Québec has no Colour TV

with 143 comments


Québec’s TV industry is huge.  For a country it’s size, with a potential public of only a a few million viewers, most of whom understand English and are perfectly able to tune in to the American TV networks that make up at least half of the channels of any cable subscription, the vitality of Québec’s TV is simply astonishing.

Québec’s television is also very high quality television with well-written dramas like Les Invincibles, sitcoms like Tout sur moi innovative talk-shows like 3600 Secondes d’Extase.   Québec’s TV rarely feels small-time and production values are often world-class.  Star Académie, Québec’s weekly reality/talent show, is an extravaganza of massive production numbers featuring American and French guest stars that makes American Idol look like community television.   Seriously.

There is only one major problem with Québec’s television.  It’s not in colour yet.

This week AngryFrenchGuy talked to Frédérick Isaya, a young community activist and budding actor about this time bomb that is just waiting to blow up in Québec’s face.

Who are you Fred?

I am a community activist on Montreal’s South shore with a 12 to 17 year olds, an actor and the father of two kids.  I’ve been a member of Québec’s Union des artistes for three or four  years. I’ve been acting since my teens, but never as a full time occupation.  It’s something I do, but not something I gave up everything for.

You wrote a memoir for last year’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission in which you said that Québec’s TV does not represent Québec’s identity properly.  What do you mean?

When you look at TV today, the socio-cultural image you see is anachronistic.  It is the image of a Québec that is gone.  Long gone, I should say.  At some point we have to come to terms with that because we are creating many different little parallel societies that don’t include each other.  The mass media is the spearhead, of the cornerstone of the collective imaginary.  It has to look like us or else we are creating division and people will watch their TV somewhere else and not take part in Québec society.  It’s not healthy for anyone.

The consequence of this is that people who don’t live in Montreal have no idea what Montreal looks  like.  If they only see black people on TV who are up to no good, or Chinese people who are in the Asian mafia, or Arabs preparing a terrorist coup…  If that’s the only images they have of cultural communities because they don’t know them in any other way, you can’t unify Québec.  We have to change this and change it right now.  We can’t wait.  The clock is ticking.

Why is it like this?

I really don’t know.  I’d rather think it’s a form of indifference or of negligence rather than think it’s deliberate, because if it is deliberate it scares me.

How does it work with casting calls?  Can you show up for any role or are you only expected to come if it specifically says: Black guy?

We often face closed-minded people who make pretty restrictive casting calls, but, fortunately, it’s more  and more common to see some « all ethnicities welcome » castings.  There’s a role for a police officer, a mason or a doctor, and the police officer, the mason and the doctor can be anybody.  Every time I see that, I’m reassured.  But all to often, right after that I see another breakdown that specifically reads « White man » or « White woman », and when you read the role you just can’t figure out why.

You know, if they’re looking for an actress to play the wife of (union leader Michel) Chartrand during the second world war, I can understand they don’t want a black or a Chinese woman!  But when there is no reason…  if it’s only because the person in front of you imagined a white woman, I think we are getting awfully close to racism.

What are you going to do about it?

I decided if I didn’t get involved, I was going to be responsible for my own failure.  I went to the annual assembly of the UDA (Union des Artistes) and brought up the issue.  I think I got things started.  A committee was formed to look into all groups excluded from television.  You should see things starting to move in 2009.  Maybe not on television, just yet, but you will hear about people starting to get involved.

Last year you ran in both the federal and provincial elections as a Bloc québécois and a Parti québécois candidate. Many English-speaking people in Canada still associate sovereigntists with exclusion.  What do you have to say about that?

I don’t understand why people associate sovereignty with exclusion.  Maybe Parizeau’s message has something to do with it, but it’s been 13 years…

You can’t forget that M. René Lévesque is the instigator of visible immigration in Québec. Before 1976 mass immigration in Québec was essentially an immigration of Caucasian people.  M. Lévesque did not hesitate to encourage immigration from French-speaking Africa and Haiti because he felt we needed French-speaking immigrants to solidify the sovereignty project.

There are many people in the Parti québécois think integration is a good thing, but there have not been many concrete acts by the governments of the last 30 years.  Including the Parti québécois governments.  I would be a hypocrite to say anything else.

Maybe that’s why people associate integration difficulties with the sovereigntists.  Even though there have been many federalist governments in the last 30 years, in Québec we are having difficulties with integration of cultural communities, and so, by extension, as a kind of doubtful extrapolation, people associate that with the Parti québécois and the sovereigntist movement.  But it’s not about a political party.  It’s about everyone.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

143 Responses

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  1. > About once a year or so, 22 Minutes makes a sketch about
    > how the CBC forces Quebec shows and culture on Canada.
    > Everytime, their parody make it seem like Quebec TV
    > resembles abstract German experimental cinema…

    Heh, I haven’t seen this. But it’s worth mentioning that “foreign cinema” (which to English Canadians, national unity rhetoric aside, includes Quebec cinema by virtue of its being in a foreign language) is seen by many anglophones as arty and not very commercial. So this must influence how Quebec TV and cinema is seen in the rest of Canada. Especially since many English Canadians — ABP appears to be one of them — don’t really like the CBC since they see it as forcing something they don’t really want on them (and being expensive).

    But I wasn’t aware that English Canadians even had the idea that the CBC “forced on them” or even showed them Quebec cultural products. English Canadians don’t know much about the culture of Quebec, how can they recognize it?


    February 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

  2. Darn, I tried to put my previous message as a reply to Raman’s post 6054 of 9:03 pm today, but the system didn’t put it in the correct place. I think there’s a limit to the length of a branch of the message tree.


    February 25, 2009 at 9:50 pm

  3. @acj

    “These storm clouds are quite worrisome”

    Yes, the clouds will darken and ill winds will blow and accelerate on both sides of this debate. Just as the blogosphere is indicating. Of course, its not only the anglo blogs is it??


    February 25, 2009 at 9:57 pm

  4. It is strange because most of the greatest canadian cinematographers aren’t hollywood style. Take Bruce Mc donald, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Guy Madden, for exemple..But may be the average canadian public don’t know them much…


    February 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm

  5. You should probably apologize for your English too. Now, unless you can write Italian I’ll probably have difficulty communicating with you.


    February 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

  6. Very clear. Now let me be clear:

    I don’t need YOU to tell ME how WE feel.

    I will discourse on the affairs of Toronto or Calgary as I see fit.


    February 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm

  7. About two thirds of Montreal’s blacks are Hatian (who are likely almost exclusively francophone or of French language preference). Just check StatsCan. Overall black Quebecers are more bilingual than Quebecers as a whole. This is from a McGill study. The same one, I think, that stated that black uni grads in Montreal are twice as likely to be unemployed as white high school dropouts. Let the denial begin….


    February 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm

  8. Shrill – yes.
    Offensive – yes.
    Idiotic – yes.
    Deserving of a response – maybe.

    There’s enough hate to go around, but trying to have Quebec monopolize victimhood is a bit rich. There’s plenty of disparaging remarks made about blacks, jews, arabs, Quebecers, women, gays, francos, anglos whatever direction the vitriol happens to be flowing. Imagine that Quebecers were brought to the Americas in slave ships forced to build up the Agriculture industry, kicked off the land, jim crow…

    Ok, you know what, I’m tired. I’m tired of explaining to people the difference in discrimination both historically and presently, but Obama is President now Laurier was PM in 1896. I can guarantee that my ancestors did not hold slaves or participate in colonization or forced conversions. We are the beneficiaries of our past. Let’s not have a victimhood contest. Let’s see what we can do.


    February 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm

  9. I was talking about what i feel as a quebecois, i do not speak for others, quebecois or canadian. I don’t understand your interpretation, may be my english is not enough good and i don’t speak italian..


    February 25, 2009 at 10:47 pm

  10. “Lord Durham” wrote “deportated”.


    How the fuck can these angryphones pretend to defend the English language when they can barely write it?

    “Royal Canadian Armed Forces” – no such thing.
    “treason… fireing squad” – no death penalty for treason in Canada

    This guy has a brilliant gift for turning keystrokes into bullshit. Don’t pay him too much mind though. Borderline illiterates tend not to make policy.


    February 25, 2009 at 10:53 pm

  11. You mean anglo-Canadians. If you call me English to my face and I’m not in a forgiving mood, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

    Mais, votre langage est en fait une bonne indication de votre perception du Canada anlgophone. Vous avez écrit «I wasn’t aware that English [sic] Canadians…» Il y a probablement beaucoup d’aspects du Canada anglophone desquels vous n’êtes pas au courant. Votre référentiel est basé sur un Canada anglais qui n’existe pas. Ni dans les faits, ni dans la mythologie que les anglo-canadiens utilisent pour se définir. Quand on dit que le monde du Canada anglophone se sentent que la SRC en anglais est une imposition, on parle d’une partie du Canada anglais… et probablement pas la partie qui vote pour le NPD, habite à Toronto, prend le TTC etc.

    En général, le Canada anglophone ne se défine pas d’une façon monolithique. Néanmoins, la position des élites de Toronto, malgré son manque de popularité, est souvent la position d’avantage dans la politique du pays pour deux raisons: 1. c’est le compromis qui fonctionne mieux avec les positions des francophones et 2. quand les élites parlent le monde écoutent.

    En général le populisme n’occupe pas une place respecté dans le discours politique du Canada anglophone, mais des populistes… il y en a; il y a aussi beaucoup de personnes qui partage vos valeurs (quelles qu’elles puissent êntre).


    February 25, 2009 at 11:27 pm

  12. Ouch…you obviously have a problem!! Which of course is your problem. Feeling a bit isolated are we :)



    February 26, 2009 at 1:27 am

  13. “You mean anglo-Canadians. If you call me English to my face and I’m not in a forgiving mood, you’re in for a nasty surprise”

    Could it be you are a closet separatist? Oh yes, we are mean spirited lot for sure. What was the equalization payments to Quebec last year from the anglo provinces.

    Nasty surprises!!! Sounds like a threat. Of course that is nothing new is it??



    February 26, 2009 at 1:49 am

  14. “These storm clouds are quite worrisome”

    Check this out..interesting and I think the fellow is pretty well right about things. You may have seen it already in your line of work. Pauline was talking about how Quebec would be better separate to weather the economic storm on the horizon. HMMM


    February 26, 2009 at 1:58 am

  15. “Especially since many English Canadians — ABP appears to be one of them — don’t really like the CBC since they see it as forcing something they don’t really want on them (and being expensive).”

    Would appear I am not the only one.

    Read the comments.



    February 26, 2009 at 2:02 am

  16. “You mean anglo-Canadians. If you call me English to my face and I’m not in a forgiving mood, you’re in for a nasty surprise”

    Surprise, you are from your commentary neither english or french. You may speak both languages (which is nice) but you would never be categorized as english or french. Maybe a Canadian, but it is clearly apparent you don’t wish to be categorized as that. Would you consider yourself a Quebecois..seems to fit more with your thoughts.

    On the other hand, you have an option, if you find it not to your liking in this enviroment ( the cold weather and snow).



    February 26, 2009 at 2:55 am

  17. > You mean anglo-Canadians. If you call me English to my face and
    > I’m not in a forgiving mood, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

    To me, “English Canadian” is an acceptable way to refer to English-speaking Canadians, but I understand your point and I’ll keep it in mind. After all, I’m the one who said that many anglophones seem to consider the francophone Quebec society as necessarily “French Canadian” (ethnically speaking), even though it isn’t, so I should speak more carefully.

    > Mais, votre langage est en fait une bonne indication de votre
    > perception du Canada anlgophone. Vous avez écrit «I wasn’t aware
    > that English [sic] Canadians…» Il y a probablement beaucoup
    > d’aspects du Canada anglophone desquels vous n’êtes pas au courant.

    Mmmm, oui, sûrement, mais tout ce que j’essayais de dire, c’est que je ne savais pas qu’il existait un nombre substantiel de Canadiens anglophones qui blâment — plus ou moins sérieusement — la CBC de “forcer la culture québécoise sur eux”, comme Raman le prétend. Je sais qu’un certain nombre de Canadiens — généralement de tendance conservatrice — n’aiment pas vraiment le diffuseur public, et je sais qu’un certain nombre de Canadiens ont l’impression qu’on force la culture québécoise sur eux, mais généralement ce sont les politiques de bilinguisme officiel qui déplaisent à ces derniers. (Et comme je l’ai déjà dit, blâmer le Québec pour le bilinguisme démontre une incompréhension du Québec.)

    Mais ce n’était pas un commentaire tellement important de toute façon.


    February 26, 2009 at 3:45 am

  18. Fon–thanks for the info. I assume that just about all of the black Québécois who live outside Montréal are either Francophones or have picked up French.

    I agree with Marc that when Québéoois refer to “Canada anglais” they mean Anglophone Canadians generally. Just as an aside to this, Cajuns have traditionally called their English speaking neighbors in Louisiana “anglais,” while the Pennsylvania “Dutch” people in my home state who still speak German refer to all of the rest of us in this commonwealth as “englisch.”


    February 26, 2009 at 5:01 am

  19. Speaking of borderline illiterates, my apologies for the typo up there.


    February 26, 2009 at 5:02 am

  20. Pour Marc :
    Oui il y a sûrement une tendance conservatrice qui se mettent plus ou moins contre le réseau anglophone de la SRC, mais quand même elle continue à exister. Ça veut dire qu’il y a aussi une partie de la population anglophone qui la soutien (même si personne ne l’écoute :) ).

    As for the appellation English Canadian, see Peter Gzowski or Jaroslav Rudnyckyj. There’s a reason the word anlgophone exists.

    Briefly the “English” are people from England (heritage) or residents of England. “English” is not a catch-all phrase for English speaking. India is not full of English people. The majority of Irish people are not English.

    Obviously it’s absurd and often it’s insulting.


    February 26, 2009 at 8:03 am

  21. Why this reply ended up here is a mystery and I should add Paul Yuzyk to that list as well.


    February 26, 2009 at 8:29 am

  22. Although there is also the view that being part of a larger entity can help you better weather the storm. Think of Iceland at the moment.


    February 26, 2009 at 9:25 am

  23. Kirikou n’est pas grand
    Mais il est vivant

    Kirikou est petit
    Mais c’est mon ami

    Guess you gotta have young (francophone) kids to get this one…


    February 26, 2009 at 9:27 am

  24. Yes, there are black Montrealers who are anglophones, and many of them are from long-standing families of American and also Jamaican (and other anglo West Indian origins). Think of legendary musicians Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson. Many were originally “Pullman porters” for the railways. (I think Peterson is actually the son of a Pullman porter.)

    However, black anglos are still a relatively small proportion of the black community in Montreal (and even smaller in the whole of Quebec). As Fon said, it is now quite predominantly Haitian, and much of the rest is made up of immigrants from francophone African countries like Senegal, Congo, Togo, Bénin, Ivory Coast, etc. The francophone African element is actually one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the entire province of Quebec. I live in Gatineau in the Outaouais and they make up almost 10% of the population on my street.


    February 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

  25. Pretty decent analysis Fon. But for having been born and bred and educated in Canada outside Quebec, I can tell you that for the most part, in the ROC, “Canadian” = “English(-speaking) Canadian”.

    This is reflected when people take stock of “great Canadian” literature, music, movies, TV, etc., which usually excludes stuff in French, or at the most will begrudgingly include only token nods to the francophone element of the country.

    I am not saying that they’re evil or mean-spirited for doing this, and I actually can understand the various reasons why things are this way.

    But I won’t pretend that things aren’t so when I know full well what the situation is, having been there on the “inside”.


    February 26, 2009 at 9:42 am

  26. He is not all that optomistic. I think the current projections for recovery are way to optimistic and many feel we are no where near the bottom which is most likely the situation.


    February 26, 2009 at 9:54 am

  27. Marc,

    I wouldn’t put much stock in English Canada media. Even the respected ones such as the Globe and Mail still practice yellow journalism when it comes to Quebec. For example, Juneau, who had claimed that the cancellation of the reenactment of the battle Plains of Abraham was due to threats of violence from radical sovereignists. Yet, when the police investigated the 150 e-mails of threats that Juneau said that he received, they found that only two of them were serious. Juenau then admitted that he annulled the reenactment because he didn’t receive support from Quebec, including rom the federalist premier Jean Charest.

    The English Canada media still continue to point the finger at the violent sovereignists as the culprit for the cancellation. The Conservatives in Parliament continue to point the finger at them even after the Juneau testimony.

    To answer your question if there are any scholarly exposés of Quebec-bashing in English Canadian media, there is the three book set by Norman Lest titled le Livre noir du Canada anglais which details the anti-Quebec material from the English Canada media up to 2003. Someone should contact Norman Lester to write the fourth installment detailing those after 2003 since there is plenty of material to draw from, including the whole reenactment of the battle of the Plaines of Abraham controversy.


    February 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm

  28. Acejack:
    The language barrier tends to be a pretty good reason to ignore the “other”, but all I am saying is that many people who are not of English extraction bristle at being called “English”.

    As for the tokenism, I think it’s also understandable from the perspective that anglo-Canadians attempts to construct a Canadian nationalism have largely been met with indifference by franco-Quebecers. Thus Canadian nationalism becomes a negotiation between various anglophone factors, with francophone interests represented by only by proxy. A good example of this is despite the fact that francophone films kick ass at the Genies, the awards are presented in English only.

    Canadian nationalism is ostensibly predicated on bilingualism but it is a de facto anglophone enterprise. That’s not to say there aren’t francophone Canadian nationalists, but rather that the creation of that identity is spearheaded by anglophones.

    Of course there’s a great diversity of dialogues happening in anglo-Canada, but the dominant one franco-Quebecers hear is the less accomadating populist one often associated with Quebec’s political foil and constitutional ally Alberta. However the dominant anglo discourse in intellectual and policy-making circles would be the multi-culti b&b that is probably best represented in the political culture of Ontario.

    Bref, on entend l’Alberta, mais c’est l’Ontario qui prend les décisions.

    Mon argument en général est que les franco-Québécois… soit fédéraliste ou souverainiste construisent un «Canada anglais» qui s’applique mal au Canada anglophone actuel. Cela crée des difficultés du point de vue fédéraliste (l’accommodement) ainsi que pour les souverainistes (la négociation).


    February 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm

  29. Speaking of the CBC and Québec shows, there’s been talk of Canada getting it’s own Tout le Monde en Parle, Radio-Canada’s weekly get-together of all the week’s most talked about people in the news, from pop starlets to the minister of finance.

    I think Anglo-Canada need a show like that. It would help ROCers talking about themselves and help them figure out what they are about.

    Although, there is the danger of the show turning into Canadians talking about the USA for two hours…


    February 26, 2009 at 7:24 pm

  30. Plus ça change…

    A movie based on a play made by Lebanese born Québécois Wajdi Mouawad is being shot. The Lebanese characters will be played by “pure laine” (sic La Presse) actors. Even the Arabs are played by white people….–renaitre-de-ses-cendres.html


    February 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm

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