Anglo-a-no-no: Enough, already!

From Canada’s History magazine

By Ken McGoogan

 The “Anglos” made headlines again this

The Quebec election made it inevitable: how
would the “Anglos” vote? Could the “Anglos” make a difference? As it turns out, the answer was a qualified yes: the separatist Parti Quebecois was held to a minority victory.

Meanwhile, I found myself
wondering how contemporary English-speaking Quebecers feel about being called
“Anglos.” Most of them have Irish or Scottish roots, and historically, the
Irish and the Scots have often been at loggerheads with the English.

Full disclosure:
I grew up north of Montreal in a French-speaking resort town. Every summer,
when the population exploded, I became one of “les Anglais” — an “Anglo.” This
troubled me. I was one-quarter French Canadian, for starters, and in winter,
when I wasn’t at school, I hung out with French-speakers. Also, I had no
English roots. How could I be an “Anglais?” It felt wrong.

But I knew
little history. I could not disentangle linguistic and ethnic confusions. Only
now do I begin to understand my discomfort, and to reflect that it might be
widespread. Consider Quebec’s demographics. In 2011, only 3.3 per cent of the
populace claimed English heritage, while 8.2 per cent — more than twice as many
people — claimed Irish (5.5) or Scottish (2.7).

Nationally, the
emphasis shifts, but the story remains the same: English origins, 21 per cent;
Scottish, 15 per cent; Irish, 14 per cent. Maybe we should speak not of English
Canada, but of Celtic Canada?

To lump together
Canadians of English, Scottish, and Irish heritage, and say they are “British” in
origin, is to forget that history transports emotional baggage.  Many Canadians of Scottish heritage, for
example, retain collective memories of the Highland Clearances of the late 18th
and early 19th centuries. . . . As the Clearances were to Scotland, so the Great Famine was to Ireland — a watershed event that launched a diaspora. . . .

[To read the rest, pick up Canada’s History magazine, Dec. 2012-Jan. 2013.]

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