Archive for March 2010
What does American health care reform and the Québec government’s proposed bill 94 have in common?
Why, they’re both collectivist ploys to take away your rights and guns, of course!
This morning the Montreal Gazette prints an editorial in which it argues that bill 94, a proposed rule that would require citizens to show their faces before receiving government services, is nothing short of an attack on human rights:
On July 1 1960, proposing his Bill of Rights in Parliament, Diefenbaker concluded with these much-quoted words: “I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and for all mankind.”
Quebec’s Bill 94, meanwhile, shows how “collective rights,” even so badly defined as this new right for bureaucrats to see people’s faces, can overrule individual freedom of attire. (…) Basic freedoms keep coming under attack from forces seeking more control over our lives. Ultimately laws and lawyers will not save us unless there is a strong public understanding that the limits on free choice, imposed by mobs or governments or both, will keep growing unless we all resist them.
This is the exact same reasoning the American right and groups like American Majority are currently using to convince people that Obama’s health care reform is only the first step towards the transformation of the USA into a Spanish-speaking slave labour camp:
On March 23, 1775, 235 years ago today, Patrick Henry gave his immortal speech, closing with the lines, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
I think the American people have a very important choice: are they going to resign themselves to the ever growing chains of government control over their lives, submitting willingly like sheep to acquire some false illusion of peace and prosperity? Or are they going to fight against the forces of statism and push back? That is the great question of the day.
From the defence of the right to hide your face to the government to the discovery, year after year, of illegal religious and linguistic schools who operate in total impunity, civil disobedience by assorted creationists to Québec’s ethics and religious culture high school course (that teaches, G-D forbid!, that all religions carry some wisdom), constant legal challenges to Québec’s elected officials constitutional prerogative to determine the language of education in Québec, the hysterical reaction to the merger of English-speaking municipalities in a united City of Montreal and Louise Harel‘s run for mayor… All this is starting to look more and more like the obscure reaches of the USA where “sovereign citizens” and “tax resisters” oppose the very legitimacy of the democratically elected government.
There seems to be, in Québec, as in the USA, a weird coalition between Anglo Conservatives and various ultraorthodox religious minorities against the very legitimacy of a State run by people who are not like them.
More than a decade ago, Josée Legault demonstrated in her book L’Invention d’une Minorité how the rhetoric of “individual rights” was highjacked by so-called activists to defend the “collective right” of Québec’s english-speaking minority to opt-out of Québec institutions and build their parallel network of (fully subsidised) institutions.
Today a new cast of minorities: ultra-catholics, orthodox Muslims and and uniformed Jews, are re-enacting the fight for the right to opt-out of Québec society with full compensation, play-by-play, with English-Canada’s elites cheering them on.
That’s no surprise. The English-Canadian media has been able to come up with arguments for surprising shit, from segregation to organized crime and now to giving self-appointed clerics veto power over the laws of the land, as long as it’s been able to squeeze an argument against the legitimacy of Québec’s government and it’s democratically elected officials out of it.
In that way they are no different than American Tea Party leaders who welcome anyone, from Birthers, to Minutemen and the Militia movement to their rallies, just as long as they oppose The Government.
The good news is that the vast majority of English-Canadians agree their media elites are idiots.
There is something profoundly dishonest about Canada’s English-language press coverage of the expulsion of Ms. Naema Ahmed from her French class in Montreal for refusing to remove her niqab–a form of dress apparently inspired by Star Wars’ Imperial guard favoured by ultra-orthodox muslim women.
According the Globe and Mail, Ms. Ahmed “was told to remove the niqab or leave because a student’s mouth must be visible so an instructor can work on pronunciation.” This, according to the Globe, was akin to the practices “in some Arab and west Asian countries, such as the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan” and that “empowering state agents to enforce dress codes and bar the education of women is hitherto unknown in Canada.”
Sure… Except that, as it has widely been reported in the French-language press, even though Ms Ahmed’s teacher had agreed to let her do some exercises one-on-one and give oral presentations facing away from the class, she STILL refused to remove her veil AND demanded that male students be removed from her line of sight in the class.
The student was expelled after the teacher, the school and her classmates, who also, by the way, have the right to learn French, had made considerable efforts to accommodate her. Her demands reached the point where other students were being penalized.
We could forgive the editors of the Globe and Mail who are so thoroughly isolated in the English language that they actually published an editorial last week against changing the word forefathers in the first line of the French lyrics of Canada’s national anthem on the grounds that “Forebears doesn’t really work, because it sounds like four bears.” (Actually, Forefathers and Forbears are English words and therefore neither are in the French lyrics of O Canada. In French the word is Aieux, which sounds nothing like four bears or quatre ours, but a little bit like loser.)
But the boys and girls at the Montreal Gazette certainly speak French and yet they also chose to grossly simplify a complex issue that still divides Muslim nations like Turkey and Egypt–Ms. Ahmed’s homeland–centuries after the passing of the Prophet and turn into the more familiar narrative of redneck Québécois chasing out a foreigner out “their” schools. “Your face or your faith, she was told. She chose her faith.”
Well, if it’s OK to ask that men, be denied the privilege of contemplating your holy self, if that what your faith says, is it OK to ask that, say, Jews, gentiles and infidels sit in the back of the class? Maybe that they try not to touch to many things?
Just last year the case of a woman refusing to remove her niqab in a courtroom was in the news in Ontario. No Canadian newspaper thought this story worthy of an editorial. In fact, a quick search of “Quebec +niqab” and “Ontario+niqab” on the Canadian Newstand search engine tells me that the Canada’s English media has already killed four times as many trees over the Quebec incident.
Four times? Surely the right to cover your face in court will have consequences on our justice system and society at least as important as the right to learn French with a mask.
What’s going on here is that the “French people Bad, Canada Rocks!” bit is just English Canada’s natural defence mechanism against controversial issues that it is not mature enough to face yet. But it doesn’t work. These things are complicated and repeating “Canada is bilingual and multicultural” over and over again won’t make them go away.
So, imagine you’re a twenty-something son of immigrants living in Montreal’s English-speaking and federalist bastion of DDO, a prolific hiphop artist who drops online EPs and mixtapes with a frequency that can’t be healthy, and who’s first full-length English-language album had both the Hour and the Mirror, Montreal’s English-language alt-weeklies, hyping you as one of the best upcoming local MC’s, able to combine « standard braggadocio with some intelligent introspection ».
What’s your next move?
Why, a double French-language LP and a single titled FLQ in which you give shout outs to Québec sovereigntists René Lévesque and Pierre Falardeau and spit: « Yes, I’m Québécois. No, I don’t know Canada. », of course…
Karma Atchykah drops a bomb.
You’re throwing around a lot of very charged imagery on your first single: the FLQ, giving props to René Lévesque and Pierre Falardeau. Coming from an immigrant… from the West Island… who is known for rapping in English… that confuses a lot of people who aren’t sure what you mean. Why don’t you tell me what you want to say with that song.
With that song I’m just trying to rally as much people as I can. To be in Montreal, to be a Quebecer, to me, means a whole lot more, especially in 2010, you know? I was born in the 80’s, grew up in the 90’s, I’ve been in Montreal for 28 years of my life. It really got diverse and I felt there was a need that we redefine what it means to be a Quebecer for these times. And I feel that FLQ was about Quebecer pride, but at the same time had shock value. That was the effect.
What was the reaction from Anglos, from your friends who know you from the Anglo scene?
[Laughs] The Anglos, I would have to say, focus much more on the vibe of the song, on the beat itself, the more the technical, musical stuff. And they definitely feel it’s a cool song. I don’t have any people who are… against the song, in that sort of way. Like, an Anglo station maybe might feel the FLQ reference was not something to joke about or this and that, but I really don’t have that kind of feedback going about. People definitely see that the song has that type of energy. Maybe it’s due to the fact I do music in both languages. Even though people have prejudice towards French music and say they don’t listen to French music, they’ll listen to my music and say « I don’t generally listen to French music, but I like your stuff. »
What about the other side? I was reading the comments on YouTube, and some people had retarded opinions and wrote stuff like: « It’s cool that one of our guests is representing Québec », as if you weren’t really Québécois. Do you get some of that?
I get a bit of « he’s not really Quebecer » and this and that. But what am I? I was born here, I’ve lived and worked here all my life. No matter how deeply involved I am with my origins, doesn’t change that my birthplace is still here. This is what I wanted to do with the song. It’s cool to be catchy, this and that, but you also want to have a discussion such as this. And it sparked that discussion. If you want to go down to the basics it’s really quite simple: no one is really at home here, no matter how many centuries you’ve been here, you know. I guess technically the natives are the only ones who can really claim that they were here before everybody, but even then, it’s what you do with your life that’s going to matter at the end of the day.
You have to admit, the Québécois are always a little bit insecure. A few of prominent artists have complained in the past that it’s badly seen in the Québec cultural community not to be a nationalist. Is this just your way of making friends in the industry?
I felt the need to demonstrate Québec pride for several reasons. One reason actually being the fact that this is my first French album, so I really wanted to make a strong point. I’ve always had the problem of people not necessarily knowing where I’m from. Especially the English music followers thought maybe… Ontario, or people maybe thought I’m form some part of the States and a lot of people would not know that I’m from Québec and Montreal. To me it felt right. A lot of the calculation was about what needs to be represented to make a distinct sense of this guy is from here, he’s repping here and he’s not trying to be from somewhere else. That might just be in the case of Québec, that you have to show Québec love if you want them to sense that, oh yeah, this guy’s from here.
But now you know that because you’ve rapped: « Oui, j’suis Québécois. Non, j’connais pas le Canada » [Yes, I’m Québécois. No, I don’t know Canada.], you can’t accept Canada Day gigs anymore.
If you ask me where I’m from, I’ll tell you Québec first. And that’s not a lie, not a front I’m putting up. When I was kid growing up, René Lévesque and people like that were still fresh in people’s minds and the sense of nationalism was very strong. The sense of Québec outside of Canada was very strong in my mind. As a kid growing up I wasn’t actually understanding that Québec was actually part of Canada. People talked about Québec so strongly I thought, Ok, this might be a country. I’ve always had a sense of me being part of Québec, even though I only knew Montreal. Would I refuse Canada Day? Well I guess it would be a little bit weird for me to do it, but it also depends when in my life I get to it. And I’ll still rep Québec before I rep Canada, regardless. I’m not gonna be doing Canada Day this year, that’s for damn sure, though!
You’re about 10 years younger than me. I went to a very multiethnic school in NDG where white Québec-born kids like me were a very small minority. I feel, maybe in Montreal, there’s a new generation who define identity differently. It’s not the federalist dream of a fully bilingual, bicultural Canadian nation or the old school Québécois image that some nationalists would like us to be. There is a feeling of else coming together. Do you feel that?
Definitely so. I could definitely say that for Montreal, for sure. In the rest of Québec it might be a little less diverse… and even that’s becoming more mixed.
Yeah, Québec City…
Québec City is definitely there too, but there are smaller towns, towns that are way more francophone, that are getting more diverse. Whatever it is, let it be. Whether it stays more homogeneous or it gets more diverse, I don’t really care, That’s just the natural course of things. I think it’s a cool thing, but there’s got to be an openness. There’s just got to be an openess.
How do you feel the majority in Québec is reacting to minorities? To the Immigration generation, let’s call it that? I wrote recently on how what you see on Québec TV looks nothing like what you see on the Metro. There’s something wrong, don’t you think?
I feel… it comes from both sides. If you’re the person that feels misrepresented, you still have to step it up a notch. If you want something to change, you’re better off trying to change it yourself. Perfect yourself. Be in their face, to the extent that they can’t really deny you at that point, you know what I mean? Is it fair, is it not? That’s a different question right there. But you have to do your part in order to have people notice you.
From my very first video, the 3-in-1, I got a response quicker than I expected, but on the other hand, I had made a conscious effort of making sure this thing made me proud and represented the people and got the diversity of me and my sound out there. That type of move is an example of how you get that diversity out up front.
Lots of political talk on my blog, so do you have any thought about politics you want to share? Sovereignty, independence, do you have anything to say about that? Does it matter anymore?
I don’t even know anymore if it matters. I think Québec as a culture, in Canada, is and alway will be something distinct, and you see it in the entertainment business. That’s my personal point of view, and I might be biased. I know people in Ontario might have a different perspective, but Canadian identity is a little harder to distinguish than Quebecer identity from the American and other influences. This is something Quebecers, in the present moment, have to be proud about. And keep that pride alive.
The question of an independent country really has to do with economics. If you don’t have a strong leader, to convince people about things, I don’t think Québec will ever be ready. I think one of the strongest ones was René Lévesque, ’cause he could even get an immigrant to feel concerned. I think if René Lévesque was still alive he would be convincing more people now. But who’s in the movement right now? You have to keep in mind some of the people who sort of wrecked things, like Parizeau being a sore loser… There’s some major faux-pas that were done. I’m not against it, but I’m not particularly for it, in the situation that we’re in today.