Archive for May 2008
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 Montreal Gazette triumphantly published on last Saturday’s front page it’s Vision of New Québec based on leaked chapters of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission.
“Learn more English. Be nicer to Muslims. Get better informed.” was the headline addressed directly at “French Canadians”.
The Montreal Gazette, for those who don’t know, is part of the Canwest Publishing Group, accused by the National Council on Canada Arab Relations of “a pattern of anti -Arab and Muslim bias that permeates editorials, columns and news reports” and reprimanded by no less than David Schlesinger, the global managing editor of Reuters News Service for altering wire stories about Palestinian in 2004 to portray them as anti-Israel terrorists.
What was that you said? Be nice to muslims?
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?
Heritage Canada announced yesterday that the fifth day of may will officially be recognized as a National holiday in Canada as of next year.
The holiday, usually know by it’s Spanish name cinco de mayo, was until now usually only celebrated in the Chicano communities of the southern United States but a Heritage Canada memo leaked to the press detailed how the Canadian government now wished to recognize the event as a milestone of Canadian history:
“Cinco de mayo is a holiday that commemorates the defeat of the French governor of Mexico Maximillien in 1867 and the end of any significant French Colonial presence in North America. As such, it is the final chapter of the birth of modern Canada initiated by General Wolfe in Québec City.”
A Heritage Canada spokesman who wished to remain anonymous declared explained the new philosophy in the department: “Well, ever since the Canadian governement decided that the 400th anniversary of Québec City was a commemoration of the birth of Canada, a country founded in 1867, we understood that celebrations of Canadian pride did not have to be limited to actual historical facts.”
The official said there were also plans to celebrate the 4th of july as a Canadian holiday in the near future. The American declaration of independence is the de facto birth of Canada as, well… not the United States, explained the official.
Former Bloc québécois MP and fringe candidate for the leadership of the Parti québécois, Ghislain Lebel, announced this week that he would be a candidate for the new Parti Indépendandiste in the next provincial election.
Disgusted by what he considers the PQ’s resignation on the issue of Québec independence, Lebel compared the PI’s youthful energy to the independence movement’s first modern political party, the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale.
He is the second not-totally-unknown personality to publicly declare his support for the PI after playwright Victor Lévy Beaulieu who also said he would be a candidate in the next election.
The PI (say it in French, it’s slightly witty) is a new political party founded by frustrated and impatient sovereignists who don’t approve of Pauline Marois’ decision to take the obligation to hold a referendum out of the PQ’s platform.
The emergence of a new party was to be expected. Many feel – including the editorial board at AngryFrenchMedia Entreprises – that without a firm commitment to independence and some form of plan to achieve that goal, the Parti québécois loses it’s thing, it’s mojo, the very reason people actually care.
The new party is proposing a platform of classic “pur et dur” demands that have traditionally (until recently) been rejected by the PQ leadership: stronger language legislation, mandatory French Cegep and the referendum election. These ideas did have their defenders in the PQ brass, though, so the soul of the PI, the organizations identity and what values the party would represent beyond specific issues, was still to be determined.
Now we know, and it’s not pretty.
Victor Lévy Beaulieu is a hothead who recently called Pauline Marois a traitor for suggesting that Québec schools do a better job of teaching English as a second language and who also threatened to burn all his books in support of independence. I don’t know of many intellectuals in the world who are as comfortable as he is manipulating the symbols of ignorance and censure.
Ghislain Lebel quit the Bloc québécois for what he called it’s failure to defend “traditional nationalism”. “They cleared out our history”, he said. “In order to win over cultural communities it’s ethnicity zero, religion zero.”
When he declared his candidacy, Lebel made it abundantly clear that ethnicity and identity were his driving force. “Prisoners in this concept of civic nationalism, a thing that never crossed even Machiavelli’s mind, a theory of thought, crafted by patently mercenary thinkers, there is nothing better to cajole minorities than to clear out all belonging to an identity for which French-Canadians (sic) will necessarily pay the price.”
Well… Considering how the RIN’s left-wing ideas and internationalist perspective used to turn off “traditional nationalists”, that might not have been the best possible comparison. In fact, traditionalist nationalists long resisted joining the RIN and even tried to have their own right-wing party called the Parti Républicain du Québec. It is only reluctantly that they joined the RIN and later the PQ.
As for Pierre Bourgault, the RIN’s most charismatic leader was what his biographer Jean-François Nadeau called the independence movement’s least nationalist spokesperson. As Bourgault himself said: “It is not by their origin that the Québécois define themselves, but by their collective aspirations.”
The new Parti Indépendantiste is not a new RIN. It is a new Parti Républicain, perhaps an Alliance Laurentienne. It can’t claim “social-democracy” and modernity and then and associate themselves with people who represent everything the RIN and Pierre Bourgault stood against.
With candidates like Lebel and Beaulieu, the PI now flows from the same traditionalist, reactionary and nationalist source that already feeds the Action démocratique du Québec and the Québec wing of the Conservative party of Canada.
Sadly, that’s already a very crowded place in Québec, today.
How do you say indépendentiste in English?
There is no word.
This is not trivial. English-speaking journalists will use the Parti Québécois’s terminology and call the party’s supporters sovereignists. In casual conversation the highly pejorative separatist is nearly universal.
But how do you call someone who supports the secession of Québec from the Canadian federation on the general concept of the right to self-determination but who is not necessarily a nationalist or a supporter of the Parti québécois’ (increasignly vague) plan for sovereignty?
These terms are inadequate to reflect the nuances within Québec society on the definition of an independent Québec and it’s political and economic relations with other countries. In English there is only the PQ as the polite face of the radical raving-mad separatists.
As a friend who got tired of being called a separatist once said: Separatist? What do you think this is? Star Wars?
Éric Grenier discussed this in his blog Sovereignty en Anglais a few weeks ago in his post on the tactical debates raging within the Parti Québécois:
“French has a lot of words that simply don’t work well in English. “Référendisme” is one of them. Péquiste (PQ members), adéqiste (ADQ members), bloquiste (Bloc members), are other ones that can’t be directly translated (aydeeque-iste?). ”
It is extremely interesting to realize that over 40 years after the creation of the modern Québec independence movement there are still no words in the English language for some of the most basic concepts of the movement’s terminology or even names for the members of Québec’s main political parties.
Is this because an Anglo can only be a Liberal?
Can he only be a Liberal because the independence movement rejects him or is it his community, media and language that unilaterally rejects a whole political movement by not even having words to represent it’s ideas and concepts?
Who is rejecting who is debatable. But the reality is that French Québec, nationalism and even the independence movement has a plurality of political parties and movements, from the far left internationalists of Québec Solidaire to the impatient nationalists of the new Parti indépendantiste (PI, get it?).
Québec’s Anglos somehow never participate in any significant way in any of those movements. Their language excludes them a priori from a “separatist” movement of “pure laine” (notice how the expression “pure laine”, used to make a clear distinction between old-stock French-canadians and other people living in Québec, DID make it into the English vocabulary!) nationalists. They read the Gazette and vote Liberal. Period.
When he saw that 97% of Anglophones had voted against sovereignty in the 1995 referendum Pierre Bourgault concluded: “According to me, 60 to 65% would’ve represented a democratic vote, 80% a xenophobic vote and 97%… that’s simply a racist vote.”
It is not only the English language that has a more limited vocabulary. Take the distinction increasingly made by English-speakers between Quebecer, taken to mean the civic citizenship–the residents of the province of Québec–and the word Québécois, referring to an ethnic group, the French-speaking descendents of New France settlers.
In French, there are no words to make that distinction. Only Québécois. Does that reflect exclusion: there is the Québécois and there is the others? Or does is it illustrate inclusion: all who live in Québec are Québécois?
Perhaps it depends on who you ask.