AngryFrenchGuy

Speaking of cultural ignorance: A letter to Manjit Singh

with 75 comments

Dear Mr. Singh,

It’s with great interest that I read your letter in Thursday’s Gazette in which you attempt to school the « culturally ignorant » members of our National Assembly about the Sikh kirpan.

First of all, I want to congratulate you for your willingness to go beyond murky statistics and to boldly dare to make up numbers on the fly when you write that there is an « extremely high » probability that none of our lawmakers « would be able to provide a coherent answer » if asked explain the significance of the kirpan.

Most people are not willing to admit that the statistics they pull out of their asses are solely based on prejudice and ignorance. Your self-awareness is commendable.

Your brief historical primer on the kirpan was very informative. I’m sure the democratically elected members of Québec’s National Assembly will be relieved to learn that the self-appointed clerics of Amritsar, Punjab settled this matter in their name all the way back in 1922.

Indeed, why indeed should Québec, Ontario, American Homeland Security or the United Nations for that matter, have any laws regarding the kirpan at all since the wise men of Amritsar have proclaimed that the dagger is not a knife. Someone should also tell Manjit Mangat.

But as McGill’s chaplain and the president of the Interfaith council of Montreal I trust you are familiar with the many other laws of our province that violate the religious commandments of our fellow citizens. Think of the religious rights of all these poor Catholic children forced to learn about evolution, the ultraconservative Muslim clerics forced to send their daughters to school and the Mormon men prevented from marrying multiple underaged girls.

Men like you need to speak out and explain to the lawmakers and people of Québec that in today’s multicultural world, the rules of unelected religious leaders override the laws of our democratically elected legislators. Because. Just because.

I was profoundly moved by the story of the kirpan as the symbol of the Sikh’s determination to not let others impose their religious tenets upon them, and impressed with the way you use that story to argue that Québec must let Sikh’s wear their kirpan’s anywhere they want to. I was also impressed by your splendid demonstration that not giving special treatment to Sikhs who visit the National Assembly was a double standard. Remarkable.

But what truly blew me away me was your boldness and courage in choosing to lecture Québec’s political class about their need to « educate themselves about new cultures that are coming to the province » in English, a language the vast majority of your fellow citizens do not speak, read or understand!

Speaking of cultural ignorance…

God bless you, Manjit Singh.

AngryFrenchGuy

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

75 Responses

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  1. You’re back! *squeals*

    Please don’t go away again.

    – Anglophone rights activist who gets a kick out of reading (and respecting) the opinions of folks like AngryFrenchGuy.

    Lori-Anne

    February 17, 2011 at 8:50 pm

  2. Très incisif,(trop?) mais vous marquez de bons points.

    Le Québec est bien souvent séparé en 2 autoroute culturelles parallèles. L’une qui plaide l’intégration en français, qui vient de l’assemblée nationale, l’autre où on tente de faire de Montréal une copie conforme de Toronto (c’est à dire sans intégration, où tout le monde a des droits individuels et personne des droits collectifs et sans français) au nom d’une unité canadienne uni-multiculturelle dont le Québec n’a jamais voulu (1982).

    Merci pour ce texte :)

    Le Caféiste

    February 18, 2011 at 7:39 am

  3. You are a great writer. And you have a way of making your point very clear!!

    merci.

    ziad

    February 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

  4. It is great to have you back.

    Great post. As Usual.

    Antonio

    February 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

  5. Salut GB!

    Pure Laine

    February 20, 2011 at 8:48 am

  6. Louise Beaudoin’s comment taht multiculturalism is not a quebec value. when push comes to shove Quebeckers quickly show themselves as xenophobic and racist. At least they think its safe with their heads stuck in the sand!

    chuck

    February 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm

  7. Right… Now I remember why I stopped writing this blog.

    angryfrenchguy

    February 21, 2011 at 12:04 am

  8. Chuck is sort of like a computer bit, on or off, yes or no, good or bad, black or white… incapable of acknowledging shades of gray.

    Pure Laine

    February 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

  9. AngryFrenchGuy: “the laws of our democratically elected legislators.”

    “It is often forgotten that democracy, defined chiefly by elections and the exercise of power in the name of majority, can be as repressive of individual freedom and minority rights as dictatorship – sometimes more so”

    John Gray, Oxford (guest lecturer at London School of Economics and Politics, Harvard, Yale)

    http://tinyurl.com/4j64sy6

    Pure Laine: “acknowledging shades of gray.”

    Acknowledgment of shades of gray would involve accepting that in pursuit of a goal, even a noble one like the preservation of a culture, the means used might not necessarily be ethical. And that the fact that the goal is noble does not always excuse the path taken to reach it.

    In Quebec, questioning of the means is seriously lacking, and the minute traces of dissent (Maxime Bernier, Gilbert Rozon, Gerard Deltell, Gaetan Frigon) are rather quickly suppressed.

    adski

    February 22, 2011 at 5:33 pm

  10. “It is often forgotten that democracy, defined chiefly by elections and the exercise of power in the name of majority, can be as repressive of individual freedom and minority rights as dictatorship – sometimes more so”

    Not when minority rights take precedent over majority rights. There has to be a balance between the two just like there has to be a balance between collective and individual rights. Minority and individual rights are not absolute.

    “In Quebec, questioning of the means is seriously lacking, and the minute traces of dissent (Maxime Bernier, Gilbert Rozon, Gerard Deltell, Gaetan Frigon) are rather quickly suppressed.”

    Suppressed? That is such a loaded word. They have the right to their opinions and we have they right to criticize or approve them if we want. That is what Quebecers have been doing. If they want to criticize the opinions of Bernier and others, it is their right.

    Antonio

    February 23, 2011 at 12:32 am

  11. They are not supressed, they are derided for many reasons. Foolishness, interests and such.

    Bernier wanted surely to gain back some political creed out of Quebec.

    Rozon is a bit naive at times.

    Deltell is a populaist and a libertarianized fool.

    Frigon said something?

    the Ubbergeek

    February 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

  12. Those minority religious groups are in Quebec to teach us how whe can live democatry, under their god’s law : they are not numerous, but they knows the truth, because their god told them…hum…….

    midnightjack

    February 23, 2011 at 2:17 am

  13. They are also kind to let us understand this: democraty has a language, it’s english

    midnightjack

    February 23, 2011 at 2:22 am

  14. “Acknowledgment of shades of gray would involve accepting that in pursuit of a goal, even a noble one like the preservation of a culture, the means used might not necessarily be ethical. And that the fact that the goal is noble does not always excuse the path taken to reach it.”

    That’s interesting, but let’s not loose the point a this conversation here:
    having the right to carry a knife in the National Assembly.

    Kriss

    February 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  15. “It is often forgotten that democracy, defined chiefly by elections and the exercise of power in the name of majority, can be as repressive of individual freedom and minority rights as dictatorship – sometimes more so”

    Yeah… I supposed this is what Quebecers felt when Trudeau forced 1982 Constitution in their throat…

    Kriss

    February 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm

  16. «Yeah… I supposed this is what Quebecers felt when Trudeau forced 1982 Constitution in their throat…»

    Except Quebec is not a “minority” : it’s a federated state.

    Raman

    February 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

  17. Antonio: “Not when minority rights take precedent over majority rights”

    Gray is saying that any democratically-elected governing body can cross the line, and that the fact that the body is democratically elected does not impart any moral authority on it. This fits perfectly into the Quebec landscape, where the existence of 101 is often dismissed with “it was a democratic will of the Quebecois”. That’s true, but it does not mitigate the unethical aspects of 101 at all. And it proves that a majority can sometimes act in an unethical way too, for whatever reasons (be it retribution, hubris, or vanity that drives one towards power).

    Unlike Antonio, Gray smartly avoids delving into justifications of the excesses of democratic regimes, because justifications always abound. Humans are capable of justifying anything and are always tempted to look for justifications if their interests are on the line. This is also firmly embedded in the Quebec landscape. In fact, a new school of thought emerged to defend, at all costs, the ideology behind 101.

    The minority-majority relationship (that Antonio alludes to) is also highly relative, and always depends on the frame of reference. If your frame of reference is continental (or municipal) rather than provincial, can you still claim the majority status for the Francophones? And what if it’s global? You can appreciate that we are dealing with highly relative matters here, and that someone residing under Quebec regime might not necessarily live and think in the provincial frame of reference, and that (thankfully) the reach of the said regime might be limited mainly to the section of Quebec populace that is unable to interact with the continental majority (67% of Quebec Francophones, according to Reed Scowen’s excellent “Time to Say Goodbye – Building a Better Canada Without Quebec”)

    Antonio: “Minority and individual rights are not absolute.”

    Neither are “collective” rights. Rights are social constructs, and are never carved in stone. And as any social construct, rights are malleable – they can change, evolve, appear and disappear. In fact, it’s the collective rights that are more transient than individual rights. Individual rights often deal with universally accepted absolutes – as much as something can be an absolute – (i.e. right to life, food, shelter), whereas collective rights are often used as a smokescreen that ensures the privileged status of some numerical majority in a given jurisdiction (be it a country, province, state, city, borough, or any other administrative unit with a center of power). An example would the “right to communicate in French”, which is by no means as universal as the right to life, liberty, immunity from torture, slavery, degrading treatment / punishment, or the right to habeas corpus.

    The Quebec Model, with all its views on language and social interactions, is also a social construct. It is by no means absolute, and as every social construct, it is transient and fleeting. Constructs such as this come and go all the time and this one will go too. The tide has turned and the clock is ticking, as 50,000 immigrants disembark in Quebec each year.

    adski

    February 24, 2011 at 11:57 am

  18. Un débat qui se situe dans la dynamique de l’argumentation devient rapidement polarisé et les arguments de l’un sont facilement contredits par ceux de l’autre. Le sophisme se plait dans l’estétisme de son système qui lui reflete sa certitude d’avoir raison, mais un point de vue en vaut bien un autre et finalement l’ignorance prevaut.
    Pourtant la question est si simple:
    Apporte-t-on une arme au sein de l’Assemblée Nationale?

    Kriss

    February 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm

  19. “Except Quebec is not a “minority” : it’s a federated state.”

    Is it treated as a federated state by Canada?

    Canada does not act like a federation. It often acts like a state with its own laws and beliefs that run contrary to Quebec’s own.

    Antonio

    February 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  20. ..section of Quebec populace unable to interac to the continental majority ( 67 pour cent): a 33 pour cent capable de communiquer avec les nations voisines, on est meilleurs que les canadiens et les américains réunis….Je crois que ce que voulait soulever Adski, ce n’est pas qu’il faut etre capable de communiquer avec les voisins, c’est qu’a ses yeux il est anormal de ne pas parler anaglais , et anglais seulement :puisqu’ils sont si nombreux a le faire, ca devient presqu’un absolu…On est encore dans la pensée coloniale..

    midnightjack

    February 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

  21. Sikh are welcome at the national assembly: their knife isn’t..

    midnightjack

    February 25, 2011 at 12:01 am

  22. Why the kirpan should be welcome at the national assembly when it is forbidden to bring it on plane?

    midnightjack

    February 25, 2011 at 12:20 am

  23. Je me demande si on voit beaucoup de kirpan au Capitole à Washington….

    kriss

    February 25, 2011 at 12:39 am

  24. The wait was long, but with this post, I can almost say it was worth it. Yummy!

    What I don’t understand is why Quebec needs to be interested in the kirpan and why it is wrong for them not to be interested in it when, obviously, the Sikh are not any more interested in the lay of the land in Quebec. Expecting to have rights other “peoples” don’t have (if they can bring their kirpans to the NA, I should be allowed to bring my AK-47, right?), not wanting to get it through their head that everywhere in North America, not just in Quebec, the law is above personal convictions and religious beliefs, totally ignoring the fact that, even though the Sikh supposedly wouldn’t use it as such, a kirpan still has the potential to be used as a weapon…

    Why should those who were born and raised here and are still, for the time being, the majority, be interested in the history, culture and use of the religious symbol of a religious minority who chose of their own free will to come and live here when that same religious minority visibly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the culture of the very same people who allowed them to move here?

    This is a perfect example of abuse of human rights. I have nothing against immigrants, being a first generation immigrant myself, but I sure as hell don’t want to be neighbours with people who think that as soon as they land here, their rights should supersede the rights of those who were kind enough to welcome them here. Build Kirpanistan somewhere else, please.

    These people are hanging on to their way of life from before they landed here. Well, I have one question to them. If their old way of life is so precious to them, what the hell are they looking for in North America? Why don’t they stay in the countries they grew up in? Oh, I can see it coming: “We didn’t know we were not allowed to spit on the law in the name of human rights.” Oh? Then, why should WE know that you guys can’t live without the kirpan? Ce qui est bon pour minou est bon pour pitou.

    Seriously, guys, I am sick and tired of this stupid concept of minority. Erase that concept and what are we left with? Absolute equality. People who don’t have the choice but to integrate. We would all be much better off!

    AngryFrenchGirl

    February 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

  25. Thanks for this post, and please don’t stop blogging. I always learn a lot.

    Margaret

    February 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  26. adski says:

    “the reach of the said regime might be limited mainly to the section of Quebec populace that is unable to interact with the continental majority (67% of Quebec Francophones, according to Reed Scowen’s excellent “Time to Say Goodbye – Building a Better Canada Without Quebec”)”

    I am willing to bet Scowen’s numbers were pulled out of the same kind of dark hole Singh’s numbers come from. He is far from impartial and thus has motives to make up numbers.

    I went to see the Aliens movies in English around Peel metro station in downtown Montreal (clearly not a particularly francophone neighbourhood) a few weeks ago and most of the audience was francophone. Also, if you compare the capacity of an anglo Montrealer to converse in French to that of a franco Montrealer to converse in English, you’ll see that francos beat anglos hands down. This is even more true when you compare their respective willingness to converse in the other’s language.

    If what Scowen says were true, the Quartier Latin movie theater’s offering wouldn’t be two thirds anglophone as there simply wouldn’t be a market for it. Arcade Fire would run their career in Toronto, Incendies wouldn’t be nominated for an Oscar and there would be no Bloc Québécois in Ottawa. Scowen’s numbers are simply his wet dream.

    What Scowen says is mere projection. He is accusing francophones of the very same bad quality he has: not being interested in knowing who the other is and refraining from speaking their language just because he hates their guts. Maybe he hopes nobody will realize he is plagued by it by pointing fingers at others. Maybe a credulous anglo who hates francos just for the kick of it is gullible enough to believe it. Until he has proof, it is safe to call him a liar.

    Next time, if you want to educate us with numbers, how about using a source that is a tad bit more credible?

    It is not because French is the language I prefer using in public that I shun anglo content, and I am sure I am far from being the minority. Can you say the same about anglos (citing reasonably credible sources)? So please, don’t try educating us about francophones’ supposed handicap in being global citizens. Maybe Quebec francophones and ROC anglophones have trouble getting along, but trust me, the relationships Quebec francophones have outside of Canada are much healthier. Makes you wonder…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    February 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

  27. Scowen’s source:

    Statistics Canada: 2001 Census Tables: “Population by knowledge of official language” 69.3 percent of Quebec’s mother-tongue francophones – 3,946,000 out of a total of 5,789,000 – speak no English

    AngryFrenchGuy concurs:

    “… in English, a language the vast majority of your fellow citizens do not speak, read or understand!”

    adski

    February 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

  28. In the Roc, the main language is english; in Quebec, it is french. In Quebec, 40 % of people are bilingual, in the Roc only 10 %. So, what’s your point Adski ?

    midnightjack

    February 27, 2011 at 12:35 am

  29. I guess it is: the majority has no real rights to act like a majority because some minorities don’t understand french?

    midnightjack

    February 27, 2011 at 12:38 am


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