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JANE MOSS Le Theatre franco-ontarien: Dramatic Spectacles of Linguistic Otherness While the Quiet Revolution in Quebec was channelling the political energy of ethnolinguistic nationalism into a movement for sovereignty and its creative energy into a growing corpus of distinctly Quebecois literature, francophones outside the province suddenly found themselves cut off from the traditional centre of French Canada. 'Hors du Quebec, point de salutl' was the message from separatist leader Rene Levesque, who told them they were'dead ducks' unless they returned to la belle province (cited by Beauregard, 35). Bewildered by this new rejection two centuries after France abandoned them, French-speaking Canadians faced an identity crisis aggravated by a weakening of their claims for linguistic rights. Quebec's rejection of 'French-Canadian' identity forced francophones outside of Quebec to redefine themselves in terms of their own historical experiences, socia-cultural traditions, and linguistic characteristics. The result has been that since Quebec turned its back on its diaspora in the late 19605, Franco-Ontarians, Franco-Manitobans, Franco-Albertans, and Franco-Saskatchewans have joined Acadians (and Cajuns) in establishing what could be called separate subnational ethnoEnguistic identities.1 One aspect of this identitary quest has been a renaming process along the lines of the change from 'Canadien fran Fortunately , lesJrancophones hors Quebec, as they are called collectively, are not without intellectual and creative resources of their own. Sociologists, historians, demographers, geographers, linguists, and other academics have helped to define the Francophone populations of the other provinces through their scholarship.4 At the same time, poets, novelists, dramatists, and musicians have given voice to the French-speaking others of Canada. We are dealing, of course, with a triple 'otherness' - other than the francophone majority of Quebec, other than the anglophone majority of their respective provinces, just one among many Others in a multicultural Canada. While language laws and majority status make it possible for Quebecois to remain monolingual, the Francophones of other provinces are very likely to become bilingual by necessity. Their mmority status makes assimilation through exogamy just as much of a threat as an Englishspeaking workplace and the omnipresence of Anglo-American culture. Before turnmg to the main object of this study, the language of FrancoOntarian theatre, we need to examine briefly the culture which produces it. As Fernand Dorais reminds us, 'Une culture c'est d'abord une histoire [".] un langage partage [.,,] une ethnie [...J un style societal' (63-64). Whether we use the new term Ontarois or the older name Franco-Orztarien, defining who belongs in the category and their general characteristics remains complicated. Now constituting about 5 per cent of the province's population, the francophone community is diverse. There is a small community around Windsor dating back to the eighteenth century. Beginning in the 18505, Quebecers in search offarmland crossed the border and colonized eastern Ontario. The mines and mills attracted Quebecers to the Sudbury region beginning in the 18805. After 1900, the area around Hearst, often referred to as Ie Grand Nord, attracted the last great wave of Quebecers in search of economic opportunity. In the post-war- period, French-speaking itrunigrants from Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean have joined native-born Francophones who have migrated to the urban environments of Toronto and Ottawa. Dorais, Roger Bernard, Andre 3 United States scholars with Acadian roots are the exception; they have explored the uniqueness of Acadian literature, with special attention to Antonine Maillet and poetry. It should be pointed out that while the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States leaves open the possibility for scholarship on francophones outside of Quebec, by calling itself the American Council for Quebec Studies, the major scholarly organization devoted to French Canada seems to limit its own scope. 4 Among the prominent centres for francophone studies, we should mention the Universite d'Ottawa's Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-fran~aise, the Centre d'etudes acadiennes at the Universite de Moncton, the Centre d'etudes franco-canadiennes de l'Ouest at the CoJlege universitaire de Saint-Boniface. Franco-Ontarians have been writing about their culture in Uaison for over twenty years and Acadians can turn to Le Vwt d'Est for contemporary events. Beauregard also points to...


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pp. 587-614
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