It would be hard for many of my western Canadian counterparts to fathom the idea that moving to Quebec could be a lifesaver. Under what circumstances would that make any sense at all? The language that Québécois people celebrate and the rest of Canadians wonder about its relevance to their daily bread, français, is every bit my trio’s saving grace as it is our biggest challenge.
Who knew that the years I spent at École Riverside School, in isolated northern Manitoba, immersed in the French language would someday play a major role in escaping abuse and building a path to freedom for me and my daughters. There’s a lot out there in the literature and research about abuse that says education will set women and girls free. This is once instance where I can say without a doubt that this fact is certainly true through experience.
I went 20 years without needing to speak one word of French to suddenly needing it to navigate daily life. At first I started to recognize the written word. I could listen to the spoken word and catch what was being communicated shortly after that. Lastly I had to take some intensive oral and grammatical French classes to improve those skill sets. My dream was to be a part of Québécois society, to be able to use both official languages of Canada. I believe I pulled it off with great commitment and effort. After years of abuse and slams on my intellect I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I was so intimidated but I live by one rule and that is: everytime you get knocked down you get up, no matter what.
I guess you’re wondering what the shit this has to do with freedom and ending abuse. Well you see as the biases and cultural fight continue between French and Anglo Canada it was our advantage knowing both Canadian languages to be able to use them to leave our abusers without ability to follow us here. Because my daughter’s and I were literate in French and our abusers held disdain for the language I chose to educate my children in, and the French-Canadian culture in general, it was certain that nobody would follow us to Montreal.
On top of learning French again I learned about a culture and a part of Canada’s history I wouldn’t have otherwise. I deepened my understanding of colonization, the genocide of indigenous people in both French and Anglo Canada and where I stand on both of those issues.
I have learned about new forms of discrimination especially against the immigrant community in Quebec and how religion impacts humanity overall. I have learned about acceptance and forgiveness. Most of all I have created a safe space for my daughters and myself to be able to self-reflect and observe what is happening around me in the absence of trauma response. French Quebec taught me about a different kind of feminism and gave me a handle on gratitude. I am forever grateful for this life-saving opportunity.