Archive for January 2008
The results are in. 100% Francophones who answered the AngryFrenchGuy’s totally unscientific Who is Nous poll, consider Leonard Cohen to be one of them, part of Nous, a Québécois.
Anglos are split right down the middle and Allophones don’t see Leonard Cohen as a Québécois at all.
Born in 1934 in Montreal, son of Jewish immigrants, Leonard Cohen lived most of his youth in Québec and studied at McGill university before eventually moving to the United States. As it was common in those days in Montreal’s immigrant communities, he was raised to be and English-speaker.
Cohen himself explained in a 1975 Crawdaddy magazine article, that he was never fluent in the language of Montreal’s French majority: “I can get by, but it’s not a tongue I could ever move around in in a way that would satisfy the appetites of the mind or the heart.”
Does the poet feel like a Québécois? Here is what he had to say in the 1975 article in Crawdaddy Magazine:
“I live in Montreal, which is a French city, in Quebec, which is a French country–especially now, it is a country. I live as a minority writer, almost in exile, because there is no English writing community where I live. These are very special Canadian problems which to me form the Canadian character, because we’re very much involved in this notion of what is minority and what is majority; and yet while these questions are in the air, it seems that everybody has space. Because we don’t have the melting pot notion at all in Canada, we have a federal system that runs right down into the psyche of the country.”
Even the mighty Montreal Gazette has to bow down to the AngryFrenchGuy’s rock solid reasoning!
The government of Québec and the Office de la protection de la langue française had scientific studies (or here is a mediocre google translation) demonstrating that French was in decline on the island of Montreal. A press conference to make these studies public on January 18th was apparently canceled at the last minute.
My grand-mother, a small woman who grew up in an east-end Montreal Catholic convent and her husband, a doctor’s son from Québec City, sent their kids to English schools. They stepped out of Québec’s Great Darkness and raised their sons to be equally comfortable on either side of Montreal’s two solitudes.
Last year my grand-mother died at the Montreal General Hospital. From her death bed she was still the one reaching out to the other side as one unilingual English-speaking nurse and orderly after the other came and went in her room. Right to the very last moment. Until the unilingual doctor pronounced her dead. In English.
TVA just aired a story about Quebecers unable to receive health care in French.
It really is happening. Sick, scared and grieving patients and their families, even highly politicized like myself, are in no mood to start fighting with the people who quite literally have their lives in their hands.
Although English-speakers are only 8% or 9% of Québec’s population, the McGill University Health Center was awarded 50% of the budget to build one of two new university hospitals in Montreal.
You really believe in bilingualism and the equality of all Quebecers? Really? Then you don’t need your own separate hospital, do you?
Put our tax money where your mouth is. unseulmegachu.org
A couple of years ago I was having a beer on the Main with a friend from Alberta and her McGill buddies. One girl who was on her way back to New York seized the opportunity to ask the Montrealer that I am a question that had been puzzling her for the four years she’d been living in Montreal.
-So why are all the signs in French if Montrealers are mostly English-speaking?
Granted, this kid was not McGill’s brightest student. But the fact is that after FOUR YEARS in Montreal this girl was under the impression that Montreal was a city where French-speakers are a minority.
In this morning’s La Presse, André Pratte reacts to the debate on the increasing number of businesses in Montreal that are unable to serve their clientele in French: “In a field as important and delicate as language, the State of Québec cannot base it’s decisions solely on the basis of media stories and the impressions of citizens.”
La Presse is the last Montreal newspaper to still have it’s offices in Old Montreal, the quaint folkloric part of town with the “French Touch” delights children and tourists.
While André Pratte and his paper are satisfied with a storied past and a comfortable present, the paper’s former Anglo neighbor on St-Jacques Street, The Gazette, has moved to Ste-Catherine street where it right at the center the dynamic and aggressive revival of English Montreal that is starting to make some French-speakers uncomfortable.
I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but English Montreal’s revival also means gently but surely pushing out Montreal’s French-speaking majority out to the suburbs and the periphery. Geographically. Culturally. Economically.
Mr Pratte demands more hard numbers on the linguistic situation in Montreal. The AngryFrenchGuy supports that. Mr. Pratte could also take the metro to McGill and have a look for himself.
The next time you call the customer service line of TD Canada Trust, Telus, Air Canada or most other Canadian companies and hear the familiar "Press One service in English. Appuyez sur le 2 pour le service en Français" and feel all happy and proud that you live in a multicultural and bilingual country where all citizens are equal and live very close to a Tim Horton’s, think about this:
Those of us who press two wait twice as long as those who press one to get an answer because there is only one bilingual agent in the entire Mississaugua call center.
When you finally get an answer it’s in English because the bilingual guy doesn’t work on Tuesdays/weekends/Ramadan.
If you happen to reach the bilingual agent, you end up speaking English anyway because he was hired by someone who did not speak French and he actually has a hard time handling complicated concepts like, say, numbers, in French.
Very often, the system simply hangs up on you anyway.
Press two for Second Class Citizens, Canada!
Le Journal de Montréal, the city’s most read newspaper, sent out a reporter to look for a job in downtown Montreal with an English only resume and a single word of French: “Bonjour”. In 14 days, the reporter got 15 jobs.
In Montreal, speaking French is apparently not a job requirement. Not even for a customer service job.
That means that in Montreal, 62% of the population is apparently not entitled to services and information in it’s own language. Considering that Montreal is Québec’s economic and commercial core, it’s 85% of Quebecers who are still treated as foreigners in the heart of their metropolis.
When she asked what to do about customers who wanted service in French the reporter was told by one of her new employers not to worry about them and that they were ‘pains in the ass’. The French term was chiâleux.
In the 1970′s, Pierre Bourgault wrote in the magazine Point de Mire about being kicked out of a downtown Montreal disco for ordering his beer in French. The owner told him she didn’t want any politics in her establishment. “In Montreal, in 1970, it’s a political act to order a beer in French.“
Apparently it still is in 2008.
Of course they won’t kick you out of the store anymore. They might kick you out of an airplane, though.
Last march Jules Léger, president of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia, was refused on board of a Ottawa-bound flight in Halifax for demanding service in French and videotaping the carrier’s inability to provide it.
Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal and as a former crown corporation is required by law to provide services in both of Canada’s official languages. Air Canada openly ignores this obligation despite being the all time complaints champion Official Languages Commissioner office in Ottawa.
French-speakers are not only second class citizens’s in Montreal, they are also second class in their country’s capital, but that we already knew.
The clothing retailer Roots is a lot like Canada.
Roots is like Canada because it is all about branding. Like the country, the company’s marketing strategy is selling Canada to Canadians with T-shirts and sweats with CANADA in big bold letters and pretty pictures of beavers so that customers can feel superior and remind everybody all the time that they are not Americans.
Roots is a lot like Canada with its business model built on precarious low-wage jobs at home and the exploitation of suppliers in third world countries.
Roots is a lot like Canada because event though it behaves even worse than its rivals, it somehow avoids the blame Gap and Americans get because of a better marketing strategy.
Roots is just like Canada because you’ll have a hard time getting service in French in either.
Roots is just like Canada because they both belong to Americans.
Apparently feeling that the Québec Indépendantistes needed a little bit of help in these difficult times, Canada’s most outspoken bigot Howard Galganov has decided to run for parliament and lend his voice to the marginal but still very alive anti-French movement in Canada.
Mr. Galganov’s campaign platform is to “scrap the Official Languages Act, and to show the door to Quebec”.
Known for his extremist anti-French rhetoric, Howard Galganov first appeared on the political scene as the leader of a quite reasonable campaign to demand that some shopping malls in an English-speaking suburb of Montreal abandon their policy of having French-only signs.
The campaign failed. In the 1990′s he opened a ‘store’ for his Quebec Political Action Committee on Monkland Avenue that had bilingual signs in open defiance of Québec’s bill 101 that states that French must be prominent in commercial advertising. Many other businesses in that English-speaking neighborhood already had bilingual signs and Galganov’s store never became the political statement he wished it to be.
After failing to obtain changes to the Québec French Language Charter or to be elected as leader of the Anglo Rights group Alliance Québec he ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Saint-Lazare.
Howard Galganov responded to every defeat with a more radical attack on a weaker target. From demanding of bilingual signs accordance with existing laws he moved on to demanding the right of English-speaking shopkeepers to NOT HAVE TO SPEAK FRENCH to their French-speaking customers.
By the late 1990′s he complained in a phone interview with me that his his company was losing business because his French-speaking employees had to much of an accent when speaking English.
Unsuccessful in his Québec campaigns, dismissed by Montreal’s English speaking community as an agitator and by the French Media as a clown , Howard Galganov moved to the Loyalist bastion of Alexandria, Ontario and refocused his political action against the weakest of all targets, English-Canada’s French-speaking minority.
On his website, Howard Galganov now preaches nothing less than the return of English dominance over all of Canada:
“I see no reason why 95% of Canada’s population must dance to the tune of LESS than 5% of French Canadians living outside of Quebec.
I have said it for years: CANADA IS NOT A BILINGUAL COUNTRY. This most recent federal government survey has removed all doubt.”
Forever tormented by his failure to become a leader in the Québec’s English-speaking community, Howard Galganov struggles to be the leader of something. Anything.
Reduced to speaking for an ever shrinking base of racist bigots as he loses support every time he opens his mouth, Howard Glaganov is now only a few actions away from having to face the hard reality that he only speaks for himself.
And that day the sad clown will be the only one to cry.
What should be done with bankrupt Télévision Quatre Saisons? How about using the prime broadcast real estate of TQS to revive la Télévision Ethnique du Québec, the multicultural and multilingual cable TV network hijacked by CanWest Global in the early 00′s.
TEQ was a locally owned and operated community channel that aired programming by and for Québec’s cultural communities. The station experienced financial difficulties in the late 1990′s and was eventually sold to Rogers and later CanWest Global.
CanWest turned TEQ into CJNT-TV. Nearly all of the Québec-produced programming of TEQ was dumped by the new owners. CJNT now airs a mix of ethnic programming from Toronto and Montreal in the daytime and American TV in prime-time, all tied together with English-only branding. Montreal’s so-called “multicultural” TV station has an ENGLISH-ONLY website!
There is some French-language programming on CJNT, essentially produced by Montreal’s Lebanese and Haïtian communities. The token French-language shows, bundled up with Urdu, Cantonese and Armenian programming and the station’s deliberate editorial choice to make English the common language of the station strongly suggests that Montreal’s French-speakers are just another one of the city’s minorities.
It’s as if an American multicultural channel used Spanish as the common working language. Or as if a French channel used Arabic.
From being the voice of Québec’s minorities CJNT became the agent of their ghettoization and Anglicization by CanWest’s owners who only really cared about the 40% of American programing the station’s license allowed it to air.
“There is a debate that we need to have on Québec’s ethnic television and the Anglicization of ethnic communities through television”, declared Michel Tremblay, president of TEQ’s producers union in 2000.
TQS’s bankruptcy might be a good opportunity to have that debate.