In a bilingual country like Canada one would expect every city to have at least a small percentage of its population to be made up of french speaking people. After attending the bilingual University of Ottawa in the late 80's I met Francophones who came from all over the country, and I'm not just talking about Acadians from the Maritimes but people from all across the west aswell. From Ontario, they weren't just from the north or the Outaouais, but from places like Windsor, and Welland, and Niagara Falls.
Hamilton may have a few migrant Canadian francophones but one never hears French spoken here. (According to the 2001 census there are 9,845 French speaking people out of the metro Hamilton population of 655,060, which is hard to believe, unless they're all from Drummondville, Quebec, which, I suspect may be the case.) Here, the French language is mostly confined to street signs advertising places like Chez Sassy's lingerie. People from France just aren't in Hamilton. The only time they've ever been here was when we held the 2003 Cycling Championships and that only lasted a few hours.
According to a story in today's Spec, a local flag sales and distribution store reports the Portuguese and German flags have been put away for another four years, while boxes on boxes of Italian flags continue to flow through inventory.
Thousands more are likely to be sold before Sunday, through street-corner vendors, department and convenience stores.
Yet during the entire World Cup soccer championship, the owner of the flag store figures he has sold possibly three or four of the bleu-blanc-rouge.
"Let's put it this way," he says, "there's no French fans around here."
Hamilton has a good mix of people from around the world but for years and years up to the present, it's the sons and daughters of Italy, in particular the Abruzzo region, who've played significant roles in the city's politics, business, sports, and arts. I can't help myself from hoping Italy will win the final game on Sunday, if not for bringing cheer to Hamilton, but for being the greatest overseas country I've ever set foot in.