Québec, Israël and Palestine

with 142 comments


It is no secret, when it comes to the situation in the Middle East, sympathies in Québec are overwhelmingly on the side of the Palestinians.

Although it would be unfair to compare the two situations, there is something automatic, almost visceral, in the way people in Québec identify with the conquered people living in Occupied Territories.  The images of the uneven war between a makeshift resistance armed with rocks and old soviet rockets and one of the world’s most modern armies echoes with something very profound about the way we see ourselves.

Until Jacques Parizeau asked them to leave in the mid-80’s, the Parti québécois invited representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation at all its assemblies and members of the Front de Libération du Québec trained with the PLO in Jordan in the 1970s.  To this day, members of Québec’s sovereignty movement like Gilles Duceppe, Amir Khadir and Pierre Falardeau are staples of any demonstration against israeli aggressions.

I used to feel the same way.  Not anymore.

As much as I am horrified by much of Israel’s way of dealing with the Palestinians and as much as I am disgusted by the blatant racism and islamophobia of Israel’s apologists in much of the Canadian media like the National Post and Maclean’s, I have come to understand Israel’s position much better recently, and I did it by – if you will – putting Québec in Israel’s shoes.

Take a step back with me.

After a long and emotional campaign during which all of the past injustices suffered by the French-Canadians, from the deportation of the Acadians to the economic discrimination of the 20th century, have been dredged up, Québec has just become an independent country.  At long last a free, independent and secure homeland for French-speakers in America.

The vote and it’s consequences causes fear and panic in English-speaking parts of Montreal.  Many leave their homes and move in with family in the rest of Canada, at least temporarily.  Quickly, resistance is organized in the West Island and the Pontiac.  Heavily financed by Canadian nationalist and patriots in Ontario and Alberta unable to accept any form of independence for Québec, the Canadian Liberation Organisation makes plans for the complete and final reconquest of Québec.

After countless deaths and destruction caused by Canadian terrorists operating out of bases in DDO and Shawville, the Québec government is forced to impose an always tighter control on Anglo areas, including countless check points, curfews and even walls.  Further complicating things, ultra-nationalist Québécois factions are building settlements in Pointe-Claire and the Ottawa Valley in the name of a divine right of the Québécois to occupy the whole territory of Québec.  At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Anglos who left Québec in the days following the referendum are now demanding the right to return and the restitution of their property.

Sympathies in the vast CNN watching North American public are overwhelmingly on the side of Québec Anglos whom they naturally identify with as they are of the same culture and speak the same language.  Anglo leaders know this and use it to their advantage as a vast campaign of Québec-bashing is orchestrated and dutifully relayed by the American and Canadian media.

Anglo Resistance leaders also spend much time on American television explaining how they are just a peaceful people trying to establish a peaceful homeland for Anglo-Quebecers, conveniently overlooking the fact that just yesterday they vowed to destroy the State of Québec and drive every last French-speaker in the St.Lawrence River.

And so it drags on, for years and decades.  Québec, with scarcely a friend (except for France, which doesn’t exactly help in North America) continues to protect its security and defend its citizens in the face of worldwide criticism.  Meanwhile, Anglos in the West Island and the Ottawa Valley suffer indignities that are simultaneously the cause and consequence of their support for always more radical leaders.

Of course, all of this is political fiction and I certainly don’t believe there is any reason to think things could ever breakdown so badly in Québec.  And I certainly don’t want to trivialize the pain and suffering of the people of the Middle East.

But I also think the people of Québec, and especially my friends in the sovereignty movement, should be careful before they throw their first stone at the State of Israel.


Written by angryfrenchguy

December 30, 2008 at 6:08 pm

142 Responses

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  1. “Disagreed. The whole “switching” complaint that I keep reading about should be the exclusive property of tourists or occassional visitors to the province. Anyone who lived their whole lives in Montreal and says “It’s not that I don’t want to speak french, it’s that I never have an opportunity” deserves to be smacked. But I never hear it from locals anyway. The truth is, any anglo-Quebecer below a certain age that can’t get by in French just doesn’t want to.”

    Excellent points Rory. The truth is that many locally-produced anglos in Quebec (especially in Montreal) do “ride” on the tourism-oriented English service that is quite pervasive in much of Montreal. I guess that in the 21st century in theory you could also do this in places Stockholm, Amsterdam and even Paris, but in these places the issue is moot because there isn’t in these cities a sizeable local anglo community that can take advantage of it.

    Because of this, on several occasions, I have innocently and inadvertently insulted Anglo-Montrealers. For example, I’ve sat at concerts, Habs and Expos games next to people who said “hi” or “excuse me” when sitting down in spite of the fact that I and my group were obviously francophone. Then they proceeded to speak to me only in English, as well as the hot dog and beer vendors, and don’t seem to understand when francophones say even the most basic things like “excusez-moi” or “une Laurentide ou une Cinquante, Monsieur?”. Which usually incites me to ask (trying to be friendly): “So, where you from? Ontario? The States?”.

    Then they usually get all in a huff and say: “No! I am a Montrealer born and raised, this is my home too, blablabla…”


    January 1, 2009 at 11:33 am

  2. angryenglishgirl–So help me, I hope you’re right that we will never intervene militarily in any Québec-Canada dispute.

    2009 isn’t 1965 (thank goodness), but I will remind you that President Johnson sent something like 40,000 troops to the Dominican Republic even though not one in a thousand people here could have identified Juan Bosch or Joaquin Balaguer.

    Have you ever read the transcript of Les Justiciers Masqués’ call to Sarah Palin? Their prank is in my opinion proof by itself that we need to preserve North American French.


    January 1, 2009 at 12:31 pm

  3. AEG:

    Thank you for your response and for your overall attitude. I know that some of what I say might come across as harsh, but it isn’t said (written?) in anger. I just think messages get lost if you sugar coat them. A couple of points on your reply:

    “In YOUR country?!”

    Well, it isn’t only “my” country, is it? It’s “their” country, too. And it’s a bilingual country, and Quebec is just a province like every other. So yes, most Canadian Anglophones do expect us to speak English.

    “Maybe it’s just me…”

    It isn’t just you, but as I said above, people like you are a small minority.

    “it is an honor when a bilingual person from Mexico or France or wherever will speak with me in their native language.”

    I’m the same way. I embarrass myself occasionally, of course, but that’s an inevitable part of learning a new language. Note, however, that France and Mexico are countries that speak French and Spanish (or should I say Castilian?) respectively. Quebec isn’t a country, so you can’t really compare Quebec to Mexico or France (unless you don’t mind being labelled a separatist, which is synonymous with being insular, delusional, xenophobic, etc., etc., etc.). Quebec is a province in Canada—a country with two official languages. Canadian Anglophones speak one of those languages. If you speak both and insist on speaking French to them, most of them will not be honored. They will react like it is an affront to their dignity if not an all-out infringement on their rights.


    Your last two paragraphs from 11:33 are as good a summary of the Montreal tragicomedy as I’ve ever seen.


    January 1, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  4. To return to the topic…

    The people in Quebec who, historically, really could be compared to Palestinians are, of course, the First Nations. The state of Israel is much younger than Quebec, so they are doing now what we did early in our history: systematically displacing and destroying the local population, justifying it all by demonizing that population, and framing the whole thing as part of a nutty supernatural drama.

    It’s a little bit rich for any of us (franco/anglo/allo/old stock/immigrant) to criticize Israel while giving ourselves a pat on the pack for all getting along so well over here (which we often do), because back when we were faced with local people living on the land we wanted, we didn’t take the “let’s not fight over this” route. We didn’t take a time out to do any soulsearching or ask ourselves why the locals had raided a farm/village/fort/whatever or try to look at the whole situation historically from their point of view. We got mad, raised armies, killed a bunch of them, drove the rest away, and thanked God for his divine justice.

    Of course, none of that justifies Israel’s behaviour. But I think AFG is right that we should take a look in the mirror here instead of simply having a sanctimonious knee-jerk response.


    January 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm

  5. “The people in Quebec who, historically, really could be compared to Palestinians are, of course, the First Nations.”

    Actually, if you we’re to pick up a bible, you’d find out the First Nations of Israel are the Canaanites…


    January 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm

  6. While I think AFG takes the analogy way too far by including terrorism in the scenario, the situation of the Franco-canadians and the Jews is in fact quite parallel. Consider the following:

    1. Both Quebec and Israel represent islands where people of one historical and cultural background can live as the majority surrounded on all sides by a very large and influential group (Anglos/Arabs) that speaks a different language and holds a different historical and cultural perspective.
    2. Both are nations with strong democratic fundamentals, topped by a dollop of self-interested “fascism” (Law 101 in the case of Quebec and the consistently disproportionately responding IDF for Israel). This is due to the fact that without these extreme measures both their existences would be threatened. For Quebec it is a cultural existence, hence a cultural fascism; For Israel it is their very lives, hence a fascism that is proportionately more extreme.
    3. Both nations were occupied by well-intentioned settlers who ultimately ended up decimating the previous native populations in the interests of their own self-defense.

    Given these remarkable similarities it always amazes me that Quebeckers almost always take the side of the Palestinians. Of course as ClaudeB accurately pointed out, it is because we love an underdog here and we hate the use of force.

    It is almost impossible for us in North America to understand the lives of either the Palestinians or the Israelis. Lives where every day there is a sworn enemy living beside you with guns pointed at you who wants to kill you and your family. I think we are unbelievable naive to criticize either of them for using violence to defend and assert themselves under this situation. What would you do if a rabid dog were about to attack your child and you had a gun in you hand? Can any one of us really say that they would be calmer, wiser and more sympathetic than the Israelis or Palestinians?

    So putting aside the issue of violence that makes us side with the underdog, I still feel that Quebec is more like Israel. A nation that knows it has a homeland and doesn’t care what the hell anyone else thinks about how it behaves to preserve that homeland. Zionists seem driven by the desire to exist and thrive, whereas Palestinians seem driven by the desire to take back what they once had and to rid their land of this offensive foreign entity (a bit the way some Anglos see French demands for nationwide equality in Canada).

    and yes, Amir. You are absolutely right. Land for peace is the only solution to the problem, but this is the solution being pursued by Israel and Fatah. It is Hamas that is screwing this up because they consider the very existence of Israel an affront to Islam and to Palestine.


    January 1, 2009 at 4:34 pm

  7. I hate to nitpick, but I don’t think you can really make that comparison.

    See, the First Nations and the Palestinians are basically decent people to whom something terrible has happened, whereas the Canaanites were obviously heathen bastards who deserved to be put to the sword. ;)

    Bonne Heureuse Année !


    January 1, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  8. The Palestinians, or at least their upper class, are, like most Israelis, and like many of us in North America, the descendants of a bandit horde that walked into someone else’s country and took it over in the name of a religion. Happens all the time.


    January 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  9. gcl: “See, the First Nations and the Palestinians are basically decent people to whom something terrible has happened”

    That’s a little naive. When the French arrived in the 17th century the land of the St. Lawrence River, was occupied by the Iroquois. The Iroquois stole that land to the Algonquins and Hurons who lived there for centuries. Europeans didn’t bring war and extermination in a Native paradise.


    January 1, 2009 at 5:52 pm

  10. Israelis took the land from the British who took it from the Turks who took it from the Egyptians who took it from the Crusaders who took it from the Arabs who took it from the Romans who took it from the Greeks who took it from the Persians who took it from the Hebrews who took it from the Canaanites.

    Unclear how many of the “takings” were actually “givings” from God, though about half claim as much.


    January 1, 2009 at 6:56 pm

  11. gcl: “Well, it isn’t only “my” country, is it? It’s “their” country, too. And it’s a bilingual country, and Quebec is just a province like every other. So yes, most Canadian Anglophones do expect us to speak English.”

    Whatever happened to “When in Rome…”? C’est dommage !

    “Spanish (or should I say Castilian?)”

    Castillian is a dialect of Spanish spoken primarily in Castille, Spain. One of its characteristics is the pronunciation of “s” as a “th” sound.

    Acajack: “even the most basic things like…“une Laurentide ou une Cinquante, Monsieur?””

    I’m hoping based on context that you mean these are beers. I don’t think these were covered in my French textbook! (Are they good?)

    Edward, that’s a great summary there at 6:56pm 1 Jan 09


    January 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm

  12. “Castillian is a dialect of Spanish spoken primarily in Castille, Spain. One of its characteristics is the pronunciation of “s” as a “th” sound.” I could be mixing this up with Catalan, nevermind…


    January 1, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  13. littlerob, you are right, the USA intervenes too much sometimes.

    AEG -> has a sudden urge to sneeze *Iraqchoo!*

    board -> à tes souhaites

    AEG -> Merci

    lr: “Have you ever read the transcript of Les Justiciers Masqués’ call to Sarah Palin?”

    This is exactly what I was referring to before. I think that it is good that the seals are getting so much attention with this lame joke I have heard thousands of times. Only the inuits and polar bears should be allowed to hunt them, IMHO. And Mrs. Palin needs to read the name tags when introduced to Canadian officials. I think she forgot this with Mr. Harper.


    January 1, 2009 at 9:17 pm

  14. Kriss: Fine. But I’m right about those @*%$#!& Canaanites, aren’t I?

    AEG: “Castilian” is another name for the language from Spain spoken in Latin America. Some people call it “español” others call it “castellano”. There is an article on it in Wikipedia.

    To everyone: I’d like to tag something onto AEG’s beer question. Growing up in Ontario, we thought “Laurentide” was Molson Canadian as sold in Quebec. Any truth to that?


    “Both Quebec and Israel represent islands where people…”

    Hadn’t looked at it that way before. Well said.

    “Both are nations with strong democratic fundamentals, topped by a dollop of self-interested “fascism”…”

    You’re throwing that word around loosely, which I don’t agree with, but if we accept, for the sake of argument, that Quebec and Israel feature a hint of fascism, then your description applies to every country in the developed world.

    “Both nations were occupied by well-intentioned settlers…”

    I think this point touches on the theme of self-examination in AFG’s article. I’m sure the settlers in both cases (and in every other similar case) would have claimed they had the best intentions, but do we have to accept their interpretations of their actions?


    January 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  15. “AEG: “Castilian” is another name for the language from Spain spoken in Latin America. Some people call it “español” others call it “castellano”. There is an article on it in Wikipedia.”

    Agree with this. I think there is a political aspect to calling Spanish “Castellano” in Spain. Apparently the reason behind it is that it allows politicians to say that Catalan, Basque, Galician, etc. are “Spanish languages too!”, in a bid to thwart language-based separatist sentiment in these regions.


    January 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm

  16. “To everyone: I’d like to tag something onto AEG’s beer question. Growing up in Ontario, we thought “Laurentide” was Molson Canadian as sold in Quebec. Any truth to that?”

    Lots of truth to this. It is the exact same beer. Molson Canadian is not sold in Quebec except in Gatineau, which is a concession to (mostly underage) drinkers from Ontario who cross the Ottawa River to buy their beer in Quebec.

    Sorry if there are any fans here, but to answer AEG, Canadian/Laurentide is not exactly something I would recommend to beer connaisseurs.


    January 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

  17. “Growing up in Ontario…”

    Sounds like you are in the same boat as me. A francophone from Ontario who crossed over to “the dark side” in Quebec.

    Must be fun talking politics with your family and friends back in Ontario, if you dare to venture there. Personally, I refrain from doing so, and I am not even a sovereignist. (Even though they all suspect I am just because I give Quebec a fair shake.)


    January 1, 2009 at 11:00 pm

  18. Acajack:

    Thanks for the answer on Laurentide. Agree that I wouldn’t recommend it.

    AEG: Also, “Cinquante” is Labatt 50, which you’ve probably had at some point. (It’s a typical light ale/lager but with a little more flavor, as far as I remember, but I haven’t had one in a long time.)

    If you are looking for Quebec beers, poke around depanneurs for stuff by Boreal and McAuslan. If you are more adventurous, try the Dieu du Ciel! beer made with hibiscus flower or the one made with spices (they’re the only ones I’ve tried, but they were both good, which I think bodes well for their other beers.) Anything by La Barberie is fantastic. Outside of Quebec, I think Blanche de Chambly is available. It’s also really good. Try it with a slice of orange in the glass.

    AFG: My apologies for talking beer, which I know is way off topic. My only excuse is that I am promoting some of our nation’s finest products.


    January 2, 2009 at 12:04 am

  19. Acajack:

    I wasn’t aware of how the espanol/castellano thing was viewed in Spain. In Latin America, I got the impression people said “castellano” to make it more “a language from Spain” rather than “Spain’s language”.

    Yeah, I avoid talking Quebec politics with the people I know from Ontario as much as possible because it usually brings out a side of them that I really don’t like. I’m not saying I never do, I’m just saying I’m usually not the one to bring it up.


    January 2, 2009 at 12:50 am

  20. Oui bien, les microbrasseries et les microcideries de Québec sont fort bons.

    Kriss: just a comment on “Europeans didn’t bring war and extermination in a Native paradise.” …well it seems they did bring catholicism and smallpox. The Hurons were 90% dead within 50 years… by around 1660.

    Fascism: To me it implies that dissent, or just not being part of the dominant social group, whether religious, military or economically controlling, means that you are in significant danger of being killed or ‘disappeared.’

    Franco, Musselini,Hitler. etc and the modern iterations with death squads sent out — Guatemala etc.

    Therefore one can not say Bill 101 is fascist! People are not killed for breaking the language law, although there are sometimes penalities of some sort, especially after complaints.

    Furthermore the notwithstanding clause reaffirms the legitimacy of having such laws in Québec for as long as it takes to secure French as the language of daily life.

    I completely agree with AFG and gcl and others that the attitude of some anglos in Montréal sucks. (Totally!!!)

    “If you speak both and insist on speaking French to them, most of them will not be honored. They will react like it is an affront to their dignity if not an all-out infringement on their rights.” ….gcl

    littlerob: “a t-shirt on which “couramment” or “assez bien” or “cassé” is written.”

    I am thinking of ordering a T shirt with ‘assez bien’ to wear in Québec, although maybe that would be exaggerating my abilities.

    You guys should start a little business to produce them in the three categories: Couramment, Assez Bien et Cassé
    and market them to anglos so they can differentiate themselves. The shame alone of having to wear Cassé should stir some from their habitudes paresseuses.

    Castillan was the Spanish dialect with the army, therefore the ‘prestige language’. The Andalusians in the southern, formerly Moorish, part have the ‘th’ lisp but more for the c Galician, Catalan etc are relational to Castillan, rather close, and Basque is totally different with almost no common words.

    Puedo hablar un poco el espanol pero no puedo hacerlo tan bien que AEG y Acajack.

    In central and south America the double ‘ll’ and the y have more of a ‘J’ sound than a ‘y’ sound as in Spain.

    Yo soy Canadiense … en Costa Rica sounds: Jo soy canadiense.

    Spanish is beautiful, but for me French is the most beautiful. Shame on Québec anglos who don’t want to make the effort.

    Another t-shirt: ‘It would be an honour if you would speak to me in your maternal tongue.’ OR ‘Je serais chouette si vous me parliez en français! Je vous en prie! (or shirts along those lines anyhow)

    (Facetious mischeivious comment: ‘All those residents caught not wearing their linguistic category clearly displayed will be detained summarily’.. !! :.)

    I’m serious about the T-shirts, but not about the facetious comment please.

    About English, well you know, for guys like Shakespeare it was their ‘langue de Molière’ (and Racine and Corneille etc. English has a nice collection of verbs and many really fine adjectives, and indeed it is fairly convenient for an anglo.

    Mais quand vous really get down to brass tacks. …

    Say, wasn’t that a quote from a Québec poetess, from the 1970 nuit de la poésie? I have forgotten her name at the moment. And didn’t Marco Marcone pick the theme up in a sort of a reprise 20 years after? Sorry I canèt locate my Québec anthology at the moment.

    Reading all the posts on today, Le jour de l’an, has really been lots of fun.

    Now, about English spelling…. there is a glaring case of reform badly needed…..


    January 2, 2009 at 1:14 am

  21. Well, at sports events, they do not usually serve the good stuff. I like German weissbier like Franziskaner. Also love microbrewery stuff from my area, so I will have to try Québec’s.

    Yeah, it’s been 11 years since I actually studied Spanish in school, and I haven’t heard Spanish Spanish much since then, so sorry to be confusing. I’ll have to check out wiki.

    Bruce: “‘Je serais chouette” Can chouette be used this way? Chouette !

    No T-shirts necessary. I’ve heard the custom is to say, “Bonjour/hello” if you don’t mind either way or just one or the other if you do. This is my plan unless someone suggests otherwise…

    Bruce: “Now, about English spelling” I’ve seen worse. If the world could learn the effect/affect difference I could be happy for life.

    gcl: “Well, it isn’t only “my” country, is it?” Whatever happened to the happy declaration from Mr. Harper about Québec being “a nation within Canada”? Was that just an effort by Les Conservateurs to try to look cool to Québec to try to wrest votes from the Bloc?

    And to actually be somewhat on topic…What is it about this piece of land that is Israel, why would so many people be promised it by their God? Is it a divine practical joke, or is it that God meant for peace among all these people and instead like jealous siblings they fight? “Hevenu Shalom Alechem!” Was Québec promised by God to anyone?


    January 2, 2009 at 6:43 am

  22. “Puedo hablar un poco el espanol pero no puedo hacerlo tan bien que AEG y Acajack.”

    Muchas gracias Bruce. Pero, pienso que la angryenglishgirl habla mucho mas que yo.


    January 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

  23. “I wasn’t aware of how the espanol/castellano thing was viewed in Spain. In Latin America, I got the impression people said “castellano” to make it more “a language from Spain” rather than “Spain’s language”.

    Interesting. I only have a little experience with Latin America, and what I’ve observed in Mexico and South America is that they generally refer to their language as espanol. All of my (native speaker) Spanish teachers here have been Latin Americans and they all referred to espanol as well. But I don’t know if they were just adapting to the general usage in North America north of the Rio Grande.

    I do know from experience that in Catalonia when you have a language choice to make (publications, Web sites, on the phone, etc.), it is always between Catalan and Castellano, and never between Catalan and Espanol.

    Thankfully, due to the Latin American teaching, I learned to pronounce the soft c’s as “s”, rather than “th”, which is much more difficult to get off my tongue!


    January 2, 2009 at 9:43 am

  24. “Yo soy Canadiense … en Costa Rica sounds: Jo soy canadiense.”

    In Chile too!

    And in Argentina they pronounce the double ‘LL’ (normally a Y sound in the rest of the hispanic world) as if it were almost “dj”.

    So the Spanish word for street, calle (pronounced “cayé” elsewhere), in Argentina actually sounds almost like “cadjé”.


    January 2, 2009 at 9:46 am

  25. “”Je serais chouette” Can chouette be used this way? Chouette !”

    You can say it, and it’s not grammatically incorrect per se, but you would be saying the equivalent of “I would be cool” in English.

    “It would be cool” or “That would be cool” in French would more exactly be “Ça serait chouette” or “Ce serait chouette”.


    January 2, 2009 at 9:49 am

  26. OUI!…..Ça serait chouette! (My face is scarlet) Il faut que je rougisse!

    Right you truly are Acajack! avec tous mes remerciements à toi et à AEG.
    That’s why I need to wear the ‘Cassé’ t-shirt, but of course I wouldn’t! I have the chutzpah and the ‘huevos’ er..cajones …er…gosses .. like the ‘nerve’ and audacity (of faint hope) to wear ‘assez bien’, and almost at once therefore, I will be in deep, deep murky waters

    Much merriment!

    I do find littlerobs t-shirt ‘remue-meninge’ absolutely
    brilliant, and I urge you franco guys to run with the concept. I am sure it could become a cultural craze in Montréal, and a beautiful way to turn the tables a little on anglo speakers who ‘ just…wannabe’ anglo speakers.

    It would be a hilarious ice-breaker, and also a way for ‘assez biens’ and ‘couramments’ to demonstrate a little leadership within their linguisitic ‘solitude’.

    And a great yet gentle way to razz the ‘cassé’ group.

    AEG: With all due respect, although I learned English spelling, at least 50% of ‘anglos de souche’ struggle with it many to enormous degree, which shows how utterly stupid our antiquated system of orthography really is.

    Furthermore efficiency and effective communication suffer as a result, and it is an unnecessary hardship on newcomers to the language.

    With a true phonetic reform, which is probably ‘gonna’ sweep the anglo world in the long run anyway, things would be better.

    I suppose in litterature class, the prof would need to point out that various words are ‘cast in the classic manner of the past, which you need to be able to recognise without having to memorise’


    Of course français has it’s little grammar constructions and agreement rules so charming and somewhat quaint to us anglos, and they say la langue française is a very demanding mistress, but it is clear, precise and beautiful, once you sort out the various little peccadillos.

    You are such a smart girl, (for an anglo, bien entendu), and you are going to love Montréal when you get there, and god willing you will totally ignore it, with a mischievous smile when you get english back from anyone, and soldier on français avec beaucoup de rire! Natch!

    Je suis jaloux!


    January 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm

  27. Brilliant.

    I speak figuratively about bilingual francos wearing T-shirts in order to highlight anglo prejudice. You guys rub your heads together and eventually come up with wisecracks about shaming anglos by forcing them to identify themselves in public with T-shirts displaying their French language skills.

    Months from now, a ROC journalist researching a piece on English-speaking separatists stumbles upon your comments and describes AFG’s blog as “a place were visitors casually toss around ideas like shaming Anglophones by forcing them to identify themselves in public with T-shirts displaying their French language skills”. The rest of the article is an equally propagandistic farce painting “anglo separatist sympathizers” as delusional, ignorant, racist nuts. Outraged readers across Canada dutifully go to the article’s comments page and “remind” separatists about Jews having to wear yellow stars in Germany prior to WWII and take the opportunity to lecture Quebecers about a variety of other topics ranging from the Plains of Abraham to Lionel Groulx to Bill 101, all of which they have only a passing familiarity with. Moderate, tolerant, open-minded Canadians intervene on those boards to state that while, sure, some people in Quebec are really bigoted, not all Quebecers are separatists. (After all, didn’t more than half of them vote to stay in Canada?) Bruce, AEG, and littlerob all see this article and quite innocently mention to their respective friends and/or family members that the bit about the T-shirts was taken entirely out context. They are met with blank stares.

    “All I’m saying,” he/she/he says, “is that the part about the T-shirts was unfair.”

    “Oh, yeah, of course, sure, I know” replies the friend/family member, “I don’t have a problem with Quebec. I love Quebec. Most of them are really nice, I’m sure. They’re a big part of what makes Canada such a great country. You know, I wish now I had paid more attention in my French classes when I was in school. You’re lucky that you have a knack for languages, it looks like your French is getting pretty good.”

    “Yeah, I’ve been studying and practising and going online and talking to a lot of Quebecers, even separatists. Or sovereigntists. Whatever.”


    “Oh. Yeah?”

    “Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. I visit the site they’re talking about in the article. The thing about the T-shirts, it was a joke. It was partly my idea, actually. We were just joking.”

    Awkward, awkward silence.

    Bruce/AEG/littlerob feels an urge to explain that he/she/he isn’t a brainwashed, delusional, racist nut. He/she/he begins to look at the Canada/Quebec relationship in a slightly different way.

    Bruce: I’m not trying to demonize anglo Montrealers. I’m pointing out that there is still a very deep-rooted francophobia in English Canada that manifests itself as indignation over racism/fascism/discrimination/individual rights/ethnic nationalism/whatever.

    AEG: I don’t believe in a supreme being floating above the earth promising chunks of land to specific people and being on their side in their struggles against the evil foreign hoards, so I don’t believe Quebec has been promised to anyone and I would look for historical, economic, and geopolitical explanations for the Middle East crisis rather than a religious one. I think religion is used as a way of controlling people, but I don’t think conflicts are ever really about religion. In other words, I think religion is a tool of conflict, not its cause. While we’re on the topic of religion and geopolitics… I’m reminded of a painting I saw a few years ago by an artist who (I think) was from Montreal. It was of a globe and it featured the words (or something close to) “…and the meek shall inherit the earth, except for a thin layer of it near the surface”.

    About Harper and the nation thing: Call me cynical, but I think you’re right about it being a vote grab.

    Eleven years since you last studied Spanish? I am very impressed. My last exposure was only a few years ago, but I get the impression your level is a lot higher than mine


    January 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm

  28. Acajack,

    Interesting about the ‘LL’ in Argentina, where I never have been.

    I was in Llano Bonito in Costa Rica, and it is pronounced like Jano Bonito, whereas in Spain like ‘Y’ano —- so in Argentina ?? Djéano Bonito ??

    The tower of Babel! But I am sure blah, blah, blah comes from espanol ‘hablaba’

    3 years ago when I started up with français I also took some espanol just as a lark. In the first two years I found a lot of interference between French and Spanish, but more lately once my head is in French, I don’t find Spanish words coming in anymore. Plus Spanish grammar, and the subjunctive are so similar with French usage

    that “C’est tellement chouette!”

    Hope I got it right this time!


    January 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

  29. Hey gcl!

    After I picked myself off the floor laughing almost hysterically after your 12:19 post, which is truly bizarrely funny, I thought Wow! Could we be creating such a monster here!

    Surely you don’t advocate ‘forcing’ t-shirts on anglos in the manner of the 3rd Reich!

    It would be a good natured personal choice thing!

    I love your fantastic scenario however!

    Personally, people are individuals, and phobias are individual ‘deficiencies’ or misfortunes. anglo or franco phobias are like disabilities. You can get over them by having a good laugh.

    The best medicine a good t-shirt, uhhh I mean I good laugh.

    Thanks gcl for the laughter you just gave me! Not at you, but with you.


    January 2, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  30. Plus, gcl, you write very creatively en anglais.

    My admiration.


    January 2, 2009 at 12:53 pm

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