Letters to the editor

Montreal Gazette

Re: Anglo leaders are long gone, Aubin, Gazette, September, 11, 2012:

Anglo leadership suffered a fatal blow by the withdrawal of federal funding a dozen years ago. Alliance Quebec had advocated forcefully on behalf of English-speaking Quebecers for many years and was a pillar of national unity. While AQ has withered away into the Quebec Community Groups Network, a smaller yet important group for the many rural Anglo communities throughout Quebec, there still exists several outstanding and capable individuals who represent sizable English-speaking communities.

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather is a young, dynamic and outspoken rights advocate. As president of AQ he acquired substantial knowledge of Quebec’s vast Anglo communities. Westmount Mayor Peter Trent is an eloquent spokesperson and renowned civic leader. Michael Applebaum is one of the highest ranking elected officials in the City of Montreal, representing the largest borough and most Anglo-populated of districts. These are but three obvious top picks for Pauline Marois to meet with in order to open vital channels of communication.

If Marois truly has the desire to reach out to English-speaking Quebecers she will find leaders willing to dialogue.

If government truly wants to develop Anglo leaders they can inject funds to sustain its advocacy organizations.

What’s truly sad is that the Quebec elections demonstrated that there is no interest on the part of federal or provincial leaders in supporting English-speaking Quebecers.

Glenn J. Nashen

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Anglo leaders are long gone

It’s a mystery who Marois could meet because there is a void in the English community

BY HENRY AUBIN, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 11, 2012

The poll in Saturday’s Gazette asked whether Premier-elect “Pauline Marois and leaders of Quebec’s English community should meet as soon as possible.” Seventy-four per cent of respondents said yes (including 79 per cent of anglos and, encouragingly, 73 per cent of francophones).

An anglo gunman’s deadly outburst outside a Parti Québécois victory rally would have made such a meeting top of mind for many poll respondents. But other issues, too, could benefit from discussion between anglo leaders and Marois, who held herself aloof from the Englishspeaking community during the campaign – issues such as the PQ’s plans to subject small businesses to the same francization rules as big companies, to bar francophone and allophone students from English CEGEPs and to withhold Quebec “citizenship” from immigrants who don’t speak French.

But there’s a problem. The people Marois would meet with is a mystery. Anglo leaders? What anglo leaders?

As a graduate student at the Université de Montréal, Jonathan Lang, noted in The Gazette the day before the poll, there’s a lack of “anglophone leaders popular enough, and who represent this diverse community strongly enough, to be able to speak forcefully on its behalf.”

It’s hardly a new problem. Reed Scowen, a former Liberal MNA from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, made the same point in 2007, declaring that the English community’s “leadership infrastructure has disappeared.”

Twenty or 30 years ago, the anglo community was teeming with leaders – think, for example, of Alex Paterson, Victor and Michael Goldbloom, Eric Maldoff, Gretta Chambers, Joan Fraser, Peter Blaikie and, to cite a couple of less mainstream figures, Robert Libman and William Johnson. But that period is long gone. Little has changed since Scowen’s observation of five years ago: “Most people, when asked for a name (of a leader), might refer to the director of an anglophone educational institution, health centre or religious organization; these are competent people, but with public interests that do not go beyond their professional mandate.”

Why the 21st-century void? Leaders generally come from the ranks of the educated, and the post-1976 anglo exodus from Quebec included a disproportionately large number of these. A study by William Floch and Joanne Pocock has found that 61 per cent of all anglos born in Quebec who had earned bachelor’s degrees had moved to other parts of Canada by 2001. It’s even more distressing for those with master’s degrees, 66 per cent, and PhDs, 73 per cent. (Note that these figures, based on Statistics Canada data, only reflect moves to other provinces or the territories. That means that if moves to the U.S. and other countries were included, the figures would be even higher.)

The immigrants who are making the anglo community more heterogeneous are often preoccupied with establishing themselves professionally and contributing to their own ethnic community.

Add to that the changing zeitgeist. It was often common among welleducated, relatively well-to-do families to instill a sense of civic responsibility. They agreed with the saying, “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.” To be sure, this attitude had a whiff of elitism – but of a good kind.

This sense of obligation to the community has given way to a new individualism. To be sure, the trend holds also in French Quebec (sociologist Guy Rocher has noted that the ideal of social solidarity is giving way to the “ideology of personal success”) and to the West in general.

I think the decline in church-going might also be a factor. That’s not only because of religious teaching per se (the “Of those to much is given” quote is biblical) but also because of the social dimension. Churches bring people together. They build a sense of community involvement that people can carry into their secular lives.

Though these attitudinal changes transcend English Quebec, they are felt particularly hard here because that community is a minority. Minorities can’t afford a leadership void if they aim to stay robust.

But let’s get back to that Gazette poll. Even though three-quarters of Quebecers might favour a meeting between Marois and anglo leaders, she has given no hint she’d like to meet with them, and there are no such leaders to invite even if she wanted to. The situation is not just absurd but sad.

Given the ongoing exodus of educated anglos and the thinness of respect for civic involvement, filling the leadership void won’t be easy.

haubin@montrealgazette.com

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