MACLEAN'S POLL 2006

VALUES LOST IN TRANSLATION

Quebec cares about poverty, but not honesty or friendliness

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE July 1 2006
MACLEAN'S POLL 2006

VALUES LOST IN TRANSLATION

Quebec cares about poverty, but not honesty or friendliness

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE July 1 2006

VALUES LOST IN TRANSLATION

MACLEAN'S POLL 2006

Quebec cares about poverty, but not honesty or friendliness

CAMERON AINSWORTH-VINCZE

Understanding what makes the average Quebecer tick is a bit like trying to drive through downtown Montreal for the first time, during a snowstorm. You might be able to read the signs, but you’ll still likely wind up lost and confused as everyone else speeds by you.

Residents of la belle province even tend to perplex pollsters. Statistics from Project Canada show a seeming contradiction between their concern for social problems, and the values, principles and emotions that actually guide their lives. When asked how concerned they were about issues like poverty, child abuse, racial and gender discrimination, violence and the environment, Quebecers voiced a greater concern than people

THOSE WHO THINK THE FOLLOWING PROBLEMS ARE VERY SERIOUS: Rest of Problems QC Canada Poverty 48% 28% Child abuse 53% 32% Suicide 42% 14% Violence 39% 28% Racism 21% 11% Terrorism 35% 24%

in any other province. In fact, in 17 of 32 categories related to social problems, Quebecers led the country by labelling such matters very serious.

But when it comes to the importance placed on personal values usually associated with compassion, and a social conscience, it was a different story. Asked to gauge the merit of values like friendliness, honesty, courtesy, a concern for others, generosity, forgiveness, patience, politeness, involvement in the community and being loved, Quebecers ranked lowest in the country in 31 of 34 such categories. Only when it came to recognition,

cultural heritage and cleanliness did the percentage deeming them “very important” exceed the national average.

Morton Weinfeld, a sociology professor at McGill University, says one reason for the apparent paradox is that Quebecers have moved away from the Church, and from traditional values, and have become more progressive over the last three or four decades. “Maybe some of that might be feeding into this notion that things like courtesy, for example, or politeness, are sort of artificial things that aren’t really important,” he says.

And being progressive has apparently not made Quebecers any happier. When asked to rate the degree they are bothered by such personal problems as loneliness, depression, boredom, getting older, looks, a lack of money and feelings of inferiority, they ranked highest in the nation. Or maybe, says Leslie Laczko, a sociology professor at the University of Ottawa, it’s that Quebec has a much higher pro\ portion of people who are single L and in common-law relations as

THOSE WHO THINK THE FOLLOWING VALUES ARE VERY IMPORTANT: Rest of Problems QC Canada Friendliness 53% 78% Courtesy 64% 83% Forgiveness 60% 80% Generosity 45% 58% Politeness 66% 77% Honesty 87% 94%

opposed to marriage. “That itself is a significant part of this big puzzle that social scientists are trying to solve,” he says, adding that single people are more likely to feel isolated, depressed and bored. “When you are more alone you feel more alone,” he says.

For Reginald Bibby, director of Project Canada, the Quebec statistics remain a mystery and a point of curiosity. “What is clear is that there have been some features of Québécois and francophone culture that have been very, very different,” he says. “But you just don’t have predictable lines.” Neither do the streets of downtown Montreal. M