Archive for November 2009

Québec: Canada’s Xenophobic Obsession

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Pic by: Ulrik F. Thyve

Now that science has determined that women can neutralize all of men’s self-respect protection systems by exposing very precisely 40% of skin and my own experience with the very powerful effect of long dark hair being nonchalantly tossed over a shoulder to reveal a soft, tanned neckline, I think we can all agree that Islam’s founders knew what they were talking about.

If only we could say as much about the English-Canadians media…

Just last week I was eating soup at a Vancouver area Timmy’s after driving 5000 kilometers across northern Ontario, the Prairies—where I did not come across any mosques, big or little—and a snowstorm in the Rockies, just letting the left coast mellow wash away my separatist rage while I read the Vancouver Sun, only to discover that the religious paraphernalia of Québec’s civil servants was what was on British Columbian minds.

Who knew?  More than seven months after Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor handed in their report on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences I had to drive across an entire continent to find out that Québec was still obsessing with so-called reasonable accommodations!

“Reasonable accommodation is a ridiculous phrase, not least because it sounds like a reference to a decent hotel room”, writes Naomi Lakritz in Reasonable Accommodations: Québec’s Xenophobic Obsession.  “But used in the context of Quebec, it’s clunky and it carries overtones of an us-versus-them mentality that, frankly, because it is not an issue in the rest of Canada, lends a distinct xenophobic tinge to Quebec’s obsession with the idea.”

And I naively thought we had moved on to much more important topics, like how not speaking English very well is a worse crime than being a front for organised crime

Lakritz, a former writer for the National Examiner, the fine news organization that broke the story of the Clinton divorce and the return of Bob Barker as host of the Price is Right, is apparently very angry at the prevailing consensus in Québec that employees of the state should not be allowed to wear visible religious clothing.

“As I type this, I am wearing a chain with a little pendant on which is inscribed in Hebrew the Shema, the prayer that is central to Judaism. I’ll wear what I please in this free country, regardless of whether I work in the private or public sector.”

Listen, Naomi,  I don’t care if you have Aleister Crowley’s eight lecture on Yoga for Yahoos! tattooed on your ass and share it with the world in your free time, there is no way you will wear what you please while on the clock at the Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Québec.  You’re not wearing a Bloc Québécois baseball cap while you’re working for the government and you’re not wearing a Marc Lépine Rocks t-shirt.  Some things are absolutely inappropriate to wear when representing the government of all Québécois.

Are religious symbols part of those inappropriate symbols?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t made up my mind.  A ban on religious symbols is a pretty radical idea, but it’s a popular idea in societies that have first hand knowledge of religious extremism.  It’s the prefered option in Turkey, pretty much the only progressive and democratic muslim country out there.

My parents grew up in a province where catholic priest administered the province and when people who didn’t happen to be loyal Roman catholics, Anglicans or members of a major jewish congregation basically didn’t have access to education or health care. They fought pretty hard to kick God out of Québec’s schools and government and their not about to let him back in.

A ban on religious symbols is many things.  It’s hardcore, I’ll give that to you.  It’s not a perfect solution either.  The one thing it isn’t, though, is a manifestation of intolerance.  It’s the exact opposite of that.  It’s a dedication to the principle that all citizens are absolutely equal before the state.  Period.

Although well intentioned, Canadians must never forget that their approach, the so-called multicultural approach, the idea that the State can treat citizens differently, depending on their culture, religion and beliefs,  is part of the same continuum that, in most extreme cases leads to “separate but equal”, segregation, apartheid and Indian Reservations.

Oh, I’m exaggerating, now, am I?

Well tell me then, which xenophobic Québec school board was it that brought back racially segregated schools in 2009?   Wait, was it la Beauce?  No, wait, was it those evil rednecks in the Saguenay?

No.  It was the Toronto District School Board in Ontario.

The path to hell is paved with good intentions, they say.  Just ask Anakin Skywalker.

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Joual Renaissance

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In Québec there is this long tradition of artists who’s real names might or might not be Bob Walsh and Steve Hill who earn a living performing american blues standards in the provinces innumerable blues festivals with the technical precision and soul of a catholic priest performing mass.  Then, once in a while,  someone comes along to remind us that blues can actually be good music and that Québec French, especially street Joual, could be Delta English’s closest relative.  Offenbach proved it in the 1980’s.  Bernard Adamus does it again this year.  “Singing in English would have made no sense.  I live in French, I love in French, I read in French”, says Adamus, who was born in Poland and sings about Coors light, winter in Longueuil and all things brown (the colour of love…)   Bernard Adamus is in France this week to show the cousins how it’s done.  Consider yourself uncool until you’ve got La question a 100 piastre and Rue Ontario on your iPod.

For a more representative sample of the mans work click here.

There is no doubt that Muzion’s La Vi Ti Neg is the only song (partly) in Haitian Kreyol to be on regular rotation anywhere on the National Hockey Leagues circuit (and for that you can thank my brother Vince).  J. Kyll, the lyricist responsible for that Kreyol verse, just broke a long silence with Spit White, an homage to Québec Joual.  “Damn it’s beautiful to hear you speak Joual”, she raps, “It sounds so real”.  Bobbing his head next to J. Kyll is Imposs, who, as far as we can tell by Youtube clips floating around the Internet has been adopted by Wyclef Jean and just might be getting ready to try to become the first Hip Hop artist to make it big in both the American and French scenes.  A Hip Hop Céline Dion?

Now here’s one for the people who like to say that Québec French and Joual are not “real French”.   Well, I dare any of the amateur linguists who have shared such wisdom on the blogs and internet forums of the world to tell me what Pure Laine Parigot Renaud is singing about in his classic Laisse Béton, shown above.  Yeah, thats what I thought…  France’s street French is as far from the standards of l’Académie française as the French spoken on the corner of Papineau and Beaubien.  Check out Québec City’s Keith Kouna Joual version of the song, called Oublie Ça (get it? Of course you don’t.)   Suddenly Joual sounds a lot more like “real French”, doesn’t it?

Joual in Germany?  Ya.  Franco-Deutch duo Stereo Total liked the 514 so much they called their entire album “Carte Postale de Montréal” and managed to get their hands on some residual sponsorship scandal money to put a big maple leaf on the cover.  Check out their cover of Corbeau’s Illégal, complete with a sincere yet flawed attempt to reproduce signer Marjo’s accent in the line: “C’est TOÉ, qui m’fait d’l’effet.”

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Prince Charles, Quebec and Separatist Monarchists

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Prince Charles in Quebec

As the Who’s Who of Québec separatistati is getting ready for what promises to be the gala event of this year’s season:  the November 10th demonstrations against the Montréal visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, I have a confession to make:

I am not a republican.

Now, no citizen of the Commonwealth should deny him or herself the delightfully anachronistic privilege of demanding the head of their king (in waiting) from the safety of a carefully cordoned off perimeter protected by the police,  and hereditary monarchy certainly is one of the most retarded institutions of 21st century politics, no argument here.

But I believe an independent Québec should keep the Queen (or Chuck or that other kid) as head of state, at least for a while.  Not for their own sake, but for the sake of political stability and the British parliamentary system.

Québec has been governed according to the rules of the Westminster system since 1791, way before Australia, New Zealand, or modern Scotland or Ulster ever got their own parliaments.  The British parliamentary system is the only one people in Québec have ever known and I see no reason why Québec should be in any rush to get rid of it.

It might not be the best system out there, what with the confusion between the legislative and executive branches of government and the uselessness of MPs (We call ’em Members of the National Assembly in Québec) who are told what to vote by the whip.  But that said, it also has the sturdy robustness of a 1973 Buick Regal and there is that very healthy tradition of letting opposition parties yell at the government for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoons.

The thing is, the British parliamentary system need a head of State who is not the Prime minister and if Québec became a Republic, who would get that job?

Now, the Head of State does not absolutely have to be a King or Queen.  India is a republic that kept a version of the British system.  Québec could elect some sort of honorific president as Head of State like Israël or, say, Russia, but electing someone might give that person the impression that they have the legitimacy to use the powers technically theirs under the constitution and those powers are pretty awesome.

Alternatively we could nominate a king or president like we nominate the governor-general, but then he or she would be so weak that governments would feel entitled to push them around.

Only the Windsors have both a centuries old tradition of protecting the stability of the governments under their dominion and a well established irrelevance that makes it impossible for them to actually use any of their powers.

I know there’s few people on my team who feel the same way I do. Most of my peeps are really into massive reforms of the Québec democratic system and things like public initiative referenda, proportional representation, fixed-date, state-funded, two-round elections.

That’s all good, but you and I know it would be a disaster.  People are still confused about the three ballots—one to elect a Mayor, one for the borough mayor and one for a city councilor—in last Monday’s municipal election in Montréal.  Try to explaining to them the subtleties of a German-style hybrid system and party lists.  No fun at all.

I also think that in the context of change and confusion—I believe the dear leader called it turbulence—that would inevitably follow Québec’s accession to the concert of free and independent nations, it wouldn’t hurt, if only from a public relations point of view, to maintain it’s ties to the Commonwealth and the monarchy who would then be obligated to stand up and protect their brother State.

That and we would also be able to reassure nervous investors by showing them the face of Queen Elisabeth (or King Charles) on the 20 piastre note.

May the oecumenical spiritual being save the symbolic head of State!

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm