03 December 2018

Le retour de l'art colonial au Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec


Dimanche dernier, j’ai eu le plaisir de visiter le pavillon Gérard-Morisset, nouvellement rénové, du Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Franchement, chapeau à l’équipe muséale!

Ouvert depuis moins d’un mois, le pavillon intègre des murs de verre pour augmenter la superficie disponible pour exposer ses œuvres, tout en donnant l’agréable illusion d’un espace ouvert. On se souviendra que certaines des anciennes salles exposaient leurs œuvres à la manière d’un vieux salon d’art : bien que l’effet de voir des toiles tapissant le mur jusqu’au plafond était impressionnant, il était difficile d’apprécier d’un coup d’œil rapproché les toiles plus hautes. Le changement est donc bienvenu.

Ce pavillon est mon préféré dans le musée entier puisqu’il s’agit de celui où l’on trouve l’art du Régime français et l’art dédié à sa mémoire. Petite recommandation toutefois : avant de visiter, assurez-vous d’abord de vous munir d’un téléphone intelligent avec accès à internet pour télécharger un guide sur place (j'imagine qu'il s'agit du même que celui-ci : http://mediaguide.mnbaq.org/).

Justement, il est bien de s'informer sur les toiles à sujets coloniaux. Je parle de ces toiles où les premiers explorateurs sont glorifiés par les artistes du 19e et 20e siècle, telle la représentation de Jacques Cartier par Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté. Aussi magnifiques soient-elles, elles se fondent sur les idées dépassées de leurs temps (et pour l’exemple de la toile de Suzor-Côté, malgré son temps). Par exemple, les Autochtones sont souvent dépeints de manière… qui laisse à désirer. Le visiteur se trouve le plus souvent soit devant l’image du « bon sauvage » ou bien de l’Autochtone « primitif ». Le MNBAQ invite donc le visiteur à s'informer du contexte artistique et historique de ces œuvres. Il existe un petit écriteau à ce sujet offrant un lien internet à suivre sur son téléphone intelligent. Sans lui, ce n’est pas évident de trouver ces informations sur le site web du musée. Voici donc quelques liens d’intérêts à visionner avant ou pendant votre visite :

N’empêche que ces toiles et ces statues valent la peine d’être vues. Qu'on admire leur taille ou la technique de leurs artistes, elles sont à couper le souffle.

Néanmoins, malgré le nombre d’œuvres impressionnantes, mes préférés demeurent les humbles ex-voto. Il s’agit ici d’œuvres créées pour remercier un ou une sainte pour une faveur obtenue ou d’un secours rendu. Il s’agit le plus souvent de redevances religieuses offertes après un naufrage ou une maladie. Ce que j’adore de ces images est qu’ironiquement, malgré leur contexte religieux, il s’agit souvent des meilleures représentations de la vie de tous les jours en Nouvelle-France. On y trouve par exemple des détails fascinants des habits d’époque. Bref, à ne pas manquer!

Et avant de vous laisser, un petit rappel que l'accès aux musées au Québec est gratuit le premier dimanche du mois aux citoyens locaux. Profitez-en le mois prochain!

Ex-voto de Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville.
Anonyme.
Vers 1696.


Ex-voto des trois naufragés de Lévis.
Anonyme.
1754.






Ex-voto de madame Riverin.
Anonyme.
1703.


Au sujet de la coiffe étrange de cette dame, lire ce billet fascinant!




01 December 2018

Un gros bonjour à ma gang de l’Ontario français!


Ceux qui me connaissent savent que je suis un chercheur, candidat au doctorat à l’Université Laval à Québec. Alors que le temps presse et que je dois terminer ma thèse, j’ai pourtant passé trois jours la fin de semaine dernière à me sentir comme une bête en cage. La situation en Ontario vis-à-vis les Francophones me grugeait en dedans. Et avec raison : je suis un Franco-Ontarien « exilé » au Québec pour poursuivre mes études à cause que le monde universitaire en Ontario français ne m’offrait pas les ressources pour poursuivre mon sujet d’étude dans ma langue maternelle dans ma province natale.

J’ai donc passé trois jours à griffonner, composer et réécrire mes frustrations. Finalement, au bout de ces trois jours épuisants, j’ai partagé mon texte à un collègue et franco-ontarien co-exilé, lui au Québec pour son éducation. Moi, je ne voyait là qu’un exercice pour décharger ma frustration en privé. À ma grande surprise, mon ami m’a fortement conseillé de partager le texte en ligne. Ainsi est né mon billet intitulé « A Snarky Explanation of What’s Going on With Doug Ford vs Franco-Ontarians », publié dimanche dernier.

Je tiens donc à remercier ma communauté franco-ontarienne : d’ici quelques heures, ça fera une semaine depuis la publication de mon texte. Et ce soir, il ne reste plus que 50 partages dans les réseaux sociaux avant d’atteindre 20 000 (oui oui, 20 000!) visiteurs passés par mon blogue pour lire ce billet!

Je vous en remercie parce que je me sentais isolé à Québec, me sentant incapable de faire ma part (mon budget ne m’a pas permis de participer aux manifestations en Ontario). Heureusement, demain, le dimanche 2 décembre, nous aurons toutefois une manifestation à Québec et j’y serai certainement. Mais encore une fois, la popularité de mon billet fait que je suis heureux d’avoir contribué directement à notre bataille pour nos droits. Merci à vous tous et toutes qui m’avez permis de faire ma part!

Nous vaincrons. 400 ans de présence francophone en Ontario, et nous y sommes pour rester.


29 November 2018

"Throwback Thursday": L'aventure en Amérique française

J'ai toujours le projet de produire des capsules vidéos un jour comme l'historien Laurent Turcot, n'empêche j'avais complètement oublié cette capsule que j'ai patentée en 2015. Il s'agit d'extraits de mes voyages à partir de Québec jusqu'au fort Saint-Joseph (Niles, Michigan) et à Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Michigan). Bon visionnement!

26 November 2018

Missouri Life: Sainte-Geneviève


PBS has a show called Missouri Life. Earlier this year they aired an episode on Ste. Genevieve, aka Sainte-Geneviève. Have a listen! Just click on this link, scroll down, and click on the show title as shown above. Happy watching!

25 November 2018

A Snarky Explanation of What’s Going on With Doug Ford vs Franco-Ontarians



If you’ve been following recent news from Ontario, you might be aware that there’s a spat going on right now between Trump of the North Premier Doug Ford and the French-speaking citizens of his province. If not, you should be. This is a big deal. Keeping in mind that Franco-Ontarians are usually pretty much only talked about nationally during referendum season in Québec, and to boot, that this time they’re making international news in France and the U.S., this is a really, really big deal. 

Wait… what’s the deal?

On November 15th, now dubbed Jeudi noir or “Dark Thursday” by Franco-Ontarians, the oxymoronic Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario abolished both the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and funding for the new Franco-Ontarian University that was set to open in 2020.

Wait… I thought all French-Canadians lived in Québec?

No. In fact, Ontario has the largest French-Speaking population outside of Québec in North America (and by the way, just a reminder that yes, even in the U.S. there are native French-Speakers). We represent between 600 000 to a million individuals, depending on how you prefer to fudge the numbers (and yes, I'm aware the census puts that number a little lower to what other studies have estimated. I'll let the statisticians duel it out.). Point is, there are as many as seven regions in Ontario than can be classified as Francophone. So technically, even if Ontario is not officially a bilingual province like New Brunswick, there exists the French Language Service Act which, in a nutshell, “confers upon members of the public the right to receive services in French from the provincial government, notably in the designated areas.” To this end, the French Language Services Commissioner would receive and investigate complaints from Franco-Ontarians struggling to have access to French services. The Ford government’s actions then are at best a condescending dismissal of our needs as a community, and at worse a racist jab punching downwards.

(By the way, if you think you don’t know any Franco-Ontarians, ask around. Chances are you just never noticed: turns out a strong side-effect of living in Ontario is losing any trace of an accent in English. We walk among you. We look like you. Look in the mirror… you might be one of us! Muahaha… But seriously though, ask around. And when you finally meet a Franco-Ontarian, have him or her explain to you why grated cheese on poutine is a sin.)

Wait… But aren’t Franco-Ontarians immigrants? What about Italian/Etc. rights?

Here’s a bit of personal backstory. In Ontario, as I would be walking on the sidewalk, minding my own business speaking French to a friend, I’ve often had people yell at me “Go back to France!” or “Go back to Kway-Bec!” (By the way, it’s KAY-bec, not KWAY-Bec). One of the most asinine comments I’ve ever heard was “If the French [yep, in Ontario, we’re simply known as “The French”. Hon hon hon, baguette…] hate it so much here, why did they move here to begin with?” Glad you asked, Skippy, I’m about to illuminate you in a bit.

Louis XV checking out all his Franco-Ontarians
Now, if I’m bringing up these personal anecdotes, it’s to illustrate a broader point: Ontario does a very bad job at reminding people about pre-Confederation History. Or any history having to do with French Ontario, for that matter. Prepare to have you mind blown… Franco-Ontarians have been in Ontario for the past four hundred years. You know how old that is? Older than Canada. Older than the U.S. Older than the invention of the pendulum clock—you know, to tell time. Point is, Franco-Ontarians had been interacting with Indigenous peoples for a century and a half before New France became a British colony in 1763. And we’re not talking here of some stranded Voyageurs. We’re talking actual settlements, the most important at that date being in the Detroit/Windsor area. Meaning that even though the fur trade, agriculture, mines and lumber attracted countless Francophones from Québec to Ontario throughout the following centuries, the point to retain here is that French presence within the province is older than the province itself as it stands with its current borders. Franco-Ontarians are a founding population with rights that were granted to them from the get-go.

And finally, let's not forget that the Franco-Ontarian community is not exclusive: our French culture welcomes with open arms Francophone immigrants and Francophiles alike into the folds of the pure laine population ("Pure wool" is our cutesy name for Francophones descendant of the original French colonists). More autonomy on the political and educational scene helps us build up and manage our social networks and tools to maintain the fabric of our community and promote this inclusiveness. 

All in all, our goal as a distinct society is exactly that: to remain distinct and not fade into the melting-pot, culturally enriching both ourselves and contributing to Ontario's multicultural landscape.

Wait… why bother with a French university? Doesn’t Ontario already have great universities, nay, bilingual universities?

Yes, Ontario has terrific universities. But to understand the importance of French postsecondary education, you must first remember the history of French education in general in Ontario.

Let’s be honest: it’s hard living in French in Ontario. With a community that barely represents 4.4% of Ontario’s population, it’s quite a feat really that Franco-Ontarians manage to not drown in a sea of Anglophones. The key to maintaining that social cohesion? Education.

Schools are one the main social environment where young Francophones get to use and apply their mother tongue. And before the thought even crosses your mind, no, French education is not inferior to an English one. In fact, many of the best public schools in Ontario are French. And not to brag, but by the time students following French classes in English schools are learning to read the equivalent of See Spot Run, Franco-Ontarians on the other hand are reading and analysing Shakespeare in their own English classes. As we say, Le français ça s’enseigne, l’anglais ça s’attrape (more or less : You learn French, but you catch English like a cold). So don't think French schools prevent kids from learning Her Majesty's proper English. (Fun fact: the Queen speaks French too.)

Back in 1912 French education was banned in Ontario through Regulation 17. (If you want to see a Franco-Ontarian hiss like a vampire at the sight of garlic, just mention that name…. Règlement 17—HISSSSSSSS!). Though fully repealed in 1944, the damage was done to generations to come. In fact, though French elementary schools were reinstated, French high schools were only permitted to exist as of 1968. And even then… we had to wait until 1998 for the Ontario government to guarantee construction of these schools where the population of Franco-Ontarians justified it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I, your humble servant, became the first of my family born in Ontario to officially have a 100% French education. And it’s no exaggeration to state that my little French high school in my little hometown is probably what saved my first language. But that’s a story for another day… Instead, let’s go back to postsecondary education.

As I’ve illustrated above, French education is important in maintaining the social cohesion of the Franco-Ontarian community. A French-language university in Ontario would help the community come full circle with its social aspirations. And this isn’t a spur of the moment wish from the Franco-Ontarian community: we’ve been actively working at convincing the government to let us have our own university for the past four decades at least!

Bilingual universities are important, yes. However the problem is the fact that French programs are not controlled by the French community. French programs always end up taking the back seat to English ones. From my own meandering experience, these universities tend to aim for a minimum quota of French courses instead of full programs. For example, many technical fields will offer French classes for the first and sometimes second year of the program, but students are expected to simply roll over and switch to English courses the remainder of their studies. Even when excellent fully-French programs do exist, they are nonetheless fragile. For example, since I graduated from Laurentian University in 2008, all but one of the history professors retired. Since then, I know of only three new professors that have been hired to replace them. That's a full decade of history students not having the benefit of having as many professors as I had when I was doing my undergrad! 

The tug of war between Francophone students and the administration over the extent and form of French programs is a constant struggle. And sadly, most often, these programs do not reflect the realities of Francophone academic needs. Yet again using a personal example, after I had completed my undergrad at Laurentian University, I chose to follow my postgraduate studies in Quebec partly for the reputation of Université Laval but mostly because there were no specialists of my period of study available in either bilingual university back home… This is a reality that plagues many Francophones: sooner or later they have to face the choice of either switching to an anglophone university or to expatriate themselves to Quebec to maintain a French education. That also means Ontario is losing $$$ that students could have spent back home instead. And here's to hoping these students chose to return to begin with!

Mind you the debate still rages whether a whole French University is really necessary or should the government simply legally impose bilingual universities to offer more French content and professors all the while augmenting their funding to this purpose. But no matter where you stand on these issues, the reality is that the Doug Ford government just took a stand against the postsecondary education of Francophones

And just to illustrate a bit further the need for a French University, let’s check out the 2016 census of some provinces with both a French-speaking population and French universities:
  • New Brunswick has 231 110 native French speakers and has the Université de Moncton.
  • Nova Scotia has 29 465 native French speakers and has Université Sainte-Anne.
  • Manitoba has 40 525 native French speakers and has Université de Saint-Boniface.
  • Québec has an equivalent inverse ratio of French to English speakers as Ontario, and yet their Anglophone community gets… three English universities!

And yet, in Ontario, with 490 720 native French speakers, we get… two bilingual universities that, as we've seen above, offer a halfhearted service to our community. What. The. Heck. If we want to be childish and petty about it, we could oversimplify and say that according to the Nova Scotia ratio, Ontario should have sixteen and a half Université de Sainte-Anne by now. Seriously, why does New Brunswick get a shiny toy but the second largest French-speaking community in North America gets the consolation prize of being kicked in the nuts by Doug Ford?

Wait… why should I care?

Probably for the same reasons 999 675 non-native-French-speakers in Ontario chose to learn the language. (And by the way, holy crap, this is the first time I’ve paid attention to that statistic… it’s amazing to know there are basically twice as many people who willfully chose to learn French in Ontario than people actually born and raised into the language. To whoever you all are, I salute you with a patriotic tear to my eye: Merci!).

But then again, maybe you, yes you reading this, don’t speak French. Again, why should you care? Well, first off, a society is judged by how it treats its minorities. Number two, caring for Francophones (and Francophiles!) in Ontario actually helps the economy. French is one of the major international languages. There are nearly 30 French-speaking countries in the world. French is needed to maintain and strengthen Canadian relations to these societies.

And culturally speaking, let’s not forget that any Franco-Ontarian achievement is by extension an Ontarian achievement. Bet you didn’t know that we supply world-class entertainers, actors, singers, writers, political commentators, among others? Franco-Ontarians aren’t all just sitting at home yacking in French and scarfing poutine you know, we also have aspirations and dreams and want to share them with the world. (And seriously, how can you not love Damien Robitaille?)

Wait… so what can I do?

If you want to be a little more proactive, contacting your local MPP and MP and telling them that you’re against Doug Ford’s cuts against our community, that would be great help, and we thank you for it. Also, keep an eye out in your community if there are any protests coming up (as I’m writing this, there should be a bunch on December 1st).

And from there, don’t worry, I’m not asking you to enroll yourself in a course to learn French (then again, if you do, good on you! Rock on.) But I do hope if everything you’ve read above is news to you, I invite you to help us by simply being more aware of us. Sure the language barrier makes it hard, but simply knowing we exist and politely correcting a friend next time you hear them wonder what the fuss is about will go a long way.

Oh, and please listen to more Damien Robitaille. Your ears will thank you.



21 November 2018

Nouveau blogue : Tranchées & Tricornes

Michel Thévenin, historien.
Bonne nouvelle pour vous, chers férus d’histoire! Mon collègue et ami, Michel Thévenin, vient de commencer son propre blogue. Dix-huitièmiste et spécialiste de la guerre de siège, Michel est doctorant à l’Université Laval. Mes lecteurs le reconnaîtront sans doute, puisque je l’ai nommé à quelques reprises dans le passé sur mon blogue. Je vous invite à le lire et à vous abonner à son blogue. Vous n’avez qu’à cliquer sur l’image ci-dessous. Bonnes découvertes!


18 November 2018

Twitter 2018

Avec décembre qui s'approche, c'est une nouvelle année qui s'achève. Encore une fois, j'aime passer à travers mes Tweets personnels préférés et par la même encourager mes lecteurs de me suivre sur Twitter. Au plaisir de vous croiser sur les réseaux sociaux et dans la vraie vie!