Sport, Nationalism and the Politics of Language in Canada : Celebrating Francophone Belonging at the Pan-Canadian Francophone Games but Avoiding the ‘National Question' at the Quebec Games

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Christine DALLAIRE , University of Ottawa, Canada
Jean HARVEY , University of Ottawa, Canada
Canada’s Official Languages Act aims to advance the equal status and use of English and French while also supporting the development of English and French linguistic minority communities. While this legislation establishes the bilingual character of the Canadian nation, Canada is not composed of two demographically equal linguistic communities. Indeed the 2011 census showed that less than 25% of Canadians had French as a mother tongue or spoke French at home. Only in the province of Quebec are the tables reversed where Francophones represent the majority and English-speakers are the minority. The comparative study of the 2008 pan-Canadian francophone games and the 2010 Quebec games illustrates the complex relationship between nationalism and the politics of language at French-only large sporting festivals. The 2008 pan-Canadian Francophone Games funded by the federal government successfully serve to foster Francophone identity and sustain minority Francophone community development. Organizers and youths proudly claim their Francophoneness and celebrate French language and culture throughout the weekend. Conversely, the Quebec Games focus on their sporting character rather than their nation-building purpose. This annual multisport competition financed through the Quebec leisure and sport policy is also meant to foster a distinct cultural identity among Quebeckers (Harvey, 1999), Quebec being the only province with French as its sole official language. While Quebec is formally recognized as a nation within Canada, the use of the provincial Games as a vehicle to promote the Quebecois distinct language and culture depends on the government of the day as well as on local organizers. The 2010 event avoided any reference to the ‘national question’ celebrating youth and sporting performances in a taken-for-granted, but also unacknowledged, French environment. The comparative analysis outlines the distinct challenges of promoting a Francophone distinct majority vs. minority identity in today’s bilingual Canada.