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.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

July 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

496 Responses

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  1. During this time I was living on Chomedey right next to the Blockbuster and I also had the exact same experience with Tommy on many many occasions.


    July 19, 2009 at 11:40 pm

  2. Pure Laine, there weren’t even any racist skits in the Bye Bye 2008. The one that got denounced by a group of black citizens was actually mocking some journalist (whose name I forget, because I don’t know him) by showing him as the kind of guy who’d make racist jokes while interviewing Barack Obama. I don’t know how anyone could think that this sketch was racist rather than insulting to this particular journalist, but I guess some people are looking everywhere for anything that may look in the slightest like anti-black racism.

    On the other hand, I did hear someone (who was black, incidentally) make the comment that this sketch was very much not suitable for children, while the Bye Bye is traditionally a family show and he happened to be watching it with his kids. This, I believe, is a valid criticism. It wasn’t the only sketch that I’d characterize as inappropriate as family entertainment either. I hope they’ll remember this for next year.


    July 20, 2009 at 1:44 am

  3. Everybody should know that not all the challenges to Bill 101 have arisen from the 1982 constitution and if you’d read me carefully you’d have seen I never said otherwise. However, the 1982 constitution, which as *Trudeau’s own circle* admits had Bill 101 in its crosshairs (see Devoir article above), created the basis for attacking Bill 101 in the realm of education, where provincial authority had been much less fettered under the BNA.

    So for example the late 70’s saw the challenge to the exclusivity of French in the courts, but that was based on the BNA, which with colonial hypocrisy gave English and French equal standing in this area in Québec while feeding French to the dogs everywhere else. But the Trudeau constitution gave the Feds the victory of the Canada Clause over the Quebec Clause, forcing Québec to allow children of out of province anglophones to attend English public school. Likewise with Bill 104, where the PQ sought to avoid the incription of kids who’d attended private English schools in a “backdoor” switchover to English public schools which they wouldn’t otherwise have qualified for. The attempt to close this loophole was invalidated by the court of appeal because it contravened Article 23 of the *Federal* Charter of Rights of the 1982 constitution. As far as I know virtually all the diminishments of the law in the educational realm flow from the 1982 constitution and charter. Bill 86 too. Its stated purpose was to conform to the Federal charter and modify bill 101 accordingly. Result? End of requiring unilingual signage, increased discretion in no-French-at-all signage, increased access to English-language schooling, relaxation of workplace francisation, and a toothless Office de la Langue française.

    So in addition to imposing a constitution on Québec *which as Dion admits* (see Lisée quote) renders the education sections of Bill 101 open to full frontal attack by judges appointed by the Canadian prime minister, the Feds also funded anglo pressure groups who mandated themselves to attack Bill 101 in the educational and other spheres. Alliance Québec, the Quebec Community Group Network, etc. And this on the spurious grounds that these “rights groups” are analogous somehow to ACFO for the francophones of Ontario, for example.

    Recently the federal Liberals had an opportunity to demonstrate this affection for Bill 101 you gush about had they supported the Bloc’s proposal to apply Bill 101 to Québec workplaces under federal labour jurisdiction. Rendez-vous manqué, it appears, Tony, including for your boy Dion, I think. Va savoir…

    BTW, since you quote him selectively (like Dion), it bears mentioning that Latouche is a supporter of Bill 101 and it actually isn’t true that no independent states have laws resembling Québec’s in the language use domain. Some even have laws which are more constraining in some respects. Whether this is desirable or necessary in these places is of course another debate beyond my ken.

    If you actually have data as opposed to sophistry showing that the existence of (not the gutting of, but the *existence* of) Bill 101 is killing French, I hope you share it with Charles Castonguay. I’d like to see his peer review of it.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:57 am

  4. “Only totalitarian countries like Cuba legislate respect.

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

    How do you feel about democracy? I think the majority of Quebecers might like Bill 101.


    July 20, 2009 at 5:46 am

  5. AFG,

    You have shit taste in movies (Transformers… really? and you wrote that without a hint of irony… maybe, I’m the idiot)

    On another note:
    “Due to the overwhelming racism and bigotry in French society…”

    Fuck. I bet this guy is white too. Racism against English-speakers. Right. Like homophobia against men, or sexism against Muslisms, or anti-semitism against blacks.

    I think I’m going to be racist against idiots.

    Nevermind the fact that about 70% of anglo-Quebecers speak French. 100% of franco-Quebecers speak French and they’re — what — 80% of the population? Everyone speaks French. People should use other languages if they feel like it, but the defatult language(s) should probably be the one(s) that most people understand.

    And just imagine if I wrote this post in Klingon.


    July 20, 2009 at 5:52 am

  6. Democracies (i.e., majority rule) are always held in check by charters of individual rights.

    To take an exhaggerated example: if the majority of Americans decided to reinstate slavery, would that be right?

    Tony Kondaks

    July 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

  7. This is in response to James’ July 20, 3:57am post (there is no “reply” button to respond directly at his post):

    I have no argument with you as regards the purpose of the Charter being created and/or used to combat Bill 101. Indeed, I even quote a Quebec PC MNA, Maurice Trembley, saying as much in my book. Not that I think that was the sole purpose of the Charter, but if it was, good for the Liberals of the time! See chapter 3:

    Thank you for invoking the BNA Act, James, because had the intentions of the Fathers of Confederation been adhered to, ALL of Bill 101 would never have become law in the first place because there are federal powers in the BNA Act that never would have allowed Bill 101 to see the light of day. I devote an entire chapter of my book to that (chapter 3, linked to above).

    As for the Liberals not supporting the Bloc motion to have Bill 101 apply to federal jurisdiction workplaces: just because the Liberals won’t go so horribly far to do such a thing does not negate the fact that they do and have supported Bill 101 in the past…and will most likely continue to. Their responsibility was/is to oppose Bill 101 in its entirety. Anything less than that is, in my mind, support of Bill 101. And, of course, as I demonstrated, Trudeau and Chretien fashioned section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms after section 73 of Bill 101.

    If Latouche is a supporter of Bill 101, then that is a reflection on him. My quoting him as I did was to give support to my belief that laws such as Bill 101 should have no place in an independent Quebec.

    As for the Canadian Charter’s and the federal government’s “full frontal attack”, as you put it, on the language of education provisions of Bill 101: you are, of course, being as selective in your evidence as you accuse me. Although quite minor parts of Bill 101 have been invalidated due to section 23, the major parts of it (i.e., section 73 of Bill 101) have been upheld by the Supreme Court by actually invoking parts of the Charter, in the Gosselin case. As for Alliance Quebec’s challenges being funded by the federal government: their challenges were NEVER full-hearted attacks. Alliance Quebec supported much of Bill 101 and did not support, for example, Allan Singer (the Devine case) in the Supreme Court. I am not sure whether they ultimately supported Tyler in the Gosselin case but THEY EVENTUALLY LOST THEIR FUNDING FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR GOING SO FAR IN THEIR ADVOCACY AGAINST BILL 101!

    Also: there is a section in the Charter which says that the rights and freedoms outlined in the charter do not invalidate any rights and freedoms that may have existed prior to the creation of the Charter. Well, if that were true, this provision of the Charter could have been used to reinstitute freedom of choice in language of education in Quebec because prior to Bill 22 of 1974 that was the law in Quebec. So the charter has been useless in this regard.

    As for whether I have any evidence or documentation for my claim/belief that Bill 101 is harming French: well, I suppose I have you, James. Aren’t you trying to tell us at every turn that French is in a precarious position in Quebec? Perhaps it is due to Bill 101…

    Tony Kondaks

    July 20, 2009 at 9:16 am

  8. Marc, please allow me to be more precise…

    There were plenty of Québécois who denounced what they perceived as racist skits during Bye Bye 2008 and went to the extent of taking a public stand for the Black Coalition of Quebec. Many Québécois also denounced what they perceived as abusive toward the rest of the country when “le gros cave” criticized those who supported Harper, calling him a “lobotomie à deux pattes”.

    Regardless of the validity of any opinion about Bye Bye 2008, my point is that being hyper-sensitive to language issues doesn’t mean that the Québécois are insensitive to other abusive situations.

    P.S.: The name of the journalist being mocked was Denis Lévesque.

    Pure Laine

    July 20, 2009 at 9:29 am

  9. It is sad to see how this story is barely covered by the press, even by the francophones, meriting often only a noticee in the interior pages. It is as if they want to bury the story as much as possible for fear of agitating the separatist movement. We have anglo commentators like RoryBellows admonishing AFG for daring to comment on the story and others similar to it. AFG and others get accused of trying to whip up controversy and trying to start the latest dreaded linguistic crisis in Quebec. Predictable.

    On the other hand, whenever there is even only a perceived, and slightest instance of francophone bigotry, you can bet that it would be covered intensively in the press, both anglophone and francophone, with editorials and front pages. The Gazette, Suburban et al. would spent weeks on it making sure that no stone is left uncovered. And RoryBellows and others would comment on it.

    This proves that the anglophones and federalists always bring up linguistic issues to serve their ends more than the francophones and separatists do. And yet, the latter gets accused of doing so.

    Another sad part to this story is that Theatre Ste Catherine is continuing ahead with their summer program, despite the controversy. It should have been shut down or releaased a statement apologizing for the conduct of Amber. This is the latest symptom of how the francophones of Quebec have given up on their fight to respect themselves and to have others respect them in their own turf. There is no anger anymore. It seems that after having spent so much energy fighting for the place of French in Quebec in the 1960s and 1970s leading up to the implementation of Bill 101, the francophones are fatigued and are not willing to continue the fight. They believe that the battle has been won, that Bill 101 is enough to ensure that French becomes the common and most important language in Quebec. It is not. More has to be done as I have commented on elsewhere on this blog.


    July 20, 2009 at 10:02 am

  10. Funny how we never hear about similar shit involving the Franco-Ontarian community in Ottawa…


    July 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm

  11. Man, you people are just eating this up aren’t you?

    Speaking of rational responses :

    Funny you never hear about shit like THAT involving the anglo community of Ottawa.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

  12. Some quotes from your patriot bretheren:

    «On voit une plus grande arrogance de la part des anglophones. Ils sont très à l’aise avec l’anglais au Québec, et ils l’imposent à tout le monde»

    “Le peuple québécois constitue la très grande majorité des gens vivant ici. Il se laisse dominer par une minorité possédante, riche, qui incite les immigrants à utiliser sa langue à elle”

    So in a story denouncing generalizations made by one guy about francophones, the above generalizations were deemed fit to print.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm

  13. Actually, I was just gonna mention that francophones in Ottawa don’t usually have these Patriotes-types yahoos (from the Ottawa anglo majority) demonstrating in front of their institutions.

    Any ideas as to why?


    July 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm

  14. Note also that the Haitian community in Ottawa, who are very well integrated with the Franco-Ontarians, would never pull shit like AngryFrenchGirl complained about in the previous thread, and complain about too much English in Ontario, in spite of the fact they have way more affinities with French, a language which is also *official* in Canada, of which Ottawa is the capital.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm

  15. Rory, Rory, Rory. The story isn’t about denouncing generalizations made by Mr. Amber. It’s a news story. It’s not supposed to denounce anything, but report the facts.

    The facts are that these protestors said what they did. People are then free to draw their own conclusions about how, er… intellectually rigorous (or not) their analysis of the situation is.

    As they can do for Mr. Amber’s antics as well.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

  16. “gawk at young girls”

    Man, you must be one classy guy.

    Show some respect.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm

  17. Did it ever occur to you that maybe the Eric Amber’s of Quebec have seen too many of these flag-waving ultra-nationalists standing outside their window, holding up placards telling people to speak french or get the fuck out of THEIR city?

    I mean, who’s the chicken and who’s the egg.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:49 pm

  18. It’s a story only because the comments are being denounced. Okay so Le Devoir is impartial (let’s suppose) but they are giving the story coverage because it’s reader’s want the comments to be denounced. They just let members of the JPQ provide the commentary.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

  19. I seriously doubt that Eric Amber had ever seen even one single franco-separatist protestor outside his window until July of 2009.

    These Patriote-type guys are totally Pavlovian in their behaviour, and even a bit lazy at that. They tend to let the media find their new causes for them.


    July 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm

  20. Then I guess Le Devoir could also be considered a vehicle for anglo-supremacist propaganda as well since it also published Eric Amber’s crude francophobic comments from his e-mail?

    BTW, the story was covered by all media in Montreal, regardless of language and political leanings.

    Language crises make for good copy in Montreal – everyone knows that.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm

  21. I didn’t mean literally outside his window, but in his environment, whether walking down the street or opening up a newspaper.

    They may be reactionary, but so are the media. They print a story, the language extremists get all riled up. The next time a story breaks, it’s coverage is overblown, having seen how reecptive an audience they had the last time and the make-believe revolutionaries are guaranteed react again.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  22. C’mon now. The Amber quote and the JPQ quotes were not framed in the same way. The Amber quote was itself the story, usually accompanied by quotes from people who found the comments insulting.

    The JPQ quotes were contained in an article that essentially was covering the fact that the JPQ were denouncing bigoted comments. The quotes in this case were used to back up that idea.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm

  23. The only reason I’m picking on Le Devoir is because of the quotes they printed. I do think the story has been overblown by all media, but this particular article is irresponsible. I can’t help but feel that if the Gazette had printed an article like this, I wouldn’t have to try so hard to make my point.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

  24. Dude are you for real? Time for some testosterone? Cuz really, we all gawk at babes unless you’re gay…. not that there’s anything wrong with that.


    July 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  25. “French is being killed there, where there’s no Bill 101”

    I’d say it’s being slaughtered mercilessly.

    Are you off your meds again btw?


    July 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  26. Finally! I couldn’t agree more, even though I am not a separatist myself. How can we expect to build a country if we don’t want any responsabilities and let the “good state” take care of everything? Merci pour la dose de gros bons sens!


    July 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

  27. You know, if people could stay away from the old language argument when they try to promote the independence of Quebec, maybe they’d actually get me to listen and give credit where credit is due. There is a big contradiction in the Separatist argumentation whenever language is concerned: we want a country with freedom, equal individual rights for everybody… but we don’t want people speaking the language of their choice. It’s a nonsense.


    July 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

  28. > 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.

    Quoi? Devenir bilingues pour que les anglais n’aient pas à apprendre le français?

    Ça va pas la tête???

    Jean Naimard

    July 20, 2009 at 5:48 pm

  29. Time to be respectful towards women?

    You should ask those “young girls” in the McGill library if they like being gawked at, dude.

    Some of them are also seventeen, and I assume that AFG is an adult. But I guess a neanderthal like you wouldn’t have a problem with that.


    July 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm


    Tony Kondaks is just pissed off at law 101 because he is an uneducated bigot who does not want to learn french. He would rather rationalize that instead of learning it.

    They want us to learn english “because it’s a global language”, but they certainly don’t want to learn french.

    Jean Naimard

    July 20, 2009 at 5:52 pm

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