AngryFrenchGuy

English Montreal Hates Celine Dion

with 131 comments

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In her entire career, Céline Dion has has produced one and only one acceptable recording:  1992’s Je danse dans ma tête, 4 minutes 14 seconds of unintentional pop pleasure which has finally been properly recognized and covered by Orange Orange.


The rest of her music should be banned like hip hop in Iran (Iranian hip hop actually is the bomb and shouldn’t be banned, but sadly is… You know what I meant…)


I remember clearly sitting on my bed in the late 80’s, looking for pictures of cute girls in one of sisters Québec celebrity magazines and finding instead this article about this very ordinary looking Jesus Freak who was confidently informing us that she was going to be as big a Micheal Jackson.  I laughed.

Look who’s laughing now.

I have tremendous respect for Céline Dion and her manager/husband René Angelil for an impeccable commercial carreer. I especially appreciate how she has been as loyal to her fans.  She goes on Oprah and talks to America as if she’s in her living room talking to her sisters.  Even as she became one of the biggest selling artists in the United States she kept on appearing on local Québec TV, hosting l’ADISQ, Québec’s music awards and participating in Québec’s cultural scene.

Others, like Roch Voisine (who actually was a bigger star than Céline for a while) tried to follow her footsteps down the middle of the road, but failed because he did not understand the need to consolidate what he had built.  He used the Québec market as a stepping stone to France, and French success as a springboard to the English-speaking market.  Focused on the Holy Grail of the best selling English album, he ignored his first public for years and years.  When he came back, defeated, for a consolation prize French career, his fans had moved on.

Céline has one career.  She is an international star who sings in French and English.  Céline brought all her fans along with her to the top.

Except English Montreal, apparently.

Brendan Kelly, a reporter covering the French-language showbiz beat at the Montreal Gazette posted a couple of lines a few weeks ago about Céline Dion’s pregnancy.  The story triggered a deluge of, in Kelly’s onw words, “not just negative, but bitterly negative” comments.

The comments are apparently not only about Céline’s crimes against music, which would certainly be justified, but about her being Franco, about the old story of her infamous “I am not an anglophone, I am a Québécoise” quote and about how she really is a separatist mole…

“I’m actually not sure but it underlies once again that Céline is something of a lightining rod for feelings of discontent amoungst anglo Montrealers”, speculated Kelly.  “Like I said, weird.”

Yesterday Kelly expanded his theory on his blog:  “Could it be that this anger is a kind of odd manifestation of the discontent felt by some in the anglo community as francophones here gain more and more power (politically, socially, in business)? Céline rose to the top at the same time that we anglos were slipping far from our previous dominance and, to add salt to the wound, Céline was becoming the most famous franco Québecoise in the universe by singing in English, the language on the downswing chez nous.”

I would say that Brendan is correct.

I would add that Céline’s success also shatters two important Angryphone myths:

Myth one: Francophones need the benevolent unilingual Anglos to take them by the hand and  guide and and protect them in the wider English-speaking world.

Myth two: Once you have made it in the real (i.e. English-speaking) world, you do not go back.

Céline’s success brought home the fact that the English-speaking world is only a part of Céline’s world.  Céline Dion, Québec, the French language and the world go on beyond English.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

131 Responses

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  1. So he assumes that she knew how to speak English just because she said “I don’t speak English”? Having travelled a lot, I have learned how to say “Sorry, I don’t speak X” in many different languages. Precisely because I don’t know how to speak them.

    Perhaps the driver could have been more polite, but it sounds like the guy might have been a bit of a prick (the investigation should tell us more about what happened) and tried to “pry” some English out of the bus driver.

    For the other side of the linguistic divide, people should google Michel Thibodeau and Air Canada. He got escorted off a plane by police for insisting on ordering his drink in French.

    And contrary to the guy on the Montreal buses, Thibodeau was actually within his legal rights to get French service on the flight he was on, where bilingualism is mandatory. Montreal’s city buses are not obliged to offer bilingual service, although most drivers are able to speak English and will do so as a courtesy.

    Those who google Thibodeau’s name will find that cyberspace has not been too kind to him. My guess is that the guy from Montreal who stood up for English on a bus will likely fare better in the blogosphere.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

  2. The story about the bus driver is right here:

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/driver+refuses+speak+English+calls+police/1963769/story.html

    Here is a little something about Michel Thibodeau.

    http://www.cradkilodney.net/dickhead/

    allophone

    September 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

  3. The first bits of the article are a bit misleading. Not sure if it is deliberate or not, but the reporter makes it sound as though he was kicked off the bus for speaking English, when in actual fact it appears he was kicked off for being aggressive in his insistance that the driver speak English to him because he suspected that she knew how.

    I think the Gazette has changed its headline for the online article as well. When I first saw it this weekend it said something like “Man kicked off STM bus for speaking English” or something like that.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

  4. Certainly on the non-American research stations.

    Raman

    September 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

  5. Patrick : «i believe TQS invented those late-night call-in game show scams as well.»

    No : It’s an Austrian export.

    Raman

    September 9, 2009 at 10:43 am

  6. “Patrick : «i believe TQS invented those late-night call-in game show scams as well.»

    No : It’s an Austrian export.”

    I’ve heard the same. Apparently the Québécois host(s) is/are flown to Vienna to do the show live from there!

    Acajack

    September 9, 2009 at 10:50 am

  7. What you are talking about?

    There are language laws adopted by the Federal Government too. Don’t you wonder why the information are in both English and French? Why Canada Post has to provide service in both French or English.

    You might not like Quebec Charter of French language but saying that there are no language laws elsewhere is a lie or, at least, grossly inaccurate.

    Anonymous

    September 9, 2009 at 11:42 am

  8. If you are referring to the Official Langauge Act of Canada is it in place to protect and preserve both official languages (french/english). The OLA does not discriminate against a particular language in favor of another as does the language laws in Quebec.

    So to rephrase.

    “Only in Quebec are there language laws which are biased toward on language and disriminatory towards others”

    I don’t think there is any part of the OLA of Canada which refers to sign laws or those regarding education. You know of any other than in Quebec?

    You like that better?

    ABP

    September 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm

  9. «I only hear on this blog how superior the Quebecois culture is to the rest of us poor anglos ( or allos) in Canada who obviously don’t have any “meaningful”culture of our own. »

    Some people do indeed claim stuff like that. But many more simply react to a Canadian context where their culture has, for a very long time, been routinely described as degenerate, backward, corrupted and meaningless by people like you. Can you blame them if they want to prop themselves up and underline their achievements?

    A shining example of the attitude which leads to this is your views on the language laws.
    In your depiction, they were thought up by an already dominant people to further crush an oppressed minority; when everybody with an ounce of intellectual honesty knows that they were enacted to curb the very anti-democratic domination of a minority over the majority.

    Raman

    September 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

  10. Exactly.

    Raman

    September 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm

  11. Sanford & Son > the British show “Steptoe & Son.”

    littlerob

    September 9, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  12. You can’t get Asterix material in bookstores here (PA). I pick mine up in QC.

    To get back to your original point for a second, the Spanish language music that has done well here has to the best of my knowledge all been produced by people born or at least raised in the US. In fact, I have heard that the late Ritchie Valens (real name Valenzuela), who adapted and popularized the song La Bamba, did not speak Spanish.

    Of course, the last French language chart topper here (not counting Paul McCartney’s insipid “Michelle,” which was only partly in French), was the religious song “Dominique” by the late “Singing Nun,” which was only knocked out of the top spot by the Beatles’ first American hit, I Want to Hold Your Hand!

    littlerob

    September 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm

  13. “Some people do indeed claim stuff like that. But many more simply react to a Canadian context where their culture has, for a very long time, been routinely described as degenerate, backward, corrupted and meaningless by people like you. Can you blame them if they want to prop themselves up and underline their achievements?”

    Can you tell me where I have said anything derogatory with regards to Quebec Culture other than to comment on the “money” issue which is easily quanitifiable.. Have I said that your culture is bad…Only that it might be a bit paranoid with regards to language. Put the broad brush away, please. It is you that have the insecure image of yourself and need to broadcast the great virtues of the culture.

    “when everybody with an ounce of intellectual honesty knows that they were enacted to curb the very anti-democratic domination of a minority over the majority.”

    Ok, its over now…clearly the laws have resulted in the desire effect in controlling those “maudits anglos” who oppressed and of course had nothing to do with anything positive in Quebec. So what is it..pay back time….a vendetta if you will. Do two wrongs make a right? Did the plains of abraham battle actually happen or is it a myth?

    I have said all along and firmly believe that Quebec should become a sovereign state distanced both finacially and politically from Canada. It would be easier than this continued language debate and the attendent waste of time and resources. Surely it would be a better country, both sides of the borders, don’t you think.

    So then, again, I ask a fundamental question…How come it hasn’t happened. Is it the power of the less than 10% anglos mostly situated in MOntreal, or the immigrants as one former Quebec politicain stated on the night of the last referendum. Or, is there other issues that prevent Quebec from separating.

    The reality is that Canada will not become french and Quebec will not become english…and the country as a whole will never be bilingual contrary to what our politicians and idiot senior civil servants say.

    And so it goes on….The Quebecois dislike english canada and the feeling is obviously mutual from what I read on this blog.

    Will never end until Quebec gets enough balls to leave.

    ABP

    September 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  14. Sorry, MDJ, Quebec is the one province in Canada with discriminatory language laws. Oui ou Non.? The gazette only reports on the realities as they exist…If you don’t think so then you can go ahead and take them up in court action, should your convinctions be that strong.

    Those that have laws of open discrimination are not likely those that are open to other cultures.

    ABP

    September 9, 2009 at 11:06 pm

  15. “Those who google Thibodeau’s name will find that cyberspace has not been too kind to him. My guess is that the guy from Montreal who stood up for English on a bus will likely fare better in the blogosphere.”

    Oh, those poor oppressed Quebecois being judged by the blogosphere in a negative light again!!! Pour quoi?

    ABP

    September 9, 2009 at 11:08 pm

  16. The supreme court of Canada, based on the Quebec charte des droits et libertes and on the federal chart judged the law on commercial signs and on education language was not discrimatory at all. And i think they aren’t separatists there..So i know we will have to repeat that again and again because you just don’t accept this reality. Have a beer and relax..Good night

    midnightjack

    September 9, 2009 at 11:52 pm

  17. One more thing to add to this…Me Raman.

    Quebec and Canada are at odds.

    The two actually hold each other back from becoming greater as individual entities. Think of the possibities if the two were separate countries.

    Quebec would be totally self governing and therefore free to make their own self determination without interference from Ottawa on items such as immigration, telecommunications, education qne avant tout le langue. You could substantially reduce english usage in Montreal which I know is a pain in every french Quebecers ass. You would truly then be “nous” in every fashion.

    Canada would be free of the burden of official bilingualism…no more political games with equalization money donated to Quebec in an attempt to buy votes. Heavens, without the BQ perpetual minority party, we could even return to actual stable majority governments once more.

    Don’t you think it would be a better deal for all, Raman? So, what is stopping you? Could it be some in Quebec doubt their own capacities to be sovereign.

    Can’t tell me it’s because they believe in Canada as Quebec continues to send separatists to Ottawa…Just look at the BQ platform…Both mainstream political parties are the same and bad for Quebec. By logic, then, if both political parties are bad for Quebec then Canada is obviously bad for Quebec as most in the ROC vote for one of the mainstream parties.

    So what are you waiting for…prendre le porte.

    ABP

    September 10, 2009 at 12:10 am

  18. ABP : «Or, is there other issues that prevent Quebec from separating.»

    The anglo 10% minority does play a good part. Add a normal percentage of undecided voters. And lots of federal money.
    In spite all that, the French population voted 63% in favour of separation in 1995. That’s called a clear majority.

    ABP : «and the country as a whole will never be bilingual contrary to what our politicians and idiot senior civil servants say.»

    Agreed.

    ABP : «So what are you waiting for…prendre le porte.»

    ‘Did so on every election since I’m 18, as well as in 1995.

    Unfortunately, every time I did, politicians on your side of the barrier spent great fortunes pushing the ideas the Quebec (French, distinct society and all) was warmly welcomed into the federation, and that the federation’s founding principles would be upheld. Yet all the while they spent no less into scaring off anglos about us tribals, and convincing them that we do everything we do out of hatred, resentment and base racism.

    In this context, and as far as you are concerned, it seems to me the ball is in your camp, ABP!

    When will you put all your energies into convincing “your own politicians” that not a single penny should be invested in keeping Québec in anymore!
    If you do not hate Québec, as you keep claiming, why won’t you support us instead of coming here to bicker?
    Tell “your own folks” that we should be left to decide for our destiny, and “tell them” that they should refrain from mingling; that they should feel secure enough: We won’t “destroy their country”.

    Raman

    September 10, 2009 at 1:04 am

  19. A guy asserts his linguistic rights : a hero.
    Another guy asserts his linguistic rights : a dickhead.

    …can you guess which one is the franco?

    Jim Joyce

    September 10, 2009 at 6:27 am

  20. Precisely. Google the recent Montreal bus incident and you’ll see the guy is being help up by some as if he was some kind of Martin Luther King Jr.!

    I haven’t read one singele criticism of him yet.

    And may I remind people once again that the law does not require Montreal’s STM bus drivers and other staff to speak English, but that the law does require Air Canada to provide service in French.

    Acajack

    September 10, 2009 at 8:18 am

  21. “the law does not require Montreal’s STM bus drivers and other staff to speak English”

    It doesn’t. It doesn’t require them to be pricks either, but 90% of the STCUM personnel are (I’m not necessarily talking about this particular case).

    Someone ought to gather up all the STCUM people and explain to them the meaning of words “public service”. I don’t think they have a full grasp of it.

    As for the student, he is either a dickhead or very new to Montreal. Nothing else would explain making that grave mistake – talking to an STCUM employee in English. If he’s not a dickhead, he’ll never make that mistake again.

    “the law does require Air Canada to provide service in French.”

    It does. But there is law and there is reality. And the reality is that most people in the ROC do not know a word of French and won’t in any near future. So one day you might find yourself on an Air Canada flight where all the crew speaks English only. And you’ll face a choice: either order your 7up in English and enjoy the rest of your flight, or be a dickehead and stir up shit. With the post 9/11 crackdown on in-flight insubordination, they’ll charge you with air rage and have the police arrest you upon arrival.

    So if you feel the need to assert your “linguistic rights”, whatever they are, there are ways and places to do it. These days, airplanes are not a good place to do such a thing, with the stepped-up security and all.

    allophone

    September 10, 2009 at 10:07 am

  22. Allophone : «“the law does require Air Canada to provide service in French.”

    It does. But there is law and there is reality. And the reality is that most people in the ROC do not know a word of French and won’t in any near future»

    You are perfectly right. And I think most people get this whole “reality” thing.
    What we don’t always get is why “reality” doesn’t go both ways… In fact, it always comes down to this.

    We keep being told that Canada is our country too, that we should feel Canadian even if we speak French and not English, and that we’re fools (if not worse) if we think otherwise.
    Yet, beyond the ineffective OLA, we encounter a population who will jump at any occasion to make us feel like pricks if we try to use French anywhere outside of Quebec…

    And even within it!!!

    It’s reality you say : «most people in the ROC do not know a word of French»… Fair enough.
    Yet all the while, when an anglo meets someone here who happens not to speak English, or who happens not to feel like making the effort, it’s still us who are pricks.

    You know, anglo-Canadians can say all they want about language laws: You guys have the « French WTF?! » law (tm Acajack) to counter.

    Raman

    September 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

  23. Most people in Canada don’t have pilot’s licences either but you still have to have on in order to fly a plane. People should fulfil the requirements of their jobs and this should normally include bilingualism for most flight attendants on Air Canada planes.

    Note that Michel Thidodeau was not flying between Fort McMurray, AB and Dawson Creek, BC. He was flying between Montréal, Québec and Ottawa, Ontario, the nation’s capital.

    I am not a bilingualism fundamendalist and don’t expect French at Toronto airport or a post office in Richmond, BC, regardless of what the signs say. But if bilingualism is going to be anything more than a load of bull it is not unreasonable to expect service in French from anything federal in Quebec (French in Quebec! The nerve of these people!) and probably in Ottawa and New Brunswick as well.

    Acajack

    September 10, 2009 at 11:03 am

  24. “People should fulfil the requirements of their jobs and this should normally include bilingualism for most flight attendants on Air Canada planes.”

    We are in agreement here. They should. In my experience, there is always a French speaking-attendant on Air Canada flights (I flew with Air Canada maybe 15 times, both to Europe and across North America). Some stewards/stewardesses/pilots speak crappy French but are able to communicate nonetheless. And if there is ever a unilingual flight attendant, there is usually a bilingual one backing her up.

    But that’s my experience. 15 times isn’t a lot. So maybe Thidodeau ended up on a flight that didn’t have a French speaking stewardess. Or maybe the one that served his section didn’t, and he was enough of a dickhead to make a generalization about the whole crew. Who knows. Who cares. That’s besides the point. The point is, was his behavior justified?

    You claim it was. I claim it wasn’t – far from it in fact. This is where we differ, I guess.

    I think is that even if the entire crew spoke only English, which is unlikely, he was still way out of line. And plain stupid, arrogant, and petty. And deservedly came as a runner-up in the Dickhead of the Year contest.

    We debated the point of the language laws ad nauseam here. Some people agree with them, some don’t. Whatever. I don’t care. But one thing strikes me – how these laws can be abused so easily be petty, insecure, arrogant, egocentric freaks. Whether it’s someone walking around downtown photographing outdoor menus and sending the photos to the QOLF, or someone causing a in-flight disturbance. Thanks to laws like these, it’s a field day for this type of people.

    allophone

    September 10, 2009 at 11:36 am

  25. Allophone “I think is that even if the entire crew spoke only English, which is unlikely, he was still way out of line. And plain stupid, arrogant, and petty. And deservedly came as a runner-up in the Dickhead of the Year contest.”

    OK, but to be frank the main problem I have is the double standard.

    Guy forcefully demands French on Air Canada flight in accordance with what law entitles him to = dickhead

    Guy forcefully demands English on Montreal city bus where no legal entitlement exists for service in English from drivers = Nelson Mandela

    Acajack

    September 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

  26. Raman,

    I believe it was me who coined ‘French WTF?!?!’ ;-)

    By the way, i had my first experience the other day where I was not served in French after asking for it at a Pakistani restaurant on Jean-Talon. At the time, I was thinking of other things and just ordered, but in retrospect, I wish I had gotten up and left when she said ”Is English okay?” and couldn’t even bother with ‘Merci’ or ‘Bonne soirée’.

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    September 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm

  27. “I believe it was me who coined ‘French WTF?!?!’ ;-)

    Yes, indeed it was. We should give credit where credit is due!

    Acajack

    September 10, 2009 at 1:01 pm

  28. Just like one man’s terrorist is another man’ freedom fighter, one man’s dickhead may be another man’s martyr for the cause.

    You may see M.Thidodeau as that martyr. The Gazette may see the student as the martyr. I see them both as dickheads.

    In the dickhead category I would include that bus driver as well. For kicking people off the bus and calling the cops. Just when you think these STCUM bleepheads can’t sink any lower, they always manage to pull a surprise.

    allophone

    September 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm

  29. « I believe it was me who coined ‘French WTF?!?!’ ;-) »

    Darn!…
    Acajack, when you receive the royalties check, can you forward it to Thomas?

    Otherwise, Thomas, I find one thing you said very relevant to my, and I believe many others’, experience. Namely when you state : « (…) and couldn’t even bother with ‘Merci’ or ‘Bonne soirée’ ».

    I do think the Québécois are no more intolerant toward foreigners, immigrants and linguistic minorities than other peoples on this planet. In fact, for having travelled a bit, I’d say we fare quite well in that department. And in fact, many a would-be francophone has complained that we are too quick to switch to English with everybody who happens to have a foreign accent (you included, I believe).

    But respect, tolerance, making efforts… are two-way streets.
    -That a Quebec resident would decide to live solely in English is their choice. In the present context, it’s a possibility for them. -That they would impose their choice on the majority (in restaurants, on the bus, at work…) as if it was everybody’s burden to deal with their own narrow choices and lack of efforts is something else… -That they won’t even bother to acknowledge the presence of the French majority by making some attempts at learning or – at the very least – memorizing some basic greetings, is definitely vexing. Because it is a symptom of something deeper.
    What it says is they are not willing to put “any” effort at all into this coexistence because, one is quick to conclude, they rather wish away the whole situation. Wish away the other party’s very presence.

    Even when travelling, guide books will go at great lengths to try an convince you that learning and using some basic greetings in the local language will help you get into everybody’s good favours. What it says is you acknowledge their way of life, you respect them, and you are willing to make a step in their direction.
    Yet in Montreal, I constantly have encounters with people who, after choosing to stay or move here, can’t even make that much effort. It happens at restaurants, in pubs, in dépanneurs, at concerts, at parties, at work, on the streets…

    Someone, something, tells them it’s not required: Tells them the French are the ones making the odd choice and are the ones who should adapt to the “normal”, common way of doing things: English.
    It’s not just some odd individuals: It’s systemic, it’s in the culture.

    (Some people fail to remember that, before language laws were voted, every time voluntary incentives were tried… and failed miserably.)

    Raman

    September 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm

  30. “When will you put all your energies into convincing “your own politicians” that not a single penny should be invested in keeping Québec in anymore!
    If you do not hate Québec, as you keep claiming, why won’t you support us instead of coming here to bicker?
    Tell “your own folks” that we should be left to decide for our destiny, and “tell them” that they should refrain from mingling; that they should feel secure enough: We won’t “destroy their country”.”

    Actually I don’t put a lot of energy into it as this far West it doesnt really affect me on a daily basis other than the huge amount of my tax dollars the politicians squander on programs that are ineffective. (OLA for one, but there are others equally as silly as the “gun registry” etc.) But, I do when given the opportunity indicate to people that Quebec should leave and be left alone as although there might be some short term problems the long term would be better with Quebec and Canada two distinct countries. Short term pain for long term gain comes to my mind, anyways.

    I would think this is an attitude widely held by the people of Western Canada and I was interested to hear similar thinking by the people of Ontario.

    You can all argue about bus drivers, Thibodeau and other dickheads but the fundamental question comes down to a “linguistic and cultural debate” about whom is better. I thought for many years that perhaps this could be solved (sucked in by what the politicians were telling us). I know realize that this problem will only go away with Quebec secession.

    Unfortunately, this would result in Ottawa,for the most part,losing a great deal of centralized power they have enjoyed. Those in Ottawa including the bureaucrats do not want to part with this power and will fight tooth and nail against Quebec Separation.

    If it was up to me, split the sheets, assing the debt and get on with it.

    ABP

    September 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm


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