Riding the Rapids: The White-Water Rise and Fall of Quebec's Anglo Protest


224 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-895854-44-X
DDC 971.4'04'092




Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein is a professor of history at York University, the
co-author of the Dictionary of Canadian Military History and Empire to
Umpire: Canada and the World to the 1990s, and the author of The Good


The decline and fall of the anglophones of Quebec is one of the great
tragedies of Canadian history. For years, Westmount ruled the roost,
sometimes treating the majority francophones very poorly and scarcely
deigning to speak their language. The Quiet Revolution began the process
of irreversibly altering matters, and a succession of Liberal and Parti
Québécois governments of ever-more-nationalist hue have given the
French language and francophones primacy. School legislation and sign
laws deliberately aimed to rub Anglo faces in the mud, and it was
inevitable that, while many would try to ease the situation by
breastbeating exclamations of mea culpa, some anglophones, tired of
atoning for their grandfathers’ sins, would decide to fight.

This brief book is a memoir by Robert Libman, the first leader of the
Equality Party in the National Assembly ,and, while it is no work of
art, it is frank and revelatory. The divisions in the anglo community
stand out sharply, the pressures for a hard line or near-surrender are
delineated well, and the usual divisions within any splinter party are
explored. Libman was young; his caucus of three was older, more
experienced, and difficult to control; and he was a natural Liberal,
despite his mistrust of the Quebec party’s policies. Inevitably, he
fell out with his followers and, for his sins in opposing Bourassa’s
government too vigorously, was denied Liberal Party support when he
sought re-election. A sad story, to be sure, but Libman’s book
indicates as clearly as anything can the sad fate of a once-powerful
community. Premier Bouchard may offer an occasional gesture but, barring
partition, the anglo fate is all but certain to be a hard choice between
assimilation or flight.


Libman, Robert., “Riding the Rapids: The White-Water Rise and Fall of Quebec's Anglo Protest,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1706.