Quebec Culture Lessons for Immigrants

4 01 2010

A few days ago, the Toronto Star ran a series of stories by reporter Andrew Chung on the Quebec government’s new immigration policies. (For the benefit of my growing number of non-Canadian readers, I should explain that while Quebec is part of the Canadian federation, Quebec largely runs its own immigration system). Immigrants to Quebec must now sign a contract promising to abide by Quebec’s values, speak French in public, and attend a 90 minute seminar designed to inculcate such values. The instructor in the seminar visited by reporter Mr Chung stressed the rights of women and homosexuals, which prompted one Algerian immigrant to say that the hierarchy of rights in Quebec “goes like this: children first, then women, then dogs … then men”.

I don’t agree with everything Andrew Chung says in his article. For instance, he states that visible minorities are under-represented on Quebec TV relative to programs in English-speaking Canada or the United States. I don’t know if this is entirely a fair comparison, since almost half the population of the United States is non-white. Moreover, as someone who watches a fair bit of Quebec TV in the interests of improving my French, I can say that there are a fair number of visible minority TV personalities in that province, such as Gregory Charles. Nevertheless, the series by Chung is very interesting to me as a Canadian historian. In recent blog posts, I have spoken about the federal government’s new citizenship guide for immigrants, Discover Canada, and have linked to historian Jack Granatstein’s opinion piece on immigration policy.  Unlike the Quebec integration seminars, the Discover Canada guide says very little about women’s rights and is strangely silent on the issue of homosexuality.

I thought I would bring people’s attention to some online resources on the topic of immigration history. First, have a look at the relevant entries in the Encyclopedia of Quebec history. You should also check out historian Harold Troper’s entry for “Immigration” in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Folks should also check out this article, which was published just before Christmas: “Quand la tourtière remplace le couscous“. Also have a look at the film Génération 101.


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