The Government of Quebec advertises to attract tourists, trying to lure money here by saying that Quebec is like Europe, a very desirable, welcoming destination for visitors.
In fact, Quebec is a very beautiful province and has much to offer - gorgeous scenery, sports, international shopping, theatre, arts galleries, wonderful restaurants and people of many races and religions and cultures.
Most Canadians in the Province of Quebec are like people everywhere, living, working, going about their business, being productive and living peacefully with their neighbours.I
But Quebec separatists hate anyone in Quebec who is not pure-bred French - pure laine (pure wool) - with roots in France. That minority, the extremists, are powerful and determined to tear Canada apart from the inside. Separatists can always be found in Quebec Government agencies, the legislature and public services.
Not all separatists are violent, but some are. Most are just out to make life miserable day to day, in whatever way they can, to achieve their purpose - a separatist ghetto French state.
There is a daily struggle for a normal life with normal relationships among neighbours in Montreal, Quebec. Those who dare to speak English are sometimes insulted to their face and even threatened with the loss of their job for speaking English to another person whose first language is English.
I believe most French-speaking Quebeckers just want respect, like everyone else. They want the French language to be respected and used in normal communication, just as English-speaking Quebeckers want to be free to speak English with other English-speaking people.
So often, when I am with French-speaking friends, they may speak to me in French and I speak to them in English, and no one is bothered at all. We are comfortable. If I don't understand something, I ask for a translation. and my friend improves his or her English at the same time. There is no tension, no hint of superiority. We do not call the Quebec Language Police - Office of the French Tongue - Office de la lang francais - to settle the score. We are friends. And I think most people in Montreal go about their days much like this. But then, there are the fanatics who poison the atmosphere and cause anxiety, suspicion and hatred, and sometimes do devastating damage to synagogues and Hebrew schools and stores that display an English sign.
Let me make this clear: Not every French speaking Quebecker is a bigot, but the extremists are many and powerful and audacious. They have no fear of imposing their will, their language, on anyone because Quebec law makes it legal to do so.
As a tourist, you will be fine going about in Montreal - as long as you make it known that you are an outsider and not a Canadian. If a separatist bigot thinks you are a Montrealer, you may be insulted and ordered to speak French. It sounds like this: "Ici on parle francais" eesee own parl franseh. This can happen on the buses, in restaurants, shops, banks, even in hospitals or on the street. It is not likely to happen in tourist agencies because they want your money.
Years ago, long before the October Crisis of the early 1970's, I went to the Bank of Montreal branch where I had an account for years. I asked the clerk to transfer some of my money to a new account I had opened at another Canadian bank in Ontario. I will never forget the audacity of what that clerk said to me. He said, "If you want to send money to Ontario, go live there." I closed my account at the Bank of Montreal Immediately.
Tourists are welcome in Quebec. Bring money and be careful about what you say. Perhaps you might display a badge or little flag showing your nationality is not Canadian.