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


From Canada's History magazine
By Ken McGoogan
 The “Anglos” made headlines again this autumn.
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.]
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.

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