Tuesday, September 06, 2005

L'Estrie et Environs.

Built on the foundations of waves of Loyalists, New Englanders and Irish and Scot settlers breaking virgin land, the Eastern Township population of Quebec reached a high of 58% English speaking by 1861. Centred around Sherbrooke, the local isolated population developed its own unique cultural institutions, customs and leant a father of confederation along the way.

However, since the glory days of the late 19th century, the population has faced a long, slow slide into obscurity. Lured by opportunity to other regions and mass french migration from the St. Lawrence Valley, Anglos by 2001 represented a mere 6% of the total population.

As with all minority populations across the Province, the largest decline came about in the 1970s when the Townships lost nearly 30% of its english population to migration. In a nod to the remaining Anglos, the PQiste government officially changed the Region from the Eastern Townships to L'Estrie ('Kingdom of the East') in 1981. Since then, the community has lost its hospital and the once flourishing print media has been reduced to the lonely hollowed out Sherbrooke Record.

Today, the remaining 41,000 english speakers of the townships are scattered across the region and comprised of mainly the very old and very young. Reversing the realities of only a few generations ago, the educational and economic indicators (pdf) now rank the english well below their french neighbours.

In a province obsessed with culture, the obliteration of a distinct population goes wholly unnoticed.


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