As we leave Montreal and the province of Quebec, we are again struck by the incongruity of a mostly French-speaking province stuck in the middle of an otherwise mostly English-speaking country. There is a lot of history and animosity behind the language differences and the underlying cultures, religions, and socioeconomic situations dating back to the British takeover in 1763.
Since 1995, when the voters Quebec narrowly defeated a referendum to become an independent country, there has been movement to protect the French language and culture, resulting in progress toward reconciliation.
A recent set of sculptures, installed only a few years ago on two corners of the Place d’Armes, a central square in the old town district, addresses the ongoing issue. The artist has inserted some humor in an attempt to further defuse the lingering tensions surrounding this issue.
We have merged the images here, but in real life the statues are about 150 feet apart. On the left, the man is holding an English bulldog to signify that he represents the English point of view. He is looking directly at the Notre Dame Basilica, the strongest symbol of Catholic France. On the right, the woman is holding a French poodle signifying that she represents the French point of view, and is looking directly at the Bank of Montreal, a symbol of the English historic dominance of commerce. Both figures have exaggerated costume noses held up in the air in a snobbish, disdainful gesture. BUT, there is hope: the dogs are looking directly at each other and seem to recognize only the possibility of friendship. We think the dogs have it right. May it be so, here and around the world.