By Matt Paul
November 30, 2018
I live in Bourget, Ontario which is in the Clarence-Rockland part of the Prescott-Russell riding of Amanda Simard. MPP Amanda Simard recently replaced the Liberal MPP Grant Crack to be our voice in the Ontario Legislature as a member of Progressive Conservatives. I would qualify that statement to say she was elected to be a French voice in Queen’s Park.
Amanda Simard represents Franco Ontarian interests and in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell the numbers of French are incredible.
The culture of communities I am surrounded by in the riding is predominantly French. In Ontario, French people represent 5 % of the population and they must all be here, right by the Quebec border. So this move by my MPP to leave the Conservatives in an area where the French constituents hold a large amount of the power is not a surprise.
Doug Ford’s decision to scrap plans for another French University in Ontario struck a nerve with voters and MPP in my area. In terms of fiscal balance when it comes to language, the idea is spare no expense in this Conservative riding. Even when our province is in deficit, the people that make up the administrative, judicial, social and moral majority have a clear agenda to advance French cultural and language interests in the region and could not have their representative sit idly by while her Premier made this choice. Despite the fact that it is purely a financial reality and spending on such an endeavor at a time where jobs are leaving the province and debt is a large item on the provincial books, Amanda Simard is siding strong with her constituents.
Being a majority in Prescott-Russell, the French people enjoy preferential treatment at the municipal and regional level. They enjoy enhanced social status and opportunity for tenders for projects. They enjoy all the benefits of their own special society. As many Anglophones who move to area soon discover, in order to be welcome and prosper you have to fluently speak and understand French.
Being an Anglophone myself in this riding, I actually agree with the decision to stop the new university and believe strongly that the dominant culture in Prescott-Russell needs to become more inclusive and accepting towards Anglophone residents. This aligns to the fiscal interests of the province that is in deficit, spending money on a University to serve a minority group that is already provided special status in the province is not keeping with the Conservative platform that got them elected.
I have witnessed discrimination and prejudice towards Anglophones in this region on numerous occasions.
In order to break the barriers I have had to learn French and join French speaking clubs to show a respect and pay tribute to the dominant culture in order to get more out of my residency than just a simple place to hang my hat after work. Many Anglophones, after attempting to try to learn French, will give up jumping through those hoops and stay out of many of the activities in the region, or move away. Houses are constantly being bought and sold with no profit, as Anglophones have difficulty settling here.
In order to provide insight on Public Transportation and attend municipal meets, I had to, on numerous occasions, insist on having English spoken in meetings after my broken was not good enough. In court I had to bring up my English language rights to a judge in order to gain documents in English after a refusal by the French speaking (bilingual) crown attorney. These are just a couple of examples where no rights were denied, however, I had to fight for them to be respected by the French majority.
A unique situation exists in Prescott-Russell, the English speakers get insight into how the French feel and behave as a minority in the rest of the province. In Prescott-Russell, Anglophones get to feel the same discrimination and often more than subtle reticence by the majority to accept ideas or the prosperity of people that identify with the minority group. In response to this dominance by the French, the Anglophones keep to themselves, establish their own groups and support mechanisms and typically work in less desirable professions due to a lack of access. It is because as a minority member of a community you have to make an effort to join the majority to receive the benefits received or to have a chance to receive the benefits. The right of passage is to speak and understand French fluently. Another University fits that majority agenda. It does not provide the inclusive opportunity based culture that the French often say they desire and support when in practice when this group enjoys a majority they perpetrate the same tendencies of an oppressor.