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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.01.08
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Does the English Community in Quebec exist: an inquiry

Report of the English Community Search Party
November 26, 2008

The English Community Search Party first met on October 16 to facilitate an action plan that would foment a thorough understanding of the Eastern Townships English community -- who were they, what were they and, most important, where were they? And if the English community did in fact exist, would they be able to explain to us what "foment" means?

From this preliminary round-table symposium emerged parameters to establish the Search Party, consisting thenceforth of sub-committees of initiators, instigators prognosticators, and alligators (see Appendix A: "The Mascot as Mojo: Bishop's University and the Cult of Gator Worship"). These teams would spread out across the Townships to verify the existence of the English Community.

A series of public forums was held throughout the region, attracting a number of participants from the public (nine), to whom we posed the question, "Anyone here seen the English community?" From this we garnered a number of good leads.

The Search Party's first stop was the very hub of the region, the social centre of the Townships Carrefour de l'Estrie. We did not want to influence our findings by personally interfering in the process. Therefore, rather than ask shoppers if they identified themselves as English, we adopted an observational protocol.

In other words, we tried to spot people who looked English. Because sometimes you can just, you know, sort of tell... you know? Our findings, however, were inconclusive.

We then focused on public gatherings. On November 11, our teams dispersed throughout the Townships to attend Remembrance Day services at local cenotaphs. Many of these services were conducted partly, and in some cases, primarily in English. Yet were the members of the communities who attended the ceremonies actually anglophone?

Possibly; they were motionless, uncommunicative and inordinately solemn -- typical English behavior. But could we be sure? We attempted to engage a number of attendees in conversation but the only response we received was "Shhh!"

The youth exodus being a priority (see Appendix B: "Let My People Go... to Toronto"), the Search Party next attempted to infiltrate an English high school so see if there were in fact English students there. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to enter any of the schools during class time because security guards suspected the members of the Search Party were "up to no good." (See Appendix C for further comments, insults and, honestly, uncalled for references to our sexuality.)

Instead, on November 19, we gained access to a post-academic extracurricular athletic events. Much to our surprise, this supposedly "English" athletic encounter was marked with a predominant use of French both in the stands and on the court. "Vas-y, ma chouette!" and "Tue s capable!" The young players on the floor frequently referenced Roman Catholic iconography (the host, tabernacle, etc.) in their banter with opponents.

Our conclusion: Because it is unthinkable that French parents in modern-day Quebec would send their children to an English school, we can only conclude that the notion of the "English" high school is a myth.

Indeed, the Search Party questions how the English community can exist without the necessary infrastructures to support it -- no hospital, no police force, no political structure, no television talk shows.

At bet, our preliminary search found only pockets of English throughout the Townships: farmers associations, church suppers, service organizations (see Appendix D: "New England Dialects and Traditions Practiced by Members of the Temple of the Convoluted Pantomime"), dart leagues, smart-ass columnists, amateur theatre, bonspiels, libraries, diners, a university and CEGEP, book stores, radio stations, dance groups, seniors homes, NASCAR fan clubs, old-timey music jamborees.

Moreover, none of these pockets was exclusively English; in each instance, the Search Party found francophones speaking English and Anglophones speaking French. Hardly an "English community."

In conclusion, the Search Party feels that determining the existence of the English community remains elusive and unsubstantiated and requires continued study (see Appendix E: "Application for Further Government Funding").

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