Last February I was sitting in a Quebec City cafe when a group of Ontario tourists burst in. The one in front blew his Carnaval horn. Newspapers lowered, heads turned.
"Bonn-dgoor Qweebeck!" he shouted.
I winced. A tense pause, then a matter-of-fact voice from somewhere. "Bonjour!" They paraded through, loudly decided they'd eat elsewhere, and trooped out again.
Another pause after the door banged shut. Then, another quiet voice. "Et au revoir!" That was my moment of truth. I finally saw the rest of Canada as Quebec sees her.
In Ontario, I realized, we feel that way about Americans. They barge in on us as cheerful tourists, friendly, loud, self-confident. They find us quaint and interesting to visit. They're full of their own politics and their own view of the world. Americans don't think much about the effect their culture might be having on us. Aren't we all the same, really? They don't think much about our culture at all. They're nice people, but sometimes they make us wince.
I learned Parisian French in high school in Montreal. The language outside was referred to as street French. Speaking Canadian French, to my shame, is a new experience. Is the push for separation about power, or about respect?