Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’
Today we learn in La Presse that the Québec government has been sitting on another study on the decline of French in Montreal (or in google English). This time the study is about the language of work in the city. This comes about one week after the revelation that the government was holding back on another study on the demographic weight of Francophones in Montreal.
By and large, English-speaking Montreal was astonished to discover that Francophones still felt that their language and culture was threatened in the city.
Preposterous! More agitation from those darn separatist! All the signs are in French and all the immigrant kids have to go to French school thanks to that bill 101 that English-speakers had reluctantly learned to live with. Nearly everyone in Montreal is bilingual and the income gap between French and English has vanished. How could Francophones conceivably think their language and culture was in danger?
Here’s why, Tim Horton, these trends threaten not only French in Montreal, but even the bilingual character of the city:
The First Generation
In 2008 49 000 new immigrants will arrive in Québec and over 75% of them will head to Montreal.
When he gets here the new immigrant will learn that his engineering and business diplomas are not recognized in Québec and that he’s going to have to work in a factory.
At the factory he will have about a 50/50 chance of working in French (40,1%) or English (38,9%) even though the Charter of the French Language has made French the official language of the workplace 30 years ago.
At work he will quickly understand that immigrants who learn only English earn an average of 27 216$ a year while those who only learn French earn 21 233$ a year. If he is one of the growing number of immigrants who already knows French when they arrive, these numbers will tell him he also has to learn English. If he doesn’t speak French these numbers aren’t telling him he should.
Anyway, it won’t be long before he figures out that even old school Montrealers who don’t speak a word of French earn 34 097$ a year compared to 29 665$ for unilingual Francophones. (CD Howe numbers)
On his way to the better and wealthier life he left his country and family for, the new Montrealer will also learn that although over 80% of Québec’s population is French-speaking, in 1996 they counted for only 35% of the upper management in companies that had more than 1000 employees.
He will also understand that in wealthy neighborhoods like Westmount, 75% of the population is English-speaking.
The Second Generation
For that reason he will prefer that his kids attend English schools. If he can afford it, he will send them to a private school. If not, he will strongly encourage them to go to an English Language CEGEP and University. At this university his kids will develop his more durable social and professional networks.
Although able to speak French and English, this immigrant’s son will live and work in an English environment and feel he is part of Montreal’s English-speaking community. His relations with French-speakers will be cordial, but their preoccupations and culture won’t be his own.
He will not notice the absence of French language services in downtown Montreal because he will be just as likely to speak English in the shops himself. The exodus of Francophones who are increasingly frustrated not to be able to work and shop in French in Montreal will not affect him because his friends and colleagues are Anglophones.
The Third Generation
The girl he will get married is also more likely to be an Anglophone. A cute girl from Regina he will meet at McGill University, perhaps. Because she went to English schools in Canada, they will be able to sent their children to English-language public schools in Montreal. And these children will grow up to be even less bilingual than their father.
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.
Québec doesn’t have an English-language newspaper. Québec doesn’t have an English-language television, radio station or Internet portal.
The Québécois are keeping silent in the lingua franca of the Internet.
In 2008 that means Québec doesn’t exist.
French-speaking North Americans who are celebrating 400 years on the continent have no media of their own to talk to the 400 million English-speakers who surround them.
Is it any wonder the wildest politically-fictional fantasies still circulate about Québec?
An Indian or an Armenian googling some news about Québec has 10 times as many chances to come upon Barbara Kay’s or Mordecai Richeler’s paranoiac diatribes about a fascist ethnic tribe trying to wipe it’s province clear of strangers and “coloreds” than a simple description of the French Language Charter.
What about the Montreal Gazette? The Gazette is not a “Montreal newspaper that happens to be in English” as columnist Henry Aubin once told me. It’s the newspaper of Montreal’s English-speaking minority. Period.
One token separatist columnist is not enough to fairly translate the diversity of thought of a population twice as numerous as Ireland’s. The Gazette deserves credit for giving some space to strong voices, from former RIN leader Pierre Bourgault in the 80′s to the current incumbent Josée Legault, but one person can’t possibly incarnate the diversity of ideas and opinions barely skimmed by 13French -language dailies.
Is it any wonder Canadians confuse the Parti Québécois, small-town nationalists, right-wing conservatives, 19th century ecclesiastic ideologues and violent student radicals of the 1970′s into a single seditious movement of anti-Canadianism that has to be crushed?
Why does Québec need an English-language newspaper? 2 reasons:
1. Because if Québec doesn’t talk directly to the world, it lets Barabara Kay, Jan Wong, Mordecai Richler and the Gazette do it for them. If the curious individuals around the world have access to The Gazette’s, The National Post’s and The Globe and Mail’s perspective on Canadian events, they should have access to Québec’s. Or more accurately to the plural: Québecs’.
2. 48 000 newcomers will come to Québec this year. At least half of the will not speak French when they arrive. Many of them will have some understanding of English, though. These people will learn to know their new country through the biased, truncated and partial coverage of the Anglo minority’s newspaper. With no access to French-language media, they will assimilate and adopt the Anglophone perspective and identity. They are entitled the French majority’s perspective as well.
In the 1970′s the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground and many other black power and student movements turned to violence, kidnapping and bombings in their struggle against, among other things, the Vietnam war. The US government fought these movements (often illegally) with police forces and the judicial system.
In the 1970′s the Front de Libération du Québec, a group of canadian students turned to violence and kidnappings in their struggle against, among other things, discrimination against french-canadians. The Canadian government unilaterally suspended all civil rights of all residents of the province of Québec, arrested without warrant hundreds of citizens and sent the army in the streets of Montréal.
What good are rights that can be unilaterally suspended as they were in the case of Canadians of Italian, German and Japanese descent during the world wars? Or as they were in the Province of Québec in 1970?
A few years ago the Royal Canadian Mounted Police assisted the United States in illegally transferring Maher Arar to an axis of evil, Syria, where he was tortured. Omar Khadr’s has spent the last 5 years in Guantanamo awaiting military trial as an enemy combatant. His Canadian passport has not been of much use to him in Guantanamo. If he had an American passport he would have been allowed a lawyer and a trial in a US jurisdiction where the constitution applies.
This week we learn that a Canadian citizenship doesn’t even mean you are allowed to work in Canada. In a Montreal Gazette editorial published on december 26th we learn that Canadian companies who have contracts with the United States Military are not allowed to hire Canadians if they happen also hold the citizenship of such countries as Haïti, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.
The companies who have these military contracts and who therefore enforce the US State department rules are Bombardier, SNC-Lavallin, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Bell Helicopter Textron. The companies that are legally allowed to discriminate against Canadian citizens are all massively subsidized by all levels of government.
Omar Khadr, Maher Arar and all those of us who happen to hold dual citizenship with countries that the United States government doesn’t like would have more rights and protections if we were US citizens than we do as Canadians.
So what’s a Canadian passport good for anyway?
I used to work with an anglophone called Mike. He was actually an Italian from St-Léonard but, although his French was fine, Mike thought and talked in English. One morning Mike came in to work in the morning absolutely furious. The night before Conan O’brien had aired a show taped in Toronto in which the American comic had amused his Ontario crowd by making ridiculing French-Canadians. « Did you see Conan O’brien last night? », asked Mike, in English, when he came to work. « Did you see the way he talks about us? »
Montreal collective No One Is Illegal tried to disrupt the Taylor-Bouchard Commission yesterday to protest against what they consider an exercise “fundamentally rooted in xenophobia, racism and sexism.”
Instead of a Québec citizenship that is more restrictive that the Canadian citizenship we already have, why not create a citizenship that is broader and designed to attract the bright and dynamic immigrants Québec needs? Why not give Québec citizenship to non-Canadians?
All over the demographically-challenged western world countries are engaged in a fierce battle for the world’s young bright dynamic minds. If Québec plays by the same rules as the others it will lose. Québec’s geography and culture are not a disadvantage anymore in the online globalized world, but only if it plays a smarter game than its competitors.
The controversial clause of the Parti Québécois’ Identity Act that would restrict the right of newcomers who don’t speak French to run for public office or submit petitions to parliament is superfluous and distasteful but it was not racist or ethnically motivated. It was a botched attempt by the PQ to put some meat around their proposed Québec citizenship when they realized it was a hollow concept that people had no use for.
The idea of a Québec citizenship itself is not to keep anybody out. Quite on the contrary, the concept is meant to facilitate the integration of immigrants into civil society and the use of French as the common language of this society.
Who would want a Québec citizenship? Membership should have its privileges. What privileges can the government of a province provide? Health services and education are by far the two main services provided by provincial governments and are certainly a big factor in any immigrants decision to chose Canada and Québec over New Jersey and Portugal.
Giving out free health care to more people is unfeasible. And a system designed to attract the sick and the old is not what I have in mind.
On the other hand, Québec also maintains a highly subsidised quality network of Universities. These universities have a three tiered pricing structure. Québec residents pay the lowest tuition, Canadian students from other provinces pay more and international students more still.
My proposition is this: Quebec should make the cheaper price available to all students who pursue a higher education in French and have a second price for students studying in English.
Yes, I think Québec “citizenship” and a cheap education should be made available to all students, even those who are not Canadian citizens, if they study in French in Québec. This would help make Québec and Montréal the choice destination for young and bright francophone and French-speakers from the world over. These French-speaking and French-educated students would be more likely to build relationships and social networks in the province and to stay after they complete their studies.
Smart kids from Saskatoon or Surrey who don’t have to prove their fluency in English to anybody now have to pay a premium if they want to pad up their resume with a university degree in French from a Québec university. This is madness! These are the kids we want!
All residents of Québec would have Québec “citizenship”, of course, and automatically be eligible to the cheaper price. The novelty would be the possibility for Québec to grant “citizenship” to anybody in the world who chooses to come to Québec to pursue a higher education. Under Canadian law they would remain students temporarily in the country with a student visa, but with their Québec “citizenship” they would have access to other services not usually available to international students. The cheaper tuition is one such privilege. Access to other provincial services such as the 7$ kindergarten network could be another.
There are many advantages to have English-language universities in Québec and with my proposal these universities would not be jeopardized. If they certainly will be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Québec residents, their access to English-Canadian, American and worldwide English-speaking students remain unchanged.
Under this plan, absolute civil equality of all citizens is also rigorously protected. If Brandon from Kirkland studies in French, he gets the cheap price. If Sylvain from Cacouna wants to study at McGill, he’s going to have to pay more. People will be writing tests at school, where they should, not at Immigration Québec offices.
One possible objection is that all programs are not available in all languages. Perhaps a program could be eligible for the cheaper “citizen” price if a certain percentage—80%, 50% or 30%?—of the classes are in French. I don’t see why students of McGill Law School who take a great deal of their classes in French and usually stay in Québec to practice should not be eligible. On the other hand I don’t see why students of McGill Medical School who often graduate without the skills to carry out a basic conversation with a French-speaking patient and who leave the province after graduation in alarming numbers should have their education subsidised by the taxpayers of Québec.