Exciting Canadian Politics is a Sign of the End of Times

with 41 comments

governor general flag

Did you ever read the Canadian constitution?  It’s a very curious document.  It describes a political system that bears very little resemblance to the one we think we have.

An immigrant from Utar Pradesh reading the constitution of Canada would learn about a country ruled by an all powerful monarch counselled by a popular assembly of the common people.  A country with a very primitive form of democracy and scarcely a check or balance.

Such is the British parliamentary system.  A system that evolves slowly with time and with foundations made of traditions instead of words.

The idea that the leader of the party that wins the most votes in the election becomes Prime Minister and he forms a government out of elected members of his own party is not in the constitution.  You can ctrl+f the constitution all you want, you won’t find the words “political party” in there.

Political parties were a sort of spontaneous  formations – kind of like the alliances in the TV show Survivor – that were never intended by the designers of the game, but became a fundamental part of it nonetheless.  The original intent was that any combination of elected (white males who owned land in the original version) members of parliament could get together to form, or support, a government.

That is the government’s only claim to legitimacy vis-à-vis the governor and the Queen: it has the support of a majority of the elected members of the House.  According to the letter of the law – if you are to read the actual words of the constitution – the Governor General, and ultimately the Queen, can make her cat Minister of Finance.

In 1999 the British kicked the hereditary lords out of their own house, the House of Lords, ending the centuries old right of blue bloods to oversee the Empires affairs without so much as a vigorous debate. Such is the beauty of the British political system: it can turn revolutions into incredibly boring affairs.

Real power slowly but inevitably is transfered from the Throne, to the Parliament, to the democratically elected members of the House.  Without any drama or bloodshed.  That is how Britain can have one of the most democratic regimes in the world without having to get rid of it’s hereditary head of state.  It is how it can have one of the oldest and most stable political systems in the world, without even having a written constitution.

Change is slow, but it moves in one direction: toward more democracy and accountability.

It works because all the players: the Queen, the governors, the MPs, the Senators, the Lords, the Judges, etc… agree on a few unwritten rules: the House of Commons and it’s elected members hold, not the ultimate legal power, but the only legitimate power and the government must have the support of the House.

Last week the Governor-General of Canada prorogued the session of Parliament to keep a government that it knew did not have the confidence of the majority of the elected members of the House of Commons from losing a vote.

The unelected representative of the Queen disregarded the opinion of the House.

Last week was awesome for Call-centre workers (i.e. Poli Sci majors) across Canada and Québec.  We had excitement, drama and intrigue in Parliament.  We saw our Head of State act like a Head of State and use her constitutional powers.

That, in our system, is not a good sign for democracy.

Written by angryfrenchguy

December 7, 2008 at 11:17 pm

41 Responses

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  1. I’m with you on the need to reform. The thing is, Harper passed a confidence vote (on the throne speech) just a few weeks ago, showing that he has recently enjoyed the confidence of the House, and it’s not the GG’s position to question that. I think she made a reasonable decision, given the system we have and her role in it. A reasonable reform would be to require a confidence motion from the House before a request to prorogue, thus ensuring no government could use prorogation simply to avoid losing a confidence vote. But unfortunately that’s not the current procedure.

    That said, I can’t imagine the coalition not being offered a chance to govern if Harper fails to pass a budget in January. The question now is whether this coalition will last that long, let alone 18 months.


    December 8, 2008 at 11:44 am

  2. The points you bring up are totally lost on the anti-coalition folks who denounce the opposition’s move as a coup, as an illegitimate affair.

    Canadian citizens vote, not for the prime minister, not for his party, but only for their local representatives. Those elected in turn rally behind a government.

    Harper has lost the confidence of the House with his last budget. The point is, a majority of the elected members do not trust him anymore. Even if he ended up backtracking, they are left to wonder what next ?
    They are therefore completely legitimized to replace the government.


    December 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

  3. Hi there again AFG! New thread here. Although I was sort of hoping the Harper regime would fall, I think Michaelle Jean assessed the situation rather well. She could see the “coalition” was rather desperately cobbled together and wasn’t likely to run a successful alternate government in view of the Liberal succession problems, which are now coming into clearer focus with an impetus to getting that resolved ASAP. Also it is not a good scenario for a huge dust up 1 week before there would have been a normal prorogation in any event.

    Harper clearly DESERVED to be defeated but the coalition did not quite yet clearly deserve to take over in a hasty and likely chaotic fashion. So I think Her Excellency made a very thoughtful ruling in a situation that for her was lose-lose on the face of it, and we have to remember that she is Pro Canada and not PRO ROGUE — Rogue as in Harper, and clearly she raked him over the coals thoroughly in those 2 and 1/2 hours and warned him to get his act together or else!

    Smart lady, in my books!

    She did not set a precedent for future that has to be followed — everyone realised this was an extraordinary situation that needed the wisdom of Solomon. No pre-Christmas political “hot” war, just a colder one suitable for winter in Canada and Quebec!

    AFG I don’t think what happens bodes ill for democracy in Canada, I think it shows that sober “time out” is good at this point!

    Think about it. With the government fallen, and the Liberals in disarray, Harper would then rally the west and rural Ontario against urban Ontario, Quebec and the maritimes, a big expensive and likely effective propaganda war and then the risk of him getting a majority during a winter election. This could still happen of course, but if the other parties play their cards right they will be ready when a better opportunity comes, which it probably will. Question is do they really want to administer during a near depression when Harper will get all the blame?

    i REALLY did like your thoughtful comments however.

    Speaking of the Queen’s cat as Finance minister! I don’t believe the royal pussy is currently available!!

    But some would recall Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London and his cat! Even his cat could look at the Queen — Puss in Boots!

    Speaking of Quebec, there seems to a lot of political maturity there this evening, although I am sure Harper certainly boosted Pauline Marois to a beneficial degree. They have 51 seats and that is healthy for opposition, and as a Canadian I am also pleased that the soft nationalists of Charest a remporte le scrutin. I see the co-leader of Quebec Solidaire has a seat, so that is adding to the interest. Moi, un vert, je suis un peu decu que Rainville est tellement defaite dans sa circonscription. Sorry no accents! I’m in the school library and this machine is not functioning.

    Likely Ignatieff or less likely Rae will soon be interim Liberal leader, and they will be in a stronger position to defend the interests of the other 62% of us. When the time comes, they will hopefully be ready and Mr. Duceppe will play a worthy role even despite himself. He is a very cool cat, who has done Quebec proud, and (smart) anglos in ROC regard him with (somewhat grudgingly) due respect.

    Hey guys I still believe Canada works even though my convictions for the various reforms we agree on in some degree at least are not yet at hand!! And I know for sure Quebec is still as vibrant as ever, and you guys are part of that vibrancy. Salut!

    Bon nuit des amis!


    December 8, 2008 at 10:56 pm

  4. agf, you wrote – and my comments follow

    “Last week the Governor-General of Canada prorogued the session of Parliament to keep a government that it knew did not have the confidence of the majority of the elected members of the House of Commons from losing a vote.”

    last week the governor- general of canada, under the advice of prime minister stephen harper, prorogued parliament in an unusual precedent-setting decision. the constitutional scholars of sri lanka will note this decision for reference in their future parliaments.

    “The unelected representative of the Queen disregarded the opinion of the House”.

    the constitutionally empowered head of state broke with a tradition that normally has seen the instrument used to suspend parliament after long and unproductive sessions.

    “Last week was awesome for Call-centre workers (i.e. Poli Sci majors) across Canada and Québec. We had excitement, drama and intrigue in Parliament. We saw our Head of State act like a Head of State and use her constitutional powers.

    That, in our system, is not a good sign for democracy.”

    relative peace has been restored to canadian democracy until january when parliament will reconvene.


    December 9, 2008 at 12:12 am

  5. “A country with a very primitive form of democracy and scarcely a check or balance.”

    the governor-general is a check and balance – the decision is apolitical and made in the best interests of the country. you must admit that her/his powers are for the most part symbolic and exercises in formality in between the ribbon-cutting and endless community school visits.

    rarely is the governor-general’s real power and discretion called into play. your vote is a check and balance, party conventions for leaders are a check and balance, caucus votes are a check and balance, house of commons votes are a check and balance – and general elections every four years are now a check and balance. and last, but certainly not least, the supreme court of canada is a check and balance.

    the governor-general has no obligation to listen to anybody (particularly members of parliament who have formed a coalition). the queen’s representative does so at her own risk (see oliver cromwell – 400 hundred years ago and australia – 1975).

    a conservative budget is expected to be delivered to the floor of the house of commons a full month in advance of its previous timetable. all members of parliament will have an opportunity to vote. the governor-general may be called upon once again should this money bill be rejected by a majority of elected representatives.

    if the budget is voted down – the governor-general will called upon again to decide whether:

    a) she should take the advice of her prime minister which will probably be a request for dissolution and would result in an election.


    b) not take the advice of her first minister and decide to ask the leader of the loyal opposition if the opposition is willing and able to form government. the governor-general is the one who does the asking – nobody does the demanding.


    December 9, 2008 at 12:17 am

  6. I agree partially with mvc here. The G-G couldn’t have considered the House to have lost confidence in the government because a no-confidence vote hadn’t yet taken place. The presence of an alternative coalition would be irrelevant to her in the absence of a no-confidence vote or (less likely) a resignation from Harper.

    But you’re right, AFG, that there was a troubling constitutional precedent that was set last week: the PM’s ability to play fast and loose with prorogation, in a circumstance well outside the usual conditions in which it’s invoked. That’s bad enough, but I find the political precedent — that a PM can deliberately misrepresent the functioning of a Westminster-style parliament and profit from it, to the detriment of a parliamentary majority that is behaving like adults — even more troubling.

    Not to mention the (Dion-established, in a delicious moment of irony) rhetorical precedent: that a PM can yell “scary separatists! oogabooga!” at English Canada and everyone jumps.


    December 9, 2008 at 12:25 am

  7. Well said Johnny!! A distinguished post.


    December 9, 2008 at 12:30 am

  8. part 3 to make reading easier –

    agf, i think you’ll agree that despite the speed at which democracy works (as you stated – like molasses going uphill in january) it’s a jolly good system and works well despite the machinations of well-intentioned socialists hungry for power. and it has demostrated that well-intentioned conservatives who would strip their political opponents of funding are subject to the same scrutiny.

    my hope is that all involved in this “coalition” will pay dearly at the polls for their naked ambition . i don’t care whether the next election is in march, may or next september – i don’t think a majority of people will be voting for a “coalition”. canadians from atlantic to pacific will decide the bottom line on this mess.

    and what’s up with the mention of “white males who owned land”? why would you even reference it?
    do you have a problem with people’s skin colour?
    maybe i missed the point and it’s the owning of land (private property) that you bring readers’ attention to. maybe it’s a just a slur based on gender? maybe it’s a testament to how far things have progressed. maybe it’s some odd loathing of where our parliamentary system comes from? whatever it is – it certainly came out of left field and might hurt somebody’s feelings.


    December 9, 2008 at 12:37 am

  9. @ bruce.

    You are so “pleine de merde”



    December 9, 2008 at 1:18 am

  10. “and what’s up with the mention of “white males who owned land”? why would you even reference it?”

    It is reference to the fact that in our first drafts of democracy, only white men who owned land had the right to vote.

    The fact that people might be hurt by my mentioning of a historical fact is called ‘political correctness’.

    The fact that Canadians have whitewashed all the uglier and embarrassing parts out of their history is, typical.


    December 9, 2008 at 7:19 am

  11. Bruce is a double moron, I guess. Double untrouble. Happy like a kid.


    December 9, 2008 at 9:28 am

  12. GECK:
    “Bruce is a double moron, I guess. Double untrouble. Happy like a kid.”

    He doesn’t agree with you, so he is a moron. Great mind you have man.


    December 9, 2008 at 4:49 pm

  13. About the governor general being used to keep things in check, I just want to say that when the governor general answers to the government and has to obey them, she does everything but keeping things in check to serve democracy and the best interests of the people. The entire idea of the governor general is flawed and therefore rotten to the core. Not to mention the cost!

    I also want to add that the governor general is the representative of the Queen of England. What does the Queen do for Canadians? Why should she have any say in what happens over here?


    December 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm

  14. Not many have heard many of your words, AFGuy. I doubt that many have studied real history other than the pablum force fed when they attended school. It’s not about being politically correct or about having our Christmas wish list become the laws of our land. It’s about realising that we already have a system in place, maybe one that people want changed, BUT it is there and it is rather clear. The GG has a role and it has been made clear that she didn’t do her job.


    December 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  15. Regarding:

    “The fact that Canadians have whitewashed all the uglier and embarrassing parts out of their history is, typical.”

    AFG, I’m a former English-speaking Canadian who lived eight years in Quebec and then decided the weather was nicer in California. I read your blog with interest.

    Comment like this are obvious cheap shots. And while they don’t matter in themselves, they cheapen the thought-provoking stuff you’ve produced in other posts.

    There’s enough weirdness in Canadian politics (or Quebec politics) that I’m sure you can find enough material without stuff like that.

    And while we’re at it – to commenters here:

    A blog like this is going to attract trolls. Why feed them? People who come in here and shout like crazy people do not represent English-speaking Canadians (whether in Quebec or elsewhere) anymore than their French-speaking equivalents do.

    I am Jack's Comment

    December 9, 2008 at 7:15 pm

  16. ““The fact that Canadians have whitewashed all the uglier and embarrassing parts out of their history is, typical.”
    Comment like this are obvious cheap shots.”

    But I agree with AFG here. Canada doesn’t look at its own dark past. In Quebec, when I was a kid we learned the official history of “les Canadiens-Francais héroiques”. Later it changed and the dark side of the Duplessis era and Church were exposed and over exposed sometimes.

    Canada would be a greater nation if it admit abuses committed by money and ethnic segregation.


    December 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm

  17. This is interesting:

    The Wikipedia article about Canada in english has 6,928 words and in french 31,824 words.
    Strange difference.


    December 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm

  18. Salut!

    Félicitations Québec sur votre éléction hier!

    C’est vrai que seulement une moietié a voté, quand même je crois qu’une certaine équilibre a été preservé.

    Also I think that Harper’s ravings helped Pauline Marois to gain some of those 15 extra seats, some of which might have gone to Jean Charest’s PLQ Liberals.

    The economy file is going to be very tough the next 2 to 3 years I remember how the early 1990s recession hurt Bob Rae’s government in Ontario. Sometimes it is better NOT to win until better times come back again!

    Speaking of which, Bob Rae and Dominic Leblanc have bowed out and Ignatieff is the presumptive new Federal Liberal Leader, (and he has good French.)

    Perhaps Harper was not expecting such a speedy turn of events!

    Ignatieff is not all that keen on the “coalition” of the “ready”, being a philosopher by training and his past career, at Harvard, and his thought on the “Rights revolution”

    Plato preferred the idea of a well prepared “philosopher king” to direct democracy (over 2000) years ago. In 2008, however, we could all be to some extent philosopher kings, if we are engaged. Those who were not engaged of course did not show up to vote yesterday.

    As a citizen I much prefer Ignatieff to Harper even if I didn’t agree with some of the positions he has taken in the past such as our role in Afghanistan.

    Angry French Girl: being new in this blog I didn’t know about you til your post yesterday! Really the Queen, being British can hardly be a wonderful symbol for Québécoise women or guys. Colonial history could hardly have it otherwise.

    Tbe Governor General only cermemonially represents “the Queen” a (royal, but powerless) metaphor for the sovereign interest of the Canadian state. In actual fact she is appointed by an existing or pre-existing PM, whose government was elected. Therefore indirectly she is also elected, but does not belong to the “government party”

    Therefore she represents, in ACTUAL fact, (as best she can according to circumstances) the interests of each and every Canadian, including each and every person in Québec to have stable and responsible order within our political system. She has no interest in “thwarting” the will of the people she represents!

    DC and Johnny have pretty much spoken to this issue in a thoughtful manner.

    What it is that the Queen “does” for Canada is to symbolise the concept of nationhood within a purely ceremonial metaphore, removed from animosity and political strife. She is completely powerless when Parliament is functioning, and is indeed only ceremonial, directly and through the Governor General.

    Only when there is a deadlock of extreme strife and instability within the Parliament is the “Queen” invested with “reserve powers” to make a ruling, decided in actual fact NOT by the Queen but only in her “ceremonial name” by the Governal General.

    This “responsibility” is to temporarily provide civility, stability and breathing space while both Parliament and general political opinion in the whole country get better refocused. Which ever way Michaelle Jean, (une Québécoise née en Haiïti) would have ruled she would have been heavily criticised as has been the case. I wanted Harper out, personally, but I support the intelligence and integrity of her decision on behalf of Canada as a whole, as she saw it.

    And furthermore there is no REAL precedent set. The coalition was not really united, and Quebec population didn’t support Dion to be the new PM, so all of these things she factored in to the process, and it is clear that she gave Harper an extremely rigorous cross examination in those 3 hours he was”detained” at Rideau Hall. Byng in 1926 did the opposite of what Jean did (and was practically sent packing back to Britain due to a storm of criticism.) But in retrospect his decision was also “somewhat” reasonable at the time, one could argue.

    In any case the GG is above politics, and she does not play “favorites” and she DID NOT! Harper is the first minister, and if consistently is unable to get the confidence of the house the GG will NOT prorogue again at his request when defeat is looming. She will then decide between a coalition if it is solid and stable or a new election. THIS WAS ALL PRETTY WELL EXPLAINED BY DC and Johnny above, in my opinion. And MVC and Rahman have also spoken thoughtly about this, as well.

    Now we see the Liberals “getting it together at rather warp speed, and this is good.

    However they may prefer to let Harper stew in the economic troubles to come, rather than vote him down.

    In fact that’s what I predict will happen.

    Ignatieff needs time as leader to establish his “brand” and spar with the PM in Question Period etc. So I think he will not follow along the lines of the brief coalition, just to become PM during a very bad economy where he will then collect all the blame.

    I could be very very wrong however!

    (Notice how we anglos scatter our adverbs all over the place! I never would have realised this without the rigour of French grammar coming to my rescue!..

    En français j’essaie de suivre les règles français et en anglais, … well anything sort of goes, more.. or less. Vive, donc les différences! Elles sont belles!

    À la prochaine, tout le monde! Bonne nuit chère nation québécoise au sein du Canada! Dormez bien tous et toutes!


    December 9, 2008 at 10:43 pm

  19. The Wikipedia article about Canada in german has 14885 words, twice as much than in english. Strange lack of interest.


    December 9, 2008 at 11:09 pm

  20. to KRISS, briefly:

    Every nation has some dark history, the longer the nation has had a history the more bad things have happened.

    Canada has apologised to the Chinese for the Head tax, to the Japanese for internement in the WWII, to children abused in residential schools, to aboriginal and Inuit nations for past abuses, to Hepatitis C patients infected by tainted blood products.

    On behalf of and injust actions any of my own ancestors may have done in Acadia or Québéc, I apologise to those of you whose own ancesters suffered from such acts.

    The universal soldier! How he is swept into the fray of unjust kings and ministers. How he lays down his life so often in vain for the vanity of the conquerer!
    The history of our species, homo sapiens.

    Que les caractéristiques de la “nature humaine aillent changer à notre avenir!

    Our universities today have departments of Anthropology which impact on our views of our past selves, our present selves, and the “other” of other cultures who is also us.

    In todays Canada there is not much remaining appetite for “whitewashing” the evils of the past, nor the sufferings of French colonists at the hands of British administrators.

    France herself exploited slaves in the Caribbean in Africa, in Algeria in Indo-China.

    Belgians, Dutch, Portuguese, Spaniards, etc. committed centuries of “white catholic christian” atocities in Africa and the New World. The English in India, Africa the Caribean Acadia and La Nouvelle France/Quebec/Lower Canada etc.

    I agree that history is not well presented in high school but Canadians are well aware of many bad things that happened in our past. It is not a reason to despair. Perhaps we should not be in Afghanistan — that is controversial — that we should be there in a combat capacity.

    Canada is not a utopia. Would Québéc, if separate from the rest of us, be one?

    Can we not struggle together to be better human beings, individually and collectively?

    Petites pensées, petites questions …….


    December 9, 2008 at 11:18 pm

  21. @bruce

    Can we not struggle together to be better human beings, individually and collectively?

    As is always, some do things positive as others watch and criticize without making any attempt the same.

    BTW- I though this was an anglo blog as is the intent of AFG…:)

    Mais, comme tu besoin le francais…avoir ils en le blogues par des recommomndez par AGF…mon petit tete sa amuser avec toi.



    December 10, 2008 at 12:26 am

  22. AFGuy! Je voudrais te remercier des liens pour les sitewebs français. J’y commencerai bientôt après un examen que je dois passer vendredi.

    That is to say I might not pass it, but I have to sit for it!

    So Ignatieff is now the new leader and speaks French way better than Harper. How quickly a few days changes the calculus of politics — une politique autant passionnante au Canada qu’en beaucoup d’autres pays!

    I spent a lot of time reading some of your previous chroniques and the responses, so now I see how this blog works, and how the linguistic divide plays itself out in the realities of your daily life, and I at least have a comprehension of the angst that”a few million” Québécois are carrying about whether la langue pourrait survivre dans l’avenir.

    Many Anglos who post here don’t quite see the reality of that emotional distress deep in the hearts of so many of you.
    On the other hand, all societies at their lower levels of priviledge, education and insight have people who love to “rant”, especially on line it seems. Lots of them just vote along the “rant lines” of their own “tribe”, and we get to know someone like Harper.

    How different is his character structure different from Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. This sounds extreme perhaps, but POWER and CONTROL are clearly the man’s raison d’être. His CONTROL needs (to pathological degree) first and foremost, then Canada comes second, I think that is evident.

    In your case starting this blog was like Zen in your life, hooray! — but the sadness is still there within you — that much is easily apparent.

    You are ambivilant also, choosing to remain west of Atwater instead of the fully francophone neighbourhoods east of Saint Denis or where ever one starts to hear 90% spoken French out on the streetscape.

    (Obviously the French elite groups don’t live that much in east Montréal, and they can make higher salaries by being fully bi-lingual. How to make the immigrants choose French, for the language of every day life at work and in their neighbourhoods?? How to make anglos feel less smug and integrate emotionally, buying into the “duality” Montréal, Trois Rivières, Sherbrooke,la ville de Québec etc tous les régions urbaines il y auraient toujours des tensions linguistics, mais …that won’t change really just because Québec will be a completely separate country.

    You’d have to STOP taking all those non French speaking immigrants, who take lower paying work when they come, that are supposed to balance off the loss of talented Québécois who migrate to USA, Alberta, Ontario etc. in search of personal opportunity.

    Risque de la stagnation.

    But I read those points of view and the resume of the thesis of the ‘Reconquest of Montreal” And yeah- the work place language throughout Montreal it should for sure be French — militate for policies to make it so, but it is better to seduce with sweetness than brute force. (The car dealer dude who refused French from his website is an asshole. Flag stompers are assholes, but the majority of anglo-québécois, allos and ROCers are not really assholes — they are just damn busy with their lives and they don’t blog, don’t “diss” and don’t bitch all that much.

    Hostility is not CIVILISED and most people are relatively civilised and don’t grind axes. But when hard liners from either extreme anglo or franco start yelling about each other, well that’s not going down well in most peoples books.

    Canada is about compromise, and sometimes you have to wait an extra generation for good things to transpire, while protecting fundamental values such as French flourishing in Québec, and find the most effective strategies for that to go forward. Bill 101 was necessary, despite all the rangling and hysteria, but as some of you are pointing out, it is not being fully embraced on the ground, or in terms of people’s “committing”

    Tell me how the present federal policies are causing immigrants and others to not embrace French with the desired passion?

    In rural Québec the language is totally dominant as it should — problem is the jobs are urban so the young people leave the regions.

    That problem is not going to change any time soon either — they is no surplus employment opportunity in Lac St. Jean — they do mostly wind up in Montreal, no question.

    How would the PQ or the QS alter that dynamique? assuming they a) were back in government and b) actually won a referendum?

    Reflecting back a while, I was in Montréal in Oct 28, 29 and 30 1995 with my three primary school aged children, and I promised myself then they would learn French, we changed schools a year later and they all three graduated later on from le Collège français in Toronto, a public French board school that taught all subjects only in French (except for English itself, one of only 8 subjects,) — i.e a proper Francophone school, for francophone speakers, and we were very lucky to get in — would not have, without some extra tutoring and early immersion) And my kids today are not unhappy about that journey — I told them at the time that they were “new immigrants” into a new French speaking society and that they had to bootstrap themselves up — carpe diem! And indeed they did.

    Not like ‘Sergei’ who in 16 years can’t bring himself to dit Bonjour! à son voisin français, même quand il désire un peu de secours!

    For the average immigrant though it takes til the 2nd and 3rd generation to really integrate, and that is your worry that they will not. But how can the present governments in Quebec and Ottawa make it more attractive to immigrants and anglos to integrate from their hearts? And could the PQ of nowadays do it any better if they had won? Because some of the less cosmopolitan québécois do seem to harbour a chip — an equal and opposite reaction perhaps, to anglo allo attitudes.

    Most people do tend to be a little lazy, because life is very demanding. But if you are not pur laine …
    This is a perception that has to have a grain of truth, after all human nature does exist.

    Well I have to say personally that I never had a problem –that people in Québec didn’t want to talk to me, even when my French was worse than now — if that’s possible — and if, after they replied in English, I continued to insist on French, well they put up that — (and had a good laugh as well) — but were completely gracious.
    So I don’t accept that anglos “cannot” communicate, but it is likely true (not trying to make stupid excuses) that anglos tend to be more reserved and socially shy, they have this FEAR factor of screwing up when they try French, — AND they always get answered in English by you French guys!

    Which is WRONG! You should always answer anglo “French” in slow, simple French, ONLY moving to English when the anglo guy or girl is totally floundering and just can’t “get it”. You don’t have to show us how great your English is from the “get-go” we already realise it’s probably extremely good, and we NEED to practise French and NOT “da mudda tung” But we are I guess too spineless not to press the issue, so …default to English! See!! you guys are ALSO a part of this problem!!!

    Not you, I am sure, AFguy, but I am sure many of you Québécois (es) also answer non maternal French allos in English. By doing so you are underlining they are not “part of the tribe”. This creates a problem of them not wanting to “commit” Its NOT unfriendly to always use French!! Plus Slow plus gestures plus whatever it takes and a little english a word here or there, and just as a last resort unless your “victim” pleads off, hollering “uncle” Even then, be friendly, be warm and let the encounter become a little on the spot French lesson!

    This strategy is better in my opinion than language police, blogs, and constant mutual bitching.

    Mind you I was never at a hard line political event! (except for the ’95 referendum)

    I see that on the blog there is a lot of trash talk and diss talk and talking down to, and etc. etc. But is this not true of blogs in general? It has to be discouraging for you when you read the amount to razzing that goes on.

    BUT there are some several millions of ROCers who are more like me and they have a very soft spot in the heart for Québec and always enjoyed their visits and are trying to send their kids to immersion programs.

    There is a significant number in ROC who don’t want French to disappear either in Quebec OR in ROC, and we do go out to vote, and are across the political spectrum. They say that at least 13% of us can at least get by in French, and a much larger % favors an official bilingual Canada. (I know… 13% is still pathetic compared to % in Quebec who can use both languages.)

    You can get French radio (radiocanada) and TV programming anywhere in Canada pretty much on a 24/7 basis, so francophone communities in Ontario and other places have cultural tools present to help preserve French.

    Furthermore, there is also a good 40% (or sometimes as much as 50%, depending on the time of day and the political brouhaha of any particular day) of Québec francophones don’t want to give up the duality of Québec/Canada. Isn’t this tough on family life and friendship. And wouldn’t those francophone friends and family be bitter if in independent Quebec there was not the linguistic “renaissance” that was hoped for. Montréal will never be a rural homogenous place like Matane, or even places as culturally sophisticated as Charlevoix or Joliette. Montréal IS the economic engine and it needs to be international, multilingual and yeah French should be the language in the shops, and working places, and office towers, and even at McGill and in the Royal Vic etc. But you guys need to give those hundreds and millions of little daily language lessons, one-on one, 50 times a day I suppose — I don’t know if that can happen — but it should. Talk French ‘real nice’ to the other. If you are with another francophone AND an allophone, and you’re going full clip, turn aside now and again and give “the other a little simple slow “sound bite” to update and include him/her. I also heard that Shouting French out Loud in huge classes and stadiums is effective in engaging people emotionally. That’s how they’ve started teaching English in China, and apparently it works very well!

    Since you are going to have to continue to deal with Americans economically, not many of them are going to come willing to speak or learn French. Also French could possibly wither away in the ROC, once the joy of “duality” has been forever lost.

    This would also be very sad for the Québec diaspora in ROC.

    Well just some of the usual ‘Moronic’ little observations from me. Je devrais me mettre à la lecture française ce soir!

    Bonne chance AF Guy et merci pour l’occasion de causer avec toi et les autres ici!


    December 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  23. Interesting, we have Bruce who seems to have a lot of time on his hands with the lengthy posts about the love for the langue de francais.

    We have others talking about culture, english vs french.

    Talking politics even..

    The real issue is the economy which at the end of the day will be paramount in all your lives.

    Of course we can all live on our culture and love, good luck.

    Wake up and smell the roses.

    How many did Bombardier recreation lay off this past few days. How may autoworkers out of work… Oil down to about forty a barrel. So where is the equalization money to come from, eh.

    I think there are issues far more important than language and cultural differences staring us in the face. We can likely deal with them after this current crisis is under control.

    Of course, we can always live on love. Bonne chance!

    Sorry to be so cynical.



    December 10, 2008 at 9:25 pm

  24. ABP Guess what,
    economy IS a cultural fact,
    product of the mind, of thinking,
    which is what culture is all about and serves to.
    Culture is not pretty sculpted eskimo statues from Szechaun or a bilingual museum in Ottawa.
    Culture and language are the head and heart of a society. It is what creates ideas that bring values and prosperity.
    Thinking that economy is separated of culture, language and thinking
    is like having a belly without a brain, a worm.

    There is nothing more important for man than language: this is what makes him think and be different from animal.


    December 11, 2008 at 12:15 am

  25. “There is nothing more important for man than language: this is what makes him think and be different from animal.”

    Live on your culture and language when your fiscal resevers are gone…and you are looking for a piece of bread to survive…and you are starving to death a the time. Too late.

    How is your culture linked to your economy as of late.



    December 11, 2008 at 1:18 am

  26. @ kriss,

    WE have not seen the worst…it is coming..for both of us…

    Of course we will have english and french…and different cultures…but no jobs or money…Nice life.

    Then and only then will people realize the mistakes and the waste dollars on programs which are of no consequence.

    That will be interesting!!



    December 11, 2008 at 1:33 am

  27. AFG:

    Yes the constitution is a very strange document.

    Especially that part right at the beginning: “Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the **supremacy of God** and the rule of law:”…

    So we really are a monarchic theocracy ? Because that’s not just words: words have a meaning as we saw last Thursday.

    It used to be that Quebec didn’t like the constitution. But how the non-crazy part of the ROC feel about this “supremacy of God” thing ? It doesn’t bother them from time to time ?


    December 11, 2008 at 1:51 am

  28. Bruce,
    About Ducceppe not being “the biggest loser” in the deal for the coalition. I think he is, in a sense. He could have been ending forced to vote against Quebec interests.
    Being a independantist have always been complicated. You have to bring your values in equilibrium, and sometime they conflict. Ducceppe is a social-democrat, as I am and as are most independantists (and even Quebeckers, as the “lucids” discovered in the polls after their right-wing manifests). Ducceppe is also responsible and do not want Canada nor Quebec to go in recession because he fail to act (as I don’t want USA, France, etc., to go in one).
    Values sometime conflict (as when the father of the Clarity Act is the only one able to save the rights of women, workers, voters, and to do what every responsible government do when there is a recession and a liquidity trap).

    Ducceppe could have saved the ROC from a Great Depression. Perhaps he already did, together with the PLC and NDP, by forcing Harper to make a responsible budget instead of clinging to his right wing economic ideology when this ideology clearly have pushed the whole world in a awful economic situation. We will see. But I think that a little “thank you, separatists” from the non-crazy part of the ROC is in order.


    December 11, 2008 at 2:05 am

  29. Tancrede ! L’hibou qui huhule dans la nuit! You night owl you!

    I don’t usually read the constitution for bedtime pleasure you know, but you guys français, (I mean Québécois,) would have supported **that clause** for at least 335 of the past 400 years! (Dieu, — pas Reine!)

    No, we are not a theocracy, and as a so-called “monarchy” we are only ceremonially so!

    So the words don’t mean in practice what they seem to say! (You know that!)

    Le Roi Soleil, monarque français au pouvoir absolu, circa 1662, était sous la suprématie de Dieu!
    Il était, astheure, le roi de tes aïeux ce que je crois! Et roi aussi de Jean Talon, son Intendant, tellement doué, en Nouvelle France, n’est pas?

    So yeah — the constitution thing you mention doesn’t bother me all too much!!

    — I like to be tactful of the feelings of those *religious* souls who feel the constitutional monarch of Canada, should ‘submit” herself under the **supremacy of God**, and in this instance, **God** would have to be Her Excellency, Michaêlle Jean, our GG! But still I have no complaints!

    Only if Harper wants to be **God**, then I will see RED, (which is what lots of ROCers are seeing right now!)

    Tancrede, if you want to find out what anglos, (the ROC kind) think (in the anglo language bien sûr), check into to todays new’s blogs about Ignatieff on
    www. under News.

    There are hundred of posts on todays stories about Ignatieff and Harper. If you clic on the Most Recommended link, then you’ll see the posts that got the most thumbs up from viewers.

    That will give an idea about anglo opinion across Canada.

    Bonne nuit mon ami.


    December 11, 2008 at 2:30 am

  30. OK Tancrede, j’ai lu donc, ton dernier affiche!

    Merci de mon plein coeur!

    C’est un petit remerciement. Sois tranquille mon concitoyen!

    Des bons rêves!


    December 11, 2008 at 2:41 am

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