This has been on my mind for the past week, I think, pushing me to share.
My dad was in the Air Force and I have had the privilege of living across Canada. When we were stationed in Val-d’or, Quebec, the neighbourhood we lived in was French. My family, to my memory, was the only English family.
The children of the neighbourhood were great to my sisters and I, teaching us French, so we could communicate and play. They also taught us some swear words! As a result, French became our language of outside play.
When my family left Quebec and moved to Loggieville, New Brunswick, we continued to play in French as some of the children there were French.
I think my dad predicted that his next transfer would be to Gander, Newfoundland and he didn’t like that thought! Also, my dad had too many dependants so we would never be transferred overseas, and he left the Air Force and we moved to BC.
It was the fall of 1967, the FLQ was in the news and separatists were calling for their rights. We had moved to Port Coquitlam. One day, my sisters and I were outside playing when the neighbour children, ten and under, all lined up at the end of driveway and began taunting and calling us names.
Where did these children learn that French-speaking people were less and it was ok to treat people the way they did? They learned from the adults around them. How did I react? I learned to “forget” how to speak French.
My language of play was gone and only a few cuss words remain. I understand my experience is benign in comparison to others, but all these years later, it still upsets me. I am left with a bad taste in my mouth because in all my school years with those children, I never trusted them.