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. “but here’s a question for you – how would you feel if the feds dumped huge sums of money into a celebration every june 24th (with much more $$$$$$ disproportionately into quebec) in order to promote “canuck maple leaf unification day”?”

    That’s precisely what they do on July 1.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

  2. Vinster:

    Presumably an SJBD event organized by anglophone community groups wouldn’t turn into a big separatist party. Now do you have anything to say about the *contents* of that article, or is the sole fact that it’s published on sufficient to discredit it?


    June 18, 2009 at 9:42 am

  3. fred,

    The Tribune Libre section of Vigile – just as *the title implies* – publishes pieces for whom the author(s) alone assume responsibility so this is just another [sigh] vacuous attempt by Vinster to put the writer of something on trial for his supposed intentions or belief system when he’s unable to refute what the writer says.

    The idea that there’d be any serious debate over the general not to say total disinterest in the anglo community and its institutions and media for the fête de la St-Jean is almost humorous really. But look how the hackles go up when the totally f*g obvious is stated, or even suggested. This is a summer stat holiday so of course in QC it’s an excuse for everyone to “party.” But community mobilizations to stage *community* events are what’s in question here, not private affairs with 10$ cover charges followed by fees of 5$ for every 1$ of beer imbibed.

    Vinster explains that maybe anglos would participate if the events took place on only their terms. Ah bon. Sort of like when one of them’s on a C.A., all the other directors speak English. Well we’re all partant for things which we get to dictate of course. Maybe the anglos should review the program for Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC and the Episcopalians vet the Boston St. Paddy’s festivities to make them less exclusionary. But francophone federalists who comprise a significant % of the Québécois don’t boycott the St-Jean on these terms. Nor does the French service of CBC whose mandate includes fostering Canadian national unity. On the anglophone side it’s interest nul, *except* when something like this controversy erupts which can be instrumentalized. Otherwise what are the chances that anything to do with SJBD would be making headlines on Ontario affiliates of the CBC on the 16th of June?

    How could these anglophone community groups based in milieux of 100’s of 1000’s of people mark the fête on their own communities’ terms? By organizing themselves, maybe? Posez la question, c’est y répondre. But we can’t critize what’s obvious here, we must only criticize *stating* the obvious.


    June 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm

  4. a thing of sublime beauty which fits Vinster like a glove.


    June 18, 2009 at 1:15 pm

  5. “But community mobilizations to stage *community* events are what’s in question here, not private affairs with 10$ cover charges followed by fees of 5$ for every 1$ of beer imbibed.”



    June 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

  6. Can you write something in modern English for once? This Shakespearean stuff is good, but only in moderation.


    June 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

  7. James

    “anglophone media, whether print or electronic, has never shown any serious interest in SJBD, denying it any serious coverage or promotion”

    you are being too kind, James. Anglophones have not just been uninterested in SJBD, they have been hostile to it. Just reading the English and French Wikipedia entries for SJBD shows this. This paragraph below is in the English entry but not the French entry:

    “The central problem of this holiday for the more progressive Quebecois community is that this festivity celebrates the “pure laine” (literally translated as “pure wool”), a term used to describe someone born in Quebec and directly descended from European blood. The Saint Jean Baptiste holiday, therefore, focuses on racial purity thereby alienating the growing numbers of non-white, non-French and non-racist Quebecois (of all origins). Moreso this festivity historically effaces the very real historical and contemporary brutality toward’s Quebec’s indigenous communities who are virtual guests–and badly treated guests–in their own land. As such, the idea of celebrating racial purity would be akin to celebrating a national holiday for say the Ku Klux Klan; yet this holiday is never put into question in the provincial or local governments despite a recent poll which shows that 59% of Quebecers identify themselves as racist. [25] Many Quebecois are considering holding anti-Saint Jean celebrations in 2009 in order to honour a society that is inclusive and non-discriminatory since many view honoring one version of history–a version that explicitly negates ethnic diversity and historical conquest–does not construct dialogue nor teach the tuth about the multifarious types of conquest and empire in this province.”

    I bet allophone, Vinster et al. will be attending one of those anti-St-Jean celebrations.


    June 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  8. Thanks Antonio for sharing that delirious entry in Concordiapedia. Actually, that would probably be a good venue for the anti-Saint-Jean. They could stage it on the Carpetbaggercordia campus, and maybe invigilate so that none of the performances are in French, though frankly I think that rule would be largely self-enforcing anyway. A much better bet than on a francophone university campus, since the % of “anti-racist” i.e. anglophone Quebeckers frequenting the francophone university system falls within what I believe statisticians refer to as the “margin of error.”


    June 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm

  9. Wow AFG, 36 comments in 24 hours ! Another brilliant barnburning blog. And when I wade through all the arch sarcasm which you are so fond of I find that you actually got the essence of this story right. It was just another scrap between sovereignists of the civic nationalism persuasion and the ethnic nationalist crowd. All of the commentary on the story, in either language, breaks along the same lines. You and the Gazette actually agree with each other.

    But your characterisation of the story as sovereignists standing up for the anglos is a bit rich. It would be more accurate to state that the politically correct sovs were embarrased by their goofy ethnicly pure cousins and rushed to avoid another black mark against their “open” and “inclusive” project. But not before the Gazette got a shot in.

    I do wonder why you get upset when the Gazette puts a bell on another ethnic nationalism story ? Everyone who reads this blog must understand that there is a deep vein of old fashioned ethnic nationalism in the sovereignty movement. Why is it a bad thing for the Gazette to point that out ? You see, AFG, the Gazette’s readers are the bad guys for that sort of french good/english bad sovereignist. Do you think Vigile posts the Gazette editorial because they agree with it ? Your exaggerated reaction reminds me a little of a remark by the late Pierre Bourgault to the effect that when some polls in the 1995 referendum in Cote St Luc voted >95% “Non” it was Anglo “racism”. But Bourgault specialized in looking at Quebec society through the wrong end of the telescope. Please be careful AFG, and put the small end up to your eye. But hey – I love it when you kick Anglo butt even when the colonialist dogs don’t deserve it. Really, I do. You are way more fun than those humourless people who inhabit blogs like Vigile. I’ll be back for more.


    June 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm

  10. NO not premiere juillet – le 24 juin!

    if you want to discuss canada’s national holiday let’s wait a week or two. we’re discussing st-jean – quebec’s national holiday.


    June 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  11. Au Québec, les groupes musicaux qui remportent le plus de succès – Simple Plan, Lost Fingers, Pascale Picard, pour ne nommer que ceux-là – chantent en anglais, bien qu’ils soient composés majoritairement de francophones. Ils sont devenus la coqueluche des animateurs de la radio et de la télévision francophones et, dans ces circonstances, on ne devrait pas s’étonner que le milieu médiatique les voie sur la scène de la Fête nationale chantant en anglais.

    Tout comme on ne devrait pas se surprendre que les milieux anglophones de Montréal aient saisi au bond la mini-crise provoquée par la décision d’interdire la présence de groupes chantant en anglais, à une célébration de la Fête nationale dans le quartier Rosemont, pour avancer la pièce du bilinguisme sur l’échiquier de la bataille linguistique.

    Avec la vitesse de l’éclair, The Gazette et des porte-parole comme Jack Jedwab, vite relayés par le justicier Boisvert et le mercenaire Lagacé de La Presse, se sont mis à traiter de xénophobes, racistes et fascistes les responsables de cette décision et ceux qui les appuyaient.

    Pendant que les souverainistes discouraient sur le « bon usage des crises », dans la foulée des déclarations de M. Parizeau, les fédéralistes montraient leur savoir-faire et leur maîtrise de « la stratégie du choc », telle que si bien décrite par Naomi Klein.

    Penauds, naïfs ou niais – on vous laisse les départager – les leaders souverainistes ont salué cette nouvelle victoire contre « l’exclusion », au grand plaisir des éditorialistes de The Gazette et de La Presse qui ont applaudi leur « ouverture » et leur « modernité ».

    Les anglos scorent, les francos applaudissent

    Comment se fait-il que les leaders souverainistes scorent ainsi continuellement dans leurs propres buts, alors que les allophones [sictirent toujours au filet adverse? Par exemple, quand il s’est agi de trouver un nouvel instructeur pour le Canadien, la presse anglophone déclarait que sa connaissance du français n’était pas un critère, seule la compétence comptait.

    Cependant, lorsque Louise Harel a annoncé sa candidature à la mairie de Montréal, le critère de la compétence ne tenait plus. Elle devait être bilingue! Son unilinguisme était un manque de respect et de politesse pour 40% de la population montréalaise, affirmait Peter Trent, l’ancien maire de Westmount.


    June 18, 2009 at 6:06 pm

  12. You know, this “ethnic nationalism” thing is one of my pet peeves when it comes to discussing Quebec nationalism. What people generally call “ethnic nationalism” in this context is almost invariably nothing of the sort. In this case, for instance, those calling for removing the anglophone bands from the show objected to them *performing* in English; I seriously doubt they cared at all about their ethnic origin. If anything the complaints would have been considerably more vehement if the two bands in question had been composed of francophones singing in English.

    And I remind you that we’re talking about the most “extreme” parts of the Quebec independence movement. Actual, bona fide ethnic nationalism in Quebec is quite marginal and, like everywhere else in the world, its proponents usually wouldn’t want to be caught dead voting for left-wing parties like the PQ or the Bloc. If you want to find them, you have to look much further right on the political spectrum (i.e. the ADQ/Conservative crowd — not exactly hotbeds of separatism).

    And if we compare Quebec to other western societies, we’re not at all atypical in this respect. Just look at the UK, where the British National Party (an actual white supremacist party – the sort of thing we don’t even have here) received nearly 1 million votes and earned two seats in the European parliament. And yet you don’t see people using this as evidence that British people are backward hicks who can’t be trusted with an independent country.


    June 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

  13. So it’s not the use of English that you’re advocating, but the use of *dumbed down* English.

    Perhaps you would prefer this site:



    June 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm

  14. But have you seen this?


    June 18, 2009 at 9:02 pm

  15. @ James

    Yes, James, yes… That’s exactly what I said. You get it ALL right.

    @ Fred

    I’d say that most of the time, I’d be sufficient to discredit it.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:17 pm

  16. @ James

    “…while I for my part sit in mute admiration of how the blog’s paragon of the Scientific Method systematically refutes my tentative conclusions with seemingly no effort at all”

    It’s called experience.

    * raises thumb up for James in sign of encouragement *


    June 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  17. Really. Does that extend to other notorious authors who are regularly published on Vigile, such as André Pratte, Alain Dubuc, and Lysiane Gagnon?


    June 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  18. I’ll grant you that The Gazette has a greater responsibility towards its public. Nonetheless, this does not excuse the fact that these tactics should not be used if we want to have a constructive dialog.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:23 pm

  19. Now I’m hurt. *sad frown*

    But anyways, you just proved that you actually can’t read properly :

    “UN IMBÉCILE ou UN PETIT GROUPE D’IMBÉCILES exclut deux formations de la fête nationale du Québec parce qu’elles s’exécuteraient en anglais et dans l’instant vous protestez.”

    Look at the words that are capitalized. Yes, I’m talking about those big letters that hurt your eyes when you look too intensely without squinting. Now, grasp the meaning, and realize that this is exactly what I’ve been saying for weeks.

    Please, stop discrediting yourself. You make it too easy.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  20. @ Antonio

    “I bet allophone, Vinster et al. will be attending one of those anti-St-Jean celebrations.”

    You know, paranoia can actually be treated with small little pills…

    You guys are really annoying. I think the world is probably too complicated for James and you : there’s black, there’s white, and then there’s a whole world of gray. The simple fact that somebody disagrees with you on some matters does not mean that he stands at the complete opposite from your position.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  21. @ James

    Me thinks you like to hear yourself type on the keyboard.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:35 pm

  22. La Gazette me donne des gazzzzzzzzzzzzzz..


    June 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm

  23. Il faudrait peut-être penser à ne pas trop généralisé. Je pense que pas mal tous les journaux ont rapporté les faits tels qu’ils étaient, autant lorsque le “problème” a été exposé que lorsqu’il s’est réglé. On est tous conscient que ce ne sont pas que les gens à tendance fédéralistes qui ont réglé le problème, mais que la grande majorité des gens qui appuient la souveraineté ont aussi parlé.

    Les seuls qui y vont de généralisations abusives afin de renvoyer le blâme sur l’une ou l’autre des deux solitudes (du moins sus ces pages), ce sont AFG, The Gazette et James. Reconnaître l’existence des Ultra-Nationalistes déconnectés, ce n’est pas accuser tous les souverainistes de racisme.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:40 pm

  24. Stop eating it then.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:43 pm

  25. @ Fred

    “I seriously doubt they cared at all about their ethnic origin. If anything the complaints would have been considerably more vehement if the two bands in question had been composed of francophones singing in English.”

    I remember, in his last blog, AFG commenting about this issue after I ask what his opinion was. He said that one of the greatest St-Jean he’d been too was one where Jean Leloup performed, and that his first 4-5 had been in English. Now, I’ll ask this out of honest ignorance : did it cause a major problem in the newspaper the next days? The answer to this question would probably indicate if you are right with the last sentence I quoted from your answer.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

  26. … et j’ajouterais que le fait de reconnaître l’existence, au Québec, d’Ultra-Nationalistes-déconnectés-et-imbéciles-consommés, ce n’est pas de l’auto-flagellation.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm

  27. Here’s the rest of what you are quoting :

    “À l’origine, par exemple, la Loi 101 permettait l’affichage dans toutes les langues, sauf l’anglais parce que c’est cette langue qui constitue une menace. Aujourd’hui, encore dans le quartier chinois, on affiche en français et en chinois, dans le quartier portugais, en portugais et en français, parce que ni le chinois, ni le portugais, ni les autres langues parlées au Québec, sauf l’anglais, ne menacent le français.

    C’est la Cour suprême du Canada qui a invalidé cette disposition de la loi et a permis l’affichage en anglais. Ceux qui admettent qu’on puisse chanter en anglais lors de la Fête nationale légitiment ce jugement. Il faudrait plutôt respecter l’esprit initial de la Loi 101, c’est-à-dire permettre à des chanteurs, chanteuses et des groupes des communautés culturelles de chanter dans leur langue d’origine et inviter les groupes anglophones à chanter… en français !”

    However you wish to wrap things, and spin them in order to make them sound nice, discrimination is still discrimination. It was wrong in the 1940s and before, when it was nearly impossible for a francophone to have a promotion inside an anglo-owned company, but it is also wrong in 2009 when some people seem to think that ignoring the fact that English, as a language, exists, will somehow solve the problem.


    June 18, 2009 at 9:55 pm

  28. @ James

    “However, his vows to “ignore” me, made quite some time and several blogs back, appear to lack conviction.”

    Yes, this is problematic. You see, I wish to ignore you, but also, I wish you to know that I’ m ignoring you. But then, if I let you know that I’m ignoring you, then I am not really ignoring you. It’s a bit complicated, but I’m working on it.
    *raises thumb for himself*


    June 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  29. @ Fred

    This is why I’m saying “most of the times”. I’d also point out that when a paper by these authors gets posted, it is often preceded by an aggressive rant ridiculing their positions.

    Pratte, Gagnon and Dubuc have their opinions. Sometimes, on some subjects, I feel like they’re right, sometimes I feel like they’re living in the past. Overall, however, La Presse has more credibility than Vigile.Net. I don’t think this can really be debated, but you may try if you wish.


    June 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

  30. No, it’s just that I read the *whole thing*, and it fits you like a glove, in particular the three paragraphs preceding the one you quote. It actually captures perfectly the beat you work here at, that of a sanctimonious self-appointed cop of PC to the nationalist movement. And this is you too, this is spot-on:

    Dans tout le Canada et à Montréal même, des militants anglophones – petits cousins des susnommés – confondent délibérément, scandaleusement, à longueur d’année, nationalisme québécois et national-socialisme et ça ne vous dérange pas trop.

    As indeed they do on this blog with regularity. But when has that ever put your nose out of joint? No, Foglia’s got your number. He’s typed you perfectly. Maybe he’s too quick though to dismiss the preoccupations of the sponsor and accord all the moral high place to the producers:

    (what, another thing from Vigile? I know, scandale!…)

    Maybe you really think that if you could just clean up the “rabble” and “vulgaires” among francophone nationalists, and finish your twattish, overweening little cop job on the the “minority of idiots” that the lion’s share of the work is done. Yeah, all that leaves Vinster is the 80+% of English Canadians who just want to keep the Québécois in their place, and who’ve never heard of C4 or Falardeau or Michel Brûlé. But if we can just clam these people up who are “idiots” for no other reason than disagreeing with you, the floodgates of constitutional progress will open in Canada. And if you believe that, you’re either a mental defective, need to moderate your drinking, need to get out more, or all of the above.


    June 18, 2009 at 10:22 pm

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