Not forgetting who we are
Townshippers’ Day is not your usual fair-like event. Like all meetings of a minority language group in Canada, it is a lot more than just meeting your friends to brag or complain about the community.
It is also about interacting with the majority group who sometimes witness for the first time the importance of our community group. This year’s event, to be held in Stanstead this Saturday, will show another face of the Townshippers’ experience. While all other English communities are surrounded by Francophones, here we are bordering with Americans, who are mostly unaware of the issues that we are facing.
We don’t live in the same world that we did in 1983. The language laws have been mellowed to an acceptable point by both communities, except for their fringes. Both sides are requesting changes, none are raising a ruckus over their requests. This was not the case then.
Yet, Townshippers’ Day is also the Townshippers’ Association’s most visible event. It is the couple of hours when it opens up and shows itself to all. It is no longer in the background, almost invisible, even for those who depend on it for the preservation of their rights. Honestly, Townshippers’ is not different than their French counterparts in Canada: unless there is a crisis nobody cares about them. Like Firemen, they work silently. But, like any emergency organization, unless they are prepared to act, they are useless. None of our Fire Departments would accept that a fire hazard exist if they are aware of it; they would act preventively, no sirens, no flashing lights, no tons of water, no lives in danger. Townshippers’ Association, day to day, except on Townshippers’ Day, is that silent protector of the rights of the community.
It does this with programs that strengthen it. It does it with services like helping fill out your Income taxes, legal consultations, helping you find local English speaking resources.
All of this and more for only $125 for a lifetime family membership. Better deals are hard to find. Mind you an individual card costs only $15. And in the present situation, our local Anglophone rights association needs EVERY penny it can get its hands on. The Conservative government view on minority language is to put it bluntly, inexistent. Some may drool that Prime Minister Harper named a unilingual, anti-Quebec, press spokesman, but it will be a first since the Pearson era. This doesn’t augur well for language minorities in Canada.
It will be the third time that Stanstead will host Townshippers’ Day. The first time was in 1983, in Rock Island to be precise, in a more troubled time than today for the minority language community in Quebec. Della Goodsell was then the president of the organization. Our second time was fifteen years ago. By hosting the event for a third time, only Lennoxville has hosted Townshippers’ Day more often.
Like all host towns, this is a volunteer affair; they have been meeting since the town got the nod in April of this year. Let’s be frank, Townshippers’ had problems getting a town to host this year’s event. We usually know the year before who will get the responsibility of hosting thousands of visitors. Without volunteers this day would not happen. Having less than six months to organize it takes courage and we must applaud them now; on Saturday they will be too busy to take a well deserved bow. Let’s applaud now.