ terrorists who graduated into respectability with the Parti Quebecois firebomb a mailbox outside my home!

So I headed down the 401 highway with 425,000 “anglophones” to the safety of Toronto. What a horrific wasteland Toronto was! Everything closed on Sunday leaving only the smell of Yorkshire pudding and roast beef wafting in the air. Locals dressed in sweatpants and running shoes. Frightening but at least you could advertise in Punjabi without any restrictions. And the subway creaked and squealed like a pig in a slaughterhouse unlike the beautiful Montreal subway running on rubber tires! And bagels were Kaiser rolls. I recall heading out to a pizzeria after arriving in Toronto and asking for a mushroom pizza if the mushrooms were fresh. Well after sitting down I heard the stoned out server ask his pizza maker to open a can of mushrooms to ensure they were fresh. Yes high gastronomic culture in Toronto! Torontonians were well deserving of their nickname of Hogtowners due to their love of peameal bacon. Toronto was almost as intolerant as Montreal but they spoke English and they tolerated you if your English was impeccable. But if your skin was not completely white expect problems. I had problems. Details to follow.

My publisher Wuhan Wet Market Publishing demanded I replace my view of the Quebec government’s attitude with a kinder word “nationalistic”. I had another word in mind. Unlike Rosa Parks I decided to disembark from the political bus and flee.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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