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1. A separate date

Easter is one of the two biggest Christian holidays worldwide, but it originated long before organized religion, as a celebration of spring, joy and rebirth. There's no fixed date in the calendar for it: in Western Christianity (the Catholic and Protestant denominations), according to the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th, following the first astronomical full moon after the spring equinox; Eastern Christianity, on the other hand, bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar, which is currently behind the Gregorian one by 13 days. Orthodox Easter therefore varies between April 4th and May 8th, so it rarely overlaps with the Western one, and mostly falls later in the year.

While we've been assaulted for weeks now by images of chocolate eggs and bunnies in store window displays, few Montrealers for whom Easter is a religious holiday seem to care much about the religious aspect of it - they just enjoy their day off, eat a lavish lunch and spend time with families. On the contrary, for Orthodox communities (mostly Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Greek and Coptic) in the city, this is the most important holiday of the year. It seems fitting that they would have a separate date to celebrate it.

The first years: settling in Montreal

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Walking around Montreal, people-watching, one would find it hard to tell by their faces, dress or demeanour whether these passersby were born here, and - if not - when they arrived, how much at home they feel, how easy it is for them to melt into this sea of diversity. Some never even wonder about it: multiculturality is a face of Canada that's natural to them, expected. I always wonder about it - because I'm still a new immigrant.

Canada is a country built on immigration, with 95% of its current population non-aboriginal, a strong testament to how people can make a new start in this place, no matter the circumstances of their arrival. Over time, and notably toward the end of last century, it has started regulating its immigration practices, with a view to supporting and promoting multiculturalism. It is no wonder that around 250 000 people arrive every year, ready to make this place their new home.

The first year after settling into a new country is the hardest in terms of adaptation, as the immigrant is caught between two worlds. At the same time as having to deal with new situations and make a new life from day to day, one tends to idealize all that's left behind, regret familiar comforts and miss loved ones back there. While time is the great healer, and integration will help ease the cultural shock, here are some basic steps meant to guide newcomers through the nostalgia and inevitable false starts of their first few months in Montreal.

Learning to live together

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Diane Proulx is one of those Francophones who have a special relationship with and a deep understanding of the process of immigration to Quebec: her job is to assist the new arrivals along their way to social integration. She has been a French teacher with MIDI (Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Diversité et de l'Inclusion) for almost 35 years now. The program she works for consists in nine months of full-time French classes, and most of her students start going through it as soon as they step into the province. For many of them throughout these years she has represented the first contact with Quebec culture, lifestyle and values.

Diane has graciously agreed to share some thoughts about her work, her students and the situation of French language in Quebec - all this in English, for which I couldn't be more grateful.

"This is your day": Natalia becomes a Canadian citizen

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At 8.30 on a crisp fall morning, in the lobby of the Marriott hotel in downtown Montreal, a continually-lenghtening line snakes down toward the "grand ballroom" in the basement. It's the waiting line for one of today's citizenship ceremonies, of which there are three or four happening daily in the city. Natalia B. is ready for this milestone she's reached after four and a half years in Canada. In a demure top and skirt, discreetly made up, her hair in a ponytail, she clutches at the immigration documents she's brought with her. "I'm not feeling anything special," she tells me, "maybe I will later."

I first met Natalia three years ago: for a short while she was my teacher in a Russian class I took at a language center downtown. Soon I found out she had been trained to teach English, not Russian, and had in fact worked as an English teacher for ten years in Kyrgysztan and Russia. We bonded over our immigrant backgrounds, discovering we'd arrived in Montreal the same year, in 2010. At the time Natalia was juggling studying full-time at Concordia University (where she got a BA in French Studies and, more recently, a TESL certificate) with teaching Russian not only at the language center, but also in a neighbourhood Russian school.

Living in limbo

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casgrain.jpgI started from scratch three times in Canada, the way it goes in fairy tales. Tales are important to mention here, because I've always loved storytelling, and it was the idea of becoming a writer that first pushed me to leave the comforts of my home and my country.

When I arrived in Vancouver to go to Writing School, I thought I had it all figured out: I was going to write about important, universal things, in English, the universal language. I knew nothing about Canada. During that first year, from my basement room and venturing only to campus and the IGA, Canada was a blandness of wet weather, sameness of landscape and architecture, ultra-leftist views and annoying speech intonation. My first reaction to living abroad was a total refusal to integrate. I try to remember how I must have been then, lonely and scornful, judging everyone from my corner in workshops. But what Vancouver gave me, aside from a different perspective of the world, was the freedom of becoming unmoored. Once you pick up and leave, you see how easy it would be to just do it all over again.

By: Shengxixi Hu
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What makes China the most mysterious country? Is it the Paramount Leader Hu and the Premier Wen?  The notion of "mysterious Asian" comes from the manner in which China has been portrayed through an accumulated five thousand years of recorded civilization. This has resulted in a twisted and devious fashion of thinking of the Chinese people, which is confusing and shocking and gradually habitual to the westerners. "S/he is Chinese" is almost an omnipotent answer to solve all problems: the Chinese drink hot water; the Chinese step on couch with their shoes off; the Chinese don't call people by name; the Chinese have a narrow mind towards sex; the Chinese are less self-centered, self-centered being in a way of daring to speak out, a trait the Chinese parents will not appreciate.

When my father sent me to Montreal to study, I found myself a "mysterious" Asian to others and to my family. I objected to my parent's expectations of entering banking and turned my interest in an unusual direction, film. 
By: Leena FalcigliaScreen shot 2012-06-07 at 11.38.40 AM.pngHave you ever walked into a Montreal souvenir shop? It is a sea of red and brown, no not brown as in the 'new black', I mean brown as in 'Jack the Bear' brown. And if the maple leaf is not on everything, it isn't on anything; from the flag to the pin of the flag, to the moose, to the goose wearing the red Mounties uniform, to the beaver wearing the uniform. The only item not to have a maple leaf is the life-size statue of the Indian chief at the entrance or exit of the shop depending on if you are coming or going. Snowshoes line the walls, making this our official foot apparel. How else would we get around our city streets?

I am constantly reminded every time I go to the airport in Montreal, or am at a souvenir shop downtown, how 'Canadian' we really are. I have nieces from California who believe we live in a remote part of the world where the deer and the antelope play, in our streets! We do have snow and very cold winters, but that is only one of our four seasons.  We also have rain, and wear rain boots, should we start selling those as souvenirs as well? The baggage claim at the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau airport is filled with snowshoes, I mean, really what do they think they're going to do with them once they get home?


French Competency Skills for Newcomers to Montreal

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Screen shot 2012-04-23 at 5.54.22 PM.pngPlay our interactive videos below to find out more about the French competencies skills that you will need as a fresh immigrant in Montreal.

Have fun and explore!

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The long farewell

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Airports create awkward scenes for immigrants arriving at and departing from their homelands. Family members and friends expect immediate and close interaction at the airport and on the way leading from and to it. Immigrants, for starters, find themselves time and again overwhelmed by the human intervention skills they have to develop. Surprisingly, everyone wants to fair the immigrant goodbye but cannot come to the airport because the flight lands or takes off at an unreasonable time of the day. When it is a night flight they have an important meeting the day after; and when required to come to the airport during the day--well--they obviously work. Already at this point immigrants find themselves taking the blame for these unpredictable inconveniences: "Why didn't you schedule your flight for the weekend?"

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Prairie Guide to En Frensay

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A not so French French

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While studying for a midterm exam at Concordia's Vanier library last December, I could not help overhearing a conversation between a man and his wife. They were discussing issues familiar to me, issues that many newcomers to Montréal face upon arrival.

The man had told his wife about another unsuccessful job interview he had had. "The interviewer asked me the same question," the husband complained to his wife in Hebrew, a language I also speak. I felt comfortable enough to approach the couple and introduce myself. "I know it is a bit rude to listen to other people's conversations," I acknowledged apologetically, "But your story sounds a lot like mine, and I am sure other Montréalers face the same hardships. What do you say we do something about it?"

Ron agreed to share his story with Montréalités. He believes that learning from the experiences of other immigrants is a solution. Predictably, he demanded we meet at Vanier library so he could save precious time.

How to improve your French

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By Robert Duthie
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Image source: Flickr.


The city of Montreal, in all its grander and splendour opens its arms and extends a welcome to outsiders who have come to take part in the city's atmosphere. Outsiders, visitors and friends who come on pilgrimage, business, or vacation can easily open up to the vastness of indulgence that Montreal offers. However it has become increasingly obvious that Montreal has developed a title as "party city." The city itself has become a pretty nasty place for a bender; leaving your head swelled with thick blood pulsating through the anvil in your temples. But one should ask themselves where the notion of party central comes from? And if it is truly authentic  to the city of Montreal.


It is interesting to think of Montreal as a party city when historically Montreal was originally named after the mother of Christ. Ville Marie or City of Mary was settled by a majority of French speaking Catholics, however today the city takes its name from the triple peaked mountain that is situated at the heart of the landscape. Mount Royal holds a defining role in the city's name; however remnants of the French Catholic church are still noticeably seen in the churches and basilicas that reside in the cities concrete and glass foliage like monoliths to the past. Mark Twain once said that "this is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window" and he was right. The city was at one time dominated by the ideals of the Catholic Church and Montreal itself directly reflected this notion. The churches, the basilicas, the Grey nuns, St Josephs Oratory, St Mary's hospital, Catholic schools and the Sunday morning service dominated the city's influence with connotations of near puritanical values. However, time corroded the strong presence of the church and the functioning ideals of Catholicism slowly deteriorated in the silence of a quite revolution.


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By Ariana Haltner
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Image source: Flickr.


The upstanding and proper Canadian people are proud of the many principled characteristics associated with their country. Canadian standards of hospitality are high and unyielding; any visitor to the country is treated well.  Not only are visitors treated well but the entire Canadian community lives a fulfilling and loving life. Through honesty and hard work Canadians take care of the rich land around them.  Grown from Canadian roots the restaurant franchise Tim Hortons is publicized as a national symbol of Canada.  The average Canadian is proud to show support of such an icon.  Through its commercials, websites, and foundations Tim Hortons promotes and embodies all of a Canadian's main ideals and beliefs.  However, contrary to the propaganda, the Tim Hortons Company perpetrates fake promises that violate every Canadian Value.   A wholesome and pure Canadian background, fast and efficient service, an excellent standard of customer service, high quality and "Always Fresh" products, 'ethical and fair' business thinking, are the promises that go unfulfilled at Tim Hortons.  The franchise is a sham and a disgrace to all of Canada. Its current state of business annuls its humble Canadian beginnings.


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Canadians, more than most, love their money. How could we not, with our wallets constantly full of brightly coloured notes of brown, red, green, purple and blues and pockets full of jangling toonies, loonies, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies? The question then becomes, how do we keep our monetary system working properly while inflation constantly diminishes the value of the money in our pockets; well coin reform is the most obvious way. I will discuss the uniqueness of our coinage via the differences between it and the American monetary system while showing the advantages of our coins and presenting three changes that are likely to come about in the next decade.


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Anthony Lee
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The history teacher dims the lights in the classroom before turning on the overhead projector. "Great," we think, "another class learning about the Plains of Abraham and the establishment of Canada... How exciting. Not." At some point in any high school Canadian history class, I am sure that most of us have felt bored or at least slightly exasperated with the material that the teacher was presenting. After all, how many Canadians today can actually trace their roots back to those French and British soldiers who fought for the establishment of this country? With the exception of the white population descended from the French settlers in Québec, these past events seem distant, non-relatable, and free from any vested emotional currency. So, if we cannot even emotionally proclaim our country's history, what makes us, us? What makes us Canadian? 

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Canadian, Eh?

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Screen shot 2011-05-30 at 12.17.56 AM.pngCanadians are known for many unique characteristics; our polite and friendly nature, which endures even under the most difficult conditions; our past association with the British, which is still in existence to this day; our fierce winters and abundance of snow, which restrict us to our homes for most of the year; our dependence upon the American entertainment industry; which occupies most of our television; our love for beer and alcohol, which often replaces our water; our crazed wildlife, which are dangerous and roam free; and lastly our mysterious usage of the syllable "Eh". There is only one Canadian characteristic that beats all others: the syllable "Eh". It is the most distinct and uniquely Canadian element in existence. "Eh" embodies all Canadian traits simultaneously and completely. It was passed down to us from our forefathers and has become apart of the national Canadian identity.

 

Our sovereigns and forefathers: the British, who often pretend we don't exist, were the originals who gifted us with the expression "Eh". We admired their culture and worshiped their royals. We emulated those proper and respectful Brits and copied their casual usage of "Eh", which they used in their sophisticated discussions. "Eh"has ingrained itself into the Canadian culture, becoming even more famous through Canada than it ever was in Britain. For the British it was just another word, in Canada it is a way of life. We thank them greatly for their precious donation of "Eh". No other country recognizes our ownership of "Eh" more than our fellow New World occupants, the Americans. Who, unlike us, are not buried under snow for the winter and are able to mock us throughout the whole year.

 

Due to harsh winter storms and layers upon layers of snow, Canadians must remain indoors for most of the year. During these times of hardship, we must look to our continent brothers, the Americans. Throughout the winter, American sitcom serials are what keep us from the deepest of depressions. Occasionally they generously dedicate episodes to documenting the Canadian lifestyle. These episodes generally use "Eh" as a prominent tool for Canadian ridicule. As we are good natured and friendly, we laugh along with our American brothers and share in the joke of the syllable. In honor of America's recognition, we proudly increased our usage of "Eh". However, our American brothers seem confused about the meaning of "Eh", and frequently misuse it. "Eh", in fact, has two main usages.

 

With all of the beer Canadians drink, we are bound to mishear parts of a conversation. That's where the first usage of "Eh" comes in. We fundamentally need a polite, non-drunken, way to convey our confusion. We need a replacement for the sentence: "What did you just say?" At its very core "Eh" is the sound of a question mark and its simplicity easily covers alcohol induced, sloppy behavior. In comparison to its American counterpart "Huh", "Eh" is proper and respectful. "Huh" needs to be spoken gutturally with a slack jaw. "Eh" does not require such a strenuous effort from our facial muscles, which makes it easier to smile at the same time. The sentence "Huh, What did you just say?" which sounds rude and aggressive, is replaced by a short "Eh?" and a smile. In Canada where the wildlife is free and dangerous it is important to know how to smile, much as it is important to speak quickly and with purpose.

 

With a wild animal about to attack at any moment, a Canadian must insure that they have a quick way of encouraging a response during a conversation. This is the second usage of "Eh". It is the sound of the desire for feedback. "Eh"is a fast way of alerting someone to his or her turn to speak; basically it replaces the question: "What do you think?" By adding an "Eh", a simple statement such as "The party was really great last night." can be turned into a question. "The party was really great last night, eh?" Now the statement merits a response. With the small addition of a single syllable, a one sided statement has now become a conversation. Canadians value their friends and strangers, who are potential friends. We want to hear their opinions, so we speak with "Eh".

 

The syllable "Eh" is the only Canadian way to speak. It is a single representation of all that is Canadian. It represents our British past and association. It displays our un-reciprocated trust and respect for our New World brothers, the Americans. It is how we remain polite, even while under other influences. It is our mark of friendliness, even to those we do not know. Every time it slips from our tongues, it is an embrace to our culture and to those around us. So go forth non-Canadians and use our expression, because it will change your lives. For it is good to live the Canadian way, Eh?


Image source: Flickr

 

By Ryan Hutman
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"Canada is but a few acres of snow"-Voltaire.

 

It seems that even the most notable philosophers in history did not think that highly of Canadian identity and culture. As a proud Canadian I would have to rephrase Voltaire's quote into one saying "Canada is anything but a few acres of snow." Identifying oneself as a Canadian goes much further than accepting the traditional stereotypes of being poutine lovers, Molson drinkers, and hockey players. History's events have shaped Canadian culture into one big melting pot of different  values and traditions. As we continue to marinate in this pot, new liberal movements are constantly challenging past ideas. The recent Canadian federal election has provided a great segue into showing the world that Canada is not just about hockey and maple syrup but is a nation built upon progressive change and reform.


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By Julie PhaneufThumbnail image for Screen shot 2011-04-02 at 8.46.28 PM.pngIn Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), the Toronto-Dominion Canada Trust (TD), the Scotia bank, the bank of Montreal (BMO) and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) dominate the region. The banks compete against each other to obtain the greatest volume of managed funds in order to gain the first position in the top five banks, using every marketing strategy available. RBC and TD are two ferocious competitors currently ranking first (RBC) and second (TD) in the top five. However, because their focus is on the quality of their products and offers, the Royal bank will certainly remain in the first position.


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Image source: Flickr