Archive for May 2010
It’s going to be a scorching hot summer in Québec City. In about a week the Philadelphia Flyers will put an end to the providential media blackout provided by the Habs’ unexpected early playoffs successes and Jean Charest’s Liberals, already busy with Mulroney-scale allegations of corruption, will also have to deal with their very first full-scale language crisis.
And if the word on the WiFi is true, Charest might just be about to take Québec’s already schizophrenic linguistic situation straight through the looking-glass.
Y’all of course remember that last year the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated Bill 104, a law that closed a loophole used by wealthy families to purchase the right to send their kids to English-language public schools, a privilege that in the spirit and letter of Québec’s laws, is supposed to be reserved for Québec’s historic English-speaking minority.
The Supremes essentially agreed that closing that loophole was a legitimate objective, but decided that the technicalities of Bill 104, the idea that all the time a student spent in a unsubsidized private school didn’t count as education in Canada, was too much. It gave the Québec bureaucrats one year to find a better way to close the loophole.
Evidently this is harder than it sounds and Charest government already missed its deadline.
In the Red corner, tenors of the English-speaking community have taken the debate way beyond the loophole and are arguing that short of a new source of students, Québec’s English-language public school system, and, by extension, all of Québec’s English-speaking community, is on the verge of demographic collapse. (The inconvenient fact that the size of the English system relative to the French system is stable, that interprovincial migration from English-speaking provinces to Québec is on the rise and that English as a home, work and higher education language in Québec is in the midst of a historic boom is conveniently ignored.)
Emboldened by a recent poll that suggests that for the first time in decades Québec Francos would support giving themsleves the right to send their kids to English schools, some are asking the Liberals to take this opportunity to give… everyone except Québec’s Franco’s access to English schools.
One of the solutions to the English schools demographic « decline » peddled by School Board—and appalingly getting support in some sovereigntist circles—is the right to public education should be extended not only to families who have received an English education somewhere in Canada, but also to those who have received this education in « English-speaking countries » such as the US or the United Kingdom.
Notice the two countries that inevitably come up when that solution is proposed: the US and the UK. What about Jamaica, South Africa, Belize, Nigeria and Cameroun?
An arbitrary choice of countries could never be justified on any objective moral grounds and would inevitably be struck down in courts as discriminatory. Eventually, the right to a subsidised English education would have to be extended to the children of parents who have been educated in English not only in Canada, but « to any children with at least one parent educated in English anywhere on Earth », as the Montreal Gazette suggested.
In other words, instead of closing a loophole that enabled wealthy Québec Francos and immigrants to purchase the privilege of a subsidized English education in Québec, these people are suggesting that we take the racket global!
Because make no mistake about it, « elsewhere on Earth » an English education is a privilege of the wealthy. In places like Pakistan, India, much of Africa and Asia, sending their children to exclusive private English-language schools is the local elites way of making sure they have first dibs on all the good government, justice and army brass jobs.
Ain’t globalization grand?
It is possible to argue that Québec’s English-speaking community has historical rights to its own institutions. But we would now be extending these rights to ALL English-speaking people, anywhere on Earth. Québec, of all places, would be the first Nation in the world to treat ALL THE WORLD’S ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES as a minority in need of special protection!
And all the Francos in the English language school board’s poll that want greater access to English schools? Too bad. They’d still be locked out.
The great novelist Mordecai Richler forever associated the cause of Québec’s independence to proto-fascist ideology in English-reading minds when he wrote in a series of articles in the New Yorker, later published as Oh Canada! Oh Québec! Requiem for a Divided Country, that:
« From the beginning, French-Canadian nationalism has been badly tainted by racism. The patron saint of the independantists, the Abbé Lionel Groulx was not only a virulent anti-Semite but also a nascent fascist, an unabashed admirer in the thirties of Mussolini, Dollfuss and Salazar. »
Although absolutely true, Richler’s diatribe obscured the fact that Mussolini had many admirers in the 1930’s, from industrialist Henry Ford to presidents and Prime ministers.
One of the most vocal and successful proponents of North American fascism was indeed a French-Canadian, but he was not a nationalist. From his early days as a reporter at the daily La Presse, through his internment during the war and well after the Allied victory, Adrien Arcand remained an admirer of the British Empire and a fierce opponent of an independent Québec that would have been, in his words, « at the mercy of the Jews. »
The AngryFrenchGuy spoke with Jean-François Nadeau, the author of Le Führer Canadien, the first biography of Adrien Arcand.
On the AngryFrenchGuy website the fascist past of Québec society, and the supposed roots of the nationalist movement in that past, are regularly brought up by some people. Just how big was the fascist movement in Québec in the 1930’s?
This idea of a movement essentially concentrated in Québec is bullshit. A thesis upheld by ignorants. In that period, it’s everywhere. There are movements like this in Brazil, Mexico and many in the United States. As a matter of fact, Arcand will experience a triumph of sorts in New York where there are gatherings at the Madison Square Garden—today known for hockey—and the New York hippodrome of tens of thousands members of organized groups who welcome him with the fascist salute. This is before 1939.
We tried to forget this, but in the 1920’s and 30’s, even people like Gandhi and president Roosevelt were very open to some aspects of Italian fascism.
In the case of Québec, some have tried in recent years to correlate that past with the national affirmation and indépendantiste movements. It doesn’t hold water. Those people hate the very idea of Québec’s national affirmation. They are the most fierce opponents of that idea. They dream about an imperial system—French or English style—but in the name of a very very strong, authoritarian and structured Canada.
Because Arcand is quite the anglophile, isn’t he?
His troops are commanded in English. He speaks English fluently. There are other groups like his in French-Canadian society, but he is the one who succeeded in federating other groups in English-Canada, in the West and the East. He speaks in meetings in the Atlantic provinces and in Toronto. He travels a lot in Canada, with the objective of founding a far right party, which he will achieve in 1938: the National Unity Party of Canada.
You’ve written that Canadian Prime Ministers encouraged his movement, at least in a underhanded way.
Prime Minister Bennett financed Adrien Arcand’s first antisemitic and virulently racist newspapers in the hope that Arcand, who is a brilliant marketer, would support him and help him elect enough Conservative candidates in Québec for him to form the government in Ottawa. It worked.
Even after the war, after 1945, there are many federal conservative MP’s who are very close to Arcand, who go to him for counsel and try, in one way or the other, to support some aspects of his doctrine.
Québec Conservatives or Canadian Conservatives?
Mostly French-Canadian, but also English-Canadian. He always said that the Anglo-Saxon world paid more attention to him than his own Latin world. In fact his own models are not so much Hitler or Mussolini as they are British Lords who are proponents of a British Imperial Fascism. People like Mosley who inspire him, and with whom he corresponds.
His is a racist, antisemitic, very Hitlerian approach to the far right, but English-style. That’s peculiar. For him, the New World will come about through the British Empire, the defence of a King and of the British monarchy. That’s why French-Canadian nationalists hate him so much, even if they defend ideas that aren’t far from his. They reject him because he is an imperialist.
It’s fascinating to read in your book that Arcand was one of the first Holocaust deniers.
After the war, even if his newspapers have lead him into a detention camp, Arcand doesn’t change his mind.
He can’t accept the idea that there had been a massacre of Jews and of political opponents. He doesn’t need any proof of a Jewish conspiracy, he’s already convinced. He will be one of the first to deny, on the basis of faith in the irrational that supports all his thought, that death and concentration camps could have existed.
He will be one of the first in 1946-47 to develop those ideas, which he will maintain, to the point of enriching the thinking of those we consider today to be the pioneers of Holocaust denial—that’s not a very appropriate name, we should call them falsificators of History. He is the one at the root of many of their ideas. In temporal terms, I see that he is writing these sorts of things before the leading theorists of denial even started to write.
One very surprising revelation in your book is that Pierre Elliot Trudeau defended Arcand. In what way? Was it a purely legal exercise?
When he was a student in London—but let’s be clear, when I say a young student, I mean a man of almost thirty years, with all his head and able to make a judgment—he wrote in a very conservative newspaper called Notre Temps that what was done to Adrien Arcand was horrible. He will write that a regime that claims to be democratic but is not able to support the opposition and freedom of speech of Arcand is denying itself.
That’s a little bit odd because he will himself use that very law, the very exceptional and contested War Measures Act, in 1970, to contain the supposed insurection of the Front de Libération du Québec. Yet we could very well take everything he writes in the case of Arcand and transpose it very exactly to the situation in 1970.
It’s very peculiar because people from the far right like Arcand, who are likely to have contacts with the enemy, are a real menace to the Canadian State. The country is at war against a formidable force. It’s not an apprehended insurrection like in 1970, it’s a real war with real tanks and aeroplanes and a real man called Adolf Hitler. And we have people here who wear uniforms with the swastika and are likely to help the enemy from the inside.
It’s not a coincidence if in May 1940, in England and South Africa and all over the world members of these groups are arrested on the exact same day. In 1970 we suppose there is a menace, but there is no proof. In 1939-40 we know that Poland has fallen, that France will be hit, that Belgium was hit, that Danzig is done and Czechoslovakia too. It’s not an apprehended menace. It’s a real physical menace.
So Trudeau’s point of view is a little bit peculiar…
Now, in all fairness, fascist movements in that period weren’t all as anglophile as Arcand’s. There are also nationalist French-Canadian factions with fascistic tendencies, right?
Yes, and they weren’t quite as important.
A few years ago we decided to do an ideological trial of the work of Lionel Groulx, and it is impossible to deny that there is an antisemitic variable in his thought and his brand of French-Canadian nationalism of the 1930’s. There is some very antisemitic prose published under his name or his pseudonyms.
But there is a great difference between this thinking and that of Adrien Arcand. First of all, it’s very latent and there isn’t much of it. More importantly, it doesn’t support the architecture of the thought. To use architectural language, if you remove the antisemitic variable from the discourse of people like Lionel Groulx, everything still holds. If you remove it from Arcand’s movement, everything collapses. The foundation of his ideology is that there is a Jewish project of world domination and that it is imperative that they be eliminated. That’s not the issue in right wing nationalist movements.
There is also Paul Bouchard’s La Nation group from Québec City, which is very strongly for independence and very antisemitic. They will strongly oppose Arcand’s ideas, even though they essentially are the same as their own: coporatism, against democracy, against representation, against traditional political systems.
But it’s Arcand who succeeded, in those networks, to structure the far right. Not that he was that successful. In the 1930’s, he wasn’t on his way to become Prime Minister of Canada, far from it. He was probably 3 or 4 years too late.
There are no allophones in Canada.
Just for fun (because I’m the type of guy who entertains himself by doing amateur statistics on a Sunday afternoon while the rest of the World is watching some hockey game), I searched « allophone » + « every Canadian province » on the Canadian Newstand search engine.
In all the Canadian newspapers electronically archived, 1551 newspapers articles contained both the words Québec and allophone. If you remove the stories that also mention Québec, only 57 stories have ever been published in a major Canadian newspaper in which the reporter used both the words Canada and allophone. The words Ontario and allophone have shared a daily’s real estate only a precious five times.
And even though 42% of immigrant workers in British-Colombia say they regularly use a non-official language at work, no writer has ever used those two words in the same story. Ever.
There are no allophones in Canada. They all live in Québec.
Strictly speaking, an allophone is someone who’s native language is not the same as the one of the dominant linguistic community in which he lives, which in Canada is understood to mean someone who’s native tongue is neither French nor English. By that definition, Ontario, British-Columbia, Alberta and even Manitoba have way more allophones than Québec.
In the context of Québec’s charged identity politics, however, the word allophone has become shorthand for visible minority, immigrant, ethnic and « white people with italian last names trying to claim some sort of ethnic heritage to advance their careers and/or political agenda », i.e. the Parti Québécois’ Pierre Curzi, the Liberal’s Liza Hébert/Frulla-Hébert/Frulla and the CDPQ’s Micheal Sabia.
That’s not to say allophones are a demographic fiction. They exist, at least in Québec. There are 900 000 allophones in the province, and with over 21 000 new recruits every year through immigration, they could soon be twice as numerous as Québec Anglos.
That’s huge. If the arrival of the French settlers four hundred years ago was the first dramatic demographic shift on the banks of the St.Lawrence river, and the arrival of the British Loyalists the second, we are now smack in the middle of the third.
Political pollsters usually treat Anglos and Allos as a single bloc of voters. In the Montreal Gazette « anglophones and allophones » has become a single word as their writers try to convince us they have many black friends.
In real life, though, the Allophones are a very different tribe than the Anglos and Francos.
Three quarters of Québec Anglos only listen to music in English. Allos, like Francos, say they listen to music in French or English indiscriminately. Eighty-five percent of Québec’ Anglos watch all their TV in English. Half of Allos watch French television, a third of them exclusively. A small majority of allophones choose to read French-language newspapers (a huge majority if you count the free dailies distributed in the Montreal metro). One third of Québec Allos watch French language movies and the majority of shows they see are in French.
And whereas Anglophones who choose to study in another language than English at the post-secondary level are as rare as palm trees in Rosemont, half of Allophones (60% of those who went to French high school) choose to persue a higher education in French .
And those numbers are from Le grand Montréal s’anglicise, a report compiled by the Parti Québécois for the express purpose of scaring us into voting for secession ASAP.
The fact is allophones are just as endangered as francophones.
According the latest census data, there are 2 400 000 Allos in Canada who have gone Anglo. Combined with the 400 000 Francophones converts to English and the 500 000 new native English speakers in the country, this has led to one of the fastest periods of growth for the English language in Canadian history according to University of Ottawa demographer Charles Castonguay.
Even in Montreal, the allophone’s last refuge, economics pressure the majority of allophones who assimilate into one or the other of the great linguistic confederacies choose the English-language. The number of people who reported using English as their home language increased by 5,5% between the last two census periods. Again, unprecedented in the history of Canadian census data, according to prof Castonguay.
Montreal is not getting more diverse, it’s just becoming more English. Just like Canada, where there are no more allophones.