MONTREAL – A proposed high school history course being tested in some Quebec schools reflects a rigid nationalist ideology and diminishes the role of the province’s non-francophone communities, historians and teachers who have seen the details say.
The two-year program, called History of Quebec and Canada, was created by the Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois government but is being rolled out by the Liberals, who are currently piloting the course for secondary three students in a handful of high schools across the province.
Critics say the program is a departure from the current course, which gives teachers the space to discuss personal histories of the province’s diverse communities.
The new program focuses on a political history with a chronological series of facts while largely ignoring Quebec anglophones and the contributions of other minorities, said John Commins, a history teacher at Perspectives II High School in Montreal.
The longtime history teacher said the proposed program represents French Canadians as a united, homogenous group in perpetual conflict with the rest of English Canada.
Commins said the problem with the new structure and content of the program is that students who aren’t from the francophone, European model will feel left out.
“Anglophones are not present at all in this (new) document,” said Commins, who sat on a 2003 committee that helped write the current Quebec history curriculum.
“There is no reference to Italians, Greeks or anyone else. There is just this vague body of immigrants.”
The new program is shrouded in secrecy and those who’ve read details are reportedly sworn to secrecy, Commins said.
Bryan St-Louis, spokesman for Quebec’s Education Department, said the government won’t discuss the program or how many schools are currently involved because it’s still being tested.
The program is scheduled to be fully implemented in September, but changes could be made and the entire roll-out still needs to be confirmed by Education Minister Sebastien Proulx, St-Louis said.
Jack Jedwab, the executive vice-president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the teaching of history is often contentious. That’s no different in Quebec, where battles pitting moderate and more hard-line nationalists seeking influence over history curriculums has existed for decades.
“I think the moderates have lost on this one,” said Jedwab, who is familiar with the proposed program.
“You would think the current (Liberal) government would be more inclined to be closer with the more moderate expression of nationalism.”
Jedwab agrees with Commins that the proposed curriculum doesn’t make all Quebecers feel included in the story.
The program is the result of a 2014 report published by university professor Jacques Beauchemin, who was a civil servant at the time.
Neither Beauchemin or the PQ returned calls seeking comment.
Commins said Quebec Anglos have a rich history and once made up the majority populations in Montreal and Quebec City.
He said it might be time for the English community to demand the right to have a separate history course in certain schools in Quebec, similar to what Franco-Ontarians receive or members of certain First Nations communities.
“I think at one point as a community we need to come together,” he said. “This (history) isn’t enough.”
© 2016 The Canadian Press