A listener named Liam requested an episode looking at a deep dive into his hometown of Montreal and how it came to be a center of commerce and culture in North America. We’ll do that, but rather than talk about historical buildings and fountains (and other facts you’d find in a Frommers Guide) we’ll look way deeper and see how Montreal was a cultural powerhouse in its long history, everything from an underground railroad destination to a Prohibition-era hot spot with jazz clubs and cabarets, all the way up to its present-day status as a bilingual mecca.
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Scott Rank 0:42
This episode features a simple question but nested within it is a complicated question. The simple question is this and it comes from a listener Liam, and he asked me to do a deep dive into his hometown Montreal and how he says it came to be a center for commerce and culture in North America. And he mentions that mantra As a strategic and much-valued city, in many words in the past? Now to answer that simple question, I’m not going to do a Frommer’s guide or let’s go Canada, where I mentioning the nice city streets and public fountains and historical buildings in Montreal. Don’t worry listener, it’s not going to be like that. The complicated question underneath that is this. What happens when you have an identity a national identity, that isn’t just one identity, but it’s two identities, one nested within the other, or like a double yoke deck. And what I mean by that is within Montreal, there are a lot of French speakers and there are also English speakers. They both call themselves Canadian. But Canadian isn’t just somebody’s identity in Canada, you can be French, Canadian, English, Canadian. And the complexity of this really gets to the heart of what does it mean to have a national identity what is a national identity and many different nations have answers to this question. Those who study nationalism say that there’s a lot of answers. Some researchers would say that national identity comes down to language. If you are a Frenchman or French woman, it means that you speak French. And that idea affected their educational policy, there was a big push to teach the French language. Other nations might say it’s an ethnic identity, you have some sort of blood connection, and that makes you part of this nation. I would argue in a lot of Turkey. That’s what it means to be Turkish, although that’s contested, but you have some sort of blood connection and ethnic connection to the Turkish people. So even though your family’s ethnically Greek, and they lived within the boundaries of the nation of Turkey for thousands and thousands of years or Armenian, many people would think well, you’re not really Turkish because you don’t have that same sort of blood connection. Even though if you do genetic analysis. There are all sorts of intermingling between Greek and Turkish and Armenian people in the United States alone, A lot of Americans are confused by this because almost everyone in the United States is the descendants of immigrants. And to be American doesn’t necessarily connote a blood connection. Most people would say it means you speak English. But many people’s ancestors just a few generations back didn’t speak English as their first language. Many Americans today did not grow up speaking English as their first language. So being American as a national identity has to do with an abstract community and some sort of cultural similarity is the basis for political legitimacy. Maybe you have the common educational experience, you went to public school where you said the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. But some could argue that in Montreal, specifically, there’s a split identity. If your first language is French, then your idea of national belonging doesn’t have to do with language. If your understanding of national belonging is ethnic kinship, you might say, Well, my ancestors came from France while other people’s ancestors came from Britain or Scotland or Ireland or Maybe the era of the internet population and have been here since time immemorial. Maybe they’re from somewhere else. Now, this kind of double egg yolk, this split identity isn’t just a feature of Canada, it’s something that appears all over the world. And this begs a question of how long does a split identity maintains itself until it becomes a common identity and that type of splitting this is something that becomes part of the national character.
You can see this in other nations like South Africa, where there are people who speak Afrikaans as their first language, who are the descendants of Dutch settlers, or people who speak English as their first language, who are the descendants of British settlers, and people who are of African ancestry whose forefathers had been there since time immemorial. And is there a common South African identity that unites all of these people? So these questions of national identity are things that you see all over the world and I hope this analysis of Montreal isn’t just an exploration of Montreal and this city within Quebec, but can look at this larger question of national belonging and what does it mean when you feel like you have contested identities. So with that preamble in mind, let’s look at Quebec. And let’s look at Montreal. And I think there’ll be a lot of interesting things here, even if you really don’t have that much of an interest in Canada and the city of Montreal itself. In Quebec itself. There’s a lot of interesting features about Montreal. This idea of dual identity led to conflict in the 1800s when some people wanted public money to set up public schools with a Protestant ethic. Other people want to poke schools to be set up with a Catholic ethic. In World War One French Canadians, for a large part resisted conscription, because they didn’t feel the affinity to fight for the British the same way that British Canadians did. Montreal and Quebec were also seen as beacons of freedom during periods of slavery in the United States. It was the endpoint on the Underground Railroad. during Prohibition, the United States the We’re all sorts of cabarets and jazz clubs in Montreal, that didn’t really feel the effects of prohibition in the same way. Jackie Robinson played baseball in Quebec, and he was adored by the local community there before he helped to desegregate the major leagues in the United States and faced an enormous backlash from racist people who didn’t like his presence there. So Montreal has a lot of interesting things going for it beyond just this meta question of national belonging identity. All right, so with that preamble in mind, let’s jump in. Let me touch on an article from historians.org. That gets into this split identity before I go back thousands of years ago to the original settlement and archaeological record of Montreal itself. So in Canada, there’s the term French Canada and English Canada. English Canada means all the population that speaks English, whether they’re British or other origins, and French Canada means those who speak French. About 20% of the population in Quebec is English. Canadians in that Canadian province. There are considerable minorities of French Canadians and every other province in Canada except British Columbia, and about 30% of Canada speaks French as its native language. This is really interesting for people in the United States or other nations who have minority groups that came to that nation, originally speaking another language but over the generations, they assimilated into it. In the United States, many immigrant groups came who didn’t speak English as their first language, but assimilated. You can see that in almost any other nation on Earth. So why didn’t that happen in Canada, part of the reason is that the French who went to Canada didn’t go to be anglicized, they went to live as French men or French women under the French flag, but eventually, that flag was replaced by the British flag, but they still wanted to maintain their identity. And they came as part of the French Empire, but when the British conquered this French colony in 1760 there was a quarter of a century that passed before there was any real English speaking population on the soil of old Canada, which was Quebec and Ontario. And about 75. More years passed before the English speaking population was as numerous as the French in Canada. Not much assimilation happened, and what did happen was mostly of English speaking people by the French. A lot of this information comes from an article on historian org and I’ll put this in the show notes if you want to learn more about this. It’s sort of like in Canada, it’s the legacy of Imperial competition between Imperial Britain and imperial France back in the 17 and 1800s. That continued on to today. And the strife between these two groups didn’t really end until the middle of the 19th century, and in some ways, that strife still continues.
And this dual nationality you can see on every postage stamp, where it’s in French and English, the paper currency is printed in French and English, according to the Constitution, for instance, on par with English as an official language, every emotion in Parliament has to be put in both French and English. A parliamentarian can give a speech in either language, and all federal publications appear in two editions French and English. And it isn’t just language, it also has to do with religious belief. Historically, the French Canadians were solidly Roman Catholic. And in the 1800s, when a public school system was established in Canada, the English speaking Protestant minority in the east, which is now Quebec, insisted on having their own separate system of tax-supported schools. Otherwise, they’d have to send their kids to the French-speaking Roman Catholic schools, and I didn’t want to do this. So the French Canadians granted this but then demanded that in other provinces were Roman Catholics were the minority in the Canadian West, which is now Ontario should have the same privilege. And this bargain was written into the Constitution. So those are issues of the contested identity. No, let’s we’ll back farther into the past. I want to point out that this issue of different cultures meeting together in Montreal and Quebec was an issue. centuries before the French and English came together and squabbling over issues of language and religion. On Montreal islands, where the city of Montreal is the first traces of human presence go back about four or 5000 years ago. There archeological digs that have spears and signs of the tribal settlement. Some of the Europeans who came interestingly enough, or Basque whale hunters of France and Spain, who had contact with the Inuit peoples of northern Canada. That’s whale hunters learn to hunt large whales in the Bay of Biscay in the 13th through 15th centuries, they began to arrive in the whaling grounds of Southern Labrador and Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the 1520s and 1530s, just a few decades after the discovery of the New World. This continued until about the 1600s when commerce shifted out of Arctic regions. So that’s early contact with Aboriginal people. And Europeans. Perhaps the first contact with the French was explorer Jacques Cartier is 1535 visits. His first recorded visit to Montreal island was on October 2, 1535. But inhabitants of the islands would have met other Europeans before him. whalers, cod Fishers, and seal hunters, Aboriginal people there weren’t just settled in one place, but were mobile they would travel by boat around to different places along the water therein Quebec, and they would have communicated information of outside explorer speaking the strange language to one another pretty quickly. And there was a trade of course developed between Europeans and Aboriginals, where Europeans offered knives fish hooks, glass beads, and exchange fire according to archaeologist Luis poti air when Cartier arrived, the Iroquois saw him as a potential source of trade as a source of the military alliance, so they seem to be friendly toward him. They saw alliances because there was widespread warfare between other tribes of the time, they could have been fighting for territory but perhaps also fighting for captives or revenge. When Cartier arrived he found a fortified village surrounded by cornfields. He claimed the adjacent mountain took in the view and named it Mount Royal is in French Montreal. There are about one to 2000 people living there and the inhabitants are referred to as St. Lawrence your coins and they lived in longhouses built out of wood and covered with pieces of bark and the rind of trees. Cartier said there are only one gate and entrance to this village. The village is circular and it’s completely enclosed by a wooden palisade in three tiers. There’s only one gate an entrance of this village and that can be barred up over the skate and in many places about the enclosure or species of galleries with ladders for mounting to them. Which galleries are provided with rocks and stones for defense and protection of the place? Put your notes that self-preservation was on the Have those inhabitants. So this village was well protected against nearby enemies? Well, we don’t know who the enemies were because this is the period of the first contact and Europeans who did arrive simply didn’t have enough information to give a full picture of the politics amongst tribal groups there.
So the people who lived on Montreal islands were related to other Iroquois and language speaking nations. The best known are the Mohawk, Jacques Cartier, like a lot of explorers at the time, were seeking a route to Asia. He wasn’t interested in mapping out the new world because he simply did not know the extent of it. And the fixation from Columbus to other explores for the next several decades, was to get over to Asia to completely bypass the Strait of spices and other luxury items that were marked up dozens of times as they went along the Silk Road and changed hands from Chinese merchants and Central Asia merchants or Persian merchants, Turkish merchants, other European merchants and cut out the middleman and take all the profit themselves. Portier notes that the Iroquois in chief near present a Quebec City tried to dissuade Cartier from venturing further along the St. Lawrence. letting him know that land extended very far and he couldn’t access any sort of great body of water, which Carter hoped to be the Pacific Ocean by keeping going his way. What was a long time between cartels exploration and when a French settlement was set up in Montreal, actually 107 years between the 1535 visit and the founding of Montreal in 1642? There wasn’t a lot of interest in the new world among the French and the 1500s because there was no quick route to riches. expeditions to the new world were very expensive. And if you couldn’t turn around a fairly quick profit, then you wouldn’t be as interested. The Spanish did well on this they were able to haul back a lot of Aztec and Inca gold. But the French weren’t so lucky up in Canada. There are no deposits of the gold route to China. So interest waned in Canada, but that changed in 1600 As Europeans were able to obtain a lucrative trade item, and that was first, the fishermen who were trading on the coast, we’re bringing back more and more furs. And the traditional sources of furs used by hat makers in Paris had been Russia and the Baltic area. But during the time of warfare with those areas, when those regions were cut off, then Canada became more attractive. Europeans couldn’t as easily dominate trade on the Baltic Sea, thanks to the rise of Peter the Great the construction of St. Petersburg, so they turned elsewhere. There were about 250 French people living in the St. Lawrence Valley, which was about 250 French people living in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1641, a year before the founding of Montreal. And so, New France was a tiny tiny colony, practically like a glorified moonbase at that time, if you think about it that way or, or a slightly bigger version of the International Space Station today about 50 friends settlers arrived in Quebec City in 1641. To set the stage for the founding of Montreal the following year as a religious colony. Free boats arrived in 1642 at a point of land that would become the beginning of Montreal.
This marks the beginning of French emigration to New France what this region was called. But it was actually pretty short from the early 1600s to the 1760s, so about 150 years and the population always remained small because unlike England, France didn’t encourage settlement. Britain traded with its American colonies in high weight low-value items like lumber. British ships would leave the American colonies filled to the brim. But there was little trade in the other direction. And since there were a lot of trees to cut down and the need for a lot of manpower. There were many settlers that were sent to New England in what is today the United States in order to take advantage of this venture. But it was the opposite In French Canada because French ships would arrive in Quebec that would carry low value manufactured goods and leave with low volume high-value beaver pelts you didn’t need a lot of trappers to supply these high-value beaver pelts unlike logging, which did require a lot more manpower, too many sellers are getting the way and if you had more settlers, this would result in illegal beaver pelt trading by the settlers. And it would get worse the more settlers there was. Up in Quebec also, you couldn’t grow high-value crops like tobacco or cotton or sugarcane like you could in New England or in the Caribbean. So by 1759, over this century or so French colonization, Quebec had about 60,000 people. At the same time in the American colonies, there were 4 million people. Most of the people living in Quebec are Canadian born and most of the people in America were foreign-born to the highest route of immigration. This is part of the reason why some have noted that French last names in Canada like Trudeau, Same with the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There are a small number of names and they’re not common. If you go to France from what I’ve heard, the ancestors of pretty much every French-speaking person in Quebec were these people who rise in this narrow window of opportunity. In contrast, the population of France was in the range of 10 million or so. So Quebec was a small representation of what France was in this time period. during the colonial period, France was Europe’s dominant power. Its population during the 18th century grew to about 20 to 25 million inhabitants. Well, that of the British Isles was only about 7 million. But even though France had a lot of colonies, like a new Canada, it was mainly a continental power in Europe during the 18th century. But Britain was setting up colonies in India, Africa, North America, and all across the globe and an international system of colonies. Another reason why France and send so many people is that France is religious minorities like its Protestant Huguenots mainly move to Central Europe. Well, Britain saw that perhaps it was a little bit more efficient to send its religious minorities like the Puritans to North America. The Catholic Church didn’t allow Francis religious minorities to move to New France. So you don’t see Huguenots moving there with official state support. But Britain was more than willing to let its Puritans go. So there was official support of emigration. So between 1715 and 1763, the population in New France grew from 15,000 to about 70,000 inhabitants. So let’s look at the final years of New France the colony and when this colony becomes absorbed by the British. This has to do with the Seven Years War and eventually the Revolutionary War as well. Authorities in New France wanted to expel British traders and colonists from the Ohio Valley They constructed fortifications to protect the area. George Washington when he was a young man in his early 20s, I think he was 22. In 1754, he launched a surprise attack on a group of Canadian soldiers that were sleeping in the early morning hour. This was before the Seven Years War or the French Indian War, so there was no declaration of war between France and Britain. Washington was vilified in the French press is this assassin. And so for French people who knew of Washington from this early depiction were probably surprised decades later when he was the leader of the Continental Army. And some may have grumbled a little bit with the French American military alliance, but that’s neither here nor there. This eventually led to the worldwide Seven Years War between France and Britain where they were fighting amongst their colonies all over the world in the Caribbean, North America and elsewhere.
In 1758, the British attacked New France by sea and took the French for at Louis Burke. In 1759, the British forces defeated those of the French outside of Quebec City. Except for a few small islands of St. Pierre and Mickey alone, located off the coast of Newfoundland, France gave all of its North American possessions to Great Britain through the Treaty of Paris in 1763. And they did this in order to gain the island of Guadalupe that was very lucrative for the sugarcane trading. So the British royal proclamation of 1763 renamed Canada as the province of Quebec, France smarted over this for a long time, and that’s probably why they supported America in the Revolutionary War, in order to get back in Britain and perhaps get some of its possessions back. So what happened to those French speakers who were in New France as colonists who identify themselves as French colonists? Suddenly there’s the flag of the British Empire over them. What do they make of this? Well, the British worried about their loyalty and what the outbreak of the Revolutionary War With the British colonies in the south that grew into the Revolution, the British worried that the French-speaking Canadians might also support this growing rebellion. French-speaking Canadians or the vast majority of the population of Quebec, about 98% of the population, and British immigration wasn’t going well, in order to secure the legions of these 90,000 French speakers. Governor James Murray and later governor guy Carleton, promote a compromise between French-speaking Canadian subjects and newly arriving British subjects. They promoted the Quebec act of 1774. The Quebec act gave the people of Quebec a Charter of Rights and led to the official recognition of the French language and French culture. And this allowed French speakers known as Canadians to maintain French civil law and it sanctions freedom of religion, basically saying that you can continue to practice a Roman Catholic religion. You’re not going to be forcibly converted into Anglicanism, you can continue Being Catholic and will give you that freedom. Some argue that this is one of the first cases in the history of state-sanctioned freedom of religious practice. Now the division between the French Canadians and the British did not go unnoticed by the Americans and this led to several military actions. Interestingly enough, in 1775, Benedict Arnold while he was still fighting for the Americans before he defected to the British A few years later, he proposed a plan to Congress in which he would rally the inhabitants the French speakers, some who are still unhappy been under British rule, rally them to the American flag, and then take Montreal in Quebec. Congress approved the plan as George Washington. But there were a few problems with this plan. On the face of it, it makes sense. To the French speakers, join our fight against the British you will have your complete and total independence. But there were things that happened in the run-up to the Revolutionary War that caused bad blood between the French-Speaking inhabitants and the English speaking Americans. One was that at the first Continental Congress in October 1774 broadside written by John Jay and addressed to the people of Great Britain, they invade against the French legal system and the Roman Catholic Church. The French Canadian Roman Catholic clergy didn’t forget this attack on their legal system and their religious system. They proceeded to lecture French Canadians from the pulpit against what they called the heresies of Protestantism in the 13 colonies. Canadians feared that American Protestants would try to convert them in the way that they had previously feared that the British would try to convert them to the Anglican Church. As British loyalists flooded into Quebec in 1784. The arrival of 10,000 loyalists messes up the political balance that the British were working hard to achieve. There was a huge number of English speakers, and they petitioned the government to be allowed to use the British legal system instead of the French one that they were used to In the American colonies, there was the creation of upper and lower Canada in 1791. That allowed loyalists to live under British laws and institutions. While the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could keep the French civil law and the Catholic religion.
So now you have a mixture of English speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians. And this is where the period of conflict and this a period of dual identities begins. At the end of the 18th century, after the American Revolution, people of British origin made up about 12 and a half percent of the total population of Canada. Most were loyalists that came after the American Revolution. But then in the 19th century, the source of the growing British population or English speaking population came from immigration from Britain, especially Scotland and Ireland. About 17 million people left Britain in the 19th century, and 9% of these came to Canada. This included about 50,000 Irish between 1825 and 1829. Then another hundred 85,000 between 1830 and 1834 and about 200,000. During the potato famine of 1845 to 1849. Many Irish immigrants went to the United States, but about 20% settled in Quebec. At the end of the 19th century, during a period of Russia’s pogroms against its Jewish population, the predominantly Irish immigration was replaced by Eastern European Jews, and also Italians. The Jewish population in Quebec went from 1.5% in 1901 to 5.7% in 1941. And the Italian population went from half a percent in 1801 to 2.3% in 1941. So the dynamics that are affecting the immigration numbers that appear in say Ellis islands in the United States are also affecting Quebec as well. And just to give you an idea of what immigration numbers are like today, according to the 2016 census, the most cited ethnically Groups are Canadian, French and Irish, and 13% would represent a racial minority. Black, Arab and Latin Americans represent the largest communities. 79% of Quebec has French has its mother tongue, compared to 8.9% who are for English. And there are still sizable Aboriginal groups in Quebec including Algonquin. In width and Iroquois in about 2.3% of the population of the province is Aboriginal. So let’s look at the demographic makeup of Montreal and Quebec. Now I want to talk about its cultural dimensions and how too many people Montreal and Canada, in general, were a beacon of freedom. Some of the earliest European arrivals to Montreal associated that land with open-mindedness and a festive ambiance. Francois Xavier Charlevoix, who was one of the first historians of New France, wrote in 1721, in his journal of a voyage made in North America By order of the king, the city of Montreal has a most pleasant quality that is well situated, well established and well-constructed beauty of its surrounding areas and VISTAs instills pleasure felt by all it’s a highlight this in Canada and Montreal, it was a haven for escaped slaves from the United States. Very she wrote an article about this in the Montreal Gazette. And He notes that British North America allowed thousands of runaway slaves to seek refuge here in Montreal. There was a colony of escaped slaves established in St. Catharines. And what’s now Ontario under the leadership of Harriet Tubman. They founded the British Methodist Episcopal Church which still exists today. And while it was a beacon of freedom to many, what’s interesting is that Montreal was also equally accepting of Confederate exiles, and operatives and even spies. A few blocks away from the British Methodist Episcopal Church. Salem chapel, the Confederate Secret Service operated across the Niagara and district bank. Authorities knew about the Confederate Secret Service and they also knew about Todd mins colony and tacitly approved of both. in Upper Canada, there was stronger support for the abolitionist movement. But as he moved east there was also support for the Confederacy. And this juxtaposition really played out in Montreal, which at the time was Canada’s center of business and banking during the American Civil War. runaway slaves would serve as staff and hotels, even though the institution would cater to Confederate exiles and secret operatives. And the government knew about the Confederate Secret Service to use Canada as a base for blockade running to get over the union blockade so that the Confederacy could receive critical supplies for its war effort. And they also knew about Confederate armed attacks on US banks.
This is because at the time Britain was officially neutral in the Civil War. We allowed it and its colonies to trade with both the Union and the Confederacy. But there were some in positions of authority that wanted a southern victory. This is because a permanently divided and bickering United States would be less of a threat to the survival of British North America, then unified united states that would grow increasingly militarized. Very Sheehy argues that you can see this bias in different ways. For example, Canadian banks accepted rich Confederate deposits. And these deposits helped the Confederate Secret Service control some of the institutions, including the Bank of Ontario in Montreal, which was a center of money laundering. John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln visited the bank every day during this day in Montreal in October 1864. British shipyards provided vessels and arms to the south. There were many cases where blockade runners were manned by British captains and see men. Wealthy Canadians from conservative to provision and launch blockade runners. Montreal served as a meeting place for those looking to trade food in arms, the Confederacy in return for cotton. So anyway, all that to say yes, Montreal and Canada were a beacon of freedom for the Underground Railroad. And I don’t want to be too hard on Canada here because the United States before the Civil War tolerated slavery and in certain states actively endorsed it, but just to show that there are some mixed points of this history. But in later decades, Montreal really does become a beacon of open expression. You can see this in its black community and jazz history, and how it really came alive during Prohibition. I did an episode on Kansas City and argue that Kansas City felt some of these effects. Well, Montreal does the same during this period. Part of the reason that Montreal had such an active jazz scene in the 1940s had to do with trains. The neighborhood of Little Burgundy, which is in Montreal develops In the late 1800s, which is where a bunch of rails black community is historically based, one of the only jobs available to black men at the time was being a railway, Porter. And the jazz great of Montreal was Oscar Peterson, a virtuoso pianist, grew up here. His father was a Caribbean immigrant in an amateur musician who was one of those porters. Pearson had a famous version of the song nightrain. So maybe there’s a connection there. But Montreal’s jazz scene, much like Kansas cities also does a lot with alcohol. Montreal’s nightlife boomed during Prohibition in the 1920s, which began in 1920, specifically, with a Volstad act, but it was enacted throughout the US in nearly all of Canada the year before 1990. However, the province of Quebec was still a wet prophet. And Montreux was one of the only cities in North America where drinking was legal for more than a decade. And the city was a party town. You didn’t have to do With prohibition officers busting down your parties, even in cities in the United States that were essentially wet like Atlantic City or cities in Florida, there was a lot of traffic that came in which made opportunities for musicians. Some nightclub owners receive loans from bootleggers to kickstart their nightclubs because bootleggers knew this would be a great place to sell alcohol. One of these places was called rock heads paradise on by Rufus Rockhead. And it was one of the first black-owned venues in Montreal, and it hosted some of the greats of jazz in North America. But Montreal from the 1920s up to the 1960s was one of the liveliest cities in North America. St. Laurent Boulevard, which was called the main was the epicenter of nightlife there were cabarets, brothels, gambling houses everywhere. An article on a Canadian history website on active history.ca, which I’ll also link to in the show notes describes what the scene was like. A lot of cabarets in America went bankrupt with The prohibition act of 1920, except in a few cities where they still operated, and a lot of the artists were out of a job. So when they had nowhere else to go, they went north up to Quebec, which allowed illegal but controlled access to alcoholic beverages for anyone that was of age, have already started to open up in Montreal. They were around the southern portion of St. Laurent Boulevard. And they welcome artists, most of whom came from New York. A lot of the acts featured vaudeville or burlesque-inspired variety numbers.
Sometimes they were a little bit political, but they were basically irreverent and audacious, which is sort of the spirit of alcohol-fueled vaudeville at the time. Even after prohibition ended in Montreal, it had such a strong reputation and such a legacy in such an economic system for these acts that they kept going. In the 1940s. There were over 30 cabarets in Montreal. Once prohibition ended, even if Americans did desert, some of the Canadian establishments, the 1930s, we’re still a dynamic period for cabarets and the golden age. This period was during the years following the end of World War Two. These were in the red light district of the city. And there was fierce competition between the cabaret owners, French and American stars came and performed on their stages, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and other stars of French film. The vast majority of performances were given in English in order to appeal to an international clientele. And some were hosted in French but featured English performances. A lot of people believe that the mafia owns most of the red light establishments. This was the case in other places like in Las Vegas, the public morality committee of Montreal held a public inquiry, and the inquiry was led by a young lawyer, john drop Ooh. And it resulted in a number of arrests and the closing of many cabarets and brothels and gaming houses. Drop who ran for mayor in the 1950s, and he got a mandate to clean up Montreal as he called it. his administration began a battle against what he called the immorality of this establishment. Most of these clubs didn’t survive, and they probably would have been on the decline anyway, with the arrival of television, where in America you also see the death of vaudeville and stage performance with television as well and mass media. People didn’t need to go out for entertainment anymore because it was in their living rooms each was still active in the 1960s. But the industry dried up and disappear completely by the 1970s. But cover and jazz weren’t the only parts of Montreal’s interesting multicultural legacy. Another thing had to do with racial integration, which came to Canada before it came to the United States. One clear example of this test case between the two countries is the person of Jackie Robinson. When Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in October 1945, the team put together a plan in order to ease his transition. Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey came up with a plan to ease Robinson into the spotlight. He set Robinson to play with the team’s triple Minor League affiliate in Montreal. Ricky thought that this would be a way for Robinson to get used to professional baseball in a way that wouldn’t be nearly as traumatic and difficult as it would be in the United States later. Robinson got a taste of how hard it would be. First, he did a month of training in spring training in Florida. This is where the Dodgers home base was in Daytona Beach.
Some of the things that Robinson suffered were getting bumped off two flights with no official reason given wherein both cases his seats were given to whites. He was sent to the back of a bus on the way to Daytona by a driver who called him Boy, you couldn’t dine with his teammates. And when the Dodgers arrived in Jacksonville, they found the stadium padlocked, and the game was canceled, and the reason was that the lights weren’t working, even though it was an afternoon contest. When Robinson went up to Montreal, the situation was the complete opposite. Rachel Robinson and Jackie Robinson’s wife said that we got to Montreal was like coming out of a nightmare. The atmosphere in Montreal was so positive, we felt it was a good omen for jack to play well. JACK Jed was the executive vice president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said Canada was not a racial utopia at this time. But it didn’t have the history of slavery or Jim Crow segregation or legally enforced prejudice. So there wasn’t the same baggage there that there wasn’t the United States, where the race was not as much of a fundamental marker of identity as it was in the US. Quebec had its own issues of linguistic identity between French-speaking in English speaking of Protestantism versus Catholicism and other issues. Jackie Robinson tore it up at the Montreux Royals. He ranked one of the top 100 minor league seasons ever. According to mlb.com. He led the league in average 349 and run scored and he stole 40 bases. He had 66 rounds and strikeout only 27 times. Afterward, Robinson made history by breaking the color barrier and major league baseball. But what he experienced in Canada was much friendlier than what he experienced in the United States the beginning. Well, I want to shift the focus back to Quebec and close out with some modern-day analysis. And this comes from a New York Times article that looks at the continual French English identity crisis with Montreal. Returning back to our original question of what does it mean to have conflicting identities nested within one’s own national identity? Christine smoochie for the New York Times, called Montreal, a berlin wall of the mind. As an example of this, she describes a square near the Old Port of Montreal. On one side is a sculpture of a French woman in a Chanel suit, holding a poodle and sneering at the Bank of Montreal, a symbol of British colonial rule built-in 1847. On the opposite end, there’s a dapper Englishman cast in bronze, who holds a pug in series condescendingly at the Notre Dame Basilica, which was a symbol of French Quebec is influenced under the Roman Catholic Church. The poodle and the pugs stare at each other. This is a metaphor that she thinks is a city polarized by a coexistence between French and English speaking Quebec. Today, Montreal is a city of 2 million people that’s globalized cosmopolitan. But there’s still simmering division between the Anglophone minority and the Francophone majority, surrounded by Canada’s Anglophone majority, but she argues that these divisions are largely along generational lines. In the 1980s around Westmont, which was a traditional Anglophone enclave where Leonard Cohen is from Quebec just experienced its referendum on independence, and thousands of English speaking Quebec acres were leaving the profits. This is after in 1977 law that made French the official language of government and courts in Quebec. They required French lettering to be twice as big as English on public signs, and that immigrants send their show differential in these schools. This g describes it when she grew up in Quebec in the 1980s. She learned Quebec’s history at school she bantered in French during hockey practice, but she spoke English at home, watch American sitcoms and lived in a separate parallel universe with French Canadian peers. But she argues that today, separatism is largely in retreat. One in four Anglophones in Quebec, Mary French Quebec occurs 20 something Francophone shopkeepers can answer people in fluent English when they are addressed in French. And today, 45% of people in Quebec speak both French and English. Brian miles and editor of Quebec daily argued that the two solitudes these two separate identities are a thing of the past. He says today the French speak English and the English speak French and that didn’t exist when you have the two solitudes. But he noted that language laws that support the preeminence of French are necessary to protect French language in court. Culture, because globalization and the internet are a force of gravity that pull people toward English. And there are other quotes in these articles that talk with students, some of whom say that they love French, it’s their language, but if they only spoke French would limit their horizons.
So anyway, going back to the topic of the beginning of this episode, the question of when there are different solitudes and different identities conflicting within a larger national identity? How long does it take until that conflict between identities, becomes a distinct identity in and of itself? It sounds like with Quebec, that’s what’s happening. But it took several hundred years from the end of New France in 1760, up through centuries of division between the Anglophone and Francophone populations, and ending today, although divisions still exist. So anyway, that is my attempt to answer that question.
Cite This Article"How Does a Nation Have an Identity When Its People Speak Different Languages? Ask Canada (Quebec Specifically)" History on the Net
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