Documentary: Quebec- My Country/Mon Pays

John Walker’s Dalesville family. Many English families have generations of history in Quebec, but many feel they are not considered *Quebeckers* by mainstream French society.
Photo Credit: Walker family

Documentary: Quebec- My Country/Mon Pays

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It’s perhaps hard for those in countries outside Canada to understand why a significant segment of the population in the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec want the province to become its own sovereign nation.

It’s actually hard for most Canadians to understand the English-French tension in the province, and this decades-long issue of a substantial number of Francophones to have the province separate from Canada. Two very close referendums have been held in Quebec in which the population of the province voted to stay a part of Canada but only by narrow margins.

John Walker a former Montrealer, is one of hundreds of thousands of English Montrealers who reluctantly felt they had to leave Quebec

He is the writer/director and narrator of the bilingual documentary that looks at the English-French divide. It’s called Quebec: My Country/Mon Pays (website HERE) (film trailer at bottom)

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Director John Walker at Mount Royal lookout in a scene from the film Quebec: My Country/Mon Pays
Director John Walker at Mount Royal lookout in a scene from the film Quebec: My Country/Mon Pays © Katerine Giguère

John Walker’s family, like many thousands of other English-speaking families, goes back several generations in the province. But in spite of this long history and co-existence with the French, there was not much mingling.

A famous 1945 Canadian novel about this non-mingling co-existence popularised the expression “Two Solitudes”.

Still, it had been and continued to be a relatively peaceful co-existence until later in the century.

From the 1960’s onwards there was a great cultural upheaval in the province, and many Anglophones no longer felt welcome. The Marxist nationalist/terrorist group FLQ with their many mailbox bombs, shootings, and a political assassination, certainly left many English speakers no longer feeling safe in Montreal or the province.

Starting in the 1960’s Quebec French Society began a major upheaval. However a radical element (FLQ) turned violently anti-English with some 200 bombings, seveal deaths, injuries and a political assasination. Anglos began moving out en-masse.
Starting in the 1960’s Quebec French Society began a major upheaval- *The Quiet Revolution*. However a radical element (FLQ) turned violently anti-English with some 200 bombings, seveal deaths, injuries and a political assasination. Anglos began moving out en-masse. ©  from the film

For some as their business contacts moved away, they felt compelled to follow.

John Walker reluctantly felt that he too had to move, though there was always an attachment to his native city of Montreal.

Like the many thousands of other Anglo-Quebeckers, he always remained torn between the need, or desire to leave, and their love and longing for the place they and their families had lived in for so long.

John Walker with renowned Quebec filmmaker Denys Arcand discussing the different experiences of English-Quebeckers and French-Quebeckers
John Walker with renowned Quebec filmmaker Denys Arcand discussing the different experiences of Anglophones and Francophones in Quebec © Katherine Giguere

In the film he explores the sentiments of Anglo Quebecers who stayed, and several prominent and influential Francophone Quebecers to get an understanding of their views of how history unfolded and is unfolding.

Is the situation improving between the “two solitudes”? Perhaps says Walker, certainly the Anglos who stayed are far better able to adapt to the Francophone reality, with bilingualism for example almost universal. Yet, some 35 years after his own decision to leave Montreal and Quebec, one of his own crew is facing a similar decision as to whether to stay or go, and for much the same reasons.

John Walker and Christina Clark in conversation in a scene from the film. A bilingual anglo-Quebecker, she is facing the same dilemna as John Walker’s generation of 35 years earlier of whether to stay or leave her home city and province.
John Walker and Christina Clark in conversation in a scene from the film. A bilingual anglo-Quebecker, she is facing the same dilemma as John Walker’s generation of 35 years earlier of whether to stay or leave her home city and province. © Katerine Giguère

Walker admits the film offers no answers, no takes a position one way or the other, but he says he wanted to open a calm conversation about the situation and for those on either side, get a glimpse into the thinking and feeling of the other side.  He says from reactions to his film so far, that seems to be what’s happening.

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