Posts Tagged ‘racism’
Just about as long as I’ve had this blog I’ve been using Google Alerts, a service that notifies you whenever some word or words of your choice pops up anywhere on the Internet. I’ve been using to cover the AngryFrenchBeat, monitoring what’s being said about Québec, Montréal and Beyoncé on the Web.
One of the words I’ve been keeping track of for a few months is Pure Laine. According to wikipedia, Pure Laine is “a politically and culturally charged phrase referring to the people having original ancestry of the French-Canadians.” Apparently, at least according to Sun Media columnist Micheal Den Tendt, “many “pure-laine” Quebecers have always believed — that they, the descendants of original French settlers, are the only true Quebecois.”
The concept of the Pure Laine (or Pur Laine, I track the two spellings) was at the center of the infamous Jan Wong controversy. In 2006 she wrote in the Globe & Mail about the Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill: “the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a ‘pure’ francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial ‘purity’ is repugnant. Not in Quebec.”
Well, it seems the English Canadian media has been doing a little bit of projection, here. In the six months or so that I’ve been tracking the use of Pure Laine on the Internet, the racial purity of the Québécois has been an EXCLUSIVELY English-Canadian preoccupation.
The term Pure Laine came up in 56 english-language web pages, that’s more than twice as often as it’s use on french-language websites.
In thirty-seven cases – that’s 70% of the time – Pure Laine is used in English to describe the Québécois of Franco-Catholic ancestry. This seems to be a very important concept in the English-canadian worldview. Whenever Québec, canadian politics or language is discussed, the Pure Laine come up. Not the Québécois as a civic nation. Not French-speakers as a linguistic group. Pure Laine Québécois as an ethnic group. The Québécois as a race.
Of course, the people using the the term Pure Laine deny being the ones preocupied by the ethnic purity of the Québécois. Nearly a third of the uses of Pure Laine were by people who felt they could state with absolute authority that “Pure laine is what some francophones from Quebec like to call themselves to state that they have pure, undiluted French blood and that they can trace their lineage all the way back to the original settlers who sailed over from France in the 1600’s”
What do bloggers know, you say? Well one of them (one of only three english-language sources who challenged the ‘fact’ of Québec’s preoccupation with ethnic purity) kindly dug up a quote from some Calgary West Reform Party MP called Stephen Harper who, back in 1995, declared in the House of Commons: “Obviously, given the ethnic and sociocultural make-up of modern Quebec society, only the pure laine Quebecois could arguably be considered a people.”
Whatever happened to Stephen Harper?
In both English and French, Pure Laine has entered the vocabulary as a synonym for ‘true’, ‘old school’ or, more appropriatly, ‘dyed-in-the-wool’. It came up to describe “Pure Laine Montrealers“, “Pure Laine federalists“, “Pure Laine proletarians“, and even Paul McCartney’s “Pure Laine Heterosexuality“. In French the concept of “Pure Laine Shawin“ – as in the good people of Shawinigan, the home of former Prime minister and savior of Canadian federalism Jean Chrétien – came up no less than four times…
Such use of Pure Laine accounted for one third of the 25 times the word came up in French. It was also used 33% of the time to discuss the Québécois, and another 33% of the time to describe – get this – WOOL.
In French, the term Pure Laine was used 8 times to describe people of ‘white-french-catholic-north-americans-of-franco-french‘ ancestry. Five of those who used the word, however, would not be considered Pure Laine themselves by that definition…
The word is used, for example, in the journal Voir in a review of a book by Senegal-born comedian and marine biologist (yep.) Boucar Diouf about, precisely, the different prejudice and misunderstandings held by the Québécois, “Pure Laine and also immigrant”.
Imam Abou Hammaad Sulaiman Dameus Al-Hayiti, a black Québécois convert to a radical strand of Islam who’s been in the news lately, uses it to defend himself in La Presse against accusations of racism and hate speech. His mother and grand-mother, he reminded the journalist, are Pure Laine.
Kim Myung-Sook uses the term Pure Laine to describe herself in her fascinating blog about the identity crisis of the children of massive international adoption who are just now coming of age all over the western world. “Rejected/Sold by Korea. Bought/assimilated by the Québécois. I am a transracial adoptee, a reject of korean society recycled into a Québécoise Pure Laine with the appearance of an asian. Ex-Korean, false Korean, Korean assimilated by the Québécois.”
“Un show Québécois Pure Laine” is also used as a caption to a picture of hip hop crew Loco Locass (who’s members are not all, as a matter of fact, Pure Laine) and as the theme of a series of videos by comedian Guy Nantel. Whether Nantel’s objective was the glorification of the Pure Laines’ racial superiority, I’ll let you be the judge of that…
As for examples of Pure Laine Québécois claiming Pure Laine-ness, exalting the purity of their roots and the special privilege that comes or should come with the ability to trace one’s ancestors to Samuel de Champlain and his crew, not a single one. Pas un. Nada. Zéro.
That definition of Pure Laine, it seems, is a purely English-language concept…
I am Pure Laine.
I’m the prototypical Frog. I’m a Pepsi, a Pea Soup, a fucking Frenchy. I’m white and French-speaking and baptized in the Holy Catholic Church.
I’m exactly who you’re talking about when you call someone Pure Laine. The grandson of a farmer who was the grandson of a voyageur who was the grandson of a Norman sailor.
I’m Pure Laine. As pure as they come.
How pure is that? I’ll tell you how pure.
As pure as my English-speaking father and his Jewish girlfriend. As pure as English-speaking grandfather and his protestant mother.
Last year a man in Toronto asked my mother if she was Chinese. It wasn’t the first time. That’s how Pure Laine my mother is. As pure as any other Paquette out there. As pure as the anonymous Huron warrior or Cantonese railway worker who left the genes to those eyes in my bloodline. As pure as the Irishman who brought my red hair to America.
I’m as pure as the Beauce’s Besré, Maheux, Allaire and Dallaire who’s ancestors were German mercenairies. As pure as the Russians of Rawdon and the Italians of St-Léonard.
In 1764 David David was the first Jew born in Québec. In 1912 Fleurette David, my grandmother, was born in Montreal. Was she a descendent of David David? Am I? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. So how the fuck would you you know? And what exactly would that change between you and me? Do you think I’d feel less Québécois because I had a Jewish ancestor? How about you, would you think less of me?
Would you take my name of the Pure Laine registry?
My name is Georges Boulanger. Google it for fun. Georges Boulanger is also the name of a French fascist general and a Romanian gypsy violinist. So what’s in a name? What could my name possibly tell you about who I am?
That’s about as pure as it gets. Even if I accept the ridiculous premise that there is such a thing as a “Pure Québécois”, an idea that no one cares about except a few retarded traditionalists and their biggest supporters, Canada’s English-speaking media.
Even if I accept to even think about Québec from that fictional point of view, that there ever was pure seed to the Québec genome, that Québec was somehow isolated from the movement of peoples in America and Europe before that.
Even if I let you suppose that I would for one second consider that someone who’s ancestors came here a little bit later, maybe five, six, three or two generations ago, were any less Québécois than I am, that’s still about as pure as it gets.
Why would you call me Pure Laine? Who exactly are you to cast the Québécois out of the ebb and flow of peoples and cultures? On what authority do you isolate a group of people, French-speaking North Americans, as somehow “pure”, untouched by time, as an anachronistic impediment to what should have been the ‘natural’ course of history?
The idea of the Pure Laine Québécois, the ethnicity of the Québécois is an invisible leash drawn around Québec to limit it’s contact with the world outside, folklorise a people and marginalize a culture. It’s a mental reservation.
It’s a lie. I’ve got the same parents as the rest of you, I just turned out a little bit different.
Yes I am Pure Laine. A Pure Laine Black Sheep.
Now we know. Teaching English to the Québécois is not a central recommendation of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodations. In fact, and contrary to what the editors of the Montreal Gazette thought they had read in a few leaked chapters of the Commission’s report, there is little to no trace of English Montreal’s longing for the bilingual and multiculturally segregated Montreal of yore in there.
English Montreal’s worse nightmare has come true. English Montreal is no longer synonymous with the benevolent coalition of all the citizens of Québec who are not of the proper kind. English Montreal leaders no longer speak for all of those who are not of the majority.
English Montreal is only about English Montreal.
It is this realization that has lead the Montreal Gazette to try to use some leaked chapters of the Bouchard-Taylor commission to define the coming debate on it’s preferred terms: Francos vs. the Others.
The first sign that something had changed was the Jan Wong affair. The Globe and Mail columnist set Québec on fire with her insinuation that all residents of Québec who were not, to use her vocabulary, Pure Laine, were outsiders and outcasts. Maybe the concept that a Québécois is only someone of French-Canadian heritage still had currency in Toronto’s Montreal expat community. The reaction in Montreal made it clear that the ethnic conception of the Québécois did not exist anymore in Québec.
This sent English Montreal’s leaders into a panic. All around them they saw a new Québec identity taking shape. A new identity that did not include Anglos. They saw Hijab-wearing muslim women and turbaned Sikhs testifying at the Bouchard-Taylor commission about their vision of a new Québec, in French.
They saw Immigrants and members of cultural communities like Vivan Barbot, Maka Kotto, Joseph Facal and Alexis Wawanoloath take a leadership role not only in the French-speaking community, but in the independence movement!
The cabinet minister who is supposed to represent Anglos in the Charest government, Yolande James, was now a 30 year old black woman who spoke French like a native and consistently said unthinkable things like: “Nous les Québécois”!
The redefining of Québec’s identity on a basis other than the tired “Us” vs “Them” was threatening English Montreal’s power base and had to be reversed. That’s what the Montreal Gazette tried to do last Saturday with it’s controversial headline last Saturday aimed directly at French Canadians.
The “Get informed. Learn English. Be nice to Muslims.” Headline was a desperate attempt to drive a wedge between what some call “cultural communities” and the French-speaking majority.
Today, again, the National Post’s Daniel Goldbloom blows hot air into that old Anglo obsession of the ethnically pure French-Canadian: “The mainstream sovereigntist line that the term “Québécois” refers to everyone living inside of Quebec’s borders is a lovely idea that simply isn’t true. The boundary between “us” and “them” in Quebec in general — and the separatist movement in particular — has never strayed from linguistic lines.”
It’s bait. Nasty bait. It’s a revolting attempt to define the debate on the racist idea of a so-called ethnic Québécois.
The Québec Anglo media has a unhealthy obsession with ethnicity and race that it systematically tries to project onto the independence movement.
But guess what, the only group that benefits from that definition of Québec based on ethnicity is the Anglos who use that tired scarecrow to artificially enlarge their constituency and morally excuse themselves for living in a segregated society.
The AngryFrenchGuy wants to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the increasingly large black caucus of the Québec National Assembly. The Parti québécois’ Maka Kotto was elected last monday as the representative of Bourget, and successor of Camille Laurin, the father of bill 101.
There are now three black MNA’s in Québec. M. Kotto and two liberals, M. Emanuel Dubourg and the immigration and cultural communities minister, Ms. Yolande James. All three represent Montreal ridings.
Mr. Kotto was born in Cameroun, another country with French and English speaking solitudes. He is the second black PQ MNA after M. Jean Alfred, elected in 1976 in the Outaouais riding of Papineau. That’s 1976. That’s before Ms. James, the first black liberal candidate was even born…
It’s not politically correct to count, but then PC is not the AngryFrenchStyle. There are now six visible minorities in the Québec National Assembly. Four are liberal: Ms. James, M. Dubourg as well as Ms. Fatima Houda-Pépin and M. Sam Hamad, both of Middle Eastern origin. The PQ now has two “visible” MNAs: M. Kotto and Alexis Wawanolath, a native.
6 MNAs out of 125 means 4,8% of the seats in the National Assembly are held by visible minorities. The 2006 census tells they are 8,8% of the population. That’s a significant underrepresentation.
A totally unscientific look at the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s website led us to identify 10 visible minority MLA’s. 10 MLA’s out of 107 is 9,3% of the seats. Once again, beautiful multicultural Ontario leads the… Wait a minute!
9,3% of Ontario’s MLA’s are visible minorities but the visible minority population of Ontario, again according to the 2006 census, is 22%!
Québec’s National Assembly is not less, but more representative of the Québec’s population than Ontario’s Legislative Assembly is of Ontario!
So let’s take a minute to ponder, once again, words of wisdom from everybody’s favorite Ontarian columnist, Jan Wong:
“What many outsiders don’t realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city. It hasn’t just taken a toll on long-time anglophones, it’s affected immigrants, too. (…) Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec.”
I guess it’s a good thing Ontario newspapers don’t talk about racial purity. If they did it would expose them as the hypocrites that they are…
Oh, and memo to Pauline Marois: Can we please and be a little more original than M. Charest was with Ms. James and NOT put M. Kotto in charge of the immigration and cultural communities portfolio just because he’s black? Well, at least he IS an immigrant. The fact that, Montreal-born Yolande James, the first black cabinet minister in Québec history was sort of matter-of-factly named to the immigration portfolio sends a very curious message as to black Québécois, don’t you think?
All newly arrived immigrants to Québec, especially the French-speaking ones, take down this number:
The above number is the complaints line for the Québec’s consumer protection agency: the Office de Protection des Consommateurs du Québec.
If you came to Québec under the impression that you were entering a thriving job market in need of your education and skills of if our were led to believe that your knowledge of French would be an advantage to you, you should call this number.
You were lied to.
If you read the Immigration Québec website you will read that: “According to labor market forecasts, 640,000 positions must be filled by 2008.” You will also read that the current unemployment rate for Montreal is 9,4%.
Actually, hum… no. Immigrants who’ve been in Montreal 1 to 5 years have an 18% unemployment rate. Three times that of native Montrealers.
The Immigration Québec website also informs you that “Québec is committed to preserving and promoting its official language. French represents not only an essential communication tool, but also a common symbol of belonging to Québec society.”
Again.. Apparently not. According to a new study by our good fried Jack Jedwab of the Center for Canadian studies, an allophone who only speaks French is two times and a half more likely to be unemployed than one who only speaks English. A bilingual immigrant only gets a statistically insignificant advantage of 0.4% over one who only speak English.
These are the French-speaking immigrants we were told were going to put an end to the demographic decline of French-speakers in Montreal and Québec. The ones that would be the easiest to integrate. Well, the above numbers tell me something is already going very wrong and that it’s time we address this problem before it catches fire.
We owe it to these guys. They left country and family to come here out of many possibilities in a very competitive immigration market because we told them we valued their skills, culture and language.
To increase immigration levels to 50 000 new people a year when 30% of North Africans can’t find work is a curious way of increasing the market value of immigrants who are already here. A cynical person might say it only serves to keep wages down for Québec’s struggling manufacturing sector.
What seem especially treacherous is that it is done at the expense of Francophones who were told that speaking French would be an advantage to them in Québec, and who will slowly realize that it is nothing more than an obstacle to their mobility, further reducing their market value.
Of course the idea is not that immigration is a bad thing and certainly not that we should stop encouraging Francophone immigration. Quite the contrary.
There are jobs out there and an enormous amount of people not being hired for these jobs. Is the problem discrimination? Racism? Education? I don’t know but it seems urgent that we find out.
I only suggest that perhaps the current economic news coming from the US could be the signal that the time might be appropriate to re-examine not only our immigration policy, but the use and value of French in the workplace, and ways to increase it.
We are now recruiting immigrants based on the job market we want, not the one we have. Employers are still demanding that employers speak English. Is it always necessary to do the actual job or is it only because, well, English kind of became the default common language in the office? Is it only because the Toronto office only writes reports in English? Is it only because it makes meetings more efficient?
The right to work in French is only very loosely enforced in Québec and not much thought has been given on how to harmonise that right with the internationalization of the markets. Those are complicated questions indeed in a global economy.
As we figure these things out, perhaps it could be time to ask ourselves how filling Montreal with young overqualified and underemployed poorly mobile young people lured into Québec under false pretences is a desirable move as we head into a recession?
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.
Yes, I have reconsidered my decision to not pursue a debate with Barbara Kay. She called me a wimp and, in the words of the great teacher KRS-One, “if you call my name I come get that.”
A double standard, Ms. Kay, is when you make a living out of denouncing what you perceive to be the racism at the core of the Separatist movement while at the same time write some of the most unilaterally chilling dismissal of an entire ethnic community, nay, culture, namely Arab, that I have ever read. Twice you have condemned Québec sympathies not for regimes, dictators or terrorist organizations, but “Arab countries”.
Moral relativity, Ms. Kay, is when you condemn a so-called preoccupation by some Québec politicians for “ethnicity” while your writing is replete with a constant division of the citizens of Québec between “old-stock Quebecois”, “Pure Laine” and the very eloquent: “by “we” I obviously mean anglos and ethnics”. “Most educated Québécois are wonderful people to live amongst“( my italics), you wrote. Nobody is excluding you from the Québécois but yourself.
And by the way, God knows we’ve heard a lot of questionable ideas on religion, language and citizenship in the last few weeks, but who the hell is talking about ethnicity but you and my buddies at The Suburban?
Selective memory is when you write “it is only in Quebec that you find racist remarks coming from the mouths of so-called political leadership”. Remember federal cabinet minister Doug Young telling Bloc MP Osvaldo Nunez to find himself another country? Or how about the uplifting anti-Québec political ads run by the parliamentary wing of your newspaper in 1997? Betty Granger’s Asian invasion? Remember Reform MP Bob Kingma sending gays and “ethnics” “to the back of the shop”?
Hypocrisy is reaching far back into the past to a “long tradition of anti-Semitism in the discourse of French intellectuals from France”as proof of “the strains of racism that invariably accompany hardline separatists” and conveniently overlooking that the “principled Stephen Harper”‘s (your words, not mine) own Reform/Alliance/Conservative Party struggled late into the 1990′s to purge itself of the Heritage Front and Social Credit Party elements at it’s root.
Yes I am afraid, Ms. Kay. I am afraid of people who holds someone guilty until proven innocent (how french a concept…) because of the accident of their culture and/or birthplace. I fear a culture in witch fast and easy logical leaps from French-speaking to Arab Francophonie to Rampant Anti-Semitism are not considered “in any way unusual or even highly provocative”. I fear a climate where the cultural insecurities of provincial townspeople who wouldn’t know a Jew from a Sikh from a Mormon are portrayed as proof of widespread organized projects of ethnic cleansing. I fear a country where you must subscribe to predetermined values determined by an arbitrary third party (pun intended) before you are allowed to seek public office or take part in a public demonstration.
I fear a time when what used to be passionate debate about political structures degenerate into politically motivated structured campaigns of fear. I fear that by engaging fear-mongers I feed the beast that I most fear.
I’ll be out of the kitchen for a while, not because of the heat, but because I work for a living.
I live in the western part of Montreal and one of the countless perks of living in that part of the city is to have the Montreal Suburban delivered to you doorstep every week.
The Angry French Guy wants to take this opportunity to welcome the three new MPs elected in last week’s federal by-election, in particular Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac. The Bloc Québécois MP was elected by the good people of Ste-Hyacinthe-Bagot to defend them in Ottawa and continue the struggle for Québec independance.