AngryFrenchGuy

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Quebec’s Efforts to become 30% English

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Many people this week were upset at the news that the Québec government was giving lifetime access to government services in English to new immigrants.

According to a report in Le Devoir, as many as 27% of the 48 000 immigrants Québec welcomed in 2009 were designated as Anglos in the State databases, even though only 3,5% of them claimed English as their mother tongue.  According to Québec laws, government services in English are a privilege of Québec’s historic Anglo community, not a right of all citizens, even though any one can decide they are Anglo any time they want.

According to the numbers published by the daily,  many as 30% of these new members of Québec’s historic anglo community don’t even know how to speak English!

In other words, the Québec government was now in the business of teaching English as our common and business language to immigrants.

And why not?

The future of Québec’s English-speaking community is, as everyone knows, in peril.

Québec’s Anglos, live in near isolation, a whole 45 minute drive from the biggest and most powerful English-speaking nation on earth where the fragile English language media is drowning in a sea of French media imperialism that leaves them without HBO.

Québec’s 607 165 English-speaking souls, 8,2% of the population, struggle to keep a community and a network of institutions alive with only 25% of Québec’s entire Health-care budget and a mere 50% of the money ear-marked to build two new University hospitals in Montréal.

In Montréal, where  as many as 20% of the population is English-speaking, they have to make do with only 45% of the povince’s higher education budget and 57% of all university professors in the city.

There comes a time, as Angela Mancini, president of the English Montreal School Board said, when Anglos have to start thinking of themselves…

It’s only a small gesture, but maybe, just maybe, by giving up 30% of it’s immigrants to the English-speaking community, Québec can help save English in North America…

Written by angryfrenchguy

December 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Reasonnable Accomodations on the Citizen’s Band

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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

Québec: Canada’s Xenophobic Obsession

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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

Joual Renaissance

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In Québec there is this long tradition of artists who’s real names might or might not be Bob Walsh and Steve Hill who earn a living performing american blues standards in the provinces innumerable blues festivals with the technical precision and soul of a catholic priest performing mass.  Then, once in a while,  someone comes along to remind us that blues can actually be good music and that Québec French, especially street Joual, could be Delta English’s closest relative.  Offenbach proved it in the 1980’s.  Bernard Adamus does it again this year.  “Singing in English would have made no sense.  I live in French, I love in French, I read in French”, says Adamus, who was born in Poland and sings about Coors light, winter in Longueuil and all things brown (the colour of love…)   Bernard Adamus is in France this week to show the cousins how it’s done.  Consider yourself uncool until you’ve got La question a 100 piastre and Rue Ontario on your iPod.

For a more representative sample of the mans work click here.

There is no doubt that Muzion’s La Vi Ti Neg is the only song (partly) in Haitian Kreyol to be on regular rotation anywhere on the National Hockey Leagues circuit (and for that you can thank my brother Vince).  J. Kyll, the lyricist responsible for that Kreyol verse, just broke a long silence with Spit White, an homage to Québec Joual.  “Damn it’s beautiful to hear you speak Joual”, she raps, “It sounds so real”.  Bobbing his head next to J. Kyll is Imposs, who, as far as we can tell by Youtube clips floating around the Internet has been adopted by Wyclef Jean and just might be getting ready to try to become the first Hip Hop artist to make it big in both the American and French scenes.  A Hip Hop Céline Dion?

Now here’s one for the people who like to say that Québec French and Joual are not “real French”.   Well, I dare any of the amateur linguists who have shared such wisdom on the blogs and internet forums of the world to tell me what Pure Laine Parigot Renaud is singing about in his classic Laisse Béton, shown above.  Yeah, thats what I thought…  France’s street French is as far from the standards of l’Académie française as the French spoken on the corner of Papineau and Beaubien.  Check out Québec City’s Keith Kouna Joual version of the song, called Oublie Ça (get it? Of course you don’t.)   Suddenly Joual sounds a lot more like “real French”, doesn’t it?

Joual in Germany?  Ya.  Franco-Deutch duo Stereo Total liked the 514 so much they called their entire album “Carte Postale de Montréal” and managed to get their hands on some residual sponsorship scandal money to put a big maple leaf on the cover.  Check out their cover of Corbeau’s Illégal, complete with a sincere yet flawed attempt to reproduce signer Marjo’s accent in the line: “C’est TOÉ, qui m’fait d’l’effet.”

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Prince Charles, Quebec and Separatist Monarchists

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Prince Charles in Quebec

As the Who’s Who of Québec separatistati is getting ready for what promises to be the gala event of this year’s season:  the November 10th demonstrations against the Montréal visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, I have a confession to make:

I am not a republican.

Now, no citizen of the Commonwealth should deny him or herself the delightfully anachronistic privilege of demanding the head of their king (in waiting) from the safety of a carefully cordoned off perimeter protected by the police,  and hereditary monarchy certainly is one of the most retarded institutions of 21st century politics, no argument here.

But I believe an independent Québec should keep the Queen (or Chuck or that other kid) as head of state, at least for a while.  Not for their own sake, but for the sake of political stability and the British parliamentary system.

Québec has been governed according to the rules of the Westminster system since 1791, way before Australia, New Zealand, or modern Scotland or Ulster ever got their own parliaments.  The British parliamentary system is the only one people in Québec have ever known and I see no reason why Québec should be in any rush to get rid of it.

It might not be the best system out there, what with the confusion between the legislative and executive branches of government and the uselessness of MPs (We call ’em Members of the National Assembly in Québec) who are told what to vote by the whip.  But that said, it also has the sturdy robustness of a 1973 Buick Regal and there is that very healthy tradition of letting opposition parties yell at the government for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoons.

The thing is, the British parliamentary system need a head of State who is not the Prime minister and if Québec became a Republic, who would get that job?

Now, the Head of State does not absolutely have to be a King or Queen.  India is a republic that kept a version of the British system.  Québec could elect some sort of honorific president as Head of State like Israël or, say, Russia, but electing someone might give that person the impression that they have the legitimacy to use the powers technically theirs under the constitution and those powers are pretty awesome.

Alternatively we could nominate a king or president like we nominate the governor-general, but then he or she would be so weak that governments would feel entitled to push them around.

Only the Windsors have both a centuries old tradition of protecting the stability of the governments under their dominion and a well established irrelevance that makes it impossible for them to actually use any of their powers.

I know there’s few people on my team who feel the same way I do. Most of my peeps are really into massive reforms of the Québec democratic system and things like public initiative referenda, proportional representation, fixed-date, state-funded, two-round elections.

That’s all good, but you and I know it would be a disaster.  People are still confused about the three ballots—one to elect a Mayor, one for the borough mayor and one for a city councilor—in last Monday’s municipal election in Montréal.  Try to explaining to them the subtleties of a German-style hybrid system and party lists.  No fun at all.

I also think that in the context of change and confusion—I believe the dear leader called it turbulence—that would inevitably follow Québec’s accession to the concert of free and independent nations, it wouldn’t hurt, if only from a public relations point of view, to maintain it’s ties to the Commonwealth and the monarchy who would then be obligated to stand up and protect their brother State.

That and we would also be able to reassure nervous investors by showing them the face of Queen Elisabeth (or King Charles) on the 20 piastre note.

May the oecumenical spiritual being save the symbolic head of State!

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Bill 104: While English Canada Obsesses Over Language Mafia Takes Over Montreal

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bill 104You know how the English-Canadian media is always lecturing the Québécois on how their language issues are distracting them from the real important stuff, like economic developement and roads?  And how the separatist obsession with language is killing Montreal and has been causing it’s decline?

Two stories broke in the news yesterday.  One involved language, the other one about…  hum…  just something about the Mafia running the City of Montreal.

Loi 104 LabontéThe three French-language dailies in Montreal headlined with the Mafia story.  Only le Devoir even mentioned the Supreme Court ruling on bill 104 on the first page.  The Montreal Gazette went for the language headline and gave the story about the former of leader of the opposition and former executive council member Benoit Labonté’s allegations that the City of Montreal’s administration is hostage to organised crime a whopping 1/40th of the front page.

Inside, the Gazette gave the language story more that 4000 word, including the main editorial.  The City Hall scandal?  332. Eighteen less words that this post.

The National Post also headlined with language.  No national daily in Canada mentions the fact that Canada’s second major city is in the midst of a major corruption scandal one week from a general election.

A Google.ca news search for bill 104 on the 22nd and 23rd of october returned 167 stories in English.  A search for  Labonte returned ony 21 articles.  A search in French netted 84 stories for Labonte as opposed to only 47 about Loi 104.Loi 104 Journal de Montreal

Vigile.net, the ultra-nationalist clearinghouse for all things language and separatism-related in the Québec media lists 50 stories on Bill 104 and 90, almost twice as many, on the City Hall scandals.

Even those language-obsessed separatists of the Parti Québécois are reported by Radio-Canada not to have mentioned language, the Supreme Court or Bill 104 for the first 20 minutes of question period!

Meanwhile, the “Top court strikes down Quebec English school law” is the most active story of the day on CBC.ca with 1170 comments and growing.  The four stories on the Montreal situation, stories that just might be the answer to the eternal question as to why Montreal has so many potholes, have a total of 94 comments.

Written by angryfrenchguy

October 23, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Bill 104: The Supremes Got It Right

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Bill 104 quebec langauge law

The Bill 104 case was not about language. It was about fraud. The plaintiff’s represented by Brent Tyler were not contesting the articles of the Charter of the French Langage that say they couldn’t send their children to publicly funded English-language schools in Québec. They went to court to protect a right to cheat.

The Court has already examined the articles of Bill 101 that say only a child who has himself, or who’s parents have, received the majority of their schooling in English somewhere in Canada can go to public English schools in Québec. They ruled them to be just fine.

This case was not about that at all. This case was about parents who had found a loophole in the law by which they could buy their children a spot in a public school by sending one child to an unsubsidised private school for one year and then claim that their six year old child had received « the majority of his schooling in an English school in Canada. »

This case has nothing whatsoever with these parents’ right to choose the language of education of their children. They have that right. They exercised it when they paid for the private school.

This case was about my obligation to pay for the English-language education of the children of people too stupid and disoriented to find the English-speaking part of North America or too cheap to send them to summer camp at the Y.

Christ, doesn’t Tim Horton’s have a program or something?

The justices ruled that Bill 104, the law passed to close the loophole, was unconstitutional (not that Québec has ever signed that constitution) and contrary to a Charter of Rights and Freedoms purposely designed to open up such loopholes in Québec’s language law. Aware of all this, and of the political mess their ruling would probably cause, the justices suspended the application of their judgement for one year while the Québec City government lawyers find another way to patch the loophole.

The justices decided that an unconstitutional law should stay on the books for one whole year. In other words, they said the intent of the law was the right one, but that it was badly formulated, and gave Québec a year to fix it.  I’d say that’s quite a statement on the moral legitimacy of Brent Tyler and his gang’s cause.

Now, of course, it’s on. Pauline Marois is going to claim that the Charter of the French language is peril and that only independence can save the French language. The Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste will say something terribly old fashioned about the Québec Nation and Patrick Bourgeois will make veiled hints at violence.

The Liberals are going to act very upset, lest they get labeld as week on language.  Spaceman Marc Garneau might even take a crack at the posturing.

And, of course, Anglo Righters are going to claim the court gave every parent the moral right to find a way to send their kids to public English schools and you can expect a steady stream of angry and factually incorrect letters in all major English language dailies.

They’re all wrong.

Only the Supremes got it right.

Written by angryfrenchguy

October 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm

What’s Yann Martel Reading?

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yann martel

Hey Yann,

I was watching you on Radio-Canada’s Tout le Monde en Parle last Sunday and I heard you say something so grotesque, so stupid and so ignorant that I felt I had to respond.

You said something like: “As far as I’m concerned, all languages are the same.”

So I’m going to do exactly what you are doing to Stephen Harper and send you a couple of books to set you straight. Feel free to pass them along to Steve when you’re done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an anglophile. I read and write in English all the time. I read Life of Pi in English. My Dad was raised much like you, speaking French at home but going to English schools. My grand-father was the son of a protestant preacher’s daughter who went to Catholic school with Félix Leclerc.

English is a fine language, Yann, but the one thing it isn’t is a language just like any other.

When I went to China a couple of years ago, young students would stop me on the street and beg me to – please, please mister! -speak English with them for ten minutes.  Do you think they behaved like that because they just happened to prefer your books to those of Michel Houellebecq or Lao-Tzu?

Of course not.  These students wanted – needed – to master English because it was their only way into the best universities, free economic zones and a decent life.  English was the difference between a meaningful career and a lifetime of stamping documents at the Sechuan Ministry of Public Works.

That’s what English is today.  It’s the great gatekeeper.  Ninety percent of Korean workers have to take English tests all through their careers just to keep their jobs.   Do you really thing that English is just another language to them?

Do think that the parents of the 30 000 Korean elementary school students that are sent to study in English-speaking countries every year in this world that confuses English with intelligence feel that it is a language like any other?  Elementary school kids, Yann.  They’re not even ten years old yet!

How about the citizens of Qatar whose government hired the RAND Corporation in the wake of September 11th to design a new education curriculum that the Washington Post celebrated as More English, Less Islam? I’m sure they got the message that English is just another neutral, international language, freely available for their use, should they be so inclined.  As the British scholar Sohail Karmani pointed out: « One need only reflect for a moment on the moral legitimacy of parallel calls for, say, more English and less Buddhism, less Sikhism, or less Judaism—or indeed even more absurdly ‘more Arabic and less Christianity’—to appreciate just how ludicrous and utterly repugnant such formulas are. »

Unlike you and me, Yann, most people in the world didn’t have the privilege of learing educated standard English effortlessly while they were young.  Cultivating the illusion that one chooses a language in which to persue a career and bogus theories about the equivalency of cultures and the benign nature of the worldwide spread of English is a luxury most of the world doesn’t have.

It might help you to rationalise the fact that the ability to write in the language of your ancestors has been educated out of you, but you are only kidding yourself.

So here’s a couple of books I think you should read. If you are in a scholarly mood, I suggest Linguistic Imperialism by Robert Phillipson or anything you can pick up by Alastair Pennycook. You might also want to check out Buying Into English, the very interesting book by Catherine Prendergast, an American teacher who witnessed first hand how English transformed from a tool of freedom to a crash course in capitalism in Slovakia.

But the book I’m sending you is Decolonizing the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, about his rise to international fame in English and his realization the language had only really put him to the service of the English-speaking elite of Europe and America and completely isolated him from Kenya and Africans.

It’s the last book in English he ever wrote.

Written by angryfrenchguy

October 13, 2009 at 12:51 pm

The Québécois, Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey

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Bruny Surin et Pauline Marois

I’ve alway though the story of Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey were the perfect metaphor to explain Québec identity to those who couldn’t understand it in other terms than ethnicity and race.

On the 27th of september 1996 at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Donovan Bailey ran the 100m dash in 9.84 seconds, broke the world record, clinched the title of fastest man in the world and vindicated Canada’s honour after the humiliation of the whole Ben Johnson episode.  A Canadian hero had arrived.

Well… except in Québec.  People in Québec appreciated what Bailey had done, but they didn’t quite identify with the Jamaica-born athlete in the same way other Canadians did.  In 1996 another runner who hadn’t even qualified for the final became Québec’s hero. Bruny Surin.

Why did people in Québec identify with Bruny Surin and not with Donovan Bailey?

Bailey and Surin are both black.  They were both born in the Caribbean  in 1967 and emigrated to Canada in their teens.  Bailey and Surin both loved playing basketball and it is while they were dribbling and shooting hoops that some Phys. ed. teacher noticed their potential and encouraged each of them to persue athleticism and running.

Both Surin and Bailey quickly achieved international success.  They worked with the best european coaches and trained year round on the sunny campuses of american universities.   They both became key members and medal hopefuls of Canada’s Olympic team in 1996 and it is wearing the same red and white maple-leafed uniform that they won the gold medal of the 4X100m relay. Today they share the Canadian record for the 100m sprint: 9.84 seconds.

Objectively, Bailey, not Surin, is the great Canadian hero.  Bailey set the Canadian (and then world) 100 meter dash record while winning a gold medal in Atlanta.  Surin failed to make the final as a solo runner in 1996 and only equaled Bailey’s performance years later in Seville when he finished second at the 1999 World Championships.

Yet, in 2009, Bruny Surin is still a star in Québec.  He’s a successful businessman, big corporations pay him thousands of dollars to give pep talks to their employees and he is still a regular on the television and media circuit.

Meanwhile, if it wasn’t for racial profiling, thirteen years after his triumph in Atlanta, Donovan Bailey could probably cross the entire city of Laval could without a single person stopping him on the way.

The reason people identify with Surin and forgot Bailey has nothing to do with race, ethnicity or immigration.  It’s very simple actually.  Bruny Surin and his family live in Québec and speak French with an (haitian-flavoured) Québec accent.  Bruny Surin lives in their world and Donovan Bailey, no matter how many maple leafs are on his jacket, does not.

That’s it. It’s not anymore complicated than that.

There is no great anti-Québec conspiracy theory here.  Donovan Bailey won fair and square.  Bruny Surin succeeded at all he did, yet always seemed to carry the stigma of the one who chokes at great historical junctures.

Hey, maybe that’s what the Québécois identify with.

This doesn’t mean there is no racism in Québec, or that young Haitians in Montreal do not face discrimination.  But this is not different than the discrimination black and Jamaican kids face in Toronto, despite Donovan Bailey’s success.

Bruny Surin’s biography just came out (haven’t read it) and he is said to be shopping for a political party to persue a political career.

Surin isn’t associated with any political team yet, but he has publicly supported the Parti Québécois‘ Richard Legendre in the past.

Should that ever happen,  I can’t wait to see Canada’s reaction when an Olympic medalist who carried the Maple Leaf flag up high countless times joins the Parti Québécois.

I know, I know, you won’t hate him because he’s an ungratful immigrant.  Just because he’s a separatist.

Written by angryfrenchguy

October 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Pierre Falardeau: The Original Angry French Guy

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Pierre Falardeau

The best interview of Pierre Falardeau I ever saw was the only one I ever heard him give in English.   In English Falardeau couldn’t pull the rancid foul-mouthed chain-smoking schtick that had made him such a polarizing and familiar face on TV.  In English he was just a soft-spoken filmaker talking about his art.

To most people, however, the director of Elvis Gratton, Octobre, Le Party, Le Steak and 15 Février 1837  will always be the bitter and angry separatist ranting about the Molsons, Trudeau and Big Federalist Media, waving his cigarette menacingly.  Pierre Falardeau died yesterday.  Not from lung cancer, in case you were wondering.

Pierre Falardeau’s character served him well.  It made him a celebrity.  A media personality.  It didn’t matter if people liked him of not, he could deliver the ratings. Once it even got him a seat on Bouillon de Culture, the French TV show about Haute Culture where a dozen parisian luminaries with broom handles up their asses talk about Alain Finkelkraut’s latest essay for four and a half hours. Falardeau slouched on his chair, smoked on the set and cranked the joual to blasphemous.  The French loved him.

Falardeau constantly had to sell himself because he wouldn’t sell out.  He refused to shoot commercials to make a living.  Since it’s just about impossible to raise the money to make a movie anywhere outside Hollywood without governement financing Falardeau had to go on TV and put on a show every so often to remind his fans that he was waiting on a check from Telefilm Canada, the governement agency that funds canadian movies.

Without the public pressure from his fans the militant filmaker knew his scenarios would have been killed one after another until he would have broken down and agreed to make films about “the migration of Canadian geese and the existential angst of Outremont’s middle aged.”

He wasn’t faking.  He really was angry.  He had to fight for every foot of film he ever got.  Guerrilla warfare.  He had to set the original script of 15 Février 1837, his movie about the Patriot Rebellion, in Poland to get it past a first round of bureaucrats.

Ultimatly, though, it got old.  Falardeau got stuck in his character: a drooling separatist bogey man consumed by anger.  A defeated man who would never live his dream of an independent Québec.

That’s why it was so refreshing to discover the other Falardeau in that English interview.  The anthropologist.  The scholar of imperialism and colonisation.  The man who’s ultimate struggle was not about some administratively independent state for Québec but giving the Québécois the opportunity to make and watch their own stories on the big screen before they came to believe, like Elvis Gratton, that American stories are the only stories in the world.

But you keep bitting the hand that feeds you! said the reporter in the English interview. Why should canadian taxpayers give you any money at all?

-Because I’m the only filmmaker in Canada who’s movie have ever made a profit, quitely answered Falardeau. I don’t cost money, I make money.

Things have changed since that interview.  This summer Québec movies made 18% of the box office revenue in the province.  The top grossing film of the entire summer, beating Harry Potter, Tansformers and G.I. Joe, was De Père en Flic, a Québec movie.  There are very few countries in the Western world where domestic movies have that big a share of the market.  Canadian films count for less than 2% of tickets sold in English Canada.

But before they could start building a man had to come to claim the land.  He had to cut down the trees and scorch the earth.  He had to fight off the bears and squatters.   He had to make sure the bankers money would be used to build a railroad.  It was tough work.  Not for your average film school grad.

The only reason there is a Québec film industry at all is because Pierre Falardeau proved that moviegoers would come out and pay to see a Québec movie at the multiplex.  Slapstic comedies, documentaries and historical dramas.

Pierre Falardeau made Québec’s commercial film industry possible.   And he did it without selling out.   Respect.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm