Québec Separatists Save St.Jean Baptist Show From Ultra-Nationalists

with 96 comments


Oh dear, the children are fighting again.

As the whole World’s now heard, some English-speaking bands were kicked off a St-Jean-Baptist show – a yearly celebration of Québec culture also know as La Fête Nationale – last week before being promply re-booked, following a couple of days of heated radio talk-show action.

Here’s what happened. A couple of guys with a record label and show promoters, quite a few of whom are separatists who let the Parti Québécois host their rallies in their bar on St-Denis Street, decided it would be cool to put up a St.Jean show for those between, say 7 and 49 years old, as opposed to the family show usually held in Parc Maisonneuve.

On the bill, next to the very worthy Malajube and Les Dales Hawerchuck, a couple of lesser know Montreal Anglos called Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill.

Apparently, the idea of English-speaking performers at the St.Jean show upset a few board members of the sponsoring neighborhood group and a few people at the Société St-Jean-Baptiste, the show’s main sponsors.  The idea being that people performing in English at a show celebrating Québec’s uniquely French culture would out be of place, like Garth Brooks at a Black Pride Rally or Jerry Seinfeld hosting the Latin Grammy Awards.

Not wrong, just irrelevant.

Montréal’s ultra-patriotic English-speaking press, well known for turning any issue, from municipal elections to the colour of margarine  into issues of ethnic confrontation, was overjoyed by the (supposed) ban.   The familiar series of editorials carrefully balancing seething bitterness with anglocentric self-rigeousness followed with their familiar 3-point structure: 1. Evoque the myth of the perfect society that existed before the separatists got the French-Canadians excited 2. accuse French-speakin nationalists of systematically excluding Anglos (no questions about the Gazette’s support for separate English schools and hospitals, please) and 3. blame the Parti québécois. 

“An ancient holiday, once celebrating the summer solstice, then a saint, then all French-Canadians, was converted by the Parti Québécois into a subsidized festival of nationalism. For some, this means no English need apply – though we are allowed to pay taxes to subsidize such events. (We’re almost afraid to ask the people who hold that view : would anglophones performing in French be acceptable ?)”

What the Gazette’s editorials fail to tell you is that the separatist Parti Québécois publicly supported the Anglos right to play.  “Maybe their intentions were good, the PQ’s culture critic Pierre Curzi said, “but they need to reconsider this bad decision.  I think it’s great that anglophone bands want to take part in the Fete nationale. It shows that our society is open.”

Guy A. Lepage, the openly separatist host of the “big” St-Jean show, also publicly spoke out for the Anglo’s right to play.  “I’ve always lived in Montréal and I’ve always been a sovereigntist.  I’ve seen my city welcome Anglos, Haitians, Chinese, Arabs and Jews.  I’ve seen my city transform itself and I love it.  I love its multiethnic reality and I believe the only possibility to one day get the nation we deserve is if we make all Quebecers trip out on our opinions.”

Louise Harel, the former PQ minister and separatist running for mayor of Montréal who’s been the victim of a very ethnically divisive and partisan slander campaign by the Montreal Gazette, also said she thought the Anglos should be allowed to play.

By the way, if the Montreal Gazette had ever bothered to cover any St-Jean show in their (very) long existence, they would know that many Anglos who enthusiastically partake in Québec’s French culture, artists like Paul Cargnello and Jim Corcoran, have performed many times at the celebrations.

In the end the various separatist sponsors of l’Aut’ St-Jean had a conference call and it turns out almost none of their members had any problem with the concept of Anglos at the show.  In any case, the separatist promoters of l’Aut’ St-Jean were very clear that either their Anglo friends were going to play, or they were going to cancel the whole thing.

Of course there are some angry ultra-nationalists who were, and are probably still, upset about the shows not being pure reflections of their vision of Québec.

The Gazette gave them a soapbox.  The real leaders of Québec’s separatist movement told them to shut up. 

And in the end, it’s the separatists that saved the show and stood up for the Anglos.

But don’t expect the Gazette to ever tell you that story.

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

96 Responses

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  1. The guy I heard on th radio was pathetically bad – my Ontario boen mother speaks better french and she didn’t learn french until in her 20s.


    June 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm

  2. First off, as someone not from here I find this festival offensive at best. It is a celebration of racial purity because it is simply not about francophone culture only, it is about those from France, the Quebeboic of French origin and this is a racial issue. (I use the word racial to stand in for ethnic if you will since since Darwin we know that race amongst humans is a fiction.) Additionally, there is a huge lack of understanding this situation in its entireity. People write here of the Gazette being biased, but objectively speaking I find that paper tries to tiptoe around any coherent discussion of this issue since before and after the band issue came up, the anglophone community has experienced what it feels to be discrimination; yet very little is mentioned in the media about this. As someone who saw the events of Clichy S Bois unfold a few years back, I can only say that such resentment for the dominant culture will not end well for the ruling francophones. The fact is that most every immigrant and non-francophone, not to mention the younger generations of francophones here, are not included by this festival and find its very core repugnant to their humanity. And as an outsider to this culture, I can only agree with them.

    Quebec needs to enter the 21st century, realize that the French are no longer oppressed and try to understand that there is a larg community that would rather have the 24th of June as a day of coming together and being pushed (as usual) apart. It seems clear to me that this festival needs to be put on a shelf and a newer kind of festival to celebrate Quebec’s diversity to include the indigenous and gypsy populations, to include the English and French, as well as the immigrants from all over the world. The way forward in this world is to create dialogue not rifts and from all I am reading here is reflective of a culture of blaming everything on a history that is not immediately relevant.


    June 23, 2009 at 12:19 am

  3. Obviously written by someone who has never seen a modern-day St-Jean-Baptiste celebration in his entire life…


    June 23, 2009 at 8:10 am

  4. Nice !

    Artists from L’Autre St-Jean speak.


    June 25, 2009 at 1:04 am

  5. My name is Kathy Bernet and I never received my March issue of Light Spinner. Can you check to see if it’s been mealid out? My home address is 707 E. Spring Drive, Ozark, MO 65721


    December 30, 2013 at 5:31 am

  6. Thanks for finally talking about >Québec Separatists Save St.Jean Baptist Show From Ultra-Nationalists | AngryFrenchGuy <Loved it!

    tout pour la fete

    April 25, 2015 at 5:18 pm

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