AngryFrenchGuy

Reasonnable Accomodations on the Citizen’s Band

with 106 comments

I completely missed the entire Reasonable Accommodations episode that hit Québec a couple of years ago.  I never watched a single minute of the infamous Bouchard-Taylor hearings on TV.  I never got to experience the re-emergence of Québec’s deep roots of “xenophobia, racism and sexism”.

In 2007 I was hauling freight in my Volvo 670. I spent my days sitting on top of a 430 horsepower Cummins engine, going around on the Interstate, from Dorval to Memphis, down to Mississippi, back up to Winnipeg, back across to Chicago where I would pick up Corona beer or roof shingles and deliver it to Brampton or Mississauga. There I’d strap on another trailer load of unindifiable industrial materials and head back south to NJ, VI VT, MD or OH.

I rolled old school. My cell phone service didn’t cover the States. I didn’t have satellite radio. My old laptop didn’t have WiFi.   I got my information from the FM band an neither NPR or the preachers had much to say on Québec’s identity crisis. Neither Diane Rhem or Rush Limbaugh ever brought it up.

I listened to those communists at NPR trying to destroy capitalism by speading lies about a supposed impeding collapse of the housing market in America…  and shows by guys like Mike Savage.  I remember being stuck in a traffic jam, somewhere on a highway, when news came on the radio that a bridge between Minneapolis and St-Paul had collapsed.  Savage was on the air informing us that there was no doubt that the Arab terrorists had blown it up. The politically correct liberal media was afraid to tell us the truth, he said, but not him.  American bridges don’t just fall in the water, he analysed, so it had to be the Arabs.

Many, if not most divers today have iPhones and satellite radio, but the good old Citizen’s Band is still a huge part of the culture. It’s used to warn other driver’s that « he’s in the middle » or to tell a brother that he has a burnt trailer light. It’s was also used in Georgia and Indiana truck stops to urge fellow drivers to organize against illegal Mexicans and Bush’s amnesty law that was going to destroy American culture forever.

The impossibility of telling exactly where a voice on the CB is coming from makes it a fantastic window into people’s true thoughts and beliefs.

I remember this one night in a Memphis truck stop.  It was a nice warm night.  The moon was in the sky and the parking lot smelled of urine, rubber and diesel.  The boys were heading to the showers, working out plausible entries for their logbooks on their calculators and setting up the sattelite dishes on their truck so they could watch a game.

Two drivers, a black one and a white one, started trash talking on the CB.  Comfortably anonymous in the cab of their rigs, two among a hundred parked in the Flying J that night, they engaged in the most stunning racist poetry I ever heard. Hate and ignorance weaved in clever rhyme.  No one intervened, no one said a word.  We just sat and listened, not to truth, no, but to sincerity.

The next day I was driving north to Virginia behind another Québec driver. We had to change the channel on our CB three times because of angry and menacing messages from drivers didn’t want to hear any French on the air. In the USA there is an uneasy tolerance for trucks with Canadian plates who come down to « steal their miles », but Québec drivers learn quickly to be very discreet when not speaking English on the phone or to each other.

It wasn’t long after that, after a 10 hour drive somewhere in New York State where they apparently do not broadcast Radio-Moscow, that I finally decided to get a satellite radio. Waiting for my load in some small rural Ontario town , I asked a colleague with a Molson Canadian t-shirt and a satellite antenna sticking out from his cab witch of the two rival satellite providers, XM or Sirius, he recommended.

« All I can tell you », he said, « Is that whatever service you get, get it through an american membership, not the Canadian. That way you won’t have to pay for that French shit. »

I drove back home on the 401 highway in Ontario, where in just about every other rest area toilet someone had written « free turbans! » above the toilet paper dispenser, listened distractedly to the ongoing commentary on channel 19 about how everybody’s load was late, how their company doesn’t pay, how the Chinese don’t know how to drive and the « Pakis » share driver’s licences because, apparently, they’re all called Singh.

That night I hooked up with friends for a couple of beers. They told me all about Bouchard-Taylor and the audiences held around province and about all these people who came out of the woodwork with all these ignorant and bigoted views of muslims and immigrants.

« You wouldn’t believe how many racist people are still out there! »

You know what? I had no problem believing it at all…

Written by angryfrenchguy

December 6, 2009 at 7:36 pm

106 Responses

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  1. Edward : « but the serpent in the garden is nationalism. We have to be vigilant against it, even if we end up being demonized for it. »

    “Nationalism” certainly is not a valid synonym for “pan-Germanic National Socialism”.

    Whenever I hear the word “nationalism” used in a context such as this, I think it might actually be confused with “chauvinism”.

    Nationalism is a political ideology and it means 2 things. It means being attached to ones’ nation. And that in turn supposes that individuals’ commit their allegiances to the Nation-state, which is the corporate entity that they are part of, which has its institution to serve them (Government, Justice, Education, Health…) and which tends to acquire a certain “national identity”.

    Regarding feeling and expressing attachment, the definition of nationalism doesn’t in any way imply that it should be constructed in defiance of other nations. Again, that would be chauvinism, not nationalism.

    You feel attached to your nation because you like being part of it and it is the one you decide to stay in.

    Keep in mind that modern democracies were all born in the womb of nation-states. Democracy presupposes a people living together on a certain territory who, together through sovereign powers that they have fought for, give themselves national institutions to cater to their needs.
    Nationalism is the expression of attachment to one’s nation, and citizens contributing voluntarily to the good functioning of their own institutions and society is just that.

    Especially keep in mind that people who decry Quebec nationalism as “necessarily” being of a hateful type usually exhibit no qualms regarding their own (Canadian or American) nationalism.
    For them, saying that “Canada is a great nation” roughly equals saying they are attached to democracy and freedom. Whereas saying “Vive le Québec” sounds like a call for terrorism and genocide.

    Now, how would you call someone who distrusts and rejects all nationalism but their own?…

    Raman

    December 8, 2009 at 12:39 am

  2. “Now, how would you call someone who distrusts and rejects all nationalism but their own?…”

    a hypocrite.

    The negative definition of nationalism under which I am working specifically involves the identification of an ethnic identity with a state (not in itself a problem, but with the potential for danger) and the notion that other groups are either inferior or a contamination. This latter point is perhaps closer to what you have called chauvinism.

    In the case of Quebec the sovereignty movement strikes me as an entirely legitimate democratic movement, justified in spades by Quebec’s distinct cultural and linguistic identity and its unique set of values. However, because Quebec (read Montreal) is a highly multicultural society, that historical justification for sovereignty ought not be used as a forward-looking justification to homogenize society at the expense of those who don’t fit the historical and cultural mould. The local track record there is frankly spotty, despite good intentions, and that is what gives pause (at least for someone like me who has no identification with the integrity of Canada as an intact nation). Bills in the National Assembly which attempt to entrench the historical and cultural identity don’t help.

    I entirely appreciate the conundrum of the linguistic and cultural siege experienced in this small corner of N. America, but all this talk I’m reading about the life-or-death need to further suppress English does not enhance my enthusiasm for sovereignty. And since I personify the ethnic vote (unhappily not money), my collaboration may be necessary, albeit irritating for those who consider me a contamination.

    Edward

    December 8, 2009 at 8:13 am

  3. You have posted a lot of good stuff here Edward, but what you are essentially saying with your last post is, “given its track record, the democratic francophone majority in Quebec can’t be trusted with X power(s)”. I am not an indépendantiste, but unfortunately this is what a lot of the opposition to Quebec’s independence movement amounts to. I guess it is not surprising then that we have never been able to find a lasting solution.

    I was living in the ROC during the Meech episode and most of the (oft hysterical) debate over distinct society was based on this sentiment that somehow the legislature of Quebec (read = a democratic assembly elected by a majority of Frenchies) couldn’t be entrusted with the powers that came with the “protection” of the said distinct society. You would have thought that distinct society came with a side order of nuclear bombs.

    If we are going to put nations’ “track records” up there for discussion, does Russia deserve to be entrusted with nuclear weapons? What about the United States? Should Germany and Japan even be allowed to have armies?

    And to think that so many people are worried about little old Quebec…

    Acajack

    December 8, 2009 at 9:09 am

  4. …and the track records of Canadian and American nationalism aren’t exceptionally cleaner than Quebec’s.

    For one thing, in both nations, linguistic minorities have been assimilated much more effectively than in Quebec, where our so-called discriminatory laws have helped the (English) minority thrive.

    Acajack recently mentioned how, in an Ontario city, a 40% strong French-speaking minority cannot access any service in French.
    In Montreal and the rest of Quebec, how many publicly-funded schools, Universities, hospitals, tv stations, etc. can you find that cater to the 10% English minority?…

    Apparently, what makes Quebec an easier target when comes the time to identify a bogeyman-nationalism, is that Quebec chose to affirm itself through clear-cut democratic rule.
    Elsewhere, good-old social pressure did the job.

    Raman

    December 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

  5. …further,

    Take the CHUM/CUSM saga as a perfect illustration.

    When the Quebec gvt. decided to invest in a mega University hospital, it chose to make 2 : one French and one English.

    When people point out the absurdity of it in terms of scattering the costs, in terms of catering to 10% of the population, and in terms of funding the education of doctors who mostly end up leaving the province to go work in English elsewhere afterwards…, when they argue that we should build one French-speaking hospital where English-speaking students and doctors would be welcomed, those people will get accused, as you would put it, of wanting “to homogenize society at the expense of those who don’t fit the historical and cultural mould”, and to want to “further suppress English”…

    Raman

    December 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  6. Except that as I understand it the CUSM megahospital was proposed and approved initially and later, not to be outdone, the CHUM idea was introduced. Moreover when the grant funding the CHUM was approved part of its mandate was that it must receive AT LEAST as much funding as the CUSM in all major areas.

    This raises questions about the source of the inefficiency you mention and how an admittedly bad idea on the part of the McGill University Hospital was forced into second-class status.

    I guess this kind of mutual distrust is part of the problem, especially for and by the Anglophone community which considers itself politically besieged (though that may be the appropriate status for a 10% minority group, after all).

    Edward

    December 8, 2009 at 1:10 pm

  7. Raman,

    Although people would us believe that those worried about goings-on in Quebec are really all about human rights and all that touchy-feely stuff, I think their main concern is mostly about preserving at all costs the unbroken geography that was on the school workbooks they grew up with: http://www.denis.ca/prod_images/59005-00.jpg

    There is also a good dose of continental anglo-hegemony in there. Quebec to some is a pimple on the face of a continent that in their minds belongs only to them (and also those who weren’t originally like them but want to come here and be and act like them).

    Acajack

    December 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm

  8. Acajack,

    Amen.

    Raman

    December 8, 2009 at 6:42 pm

  9. @ Raman

    The Royal Victoria hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Montreal Children’s Hospital are not “absurdities”. They were taken over in a bureaucratic shuffle to become the CUSM, a legitimate government reorganisation BTW. These institutions were not created by the Quebec gov’t, they were created by Montreal’s English speaking community, which stil exists.
    To have them melt away into one big French speaking institution may be the dream of many sovereignists but it is arguably a stupid move. McGill University is one of the world’s top medical schools and to have that as part of our collective assets is a big plus. Its not so much a denial of history as a negation of reality.

    Dave

    December 8, 2009 at 7:11 pm

  10. Acajack,

    Me thinks thou protesteth too much. Yes there exists a fringe in English Canada that distrusts anything French, but it is no more prevalent than the fringe that exists here that distrusts all things anglais.

    Continental hegemony, perhaps, but lets not lose our perspective.

    Dave

    December 8, 2009 at 7:19 pm

  11. ” I think their main concern is mostly about preserving at all costs the unbroken geography that was on the school workbooks they grew up with”

    Hehe. Yeah, I resemble that remark. But not in the way you’re thinking (or maybe exactly the way you;re thinking).

    Even if I did think Canada and Quebec would be better off without each other the matter of four provinces and 2.4 million people to Quebec’s east would keep me from thinking it is at all desirable.

    John

    December 8, 2009 at 7:56 pm

  12. “Even if I did think Canada and Quebec would be better off without each other the matter of four provinces and 2.4 million people to Quebec’s east would keep me from thinking it is at all desirable.”

    Not an insurmountable obstacle to overcome if you are referring to geographical isolation.

    ABP

    December 8, 2009 at 8:32 pm

  13. “Not an insurmountable obstacle to overcome if you are referring to geographical isolation.”

    Alaska, Greenland, Kaliningrad, East Pakistan (oops), St. Pierre et Miquélon…

    I interpret the relationship between Canada and Quebec a bit like a stale romance. As in,
    Canada: Bonjour-Hello, How’s my Maine man?
    USA: Hey, dude, how’s your Florida hanging? Oop!
    Canada: Hello, Sam, You just jealous cause Cuba likes me better than you.
    USA: F*ck that, bitch! Hey, speaking of having in Florida, you still with that Quebec chick? She is hot, dude! Bet she’s got some grade A beaver.
    Canada: Oh, do you have to be so crass all the time? Yea things are OK. I kinda feel like we’re not really right for each other. She’s so high-maintenance and it’s like we hardly speak the same language. It used to be so fun back when we could dream about expanding Westward together. Maybe having a colony or two. Speaking of which, how’s Iraq?
    USA: Don’t ask! Hey, she may be emotionally needy, but she’s damn good looking and boy can she cook! I would totally deport Mexico, my housekeeper, if I had a chef like Quebec in the house.
    Canada: Yea, I guess she does make good food. But this month of the year she can be so frigid. I think she may be seeing another nation. You know I’ve been spending time with Afghanistan lately.
    USA: Man, you and half the world. I don’t trust Afghanistan one bit. I think she’d stab you in the back, soon as be your girlfriend. Remember Russia?
    Canada: Sure, but he was a total manwhore. “Any warm water port in a storm”, he used to say. I heard he was pretty devastated by the break up.
    USA: Dude. If you’re thinking of breaking up with Quebec, I got first dibs, OK?
    Canada: What do you mean? Has she said anything to you about leaving me? What is this? Why am I always the last to know? She can’t do this to me!!!
    USA: Huh? Wasn’t you just saying it was over.
    Canada: I can’t live without her. She’s just a part of me, man!
    USA: I get it you’re jealous…no worries, I’m through with American chicks anyway. I still remember the good old days when I occupied Japan. So submissive and beautiful. That was da bomb!
    Canada: Well good fences make good neighbours. You just keep on your side OK?
    USA: Sure, Right. LOL.

    Edward

    December 8, 2009 at 9:20 pm

  14. ^ Know what else isn’t insurmountable? Getting over one’s own sense of cultural entitlement.

    :-D

    * no deli *

    December 8, 2009 at 9:24 pm

  15. “Cultural entitlement.”

    Something Canadians surmonted a long time ago…

    Anonymous

    December 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm

  16. Acajack:
    “what you are essentially saying with your last post is, “given its track record, the democratic francophone majority in Quebec can’t be trusted with X power(s)”. ”

    I agree that many other countries have done far less to merit nationhood than Quebec, and as I’ve said the general mindset here is far more liberal and accommodating and welcoming than any of the 4 other nations where I have lived and worked in the past.
    But as someone who has to be able to use both French and English for his profession, I am very uneasy with the fact that English was once nearly banned in the workplace and that about half the people on this board seem to think it was a good (or at least necessary) idea. Maybe so, but not for me. Similarly as a member of an ethnic minority, politicians talking about national heritage and limitations on accommodation makes my blood run cold.

    I would feel much worse if I were setting in the Sudan, or Israel, or even Switzerland — but then I probably would not even have entertained those options in the first place. I’m way more than half-heartedly expressing my confidence and trust in Quebec simply by having settled here. But I continue to seek more assurances.

    Edward

    December 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

  17. These institutions were not created by the Quebec gov’t, they were created by Montreal’s English speaking community, which stil exists.

    Yes, you can tell they were since to this day they only grudgingly provide service in Québec’s sole official language. If it weren’t for the Charter you’d probably see a “Speak White” sign at the entrance.

    To have them melt away into one big French speaking institution may be the dream of many sovereignists but it is arguably a stupid move.

    And building a multi-billion dollar hospital open to everyone PLUS a second multi-billion dollar one open to 8% of the population is a smart move?

    McGill University is one of the world’s top medical schools

    If that were true, then most, if not all, of its graduates would be only too pleased to work at the CUSM. But most of them grab their diplomas and get out as fast as possible. Sounds like great publicity to me.

    Marc

    December 9, 2009 at 12:39 am

  18. Un petit moment de détente pour vous tous, trouvé dans les reader’s comments du globe and mail.
    Conservative: …The french quebecers need to assimilate. Of course the french canadians contributed to this country LIKE ALL THE IMMIGRANTS GROUPS (Les majuscules sont de moi)But it’s time to assimilate and learn english…Je vous laisse lire le reste si ca vous intéresse, le commentaire vient suite a l’article intitulé: Quebec faces backlash over english only brochures

    midnightjack

    December 9, 2009 at 1:45 am

  19. Bien sur, il ne serait jamais venu a l’idée de ce personnage que ces french quebecers sont la depuis plus de 400 ans, qu’ils ont meme fondé son pays. Probablement qu’il n’est au Canada que depuis la semaine derniere et qu’il ne fait que répéter ce qu’il a entendu depuis son arrivée..Il faut lire la rubrique au complet, ca vaut le détour..

    midnightjack

    December 9, 2009 at 1:50 am

  20. Marc, you are wrong.

    The CUSM staff are bilingual and completely willing to provide service in both languages. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
    The CUSM super hospital was proposed in 1991, the CHUM was proposed in 2001. By law all services provided by the CUSM are available in French, so it is not serving just the 20% of the Montreal population that prefers English over French.

    As for the quality of the McGill Med school, it is indeed world class, as judged in an impartial (but anglophone) internationally recognized ranking :
    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/Rankings2009-Top50-LifeSci.html

    Edward

    December 9, 2009 at 9:11 am

  21. midnightjack:

    D’accord. C’est l’opinion de qq’un qui ne connait meme pas l’historie de son propre pays.
    On peut l’ignorer sans péril, non?

    Edward

    December 9, 2009 at 9:14 am

  22. “Not an insurmountable obstacle to overcome if you are referring to geographical isolation.”

    Yes, that’s what I’m referring to. And yes, it wouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle. If some time in the future it comes down to it I certainly hope our exhalted leaders have the good sense to work out a good and proper agreement. One that would cause the least turmoil and be beneficial to all concerned.

    But as a Canadian and Atlantic Canadian who quite likes Quebec and feels Quebec offers something special to Canada I’m not willing to just throw up my arms and give up.

    John

    December 9, 2009 at 9:38 am

  23. Edward, you are wrong.

    The CUSM staff are bilingual and completely willing to provide service in both languages. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

    It would be naive to think this man’s scenario was (is) unique.

    The CUSM super hospital was proposed in 1991, the CHUM was proposed in 2001.

    I know very well when it was proposed. It was a stupid idea then and an even more stupid idea now.

    As for the quality of the McGill Med school, it is indeed world class, as judged in an impartial (but anglophone) internationally recognized ranking

    Impartial but anglo? Now there’s an oxymoron!

    Marc

    December 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

  24. “And yes, it wouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle”

    Why?

    ABP

    December 9, 2009 at 10:10 am

  25. Don’t know why people make such a fuss about how great McGill is.

    I work on Maisonneuve and Peel, encounter those people all the time and the vast majority I come across would be described as COLON if they were speaking French instead of English. Obnoxious, rowdy assholes. :-)

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    December 9, 2009 at 10:15 am

  26. ““And yes, it wouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle”

    Why?”

    Are you questioning my bad English? :P

    John

    December 9, 2009 at 10:21 am

  27. “Are you questioning my bad English? :P”

    Sorry, didn’t read the response correctly. Early in the morning here :)

    I agree on the the politicos attempting to work out a good agreement amicable to both parties. Unfortunately, I doubt this will be the case as with most divorces.

    Have a nice day.

    ABP

    December 9, 2009 at 10:38 am

  28. @Edward: Moi, j’ai rencontré beaucoup beaucoup de Canadians qui sont aussi ignorants de l’histoire de leur pays que le lecteur du Globe and Mail, et qui croient qu’ “it’s time for the French to assimilate,” entre eux mon ancien coloc Garth de l’Alberta.

    littlerob

    December 9, 2009 at 10:44 am

  29. I read that again after I posted and knew it wasn’t right. lol And I dare say part of my problems learning French is because I’ve such atrocious English.

    Yeah, wishful thinking. I personally would wish Quebec good travels if the time came. But I envision years of arseholery from Quebec City and Ottawa.

    John

    December 9, 2009 at 11:02 am

  30. Edward : « The CUSM staff are bilingual and completely willing to provide service in both languages. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?
    The CUSM super hospital was proposed in 1991, the CHUM was proposed in 2001. By law all services provided by the CUSM are available in French, so it is not serving just the 20% of the Montreal population that prefers English over French.
    »

    Edward, there is the law, and then there is reality…

    Everyone I know who tried to get service in French either at the MGH or the Jewish (I know of no case at the CUSM) have said it was either impossible or so laborious that they quit on the idea pretty quickly and proceeded in English.
    (While, having a very sick mother, I have spent a great many hours in several French hospitals’ corridors this last couple of years, where I’ve witnessed several non-Francophones being taken care of in English. To my knowledge, speaking English is not legally required for staff.)

    Personally, I have never been to one of the English hospitals. But I can tell you of my experience at McGill U.
    About 10 years ago, I registered for 2 semesters. Though I was already very fluent in English, I’d never written much in the language, and never anything academic. Fearing about the quality of what I would produce, and knowing that I had the right to turn in papers in French, after my first class I enquired about it. The unilingual Anglo professor (all my professors there were) answered : «Yes you c-a-n, but I’d rather you wouldn’t…». What he let me know is that he simply wouldn’t be able to correct my work, and getting someone who could would be extremely complicated.
    He was visibly very uneasy when giving me that answer. Not knowing me, I guess he feared I could make a scandal about it and get him into trouble.

    Finally, by law, everybody educated in English in Quebec must pass French proficiency exams if they are to receive their high school diploma. Then, how come I meet people who went through the system and yet can’t hold a basic conversation?

    Raman

    December 9, 2009 at 11:22 am


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