In Montreal People Who Don’t Speak English Are Uneducated Bigots

with 496 comments

Eric Amber theatre ste-catherine

About 10 or 15 years ago Blockbuster opened their first Montreal franchise on Ste.Catherine Street, between the Forum and Guy Metro. About every second evening me and my roommate JF would walk all the way up the hill from St.Henri to rent some videos because, a. we had no real professional or social obligations to speak of in those blissful days of our early twenties, and b. because the only commerce going on in St.Henri back then was the sale of beer and steamed hot dogs.

At Blockbuster there was this one employee that we called Tommy. Poor Tommy, we used to say, he just doesn’t get it. He wasn’t a bad bloke—although a bloke he certainly was—but he always had a look of confusion on his face and permanent hesitation in his movement.

One phenomenon that absolutely mystified Tom was that almost every single night me and JF bring to his counter a movie in English, and then proceed to address him and conduct the transaction in French.

Every single time Tom would pick up the VHS, open the box, read the title aloud, and then, with a grimace, tried to warn us: Mais… sé en Anglèse.

Je sais, I would answer. C’est cool.

Tom would then take our money and stare at us as we left the store, dumbfounded by these two French dudes who kept renting movies they couldn’t understand!

Poor Tommy. He just didn’t get it.

Mercifully guys like Tommy are rare in Montréal. We French bastards and Angry separatists are usually able to consume our hearts fill of Anglo-American pop culture and simultaneously uphold our right to be served in French simultaneously, without any problem. I can go to a downtown cinema, buy my ticket in French, buy my Pepsi and gummy bears in French, ask directions to the pimpled employees in French and even share my always entertaining and insightful commentary on the movie with my companion of the evening in French, and still enjoy the new Transformer movie in the original English version.

I don’t switch to English when I buy my Engelbert Humperdink CDs at HMV. I don’t try to order in Japanese when I order sushi. I can go to a bookstore, purchase a book in English and even discuss it with a librarian, speaking only French. Even when I go to McGill’s library to photocopy scientific papers and gawk at young girls from New Jersey I make it a point to speak exclusively in French with the staff.

Not only is speaking French not a problem at McGill, I’m pretty sure I get better service than English-speaking chumps. Staff seems to light up and come to life. It’s like it’s something new and interesting happening. Oh, French! I know this! I can do this!

Or maybe I’m just better looking than you are…

This said, poor Tommy’s are still out there.

Last week Eric Amber, the guy who runs the Ste.Catherine Theater downtown, sent out an email to all of Québec’s cultural media and institutions promoting his venue’s lineup as part of the Zoofest, a new comedy festival run by the folks at Juste pour Rire/Just for Laughs. When a few people complained that the email was only in English and demanded to be contacted in French or taken off their mailing list, mister Amber blew a gasket.

His theater’s shows were in English and, therefore, there was no point advertising them in French, essentially wrote the promoter, who, like poor Tommy, cannot comprehend that someone who has learned English does not immediately abandon his tribal language.

« You obviously can’t read English because you are an uneducated bigot », was the eloquent response of the theater to the demands for a French email. « Go fuck yourself. »

Sure, I’ll do that in a sec., but before I go I’d just like to point out to the Eric’s and Tommy’s out there that there are roughly 500.000 to 750.000 Anglophones in Québec and about 3 million Francophones like me who speak, read and consume English-language culture but still expect to be informed and to buy our tickets in French.

If you think you can run a business by only catering to « real » Anglos while four fifths of your potential market is jacking off in the shower, good luck with that.

We have our answer! As I’m about to upload this post, I learn that Eric Amber and the people at St.Catherine Theater do not want money spent by people who still nostalgically hang on to their backward cultures.  He is shutting his theater down and moving on to some other city where only people who have completely abandonned their primitive ways are allowed to talk back to the Anglos, somewhere like Toronto or Singapour:

« Due to the overwhelming racism and bigotry in French society toward minorities and non-french cultures, Theatre Ste-Catherine will be closing in protest. Effective immediately TSC will no longer be accepting bookings and will closed permanently Dec. 21, 2009.»

Cool.  Now maybe some uneducated bigot like Gilbert Rozon, who happens to run the biggest English-language comedy festival in the world, or André Ménard or René Angelil can buy back the theater and make some money while Eric Amber relocates to Peterborough where no linguistic and cultural bastards will try to crash his productions.

Add to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to Twitter SHARE. ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

496 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hadn’t read your blog in a while…until this caught my eye on problogs. Montreal is such a different world from any other large Canadian city, and being sensitive to the French speaking majority is essential.

    You reminded me of a trip I took with a couple of friends about 20 years back. We were staying out in the east end, out near the refineries because its cheap. One afternoon we hit a Harvey’s for lunch, and typically the further east you go in Montreal, the less likely you’re going to encounter people who speak english.

    My buddies didn’t speak a word, although one was fluent in Spanish. Anyway Paul, cent pour cent anglo, asked me how to order a hot dog in french. I told him to just say ‘hot dog’, or to try and drop the aitch if he wanted to sound french…’ot dog. But Paul was insistent that I tell him the french words…I told him chien chaud, but also told him nobody called it that. Undaunted he went to the counter and ordered his ‘chien chaud’.

    I was laughing my ass off when Paul came back with his tray, on it was an apple pie. Instead of a chien chaud he’d been given a chausson.


    July 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

  2. Your link (“We have our answer!”) doesn’t work.


    July 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

  3. Check. Merci.


    July 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

  4. I think the Eric Amber’s of Quebec are few and far between. As an Anglophone Quebecer I believe we do have the common sense and do in fact respect the French language. We live with it everyday. Nor do I think we would react the way Eric did, this is completely unacceptable and if he is to close his doors, so be it…we do not need Anglo’s like him in Quebec who give us Anglo Quebecers bad names!


    July 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  5. …whereas anglophones who don’t speak French are cosmopolitan anti-racist savants:


    July 19, 2009 at 2:16 pm

  6. People who don’t speak English in today’s global society and in North America are uneducated bigots. Quebec is living next door to the greatest market economy America and the loser fuck separatists still don’t speak english – who are the real bigots and uneducated idiots.

    If you want to remain uneducated and stupid fine. Quebeckers must learn to speak English so they won’t remain backwoods redneck hick separatists and become instead global educated citizens.

    Vive the Quebec pure laine pure et durs. Not.

    jean guy

    July 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

  7. i was a student at mcgill last year and worked at the copy centre in the library. your comment about french people getting better service is right on. for an albertan bloke such as myself, the opportunity to practise my french was a welcome relief from the hordes of new jerseyans who didn’t speak either official language so well.


    July 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm

  8. Jean-Guy,

    You’re at the wrong place to spew your gall. Francophones who contribute their opinions to this board already speak English.

    Pure Laine

    July 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

  9. I’m not at all surprised that AFG decided to cover this. Some random bloke says something stupid in an e-mail and it causes a national uproar, some anglophobe publishes a book that would be considered hate literature in most reasonable societies and he gets to do the talk show circuit to promote it.

    It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.


    July 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm

  10. don’t transfer to Carpetbaggercordia then, or else you’ll be going back 30 years in a time machine.


    July 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  11. Didn’t they use to have a Video Roma on Notre Dame near the Atwater Market back in those days. It was a shorter walk, but less selection.


    July 19, 2009 at 4:31 pm

  12. Which was your least favourite chapter of the Brûlé book?


    July 19, 2009 at 4:41 pm

  13. Si tu avais un tant soit peu de cervelle et d’instruction dans ta grosse tête de balloney tu saurais qu’au Québec, plus un individu est instruit, plus il a tendance à devenir souverainiste. Par ailleurs, des régions très unilinguges francophones et d’un niveau d’instruction moindre sont souvent plus fédéralistes. Mais qu’importe ce que tu penses?


    July 19, 2009 at 4:51 pm

  14. Chapter 12: I Refuse To Put Money In The Pockets Of Bigots.

    No, my library doesn’t have it.


    July 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  15. Oh, you mean you haven’t read it either? Maybe you and Clownophone should form an anti-book club or something. You know, review the books you haven’t read so the public will stay away from them too. Maybe you could like up from the ex-movie critic of Time Magazine, who didn’t like bothering to watch things he reviewed either.


    July 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm

  16. AngryFrenchGuy:

    I weep for you.


    You actually believe that you have a “right to be served in French” at private establishments. But in virtually all free and democratic societies, no such right exists. What you have is the right to NOT give your money to establishments that don’t give you the good service (i.e., service in French) you want.

    What you assume is a right is only there because it is found in Bill 101 but it is, of course, a violation of both free speech and freedom of association. The only reason it isn’t challenged is that no one wants to upset the separatists again. So they shut up.

    Bill 101 treats you like a child, not an adult. You don’t have to work to get respect because the law and its police force will do the work for you. The clerk at Blockbuster isn’t addressing me in French? There aren’t adequate signage in French? Call the language police!

    And that’s why you’ll never have your own country.

    In the independent Quebec I advocate for, no such condescending law will exist.

    You, AFG, are a Canadian, pur et dur, just like Stephane Dion who calls Bill 101 “a great Canadian law.” You’re on the same side as Stephane Dion. Bill 101 is a Canadian law that not only exists in the Canadian context but is supported, defended and promoted by the federal government and its agencies.

    As long as Bill 101 exists, Quebec will never be a country.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm

  17. The right to DISrespect French is 1,000 times more important than the silly, misplaced social dictum to respect French.

    French is not a person; it is a language. It is speech…and speech is supposed to be free.

    If AFG doesn’t like getting unilingual English service from clerks at stores, then he shouldn’t give his money to those stores. Believe me, the power of the green is more than adequate to get him the respect he wants without any laws like Bill 101 that legislate respect.

    Only totalitarian countries like Cuba legislate respect.

    I, for one, don’t want that for Quebec.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm


    Trudeau et la loi 101 François-Xavier Simard, Auteur du livre Le Vrai Visage de Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Les Intouchables, 2006)

    Édition du mardi 28 août 2007
    Mots clés : loi 101, Lise Bissonnette, Charte canadienne des droits et libertés, Justice, Langue, Canada (Pays), Québec (province)

    Il y a trente ans, le 26 août 1977, l’Assemblée nationale du Québec adoptait la loi 101, la Charte de la langue française. Lors de la publication du livre blanc sur cette charte, Trudeau avait réagi ainsi, comme l’a rapporté alors Lise Bissonnette dans Le Devoir: «Selon lui, [la Charte] ramène le Québec “des siècles en arrière” sinon à “l’âge des ténèbres”, et il […] a fustigé la façon “étriquée et rétrograde” qu’a selon lui le gouvernement de M. Lévesque pour protéger une culture, et trouvé au total que le Parti québécois montrait enfin ses “vraies couleurs”, celles d’un parti qui veut l’établissement d’une “société ethnique” […] qui va même contre la liberté de parole et d’expression.» (Le Devoir, 6 avril 1977, p. 1)

    La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés, imposée par Trudeau au Québec en 1982, visait surtout à contrer la loi 101. Le sénateur Michael Kirby l’a confirmé, comme l’a écrit l’ancien conseiller de Trudeau, André Burelle: «Michael Kirby ne s’y trompait pas, la charte voulue par M. Trudeau visait bel et bien à neutraliser en priorité la loi 101. Les droits linguistiques s’y trouvent en effet élevés au rang de droits fondamentaux des individus soustraits à la clause nonobstant, tandis que les autres droits de la personne, même les plus fondamentaux, y sont assujettis à la clause dérogatoire.» (Pierre Elliott Trudeau: l’intellectuel et le politique, Fides, 2005, p. 85)

    René Lévesque avait compris à l’avance le stratagème de Trudeau, comme il l’a dit dans le discours inaugural à l’Assemblée nationale en juin 1981: «Sous le couvert de donner aux citoyens une nouvelle charte des droits, le projet d’Ottawa est en fait une attaque sans précédent contre les pouvoirs de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec, qu’il viendrait limiter et encadrer notamment en matière de langue d’enseignement.» (Attendez que je me rappelle…, Québec Amérique, 1986, p. 441)

    Le fait que la loi 101 imposait l’enseignement en français aux immigrants paraissait encore à Trudeau en 1998, deux ans avant sa mort, comme un «tarif linguistique» que sa charte n’a toléré que de façon «temporaire», en attendant que l’immigrant obtienne la citoyenneté canadienne: «Quiconque immigre au Canada croit que c’est un pays libre. Pourtant, la première chose qu’on lui dit à son arrivée, c’est que ses enfants ne peuvent fréquenter l’école anglaise […] Mon gouvernement n’a permis au Québec de le faire malgré la Charte [canadienne] que comme tarif linguistique temporaire, même si j’abhorrais l’esprit de cette loi.» (Avec la collaboration de Ron Graham, Trudeau: l’essentiel de sa pensée politique, Le Jour, 1998, p. 144)

    Comme l’a écrit Jean Dorion, «par l’art. 23 de sa Charte, imposée de force au Québec par dix parlements majoritairement anglophones, le Canada anglais s’est octroyé un permis d’angliciser graduellement le Québec» (Journal SSJB, mars 2004, p. 2).

    Ce n’est que lorsque le Québec sera souverain qu’il pourra faire respecter ses lois, en particulier la Charte de la langue française, essentielle pour assurer la survie de sa langue officielle.


    July 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm

  19. Ideally, the principle of the predominance of French in Quebec should be constitutionally entrenched, which would shield Quebec against any future Parliament or court attempts to standardize linguistic legislation ad mari usque ad mare.6

    The threat of external intervention is not unfounded. Not too long ago, a University of Montreal political scientist called for constitutional protection of Quebec’s power to legislate, to guard against a pessimistic scenario he described as follows:

    One may think that the survival of [Quebec language] policies is secured. In fact, nothing is less certain. The decisions of one group of judges may be overturned later by their successors. A Supreme Court might decide some day that denying the right of a new immigrant or of a francophone to go to an English school, when English speakers have such a right, is contrary to the Charter of Rights; the Court could invoke to this effect Article 15 prescribing legal equality of all citizens. Such a judgment may seem unlikely today, but who knows for the next generation? The French presence will decrease as a democratic reality outside Quebec, and Quebec’s weight will decline in Canada.

    The author of this dire warning? Professor Stephane Dion (1992, 119-20). The threat is worse than Dion feared back in 1992. A judge of the Quebec Superior Court ruled in December 2000 that the clauses on language of education of the Canadian Charter of Rights had to be interpreted in a manner such that any citizen, having had several weeks of primary education in English, can bypass the basic provisions of ‘Bill 101 concerning francophone education. Another decision, from a Quebec circuit court, interpreted the Charter of Rights to mean the predominance of French on signs is unconstitutional. The decision was overturned on appeal. But it is only a matter of time before the Canadian Supreme Court draws similar conclusions that insist on governments treating the two official languages equally throughout Canada, ergo outlawing anything that blocks the nonexistent potential expansion of French, and anything that blocks the very real potential expansion of English.

    In fact, some participants in Quebec’s linguistic debate are so fearful of future rulings of federal courts that they warn against any changes whatsoever in Quebec’s language laws, however beneficial they may be, for fear that these changes give federal courts an opportunity to further erode Quebec’s ability to legislate in this field. That concern is not without merit. For all these reasons, Quebec should gain a constitutional right to legislate on language, on the basis of French predominance, so as to shield it from the very real threat of federal regulations based on a restrictive interpretation of the Charter.


    July 19, 2009 at 6:27 pm

  20. No one has a problem entrenching French as an official language in Quebec.

    But constitutionalizing French as a requirement above and beyond governmental services infringes on individual rights and freedoms.

    This is unacceptable.

    For those that aspire to have Quebec become an independent nation, you cannot have a nation that violates individual rights. That only happens in a Quebec within Canada.

    An independent Quebec must be a free Quebec. And Quebec will NEVER be independent as long as it continues to act like a province within Canada; that is, continue to have Bill 101.

    Bill 101’s continued existence means that Quebec will never be a nation. It has become the quintessential Canadian law. And that’s why Stephane Dion supports it.

    As Daniel Latouche observed:

    “Provinces and states can have such restrictive language and cultural laws (such as Bill 101 and Bill 178), but full-fledged nation-states, those who aspire to play among the big boys (and the big girls) of international relations, cannot afford to be caught with such restrictions on their hands.[120]”

    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 6:44 pm

  21. The Charter of the French Language is killing the French language, not protecting it.

    If you want genuine protection for the French language, Quebec must separate. But it will only be by virtue of the powers it has as an independent nation that it will protect French.

    You don’t protect a language or culture by passing laws requiring people to speak it. That’s the OPPOSITE of culture.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

  22. Yes James, I gathered that was where you were headed. Problem is Brule did plenty of interviews explaining the positions he took in his book. I based my conclusions on the content of the book on his own descriptions.

    I assume that you have read it then? Are you saying he contradicts his own book whenever he’s interviewed about it?


    July 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

  23. Jean-guy,

    I wouldn’t say that Quebecers who don’t speak English are bigots. They may certainly be accused of being uneducated but being uneducated doesn’t guarantee that one is a bigot.

    I am convinced that once Quebec becomes independent that French Quebecers will embrace English. And they will have to because they will no longer be able to depend upon language laws (they will disappear from an independent Quebec) or equalization and transfer payments. Quebec will be forced to attract unilingual English speakers to come to Quebec to invest and be entrepreneurs…and we won’t get our fair share of investment money and entrepreneurs from the 300 million plus rich anglophones in the rest of North America if they can’t come to Quebec and live in unlingual English spendour.

    Canada is keeping Quebec down and ensuring that there are “uneducated bigots”, to use your term, by supporting the continued presence of Bill 101 which provides false protection for French. Remember that Bill 101 more than anything else keeps French Quebecers unilingual. The main reason for this is section 73 of Bill 101 and section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which works in conjunction with Bill 101. Both these laws force 99% of francophone Quebecers into French-only publicly-funded schools.




    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  24. No I haven’t read it, which is why I haven’t *opinionated on it*. That was my point.

    I have by contrast read Jan Wong’s discount moron racist ethnopyschology (it’s available free online) and I note that it’s occasioned essentially no public condemnation from her peers in anglo-Canadian journalism, and that she’s still a star reporter for “Canada’s National Newspaper,” whereas Michel Brûlé wouldn’t stand a chance in Hades of being engaged by a major daily whether in the fallen Izzy Grasper Empire or the Desmarais Plantation or at Le Devoir and his book was roundly criticized by the francophone and sovereignist intelligentsia.

    And of course I’m waiting for the anglo-creative community to open its veins and launch an orgy of guilt-drenched self-flagellation in reaction to this theatre dickhead. Ideally one which will match in volume and pathos the one recently engaged in by francophones and sovereignists over L’aut’St-Jean. But I won’t hold my breath, cuz I waited for the “déchirements de chemises” by anglo artists over the Claude Dubois affair and let’s just say we’re still waiting.


    July 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm

  25. Well, both Jan Wong and the Claude Dubois affair got plenty of attention (and rightfully so) in Quebec, which is what I was talking about.

    I’m not sure why you think the entire anglo-Quebec population needs to come out and publicly condemn this guy. He sent a rude e-mail, that’s it. I can see if he were to have banned francophones from performing in his theatre, then yes, I would expect an issue to be made out of it.

    What we have here are journalists taking advantage of people’s sensitivity to english speakers to sell more papers. The Gazette would be doing the same thing if the roles were reversed.

    Ask yourself though, if the e-mail was sent from a Haitian to an Indian, is there a journalist in Quebec who would deem it worthy of being published?


    July 19, 2009 at 7:40 pm

  26. This reminds me of the old saw about people claiming the crowing of roosters is what causes the sun to rise. French is faring poorly in Québec, Québec has this law 101, ergo the law must be part of the problem. That’s baloney, the federal Liberal Party and the Canadian political class have demonized and fought Bill 101 and there are countless examples of this, but the mother of all examples is the unilateral repatriation of the constitution by the Feds and its Charter of Rights imperialism, which had as its direct and successful objective to weaken Québec’s powers in the areas of language and education. Many of the worst body blows to Bill 101 followed this repatriation. Dion’s observation, which I’ve referred to before on this blog, is very significant since it was brought up in the context of showing that this is very problematic for federalists of good faith who care about the French fact.

    As poorly as French is faring in Québec, we need only look to the Ontario side of the Ottawa river and to every other province outside Québec to see that Québec is the best of a bad lot. Take away a francophone state and its affirmationist law on language and the result is pure disaster, rampant assimilation of francophones and cultural/demographic collapse. Castonguay has recently commented on the case of Prescott-Russell County in Ontario which is limitrophic to Québec. Proportionately, it was as francophone as Québec was until very recently. From ’71 to ’01 Prescott Russell’s francophonie has plummetted from 84% to 62% of the population. French is being killed there, where there’s no Bill 101. So what’s killing it? H1N1?

    I’m a Quebecker who’s all for Québec independence. You’ll get no fight from me there. But so long as it isn’t independent, I’m not going to buy into pseudo-libertarian hogwash that just repackages and caters to the most bad-faith arguments of the most refractory Canadian anglophones, and waste time trying to stigmatize a law which has already been battered to pulp by them anyway with the help of the Canadian judiciary, and whose further diminishment would bring much more harm to French in Québec and set the linguistic balance back by decades. I’m not interested in our independent Québec inheriting an empty strategic shell where French is already done for, but where it “respects freedoms”. When French is done for the independence movement is done for with it. Get Canada to wither away first, before withering Bill 101, I say. It’s blame the victim caca.


    July 19, 2009 at 8:17 pm

  27. Rock On Calisse :D I can’t say it any better. Totally expressed how I feel (minus the separatist part) Let him shut down his theater, don’t need idiots like him contaminating the creative cauldron in Quebec anyway.


    July 19, 2009 at 10:38 pm

  28. I don’t know who this Brûlé is, or what his book is about, though I believe you’ve talked about it before. But honestly, what do you mean by “so scary”?


    July 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

  29. “…if the e-mail was sent from a Haitian to an Indian, is there a journalist in Quebec who would deem it worthy of being published?”


    Probably not… but it would have more to do with the fact that it wouldn’t get the same attention and wouldn’t sell as much news. There were plenty of Québécois who denounced the racist skits of Bye Bye 2008 and supported the Black Coalition of Quebec.

    Pure Laine

    July 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm

  30. When you say that “the federal Liberal Party has demonized and fought Bill 101”, the only evidence you seem to give is that Trudeau and the Liberals brought in the Charter. But it turns out that the Quebec Charter of Rights has been used right alongside the Canadian Charter to combat Bill 101 and, indeed, Bill 101 has been found to be in violation of the Quebec Charter more than the Canadian charter.

    But I have presented evidence on this forum — which you seem to ignore — that the federal Liberal Party does NOT fight Bill 101 but, rather, supports, defends, and promotes it.

    You say there are “countless example of this”. Where? I challenge you to show them to us because the evidence is the exact opposite.

    People are going to speak French if they want to. If less people are speaking French, that’s their choice. But Bill 101 won’t help it and hasn’t helped it.

    Tony Kondaks

    July 19, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: