AngryFrenchGuy

Québec: Canada’s Xenophobic Obsession

with 154 comments

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

154 Responses

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  1. Marc,
    Isn’t it possible to require access in French for all aspects of society and business without banning or diminishing other languages?

    I entirely understand that it is only fair for the majority to be able to receive service and to work in their native tongue. That aspect of the law is reasonable and made important corrections of past wrongs, but then didn’t it go too far by banning other languages?

    Not to trivialize an important issue, but it is a bit like requiring not only that all restaurants serve steak and potatoes, but furthermore that rice be removed from all menus. Sushi and General Tao’s chicken are exempted on condition that the amount of rice be smaller than the amount of potatoes served.

    Do you mind if we just call you Bruce? It would make things easier.

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 9:40 am

  2. I certainly do agree with Grey that there’s no need to keep up the war against THE english. That doesn’t mean that a francophone owned business who’s recent-immigrant employees can’t serve you your hamburger in french should be let off the hook.

    So if you’re really in favour of redoubled efforts to give teeth to the OQLF and follow up against any and all offenders (which the OQLF doesn’t even have the resources to do now), does that mean you think it’s time for Me Grey to end his 30 Years War against the French Language Charter?

    James

    December 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

  3. “That doesn’t mean that a francophone owned business who’s recent-immigrant employees can’t serve you your hamburger in french should be let off the hook.”

    By all means! Let’s stick it to the working recent immigrants. They certainly do have their nerve coming to this country and working to serve you hamburgers instead of hambourgeois.

    I’ll bet they intentionally took courses to become certified in pidgin English in their homelands just to be able to force you to accept food from the hands of a franco-illiterate. The nerve…

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 1:11 pm

  4. Why do you take every criticism of Quebec as a conspiratorial, personal attack from the evil English Canadian juggernaut?

    The only criticisms I’d react to that way are ones clearly made in the mould of the gutter bloke press. And you’ve worked entirely from their template from the beginning with your gratuitous assumptions and lectures about how I think people wearing religious garb “get in my face” and other fabricated views assigned to me. You’re not reacting to anything I or afg for that matter actually wrote but rather to some cartoon construct of the “pure laine xenophone” for which we’re apparently serving as proxies. And if you don’t think Québec was demonized by the federalist and anglo media for proposing the same gender protections in its Charter as Canada put in the federal one – the *very* same ones, practically to a word – then you need to get out more.

    And as for this formulation:

    La Charte doit être interprétée de manière à tenir compte du patrimoine historique du Québec et des valeurs fondamentales de la nation québécoise, notamment l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, la primauté du français et la séparation entre l’État et la religion.”

    I don’t ever remember the federalist press getting in a lather over whether understanding “Canadian values” should be a hurdle in acquiring citizenship, as well as the hurdle of acquiring an official language. Canadians aren’t fascists for expecting this of newcomers and setting these hurdles, only we are it appears.

    As for the separation of church and state, you don’t claim to object to it so then why would you object to it being stated? I support the principle so therefore I support it being stated, all the more so since it’s actually a principle which has come under attack and will continue to from various holy rollers. As is, and will continue to be, « la primauté du français ».

    The law in France of which you speak is very different from any regulations being talked about here. I already explained that, but at this point why revisit it since you’ve already fabricated the “facts” to fit in your arguments.

    James

    December 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm

  5. certainly do agree with Grey that there’s no need to keep up the war against THE english. That doesn’t mean that a francophone owned business who’s recent-immigrant employees can’t serve you your hamburger in french should be let off the hook.

    oh and p.s., you’ve run a long way with your assumptions that Martineau and spouse didn’t file complaints and that the businesses in question are “francophone-owned”. What was your basis for assuming that?

    James

    December 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  6. To whom are you writing James? You seem to have us all mixed up into one Boogieman. Half the comments you attribute to me I either never made or simply quoted directly from others.

    You accuse me of fabrication and if indeed I am overgeneralizing what I read in the media and am mistaken then I apologize. But when, for example, the PQ takes a clear position and I criticize it you don’t have to interpret that criticism as directed specifically at you (unless you support that position).

    Yes I agree that the Canadian media tends reflexively to point the racism finger at Quebec, but that is not a justification for our enacting discriminatory laws and justifying them on the grounds that Canada does it so why can’t we?

    (By the way for clarity sake, when I write about discriminatory laws I am not specifically saying that YOU personally are enacting racist laws but rather that there is a political faction here called the PQ that is attempting to enact such laws.)

    if you can explain to me what is NOT discriminatory about the phrase “à tenir compte du patrimoine historique du Québec et des valeurs fondamentales de la nation québécoise” without invoking how racist the Canadian government and media are (let’s assume that is a given) I would be grateful.

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm

  7. if you can explain to me what is NOT discriminatory about the phrase “à tenir compte du patrimoine historique du Québec et des valeurs fondamentales de la nation québécoise” without invoking how racist the Canadian government and media are (let’s assume that is a given) I would be grateful.

    I don’t see anything discriminatory about it. Since when do people prove negatives anyway? Why don’t you prove what’s discriminatory about it? And why don’t you have the elementary honesty to finish the passage, like this:

    La Charte doit être interprétée de manière à tenir compte du patrimoine historique du Québec et des valeurs fondamentales de la nation québécoise, notamment l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, la primauté du français et la séparation entre l’État et la religion.

    Now why did you cut the sentence off so as to render it meaningless? Is it because you’ve already claimed yourself that you’re *for* the separation of church and state, gender equality and the primacy of French in Québec and so you’d look silly opposing a clause which affirms same? Is that why you snipped it?

    So why don’t you prove it’s discriminatory, and perhaps also prove your claim on a previous thread that “Québec discriminates against Muslim girls.” Asking people to prove negatives is a waste of time and one of the lamest debating tricks around.

    James

    December 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  8. Well to start, your conspiratorial accusation that I am somehow intentionally hiding the rest of the proposed amendment to article 50.1 of the Charter is belied by the fact that it was I who posted the entire thing earlier today. Furthermore, I take little issue with the lines I did not repost (though I still think the original 50.1 was superior).

    The words that trouble me do so because they constitute a qualification of “l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes” and of “la séparation entre l’État et la religion” in the restricted context of the history and values of the dominant culture. Why is it necessary to qualify these seemingly fundamental guarantees?

    First of all, by specifically naming not just our province but the history and heritage of our province in the bill, they INTENTIONALLY imply that there is something about the older culture that is inherently more important or more valid than the cultures brought here by new or recent citizens. If it goes with out saying than it should go without saying. If it is not true than it certainly doesn’t belong there. (please don’t

    Secondly, I can’t help thinking that it is added specifically as a qualification of “la séparation entre l’État et la religion” so that it becomes more acceptable to incorporate aspects of Anglican/Episcopalian/Catholic culture, heritage and history into the state than for example Muslim aspects. So the niqab becomes entirely unacceptable in a state office, but a small cross pendant or tattoo are just fine.

    So rather than asking you to explain (not prove) a negative, let me rephrase it as asking you to explain why this extra verbiage was carefully added to this bill and what purpose you think it serves.

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm

  9. «So the niqab becomes entirely unacceptable in a state office, but a small cross pendant or tattoo are just fine.»

    The niqab would better be compared to a fat «NO SALVATION BUT THROUGH YOUR LORD JESUS» tattoo on the forehead…

    Raman

    December 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm

  10. Acajack,

    “living in long-established communities ”

    It’s funny you say that. I should really look it up again to see exactly what was said, but there was a study taken a number of years ago about regional identities in Canada. Now one would think that Quebecers would top the list as being the most likely to identify with their province. But surprisingly it was Atlantic Canadians that topped the list. Now I already knew that this part of the country was like that, but I was surprised that we topped Quebec.

    Of course the word here is regionalism and not nationalism (and not really regionalism in the political sense). Similar concepts and I think Atlantic Canada does fit much of the criteria for a ‘nation’, but you’d never hear someone describing the Nova Scotia nation. Acadians and Acadie perhaps, though outside of a few examples like Ave Stella Maris I don’t think I’ve heard much about it. You’d probably know more about it than I would.

    Not to say we’re not Canadians and proud of it too. I certainly am. For plenty of reasons – both real and imagined. ;) But there is still that tussle between Canada our country and Atlantic Canada our home. I think that was touched on here before regarding Jean Chretien. And that he said something along the lines of, “When I was in Canada last month”. When I got back home from my last trip to Toronto my neighbour said something like that to me….”so how was Canada?”. He knows full well what country this is, but it is a neat example of long established communities and people having long memories. And before 1867 this wasn’t Canada and after that Nova Scotia did its darndest to get out and PEI – the self proclaimed “Birthplace of Confederation” – didn’t even join.

    Anyway, I’m sure I could go on, but I seem to be rambling a bit. So I’ll stop.

    John

    December 5, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  11. Except thatroughly 10% of the world’s population wears the vail and only 6 guys, 4 of whom are named Bubba (not to pass judgement about cultural superiority, however) have that tattoo on their foreheads.

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 7:02 pm

  12. «Except thatroughly 10% of the world’s population wears the vail and only 6 guys, 4 of whom are named Bubba (not to pass judgement about cultural superiority, however) have that tattoo on their foreheads.»

    I don’t see how your comment is relevant…

    But you may ask yourself what is the quality of life and “inter-faith” social peace in places where people walk around wearing fat religious divisive flags on their foreheads.
    That may give you a clue as to why some of us oppose it.

    Raman

    December 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

  13. Acajack : « Regarding the Martineau column I must say I find it pretty depressing.
    Based on what he said, and what I hear elsewhere in the media, from friends and what I observe on the ground, it seems like some sort of “covenant” has been broken. (…)
    »

    Here is another piece, by François Parenteau, to add to your reflexion :
    http://www.voir.ca/blogs/franois_parenteau/archive/2008/01/23/la-loi-et-le-contexte.aspx

    « (…) Parce qu’au-delà des lois, il y a le contexte dans lequel elles s’appliquent. J’ai commencé à fréquenter le centre-ville de Montréal en 1985, à 19 ans, alors que j’avais une job d’été en publicité. En bas de l’édifice à bureaux (sur ce qui s’appelait alors la rue Dorchester) se trouvait un dépanneur qui faisait aussi des sandwichs chauds et j’y prenais souvent mon lunch. Les employés étaient audiblement anglophones mais me parlaient en français sans que j’aie eu à insister de quelque façon que ce soit. Et le contact était sympathique.
    À mon retour à cet emploi en 1986, je retourne me chercher un sandwich. Le même gars qui me parlait en français l’année d’avant se met alors à me parler en anglais. Je me dis qu’il a juste oublié que j’étais francophone et je lui réponds en français mais il poursuit en anglais. Pourquoi ce soudain changement d’attitude? Il ne pouvait pas avoir oublié le français qu’il maîtrisait assez bien l’année d’avant, tout de même. Ça m’intriguait, alors je le lui ai demandé. Il m’a répondu qu’il n’avait plus besoin de me parler en français puisque le PQ venait de perdre le pouvoir et que René Lévesque avait été remplacé par Robert Bourassa. Et ce n’était pas une blague.
    Ça m’a scié. L’été d’avant, si ce monsieur me parlait français, ce n’était pas par ouverture d’esprit ni par respect. C’était par crainte d’un pouvoir politique, par peur que la police de la langue ne débarque pour lui retirer son permis ou je ne sais trop quoi… (…)
    »

    Telling.

    Every now and then, Me Grey, The Gazette, the EMSB, the Liberals or some Anglo leader find it important to remind us that 1) French is not threatened, 2) the Anglo community is well integrated and has accepted French, 3) we live in “la paix linguistique”, and 4) any measure to prop up French – or indeed any expression of doubt towards points 1, 2 and 3 – threatens the nice socio-linguistic harmony we all bask in.

    If only our darn experiences didn’t contradict all of that…

    — — —
    I draw a few conclusions from all of this.

    The first one is that the Francophones must be coherent with their aspirations. If we do indeed cherish our French heritage and culture, if we do indeed want to transmit it down to the next generations, we can’t be complacent and let things evolve “naturally”.
    I remember being struck by the video images of the recent Asian and New-Orleans tsunamis. –So much devastation struck by such slow-moving, nonchalant waves!
    Well, English in Quebec is exactly like a tsunami. It’s an overwhelming natural force that pushes onward. And either we remain vigilant and build dams, or we don’t at our own peril. (The most effective dam, of course, would be independence and no segregated English school system.)

    The second conclusion is that – very unfortunately – we can’t expect the English communities, both in and out of Quebec, to help us with that, no matter what they say and no matter how well-intentionned they may be. Any time we lower our guards and decide to trust that they do, any time we decide to “stop the war against English”, what we do in fact is forget about the tsunami while we stand on the beach looking at the funny slow wave coming.

    So far, in terms of dam building, through the affirmation of a quasi-state, by enacting quasi-sovereign jurisdiction over our society, we have achieved a quasi-linguistic-peace. And so, for a while, we have seen quasi-progresses. Just enough to buy into the idea that the tide had turned back permanently…

    Now, before I get accused of all sorts of things, I do not demonize the Anglo community, nor do I accuse them of fomenting some secret master plan against French. Simply, they do what any overwhelming majority community does : Wipe away minorities by being deeply indifferent about them. The waves in New-Orleans and Indonesia had not ill-will either.

    And this is my third conclusion : Though a part of them either covertly or overtly believe that French in Quebec will go the way of Louisiana sooner or later and just bide their time, the Anglo community mostly really believes it’s done what it should, and that its behavior is no threat at all.

    To illustrate, every day I speak with Anglo parents who ask me how to help their kids better learn French. Great, I think : They truly care!
    Yet, the superficiality of their engagement always comes back to me like a wake-up slap in the face : Every time, what I realize is that as soon as their kids leave the classroom to go back to their homes and parents, their neighborhoods, their lives, they fall back into a world where French – the language as much as the culture — has about as much visibility as Klingon.
    –«Whoosh!», how to make 6 million people disappear! Even David Copperfield wouldn’t have tried such an ambitious trick… He should have thought about indifference.

    So, while they are being indifferent and we are being nonchalant, slowly but surely we are reverting back to a state where to speak French in this French society makes you a second-class citizen: And where businesses, immigrants, kids… get the message.

    English pushes on through the power of its demography and its attraction. It fights against French without even trying. So why should we stop fighting? Isn’t a battle not fought a battle lost?

    Raman

    December 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm

  14. re: enforced, at what cost

    Marc December 4, 2009 at 4:41 pm wrote:

    “With brute force, at whatever cost necessary. There is no price on guaranteeing a future for our language and culture.”

    marc, you appear to be a “scary” guy.
    open your heart and your mind and you will be saved.

    johnnyonline

    December 5, 2009 at 7:13 pm

  15. “English pushes on through the power of its demography and its attraction. It fights against French without even trying.”

    You know, that has to be about the best description I’ve heard for this….Ever.

    John

    December 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

  16. John : « It’s funny you say that. I should really look it up again to see exactly what was said, but there was a study taken a number of years ago about regional identities in Canada. Now one would think that Quebecers would top the list as being the most likely to identify with their province. But surprisingly it was Atlantic Canadians that topped the list. Now I already knew that this part of the country was like that, but I was surprised that we topped Quebec. »

    A very good friend of mine from Newfoundland once exclaimed to me how Atlantic Canadians had as much of a distinct culture as les Québécois, yet how that didn’t make them pretend they were not Canadians or ask for a different legal status.

    I vaguely remember answering that I fully agreed regarding distinctiveness, but that it was their choice and ours to define ourselves how we wished.
    Being polite though, I didn’t point out the fact that, after some 12 years living in Montreal, she still couldn’t speak a word of French, and how that might go a long way in explaining our different reactions to the ways our distinct cultures were being treated in the federation… ;-)

    Raman

    December 5, 2009 at 7:34 pm

  17. Raman,

    It is relevant for all the reasons French and English are more relevant to the debate in Canada than are Tagalog and Swahili.

    I want to say that your subsequent post was indeed extremely eloquent and rings true. I may not be converted but I’m deeply impacted by your analogies and will give them more thought.

    Edward

    December 5, 2009 at 7:49 pm

  18. That’s just it, isn’t it? Being a Canadian on paper doesn’t equal an identity. And it isn’t my place to define you or anyone else.

    John

    December 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm

  19. Well to start, your conspiratorial accusation..

    you cut off the sentence and then found it “discriminatory”, not me.

    The wording doesn’t invoke a “dominant culture”, it defines as “fundamental values of the Québec nation” the following: separation of state and religion, equality between men and women, and the primacy of French. Last time I checked Catholicism and Episcopalianism were considered religions.

    I can’t help thinking that it is added specifically as a qualification of “la séparation entre l’État et la religion” so that it becomes more acceptable to incorporate aspects of Anglican/Episcopalian/Catholic culture, heritage and history into the state than for example Muslim aspects

    well I won’t try to compete with you in clairvoyance, I’m just looking at what it said, not at the dark motives you devine. But hey, you may be onto something, given the PQ’s *notorious* ties to episcopalianism. This is the party par excellence btw of the Quiet Revolution, who led the movement to deconfessionalize the Québec state and end clerical abuse and repression, who sought and obtained a constitutional amendment deconfessionalizing the Québec educational system. So if they’re trying to ship Christian religion back into the public sphere here, they’re going about it rather strangely.

    asking you to explain why this extra verbiage was carefully added to this bill and what purpose you think it serves.

    perhaps it serves to make explicit the principles you claim to support – gender equality, separation of state and religion, and the primacy of French – in a cornerstone piece of legislation governing relations between private individuals in Québec. But I can’t read their minds like you, just their words.

    James

    December 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm

  20. Thanks, Edward.

    Before I go, and a bit more on topic, a nice and very balanced article about women in Islam, from the Time :
    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,185647,00.html

    Concerning the Islamic veil, I believe Denise Bombardier put it best when she contrasted anti-Islamic claims that it subjugates women with Muslim claims that it is, to the contrary, a way to assert respect for women.
    Bombardier said that a woman who covers herself up in order not to get males too excited does exactly the same as one who walks around half-naked to get men’s favours : Bot outlooks define women primarily as sexual objects.

    My main beef with visible religious signs though concerns how socially divisive they are.
    In true republican spirit, I believe citizens meeting on the street should do so as moral equals, and behave as such.
    Opposite to that spirit, wearing a religious flag on your head or through your clothes constitutes a first act of communication, one which claims high and loud that you consider yourself part of a superior moral caste. It says that you intend not only to mark that symbolic frontier separating you from the rest of the community, but that you intend to entrench and perpetuate it.

    Laws against such signs do not aim at punishing people : They aim at promoting a more egalitarian and democratic world-view.

    And if, as in Switzerland, secularists nowadays target Islam more than any other minority it is because, nowadays, it is mainly Islam which fights to introduce such symbols in all spheres of society : From kindergartens to parliaments.

    Raman

    December 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm

  21. “English pushes on through the power of its demography and its attraction. It fights against French without even trying. So why should we stop fighting? Isn’t a battle not fought a battle lost?”

    I have been abstaining from comment on this thread.

    But, I must admit Raman’s post was very correct. I agree with John on the last paragraph as quoted above. Very likely the way it is. English does not consider itself to be in a battle. This leads to indifference as Raman indicates. Help my kids learn french but lets not go so far as to utilize it in the house as it is “after all” only a second language to the english.

    I doubt any laws can change this attitude. Perhaps?

    ABP

    December 5, 2009 at 8:51 pm

  22. Raman, since everyone seems to like your post, I won’t be the one to accuse you of demonizing the anglos, but I still don’t understand how you conclude that the mere presence of english speakers is not only to blame for the lack of french dominance, but apparantly the only guilty party.

    What about the majority francophone electorate who don’t demand that the Charter be enforced? What about the Richard Martineau’s who see infractions, it would seem, everytime they turn their heads, but choose not to make use of the legal means available to them to rectify the problem. And yes, what about the anglos who make a point of refusing to speak any french whatsoever in their daily lives.

    All of these people, it would seem to me, are more guilty than the well-intentioned anglo families who send their kids to french school, but then have the nerve to speak english around the dinner table at night. Yet that is who you choose to blame, even though you make it clear that it is not the result of any ill-will on their part.

    This all leads me to my own conclusion. That there is nothing, short of assimilation, that anglo-Quebeckers could ever do to make linguistic tension disappear. No efforts, however well recived on the surface, would ever truly be enough.

    RoryBellows

    December 6, 2009 at 11:27 am

  23. Rory,
    I figure that the people who stand on a beach looking at a tsunami coming are as much to blame for being washed away as is the wave itself. Especially if they were forewarned.

    But to answer your questions: People get tired.
    We are not a fighting people. So we get tired of having to ask “French please” everyday. We get tired of making complaints. We get tired of tensions…
    We especially get tired when that invariably gets us to be labeled “closed-minded”, “racist” and “intolerant”, even by our own gvt. who stopped listening to us and doesn’t give a shit about such issues.

    But I did say we have to be coherent.
    In my opinion, if we do want French to survive and thrive in the long term, we’ll have to put up more resistance. Even if it means resistance against an enemy who doesn’t consider itself at war, and who thus cries victim and persecution.

    Do I resist? Yes I do.
    I do not automatically switch to English whenever someone has a trace of an accent. I do not patronize businesses where I am not served in French, and I let them know why. I teach French to English kids, and I use Quebec references to do so.
    And I’ll vote for independence as well as for measures aiming to end the publicly-funded segregated English school system.

    Any suggestion as to what else I could do ?

    ABP asks if laws can change attitudes.
    Yes, they can.

    Bill 101, in forcing immigrants to go to French school went a long way. –I know many “enfants de la loi 101” who told me how they thought they were being persecuted when they were denied the “right” to a publicly-funded English-only education, but who now think that made a lot of sense after all.

    Being firmer on education for all in French would go extra miles, and would further relieve simple folks from having to engage in a permanent linguistic guerrilla every day of their lives.

    Almost every single nation-state on the planet has promoted a common language for all its citizens. Some were extremely harsh in doing so, even going to the extremes of ethnocide and genocide of minorities. If you want to see that happening, I mean for real, take your eyes off bill 101 for a minute and have a look at Tibet.
    English-Canada would probably have done that with us if we hadn’t been white, if it hadn’t feared a massive rebellion, and if it hadn’t needed us to fight the Americans. After all, it didn’t shy away when it tried to force-assimilate the natives or when it deported the Acadians.
    But the fact is it didn’t. Now we’re here, with a state, so we should use it to thrive : Like any other people with a state.

    Another way to promote a common language is through legislation that targets education. I’m for that.
    That still does mean stepping on some toes. It does. Tough.
    But it is only here that promoting education in a common language, and promoting that it be the democratic majority’s, will be equated to the Tibetan ethnocide…
    Well, I say enough buying into that guilt trip. Bruised toes heal, and you come out of it a better dancer.

    Finally, I do not “blame” Anglos for not speaking French at the dinner table. Nor do I blame Chinese for speaking Cantonese. I couldn’t care less what language you speak at home or with your friends.
    What I blame them for is being incoherent. –For saying, hey, we are part of this nation too, we love Quebec, we want to vote for its governments, decide its destiny, help define it… all the while remaining deaf and blind to the lives, culture and aspirations of the majority of the people who compose it, to the point of distrusting them as if they were dangerous tribals.

    You love Quebec, you choose to come or stay here? Great! Now how about you actually participate with the rest of us instead of acting as if we — our language, our culture, our existence — were some cute but slightly annoying inconvenience that will eventually disappear anyway?

    Don’t worry. I do not wish for English to disappear from Quebec, or for Anglos to completely “assimilate”. Not only would that go against my humanism, but I actually truly appreciate Quebec’s Anglo minority’s very unique cultural inputs.
    In any case, to think that English would or could ever disappear from Quebec would make one an exceptionally stupid person, considering that Francophones represent 2% of this continent, and that English is omnipresent in all spheres of communication the planet over. Come on!

    What I actually wish for is that you live up to your claims that you want in: With us, not in spite of us.

    Raman

    December 6, 2009 at 4:31 pm

  24. But you see what you’ve done here Raman. On the one hand, you argue we must be proactive in defending our language and culture vigorously, and not complacently letting things evolve naturally. From your argument it sounds like everyone needs to be responsible for advancing the needs of his own group. By this logic you can’t fault Anglos for trying to use and promote English as much as possible, just as you would encourage Francos to do the same for French.

    But then you say, “come, join us, participate with the rest of us”. In what? Naturally you can’t live here without participating in building the society. We all do this by default. Anglos are not gremlins trying to tear the society apart grommet by grommet — they’re just trying to live their lives as you propose. So, do you propose that Anglos participate in the advancement of policies that are clearly not in their own interests. What specifically do you mean by “participate with the rest of us”? and is it not already the case that they participate?

    The Anglos are perhaps stuck in a defensive mode which makes them seem destructive rather than constructive, but what have you proposed that would help them abandon this defensive mode rather than hunker down for the coming onslaught of new restrictions. You can’t build a dam to protect against the coming flood, without directing the damage somewhere else.

    For me the best solution is to be proactive in building the most appealing, inclusive, and WELCOMING Francophone society possible so that everyone will, given the choice, actually want to join you, to benefit from what you have created. I think this is what Quebec has, to a great extent, achieved in recent decades, but every time the griffon of nationalism flashes its teeth, those who have been inspired with the desire to “join in” get scared that they will be denied the full benefits of the new society. (The clearest example of course is the laws that don’t just promote French but forbid the alternatives).

    Perhaps it is true that the only way to make full participation in Quebec society attractive to all comers is to remove the eternal option of just being a Canadian who happens to live in Quebec. But in this case if an inclusive, welcoming society is not what replaces the former being-part-of-Canada-is-enough option, then the cure will be worse than the disease.

    Edward

    December 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

  25. Edward : « For me the best solution is to be proactive in building the most appealing, inclusive, and WELCOMING Francophone society possible (…) »

    I don’t know if you’ve travelled a bit. I have. I think I can safely say that Quebec ranks way high in terms of being a welcoming, open and inclusive society.
    Yet that can’t seem to beat the convenience of just going for English…
    In short, we have tried what you suggest, and it doesn’t work.

    On the other hand, I have been in societies that are much more restrictive on issues of immigrants’ and minorities’ integration.
    Long ago, I wrote a long post comparing the situation of the Chinese minority in Thailand to that of the English one here.
    –Demographically, roughly the same situation : the Chinese constitute half of the capital, Bangkok; the rest are scattered in the countryside. They have traditionally held economic power, while the Thais have occupied the govt. and the clergy. The Chinese also speak the region’s superpower’s language, which is also one of the most widespread.

    A big difference : They all go to Thai school, learn Thai history, and are taught that they are Thai citizens.

    As a result, without having lost their Chinese culture (food, music, religion, customs, etc.), they share Thai culture with the Thai majority. I.e., for them, being a “Chinese-Thai” actually means being both : Not simply being a Chinese residing on Thai soil.

    Raman

    December 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

  26. Isn’t it possible to require access in French for all aspects of society and business without banning or diminishing other languages?

    In a perfect world, yes. But the world is far from perfect.

    but then didn’t it go too far by banning other languages?

    The problem is we’re trying to safeguard our culture and language from people (the English) who exclusively play by their own rules and nothing else because they don’t have the capacity to do otherwise. And yes it’s too bad that others get tarred with the same brush, but it takes one bad actor to ruin it for everyone.

    Remember: the English were the ones who managed to pit the Italians against the French 40 years ago.

    Do you mind if we just call you Bruce? It would make things easier.

    A stupid statement if I ever heard one.

    Marc

    December 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

  27. John, I think this is what you were looking for:
    “While four in ten (38%) Canadians across Canada believe that they most closely belong to the entire country of Canada as opposed to any other geographic locality, more Quebecers say that they most closely belong to their province (42%) than to their country, Canada (20%). Atlantic Canadians are similar, with 37% indicating that they most closely belong to their province or region (37%) as opposed to Canada (31%).”

    Link: http://www.dominion.ca/Canada_Day_Survey_2007.pdf

    Acajack

    December 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

  28. Raman: “So, while they are being indifferent and we are being nonchalant, slowly but surely we are reverting back to a state where to speak French in this French society makes you a second-class citizen: And where businesses, immigrants, kids… get the message.”

    This is exactly what I was referring to when I talking about a “sea-change” in a message a few days.

    Looks like we are headed for the 1970s all over again.

    Acajack

    December 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

  29. The comment from Parenteau that Raman cited, where the guy serving him stops speaking to him in French because a Liberal government has taken the pressure off, reminds me of the famous « couteau sur la gorge » (knife at the throat) constitutional strategy coined by Stéphane Dion’s father, the late political scientist Léon Dion.

    If this means that francophones can only get respect for their language from non-francophones using knife at the throat-type means (PQ governments, separatist/referendum threats, being jerks, causing a scene, etc.), then I think I am even more depressed about things.

    Acajack

    December 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm

  30. http://www.dominion.ca/Canada_Day_Survey_2007.pdf

    Um, no. Interesting read actually, but I’m pretty sure it was before that. 2002-2004ish.

    Identity in the TimBit. :P I prefer the apple and blueberry fritters. Quickly microwaved and a cup of tea.

    John

    December 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm


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