The second episode of ELAN’s Waves of Change project about identity and belonging in the English-speaking community of Quebec features families that arrived in Quebec during the years of rapid change after the Second World War and during the Quiet Revolution.

Participants discuss why their families chose to emigrate, why they stayed during the decades of linguistic tensions when so many others left, and how they feel about being English-speakers living in Quebec today.

The Second Wave: 1945-1970 – Le Vote Ethnique
Photo stills and video by Youssef Shoufan 

Episode 2 – Le Vote Ethnique

“I think most of us have the same experience who immigrated in the sixties. There were no social services to help immigrants that we were aware of. My father started as a dishwasher, coming from being well educated in Portugal. That’s what you did to survive. My mother, from being a homemaker, started working in a factory.”

Isabelle Pereira

It took me a while to understand that the experience I brought to Canada, my  professional experience, is just not going to count. You can have the best professional experience but  you better forget that when you come to Canada, and here in Quebec. You really have to start from zero  and if you agree to start at the point of zero, you might have a chance to move on and achieve your potential.”

– Fania Hilelson Jivotovsky 

“My grandparents had to learn English. There was no English in their household. They  spoke French and they spoke French to my parents, but my dad went to an English school. Many people have been speaking about how the Catholic school system wouldn’t take the Jews, so the Protestant system would take the Jews.”

– Meir Herrson-Edery

“We put the children into nursery at Notre-Dame de Sion, which is close to Marie de France. But then my daughter was registering for school. You know the children had no denomination. We are not religious, so there was only the Protestant school board, and so my daughter started going to English school.”

Misha Fuchs

“In Montreal, there were the French Canadians who were Catholic and there were all the immigrants who were not, like the Jewish people and Greek Orthodox, wound up at the Protestant school board. And then there were the non-francophone Catholics, like the Italians who didn’t really  have a spot, so we ended up with the English sector of the Montreal Catholic Schools commission. I think Quebec is still in denial about this.”

– Domenic Cusmano

“I came back to Canada in the seventies from graduate school from Berkeley, and one of the first things I did was vote for René Lévesque because he seemed like the most intelligent person  running. At the time I hadn’t really considered the consequences, which were that all the doors shut in  my face, regardless of my fluency in French.”

– Anna Fuerstenberg

“When we talk about the English ruling class, the myth has always surrounded those people in Westmount. That’s a very small part of who we are. I also see a perpetuation of the myth of  the francophone as oppressed in Quebec. I think that one is more problematic in the sense that as long as you’re seeing yourself as oppressed you can’t see yourself as the oppressor.”

– Deborah Forde

“Le vote ethnique. The Palais des Congrès is right next to Chinatown. We had armed police at that time because we were afraid there was going to be racial violence because once again  because we were perceived as being against the francophone movement. That was very scary, especially  for those that that fled communist China to begin with because of political persecution.”

Walter Chiyan Tom

“I thank my father every day of my life for the decision that he made to bring us to this  country to do better for ourselves. We struggled a lot, but we made it. We were scared, but here we are.”

– Maria Longo

Project Manager: Guy Rex Rodgers

A graduate of the playwriting program at the National Theatre School of Canada, Guy Rex Rodgers has worked in film and television, and specialized in writing large-scale multimedia productions for museums and special events across Canada, as well as the US, Europe and the Middle East.

He has also worked in television, interviewing artists for the Montreal International Jazz Festival and writing TV specials.

He recently wrote a pictorial history book for Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission to commemorate their 125th anniversary.  He is also a musician and has recently performed in several editions of Tim Brady’s symphonies for 100 guitarists. In 2015 he was appointed to l’Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec.

A long-time arts activist, Guy Rex Rodgers was co-founder of the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF) and the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF), was a member of the founding board of le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), and was Executive Director of the English-Language Arts Network from its inception in 2004 until 2021.

Project Coordinator: Betty Esperanza
See full bio here

Videographer: Youssef Shoufan
See full bio here