When we are speaking of Quebec culture, does that include Anglos?
Awkward silence engulfed the room. What year was it? The incendiary 80s? Or the mid-90s leading up to the bruising second referendum? Actually, it was last week at a diversity conference.
I’m not sure why the man sitting next to me felt inspired to kick off the workshop by lobbing this question at the twenty unsuspecting people seated around the table. Those in the room old enough to remember Expo 67 reacted as if such a provocative question required advance notice and professional mediation, while those too young to have voted in the 1995 referendum were surprised that the question needed to be asked at all, and that it still had the power to shock. It was an important reminder of how much Quebec has changed in recent decades. The rest of the diversity conference focused on inclusion, open dialogue, and youth empowerment.
The incident evoked bitter-sweet feelings about one of ELAN’s first projects: RAEV (Recognizing Artists: Enfin Visibles!). The RAEV project was important for ELAN’s members in the early days when we constantly had to explain that languages are not mutually exclusive (or inherently hostile) because it is quite possible to use French as the public language and English as a creative language, and do both while being proud Quebeckers. Or that something is wrong when visible minorities, whose families have helped build Quebec for generations or even centuries, are frequently presumed to be recent arrivals.
These conversations are ongoing, but in 2017 they take place in new ways and new forms. So we are archiving the RAEV website. I invite you to take a few minutes to revisit the videos, essays, and profiles from 2011 and reflect on how things continue to evolve in 2017.