Ethnic Panic

with 28 comments

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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm

28 Responses

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  1. Sounds like you’ve read the book “L’Obsession ethnique” by Guy Bouthillier…


    May 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm

  2. what i like about you is that you tell the truth that so few anglos know or care to believe, in the (probably) only language that they understand. kudos on this article


    May 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm

  3. I dunno. How about the “scholar” that threatened to burn his books?

    I don’t think any one is looking for a “bilingual multcultural segregated Montreal”.

    How about a bilingual, multilingual, multicultural Montreal where languages are spoken easily and no one gets hung up on who is and isn’t Quebecois or Canadian or just plain human?

    The Gazette is a mirror image of other newspapers.

    All have been irresponsible and politicians, of all stripes, have been the worst.


    May 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

  4. I haven’t had a chance to check out the official report. If it turns out the Gazette was distorting the truth, I’ll be right with you guys. I’ll wait till I’ve had a chance though.

    As it is, I can’t honestly say whether the above post is warranted, or another unjustified attack on an ethnic/linguistic group while at the same time accusing that group of playing the ethnic/linguistic card unfairly.

    Your last paragraph has me a bit confused though. If anglos are “enlarging their community”, “artificially” or otherwise, doesn’t that at least demonstrate a certain level of openess among the community? Your implication seems to be that anglos are being hostile by welcoming non-pure-wool anglos into their ranks. Who’s playing the ethnic game now?

    Where do you get the idea that

    By the way, I don’t write for the Gazette, I don’t even read the Gazette, so please stop equating every fucking thing the Gazette writes with the views of every english-speaking Quebecer.


    May 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  5. Uhh.. poor editing on my part. Ignore that aborted 4th paragraph.


    May 22, 2008 at 7:26 pm

  6. “what i like about you is that you tell the truth that so few anglos know or care to believe, in the (probably) only language that they understand. kudos on this article”

    …Just in case anyone wants to say that a good ol’ anglo-establishment-bashing doesn’t have anything to do with a generalised anglo-bashing.


    May 22, 2008 at 7:31 pm

  7. If what you are saying is really true, please explain why so many sovereignists refer to PM Charest as John James Charest insinuating that he can’t really be a true Québécois with a first name like that . A Bloc MP, Suzanne Tremblay, was the first to raise the issue publicly but many others keep repeating the same message on blogs.

    BTW have you noticed that since Jan Wong’s horribly inaccurate article about a year ago in the G&M, she has been mysteriously relegated to the local TO news front . Haven’t seen any articles from her in a donkey’s age. Just goes to show that even the G &M got the message. Sort of puts a big hole in your theory that Anglos benefit by accusing Quebec of ehtnicity.

    BTW2 I lived in Nova Scotia for 3 years, albeit quite a while ago, and believe me anybody not born and raised there was considered “from away” and we were considered strangers and looked upon with suspicion.


    May 22, 2008 at 7:32 pm

  8. The John James thing always gets me. I believe AFG, in a response to an earlier article argued that an anglo could be premier of Quebec. Maybe he could, but if Jean (yes his father called him Jean his entire life) Charest can’t hold the position without the constant ethnic insinuations, what chance does John Smith have.

    BTW, Jan Wong is not an anglo-Quebecer, the Globe & Mail is not an anglo-Quebec newspaper. I have about as much to do with them as I do with the London Times (that’s a newspapaer, right?)


    May 22, 2008 at 7:46 pm

  9. Dave, I have family from Nova Scotia, I can attest to the “from away” notion. Cape Bretoners seem especially hung up on that.


    May 22, 2008 at 7:52 pm

  10. Jan Wong was born and raised in Montreal, educated at McGill. The Globe and Mail is ‘Canada’s National Newspaper’.


    May 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm

  11. Jan Wong is from M0ntreal? I didn’t know that. Ex-Anglo-Montrealers tend to include some of the more anti-Quebec types that inhabit Canada, so I guess I’m not surprised.

    So, I read through the report, the abridged version. As promised, if I found that the Gazette’s interpretation was inaccurate, I would be willing to say so. Well, I really don’t know what report the Gazette obtained.

    When I first read the Gazette articles, my initial reaction was to question why the Bouchard-Taylor commision had written a report that focused so much attention on language when that was never their mandate. It turns out, it would appear that they didn’t. I saw only one reference to the idea that francophones had a greater responsability to be more accomadating. I saw no reference (again I only read the abridged version) to a need to improve knowledge of english among francophones. Maybe it’s in there somewhere, but I ctrl+F’ed that motherfucker and didn’t find a thing. In any case it wasn’t a central theme by any means, as the Gazette implied.

    Maybe you were right AFG (about the Gazette, not about anglos in general). Maybe the Gazette really was trying to distort things, to make everything about language, even an issue that is deliberately trying to introduce a new point of view, that ignored the old english vs. french shit. It’s a shame too, because this seemed like a fine opportunity to look at an issue from a Quebec, dare I say Quebecois, perspective without bringing up the two solitudes bullshit.

    Language issues should be discussed, but it seems to me that the Bouchard-Taylor hearings and report weren’t where they belonged. Unfortunately, there are those who want to make everything about language. Even more unfortunately, for anglo-Quebecers, those voices are seen not only as leaders, but as representative of the anglophone population.


    May 22, 2008 at 9:08 pm

  12. Much respect to RoryBellows for saying he would do something and doing it.

    Give me some credit, though. I know that The Gazette doesn’t represent Anglos anymore than any French paper represents me.

    But they are the main voice of English Québec. They set the tone and moderate the debate in the Anglo community. Them and their angry mini-me The Suburban.

    Unless someone stands up to the Gazette, they are assumed to speak for the average Anglo.

    I think French Québec has a generally healthier debate, not because we are smarter, but because there are, in Montreal, three strong dailies with very different perspective who keep an eye on each other.

    They watch the Gazette too, but the editors of the Gazette know many of their readers will never know if La Presse rebuts one of their stories, and that Anglos don’t have any alternative anyway. So they get away with a lot.


    May 22, 2008 at 11:26 pm

  13. No arguments from me. There is but one legitimate, widely-read anglo newspaper in Montreal, so naturally, the opinions expressed are going to cover a wide range of ideas. I happen to agree with some of what the Gazette publishes, while I strongly disagree with a lot of it. But, if they want portray themselves, without just cause, as the voice of anglophone Quebec, as some kind of Galgonov-esque figure who’s more radical viewpoints are to be seen as representative of the whole community, then I hope more anglos make it clear that they don’t agree.

    I am very happy to defend the Gazette against accusations that they are promoting a anglo-oriented view of Quebec, because frankly, that’s kinda their job. But I am also more than willing to call them out for attempting to portray themselves as the voice of an entire population.

    Ironically (I think it’s ironic) the reasonable accomadation debate was a rare chance for anglophones (and their media) to participate in a discussion about Qubecoiness without having to yet again debate language issues. It was almost a turning point. Yet, now the discussion will be focused, at least for now, on the Gazette and its intentions. It’s unfortunate.


    May 23, 2008 at 12:09 am

  14. I think it would be interesting to know how many Anglos read, or at least scan via the Internet, La Presse, Le Devoir, etc., and how many Francos read the Gazette.


    May 23, 2008 at 5:04 am

  15. […] was the scoop wrong? Inaccurate? Misleading? Some people think […]

  16. I lived in Vancouver for years, and I have never – ever – heard a member of the “majority” labeling a non-english-speaking immigrant as a Canadian, no matter how long the person has lived here, or whether they have citizenship. Van has strong anti-asian racism, Winnipeg strong anti-native racism, etc. It’s human nature that the majority goes against the largest minority groups, especially when that group is socially significantly stronger or poorer. Not that it’s something we shouldn’t change, just making a point that francophone quebecois are no more racist than others (perhaps less actually). The Gazette should stop living in the 50s and grow up.


    May 24, 2008 at 12:40 am

  17. The Globe and Mail comment section is a good example of the rampant quebecophobia and francophobia that plague english canadian society.

    For almost every comment section about Quebec there is an avalanche of negative comments about Quebec. I remember when 2 years ago the Laval viaduc felt down.. it didn’t take 5 minutes for someone from Toronto to link that tragic event to the money that the OQLF receives: language police instead of road maintenance.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 24, 2008 at 7:27 am

  18. The Jean Dorion’s SSBS is now suing the gazouette over that story.

    Even though I find the gazouette handling of the accomodement report disgrasful and offensive.. I don’t support suing over that. I think that matter should be handled in the court of public opinion (blog, media, editorial) and not in the legal juridical court.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm

  19. …and yet again something that had little to do with language is being made into an issue about language.


    May 25, 2008 at 11:01 pm

  20. It seems to me that every issue in Quebec has to do with language or at least somehow factors down to language….the paranoia is so rampant that it clouds issues of more importance…it must be terrible to be so insecure (Example: 101….) Unfortunately this unrest is spreading to other areas of the country where language is simply not a factor.



    May 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  21. Excuse me but as far as I know The Gazette made it about language.

    The Gazette and only The Gazette tried to sabotage something that was not about language and make it about their antiquated version of a Québécois versus the Others.


    May 26, 2008 at 1:09 am

  22. ABP – “it must be terrible to be so insecure (Example: 101….)”

    Can’t speak for others but I must say that personally as a francophone I find it quite humiliating that seemingly the only way to have any control over the linguistic and cultural evolution of our nation is through legal coercion (ie Bill 101) or fear/threats (use French with francophones or else they’ll get upset and break up Canada!).


    May 26, 2008 at 10:01 am

  23. @québécoiséparatiste

    Go visit for a Quebec version of the comments in G&M you refer to. Nobody has an exclusivity on vice nor virtue. To argue that somehow Quebec is more virtuous than ROC or to argue the opposite is a total waste of time and ebergy.


    May 26, 2008 at 10:33 am

  24. “Excuse me but as far as I know The Gazette made it about language.

    The Gazette and only The Gazette tried to sabotage something that was not about language and make it about their antiquated version of a Québécois versus the Others”

    I never implied that the Gazette wasn’t to blame, in fact I was explicit in pointing out the opposite. But I think some of the reaction has been a bit too focused on the intent of an anglophone newspaper (a term that is often used) to distort the truth, rather than a criticism of shoddy journalism.


    May 26, 2008 at 9:21 pm

  25. Don’t worry Rory, I was replying to ABP. I think we generally agree.

    And to be fair, not that I’m less angry (I should rap about this, I’m rhyming, G) it true that the PQ and the Bloc would love to find a way to make this about language… oui?


    May 26, 2008 at 10:10 pm

  26. How weird to see that Guy Dorion of the SSJB always gets on the back of The Gazette to bash them like there is no tomorrow in front of the Quebec Press Council (another useless government organism)?

    It’s the reflex of the looser to always complain about everything. Wasn’t I right to say that Canada has become a nation of whiners????

    Prove me wrong.

    Tym Machine

    May 26, 2008 at 10:46 pm

  27. Maybe the Gazette should be suing someone…
    Some commissioners think the paper was taken for a ride:


    May 26, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  28. “And to be fair, not that I’m less angry (I should rap about this, I’m rhyming, G) it true that the PQ and the Bloc would love to find a way to make this about language… oui?”

    Of course they would…the PQ and Bloc are increasingly becoming entities without a reason for being…any cause is better than none when your choking and survival is paramount. What do they have left in the pantry??



    May 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm

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