Back when I was in school, Canadian history was one of these subjects no one really studied hard for because unlike math and physics, it wasn’t a subject that determined in what program you could be accepted. I feel a widespread lack of interest in Canadian history in Quebec. Canadian Children’s introduction to their country’s history is in school and Quebec’s curriculum is probably why they think it’s so dull. Here’s why the Quebec history program is so boring:
Canadian history is depicted as a long, boring feud between the French and the English
Canadian history in Quebec is taught as the French’s struggle for cultural and national recognition against “les maudits anglais” (the damn English. English here refers to English-speaking Canadians). This struggle has been fought through some battles and a lot of paper signing. What were French-Canadians and English-Canadians doing else besides feuding with each other? How was society back then? How did both ethnic groups think? This narrative presents Canada as one-dimensional. History can’t come alive only through treatises and a limiting perspective.
French-Canadians and English-Canadians are not the only ethnic groups in Canada
Long before the French and the English arrived in Canada, there were various indigenous peoples. They seem to be a footnote in the school curriculum because after the first chapters, they are no longer mentioned as if they disappeared in thin air. Some French-Canadians have Irish surnames such as Bourque (French version of “Burke”) but barely anything is said about Irish migration during the Great Famine and the Fenian raids. When John A. MacDonald colonized the Prairies, he sent by train many immigrants from Eastern Europe there but little is said about them. He could send them by train because Chinese workers built the railroad. I can go on and on but listing various ethnic groups is not the point: there are many ethnic groups in Canada and they influenced its history.
Quebec Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum
That’s right! Canada follows a federal system which gives each province many freedoms, among others, the freedom to have their own education curriculum. Quebec’s history program is so focused on Quebec that you almost forget there are other provinces and the United States to the south. The English-speaking provinces and the United States do have relations with Quebec. Since there is so much complaining about the English language, why not talk about the surrounding areas and how they influence Quebec?
Too Little Is Said About Immigration and Multiculturalism
If you live in a big Canadian city like Montreal, you’ve probably seen people who were neither French-Canadian nor English-Canadian. There have been waves of immigrations at least since the time of John A. MacDonald and immigrants is a recurring theme in Canadian media. Who are these immigrants? Why are they coming to Canada? Why are there waves of immigration? Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s multiculturalism is still shaping Canadian society. You would assume such an important part of Canadian history and society would be talked about in school but, nope, it isn’t.
A Curriculum that Dulls the Mind
My former university history professor said at the beginning of his course “To understand a country, you need to understand the politics. To understand the politics, you have to understand the history.” The school curriculum seems to be meant to keep Quebecers from understanding the country they live in. To make matters worse, this one-dimensional vision of Canadian history keeps Canadians from asking important questions such as “where are we going as a country and what should we do”? I guess school isn’t supposed to produce citizens who have serious thoughts about their country.