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.