AngryFrenchGuy

If Micheal Sabia is an Allophone then I am Turning Japanese

with 59 comments

micheal-sabia

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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 6, 2009 at 10:48 am

59 Responses

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  1. Sad state of affairs (yet again) when the ethnicity of someone takes on so much importance. I would like to think that the head honcho of the CDP would be judged as a visionary leader, savvy investor, possessing a lot of business acumen, conservative with other people’s money etc etc etc .

    These qualities will have a whole lot more impact on my and my children’s financial future than whether he or she is an allophone or a telephone or whatever AFG gets himself all twisted up about defining ethnicity.

    To use a sports example, I really don’t think anyone in Washington gives a hoot that Ovechkin is an ethnic Russian or an American, they really only like him because he is the best hockey player in the world and makes their team win.

    Too bad our nationalists can’t ever think freely without always worrying about what language a guy prays in.

    Dave

    May 6, 2009 at 3:18 pm

  2. Dave. Next time read the post before spewing out your canned Liberal talking points.

    angryfrenchguy

    May 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  3. “I would like to think that the head honcho of the CDP would be judged as a visionary leader, savvy investor, possessing a lot of business acumen, conservative with other people’s money etc etc etc .”

    Sure, but does Michael Sabia’s track record clearly demonstrate that he is all of that and more?

    “To use a sports example, I really don’t think anyone in Washington gives a hoot that Ovechkin is an ethnic Russian or an American, they really only like him because he is the best hockey player in the world and makes their team win.
    Too bad our nationalists can’t ever think freely without always worrying about what language a guy prays in.”

    Your example is a bit extreme, but your reference to people “caring” about certain things reminded me of a young Palestinian-Canadian girl I once saw clipped on the news, who said: “Sometimes I wish I were a WASP and could be free to not have to care about anything at all”.

    The truth is that some people(s) in the world don’t always have the luxury to “not care” about certain things, lest they get screwed over if they let down their guard. French-speaking people in North America, I submit, don’t really have the luxury of being totally “carefree” about language. I wish we did, and hopefully someday we will be in that situation, but for the moment we are not there yet.

    Acajack

    May 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  4. Oh, and by the way Alexander Ovechkin earns his living and lives in Washington DC and has learned to speak the language of Washington DC: English. So why would people have an issue with him anyway?

    Acajack

    May 6, 2009 at 3:51 pm

  5. Last-minute goal and Barcelona is through.

    Un-friggin’-believable.

    Go Barca.

    allophone

    May 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  6. “The truth is that some people(s) in the world don’t always have the luxury to “not care” about certain things, lest they get screwed over if they let down their guard.”

    Don’t let down your guard. The danger is lurking everywhere.

    Go Barca. One and only.

    allophone

    May 6, 2009 at 4:14 pm

  7. “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.”

    I think Sabia understood the question just fine but knew that his interlocutor had a point, so he diverts the question by accusing his interlocutor of racism or intolerance. This is a common diversionary tactic by federalists which unfortunetly seems to have worked on this chroniquer who even says “pure laine” which you say, in an earlier topic, that it is only used nowadays in the English language: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-droit/opinions/editoriaux/200905/06/01-853744-mesurer-la-quebecite.php

    this is sad

    Antonio

    May 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm

  8. Michael Sabia lies about his first language and busts out the super non-sequitur (actually other than people speaking aboriginal languages, most anglophones have much deeper roots in Quebec than most allophones).

    But AFG, honestly I take issue with you for positing as a Liberal idea that “every issue must be … a question of ethnicity”. That’s really insensitive to a lot of minorities who feel a deep attachment to ethnic identity because of a personal sense of alienation and a desire to create a sense of belonging. Not everyone who feels that way votes Liberal. Honestly, that really prickles my skin. I don’t think you don’t have the experience of living as an ethnic minority and I know you don’t identify with being ethnic, but some people do and it’s their fucking right and they don’t have to vote for the Grits if that’s how they feel.

    If I were white I might find it easier to base my identity on some post-modern notion of individual identity in a civic collectivity, but I’m not and I think about race and ethnicity consciously. I’ve never seen you apologize on this website, so I don’t expect you to break with tradition now, but for your own sake at least admit to yourself that seeing the world through that “ethnic lens” (ie making every issue a question of ethnicity) is not simply a Liberal malaise. A lot of my friends who vote BQ federally or QS provincially feel the same way.

    すこし日本語を話します?

    Fon

    May 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm

  9. Shit. I forgot the か at the end. My bad.

    Fon

    May 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm

  10. Well basically it would seem that Sabia is being dishonest and nonsensical. I don’t think Ovechkin claims that he’s Serbian and that’s why he loves DC so much. A less analytical person might just be confused. A more analytical person might have an aneurysm trying to wrap his head around how so much baffling absurdity could be so tightly packed into one sentence.

    It’s Sabia who’s defining himself here. He actually has a chance to stand up to a lot of the ad hominem attacks on him and kaboom! he blows it.

    And I wouldn’t want a telephone to manage my money. Even a telephone with a lot of business acumen. I would probably want a human being who is fluent in English or French to do it and that’s because those are the two languages with which I am most at ease. I suspect unilingual francophones (who are, I think, about 60% of Quebec’s population) would want a money manager who speaks excellent French. What’s wrong with asking for comprehensible communication?

    Fon

    May 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm

  11. Acejack,

    I think you’re very right about “some people(s) in the world [not] always have the luxury to “not care” about certain things….” That’s largely the point I was making below to AFG. A lot of ethnic minorities really “care” about their ethnicity, because it gives them a sense of belonging that their passport cannot. The normative “I don’t really think about race/ethnicity” or “I don’t really think about language issues” is often a sign of white privilege or anglo privilege. That is internalized comfort which permeates one’s worldview.

    Fon

    May 6, 2009 at 5:47 pm

  12. AngryJapaneseGuy?

    allophone

    May 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

  13. `I don’t think Ovechkin claims that he’s Serbian and that’s why he loves DC so much`

    Ovechkin is Russian, not Serbian.

    allophone

    May 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  14. Josée Legault got in a good one on this whole vaudeville of Sabia’s [emphasis mine] :

    ‘Lors de sa comparution hier à l’étude des crédits du ministère des Finances, en réponse à une question d’un député péquiste portant sur sa tentative passée de vendre BCE à des intérêts ontariens, le nouveau PDG de la Caisse de dépôt et placement, Michael Sabia, y est allé d’un long plaidoyer émotif – **mais qu’on sentait tout de même préparé d’avance** – sur ses « racines » québécoises, son grand-père italien arrivé au Québec avec rien, etc., etc., etc…

    ‘De l’art de faire dévier un débat. Ou de le faire glisser de l’essentiel au superficiel…’

    http://www.voir.ca/blogs/jose_legault/archive/2009/05/05/les-171-racines-187-de-sabia.aspx

    And getta load of how the turncoat Bachand is “moved” by the whole phony shtick. Pitty the poor put-upon “allophone”, raised by poor sharecroppers, cruelly persecuted by profitless BCE shareholders, and now viciously inquisitioned in the Québec Reichstag. Boohoo…

    He gets my Clownophone of the Week. Hey, now there’s a Blog concept…

    James

    May 6, 2009 at 8:43 pm

  15. Why “Reichstag” ? What’s your untold point here by using this word?

    kriss

    May 6, 2009 at 8:51 pm

  16. Ok, I got it. Sarcasm…

    kriss

    May 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  17. ”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.”

    I think Sabia’s mother likely had it right.

    Quebec = french ( or a variation)

    Canada = English (or a variation of the root)

    Canada is not a bilingual country as we all know. Officially, I suppose by politcal agenda but the reality is otherwise.

    Lets quit wasting money!

    ABP

    May 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm

  18. “Canada is not a bilingual country as we all know.”
    Oh bother.

    “I think Sabia’s mother likely had it right.”
    Oh bother.

    Fon

    May 7, 2009 at 1:17 am

  19. Fon,

    “It’s Sabia who’s defining himself here. He actually has a chance to stand up to a lot of the ad hominem attacks on him and kaboom! he blows it.”

    What ad hominem attacks was he being subjected to?

    Antonio

    May 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

  20. “But AFG, honestly I take issue with you for positing as a Liberal idea that “every issue must be … a question of ethnicity”. ”

    I fail to see how you would see offense in this. Is it not true that the Liberals tend to raise the race or ethnic card to their advantage against the their sovereignist and PQ opponents? They do this because they know that the latter has an image problem among ethnics, thanks to federalist propaganda, and take advantage of that.

    Antonio

    May 7, 2009 at 10:51 am

  21. Fon,

    ““Canada is not a bilingual country as we all know.”
    Oh bother.”

    You think it is? The upcoming Olympic Games in Vancouver are having problems providing French services. The previous Olympic Games in China, a non-francophone country, got high marks for its availability of French services. That says something.

    Maybe you think that Canadian bilingualism does not mean learning BOTH English or French but one or the other. In that case, you are right, but that is not my kind of bilingualism

    ““I think Sabia’s mother likely had it right.”
    Oh bother.”

    Yes, she is right. Is Canada not in perpetual identity and constiutional crisis since the beginning? Why is that? A French-only Quebec and English Canada would solve this. A French-only Quebec would satisfy the only remaining francophone majority on this anglophone continent.

    Antonio

    May 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

  22. You miss the point. Attachment to ethnic identity is not about political stripe. It’s about being a minority. Liberals didn’t create that idea.

    The Liberal party did not give me nor any of my ethnic minority friends (none of whom vote Liberal on the federal level BQ and NDP supporters) our notions of identity. That’s like me saying well you identify with being a man and that’s a Conservative Party notion. One: it’s not. Two, it insults a prime element of how you construct your concept of “self”. Obviously AFG doesn’t have a high opinion of the Liberals which shades his comment with a slightly more insulting veneer, but even if Ignatieff tried to take claim for attachment to ethnic identity I think many people would call him on it.

    White people often seem confused or baffled by minorities’ obsession with race, just like men are baffled with women’s obsession with gender politics. It’s not that baffling and it cuts across party lines. I’m not even saying the obsession is healthy. Maybe it’s symptomatic of larger problems both on the part of minorities and non-minorities. But it’s a very real phenomenon.

    “I have friends, born here … who will say things … as if, because of their Viet Namese or African Roots, they weren’t Québécois themselves.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Minorities across Canada and Quebec assign themselves an outsider status. Living your life as an outsider it’s pretty easy to see much of life as a series of outsider issues.

    What’s the solution? I have some ideas, but not all. I know there needs to be dialogue and from both sides. A bunch of smart white men aren’t going to decide how the rest of us think or feel anymore than people of colour are going to decide how white people think or feel. Although, I would really love to gift them with guiltless introspection.

    Fon

    May 7, 2009 at 11:07 am

  23. An English only Rest-of-Canada would eliminate Vancouver’s national obligation (not its Olympic obligation) to a bilingual games. It would also make life difficult for a lot of Ontarians and New Brunswickers.

    You Olympic example is horrible. Really appalling. The level of French at the games in China was great… if you start with low expectations. Vancouver should not be held to those low expectations and as such will offer much more extensive services in French than Beijing could have offered.

    http://en.beijing2008.cn/news/official/ioc/n214526989.shtml

    Wow. A whopping 40 translators. French training for hundreds! Amazing! If only Vancouver could train a few hundred French speakers in time for the games and hire 41 translators, they could really outdo Beijing’s wonderful example.

    And what you or I think Canadian Bilingualism means is inconsequential. Political theory, like most academic disciplines is not democratic. We don’t get to vote to decide that we’ll define Austria as a monarchy and Spain as a republic. Canada’s bilingual. It doesn’t fit your definition. Spain is a monarchy. If you decide that doesn’t conform to your definition, check to see if that makes Juan Carlos abdicate.

    Fon

    May 7, 2009 at 11:37 am

  24. Barça? So are you from Spain?

    Acajack

    May 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm

  25. Fon

    I actually did not write on Sabia before because

    A. I know little about finance
    B. I think he speaks French fine
    C. Some of the early gut reactions (Bernard Landry’s among others) did seem to be about him being an ANGLO and not much else and made me feel embarrased. Better objections to his nomination came later.

    But like Antonio said, this poor immigrant who walked 30 miles uphill to school both way shtick was prepared by the Cabinet de Relations Public National. Its an old political tactic.

    I get your point about some people having pride in ethnic origin and that my post-modern identity is a bit hypocritical being I am in my ancestors longtime homeland (although, I will say that less than 5% of the kids at my high school were “paleo-canadian”)

    But my point is that Sabia is a White Anglo who had a a White Franco at the Liberal Party/ Relations Publiques National HQ) prepare some spin about his “Italian heritage” to fend off politically tough questions. It”s white people playing the ethnic card for profit. Mostly Pure Laine’s, as a matter of fact. They don’t actually care about your heritage.

    Case in point: Two weeks ago Gérald Tremblay positioned himself as the champion of minorities in Montreal and had his henchmen accuse rival Louise Harel of racism. Today a report came out. The number of minorities working for the city of Montreal dropped to an all time low during his tenure…

    angryfrenchguy

    May 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm

  26. My point was why should we even care whether or not Sabia speaks Italian better than English or vice versa. It seems like such a fruitless debate. Like AFG I don’t know much about high finance so can’t confirm nor infirm Sabia’s nomination on technical grounds. But the whole debate, raised incidentally by Quebec nationalists, was all about his attachment to Canada before Quebec. Parizeau stated that it was the Privy Council in Ottawea taking over Quebec’s biggest financial institution. Boy oh boy, talk about lets give him a fair trial and then hang him.

    Dave

    May 7, 2009 at 6:31 pm

  27. “An English only Rest-of-Canada would eliminate Vancouver’s national obligation (not its Olympic obligation) to a bilingual games. It would also make life difficult for a lot of Ontarians and New Brunswickers”

    Why should it be bilingual, in reality Canada is not a bilingual country. Well, maybe by definition by the politicians and external affairs who are fibbing to the world. They Olympics, should be multi-lingual I would think, as many countries and languages are represented.

    Unfortunately, in reality the Vancouver Olympics are going to provide a massive debt to both BC and Canada. Many of the sponsors of this grand event no longer have any money to contribute. As knowledgable as you are, did you know the City of Vancouver had to underwrite a loan of half a billion as the developer of the Olympic village went under. Check it out.

    Did you attend the Bejing Olympics by the way..obviously not as you didn’t get to see the video kiosks in action, where translation and venue information was freely available in a number of languages.

    In this case Antonio has it right.

    ABP

    May 7, 2009 at 8:11 pm

  28. He AFG,

    Lots happening on this front.

    Perhaps you could write something on this.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090506.wcomartin07/BNStory/specialComment/home

    This is likely more to your liking.

    Click to access La_nouvelle_illusion_liberale.pdf

    Seems to be lots of fodder these days.

    I think Gilles is learning from the Conservatives. Obviously he is concerned about Iggy.

    Have a good one.

    Can’t wait to see you defend Pablo and the gang.

    How about Dhalla….was she a stripper in her former life? Might have not been too bad :):)

    ABP

    May 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  29. Vivre le quebec libre.. Je penser cette une bonne idee.

    Bonne chance avec votre reve…J”espere que vous pourais faire au Quebec pour le peuple de Quebec.

    Really, from an anglo, what more can I say.

    Bon soire and desole pour me paurvre francais.

    ABP

    May 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  30. You know it’s nice to hear that. I do think Sabia took a quick trip to bullshitville and nonsense land after reading that article in the Devoir. Of course there were unfair criticisms levelled against him. We live in an unfair world. It doesn’t make it ok, but it also doesn’t excuse weird myth creation. And if Sabia is co-opting ethnic alienation to bolster his image that fucking sucks.

    By the way, I’m not too impressed with his French. That should be a topic. Which old-school (the young generation doesn’t count — too easy) anglo-Quebecer has the best French? Sabia, Mulroney, Sheila Fraser. I made an effort to learn French reasonably well and I cringe at what I consider lazy accents or bizarre grammar. But maybe he’ll do a fine job at the Caisse. I don’t know, things can’t really get worse than they are now (in the world economy) and so it’s probably all uphill from here anyway, even if Sabia goes to sleep… in Japanese.

    Fon

    May 7, 2009 at 11:03 pm


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