There are no allophones in Canada.
Just for fun (because I’m the type of guy who entertains himself by doing amateur statistics on a Sunday afternoon while the rest of the World is watching some hockey game), I searched « allophone » + « every Canadian province » on the Canadian Newstand search engine.
In all the Canadian newspapers electronically archived, 1551 newspapers articles contained both the words Québec and allophone. If you remove the stories that also mention Québec, only 57 stories have ever been published in a major Canadian newspaper in which the reporter used both the words Canada and allophone. The words Ontario and allophone have shared a daily’s real estate only a precious five times.
And even though 42% of immigrant workers in British-Colombia say they regularly use a non-official language at work, no writer has ever used those two words in the same story. Ever.
There are no allophones in Canada. They all live in Québec.
Strictly speaking, an allophone is someone who’s native language is not the same as the one of the dominant linguistic community in which he lives, which in Canada is understood to mean someone who’s native tongue is neither French nor English. By that definition, Ontario, British-Columbia, Alberta and even Manitoba have way more allophones than Québec.
In the context of Québec’s charged identity politics, however, the word allophone has become shorthand for visible minority, immigrant, ethnic and « white people with italian last names trying to claim some sort of ethnic heritage to advance their careers and/or political agenda », i.e. the Parti Québécois’ Pierre Curzi, the Liberal’s Liza Hébert/Frulla-Hébert/Frulla and the CDPQ’s Micheal Sabia.
That’s not to say allophones are a demographic fiction. They exist, at least in Québec. There are 900 000 allophones in the province, and with over 21 000 new recruits every year through immigration, they could soon be twice as numerous as Québec Anglos.
That’s huge. If the arrival of the French settlers four hundred years ago was the first dramatic demographic shift on the banks of the St.Lawrence river, and the arrival of the British Loyalists the second, we are now smack in the middle of the third.
Political pollsters usually treat Anglos and Allos as a single bloc of voters. In the Montreal Gazette « anglophones and allophones » has become a single word as their writers try to convince us they have many black friends.
In real life, though, the Allophones are a very different tribe than the Anglos and Francos.
Three quarters of Québec Anglos only listen to music in English. Allos, like Francos, say they listen to music in French or English indiscriminately. Eighty-five percent of Québec’ Anglos watch all their TV in English. Half of Allos watch French television, a third of them exclusively. A small majority of allophones choose to read French-language newspapers (a huge majority if you count the free dailies distributed in the Montreal metro). One third of Québec Allos watch French language movies and the majority of shows they see are in French.
And whereas Anglophones who choose to study in another language than English at the post-secondary level are as rare as palm trees in Rosemont, half of Allophones (60% of those who went to French high school) choose to persue a higher education in French .
And those numbers are from Le grand Montréal s’anglicise, a report compiled by the Parti Québécois for the express purpose of scaring us into voting for secession ASAP.
The fact is allophones are just as endangered as francophones.
According the latest census data, there are 2 400 000 Allos in Canada who have gone Anglo. Combined with the 400 000 Francophones converts to English and the 500 000 new native English speakers in the country, this has led to one of the fastest periods of growth for the English language in Canadian history according to University of Ottawa demographer Charles Castonguay.
Even in Montreal, the allophone’s last refuge, economics pressure the majority of allophones who assimilate into one or the other of the great linguistic confederacies choose the English-language. The number of people who reported using English as their home language increased by 5,5% between the last two census periods. Again, unprecedented in the history of Canadian census data, according to prof Castonguay.
Montreal is not getting more diverse, it’s just becoming more English. Just like Canada, where there are no more allophones.
Dying generally sucks, but you do get a few perks: things like a 24h VIP direct line to a nurse you can call when weird things start happening to your mother’s cancer-ridden body.
The thing is, at night the system is rigged up so that you have to go through the Montreal General Hospital’s internal operator to get to the nurse. Not the public operator used to communicating with the taxpaying public. The internal switchboard lady.
Dispatch. What service?
This being one of Montreal’s “bilingual” hospital, in-house communications are in English. It takes a few seconds for the operator to switch gears into French and a little bit longer for her to figure out French acronyms and terminology.
Selles? Selles? Shit! What are selles?
Eventually I get the nurse on the phone. The situation I’m describing is kind of gross and she recommends I take my mom to the emergency.
My mother used to be a patient of the Montreal Neurological Hospital’s Docteur Olivier, the French-speaking successor to the legendary Dr. Wilder Penfield who revolutionized brain science, and the living proof that Montreal’s English hospitals are, according to the Montreal Gazette, nothing but a “mischievous myth”.
“There are French ones and there are bilingual ones”, they explained after former Québec Prime Minister Jacques Parizeau was admitted to the Jewish General Hospital last week. “Parizeau is getting that care in French – or, at least he is if that’s what he wants. Parizeau’s English is so fluently mellifluous he might just choose to use it.”
While I’m sure the staff at the Jewish will avoid the diplomatic faux pas of addressing Monsieur Parizeau in English, those of us who haven’t managed to come as close to breaking up Canada don’t quite receive the same level of consideration.
When my mother’s name was moved from the interesting cases list to the basket cases list, Dr. Olivier passed her file on to a Czech doctor who didn’t speak a word of French. He greeted every patient in the clinic hallway with a single question:
Do you speak English?
Only about 40% of patients in Montreal’s bilingual hospitals are English-speaking so the doctor spent the first ten minutes of every second consultation sighing loudly as he fished around for an idle nurse, orderly or first year student who could translate his patients for him. I got on his good side by setting aside my modest expectation that in 2009 my mother was entitled to receive health care in French in Québec.
The Neuro doesn’t have an emergency ward so that night I take her across the street to the Royal Victoria Hospital, named for the glorious British Queen who spoke German, English, French and Hindustani. A doctor walks into our examining room wearing a hijab. This is English Montreal, a tolerant, multicultural community where people value and respect each others cultures…
Do you speak English?
Really? Are you sure?
The doctor tells me that she can take a look at my mother now or that we can wait. Mother’s been writhing in pain for about seven hours now, so I take her hand and tell her softly that it’s her turn to be bilingual.
Because my family refuses to live in Saguenay or Rosemont where we belong, we, like 1.7 million Québécois from Côte-des-Neiges to Val-d’Or — people like Jacques Parizeau, Yves Michaud, Pauline Marois, Éric Lapointe and the AngryFrenchMe — have been designated as wards of the McGill University Hospital Center.
Every single word of every single medical file of every single member of my family is written entirely in English.
Twenty-five percent of the province of Québec’s health care is administered by a medical establishment that doesn’t require it’s doctors to learn a single word of the language spoken by the majority of their patients. The Charest government just gave McGill 3.6 billion dollars, half of the tax dollars earmarked for the construction of two university hospitals in Montréal.
No need to worry, according to The Gazette. For that price they’ll even care for separatists. Me and my mom’s can be assured that Montreal’s bilingual hospitals “are open to all, regardless of language, creed, ethnicity, or political conviction.”
The day shift doctor who showed up in the morning didn’t speak French either. I don’t speak French I’m from Brazil, he told me, almost proud of himself.
I made him speak to me in Spanish. He got the point and dropped the grin.
(Now let’s have a moment of silence for the millions of Mexican-Americans who don’t have access to health care in their own language. Aren’t you just fucking proud to be Canadian right now?)
That night was a hard one, but it wasn’t the toughest yet. I spent many other long nights at the Royal Vic and the Montreal General Hospital with my mother. Tired, scared and confused by the quick succession of unfamiliar faces coming and going around her, my mother started to speak to me in English in those last few weeks of her life.
My father had started to do the same thing in the last days of his life. So did my grand-mother. So did my grand-father.
Anyone still wondering why I’m angry?
In his excellent biography of Pierre Bourgault, journalist Jean-François Nadeau tells the fascinating story of the gay veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who lived with a pet kangaroo in his Shaughnessy village house near the old Forum and became an indépendantiste pioneer. In his book, Nadeau also recalls the separatist firebrand’s long forgotten tour of the Canadian West, early in his career.
Way back in the day, before paying lip-service to Canada’s “bilingual” nature became a litmus test of canadianess, Bourgault toured the Prairies to explain the idea of an independent Québec to hostile crowds of Westerners who had no sympathy for any “French power” or “Québec Libre” nonsense and who basically were going out to see a freak show.
According to Nadeau, Bourgault usually left the room to standing ovations.
This week the Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe launched his own Canadian Tour, but Québec’s independence is not the radical idea it once was. The idea that with Québec out, Canada will be more a more united and nimble country has much greater acceptance today than it did when Bourgault spelled it out to his unsuspecting audiences of farmers and cattle ranchers.
And Canada has changed too, since Bourgault’s time. Like the Prime Minister’s muse, Tom Flanagan, is quoted as saying in the Globe and Mail: “In the West, it’s a yawner, whether Quebec is in or out”.
Duceppe is one of the longest-serving members of the House of Commons, a familiar face to all Canadians and, even if bashing separatists who collect a federal salary is always a good for a few votes in te ROC, most people in Ottawa recognize the Bloquistes are kickass parliamentarians.
It’s hard to see what Duceppe will accomplish with this tour, or even who would come out to hear him.
One useful thing Duceppe could do, if he was so inclined, is reach out the Canadian left and see if his sovereigntists comrade Amir Khadir‘s suggestion that the Bloc and the NDP work out some sort of formal alliance has any legs.
Why, not? If the Bloc is in Ottawa for the long run, there is not fundamental reason why it couldn’t form a united opposition with the NDP, with a common social platform and separate constitutional planks.
Damn, I could even make a case that it could form a government with the New Democrats, deferring it’s votes on any constitutional or federal-provincial issue to Québec’s National Assembly, achieving a kind of sovereignty-association without changing a coma in the Constitution.
I’m not holding my breath. Big ideas are hard to sell in the age or micro-targeting. It would be surprising if anything inspiring or novel came out of Duceppe’s voyage.
Now I’m not saying Duceppe is a boring politician of that he doesn’t have any good ideas. He’s certainly one of my top 5 separatists.
I’m just saying he looks more like a dog man than a kangaroo type of guy.
What does American health care reform and the Québec government’s proposed bill 94 have in common?
Why, they’re both collectivist ploys to take away your rights and guns, of course!
This morning the Montreal Gazette prints an editorial in which it argues that bill 94, a proposed rule that would require citizens to show their faces before receiving government services, is nothing short of an attack on human rights:
On July 1 1960, proposing his Bill of Rights in Parliament, Diefenbaker concluded with these much-quoted words: “I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and for all mankind.”
Quebec’s Bill 94, meanwhile, shows how “collective rights,” even so badly defined as this new right for bureaucrats to see people’s faces, can overrule individual freedom of attire. (…) Basic freedoms keep coming under attack from forces seeking more control over our lives. Ultimately laws and lawyers will not save us unless there is a strong public understanding that the limits on free choice, imposed by mobs or governments or both, will keep growing unless we all resist them.
This is the exact same reasoning the American right and groups like American Majority are currently using to convince people that Obama’s health care reform is only the first step towards the transformation of the USA into a Spanish-speaking slave labour camp:
On March 23, 1775, 235 years ago today, Patrick Henry gave his immortal speech, closing with the lines, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
I think the American people have a very important choice: are they going to resign themselves to the ever growing chains of government control over their lives, submitting willingly like sheep to acquire some false illusion of peace and prosperity? Or are they going to fight against the forces of statism and push back? That is the great question of the day.
From the defence of the right to hide your face to the government to the discovery, year after year, of illegal religious and linguistic schools who operate in total impunity, civil disobedience by assorted creationists to Québec’s ethics and religious culture high school course (that teaches, G-D forbid!, that all religions carry some wisdom), constant legal challenges to Québec’s elected officials constitutional prerogative to determine the language of education in Québec, the hysterical reaction to the merger of English-speaking municipalities in a united City of Montreal and Louise Harel‘s run for mayor… All this is starting to look more and more like the obscure reaches of the USA where “sovereign citizens” and “tax resisters” oppose the very legitimacy of the democratically elected government.
There seems to be, in Québec, as in the USA, a weird coalition between Anglo Conservatives and various ultraorthodox religious minorities against the very legitimacy of a State run by people who are not like them.
More than a decade ago, Josée Legault demonstrated in her book L’Invention d’une Minorité how the rhetoric of “individual rights” was highjacked by so-called activists to defend the “collective right” of Québec’s english-speaking minority to opt-out of Québec institutions and build their parallel network of (fully subsidised) institutions.
Today a new cast of minorities: ultra-catholics, orthodox Muslims and and uniformed Jews, are re-enacting the fight for the right to opt-out of Québec society with full compensation, play-by-play, with English-Canada’s elites cheering them on.
That’s no surprise. The English-Canadian media has been able to come up with arguments for surprising shit, from segregation to organized crime and now to giving self-appointed clerics veto power over the laws of the land, as long as it’s been able to squeeze an argument against the legitimacy of Québec’s government and it’s democratically elected officials out of it.
In that way they are no different than American Tea Party leaders who welcome anyone, from Birthers, to Minutemen and the Militia movement to their rallies, just as long as they oppose The Government.
The good news is that the vast majority of English-Canadians agree their media elites are idiots.
There is something profoundly dishonest about Canada’s English-language press coverage of the expulsion of Ms. Naema Ahmed from her French class in Montreal for refusing to remove her niqab–a form of dress apparently inspired by Star Wars’ Imperial guard favoured by ultra-orthodox muslim women.
According the Globe and Mail, Ms. Ahmed “was told to remove the niqab or leave because a student’s mouth must be visible so an instructor can work on pronunciation.” This, according to the Globe, was akin to the practices “in some Arab and west Asian countries, such as the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan” and that “empowering state agents to enforce dress codes and bar the education of women is hitherto unknown in Canada.”
Sure… Except that, as it has widely been reported in the French-language press, even though Ms Ahmed’s teacher had agreed to let her do some exercises one-on-one and give oral presentations facing away from the class, she STILL refused to remove her veil AND demanded that male students be removed from her line of sight in the class.
The student was expelled after the teacher, the school and her classmates, who also, by the way, have the right to learn French, had made considerable efforts to accommodate her. Her demands reached the point where other students were being penalized.
We could forgive the editors of the Globe and Mail who are so thoroughly isolated in the English language that they actually published an editorial last week against changing the word forefathers in the first line of the French lyrics of Canada’s national anthem on the grounds that “Forebears doesn’t really work, because it sounds like four bears.” (Actually, Forefathers and Forbears are English words and therefore neither are in the French lyrics of O Canada. In French the word is Aieux, which sounds nothing like four bears or quatre ours, but a little bit like loser.)
But the boys and girls at the Montreal Gazette certainly speak French and yet they also chose to grossly simplify a complex issue that still divides Muslim nations like Turkey and Egypt–Ms. Ahmed’s homeland–centuries after the passing of the Prophet and turn into the more familiar narrative of redneck Québécois chasing out a foreigner out “their” schools. “Your face or your faith, she was told. She chose her faith.”
Well, if it’s OK to ask that men, be denied the privilege of contemplating your holy self, if that what your faith says, is it OK to ask that, say, Jews, gentiles and infidels sit in the back of the class? Maybe that they try not to touch to many things?
Just last year the case of a woman refusing to remove her niqab in a courtroom was in the news in Ontario. No Canadian newspaper thought this story worthy of an editorial. In fact, a quick search of “Quebec +niqab” and “Ontario+niqab” on the Canadian Newstand search engine tells me that the Canada’s English media has already killed four times as many trees over the Quebec incident.
Four times? Surely the right to cover your face in court will have consequences on our justice system and society at least as important as the right to learn French with a mask.
What’s going on here is that the “French people Bad, Canada Rocks!” bit is just English Canada’s natural defence mechanism against controversial issues that it is not mature enough to face yet. But it doesn’t work. These things are complicated and repeating “Canada is bilingual and multicultural” over and over again won’t make them go away.