2. Overview of the English-speaking community of the Eastern Township
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The Eastern Townships is a vast area covering 16,000 square kilometres. It is situated along the American border north of Vermont and New Hampshire, between a one- and two-hour drive south-east from Montréal. The main cities are Sherbrooke, Granby, Magog and Cowansville. The region is made up of counties, which are divided into townships according to the traditional New England method of land grants, in contrast to other regions in Quebec, which are divided into municipalities that are based on the former seigneuries and parishes. The English-speaking population of the Eastern Townships is approximately 35,000, or about 8% of the region’s total.9
The Eastern Townships were first inhabited by the Abenaki Indians, followed by a small number of United Empire Loyalists who moved to the area to flee the American Revolution. Most settlers came in the early and mid-19th century from New England and the British Isles to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by the farming and forestry industries in the area. The English-speaking inhabitants remained a majority in the Eastern Townships until the 1870s, when a long-term exodus began to other parts of Canada. As a result, the area is now predominantly French-speaking.
Important areas of economic activity for the English-speaking population are manufacturing, educational and health and social services, agriculture and forestry, and the arts and culture. A higher proportion of the English-speaking population of the region is self-employed compared to their French-speaking counterparts.10
The demographic profile for the Eastern Townships is based on the three main census areas in the region: Sherbrooke, Memphrémagog and Brome-Missisquoi. Sherbrooke is an urban centre with a total population of 144,595, while Memphrémagog and Brome-Missisquoi are largely rural with total populations of 44,745 and 45,405 respectively.
According to the 2006 census, 7,390 people have English as their first official language spoken, representing 5.1% of the total population of the Sherbrooke area. The English-speaking population of Sherbrooke is roughly the equivalent of 1% of the English-speaking community in Quebec.
Nearly one in four members of Sherbrooke’s English-speaking population is over the age of 65, compared with 13.1% in the total population. Those below the age of 15 represent some 9.4% of the English-speaking population, compared with 17% in the total population. These figures indicate that the English-speaking population of Sherbrooke has a high dependency ratio (i.e., a low proportion of youth relative to the number of seniors in the community).
Origins and migration
Within the English-speaking population of Sherbrooke, some 10% were born outside of Canada, in contrast to the region as a whole, where the figure is about 6.5%. Hence the English-speaking population of Sherbrooke is more diverse than the population as a whole. Between 2001 and 2006, the Anglophone population of Sherbrooke had a net loss of some 300 people (over 3% of the group) based on migration into and out of the area.
The English-speaking community of Sherbrooke has changed considerably over the years. This is due in part to the number of people who declare English as their first language learned and still understood, but who report speaking some French in the home. According to the 2006 census, some 23.3% of the people in Sherbrooke who have English as their mother tongue speak mainly French in their homes. In the 25–34 age group, this rate rises to 30%. These significant shifts to French have been offset to a degree by a small share of people who have French as their mother tongue and speak some English in their homes. The result is an official language minority community whose language identity is in flux.
According to the 2001 census, the incomes of the English-speaking population of Sherbrooke are comparable to those of the overall population in the area. Anglophones earn approximately $25,300 on average, compared with an average of $24,100 for the population as a whole.
Memphrémagog and Brome-Missisquoi
According to the 2006 census, 8,350 people in Memphrémagog have English as their first official language spoken, representing 18.7% of the total population. In Brome-Missisquoi, 11,050 people have English as their first official language spoken, representing 24.3% of the total population.
Approximately 22.5% of the Memphrémagog area’s English-speaking population is over the age of 65, compared with 16.5% in the total population. Those below the age of 15 represent some 15.6% of the English-speaking population, compared with 17.1% in the total population. These figures indicate that the English-speaking population in this area has a disproportionately lower rate of people who are of working age than the area’s total population.
Approximately 21.6% of the Brome-Missisquoi area’s English-speaking population is over the age of 65, compared with 15.8% in the total population. Those below the age of 15 represent some 14.2% of the English-speaking population, compared with 16.0% in the total population. These figures indicate that the English-speaking population in this area has a slightly lower rate of people who are of working age than the area’s total population. Populations with a lower proportion of people who are of working age are likely to be more dependent on government assistance or enhanced community resources, which are directed at youth and seniors respectively.
According to the 2001 census, some 7.7% of the Memphrémagog population were born outside of Canada. In the region as a whole, this figure is about 2.0%. Nearly one-third of the nearly 1,745 immigrants residing in Memphrémagog are English speaking. Further, some 6.5% of the Brome-Missisquoi population were born outside of Canada, while in the region as a whole this figure is about 4.7%. Nearly half of the 1,250 immigrants in Brome-Missisquoi have English as their first official language spoken. Even though these numbers are small, the data nevertheless show that the Englishspeaking community in the region is attracting and retaining its share of new arrivals. These arrivals, however, may not be using the English-language school system due to provincial restrictions.
The use of English and French in the homes of the English-speaking communities of Memphrémagog and Brome-Missisquoi have changed somewhat over the years. In 2001, approximately one in six people in these areas who have English as their mother tongue reported that they spoke French at home on a regular basis.
According to the 2001 census, the incomes of the English-speaking population of the Memphrémagog area are some 12% below those of the total population. Anglophones earn approximately $22,750 on average, compared with an average of $26,000 for the population as a whole. The percentage of people who receive government transfer payments is also higher in the Englishspeaking population (20.8%) than in the total population (16.2%).
While slightly higher than the numbers cited for Memphrémagog, the average income of the English-speaking population for Brome-Missisquoi ($23,500) still lags behind the average income for the total population ($24,600). Much like the situation in Memphrémagog, about one in five Brome-Missisquoi Anglophones receive government transfer payments, compared with one in six residents in the total population.
A demographic study by William Floch and Jan Warnke12 based on Statistics Canada data (from 2001 and 1996) highlighted the fact that the English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships is “missing its middle,” meaning English speakers aged 15 to 44 are proportionally fewer in number and show socio-economic weaknesses in terms of employment, education and income, compared to their French-speaking cohorts and older English speakers. The study also noted that the size of the English-speaking community in the Eastern Townships is decreasing. In just five years, its population dropped by nearly 3,000, while the French-speaking population increased by 13,000. This decrease is attributable to the emigration of young people, leading to a substantially higher proportion of older people.
More generally, the English-speaking communities of the Eastern Townships have been witnessing a slow, but steady, decline in their population (compared to the overall population of the region) that has resulted in three predominant demographic features: there is a higher proportion of seniors, a lower proportion of youth and an increasing level of language shift that signals a certain amount of integration, if not assimilation, into the majority French-speaking population.
2.2 Community resources
The English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships, because of its long history, has a large number of community resources at its disposal. There is also a varied and active cultural life, which encompasses the theatre, visual arts, music, heritage attractions and museums, news media, sports and educational institutions, among others. It was noted by participants in the task force session, however, that there are considerable disparities in the various sub-regions of the Eastern Townships in terms of access to community resources, due to variations in local population densities and the distances that must be travelled to reach institutions and facilities (driving time of up to an hour, little if any public transportation, etc.).
English-language community resources in the Eastern Townships
Arts and culture
- Dance – the Rainbow Country Cloggers, Waterville; 4-H square dancers; Highland dancers; Irish dance, Richmond; Brome Squares square dancing, Lac Brome; Les Miladies ballet, St-Paul-d’Abbottsford.
- Book sellers – Bishop’s University Bookstore, Lennoxville; Black Cat Books, Lennoxville; Book Nook, Sutton; Brome Lake Books, Lac Brome; Livre d’Or, Sutton; Townships Expressions (English and bilingual books by Eastern Townships authors).
- Music – concerts at Bishop’s University, Lennoxville; Orford Arts Centre; Brome Beaux Arts; Sur la Scène Davignon, Cowansville; five community choirs; Townships Expressions (musical CDs and cassettes by local musicians and composers).
- Theatre – Bishop’s University Centennial Theatre, Lennoxville; Theatre Lac Brome, Knowlton; Piggery Theatre, North Hatley; Townships Stage, Knowlton (year-round community arts centre including visual art, dance, music and community theatre); Arts Knowlton (Georgeville Troupe, Knowlton Players, Productions Artemis and Sunshine Theatre Productions).
- Eastern Townships School Board;
- Bishop’s College School;
- Stanstead College;
- Champlain Regional College (CEGEP);
- Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, with a continuing education campus in Knowlton;
- 30 public or municipal libraries
Health and social services
- Townshippers’ Association Partners Network for the Townships;
- Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital, Cowansville.
Economic development and employment
- www.topportunity.ca (a resource that lists top job prospects in the Eastern Townships);
- Community Economic Development and Employability Committee.
- Alateen, Granby;
- Brome-Missisquoi Adolescents and Youth Services, Cowansville;
- Maison des Jeunes Le Trait d’Union, Cowansville;
- Maison des Jeunes de Farnham;
- Knowlton Youth Centre;
- Citizen Advocacy Youth Centre, Mansonville;
- Fondation Pierre-Jules Crevier (student finance), Granby;
- Maison des Jeunes Le Boum, Bedford;
- 12 daycare and pre-school centres.
- Townships Heritage WebMagazine (www.townshipsheritage.com/);
- Uplands Cultural and Heritage Centre, Lennoxville;
- Brome County Museum, Knowlton;
- Missisquoi Museum, Standbridge East.
- Radio – CJMQ-FM, Lennoxville (community radio);
- Print – The Record, Sherbrooke (daily); Stanstead Journal (weekly); The Guide, Cowansville (weekly, bilingual); The Townships Sun, Lennoxville (quarterly); The Outlet, Magog (monthly); Tempo, Lac Brome (monthly); Le Tour, Sutton (quarterly).
- 17 church groups:
- three historical societies;
- four Women’s Institutes;
- women’s centres;
- five 4-H clubs;
- the University Women’s Club;
- Scouts Canada;
- Girl Guides of Canada.
- Interscholastic sport programs for hockey, football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, rugby and lacrosse provided by a university, a college and five high schools;
- Les Hirondelles (gymnastics), Granby;
- Centre aquatique de Cowansville;
- Club de patinage artistique de Cowansville.
- 23 community and private seniors residences that provide service in English;
- three Meals on Wheels programs.
- Townshippers’ Association Volunteer Bank;
- Bedford Regional Volunteer Centre;
- Townshippers’ Association (Lennoxville and Cowansville);
- Megantic English-speaking Community Development Corporation.
2.3 Best practices by target sector
Task force participants from the English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships chose four priority sectors. This section presents highlights of some of the initiatives that are considered “best practices” or success stories in relation to the enhancement of community vitality within each of the four target sectors.
Townships Leaders of Tomorrow awards
These awards are specifically targeted at youth in order to create a sense of worth and positive reinforcement so they see the English-speaking community in the Eastern Townships in a positive light. The awards are presented at a special ceremony by the Townshippers’ Association in an effort to ensure the event is appreciated by all community members. The awards are presented to groups of youth as well as to individuals. More information can be found at the following Web site: www.townshippers.qc.ca/Y-youth.aspx.
Even though 4-H is a national program, in Quebec it is only present in the English-speaking rural communities, and the Eastern Townships region plays host to nearly half of the clubs in the province. The youth program provides leadership and life skills development activities and promotes organizational capacity and responsibility in youth, since they make up the board of directors for the club, with adults taking a supporting role.
2.3.2 Health and social services
Partners Network for the Townships
The Partners Network was created in the Eastern Townships under the provincial Health and Social Services Networking and Partnership Initiative. This project seeks to improve access to health and social services for English speakers by carrying out research, providing information and developing partnerships. Developing partnerships is a key part of the project, as it seeks to build long-term working relationships with institutions, health care providers, social services, universities, CEGEPs (educational institutions) and other community organizations for the provision of health and social services. A reliance on policy directives and regulations has, in the past, led to considerable resistance to, or a lack of resources for, implementation within the (mainly French-language) health and social services institutional setting.
The English-speaking community has, in general, a higher level of volunteerism than the French-speaking community, and this is particularly evident where there is a higher proportion of seniors requiring non-institutional care and support.13 The Volunteer Bank is an initiative of the Townshippers’ Association and was created to help members of the English-speaking community become more involved in and provide English-speaking volunteer support to community groups and organizations. The web and telephone-based service helps match talents, skills and needs with availability.
2.3.3 Arts and culture
Created in 2007, ArtWorks is a new project that aims to reach out to the area’s English-speaking arts professionals. The objective of this initiative is to identify English-speaking arts professionals in the Eastern Townships, contact them, survey their needs as well as any employment and entrepreneurial resources that may be available, and inform them about these resources through local forums or workshops. This project is an attempt to capitalize on the fact that the English-speaking community of the Eastern Townships has a much higher level of engagement in the arts and culture than the region’s general population.
Townshippers’ Day is a celebration that brings together people from all over the Eastern Townships for an annual one-day event to salute the vitality and creativity of the English-speaking community, its musicians and dancers, its artists and artisans. It honours its writers and photographers, its entrepreneurs and its businesses. The event also serves as a “homecoming” and networking activity, as well as an opportunity to engage the French-speaking population in the community. Now in its 29th edition, the event moves to a different location in the Eastern Townships each year. More information can be found on the following Web site: www.tday.ca/.
2.3.4 Economic development
This online resource (www.topportunity.ca) is an initiative of the Townshippers of Tomorrow Committee. It aims to ensure that young people are informed about the advantages of living in the Eastern Townships and the opportunities that are available, and to help them reach their full potential. In order to do so, it provides information about employment and educational opportunities in the Eastern Townships. One of the main features is a database of information about the 40 top job prospects in the Eastern Townships, including their qualifications and educational requirements. It also provides information on relevant training programs and financial aid opportunities for students.
A guide to life in the Eastern Townships
The Townshippers’ Association publishes An English Speaker’s Guide to Life in the Eastern Townships to provide residents and newcomers to the region with valuable information about services and resources in English. The publication is now in its second edition and contains an extensive information section that covers the intricacies of moving to and living in Quebec, a much needed resource for immigrants and those arriving from outside the province. The guide is also available on the Internet at www.townshippers.qc.ca/guide2life/.
9 The original administrative area of the Eastern Townships has been redivided over the years so that today it is covered by four provincial administrative areas: Estrie, Chaudière-Appalaches, Centre-du-Québec and Montérégie. Therefore, determining the exact population of what is considered the “Eastern Townships” by the English-speaking community can only be an estimate. This area is typically referred to as “the historical Eastern Townships” and does not only include Sherbrooke, Memphrémagog and Brome-Missisquoi. Sources: Townshippers’ Association (www.townshippers.qc.ca) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Townships#Demographics.
13 Joanne Pocock, Social Support Networks in Quebec’s English-speaking Communities, Community Health and Social Services Network, Québec City, 2006. Online: http://www.chssn.org/Document/Download/Social_Capital_Report_202005-2006.pdf.