Archive for May 2009
Canada has always been preoccupied with preventing French-speaking people from handling numbers. Until well into the 20th century, the Minister of Finance’s job in the Québec government could only be given to an English-speaking gentleman and when francophones in Québec demanded the end of dicriminatory practices and their share Montréal’s many high finance and management jobs in the 1960’s and 70’s, English-Canada’s very prudent and rational reaction was to move Canada’s entire financial sector 300 miles west to Toronto.
It’s still going on today with the slow but steady purge of anyone who’s ever been associated with la Bourse de Montréal from the new “merged” Stock Exchange.
Sure, there are very good reasons for this. Business and Management are English words, aren’t they? And isn’t it a man who got his MBA at Québec’s City’s Université Laval who is responsible for the near-collapse of capitalism we just went through?
But no. The truth is much more sinister. French-speakers are kept away from the numbers because if they took a closer look, they would discover that French-speaking hockey players in the NHL are undervalued and underpaid!
This is the dark secret uncovered by Marc Lavoie, an economist at the University of Ottawa. Using rigorous statistical analysis, the scientist discovered that francophone players systematically scored 10 more points per season compared with English-speaking players drafted in the same round, which either means that there is discrimination against Francos or that participation really is more important than winning…
Mr. Lavoie also established that francophone defencemen earn 25% less than Anglophones with comparable statistics.
What’s even more interesting is that Le Canadien de Montréal, that venerable institution that turned the mythology of a scrappy band of French farm boys with only third grade education but big hearts into one of the most valuable sports franchise in the world, did not – repeat not – do a better job of hiring francophones. Even the Nordiques systematically gave Franco’s the shaft.
But then, Mr. Lavoie is a francophone. For sure he got his math all wrong.
UPDATE: Prof Lavoie kindly sent the AngryFrenchPeerReviewMob a copy of the study:
It’s so hard to find good help these days. They have no respect, run their mouths to the neighbours and think they have all the rights of, you know, real Canadians.
Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla won’t find much sympathy out there. You can’t be young, scandalously sexy, successful, represent a battleground ridding and not expect the other side to try to portray you as an evil Veronica Lake.
We all know Ms Dhalla was accused a couple of weeks ago of mistreating three live-in domestic workers hired to take care of her mother. One of them even accused the MP of withholding her passport. The accused claims it’s some kind of vast right wing conspiracy and that its her brother who was abusing the Filipina workers anyway.
When my uncle was transferred to Singapore by his company, he told me about how the apartments literally came with a live in maid who had her one little room without Air Conditioning only two two rights: to work or to leave. This is a common way of treating workers in many parts of the world. There are many countries who recruit their labourers with temporary schemes and single-employer visas. The Middle East is notorious for these emirates where 70% of the population is made up of temporary workers with partial rights who can be asked to leave the country on at any moment.
Canada has usually recruited its workers the other way: by granting those who agree to come, after some basic bureaucratic formalities, full rights of citizenship. It’s a little more expensive to do it this way, but it tends to attract better quality personnel.
But there are a few exceptions to this rule. Temporary agricultural workers, for example. Or Live-in domestic help.
Live-in nannies and maids, contrary to other landed immigrants, are only allowed to work for one employer. They are also obligated to live with this employer and do not benefit form all social services, things like CSST (work-accident protection) in Québec, for example.
This is, of course necessary because, well, do you have any idea how expensive it would be to hire three live in workers at a real salary? You have to be serious, now.
Ms. Dhalla’s Liberal Party has always won the hearts and purses of Canada’s immigrant communities by portraying the Conservatives and, above all, the indépendantistes as evil and anti-immigrant. Of course, live-in maids and nannies don’t vote, so the Liberal were quick to dismiss them and stand behind Ms. Dhalla.
Besides, anyone who’s ever walked through Westmount, Town of Mount-Royal, Hampstead and other Liberal strongholds in Québec between 9am and 5pm understands that any salary increase given to immigrant care-takers would seriously diminish the amount of disposable income these constituants would have for things like campaign donations.
People in Rosemont and Blainville, on the other hand, can’t afford that kind of help, even the imported discounted kind. That’s probably why the Bloc Québécois (with the NDP elsewhere in Canada) has been the only party actively working for the rights of these workers way back before this latest scandal made the issue sexy and politically lucrative and why they’ve had the abolition of these discriminatory rules in their political platform since 2000.
This of course is surely only a cynical ploy to win over the nanny vote to their treasonneaous seccession projects.
You know, that horrible Republic of Québec that will treat immigrants and minorities like second class citizens that the Liberal Party is trying to protect you from…
It’ ok not to speak French. Really. Some very smart – if uncool – people will never get to experience the brain candy that are the lyrics of Serge Gainsbourg and Loco Locass. Some very useful members of society will never experience just how satisfying it is to call someone an ‘estie de con’.
Vic Toews is one of those people. The Conservative minister of the Treasury – who speaks English, Spanish and German – was criticized by the Montréal Liberal MP Pablo Rodrigez for not speaking French last week.
“It’s clear”, snapped the Minister, “that the Liberal Party considers those of us who speak one official language to be less Canadian.”
The objective of the Official Languages Act has never been to force everyone to learn both French and English. In fact it’s the exact opposite. The law dictates that the federal government, Parliament and all it’s associated agencies shall function and give services in the two official languages precisely so that Canadians won’t have to learn a second language to communicate with their government.
This only applies to the Federal administration, by the way. Provinces, which are sovereign when it come to issues of culture and education, can have different policies, as do Québec, Ontario and New-Brunswick. That is what federalism is.
That means many jobs in the federal public service will require people to speak both French and English. Is the position of minister one of those jobs?
Not necessarily. We assume the Treasury Department has plenty of staff that is perfectly able to communicate in both French and English to reporters and citizens. But a minister wants to go beyond that. He wants to sell the government’s program and convince the population that they want more and that they should re-elect the Conservatives.
If Stephen Harper in comfortable with people like Vic Toews and James Moore selling the Conservative agenda to French speakers, that’s his problem.
It’s important to point out that, contrary to the many elements of the United Empire Loyalist Caucus of the Conservative party who consider any requirement of bilingualism to be discrimination against unilingual Anglos (disrimination against unilingual Francos is apparently not a problem), Mr. Toews defended his right to be a unilingual in any official language:
“I should feel free to be able to speak the language of my choice, and for you to even ask that question is an insult.”
That is the point of the Official Languages Act. That is how our shared federal administration should work.
Mr. Toews gets it. The Liberals don’t.
Last Monday, while answering a question that no one asked, Micheal Sabia, the newly appointed head of Québec’s Caisse de Placement et Dépôt, declared in front of a parliamentary committee: “As an allophone, I consider that I have deep roots here, in Québec.”
This is a very strange statement in quite a few ways. First of all, the answer had nothing to do with the question that was asked by the Parti québécois MNA Jean-Martin Aussant. The MNA questioned Mr. Sabia’s commitment to the idea that the Caisse’s role should include protecting companies headquartered in Québec since, as the big boss at Bell Canada Entreprise, Mr. Sabia was involved in a failed attempt to sell the company to an Ontario pension fund.
Mr. Sabia’s reply was an emotional defence of his personal attachement to Québec, his grand-parents and Québec as an open society.
That’s swell and all, but that was not what M. Aussant asked. His answer, once again, raises questions about Mr. Sabia’s command of the French language.
Stranger still is Mr. Sabia’s claim to be an allophone. In fact, Micheal Sabia is not, by any definition of the term, an allophone. He is an anglophone. His mother tongue is English. He speak English, some French, and according to the Caisse’s press officer, “rudiments of Italian”. Well if “rudiments” Italian makes one an italophone, then I am an hispanophone, a classic greekophone and a japanesophone.
With his nomination already on slippery terrain because of questions about his business culture, his knowledge of the financial world and his ability to speak French, Mr. Sabia apparently decided it would be easier to defend himself if he positioned himself as an “ethnic” instead of a big bad Anglo.
When did Mr. Sabia’s italian roots become an issue? What do they have to do with the philosophical questions that are being debated about the CDPQ’s role in the Québec economy or his personal approach to managing public funds?
As reported by Le Devoir, Mr. Sabia’s attachment to ethnicity puts him in complete contradiction with the opinion of his immigrant mother, a staunch opponent of Canada’s multiculturalism and bilingualism policy: “We will never be a great nation until we forget ethnicity and become Canadians. Multiculturalism divided us and maybe assimilation will have to unite us”, once said Laura Sabia, who’s first canadian language was French, in a speech to the Empire Club in Toronto. “Why not a French Québec? Why should the rest of Canada not be English? Why can’t we build a nation on this basis.”
Because if race baiting does not help build nations, it has been a very successful way of winning elections. Mr. Sabia’s answer was straight out of the Liberal (Mr. Sabia is a known contributor) playbook which says that every issue must be spined into a question of ethnicity.
How do you call a regular generic Canadian? You know, a white guy called Rob or Bill with a last name that starts with W and ends with ON?
Or what about an American (see description above)?
You just call him a Canadian or an American, right? If need be you could call him an Anglo or a white guy or a WASP, but unless race or ethnicity is an issue, you just use the standard issue label, right?
That’s the way it was supposed to work in Québec too. In French the label Québécois was taken up PRECISELY to shed the baggage of the old French-Canadian label that implied that you were White, Catholic and had way to many siblings. A Québécois would be someone who lives in Québec. Period.
Sadly, it seems that even Them, the Franco-French-North Americans of French Expression, have picked up the very sad and even dangerous English-language concept of using the word Québécois to define not anyone who lives in Québec, but specifically one group of people, the white French-speaking men an women who have at least one uncle in either Gaspésie or Saguenay.
I have friends, born here, French-speaking, not especially fervent Canadian patriots, who will say things like: « Mon boss est Québécois », as if, because of their Viet Namese or African Roots, they weren’t Québécois themselves.
People, for a variety of reason, need a word to identify THEM. Whether it is to express solidarity, denounce exclusion or spew out racist prejudice for profit in Canada’s daily newspapers, people need a word that points to THEM. Since we need to protect the use of Québécois as a generic label that includes all the members of our civil society, even those we don’t like, it is time we pick an official label for THEM.
Many are already in use. Pick one, people:
Pur (Pure) Laine: The most commonly used word in the English language to designate the Them. The notion of purity is part of the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars inspired vision of Canadian multiculturalism that celebrates a motley crew of men and women in easily identifiable folkloric costumes who fight evil separatists before returning to ethnically segregated ghettos. This is what John Porter called the Vertical Mosaic in 1965. Jews get +3 business ability points and Them get +5 in goaltending. Just as in the Lord of the Ring, English-speaking white males with no special skills have all the command jobs.
De Souche: Literally « of the stump », as in a tree stump. This is the more common word used in French to designate Them. The tree is indeed a nice image to describe a people, any people. Out of innumerable and invisible roots a common trunk emerges before, once again dividing up into hundreds of branches that reach to the sky (take that poet-laureate!) Sadly the Québec version of the image carries the weight of it’s terminal loser syndrome, the stump symbolising where the tree was cut down to make way for a Tim Horton’s parking lot.
French-Canadians: French-Canadian has a quaint old fashioned feel that evokes horse-drawn sleds and midnight mass. Although still commonly used by Them when travelling abroad to avoid the whole « What’s a kweebeekwa? » conversation, most don’t use it at home. Federalists feel they are full patch Canadians and indépendantistes don’t feel they are Canadian at all.
Paleo-Québécois: As opposed to Néo-Québécois. A commenter on this forum came up with that one. It is the AngryFrenchFavorite.