Archive for September 2008

Québec Minorities in the 2008 Election: Not So Bloc And White

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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.

The Bloc

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. 

The Liberals

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…

The Conservatives

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 Conservatives do, however, once again demonstrate their uncanny knack in appealing to forgotten constituencies, as evidenced by the high number of rural Québec Anglos running for them.


Written by angryfrenchguy

September 29, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Mordecai Richler is a Québécois!

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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…

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 27, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Posted in Who is Nous?

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Generation 101. A Movie About My Country.

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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)

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 23, 2008 at 9:44 am

In Montreal Liberals Try to Speak French and the Bloc won’t Speak English

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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.

The Liberals

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:

The Bloc

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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Jon Lajoie: Another Token Anglo.

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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.

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September 20, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Posted in AngryFrenchGuy Speaks!

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Paging Galganov! Canada’s Got a New Native Language Police!

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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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm

How Do You Say Wall Street Crisis in French?

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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…

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Paul Cargnello: The Token Anglo

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Special treat today, kids.  The best dressed man in showbiz, Pointe-Claire’s own Paul Cargnello talks about dodging bottles at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Show, making money with Bouchard-Taylor and more strangeness in the life of the Québec music scene’s token Anglo.

Where are from, what’s your story?  487-…  That’s an NDG number, isn’t it?

I’m in NDG now and I grew up in NDG but when I was in High School my parents moved out to the West Island, which was a nightmare.  We were in Pointe-Claire.  It was really really Anglo and it served my sort of enclosed culture very well, which was already happening anyway.

I moved downtown with my wife when I was 18.  She’s totally bilingual but I had always been neglectful of it because of my high school years in the West Island.  I realized I was a fucking idiot and I had to learn it quickly!

You didn’t know French when you moved downtown?

I learned it in school because you had to, but I really didn’t take it seriously.

What made you interested?

It’s not so much interest as it was question of necessity and respect.  I started feeling guilty about how neglectful I was about a place we are sharing, you know?

You’d be surprised.  In Anglophone culture in Québec there’s a lot of fear that we’re going to lose our culture and that we’re going to be swallowed by francophone culture.  We’re very unique compared to Canadians.  We share so much that it seemed stupid to me to hold any of that up.  I was really taken aback at how immature I was in my high school years.

I just discovered you recently with your Une Rose Noire single.  I looked you up on the Internet and I was quite surprised to see that you already had quite a few albums.  In those albums you can see a progression from all English with a few French songs to nearly all French songs. How did that happen?  What’s the story there?

The more I spoke French, the more I started to write in French. I write constantly, and slowly but surely I would start dreaming in French and writing in French.

I’m not going to say it was a political decision…  but it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I truly believe that everything is politically motivated, whether you are aware of it or not.  My interviews were being done in French, my performances were to Francophone audiences, my fan base had become at majority Francophone, and I though that it was time I give something back to that fan base that had been very loyal.

It was a political decision in the sense that it’s a message being sent to Anglophone artists that maybe more of us should be doing this.  The majority of Anglophones and Francophones that I know in Montreal are able to switch.  Fine.  If we can compose in French, why not try?  Why not give a humongous portion of who lives here something to chew on?

Ok, but if Rose Noire hadn’t had the success it had, would you still be recording a second consecutive French album?

Believe me I didn’t do this for any financial reason because I never assumed in my life that commercial radio would ever play me.  My messages are somewhat subversive. Even Rose Noire is not a happy song. It’s about alienation and at the same time I’m referencing the black rose, which is really sort of an anarchist reference.  So it’s very strange to me that it became such a mainstream hit.

I want to be able to do whatever the hell I want and not be “An Anglo that sings in French”.  I’m an Anglo that CAN sing in French.

I was going to say.  You were at the Francofolie this summer and you were at la te Nationale and we know how hard they work to show how inclusive they are at la Fête Nationale.  Do you worry about being the token Anglo?


The new Jim Corcoran?

That’s litterally what people call me, the new Jim Corcoran.  I am constantly worried about being the token Anglo.  I was worried this was all because of Bouchard-Taylor…  and I’m sure that it is.  But why not take advantage of it regardless? I realize that the Saint-Jean organizers were really taking a chance.  The organizers were really afraid for a while.


Yeah!  There was a fear that there would’ve been bottles thrown…  Because of the fact that I’m not openly separatist.

I’m a socialist.  If a sovereign Québec means a sovereign socialist state, I’m a sovereigntist.  But if Canada suddenly becomes a federation of socialized health care and banks, I’m going for Canada. I vote in terms of politics.  I don’t vote in terms of patriotism or flags.  Pride to me is something that is achieved, not something that’s inherited.

Artists in Québec are often considered spokespersons for the Québec “people”, with a few exceptions like Jean Leloup, or Xavier Caféïne, who don’t want to be labelled Québec nationalists…

An neither did Robert Charlebois.  He’s openly federalist.  The funny thing about this whole thing is I think we DO reflect a little bit of what Québec is.  I think I reflect what my generation of Anglophones AND Francophones better that the generation that came before us.  The old guard of Liberals and Parti québécois types are nightmares because they hold these opinions that range from insulting to absolutely disgusting about each other, about each others cultures and about Canada versus Québec.

There is a certain type of Angryphone that I see on my blog that are absolutely convinced that Francophones are angry, racist ultra-Catholics…  This old antiquated idea of Québec.  You didn’t see Francophones that way?

Definetly not.  With Anglophones I find there is still a lingering, American, black and white racism.  With Francophones I’ve noticed a different tendency of racism.  It’s linguistically-based.  People are like, “I don’t mind the Vietnamese coming here, but I don’t like it when they don’t learn French”.  There’s a difference in the targets of who they pick as the racist butt of the joke.  I’ve met a lot of Francophones, it tends to be outside of Montreal and mostly an older generation, that tend to have a strange thing towards Jews.  There’s a lot more anti-semitisim that I have encountered in the Francophone world than in the Anglophone world.

I have a Jewish friend from Vancouver and his family in Côte-Saint-Luc didn’t believe him when he said he had a Québécois friend, a Francophone friend.  They’ve lived in Montreal all their lives and they have no real relationship with any Francophones.

That’s weird!  I don’t know what it is because I’m cross-pollinating constantly, OK? So it very difficult for me to hone in on, because I have so many Jewish friends, so many mixes.  My keyboardist is Haïtian and he’s got his own hangups about the Francophone thing, because his francophonie comes from somewhere else.  It’s hard sometimes to figure out exactly who hates who…

If I can give you the opportunity not to be the nice token Anglo who likes everything and everybody: What pisses you off about Québec?

Oh Christ…  I guess it’s the egoism in our industry, especially in our arts.  Rockstars in Québec seem ridiculous to me.  We have our own ‘système de vedettes‘ (star system) that’s so evolved that we litterally think…  huh… Eric Lapointe is a ROCK STAR.  And he’s not.  He’s nobody.  He’s a fucking speck on the music industry.

Our sense of self-importance is really hightened.  Did you ever watch TV, things like L’Avocat du Diable?  They’ll be talking about the environment and say things like: “How does the environement affect les Québécois?”  Not talking about us as people.  Talking about les Québécois. We definitely think about ourselves first.  That’s a little bit annoying.

I noticed you said “Nous les Québécois“.  You’re comfortable saying that?  Without qualifying it in any way?

[Hesitates]  Yes.  I don’t typically define myself as Québécois, but if you we’re going to ask me my identities politically, or nationally, I would say: Montrealer, Québécois, Canadien.  In that order.  Québec and Canada are really close, and they’re a distant second and third.  I’m  Montrealer, that’s what I’m proud to say…  let me retract that: I’m comfortable saying that. Saying Quebecer…  I have a bit of a harder time because I constantly feel alienated.  And then, you know, saying Canadian is like saying citizen of the Universe.  I have nothing to do with Canada, but I know that my passport says Canada.

Did you listen to French music growing up?  Did Jean Leloup make it to Pointe-Claire?

Oh Christ yeah!  I mean Jean Leloup is without a doubt one of the biggest influences on me.  And not just musically.  Intellectually.  Jean Leloup is a wacko, but he’s a smart fucking guy too, and his lyrics are fucking cool, and he avoids politics a lot of times but there is an element of darkness in his stuff.  That’s the cross-over act, right?  He managed to touch us as much as he touched Francophones.

The other thing is, when I grew up, my mother was very good friends with Gus Coriandoli from Me, Mom and Morgentaler. He influenced me a lot too. They sang in Spanish and French and English. So what they had an accent? Everybody loved them and they were able to connect with as many people as possible at all times and it was just such a beautiful thing to see.

When are you going to do another English album?

Part of the reason that I’m putting together a French album now is because when I was doing Brûler le Jour, I was writing so much in French that many songs didn’t make it.  I had a lot of New Orleans-themed stuff. I’m going to New Orleans every summer and I’m coming back with a lot of music from another place where Francophone culture exists.  It’s been trampled under for years and years and years, but it’s still there.

It’s an interesting place and there are some links…  because there is such a fusion of culture down there and there’s such a fusion of cultures here.  Over there you can see the example of what happens if you don’t protect the language.  Over here is the example of what happens when you do.  It’s a language going very strong.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 14, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Is Yolande James Endorsing Québec Private Schools over Public Schools?

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I was looking for the sports pages in La Presse this morning when a 60 page full color catalog for Québec’s public schools network called Le Privé fell into my lap.

The marketing insert is published by the Fédération des Établissements d’Enseignement Privés du Québec and features descriptions of Québec’s many private schools and sappy testimonials by famous Québécois including 2006 patriot of the year Luck Merville, Université de Montréal vice-rector Rachida Azdouz and Provincial Immigration and cultural communities minister Yolande James.

Let’s be clear, the magazine format notwithstanding, this is a publicity insert that was bundled with cell phone, electronics and appliance publicity inserts.  The FÉEP is a lobby group for private schools.  Schools run as businesses who sell their products to Québec parents. It’s also a heavily subsidized industry as Québec private schools can receive as much as 60% of their funding from the provincial government.

Is it appropriate for a cabinet minister to be featured in such a publicity insert?  Doesn’t it look as if she is endorsing private schools over public schools?  Is this not clearly a conflict of interest?

What if she was posing on a Bombardier or a RioTintoAlcan insert?  Or in a Dairy Producers of Québec marketing magazine?

The interviewees do not endorse any schools or private schools in general and only talk about diversity and multiculturalism.  Someone knew there was something wrong or at the very least controversial about a minister endorsing private schools and made sure she did not actually pronounce the words.  But her pictures and testimonials in a magazine solely devoted to private schools IS an endorsement.

Only yesterday Parti québécois education critic Louise Harel called for a moratorium on new private schools until the public sector is fixed.

The multicultural message peddled by the private schools is quite hypocritical since, while Montreal’s public schools are very diverse, publicly financed private schools are allowed to have clearly ethnic missions and Montreal has a whole bunch of these ghetto Armenian and Jewish schools.

In 1975 10% of Québec schoolchildren went to private schools.  Today it’s one third.  The public system is running the risk of becoming a welfare school for only the poorest of the poor who can’t afford to go to the ‘good’ schools.  No other province in Canada is as generous with private schools.  Ontario doesn’t give them a dime.  Québec has created a de facto voucher system.

This is what Yolande James endorsed today.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 12, 2008 at 10:30 am

I am Not as Much of a Nationalist as Gilles Duceppe (or Stéphane Dion)

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There is a federalist credo in Québec which all but the most intransigent centralists repeat like a mantra, it goes:

“I am a nationalist, not a sovereigntist.”

That’s Stéphane Dion meant the other day when he said he was “as much of a nationalist as Gilles Duceppe”.  It’s only because Dion’s used to be the Liberal’s point man in the war against the ‘separatists’ that the statement got anybody’s attention.  If any other candidate of any other federalist party had said the same thing, no one would have spilled their Starbuck’s over it.

There is a long tradition of nationalist-federalists in Québec.  Prime Minister Jean Lesage used to say “Le Canada c’est mon pays, le Québec c’est ma patrie” (Canada is my country, Québec is my homeland) and Daniel Johnson, the official leader of the No camp used those exact same words as a slogan in the 1995 referendum campaign.

Then there are the Canadian nationalists.  The Holy Trinity of Pierre and Justin Trudeau and Jean Chrétien – the Father, Son and Sketchy Uncle of Canada – who managed to export a peculiar kind French-Canadian ‘Chosen People on a Divine Mission’ nationalism – a nationalism that has it’s roots in the missionary fervor of the first Catholic settlers of New France –  right across the federation.

Yet even them, the most centralists of federalists who truly, sincerely believe that Canada is the ‘bestest’ country in the world, never miss a chance to remind us that they are proud to be Québécois.

I’m not.

I am not proud to be Québécois.  I am not a nationalist.  I am an indépendantiste.

Saying you’re proud to be Québécois or Canadian is the exact same thing as saying your proud to be white or right handed.  How can you be proud of an absolutely random twist of genetics and fate?

I  am Québécois.  I’m not proud of it.  I’m proud of things I do.  I didn’t make Québec.  It was here before I got here and it’ll go on without me.  I have, as of yet, not contributed anything of particular importance to it’s economy, culture or history.  I admire what Serge Fiori, Leonard Cohen, Efrim Menuk, Bruny Surin and Pierre Péladeau have acheived.  Can’t say I had anything to do with it.

I also admire Bob Marley.  I feel touched by his music and recognize a little bit of myself in his art.  Does that make me proud to be Jamaican?

I feel privileged to live in a pretty cool place.  Not proud.  Privileged.

I have gratitude – not pride – gratitude for the hard fought battles of Louis-Joseph Papineau, René Lévesque and Pierre Bougault to right some wrongs and to empower the powerless. I also feel a sense of duty to protect and expand those powers.

That’s why I am indépendantiste.  It’s not about being something, it’s about doing something.   It’s a plan. It’s a project. It’s an administrative reorganization of a political structure that could truly empower people.

I became a sovereigntist myself because of Québec’s language legislation.  I understood it but I didn’t like it.  I struggled to find a way to protect and empower French in North America without a Sign Law.  I think an independent Québec is the best idea anybody’s had so far.

There are other good ideas.  Federations are great political structures, allowing to balance local and central power.  But they need to be flexible and able to adapt to changing realities.  We tried that a few times in Canada, from the radical decentralization of the PQ’s Souveraineté-Association project to the timid Lake Meech accord.

Every time the nationalists – canadian nationalists, that is – stood in the way with flags and fear.

That’s why I want an independent Québec.  Because we need to get rid of the nationalists.  All kinds.  Blue and Red.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 10, 2008 at 10:14 am