Speak White

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Speak White
Directed by Pierre Falardeau
Julien Poulin
Written by Michèle Lalonde (poem)
Release dates
  • 1980 (1980)
Running time
Short: 6 min.
Country Canada
Language French

Speak White is a French language poem composed by Québécois writer Michèle Lalonde in 1968. It was first recited in 1970 and was published in 1974 by Editions de l'Hexagone, Montreal. It denounced the poor situation of French-speakers in Quebec and takes the tone of a collective complaint against English-speaking Quebecers.[1][2] Her poem is not, however, directed solely or even primarily at English Canada, often citing British and American references such as Shakespeare, Keats, the Thames, the Potomac and Wall Street as its symbols of linguistic oppression.

In 1980, Speak White was made into a short motion picture by polemicists Pierre Falardeau and Julien Poulin, the six-minute film featured actress Marie Eykel reading Lalonde's poem. It was released by the National Film Board of Canada.

Italian-Quebecer journalist playwright Marco Micone also wrote a poem in response called Speak What?, depicting allophone immigrants as the same oppressed class as the Québécois in Quebec, and calling for a more inclusive society.[3]


"Speak White" is a racist insult used by English-speaking Canadians against those who speak other languages in public.[4][5] André Laurendeau recorded anecdotal evidence in his 1963 journal during the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission that English Canadians would hurl the phrase at French Canadians outside Quebec, and speculated that it was borrowed from the Southern United States.[6] Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the phrase was used against immigrants.[5]

Although the expression has never been directly quoted and attributed to an individual, the expression continues to enter the public sphere in the course of rhetorical political debate.[citation needed][7]


  1. ^ "Canadian literature: The "Quiet Revolution"". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  2. ^ Bilan du Siècle (fr)
  3. ^ "Canadian Literature: The cosmopolitan culture of French Canada and Quebec". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  4. ^ Debates - Issue 29 - February 1, 2005, SENATORS' STATEMENTS
  5. ^ a b Larry Zolf, "Speak white.", CBC News. 7 March 2007. Summary, Full version still available on Vigile.net
  6. ^ Monière, Denis (1983). André Laurendeau et le destin d’un peuple. Saguenay, Canada: Bibliothèque Paul-Émile-Boulet de l'Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. p. 324. []
  7. ^ Comeau, Gerald (2005-02-01). "The Late Honourable Louis J. Robichaud, P.C., Q.C., C.C.". Debates of the Senate (Hansard): 1st Session, 38th Parliament, Volume 142, Issue 29. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 

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