The image many have of Anglophones living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec is that of fat cats living in mansions, controlling the Quebec economy. And that is frustrating, according to those actively trying to improve the lot of what has become a population far less well off than the stereotypes would have you believe.
By Colin McGregor
They’re often the hidden poor of the Eastern Townships. Living in the country, without a car to help them access services, many of them remain isolated.
Indeed, English-speaking Quebec youth across the province are more likely than French-speaking youth to be unemployed — 13.3 per cent versus 9.8 per cent — according to a more recent 2018 report by the Community Health and Social Services Network, an umbrella group working for English-speaking communities in Quebec.
A higher percentage of young Anglophones live in poverty than Quebec Francophones in the same age bracket, according to the same report.
Though in the 1970s it could be said that the English-speaking Anglophones did better economically than their Francophone counterparts in the regions, things started to even out during the Anglophone exodus of Québec (more on that below).
Unemployment rates are higher than Francophone rates across the board in the Eastern Townships, says a study by researcher Kalina Klimp published by the Townshippers Association in 2006. And there is no reason to believe the situation isn’t the same today. English people of working age were 11% more likely to be unemployed than the equivalent French population. The figures were worst for the young. In the 15-25 year old group, the difference is 31%.
“We’ve known what the community is struggling with,” says Rachel Hunting, Executive Director of the Townshippers’ Association. “We’ve known it all along. It’s important to speak to the French speaking community. They have a really outdated view of Anglophones still being in control of the economy. But if you drive through certain Anglophone parts of the Townships, you can see there are communities that aren’t doing so well.”
Hunting runs the organization that represents the Anglophones who live in the Townships, which lies between the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the American border, and extends from Granby in the southwest, to Drummondville in the northeast.
“When wealthy people buy second homes here, it really skews the statistics, and affects the perception of the community by Francophones,” Hunting says. Terry Loucks of Fitch Bay, a candidate for Stanstead Council, agrees. “Every shack is being bought up. I’ve never seen more BMWs in my life. On the little road going through my village there are 8 B&Bs now.