On my first day in Canada, I wore a hat with the Canadian flag on it. That wouldn't have been a remarkable - in fact, so many people walk around with gloves with the Canadian flag on it that I start think that the government has given a pair to all citizens - if I were not in Montreal. A friend from there subtly said: ‘Eh, Floor, you don't really see the Canadian flag here’.
I’m not even going to try to explain the Quebec-rest of Canada ‘issue’. Thousands of books have been written about the relationship between ‘English Canada’ and Quebec, and Quebec’s claim to self-determination. If I had to describe it in one sentence, I would use a line from a U2 song: ‘I can’t live, with or without you’, but there’s much more to it. It’s complicated, and I am just a Dutch student taking Canadian politics.
I may have been a bit too optimistic or naïve, taking that course, as my knowledge about Canadian politics was virtually non-existing before I came here. In my tutorial, I found out that I was the only non-Canadian in my group. And in lectures, phrases like ‘as you probably all know’, or ‘this is common knowledge’ don’t apply to me, at all. Luckily, we started off with learning the Canadian provinces. Common knowledge for everybody in my class, probably, but I was glad to start with the very basics.
Now, a couple of weeks later, I know that you shouldn't wear hats with Canadian flags in Quebec, and that all political problems in Canada link back to the fact that the country is too big. Sometimes it’s valuable to approach a problem without prior knowledge. I may just have found the solution to all Canadian problems ;)
Name: Floortje Rawee (21)
Study: second-year UCM-student
Goes to: Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
From: 3 January until the end of May