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Is it a ”don’t” to talk about Quebec separatism with a minus 40?

March 4, 2008

“Don’t address the topic of Quebec separatism with anyone under 40 the first time you meet them – unless you want to be seen as hopelessly square. Whether you’re speaking to a separatist or a federalist, the subject these days is deemed tired to the extreme and an unforgivable bore on social occasions.” (Page 29, Lonely Planet – Montreal & Quebec City).

This was one of the first things I read about Quebec separatism, and I must say that it didn’t encourage me to look deeper into the topic. I find these national issues (can you call it a national issue?) very interesting, and I am one of those persons who grab the chance and ask Montrealers about their view on the separatism the first time I have the chance.

Actually I did. He is a Québécois Québécois, he explained to me. We had a nice talk about it, and I don’t think he found me extremely and unforgivable boring. Writing this blogpost I asked him, what he thought about the Lonely Planet-statement. His answer made me think about how great a power a book as Lonely Planet can have, if you just blindly believe what it says.

He said: “You shouldn’t listen to that weird travel guide if you are a curious person. For me this subject is never boring. I think nationhood is the status that all nation states must achieve, be it in Kosovo, Tibet, Timor Leste or Québec. It is very important to talk about that issue, since it is our future we are talking about. I think anyone who is bored by that debate is obtuse.”

I wondered if this perhaps would be an obvious answer from a Québécois Québécois, so I also asked an Anglophone. She was amazed and surprised when I told her about the words from Lonely Planet. It was interesting to see her reaction; you would imagine that Montrealers themselves could recognize their city in a book about their city.

In her eyes the topic is might said to be boring, but once you ask Montrealers about it they always have something to say. And they will always be ready to have the discussion.

These two persons are of course not representative of the whole population of Montreal. But their views reminded me not to believe everything I read, but when you are new in a city, a travel guide is sometimes your first lifeline to the city. I just find it problematic, because a book like that is affecting the way newcomers behave in this city. And to me it seems like the topic of Quebec separatism is not “extreme and an unforgivable bore” just yet, no matter what I know that I am going to keep on asking questions about the topic.

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3 comments

  1. I have two flat mates, both québécois francophones, both just over 30 years old, and separatism is a very common topic at our kitchen table. One of them is a nationalist, the other a federalist: both try to win me over, but I’m more inclined for the separatism, maybe because its defender is more of a friend than the federalist one! 🙂

    Now in my opinion, an extreme and unforgivable bore and a great faux pas is trying to classify a whole people like that. I do find the Lonely Planet books a bit partial, have you ever noticed how some restaurants with good reviews also have ads in some of their books?


  2. I think you’d find any Quebecer willing to give you a good hour or more discussion on seperatism. If you look deeper you will see three distinct camps. The staunch federalist that looks at Canada as undivided from sea to shining sea as written on our shield. Ad mare usque ad mare. You will also find your hardlined seperatists that want Quebec as a truly unique country. Then you will have those like me that are proud canadians, but also proud quebecers and want a more middle of the road understanding of being part of the confederation while remaining unique within Canada as a whole.


  3. thanks much, brother



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