Quebec students have ‘sad’ vision of province’s history

QUEBEC CITY – What would you say if someone asked you to sum up Quebec’s history in one word?

Well, according to a recent study, young Quebecers say things like “humiliation”, “battle” and “defeat.”

Laval University historian Jocelyn Létourneau found students have a “sad” vision of Quebec history, one that only becomes more deeply rooted as they reach university.

Over a ten-year period, thousands of young people told Létourneau that Quebec’s history is a litany of missed opportunities, humiliation and defeat.

“Most kids, either Franco or Anglo would use a negative template or negative vision to describe the history of Quebec,” Létourneau told Global News.

The historian, and author of the new book Je me Souviens? Le passé du Québec dans la conscience de sa jeunessefound that English-speaking youth shared the bleakest perspective, depicting themselves as outsiders, hated by the French majority.

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At St. Lawrence College in Quebec City, most students agreed they probably don’t know enough about Quebec history.

What they do know, however, is deeply ingrained.

To the question: “If you had to tell me what Quebec history was all about in one sentence, what would you say?” student Alexandre Thibault responded: “The invasion of Indian lands by French people and the subsequent invasion by English people.”

Fellow students Alex Miller-Pelletier and Mariana Racine-Mendez saw Quebec’s history as a struggle for identity.

“Since the Plains of Abraham war, French people have felt the oppression of English people,” they said.

Létourneau found that young anglophones are half as likely as francophones to have a positive view of Quebec’s history.

He said that he believes it’s time we move past the simplistic, black and white script.

“Go outside of the simple binary vision of the past to bring the kids into complexity. I think that’s the main task of teaching history,” he said.

Quebec’s education minister also agrees that it is time for a new perspective.

WATCH: PQ announces new history pilot project

On Thursday, Marie Malavoy announced changes to the history curriculum in the province, with an increased focus on Quebec nationalism.

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“We want to have a national thread so that everybody can try to understand what happened, what are the most important events in that history,” Malavoy said.

Although the Parti Quebecois minister insists the content won’t be politically-charged, and that her announcement isn’t part of an election strategy, Létourneau can’t help but feel suspicious.

He mentioned that he doesn’t think centering teaching around nationalism is the best solution.

Another study, which reviewed responses from several countries (Britain, France, Canada, Quebec, the U.S.), revealed a subtle difference between Canada and Quebec: “diversity” versus “duality.”

If you had to describe Quebec’s history in one sentence, what would you say? Let us know in the comments below. 

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