AngryFrenchGuy’s Pop Culture Reference Institute explains Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin
Way back in the day, after a young, ambitious and afro-ed young politician called Jean Charest was recruited by federalist headhunters to take the leadership of the Liberal Party of Québec and save Canada, a snoopy reporter dug up his birth certificate and discovered that – scandal! – his true name was not Jean has he had claimed, but John James!
Jean/John was coming to Québec months after the 1995 referendum, just as the emerging scandal about the illegal funding of the federalist campaign by secretive occult organizations was coming to light and amidst (still persistent) rumours that a ‘golden bridge’ was built for him by Canada’s business community, including a (confirmed) salary and Westmount home.
Already suspected of not being completely transparent about his financial supporters, the fact that he did not use the name his mother gave him only confirmed (at least in sovereingtist eyes) the duplicitous character of Jean Charest.
The Anglo-Canadian media’s interpretation? “Poor Jean Charest. He just isn’t pure laine enough for some Quebecers.”
It’s not that at all.
Jean/John James problem is that his birth certificate made him look like one of Québec’s most ridiculed archetypes, the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin.
Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin is the hilarious character in the just as funny movie Québec/Montréal who completely changes the way he pronounces his name depending whether he is speaking French or English.
In some small circles, this is considered the ultimate in Canadian bicultural cosmopolitan cool. Justin Trudeau lives in that world. So does Robert Guy Scully/Robert Scully (said in a bad european accent in French).
This said, some people are able to pull off the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin. Brian Mulroney could be both French and English, although, to his credit, he didn’t change the way he pronounced his name. To this day many francophones Québécois are convinced he is one of them, while many Anglos in Canada would be surprised to learn he speaks French at all! Of course, Pierre Elliot Trudeau also played that game. As did Paul Martin, with considerably less success.
Despite the appeal of this 21st century meta-Canadian who is both French AND English (and soon to be a little bit ethnic too) to nationalist Canadians, it is generally considered very uncool by the Québécois, both sovereigntists and federalists, to try to have two identities, depending on your audience.
The fact that the Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin is generally associated with politicians involved with shady financial conspiracies (Robert (Guy) Scully was never in politics but in 2000 he had to publicly and shamefully renouce the title of journalist after it was established he was involved in secretly government-financed federalist propaganda on CBC/Radio-Canada) doesn’t exactly help to project the image of name-switchers as stand-up honorable people.
The purity of the roots of these modern-day Januses is not what worries the Québécois. Gilles Duceppe will repeat to anyone who will listen that his grand-father was British and, yet, it didn’t prevent him from kicking federalist ass in Québec for two decades. The PQ had a Prime Minister called Pierre-Marc Johnson. The Curzi’s, Rebello’s, Khadir’s and Kotto’s and McKay’s of the sovereignty movement have no problem being elected despite the fact they can’t hide their non-pure laine-ness.
The problem is not purity. It’s a little bit about duplicity. And a lot about just plain silly.