Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec. Part Two.

with 27 comments

Maka Kotto

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?

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 14, 2008 at 12:53 pm

27 Responses

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  1. Race and language are two differents things.
    One can be “black and francophone” or “black and anglophone”.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm

  2. Not that I’m a fan of Ms. Wong or anything, but I believe the point she was trying to make, however irrelevent it was, was that it isn’t considered taboo to acknowledge the existence of an original people in Quebec. The connection she tried to make between that and an act of murder was ridiculous, of course, but that isn’t what you seem to be disputing.

    It may be just a sign of the power of political correctness in anglo north America (which is worrisome at times) but I just can’t see it being widely acceptable anywhere else on the continent to make distinctions between the original inhabitants of a region and all those who arrived later. I’m not saying that acknowledging that difference is racist, just that the distinction is often made here, while it isn’t elsewhere, which I believe was Ms. Wong’s point.

    Of course, those who belong to the “pur laine” group are certainly not the only ones who make the distinction. The anglo media can get a lot of mileage out of it too.


    May 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm

  3. It’s even worse for provincial public employees. Although English speakers in Quebec represent 10% of the population, they occupy only 2% of all public jobs.


    Tym Machine

    Tym Machine

    May 15, 2008 at 9:48 pm

  4. @RoryBellows

    I welcome the moderate tone you seem to wish to take here. I’ll point out however, that it was you who said in a recent thread that you felt offended seeing immigrants finding it offensive themselves that English-speakers (who got here before) refuse to speak French. Speaking of North America, you even spoke of the USA:

    “I wouldn’t dream of proudly declaring myself an American, while questioning the status of someone who has centuries old roots in the country, unless it was made clear to me that because I possesed a certain trait (english as a first language) I had a right to make such an arrogrant claim.”

    Of course, in other nations, people don’t speak of that group of the nation (that, in the words of others, were “here first” ) when its rights are understood and respected. And it is taboo when this status has been used to its unfair advantage by a powerful group (i.e. the Wasp in the USA, let’s say ).

    It’s all a question of relative power and one cannot compare a group in a position of force with a group in a position of weakness. You can’t say the same joke about white people and black people, about gentiles and jews, etc., and it’s quite understandable.

    Look at aboriginals, for whom the “here first” argument is not only tolerated but celebrated, because of the extent of the obviousness of the injustice against them. For other peoples, it isn’t that obvious.

    But in Quebec, it’s not so much a question of who got there first, and more of the idea of having a common society with a common identity; with cherished differences but without ghettos.


    May 16, 2008 at 1:42 am

  5. NOTE: The ‘wink’ emoticon in my last message is an error. It’s quite out of place. If this can be corrected, AFG, please don’t be shy.


    May 16, 2008 at 1:48 am

  6. I look forward to some more of your nifty statistics , i.e. showing how many cushy senior-level government positions in Quebec City (permanent ones, gravy train for life) are held by the minorities?

    More than 1%? I doubt it.

    Comparing two negative trends, given that visible minorities are woefully under-represented in BOTH Ontario and Quebec, and then proudly claiming that ‘our’ negative is somewhat better then ‘their’ negative is an excellent example of homegrown ‘critical thinking’.

    I guess that’s why local populace keeps obsessing about the language which is just a ‘tool’, and shies away from discussing poor level of delivered ‘content’ by local intelligentsia (I use this term very loosely).

    On the other hand, a frank discussion on how much has French-speaking Quebec community contributed to overal improvement of mankind’s knowledge and understanding in past 4-5 centuries would be perhaps too painfull to watch…..


    May 16, 2008 at 6:42 am

  7. “Comparing two negative trends, given that visible minorities are woefully under-represented in BOTH Ontario and Quebec, and then proudly claiming that ‘our’ negative is somewhat better then ‘their’ negative is an excellent example of homegrown ‘critical thinking’.”

    As Yoda would say: “AFG has learned well” on this front. He’s simply borrowing a page from English-speaking Canada, which has mastered the art of saying its “negative” is somewhat better than Quebec’s negative. Check out the national English-language media coverage of the largely cosmetic language issue in Quebec compared to that of something fare more serious like “starlight tours” in Western Canadian cities (betcha a lot of people here don’t even know I am talking about) if you don’t believe me.

    The violent crime situation in certain parts of Toronto (largely populated by you-know-who) is alarmingly approaching that of certain notorious American inner cities, but just get one anglo in Montreal answered “je ne parle pas anglais” by a pimple-faced teen in a Couche-Tard and it’s front page news!

    So please, spare us the righteous indignation.

    Speaking of which…

    “On the other hand, a frank discussion on how much has French-speaking Quebec community contributed to overal improvement of mankind’s knowledge and understanding in past 4-5 centuries would be perhaps too painfull to watch…..”

    This is an odd comment coming from someone who seems soooooo concerned about tolerance, harmony and equality. Or perhaps it’s just, to paraphrase George Orwell, that some peoples are more equal than others in your mind?


    May 16, 2008 at 8:53 am

  8. Liberlogos: “I’ll point out however, that it was you who said in a recent thread that you felt offended seeing immigrants finding it offensive themselves that English-speakers (who got here before) refuse to speak French”

    You got me, sort of. I did myself make the distinction between those had been here a long time and those who had recently arrived. However, I also pointed out in my above post, that I didn’t view this necessarily as an act of racism.

    I don’t think it’s abnormal to expect that someone who is new to a country wouldn’t question the level of belonging of someone who has roots in that country. The distinction I made was between everyone who was already here (regardless of ethnicity) and those who had very recently arrived. In my opinion, that isn’t in any way anti-immigrant, just common sense.


    May 16, 2008 at 6:18 pm

  9. In fact Jan Wong could be partly right about Kimveer Gill.

    It is possible that the linguistic tension that exists in Montreal could drive some people to isolate themself socially and as a result of that isolation.. they explode in violence. That could be Kimveer Gill case. That’s why we need Bill 101 to integrate them in francophone societe so that will feel confortable living in Quebec. Gill was an immigrant who went to english schools in Quebec btw. It might not be that case. but it might be.. we will never know.

    The same is true with the FLQ… the FLQ used violence as a consequence of the humiliation of francophone in Quebec.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 16, 2008 at 11:34 pm

  10. I’m not a Quebecois, but as my name here implies I have a connection to the place. Sadly I am one of those unfortunates that AFG described as prisoners of English– I did not meet a native speaker of French until my late teens, and had only two years of extremely poor education in the language (by nonnative speakers) in high school.

    Which is why I’m surprised at how grudgingly Quebec francophones accept immigrants who speak fluent French. In my last sojourn in Montreal, I talked with a couple of guys in a bar who were immigrants from Africa (Senegal, I think, though I can’t recall for sure). Bright, hard-working, educated young men, they were very pleased to have made it to a stable, prosperous country where their efforts would be rewarded– and in French to boot. But they were perplexed by the resistance of native-born Quebecers to accepting immigrants– particularly ones with dark skin– as “real” Quebecois.

    When I travel in Quebec, I expect to be treated as an outsider: sometimes indugently, when I am cast in the role of confused tourist, and sometimes rather rudely, when I trot out my poor French to the wrong Montreal shopkeeper and he assumes that I’m one of those hated anglos who lives there but won’t learn la langue (and thus should be scolded). But when someone speaks French, and only French, and raises their kids in French, and works hard in French to pay Quebec taxes that support French, doesn’t that suggest that the locals might want to consider getting down off their high horse?

    English-speaking Canada does not understand francophone culture in Quebec, period. And it’s unfair to conflate separatism with xenophobia and racism. But to be successful in encouraging the continued growth and development of francophone Quebec culture, it must be acknowledged that xenophobia and racism are in fact strong social and political currents in Quebec today.

    Some Quebec politicians and commentators address the present stew of demographic, cultural, and immigration issues by saying that there should be more Quebecois– by which they mean that white folks named Tremblay should have more babies. But another, better way to accomplish the goal of preserving and promoting the francophone culture of Quebec would be turning skilled, motivated, francophone immigrants into Quebecois– which is not much more difficult than accepting them into the community. They want to join you, so let them. And that’s it!

    Quebec is a country (and a nice one too). Someday it may also be a state. But don’t be Japan, where a Korean surname means you’ll never be a “real” Japanese. And don’t be Germany, where they will call someone a “Turk” even if he’s a third-generation inhabitant who speaks perfect German. Those countries are bigger, and stronger than they think they are– Quebec simply can’t afford to be that stupid.


    May 18, 2008 at 5:04 pm

  11. Well-wisher:

    There are challenges with the integration of newcomers to Quebec just as there are similar issues elsewhere in the world. I don’t really disagree with that much of what you said, but keep in mind that this is a common situation in most countries that welcome immigrants these days, although some specific issues are more particular to some areas. I could sit (actually I have sat) in bars across North America and talk(ed) to the local incarnation of your Senegalese friends and hear(d) them complain about pretty much the exact same things.

    Now, I won’t do like people from Quebec often do when confronted with such criticism and rattle off a long list of non-French Canadians who are highly visible and successful members of (francophone) Quebec society (the list could actually be very long in fact), but I’ll just say that the fact that the guy who is the subject of this thread exists (and that there are quite a few others like him) might be a sign that things aren’t all that bad. Though they must and shall improve, I agree.


    May 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

  12. Well-wisher is correct. There is xenophobia and racism in Québec big time.

    But then Québec media hasn’t made it a habit of preaching to the rest of Canada as it had it all figured out. See the front page of last saturday’s Gazette:

    And then, Anthony Kavanagh, a black Québécois comic who’s been enjoying massive success in France was back in Québec last week. He made a clear distinction on the Tout le Monde en Parle TV show: in Québec he encounters ignorance and xenophobia. In France it’s hatred and racism.

    It’s nothing to be proud of, but… quand on se compare on se console…


    May 18, 2008 at 10:36 pm

  13. My experience is that skilled, hard working, educated immigrants to English speaking North America whose English is perfect, or nearly so, and who happen to have dark skin (a member of our family fits this description), are often made to feel alienated, too.


    May 20, 2008 at 5:51 am

  14. Reading my post again, it comes off a little… preachy. For that I apologize; it’s only because I feel strongly about Quebec and the kind of future it could have.

    It’s true that it’s hard to gain acceptance as an immigrant in most places. And it’s true that Quebec does a better job than some– I wouldn’t want to be a Zimbabwean in South Africa right now, for instance.

    My ultimate point, I suppose, is to ask that Quebec not settle for that. Young, politically-engaged francophones are quite willing to publicly identify and struggle against anglophone discrimination– for lack of a better word– but it’s hard to say that they are as energetic in condemning offhand xenophobia in their own ranks.

    Or don’t you agree? I am just an observer.


    May 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  15. “but it’s hard to say that they are as energetic in condemning offhand xenophobia in their own ranks.”

    Maybe it’s just easier to think the problem is preponderantly among Québécois annexationists. That’s what I do anyway.


    May 21, 2008 at 10:43 am

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. Plenty of minorities in the federalist camp too. The fact that people of various ethnicities can take either side is a good thing, no?


    May 22, 2008 at 7:59 pm

  18. Deprenyl, I’ve never heard Quebecois annexationists before. It’s both inclusive and divisive at the same time. Thanks, I think.


    May 22, 2008 at 8:02 pm

  19. I think this “Quebec annexationists” neologism is an attempt to affix a negative appellation on the federalist camp, turning the tables on them (especially since sovereignists and indépendantistes are routinely referred to as separatists or even “séparatistes” in French).

    If you look at it from the point of view of semantics, the word “separatist” implies taking something out of an existing whole. The implication is that the break you want to make is somehow unnatural or artificial.

    “Annexationist” has the same undertones, but from the other extreme. It implies that something that already existed legitimately on its own has been forcibly amalgamated with another entity. Once again, the undertone is that the amalgamation of the two is somehow unnatural and artificial.


    May 23, 2008 at 8:15 am

  20. “Oh, and memo to Pauline Marois”
    My, aren’t we pretentious…

    Billy Bob

    May 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  21. I am slightly disturbed by the apologist tone of this post. Just because the PQ now has a 2nd! *gasp* non-white MNA that does not mean that there is no racism in Quebec, or that militant nationalism is in any way compatible with a cosmopolitan multiculturalism.
    If you have to say you’re multicultural by pointing to the one black MNA in your party, then you probably aren’t.
    Also, the “if they don’t do it, why should we?” logic that Mr. AngryFrenchGuy tends to employ here, is simply mind-boggling to me. So what if Ontario’s record is worse? Does that mean that Quebec is a multicultural heaven? A quick reality check will surely cast doubt on that assumption.

    “It’s nothing to be proud of, but… quand on se compare on se console…”-AFG

    Yeah, let’s stop doing that please, because it doesn’t help in the slightest.


    May 24, 2008 at 6:59 pm

  22. “It’s nothing to be proud of, but… quand on se compare on se console…”-AFG”

    It does appear childish to do this it is true. However, perhaps people like AFG wouldn’t feel the need to do it if there weren’t 567,975,567,555* instances in the blogosphere and even in serious media (cf Jan Wong) that strongly suggest that Quebec is the most racist, xenophobic, ethnocentric of places where the election of someone like Kotto is totally impossible (I am actually being polite here, as things are normally much more vitriolic than that), usually accompanied by self-righteous statements of how the Rest of Canada is a multicultural nirvana-land of milk and honey.

    I for one would be more than happy to see all of this silliness come to an end. So call off your dogs Anglo-Canada and then maybe we can have a real adult discussion.

    *VM, you yourself actually contributed number 567,975,567,556 when you referred to “crazed nationalists” on another thread in this very blog on May 24!


    May 25, 2008 at 7:26 pm

  23. I must not read the same blogs as you. I just don’t come across that many instances of Quebec bashing. Not that I’m suggesting it doesn’t exist, or that if the subject is brought up, the average Canadian won’t be of the opinion that Quebec has some racist tendencies, but I find anglo-bashing to be a much more popular sport in the blogosphere. You guys still cite a Jan Wong article from 2 years ago to prove your point, I can find new examples on daily basis at, among many other places.

    As for calling off the dogs, I have tried. I’ve been banned a couple of times by the friendly folks at and I had a series of funny e-mail exchanges with the leader of Affiliation Quebec a little while back. But in the end, those people don’t need my ridcule, as the ridiculousness of their arguments is already obvious to anyone who reads their material.


    May 25, 2008 at 11:20 pm

  24. In English-speaking Canada, it is unfortunately often a truism that Quebec is much, much more racist than the rest of the country. You can say this at a cocktail party with educated people and almost no one will bat an eye, or the rare person who will protest will be shot down by others who will invariably pull out anecdotal examples: yeah, but what about money and the ethnic vote, Lionel Groulx, the sign law, etc. And nobody ever, ever brings up Jim Keegstra, Malcolm Ross, starlight tours, Ipperwash, Caledonia or Africville to balance things out. And nobody even realizes that to label an entire identifiable group of 7 million people with the “racist” tag is, wait a minute, actually racist in itself.

    When media like Macleans poll Canadians and ask people which province is the most racist/intolerant/xenophobic, people in the 9 other provinces always pick Quebec first by a wide margin (Alberta is usually a distant second). Then, a few columns later in the same article are the numbers where people from each of the provinces were themselves surveyed on racial questions, and Quebecers will generally answer with what one would call racist attitudes in strikingly similar proportions to other Canadians (and sometimes in lower proportions than certain provinces).

    Now, you should note that I am not a Quebec separatist looking for examples of stuff like this in order to justify Quebec leaving Canada. I am just relating what I see, hear and read out there.


    May 26, 2008 at 8:29 am

  25. ” ‘Annexationist’ has the same undertones, but from the other extreme. It implies that something that already existed legitimately on its own has been forcibly amalgamated with another entity. Once again, the undertone is that the amalgamation of the two is somehow unnatural and artificial. ”

    I like you Acajack, you think clearly. It was a neologism in english for me too, had to look it up. I don’t recognize the legitimity of 1867, which is continuous , on a straight line, with 1837-39. Also, since it’s always better to start from somewhere, I choose to start with Maurice Séguin’s work, where the term ‘séparatisme’ is predominently used to refer to the continuing ideology of the existence of a separate Canadien (later French-Canadian) nation, not a political project per se. One of his masterworks is titled ‘Histoire de deux nationalismes au Canada’; sounds like a tempting read, doesn’t it? It delivers.


    May 30, 2008 at 6:36 pm

  26. Pauline Marois, wasn’t she the one responisble for screwing up the health care system Quebec? If I reall correctly, she was the one responsible for the bill that retired hundreds of general practitioners, senior nurses and also so closing up slots in the nursing programs in the CEGEPs. Today we have a shortage of GPs, and nurses.

    She also screwed up the education system royally. Because this is a “Made in Quebec” program, all the books fo rthe education have to be by Quebec authors. As a result, the program is now being implemented at the senior secondary level. The English schools will have to wait for up to 2 years before the books are translated, while the French schools have had the books in their inventories sfor over a year.

    Now I regress to her stint as Finance minister. I wouldn’t trust her with my allowance. It seems that 24 billion of debt was conveniently hidden from the incoming Liberal government. She declared later, that they used standard business practices. These are they same accounting tricks used by Enron. So why wasn’t she prosecuted and put in jail.


    July 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  27. Oh jester, you’re funny.

    First Marois is guilty for making hard choices to balance the budget, then for not balancing it enough. Make up your mind and avoid selectivly bashing the Souverainiste mouvement while giving a free pass to others.

    I say ”not balancing it enough”, because the anexationist Liberal government didn’t change the way they hold the books. So done with your first double-standard. (As a bonus they actually also did illegal stuff, plenty of it. I would have enjoyed them in jail for their systematic frauds and a couple of them, like Tony Tomassi, might indeed go to jail.)

    Anexionists liberals didn’t repair the healthcare system, by the way waiting lists got worse.

    Also would you please drop the ”think of the children” moral panic about the education reform now that we clearly saw that students from reformed education perform just as well or slightly better when they reach non-reformed upper education? Our made-in-Québec education model works fine. It would be greately appreciated if you kept the souverainiste-bashing at least distantly connected to reality.


    December 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

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