AngryFrenchGuy

Pure Laine Black Sheep

with 66 comments

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?

I’m as pure as any Québécois who’s family tree has at least one root that goes back to those first French settlers, as pure as Gregory Charles, Aly N’Diaye, Normand Brathwaite and Donald Brashear.

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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

66 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hoo boy,

    I can’t answer for the people who are for Quebec independence, because I am not favour of that solution. I do recognize the points made by others here in response to your question, but I still think most of what they desire (let’s say 95%) could be achieved within Canada, with significant changes to the way the federation works. This would be the least disruptive option in my opinion. I base my view on the historical experience of other multinational states such as Switzerland.

    Acajack

    May 31, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  2. Aha, thanks qs and AFG, I think I get where you’re coming from. So the real problem, as you see it, is the free movement of persons within Canada, which negates Quebec’s effort to attract francophones? It can’t just be that immigrants have a faulty idea of where they’re going — though I’m sure they do, thanks to our global self-marketing — most of the aerospace engineers driving cabs in Toronto could tell you that there’s a certain problem in communication re: credentialing, for example.

    What I don’t get is what is stopping the Quebec government from taking all other steps (besides restricting settlement) to preserve French (if indeed it is endangered, which I still have my doubts about personally). I mean, the Charter is easily overridden (cf. Bill 101), so what would prevent Quebec from, for instance, requiring non-citizens to learn French reasonably well before, oh, getting a driver’s license? Are the schooling provisions of 101 being overridden?

    What I mean to say is that I don’t see how an independent Quebec would, in itself, change the problem of some immigrants acculturating in English. Those who are doing so now — a minority, n’est-ce pas? — must be pretty dedicated to the idea: perhaps because, in their eyes, they’re not so much immigrating to Quebec or Canada as to “the West,” which a globalised culture has led them to think must be anglophone?

    Canada vs. Quebec at the WHC would be pretty cool, though. Except that we would both lose to Russia.

    hoo-boy

    May 31, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  3. “So the real problem, as you see it, is the free movement of persons within Canada, which negates Quebec’s effort to attract francophones?”

    No, the problem is that the global image of Canada is that of an english speaking country (especially in Asia). Many immigrants arrive in Quebec with that mindset and it is impossible to make them change it.

    This problem is not specific to Quebec. When I was young I thought that Belgium was a francophone country, only latter I learned about the dual-bilingual nature of Belgium. I am a francophone so all i knew was Hergé, Jacques Brel.

    Algeria? most people would think “arab” yet 25% of algerian are berbers.

    The free movement of population probably help Quebec to stay francophone. Statistic shows that 20% of immigrants who first landed in Quebec leave for the ROC within the first 5 years. Again language is a big factor there. Many immigrants who landed in “Canada, Quebec” but prefer english realize that it is going to be easier for them in Ontario or Alberta. Not that it is impossible to living entirely in english in Montreal but it is easier to do so in Ontario.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 31, 2008 at 3:18 pm

  4. I’m more or less with Hoo-boy, I don’t see what steps will suddenly become possible after independance.

    Hoo-boy asks what is stopping Quebec from taking further steps to promote french. I think that cost is an obstacle, but maybe more important is the fact that you can only accomplish so much by legislation.

    Quebec could enforce francization for every business, build and promote free french language centres on every corner etc. but how the hell are you going to pay for it?

    Even if you could afford all that, the problem, for nationalists, would still exist. Ultimately, to get Quebec where they want to get it (as french as the rest of Canada is english) you have to have new Quebecers voluntarily, even naturally adopting french. What law could any governmant pass to fix such a problem? I think it’s a mistake to think that what Quebec wants is for new arrivals (or anyone else) to simply learn french reasonably well. What Quebec wants is full integration. It’s a reality this bilingual anglo took a while to realize.

    I’ve always answered a Canada vs. Quebec hockey game when asked if there was anything I could support about sovereignty. Then again, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have national soccer teams…

    RoryBellows

    May 31, 2008 at 3:33 pm

  5. On the “false advertising” to immigrants issue, while I’m sure it would be easier to promote yourself as a french country, I’m not convinced that anything would change.

    Is the problem that they come here thinking that it’s a bilingual country, only to find out it’s a french one? Or is it taht long after they’ve arrived, they still aren’t sure. Their kids have to go to french school, but they have to speak english to get a job! It’s confusing, but it’s not a problem that can be entirely solved by french only immigration applications.

    RoryBellows

    May 31, 2008 at 3:40 pm

  6. The problem is not “french only immigration”.

    The goal is to make francophones (or at least francophiles) out of allophones in the same way the ROC is making anglophones out of allophones.

    I got some very bad personal experiences at work when I was told to speak in english by immigrants because *this is canada*.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 31, 2008 at 5:25 pm

  7. We are in agreement. My last sentence was poorly worded. I was talking about the hypothetical application form that the prosepctive immigrant would fill out being in french only, thus telling him that Quebec is a french country.

    RoryBellows

    May 31, 2008 at 5:40 pm

  8. I guess I just don’t grasp how you could go to school in French, have all your schoolmates be francophones or francising allophones, and somehow not identify as francophone. Is that happening? For real? It kind of defies belief. Where do they get their English, apart from TV and the Internet? Surely to God you can’t become an ardent anglophile just by watching Seinfeld reruns.

    It occurs to me, on that score, what a disaster for 101 it would be to shut down the anglophone schools. Suddenly you’d have tons of anglophone kids (raised at home in English) intermingling with the allophones. THAT would be pretty disastrous for francisisation, eh?

    qs writes —

    “The problem is that the global image of Canada is that of an english speaking country (especially in Asia). Many immigrants arrive in Quebec with that mindset and it is impossible to make them change it.”

    Clearly, then, we need to propagandise more!

    “The free movement of population probably help Quebec to stay francophone. Statistic shows that 20% of immigrants who first landed in Quebec leave for the ROC within the first 5 years.”

    Aha, good point.

    hoo-boy

    May 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm

  9. hoo-boy:

    You are right… the situation of french in Quebec is not that good but it is not entirely a disaster either.
    The children of bill 101 are the biggest success of bill 101.

    quebecois separatiste

    May 31, 2008 at 8:59 pm

  10. The best way for Quebecois is to go back to France and start a new life in real French environment. I guess they will be lucky and all the problems will be over.

    Troll of Kebek

    May 31, 2008 at 10:46 pm

  11. “Canada vs. Quebec at the WHC would be pretty cool, though. Except that we would both lose to Russia.”

    I’m totally with you on this one!

    As for how kids who go to school in French can still be anglophile… Depends on where you are, I guess, but in a lot of schools I have frequented in Montreal, English is considered the language of the cool kids, because it’s the language of american pop music, american shows and american culture. So to be cool, you have to speak (and swear) English.

    SM

    May 31, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  12. Hoo boy and RoryBellows:

    In response to your question about what independence would change…

    Think about all of the newly independent countries in the world (say the last 10 or 20 years). Almost all of them that are “small nations” have seen the national language reinforced after independence (the Baltic states, Slovakia, Slovenia, etc.). National independence always ends up strengthening the language favoured by the new national government, with an army, a national public service, etc. functioning in the said language.

    The main historical exception to this is Ireland, as lots of people claim that the use of Irish actually declined (to near extinction) in favour of English after independence. However, Irish was already in a terminal slide at that point and this trend could not be reversed. Ireland was already predominantly English-speaking at the time and language was pretty much a non-issue in the independence movement.

    Ireland going back to Irish in the 1920s would be pretty much akin to Louisiana becoming independent from the U.S. today and going back to French as the main language.

    Quebec is totally different, as French is still very much alive and would only be reinforced by independence. The lessons of history show this quite clearly.

    Anonymous

    May 31, 2008 at 11:09 pm

  13. Oops… sorry. Last post was by Acajack.

    Acajack

    May 31, 2008 at 11:10 pm

  14. “We are in agreement. My last sentence was poorly worded. I was talking about the hypothetical application form that the prosepctive immigrant would fill out being in french only, thus telling him that Quebec is a french country.”

    This would be fine if it were true. When Québec is a country, you can start doing this. Otherwise, the reality is you’ve got pockets of anglophones in a province, in a country that has TWO official languages.

    Geo

    June 1, 2008 at 1:17 am

  15. Acajack writes:

    “Think about all of the newly independent countries in the world (say the last 10 or 20 years). Almost all of them that are “small nations” have seen the national language reinforced after independence (the Baltic states, Slovakia, Slovenia, etc.). National independence always ends up strengthening the language favoured by the new national government, with an army, a national public service, etc. functioning in the said language.”

    The thing is, though, that none of these new countries had their local languages at par before independence. In Quebec the army (Quebec-based regiments) uses French already, there’s a whole huge provincial public service that operates only in French, etc. etc. None of the official stuff needs to be strengthened, because it’s already incredibly strong. Indeed, I doubt there is any parallel, in these or other small-language nations, for the OLF’s enforcement of French in the private sector.

    I guess the faith that independence will solve the problem just strikes me as a bit mystical.

    hoo-boy

    June 1, 2008 at 5:09 am

  16. “As for how kids who go to school in French can still be anglophile… Depends on where you are, I guess, but in a lot of schools I have frequented in Montreal, English is considered the language of the cool kids, because it’s the language of american pop music, american shows and american culture. So to be cool, you have to speak (and swear) English.”

    A very interesting observation and comment. It could be that this might be more of an issue than one would think….After all, if english is actually viewed as cool by the youth as SM indicates…then how is french perceived??? Not cool!! If this is the case then no amount of legislation will change things going forward…. you can lead a horse to the river but whether he chooses to drink or not is another issue.

    It is unfortunate that our politicians and government “represent” Canada as a bilingual country (which of course it is not) on the world stage. Certainly must be confusing for new arrivals expecting this to be the case and then discovering the reverse whether they be from a franco speaking country or other non-franco speaking country.

    ABP

    ABP

    June 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

  17. “but in a lot of schools I have frequented in Montreal, English is considered the language of the cool kids, because it’s the language of american pop music, american shows and american culture. So to be cool, you have to speak (and swear) English.”

    I wouldnt know about what its like in schools, but in Montreal in general, Ive found the exact opposite true. I get the impression that in Montreal, English is the language the “un-cool” people speak (for lack of a better term), that is to say those McGill students who always speak loudly, west-islanders who refuse to speak it, or generally people who arent able to speak french otherwise. It seems that people, if they can, prefer to use french in public.

    Anonymous

    June 1, 2008 at 9:12 am

  18. It seems to me that all people participating in this blog live outside of Quebec and don’t know exactly what is going on in here. One of the main reasons why immigrants learn French is the bigger welfare and the other bonuses. That means if you are on welfare and study French on the free courses you will get extra money. If you study only English forget about it. But to find a good job you have to know English. That’s why people attend French courses to get extra money for that and spend them to pay for English classes. We are not allowed to send our kids to English schools. OK! We send them to private French schools. Because they are subsidised by the Quebec government, education is cheap and kids have more English classes. The cost is about $2000 – $4000 per year. But if you are on welfare and study French you have a 100 % chance not to pay even for that. Because you are poor and learn French. And after we send our kids to English Cegeps. Because to find a good job you have to know English. And everything is like that in Quebec – The Deformed Mirror Kingdom.

    Troll of Kebek

    June 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

  19. Hoo boy:
    “The thing is, though, that none of these new countries had their local languages at par before independence. In Quebec the army (Quebec-based regiments) uses French already, there’s a whole huge provincial public service that operates only in French, etc. etc. None of the official stuff needs to be strengthened, because it’s already incredibly strong.”

    I must disagree on this. One could say that local languages were pretty much “at par” (though what “at par” actually means could be a matter of debate) in all of these countries just as French is with English in Quebec. Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Slovak and all of the Yugoslav languages including Slovenian had official status I am pretty sure in the local “republics” (equivalent to provinces) prior to independence. The local language was stronger in some areas than others, but that was normally a variant of how big the influx of non-speakers of the local language (ie Russian speakers in the Baltics), rather than (with few exceptions) an imposition by the central powers.

    Acajack

    June 3, 2008 at 7:30 am

  20. Acajack wrote:
    “Think about all of the newly independent countries in the world (say the last 10 or 20 years). Almost all of them that are “small nations” have seen the national language reinforced after independence (the Baltic states, Slovakia, Slovenia, etc.). National independence always ends up strengthening the language favoured by the new national government, with an army, a national public service, etc. functioning in the said language.”

    These languages were not disappearing before independence despite the presence of non-speakers. And yes, they were strengthened after independence. One effect of this strengthening was that while prior to independence, many -if not most people in some of these countries- spoke two languages (the local one and Russian for Baltics, Serbo-Croatian for the former Yugoslav republics) today they only speak the local language.

    You can argue that English has moved in as the second language, but is it really such a benefit that people do not have the opportunity any more to learn that other language?

    And while we are at the Baltics, Estonia had a language test as a requirement for obtaining cititenship. This test had to be taken by a majority of the Russian minority who were already living in Estonia prior to independence. Will this be coming to anglos and other minorities in an effort to further strengthen French?

    Anonymous

    June 4, 2008 at 11:34 am

  21. People in Latvia and Estonia would probably tell you that their national languages, though still spoken by slight majorities prior to independence, were on a downward slide that was heading towards “folklorization” and, in a longer term perspective, extinction. This explains the Quebec-ish language laws (and in some cases much, much stronger than what is in place in Quebec) adopted soon after independence. Slovak and Slovenian were on the other hand in pretty decent shape prior to independence and have been emboldened since then.

    Like all of these languages, French is not in danger of disappearing in Quebec in the short or medium terms. The argument can be made that there is a very slight, slow erosion that is taking place but the dam has clearly not burst open.

    Now, what most people want is for French to maintain its place and, just as importantly, continue to grow, in the same way that the languages of numerically small peoples like the four mentioned above, plus the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the Suisses romands (French-speaking Swiss), the Flemings, etc. are growing in their homelands.

    Acajack

    June 5, 2008 at 8:44 am

  22. Latvian, Slovenian, Danish, etc., are different from French in Québec in that those languages are only spoken in one country. Speakers of Québec French have the advantage over, say, speakers of Latvian in that they can draw on the entire Francophone world for cultural sustenance.

    The situation of the Flemings is somewhat similar in that their language is also spoken next door in the Netherlands, and a mutually intelligible variant of their language is spoken in South Africa.

    Flanders has another thing in common with Québec: one of the biggest irritants for the Flemish nationalists is that there are so many speakers of another language (French) in the city they consider their metropolis (Brussels). There are many differences between Brussels and Montréal, of course, but the common denominator is that both Flemings and Québécois complain that they often can’t transact simple business in their own city without having to use what is for them a second language.

    littlerob

    June 6, 2008 at 5:10 am

  23. Re Brussels and Montreal

    Comparisons between Brussels and Montreal are indeed very interesting, but the two situations are far from being analogous.

    For starters, the language of the “frustrateds” is much, much more present in Montreal than in Brussels. What I mean by this is that Montreal is way more French than Brussels is Flemish. The Belgian census some years stopped asking questions about language because the issue was too touchy, but based on the language of income tax returns (that’s what they use!) and everyone’s impressions, Brussels is only about 15% Flemish-speaking. Which makes it an 85% francophone city approximately. For a better comparison for Flemish in Brussels today, think of French in Ottawa. It’s there, it’s on all the public signs, there are schools that teach in it, it’s required for certain jobs and heard on the streets fairly regularly, but for everyday “transactions” (as you say), French in Brussels/English in Ottawa is where it’s at.

    On the other hand, the island of Montreal (if we want to take that measure) is about half francophone, one quarter anglophone and about one quarter allophone, with the allophone quarter about evenly split between French and English in public language usage. So for all intents and purposes Montreal is two thirds French and one third English today.

    In actual fact, Brussels today is where most people in Quebec feared/warned Montreal would end up without Bill 101. That is, a city with a different operating language than that of its hinterland, and also one that’s somewhat detached from its cultural and historical roots.

    Brussels as recently as a few centuries ago was a predominantly Flemish-speaking city. Just as Montreal was for most of its history (and remains for the moment) predominantly French-speaking. What happened in Brussels was that making it the capital of Belgium reinforced the presence of French in the city as French was the preferred language of the Belgian crown and its governing classes. It wasn’t just an influx of French speakers from the southern parts of Belgium that did Flemish in. Flemish-speaking people in Brussels also assimilated to French, so much so that most of the Bruxellois I have met in my life have had names like Jean-Louis Van den Broucke. Immigrants to Brussels also overwhelmingly prefer French (many of them are actually from former French colonies like Morocco and already speak French when they arrive). But some immigrants still prefer to send their kids to Flemish schools to take advantage of smaller class sizes and the opportunity to learn a bit of Flemish (quite difficult to learn since it’s relatively absent from street life). Once again, this is very similar to the situation in Ottawa, where many immigrants send their kids to French schools, although most of these kids tend to speak only English outside the classroom.

    It’s as if Montreal were mainly English-speaking and its mayor were Gordon Tremblay and its most famous exports race car driver James Villeneuve and singer Charlene Dion, and the federal Liberal leader Stephen Dion. Some of the more antsy Quebec nationalists say this is where Montreal will be in a few decades from now. We shall see.

    Acajack

    June 6, 2008 at 9:15 am

  24. “Latvian, Slovenian, Danish, etc., are different from French in Québec in that those languages are only spoken in one country. Speakers of Québec French have the advantage over, say, speakers of Latvian in that they can draw on the entire Francophone world for cultural sustenance.”

    Excellent point. Had Quebec spoken a language only spoken in Quebec, it likely wouldn’t have maintained itself as a zone linguistically “apart ” from the rest of North America. There is the entire francophone world you referred to, plus the vast number of second language French speakers. It’s way behind English as a second language on the world scale, but French still has tons of non-francophones who speak it. Just last night on the news, a report on the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montreal had this guy from Colombia interviewed in French. He had travelled with his family to watch the race. Not sure you’d find many people from Colombia who speak Latvian. Or even Dutch or Swedish for that matter. I’ve used my French as a lingua franca with people from dozens of countries. Far less than my English, it is true, but French is still very useful internationally.

    The global reach of French is also useful to Quebec in that tons of stuff that is produced culturally (books, movies, TV shows) is available in French. It’s one of the “must” languages for cultural multinationals. Since the markets for Latvian or the other smaller languages are so limited, so is the choice. Generally speaking, Quebecers can see the latest Hollywood blockbusters, in French, on the exact same day as other North Americans can see them in English.

    Acajack

    June 6, 2008 at 9:25 am

  25. Acajack–years ago, my parents went to visit some distant relatives of my mom’s in Madrid. They spoke no English, and my parents spoke no Spanish. Everyone communicated in French. I have also used French right here in the USA with a Haitian born boyfriend of one of my cousins.

    I think the Brussels/Ottawa comparison is apt except that none of the souverainiste parties that I know of claims that Ottawa is an integral part of Québec. On the other hand, the most important Flemish nationalist party, the Vlaams Belang, insists that Brussels must be included in the independent Flanders they envision; it also strongly disputes the assertion that Francophone Bruxellois should have any rights of a national minority in an independent Flanders. The VB does say that Francophones in the Brussels district will continue to have access to education and culture in French in their projected state, but my sense is that most Francophones in Brussels suspect the VB on this point. If for some reason you can read Dutch, go to http://www.vlaamsbelang.be/21/1/ and scroll down to d) Brussel, hoofdstad van Vlaanderen for more on these points. The VB does not, unfortunately, provide a French (or for that matter an English) translation of its program on its website.

    littlerob

    June 6, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  26. Interesting comments on Brussels. My point in comparing Ottawa and Brussels wasn’t so much about the political status of the two cities, but rather on the demo-linguistic situation in the two places. You are right: Quebec sovereignists don’t have any designs on Ottawa, unlike the Flemish nationalists who claim Brussels as their capital.

    In fact, Quebec sovereignists have never had any “extra-territorial” ambitions. The French-Canadian nationalist movement did have a pan-Canadian focus for a long time, with the goal of expanding and supporting francophone communities across Canada (and even in the New England states for that matter). There also was a concerted effort at one point to build a human bridge of francophone settlement through northern Quebec, northern Ontario to link up with the francophone brethren in Manitoba. This would counter the anglo population expansion to the south and give the English speakers a run for their money. This effort did make some progress, as evidenced by the current francophone population that crosses over from northwestern Ontario into northern Ontario along a few axes (Kapuskasing-Hearst, Timmins, Sudbury, etc.), but it never made it much further west. The effort pretty much ran out gas, the original population in Quebec being too low to begin with and also perhaps more inclined to move just across the border to the booming industrial cities of New England.

    Francophones from Quebec eventually stopped dreaming of taking over large swaths of Canada, and in 1967, during a landmark conference known as the États Généraux du Canada Français (Estates General of French Canada), famously decided to focus their energy on building a French-speaking Quebec. (Since, in spite of all the efforts outside Quebec, the battle was still far from won in the only province where francophones were a majority. And the efforts outside Quebec weren’t paying off: French was rapidly losing ground almost everywhere.) Some of the delegates came out in favour of independence, some in favour of strengthening Quebec within Canada, but it was pretty much unanimous from the Quebec delegates that the situation in Quebec was what had to be concentrated on. Although about one quarter of the delegates to this conference were francophones from outside Quebec, the Quebec votes carried the day, and this is thought of as the breaking point between French speakers inside and outside Quebec.

    Up until then, francophones in Canada largely saw themselves one single people, no matter what province they lived in. Older people tell me that what is today the Quebec provincial flag used to fly over francophone schools, churches and caisses populaires in places like St-Boniface, Manitoba. But post-1967, the minority francophone groups took on new identities: Franco-Ontarian, Franco-Manitoban. With their own flags of course.

    Acajack

    June 9, 2008 at 10:05 am

  27. One final point about Brussels vs. Montreal:

    If one looks at history, the language-concerned people in Montreal might say that Montreal is where Brussels was in the mid-19th century. With the original population still dominant, but under pressure from the “invader language” (not my words, but I’m pretty sure that’s the general feeling).

    Of course, the big difference between Brussels then and Montreal today is the fact that the provincial government in Quebec is adamantly pro-French, as are most of the chattering classes in Quebec, and the Canadian federal government is staying relatively language-neutral and really doesn’t want to get involved in this type of fight these days. In Brussels, royalty, the aristocracy and the rest of the power in place at that time were all pro-French, as was much of the Flemish elite, all of which was just too much for the Flemish language to withstand and maintain its historic place as the dominant language of Brussels.

    Acajack

    June 9, 2008 at 10:12 am

  28. Acajack–It is true that Flemish nationalists consider French to be an “invasive” language in Brussels, just as souverainistes believe English to be “invasive” in Montréal, notwithstanding the fact that many Francophone Bruxellois have last names like Beyer or Coppens. There is even a pejorative Dutch word, “franskiljoen,” meaning a Gallicized or pro-Walloon Fleming; semantically it is, I suppose, equivalent to “colonisé” in Québec.

    One of the reasons I compare Brussels to Montréal is to point out that the speakers of the “invasive” languages in both cities are nearly unanimous in their suspicion of the nationalist movement in Flanders and the souverainiste movement in Québec respectively. In both places this suspicion is complicated by historical memories of people on both sides of the language divide. Québec is different in that the PQ has governed several times in the last thirty years; the VB is much more politically isolated and has not governed–yet.

    I made another outraged post on this subject earlier today elsewhere on this blog, but another factor that complicates the language divide in both Brussels and Montréal is that the local languages in both places (Brabant Flemish, Québec French) vary from the standard Dutch and French languages somewhat. In other words, kids in school in French Brussels and Anglo Montréal get taught a second language that ain’t the one that’s spoken on the street. Someday, someone, somewhere, is gonna wise up about this, and then we’ll all stop worryin about what’s “proper” and start teachin these kids the language that their neighbors really use.

    littlerob

    June 9, 2008 at 5:14 pm

  29. “One of the reasons I compare Brussels to Montréal is to point out that the speakers of the “invasive” languages in both cities are nearly unanimous in their suspicion of the nationalist movement in Flanders and the souverainiste movement in Québec respectively. In both places this suspicion is complicated by historical memories of people on both sides of the language divide. Québec is different in that the PQ has governed several times in the last thirty years; the VB is much more politically isolated and has not governed–yet.”

    Good point. An interesting twist to this however is that the Parti Québécois is a left-wing party, whereas the Vlaams Belang is a right-wing party. Most nationalist parties (especially in Europe) are right-wing, so the lefty PQ genuinely mystifies many Europeans who follow such things.

    Acajack

    June 10, 2008 at 8:00 am

  30. If we’re talking about the ethos of the PQ, I would argue that it has a good bit in common with the PIP of Puerto Rico, although I would also say that the political and language situation of Puerto Rico is very different from what prevails in Québec.

    littlerob

    June 11, 2008 at 4:54 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: