Archive for September 2008
Ok, I know I’m going to get in trouble for this, but today we are going to look at the color and ethnicity of the Québec candidates in the 2008 federal election in Canada.
Yeah, I know…
I’m sorry but I know you’ve all been doing it too. Diversity is the 21st century litmus test communities, corporations and political parties are judged on. We all scan our products and teams to make sure they reflect the rainbow coalition that proves we are on the good side of the fight.
You know you’ve been walking around Montreal looking at Desjardins’ new ad campaign where they change the name of the company for your last name, secretly keeping count of how many English and “ethnic” names are used. We’ve all been doing it.
Diversity has become a fundamental value of our society. When the Montreal Canadien traded with Edmonton for Georges Laraque, I’m sorry, but my friends were not calling me to discuss the Habs strengthened defense. “We got a black guy!” was the big news.
We value this diversity, but it’s a fluid morphing thing that we are never sure how to define. Your Italian last name might have earned your grand-father a membership card to the “cultural communities” club, but in the age of Tiger Woods and Barak Obama, you’re just another white guy. Names don’t say much. Just think of all the Peter McLeods and Normand Brathwaite’s of Québec who are as pea soup as Jean Chrétien. The candidates bios, although many emphasize it, don’t always tell us much about the candidates heritage. And then, some candidate’s names tell a very different story than their face.
Nevertheless, by using the very arbitrary criteria of VISIBLE minority, the AngryFrenchMediaLabs have determined that the Liberals have the most diverse team with 11 visible minority candidates, the Bloc québécois is second with 8 and the Conservatives and, surprisingly, the NDP, are tied with 6 each.
Two phenomenon have emerged from this politically incorrect exercise: First, the political parties still pad up their diversity cred by dumping minorities in unwinnable ridings. Second, 2008 has seen the rise of a new political operative, the Minority WingWoman.
It seems Gilles Duceppe doesn’t go anywhere these days without his Wingwoman, Vivian Barbot, by his side. She sits behind him in the House of Commons, her face is as big as his on the campaign bus and she follows him around wherever he goes in Montreal.
Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc have worked harder than anyone to bring the sovereignty message to Montreal’s cultural communities and in 2008 these communities’ representation in the sovereigntist team is about proportional to their weight in Québec at large. Most of them, with the exception of Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac in the more rural riding of Ste-Hyacinthe-Bagot, face extremely tough fights in central Montreal neighborhoods and even incumbents like Mme Barbot are far from certain they will have a job on september 14th.
Way before it was fashionable, the Liberal Party of Canada was branding itself as the party of multiculturalism and it’s head start holds strong with 11 visible minority candidates. Leader Stéphane Dion has even been campaigning in the ROC as the son of an immigrant himself – his mother is from France – for whom English is a second language.
Most minority candidates are running in unwinnable ridings in Montreal, Laval and the South Shore. It is not impossible that Marlene Jennings, Stéphane Dion’s answer to Vivian Barbot, will be the only one elected.
The Liberals do still have the unconditional support of Anglophones and third and fourth generation Italian, Portuguese, Greek and Jewish communities who will probably elect at least another half-dozen invisible minorities to Parliament.
Jack Layton has a natural visible minority WingWoman, his real-life wife and fellow MP Olivia Chow.
That said, it is surprising how few minorities are running for the only Canadian party that’s a charter member of the Socialist International. The AngryFrenchGuy counted only six. (A few names were not counted as the website offered no bio or picture of the candidate.)
The NPD and Jack Layton have a tremendous amount of sympathy in Québec, but those people usually vote Bloc québécois when it counts. The only chance the NDP have at a seat is in Outremont and Westmount-Ville-Marie if, and only if their candidates Thomas Mulcair and Anne Lagacé-Dowson, convince all the Bloc voters to vote for them.
That’s right, the NDP’s only chance in Québec is getting sovereigntists to elect two Anglophone left-wingers in two of Canada’s wealthiest ridings. The workers revolution…
Unlike Gilles Duceppe and Stéphane Dion, Stephen Harper does not have a black woman sitting behind him in Parliament. There are few women in the Conservative caucus to start with.
With the exception of the Bloc, the Conservatives probably have the worst image problem when it comes to diversity and, as far as Québec is concerned, it’s not their handful of candidates in lost-in-advance ridings that will change anything about it this year. The most notorious Conservative minority in Québec is Mustaque Sarker who got headlines for running in a French neighborhood while barely able to speak French himself.
The readers of AngryFrenchGuy have spoken! Whether he likes it or not, Mordecai Richler was a “part of the tribe” even though he was Anglo and Jewish. And although the vote was anything but unanimous, Francos, Anglos and Allos are just about equally divided on the Québecness of Mordecai.
Ten Years after an infamous series of articles in the New Yorker by Mordecai Richler that permanently fixed in the English-speaking psyche the idea that Québec as an anti-semitic backwater, the New York Times finally gave someone an opportunity to defend the province’s honor.
Filmmaker and novelist Jacques Godbout wrote 3000 words for the NYT titled A Symbolic Nation Aspires to the International, published just as a massive festival of Québec culture – just about big enough to actually get someone’s attention in that city – was kicking off at the World Financial Center in downtown Manhattan.
The article was published on September 16th 2001, five days after that thing happened. No one ever read it. Most of the Québec/New York 2001 exhibition was buried under the 20th century.
In his piece Godbout calls Richler Québec’s greatest writer. He recalls that they had both left for Europe in 1954 to escape Québec’s stagnant conservatism. Godbout returned in 1960 as the Quiet revolution was starting. Richler only came back in 1972. Godbout argues Richler never understood the old reactionary and priest-ridden Québec of is youth was gone.
That’s probably not fair. Mordecai Richler new very well that attacking the Québec nation from outside, in English, was precisely the best way to summon that old defensive reflex that people swore was gone. That was his way. He looked at society, found tender wounds and jabbed repeatedly with his Bic pen.
That said, Mordecai Richler did not play fair either. He started his fight in New York, an arena where no one from Québec had the stature, let alone the command of English, to rebut him. A more courageous writer would’ve wanted an adversary.
Godbout’s at bat came much to late. Richler was dead. And then all these other people died and it really didn’t matter anymore…
Do you feel completely integrated in Québec culture?
This is the question Claude Godbout asks the kids of my old high school, École Secondaire Saint-Luc, in his doc Génération 101. 96% of the kids at Saint-Luc were born outside Canada.
Trust me, those of us part of the other 4% wondered as much as anybody else.
Why should we go to school in French? The question is as controversial now as it was then.
Three Children of 101, a Hungarian Jew, a feminist from Palestine and a Indian from Madagascar who are now staunch supporters of the education measures in bill 101 give their answer.
This is what my Québec looks like.
(Weird 30 second delay. Be patient)
In the last few day there has been a few reports and rumours suggesting that some of the political parties in this fall’s federal election were fielding candidates in Montreal that could not speak French.
Intrigued, the PKP cell of the AngryFrenchMediaLabs lauched a major investigtion revealing that for all their talk of inclusion, the two political parties currently slugging it out for the control of Montreal’s electoral map, the Bloc québécois and the Liberal Party of Canada, are still very much le Parti des Anglais and le Parti des Français.
Very few ridings in Montreal seemed to have an active Liberal campaign at all at the time of the investigation, the week of September 14th to the 20th. Of the handful of candidates that had a phone number and a website, most were in predominantly English-speaking Western Montreal. Even the Liberal Party of Canada – section Québec’s website has a heavy English accent with phrases such as “Contribuez à ce circonscription”
Calls to the campaign offices of the party of Trudeau and Official billingualism were usually answered in English or in bilingual.
In the riding of Mount-Royal – the former riding of Pierre Elliot Trudeau himself – the staffer asked the AFG to speak English because it was too noisy. Is English louder than French? Mount-Royal is 21% French-speaking and is represented by former justice minister Irwin Cutler.
In nearby Westmount-Ville-Marie, the riding that includes all of Downtown and Old Montreal and where the party is fielding one of it’s rare Francophone rookie stars, rocketman Marc Garneau, the phone was answered in English. The staffer was able to answer questions in friendly – if laborious – French.
According to the 2001 census, 37% of the ridings residents are English-speaking and 58% speak French or other languages at home.
One of the few active campaigns out east is Jesus… sorry… Justin Trudeau’s who is trying to get elected in the predominantly French-speaking riding of Papineau with a weird franglais introduction video. Despite reports that he also employed unilingual Anglo staffers, numerous calls to the campaign headquarters were always answered in French.
In nearby Honoré-Mercier where former Official Languages Commitee chair Pablo Rodriguez was one of the rare Liberal Francos to survive the sponsorship scandal, staffers spoke French to the caller, but the language of work in the campaign office was quite clearly English, as revealed by this CSI-style enhanced clip:
Well… at least the Liberals were nice.
Justin Trudeau’s opponent, incumbent Vivian Barbot‘s staffer was able to speak to the AFG in English. But she obviously didn’t want to. And was quite rude about it.
Over in Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, whoever was answering the phones for the Bloc candidate Farid Salem simply refused to speak English.
Both ridings are predominantly Francophone, but also have sizable immigrant communities that the Bloc absolutely needs to win over if it wants to take these seats. Interestingly, both candidates in these ridings are themselves so-called Nouveaux Québécois.
In Western Montreal, where the Bloc will not win any seats, several campaigns were run from the same office and the English was fluent and friendly.
The NDP and the Conservatives
With the improbable exception of Outremont which could re-elect the NDP ‘s Thomas Mulcair and the West Island’s Lac-Saint-Louis riding, which some say is within the Conservatives’ reach, few expect the far left or right to win anything in Montreal. Calls to the few operational campaign offices of both parties were answered in fluent French and English without any difficulty… or attitude.
A friend of mine had been bothering to write something about Jon Lajoie for while. He’s an Anglophone actor who plays, like, the only Anglophone character on Québec TV – Stop right there! Name one Francophone character on Canadian television. That’s what I thought. Shut the fuck up. – and he’s got these really funny videos on YouTube, he said. Perfect AFG material, right?
Well, everyone else was quicker than I was and even Will Ferrell put him on his blog. Now Jon Lajoie’s got an LA agent and is about to become average everyday normal guy in Hollywood, motherfucker.
Jon leaves us this cute little video about being an Englishman in Québec.
In a move sure to confuse the hell out of some self-righteous language activists in Canada who try to justify their opposition to Québec’s language laws by claiming to be fighting for the rights of native canadians, Nunavut’s lawmakers unanimously adopted their own version of bill 101 yesterday.
The citizens of Nunavut adopted a Language Law inspired by Québec’s French Language Charter in order to protect the rights of the citizens of the booming territory to live and work in their own language.
The law, Bill 7, will make Inuktitut mandatory in all schools and it will become the language of work in the public service by 2011.
The law includes the creation of the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit a.k.a. the Inuit Language Authority and of a Language Commissioner. This commissioner will have “investigative tools for securing the compliance of the public and private sector organizations that have not had Inuit Language duties in the past”, including taking matters to the courts.
Unlike the Office Québécois de la Langue Française which can only act upon citizen complaints, the Nunavut Language Commissioner will have the power to initiate investigations. Fines for violators of the law could be as high as 5 000$ for individuals and 25 000$ for organizations.
From now on all signs, inclusing those of a commercial nature, will have to be in Inuktitut and the Inuktitut will have to be of at least equal size to any other language used. Businesses will also be legally required to be able to serve all customers who demand it in the Inuit language.
According to the Canadian Press, although 91% of Inuit said they could speak the Inuit language, only 64% used it at home, a dramatic 10% drop in only 12 years.
Banks are going bankrupt, credit has disappeared, worldwide markets are falling, the Russians have halted trading, China’s communist government is about to buy Morgan Stanley and the American government is bailing out firms that less than one week ago were considered Wall Street giants.
All of the sudden recession is a happy word and the word you don’t say out loud starts with a D.
The Wall Street Journal calls it the “Worst Crisis since 30’s, With No End in Sight“.
Feeling a little bit anxious? Need to get your mind off your retirement savings and stock portofolio for a while?
Easy. Just pick up a copy of one of Québec’s French-language newspapers and travel to a world where the crisis hasn’t arrived yet.
Two out of Montreal’s three French-language dailies managed to fill their front pages on Thursday September 18th 2008 – after the US government’s bailout of AIG failed to stabilize panicked markets – without printing a single word about the unprecedented upvheal currently rocking the financial world.
Québec’s biggest daily, le Journal de Montréal leads with an exclusive poll revealing that voters – shock! – don’t believe politicians’ promises and Le Devoir remains convinced that their series on ‘Succeeding in Life’ is what is on readers minds right now.
La Presse has a small teaser on the front page sending readers to inside pages for more about the markets.
Only The Gazette printed a front page article on the crisis.
Of Gesca’s seven dailies, only La Presse, Québec City’s Le Soleil and Ottawa/Gatineau’s Le Droit published a secondary headline about the crisis. Gesca’s papers have a monopoly on daily newspapers in Québec, except in Montreal and Québec city.
In the ROC, Toronto’s National Post and Globe and Mail are covering this story extensively while smaller dailies of either the Sun or CanWest chains seem to believe that this historical economic event will somehow pass Canada by…