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. @ James

    You know me so well. We’re like brothers! :P
    * hugs *


    June 18, 2009 at 10:31 pm

  2. Not my fight but looking at the situation from outside.

    Fundamental issue which I am sure all you will deny…Francos and anglos don’t like each other very much..Language, politics …all this other crap is just a ruse to vent their inherent dislike for each other, for a number of fabricated reasons.

    Is this not obvious….from the commentary on this and other blogs.

    Enough already…Quebec should be a separate country and these arguments would be over (then we could have a real battle..where the gloves can be removed rather than the current model of political correctness) Montreal can be partitioned (those parts that want to be). After all , even anglos have some rights!

    For me, I will be celebrating July 1st, for many of you, pack up the moving vans and leave your old mattresses and couches on the street. Others will pick up and discard what you have abandoned.

    Happy St. Jeans ou Fete Nationale (ironic)

    Be sure to show up for work the next day :)


    June 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm

  3. You know, you don’t have to post every article you read.


    June 18, 2009 at 10:51 pm

  4. @ James

    It actually is a a nice story. The biographic part, I mean. As for the rest, Dr. Castonguay might be right with his analysis. But the language “problem”, since the beginning of the 21st century, is not one that can only be explained by “political will”.


    June 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm

  5. There’s an anti-SJJB celebration? I had no idea. What for?

    SJBD to me is just a great day for sitting on my ass and not doing f***all. Just like Canada Day, Labour Day, Victoria Day, etc… This year, SJBD falls on Wednesday, so unfortunately, some of us have to go to work, and skip the anti-SJB demonstrations.

    There is one holiday worth celebrating. It’s called St Patrick’s Day. I duly honor this special day by consuming (imbibing?) large quantities of lager. You gotta love these Irish folks.


    June 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

  6. Fred, its time to broaden your definition and understanding of ethnic nationalism and face reality. Ethnic nationalism is mainstream in Quebec. It always has been and always will be. And its not simply about ethnic “origin”, its about ethnicity defined by a person’s language and culture. When commentators on the recent St Jean kerfuffle refer to Lake of Stew as “une groupe d’anglos” they are not referring to the language choice in some of their songs.

    You are mistaken if you have assumed that I think ethnic nationalism is a bad thing or that people who use the term are calling ethnic nationalists backward. It is an objective fact, not a value judgment. Its found to some degree in all states shared by two or more ethnic groups or “nations” if you prefer. Bill 101, for example, was a very positive result of ethnic nationalism. Have a look at a 2008 article by Professor Muller in Foreign Affairs and the subsequent commentary on the article. Surely you have noticed that this blog is by the Angry FRENCH guy – not just another garden variety angry guy. I would say that the AFG’s opinions are very mainstream. Backward he ain’t. Sure, some ethnic nationalists in Quebec, english and french speaking, are silly and full of irrational hatred. But contrary to ABP’s recent comment, the presence of a few nuts does not mean we hate each other. Far from it. And the nutbars are a constant source of comic relief. The whole sovereignty debate would be terminally boring without them.


    June 19, 2009 at 9:28 am

  7. Allophone, something tells me you wouldn’t have loved the Irish so much in the early part of the 20th century…


    June 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

  8. National English-language media in Canada *never* cover anything related to the June 24 festivities in Quebec. (Unless there is a riot I suppose.) Which explains why a majority of people in the ROC aren’t even aware of its significance in Quebec. They just have no idea that there is this fête on June 24 that overshadows Canada Day one week later.

    Of course, all Anglo-Quebecers would know about St-Jean-Baptiste because they get the day off.


    June 19, 2009 at 10:03 am

  9. I’d probably love them even more. I’d probably help them fight. I would have been with them all the way, in 1916, before, and after.

    I also support them today since they’re the kind of guys you can sit down with, drink a pint or two (or ten), and have a good laugh.

    And please, don’t draw any parallels between the French colonies in NA (that later got re-colonized by a more powerful colonial power), and the struggle that the Irish had mounted to defend their land against the Brits.,+stevenson&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=YAFphzg30J&sig=himevq5Z8XVN6Oc6seeFWGNKE3o&hl=en&ei=wqM7So_YApfFmQe3w428Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

    You can compare the Irish to the Natives though. That comparison will make sense.


    June 19, 2009 at 10:26 am

  10. What about the Catalans?


    June 19, 2009 at 10:46 am

  11. Language suppressed under Franco, who “promoted” Spanish instead. Language “promotion” is alive and well, I guess.


    June 19, 2009 at 11:11 am

  12. Ah yes, French in Quebec, Canada and North America is equivalent to Spanish (Castellano) in Spain. And English here is equivalent to little old Català and Euskadi.

    Got it.


    June 19, 2009 at 11:35 am

  13. Only in Quebec. Of course, I’m not comparing Quebec to Franco’s Spain, although when I see Duceppe barking like a rabid dog, I worry. After all, that freak of nature could be el presidente of my new country one day. (Somebody give him some Prozac, please. Thank you.)

    Regarding Canada and North America in general, I have no idea what the linguistic situation is like. I’ve never lived there so I can’t speak for it. But I’d like to know some things. Specifically, do French public high schools exist in the ROC where there’s a demand, like in Ontario or NB? Would I be barred from sending my kids to a French high school in the ROC (if one existed in my area)? If I open a business in the ROC, can I put up signs in French, or any other language, but with no English?

    I would like to know (honestly). If there are any laws like that, let me know. I’ll take a warm leak on them like I’ve been taking a warm leak on their Bill 101 equivalents.


    June 19, 2009 at 12:31 pm

  14. I like your style ABP. I actually hope Quebec will separate just so that I can have the perverse and very selfish pleasure of coming back to Montreal and conducting myself in French—as I’ve always done—just to see how I’m treated. I would hope after independence—and the inevitable withering of English and anglophone community—the Quebecois would say “okay, fine, we got what we wanted. Now we can finally treat newcomers decently who speak French and don’t want to send their kids to English schools [there won’t be any].” But, if I’m still treated with the same old rude, standoffish, humourless, highly-strung Montreal attitude then I’ll know the problem was not the politics but the people.

    Tony Ronto

    June 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm

  15. tony de hog’s hollow,

    perverse and selfish is a appropos. your words (even if they are somewhat facetious) are borne of fatigue and ennui. it is disappointing. for more than thirty years this political question has been a constant source of malaise in our nation, even more so in our nation within a nation – quebec.

    at the very moment when my political opponents are in disarray – flailing about en colere – divided by petty differences without a leader; you propose a wish to give up on an idea that has been in the making for 8 times longer than the period since that immense dickhead de gaulle uttered his ill-considered phrases. yes, vive le quebec libre.

    i hope to see the day when quebec is free of this tortured romantic drivel and we get on with building a society where what you actually accomplish counts for more than what side of the political fence you stand on or whether your “dues are paid up”. if the next ten years is anything like the last five – we’ll be able to move on to a future without the possibilty of your ignorant remark. unlike you – i don’t need the prospect of secession to know where the problems lie.

    ignorance and emotion are the enemy – not the people of quebec; unfortunately, it just so happens that a very vocal and the very loudest minority get more press and attention than they deserve. in short, these individuals are idiots of galactic proportion.

    has anyone mentioned to you recently that toronto has a shit hockey team? :-)


    June 19, 2009 at 8:48 pm

  16. “National English-language media in Canada *never* cover anything related to the June 24 festivities in Quebec.”

    and your point is…..
    that tva – tqs – src are all over the celebrations in canada for:
    Simcoe Day
    St. George’s Day
    Orangemen’s Day
    Discovery Day
    Remembrance Day
    Natal Day
    Memorial Day
    Family Day

    these attempts at comparison are odious – non?


    June 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm

  17. Vinster:

    I don’t know the answer, and a quick Google search turned up nothing relevant. Perhaps AFG would know…?


    You can’t just change the definitions to suit your argument. The definition that almost everyone who talks about the subject (at least in newspapers, etc, I wouldn’t know about the more scholarly work on the subject) tends to define ethnic nationalism to mean nationalism based on descent from ancestors; by definition, an immigrant cannot become a member of such a nation. This is usually contrasted with civic nationalism which “is focused on cultural rather than hereditary connections between people.” [Wikipedia entry on nationalism]. The problem with your particular definition of the term is that it is completely identical to nationalism in general — every single country on earth defines itself at least by language and/or culture and/or religion, including Canada. (If not, then why does it have official languages? Isn’t hockey considered part of Canadian culture?)

    Furthermore, if you go read pretty much any document that describes Quebec nationalism as “ethnic”, you’ll see that accusations of endemic racism are never far behind. “Blood and Belonging”, by Canada’s future PM is a great example of this (he also goes on to smear Ukraine, a very classy move for someone who brags about his Russian aristocratic ancestry). Or, more simply, look up any article with the words “Quebec” and “ethnic nationalism” in English Canadian media.

    Given that, going around repeating the smear that ethnic nationalism is widespread in Quebec and then, when asked to explain, softening the blow by redefining the term is not exactly intellectually honest. It’s a bit like calling someone a nazi and then qualifying it by pointing out that it’s merely a contraction of “national-socialism” — and after all, what’s so bad about a “national” version of socialism?


    June 19, 2009 at 11:59 pm

  18. “has anyone mentioned to you recently that toronto has a shit hockey team?”

    Meme chose pour Montreal!


    June 20, 2009 at 12:38 am

  19. abp,
    lord tunderrin jaysus, how dare you mention the holy grail!


    June 20, 2009 at 9:03 am

  20. I tip my hat to the francophones like Lepage and many many other who said they should play. 40 mins of music partially in english isn`t a big deal in my mind but boy did the press have a field day. no mention of the sitar players in Villeray but that`s a whole other story

    What I found strangely absent was any mention of the fact that anglos go to local Saint Jean celebrations on June 23rd all over the island of Montreal and have been for a long time. For christ’s sake we even have a St-Jean Celebration in Westmount so treating this as some novel thing that anglos get involved in the St-Jean is just crap.

    The only thing I found embarrassing was how little french the guy from one of the bands spoke – I mean come on! I didn’t grow up on the West Island so the anglos I know are all very bilingual, married to francophone etc.

    S. Church

    June 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm

  21. JOL,

    Je sais que le penguins avoir la “holy grail” cette anee. C’est possible que les canadienes sera etre le gagner de le coup a la prochaine an, avec le nouvelle chef. Who knows with hockey. I hope they do better as they certainly seemed to struggle this past year.

    bon weekend,


    June 20, 2009 at 8:15 pm

  22. That’s not been my experience.

    Anglos celebrating St Jean Baptiste is like Indians celebrating Columbus Day.


    June 21, 2009 at 12:07 am

  23. Fred, re your 1 minute to midnight missive, I see you are stubbornly defending your belief that no one must use the term “ethnic nationalism” because it immediately leads to accusations of racism. That is not my personal experience. Perhaps that is the difference between us. I do not rely on newspapers and that junkyard, Wikepedia, to inform me on how to define nationalism. As you say, you don’t know about the more scholarly work. But if you must rely on newspapers you should read The Gazette now and then and you will find they share my view of ethnic nationalism. I don’t find it leads to accusations of racism because The Gazette and Iggy, unlike the late Bourgault, both understand that racism is about race. And the last time I checked Anglo and Franco Quebecois are of the same race.


    June 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  24. Whats wrong with getting drunk and partying. Provides an excuse to do so for all. :)


    June 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm

  25. I think a more historically correct analogy would be French Canadians celebrating Victoria Day.


    June 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm

  26. Pour Quois Pas, ACJ…another excuse for a party and a day off!

    Of course on Canada day, in Quebec, many people move on. Very interesting! All those couches and beds deposited on the streets. What memories must be discarded on this day :)


    June 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

  27. ”The only thing I found embarrassing was how little french the guy from one of the bands spoke – I mean come on! I didn’t grow up on the West Island so the anglos I know are all very bilingual, married to francophone etc.”

    I`ve heard conflicting reports on this. On the one hand I heard in the media (francophone) that the band members happen to be anglo but speak French with typical Quebec accents. Whereas another report I heard (also from francophone media) said the guy could barely speak French to save his life.

    Never actually heard an interview with any of the band members though.


    June 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm

  28. My point was solely about references to ethnic nationalism in mainstream political discourse (i.e. newspapers, etc). Hence, the relevant definition is the one that is in use there. I think you’ll find that most people would give you the same definition as Wikipedia if you were to ask them to define “ethnic nationalism”. And you can’t possibly ignore how negatively connoted that term is. I mean just type, say, “ethnic civic nationalism” or any other newspaper of your choice in google and see how many *positive* mentions of ethnic nationalism you see…

    Now, if you insist on using your definition, can you please tell me a specific example of nationalism that isn’t ethnic? Canadian nationalism certainly wouldn’t work, since Canada explicitly promotes English and French as official languages and all public services are only available in those languages. Not to mention hockey as a “national sport” and other cultural features common to Canadian nationalism.

    And sure, “racism” was perhaps not right term, but I don’t know of a word X such that X is to ethnicity as racism is to race. Since X is morally equivalent to racism, I don’t think confusing the two is a huge problem.


    June 21, 2009 at 9:24 pm

  29. There’s an interesting item written about the first SJBD event *ever* held in Westmount, which was only 10 years ago. Took Westmount only 165 years then to join the party. (And to think people accuse WM of being refractory to the French fact…) Most of the initial turnout for it was described as rubberneckers who couldn’t believe it and it apparently had about the novelty value of a UFO landing:

    The event apparently symbolizes the “changing face of the city”, i.e. the fact that Westmount’s *more francophone* now (over 20% I think) which would explain where the impetus came for it in the first place. It’s sponsored by the same organization which sponsors and coordinates Fête Nationale events elsewhere in Montreal and the province, the Mouvement National des Québécois:


    June 21, 2009 at 9:36 pm

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