VOICES FROM FRENCH ONTARIO
Sheila McLeod Arnopoulos.
Volume 11 Number 4.
True to the lucid journalistic style used when she was writing for the now-defunct Montreal Star, Arnopoulos has produced a book that is very readable and easy to digest that deals with yet another minority group in Canada: the francophones in northern Ontario.
Franco-Ontarians, about 700,000 of them and largely found in Sudbury, Timmins, Hearst, Dubreuilville (a region referred to in this book as Nouvel-Ontario), live a rather schizophrenic existence with their French and English selves at war with each other. However, Gerard Lafreniere, head of Laurentian University's French program prefers to refer to himself as a "hybrid," and most of them consider themselves as such. Arnopoulos writes "francophones in Ontario are forced to be hybrids if they want to keep their French heritage and still participate in an English society."
Hundreds of Franco-Ontarians were interviewed in this book. They come from all walks of life: playwrights, miners, priests, shop-keepers, business tycoons from Sudbury (Paul Desmarais and Robert Campeau no less) and all of her accounts of their feelings, their hopes and their fears are often touching and sensitive and sometimes poignant. The presentation of the cultural, historical, and sociological background of the French in Quebec help the reader understand the bicultural personality of the French in Ontario.
The table of contents is rather confusing at first glance, but it gives a brief annotation of the coverage of each chapter. The index provides more detailed information and pagination. Tables and footnotes are extensively used, and the bibliography is more than enough to satiate an avid student of francophone culture in Canada. One small catch: one has to know French to read many of them.
The conflict between French and English in Canada is as old as the country itself, and it is not always a pleasant read. However, this book with its clear presentation and its down-to-earth examples and contact with ordinary people somehow makes the realism of the problem not so pungent even if the issues are presented and brought to the table for everyone to savour.
Nora Scarabello, Applewood Heights S. S., Mississauga, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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