AngryFrenchGuy

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The FLQ Manifesto, Whiggers and English Canada’s Jungle Fever

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22n.riot1

On the 29th of January 1969, 10 months 22 months before the kidnapping of James Cross and Pierre Laporte by the Front de Libération du Québec and the beginning of the October crisis, about 200 black and white students of Sir George William university—now Concordia University—occupied the computer room to protest racism and discrimination. Things got ugly, fire broke out and the university called in the riot squad to arrest the students while a crowd of white students stood by, chanting « Burn, Nigger, Burn ».

Canada briefly became the symbol of racism and imperialism across the black world, writes Sean William Mills of Queen’s University in The Empire Within, as « protests against symbols of Canadian power erupted throughout the Caribbean. In the aftermath of the event, students at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados mounted a “symbolic burial of (…) the racist institution of Sir George Williams University,” and the visit of Canadian Governor General Daniel Roland Michener to the West Indies on a ‘good-will’ tour set off a series of mass protests, contributing to a revolutionary moment that nearly toppled the government of Trinidad. »

That was Montreal in it’s “glory days”, you know, before the separatists showed up…

Earlier this week newspapers across Canada offered unsolicited advice of the controversy surrounding the proposed reading of the Front de Libération du Québec’s manifesto on the Plains of Abraham as part of a commemoration of the 1759 battle that, according to a Globe and Mail writer “marks the birth of the great Canadian spirit of cultural accommodation.”

Some, like the Calgary Herald, argued against “celebrating and glorifying the racist text.”  Most, however, thought the manifesto should be read in the name of memory and History.  It is a reminder of the dark side of Québec nationalism, editorialized the Edmonton Journal: « The document is as ancient, paranoid and creepy as a lunatic pamphlet promoting sterilization or racial cleansing ».   The National Post also agreed the Manifesto should be read, as long as it was « delivered with all the savage, sneering, race-supremacist spirit in which it was written. »

The National Post editorial board saw a black québécois, Luck Mervil, who announced he was going to read the manifesto of a 1970’s radical gang that trained in Jordan with the PLO, idealized Algerian revolutionaries, worshiped the Black Panthers, kidnapped a couple of white guys–a Brit and a French-Canadian–before fleeing to exile in Cuba, and with their deep and subtle understanding of History discerned a “race-supremacist spirit »?!?

People sometime do that. When they don’t like an event or memory in their personal past they ctrl-x it out and ctrl-v another story in its place.

The way in which English-Canada has been mapping the events of the Civil Rights movement and the violence that shook the deep american south onto the October Crisis is transparent. English Canadians are cast as the good guys, progressive and modern JFK-type northerners. French Canadians play the role of the fundamentally good yet slightly retarded southern whites in need of stern moral guidance.  English Montrealers become the powerless black folk and the FLQ is completely reinvented as a hate-filled rear-guard militia of inbred bigots known in other parts as the KKK. In that story the Canadian army was sent into the streets of Montreal to prevent a race war and restore harmonious multicultural peace.

Hey, Canadians aren’t the only ones who are trying to live out someone else’s history. The white private school guerrilleros of the FLQ had deeply immersed themselves in the writings of Malcom X, Aimé Césaire and Black Liberation. They had come to see and describe themselves as the « Blacks of Canada » and the « White Niggers of America ». Whiggers with dynamite.

Québec and Black Nationalists actually did bang together on some occasions, like that time in 1962, reported in Time magazine, when a “frowsy, 6-ft. blonde named Michelle Duclos, 26, (…) a frequent visitor to New York for dates with African representatives to the U.N.” was arrested for transporting dynamite over the border for “the Black Liberation Front, a hot-eyed batch of pro-Castro New York Negroes.”  Randy negros and promiscuous French girls:  Protestant America’s nightmare.

But at the end of the day the fact is there were black people in Montreal in 1970 and they weren’t down with the FLQ any more than they were the FLQ’s target. They had their own struggle.

Remembering History is great. Remembering what really happened is even better.

And what actually happened is that when the anti-racism Sir George William University demonstrators were tried for civil disobedience and destroying 2 million dollars worth of computers, their attorney was Robert Lemieux

…the FLQ’s lawyer.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

English Montreal Hates Celine Dion

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

In her entire career, Céline Dion has has produced one and only one acceptable recording:  1992’s Je danse dans ma tête, 4 minutes 14 seconds of unintentional pop pleasure which has finally been properly recognized and covered by Orange Orange.


The rest of her music should be banned like hip hop in Iran (Iranian hip hop actually is the bomb and shouldn’t be banned, but sadly is… You know what I meant…)


I remember clearly sitting on my bed in the late 80’s, looking for pictures of cute girls in one of sisters Québec celebrity magazines and finding instead this article about this very ordinary looking Jesus Freak who was confidently informing us that she was going to be as big a Micheal Jackson.  I laughed.

Look who’s laughing now.

I have tremendous respect for Céline Dion and her manager/husband René Angelil for an impeccable commercial carreer. I especially appreciate how she has been as loyal to her fans.  She goes on Oprah and talks to America as if she’s in her living room talking to her sisters.  Even as she became one of the biggest selling artists in the United States she kept on appearing on local Québec TV, hosting l’ADISQ, Québec’s music awards and participating in Québec’s cultural scene.

Others, like Roch Voisine (who actually was a bigger star than Céline for a while) tried to follow her footsteps down the middle of the road, but failed because he did not understand the need to consolidate what he had built.  He used the Québec market as a stepping stone to France, and French success as a springboard to the English-speaking market.  Focused on the Holy Grail of the best selling English album, he ignored his first public for years and years.  When he came back, defeated, for a consolation prize French career, his fans had moved on.

Céline has one career.  She is an international star who sings in French and English.  Céline brought all her fans along with her to the top.

Except English Montreal, apparently.

Brendan Kelly, a reporter covering the French-language showbiz beat at the Montreal Gazette posted a couple of lines a few weeks ago about Céline Dion’s pregnancy.  The story triggered a deluge of, in Kelly’s onw words, “not just negative, but bitterly negative” comments.

The comments are apparently not only about Céline’s crimes against music, which would certainly be justified, but about her being Franco, about the old story of her infamous “I am not an anglophone, I am a Québécoise” quote and about how she really is a separatist mole…

“I’m actually not sure but it underlies once again that Céline is something of a lightining rod for feelings of discontent amoungst anglo Montrealers”, speculated Kelly.  “Like I said, weird.”

Yesterday Kelly expanded his theory on his blog:  “Could it be that this anger is a kind of odd manifestation of the discontent felt by some in the anglo community as francophones here gain more and more power (politically, socially, in business)? Céline rose to the top at the same time that we anglos were slipping far from our previous dominance and, to add salt to the wound, Céline was becoming the most famous franco Québecoise in the universe by singing in English, the language on the downswing chez nous.”

I would say that Brendan is correct.

I would add that Céline’s success also shatters two important Angryphone myths:

Myth one: Francophones need the benevolent unilingual Anglos to take them by the hand and  guide and and protect them in the wider English-speaking world.

Myth two: Once you have made it in the real (i.e. English-speaking) world, you do not go back.

Céline’s success brought home the fact that the English-speaking world is only a part of Céline’s world.  Céline Dion, Québec, the French language and the world go on beyond English.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 4, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Big Macs are a Wonderful Thing

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mont-royl with cheese

Big Macs are awsome. They provide millions of poor people around the world the illusion of eating food, they can stop wars (the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has demonstrated that two countries that have a McDonald’s franchise have never been at war), and now Big Macs help us debunk one of the Canadian media’s most dearly held myths:

It turns out Montréal is not the most heavily taxed place in North America and that the cost of living is lower in Toronto than in the 514.

Every year the people at the swiss bank UBS publish a ranking of the cost of living in the world’s major cities based on the price of McDonald’s double story fat, sugar and salt delivery device. In 2009 Montrealers had to work an average of 15 minutes to pay for a Big Mac, a full 3 minutes more than those slackers in Toronto. Both cities are way below the world average of 37 minutes.

Another very juicy statistic compiled by the swiss bankers is the share of their salary workers in the world’s cities have to hand over to the governement in the form of taxes, social security, pension funds and medical insurance (whether private of public).

Power up your truth protection shields, Angryphones and CJAD listeners, you are not going to like this one: it turns out Montrealers get to keep 76% of their income for discretionary spending, more that the 75% Torontonians get to keep and even more than the mere 72% the citizens of New York City and Chicago get to take home.

And this would probably also be a good time to mention that Québec currently has a lower unemployment rate and lower corporate taxes than Ontario.

I don’t know about you, but I blame the separatist.

Oh yeah, and I know this one is going to hurt but I strongly recommend y’all take a drive to Ottawa whenever you have the chance. You will able to to witness for yourself that, contrary to what you’ve been told, the road is in much better shape on the Québec side of the border…

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Acadians and Using Language Politics to Avoid Speeding Tickets

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Acadian Congress

Like most well informed Québécois passionate about North American Francophonie, I know just about nothing about the Acadians.

Acadie is a State of Mind of a Nation of about half a million French-speaking people spread around at least five canadian provinces and a couple of american states who’s history and culture is completely different from Québec’s.  They came over from a different part of France at a different time in history and are extremely proud about their distinct heritage.  The Québécois don’t know or care about this and just assume  they’re some families from Beloeil who got lost on their way to Cape Cod.

In that way, Acadie is to Québec what Canada is to the United States.

All I know about Acadie I learned from my sister who figured out she could skip Cegep and graduate a year early by going to the Université de Moncton, the only major French language university in Canada outside Québec.

(Here’s another cool Acacheat: Because New-Brunswick is Canada’s only officially billingual province police officers must address you in the official language of your choice, but a significant number of Anglo cops don’t actually speak French.  Next time you are pulled over for speeding in NB, politely but firmly demand to speak French and the the policeman will legally be obligated to radio in a colleage to give you your ticket.  He is more likely to let you off with an (English) warning.)

My sister spent five years living among the Acadians, learning their stories and their language, Shiak, a blend of French and English.  (Which, of course,  is completely different from Québec’s Joual which is a mix of English in French).  She also learned the difference between an Acadian and a Brayon and the strange diet of this strange place wher poutine has nothing to do with cheese and gravy.

She told me about how there weren’t many Québécois at the Université de Moncton except for hockey players on scholarships.  Apparently Acadians can’t skate.   Who knew?  There were a lot of Franco-Canadians from other provinces, however.  Many militant Francos who wanted to study in French but were extremely bitter over Québec wanting to separate from Canada and the Québécois’ tendency to treat French culture outside their province as moribund, or, in the words of author Yves Beauchemin, as a still warm corpse.   Francos from the strangest places–Yukon and a village in Alberta eight hours north of Edmonton–travelled thousands of miles to Moncton specifically because they didn’t want to study in Québec.

There were also kids from France, Gabon, Mali and Luxemburg and today, even though Moncton is still a mostly English-speaking town, most immigrants and newcomers are part of the French-speaking community.  That’s Acadia succeeding where Québec still struggles.

At my sister’s graduation the valedictorian was an algerian Berber who’s life as an emmigrant had actually started in Glasgow.  (You can just imagine the scene when he arrived in New-Brunswick and some bureaucrat decided he couldn’t possibly be speaking English because of his scottish accent and sent him to French school.)  To this day he wears an Acadian flag pin–a France flag with a yellow star in the corner–on his vest when he teaches math at the École de Technologie Supérieure engineering school in Montreal.

Oh Yeah…   just about every single one of my sister’s acadian friends are now living in Montréal because it turns these militant Francos figured out you can’t work in French anywhere except in Québec.

Respect Acadie.  Nous Vaincrons.

Check out the Acadian National Congress, on now.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

On Québec’s Segregated Past and One million English Words

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End of the British Empire

So the English language got it’s 1,000,000th word this summer.

This, of course is one of the great achievements of the great English adventurers who travelled the world, befriended the locals with whom they shared the English language while simultaneously incorporating their lands and lexicon into the British Empire.

That story reminded me of a time I visited my grand-mother about 4 or 5 years ago.

Her place was just a short walk from my place.  I was near Place St.Henri where grown men drank Molson Export before noon on weekdays with no shirt on.  Thanks to some family money that will not be coming my way she was the token french lady at the Place Kensington residence for old English people and ate her breakfast two tables away from where the Senator Hartland Molson ate his own breakfast wearing a suit and a tie.

That night my grandma wasn’t seated with her usual gang. Someone had broken their hip and someone else was at a christening or bar mitzva somewhere in the States. We were seated with two other ladies I didn’t know but who seemed nice enough. We exchanged polite greatings, they commended me for being such a great grandson and then when I thought I had done socializing I ignored them and started chatting with my grandmother.

As my grand-mother was giving the waitress a quarter or something so she would bring me a double serving of white fish one of the ladies leaned over to me and asked:

-What was that language you were just speaking? Was that French?

-Yes it was, I said.

I wasn’t surprised by the question. Place Kensington has plenty of American residents who were following their sons up the corporate ladder. They just spent a couple of years in Montreal until the next transfer and rarely ventured beyond Tony’s Shoe Store on Greene Avenue. They knew nothing about Québec’s linguistic situation and they understandably didn’t care if the help spoke French or Spanish or whatever it is Philipnas speak….

-Where are you from, I asked?

-Drummondville, she answered.

Now I was surprised. Drummondville, of course, is the home of the Madrid Bigfoot Diner, the mandatory pit stop on highway 20 for travellers between Montreal and Québec and the owner of the biggest collection of slightly-smaller-than-lifesize plastic dinosaures in the world. It is also a smallish town that, today, is pretty much entirely French-speaking.

Yet here was this lady who had been born in Québec, who had lived her life, not in the sizable English-speaking enclaves of Montreal, but in a tiny rural French-Canadian village that had some farms and two or three factories and she wasn’t able to, nevermind speak, recognize the French language.

English the great language of intercultural meeting and discovery?  Give me a fucking break.

Like the great linguist Alastair Pennycook said: « The notion of English as a great borrowing language also seems to suggest a view of colonial relations in which the British intermingled with colonized people, enriching English as communed with the locals. Such a view, however, is hardly supported by colonial history. »

Even my separatist-fearing grandmother would lose patience with her companions.

-She handed me a napkin! I said « merci » and she had to ask me what I meant! Seigneur! What’s wrong with these people?

This from a woman, I remind you, who spent her summers at the Royal St.Lawrence Yacht Club and read the Montreal Gazette every morning.

There was a distinguished Jewish woman from Argentina who would come over after every meal and chat for a few minutes in impeccable French with my grand-mother. There was also another woman from eastern Europe –there was a rumour she was a hungarian baronnes or countess—who would always cordially say « bonjour ». The staff, of course had been born after the Empire and all spoke French.

But I never heard an Montrealer Anglo resident so much as salute her in French.

Now I am not saying that Place Kensington was representative of today’s enlightened Québec anglophonie. I am absolutely aware that Place Kensington is where the ghost of Montreal’s past goes to die.

But don’t tell me that Québec never existed. I’ve been there.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm

In Montreal People Who Don’t Speak English Are Uneducated Bigots

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Eric Amber theatre ste-catherine

About 10 or 15 years ago Blockbuster opened their first Montreal franchise on Ste.Catherine Street, between the Forum and Guy Metro. About every second evening me and my roommate JF would walk all the way up the hill from St.Henri to rent some videos because, a. we had no real professional or social obligations to speak of in those blissful days of our early twenties, and b. because the only commerce going on in St.Henri back then was the sale of beer and steamed hot dogs.

At Blockbuster there was this one employee that we called Tommy. Poor Tommy, we used to say, he just doesn’t get it. He wasn’t a bad bloke—although a bloke he certainly was—but he always had a look of confusion on his face and permanent hesitation in his movement.

One phenomenon that absolutely mystified Tom was that almost every single night me and JF bring to his counter a movie in English, and then proceed to address him and conduct the transaction in French.

Every single time Tom would pick up the VHS, open the box, read the title aloud, and then, with a grimace, tried to warn us: Mais… sé en Anglèse.

Je sais, I would answer. C’est cool.

Tom would then take our money and stare at us as we left the store, dumbfounded by these two French dudes who kept renting movies they couldn’t understand!

Poor Tommy. He just didn’t get it.

Mercifully guys like Tommy are rare in Montréal. We French bastards and Angry separatists are usually able to consume our hearts fill of Anglo-American pop culture and simultaneously uphold our right to be served in French simultaneously, without any problem. I can go to a downtown cinema, buy my ticket in French, buy my Pepsi and gummy bears in French, ask directions to the pimpled employees in French and even share my always entertaining and insightful commentary on the movie with my companion of the evening in French, and still enjoy the new Transformer movie in the original English version.

I don’t switch to English when I buy my Engelbert Humperdink CDs at HMV. I don’t try to order in Japanese when I order sushi. I can go to a bookstore, purchase a book in English and even discuss it with a librarian, speaking only French. Even when I go to McGill’s library to photocopy scientific papers and gawk at young girls from New Jersey I make it a point to speak exclusively in French with the staff.

Not only is speaking French not a problem at McGill, I’m pretty sure I get better service than English-speaking chumps. Staff seems to light up and come to life. It’s like it’s something new and interesting happening. Oh, French! I know this! I can do this!

Or maybe I’m just better looking than you are…

This said, poor Tommy’s are still out there.

Last week Eric Amber, the guy who runs the Ste.Catherine Theater downtown, sent out an email to all of Québec’s cultural media and institutions promoting his venue’s lineup as part of the Zoofest, a new comedy festival run by the folks at Juste pour Rire/Just for Laughs. When a few people complained that the email was only in English and demanded to be contacted in French or taken off their mailing list, mister Amber blew a gasket.

His theater’s shows were in English and, therefore, there was no point advertising them in French, essentially wrote the promoter, who, like poor Tommy, cannot comprehend that someone who has learned English does not immediately abandon his tribal language.

« You obviously can’t read English because you are an uneducated bigot », was the eloquent response of the theater to the demands for a French email. « Go fuck yourself. »

Sure, I’ll do that in a sec., but before I go I’d just like to point out to the Eric’s and Tommy’s out there that there are roughly 500.000 to 750.000 Anglophones in Québec and about 3 million Francophones like me who speak, read and consume English-language culture but still expect to be informed and to buy our tickets in French.

If you think you can run a business by only catering to « real » Anglos while four fifths of your potential market is jacking off in the shower, good luck with that.

We have our answer! As I’m about to upload this post, I learn that Eric Amber and the people at St.Catherine Theater do not want money spent by people who still nostalgically hang on to their backward cultures.  He is shutting his theater down and moving on to some other city where only people who have completely abandonned their primitive ways are allowed to talk back to the Anglos, somewhere like Toronto or Singapour:

« Due to the overwhelming racism and bigotry in French society toward minorities and non-french cultures, Theatre Ste-Catherine will be closing in protest. Effective immediately TSC will no longer be accepting bookings and will closed permanently Dec. 21, 2009.»

Cool.  Now maybe some uneducated bigot like Gilbert Rozon, who happens to run the biggest English-language comedy festival in the world, or André Ménard or René Angelil can buy back the theater and make some money while Eric Amber relocates to Peterborough where no linguistic and cultural bastards will try to crash his productions.

Add to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to Twitter SHARE. ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

French Québec Doesn’t “Open Up” to English Culture. It Makes It.

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Quebec DiscoSo I’m sitting here ruminating on past humiliations because, you know, that’s what we Québec indépendantistes do, and the whole « should we have people singing in english at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste/Fête Nationale » crisis—as I’m sure you all are—and even though I personnaly though it was cool that a couple of Anglo bands we’re invited to sing in Rosemont, there is one argument hear time and time again during the debate that I just can’t let pass.

It’s the « Québec should open up to English-language culture » argument.

(For those who’ve moved on I apologize.  You are better people than I am. I’m a little bit slow. Despite my unrivaled mastery of useless trivia which has earned me the nickname of The un-sexy Cliff Claven, I would suck at Jeopardy. Even though we all know Alex Trebeck loves to show off his French and he would no doubt signal the Double Jeopardy to me.)

How ridiculous is this idea that Québec needs to “open up” to English language culture?  It quite quite possibly could be the dumbest thing ever said out loud in the history of La Grande Chicane, our century-old dispute that has inspired an encyclopedia’s worth of dumb statements.

And I’m not even thinking about the fact that we are surrounded by English speakers and are constantly bombarded with American media and culture.

English Québec has a healthy little local scene and have made a decent contribution to the wider English-language cultural world, but with the exception of Leonard Cohen and Mordecai Richler, both of whom are old or dead, its clear that French Québec has made a bigger contribution to the world’s English language culture than all of English Québec.

Listen, I am a aware that a few Québécois of English-language expression have done good. Cohen is a legend. Sam Roberts was called the future of Rock by the head of Sony Music.   I’m not enough of a hispter to get it, but I hear Rufus Wainwright and Arcade Fire sold a few records.

So what?  So have Simple Plan and Pascale Picard and Chromeo, all of whom are as French Québec as signing “Hey motherfucker get laid, get fucked” during the chorus of Billy Idol’s Mony Mony.

French Québec has always been in the game.

In the 1970’s Montreal nightclubs like the Limelight and Québec artists like France Joli, Martin Stevens and Gino Soccio were not only part of, they were once the heart of disco culture.

Or if you’re more of a metalhead you certainly know that even though Metallica certainly sold more albums than any other metal band in the 1980’s, their own inspiration was Jonquière’s Voivod and that’s the band Metallica bassist Jason Newstead chose to join when he quit Metallica after realizing, 10 years after the rest of us, that his old band sucked.  “I think that I’m in a band now that can kick their ass”, said the old Metallica rythm-man.

Oh yeah, and there’s that French chick who sold more English-language albums than any other woman in the history of recorded music.

And then she got together with the people at the Cirque du Soleil and other Québec artists like André-Phillipe Gagnon and Alain Choquette to save Las Vegas and give it it’s most glorious era since Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

So what was that you were saying? Y’all want Québec to « open up » to English language culture?

Québec doesn’t open up to English-language culture.  Québec makes English-language culture.  As well as any so-called native English speakers in Québec or elsewhere.

And then it has plenty of talent left over to invade France.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 7, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Shooting the Shit with Jacob the Hassidic Bus Driver

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hassidic jew montreal

I met Jacob the hassidic bus driver in heavily hassidic neighbourhood where the streets are filled with religious bearded men dressed in black, their very bossy-looking wives and about a hundred million kids. This very close to what I imagine my grand-mother’s Montreal must have looked like. She was her mother’s seventeenth child. She pretty much grew up in a convent, only going out one week for Christmas and Easter and two weeks in the summer. They had mass every day and on Sundays she’d put on a clean dress and sit with her mother for a couple of hours on a hard wooden bench in the parlor.

Hassidic kids are golden. Compared to what my grand-parents had they live like California hipsters.

Québec’s hassidic Jews, their fights with their neighbours, their schools and their parking habits, come up in the news in Québec about once or twice a year, which is probably a statistical inevitability considering that Montréal is the home to the world’s third biggest community of ultra-orthodox after New York City and Jerusalem.

Most of the fighting is about small crap: homely lawns and zoning violations. Once in a while, though, and with consitent regularity, Montréal’s hassidics manage put themselves where they least like to be: at the center of storm. Their demand to cover up the windows of the Park Avenue YMCA gym led to the Bouchard-Taylor commission on Reasonable Accomodations and more recent reports that some of them send their children to 100% religious schools just might get the second round started.  (Notice how the Canadian English-language media won’t touch that story, hoping it will go away…)

Of course there is nothing the Jews hate more than the publicity. You have to feel sorry for that humble conservative community living a life determined by a millenium old code having to deal with our fast changing times in the midst of highly cafeinated French neighbours who feel the need to turn any novelty into province-wide philosophical debates.

Me and Jacob were driving two busloads of hassidc girls to Mont-Tremblant where they were spending the day. My grand-mother also went to Tremblant when she was young. Back in her day you had to take the train and skiing cost less than a dollar. How much does it cost now?, she asked me once. What is it, like 10 dollars? Try 80$, Grand-Maman.

Jacob likes the French-Canadians, he told me. He probably has to have that conversation whith all gentiles he spends time with. The French might tell you « Maudit Juif » to your face, he explained, but that’s it. The English they’re always giving you a big smile, but then they’ll stab you in the back!

The French they get shortchanged, he went on. I rent buses to do trips to New York all the time. Whenever I can I’ll rent a Québec bus and hire a Québec driver. New York drivers would never work for what we pay Québec drivers.

I suggested that the linguistic situation limited the French-speakers’ mobility. Moving to another province, let alone the US, is emigration, for a Québécois. It means your kids will grow up in a different culture and probably won’t be able to school in their language. The English-speaking workforce has a much bigger territory it can move around in, forcing employers to pay them more if they want to keep them.

Is it worth it? asked Jacob, genuinely puzzled. Why hold on to French, then?

For real, Jacob? He sat there sweating under his black hat, beads of sweat caught in his beard, speaking English with a thick polish accent three generations after his great-grand-father bought his first home on Avenue Hutchison, a greasy lock of hair hair twisted arround his ear for the pleasure of some minor desert deity, and he didn’t get how people could be attached to a language, a heritage, a history?

Jacob lived in Montreal his entire life, surrounded by French-speaking neighbours and his Yiddish-speaking brothers and family. He speaks Yiddish to his kids. But he speaks English to his neighbours, not French.

I know it, he says, but not well. They never thought me well. I think our leaders don’t want us to learn it. If we did we’d start talking to the neighbours more, and going to their houses… And we’d do it! They have so many problems in New York because everyone speaks the same language. Here, language keeps everyone separate and they like that. Rolling his eyes and with a knowing smile he adds, they say they’re goind to start teaching the kids better French, now…

My grand-mother grew up in an ultra-orthodox religious community called Québec. The overthrow of that religious order, many people forget, was what the Quiet Revolution was about. The political stuff, the language debates, all that came after.

Some people object to the hassidics resistance to integration to wider Québec society. That’s quite rich coming from North America’s champions of difference. Christ, for all we know this insitance on their right to live according to their own rules and just do their thing without bothering anybody else is something the Hassidics picked up from the Québécois!

But I wouldn’t want to live my grand-parents life and neither would most other Québécois.

I can only hope Jacob’s children will have a choice.

Those who will not protect their right to choose will commit a crime.

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Habs sold. The Old English Families Still Own Montreal.

with 15 comments

Molson buys Canadiens

My nightly newscast was positive last night: Québec is unanimously rejoicing at the sale of the Canadiens de Montréal hockey team to the Molson family. Everyone from the Finance Minister to the leader of the sovereingtists Pauline Marois and the required passersby questioned on the street were overjoyed that the hockey team was bought by Québec money and for the, quote,  right reasons.

Alright, I’ll take this one if no one else will.

What would be wrong with expressing some regret that the bid by Quebecor’s Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Céline Dion’s manager René Angelil was unsuccesful? Why is it not acceptable to aknowledge that the return of the Canadiens to francophone owners for the first time since Léo Dandurand, Louis Létourneau and Joseph Cattarinich bought the team for 11 500$ would have been an important symbolic moment, the beginning of the end of the economic inferiority of the French-speaking population of Québec?

Am I the only one to feel the politically correct insistance on describing the Molson brothers as just another from-around-the-corner Québécois family, without any qualification, sounds false?   This is not the Johnsons from the Point, we’re talking about.  We are talking about one of the great families of the Old Order that made it’s fortune when the French were good enough to fight Britain’s wars but not to sit on Molson’s board.

Now Geoffrey, Justin and Andrew deserve the benefit of the doubt and Montrealers will decide with time if they truly share their culture or not, but to call the Molson family a Québec family like any other is denial.

Of course the integration of the Habs into Quebecor Media would have brought the size, scope and power of what we now simply call «The Empire » to truly frightening proportions. With it’s near monopoly of cable and dominating position of Internet access, the biggest newspaper in the country (that would be Québec), the most watched television network, and a slew of magazines and specialty cable channels, Quebecor already has dominating position in the circulation and distribution of Québec culture.

Add Star Academie, a partnership with Céline Dion and the Canadiens and Quebecor would have an access to Québec minds of Chinese proportions.

But it made a lot of economic sense. Hockey is content. Quebecor is in the business of distributing content. They have the ways and means to make some untolds amount of money with a hockey team. Think of all the revelations on Georges Laraque’s family life and Saku Koivu’s decoration tips you could have read about while waiting in line at the supermarket in one of Quebecor’s 12 000 magazines!

Sure it’s scary, but how is it wrong?

The Molson’s are buying the Canadiens for the right reasons, we are told. How exactly is using a professional sports franchise as entertainment content wrong? What exactly are the Habs if they are not a show, a spectacle, a diversion?

Maybe the problem is that the Péladeau family who have many friends in the Parti québécois, and the Board of Quebecor, chaired by former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney, would not have been as willing to make big trades and fire coaches any time the Liberal Party have some unpleasant news they need to drown…

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 22, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Québec Separatists Save St.Jean Baptist Show From Ultra-Nationalists

with 96 comments

06-24-06

Oh dear, the children are fighting again.

As the whole World’s now heard, some English-speaking bands were kicked off a St-Jean-Baptist show – a yearly celebration of Québec culture also know as La Fête Nationale – last week before being promply re-booked, following a couple of days of heated radio talk-show action.

Here’s what happened. A couple of guys with a record label and show promoters, quite a few of whom are separatists who let the Parti Québécois host their rallies in their bar on St-Denis Street, decided it would be cool to put up a St.Jean show for those between, say 7 and 49 years old, as opposed to the family show usually held in Parc Maisonneuve.

On the bill, next to the very worthy Malajube and Les Dales Hawerchuck, a couple of lesser know Montreal Anglos called Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill.

Apparently, the idea of English-speaking performers at the St.Jean show upset a few board members of the sponsoring neighborhood group and a few people at the Société St-Jean-Baptiste, the show’s main sponsors.  The idea being that people performing in English at a show celebrating Québec’s uniquely French culture would out be of place, like Garth Brooks at a Black Pride Rally or Jerry Seinfeld hosting the Latin Grammy Awards.

Not wrong, just irrelevant.

Montréal’s ultra-patriotic English-speaking press, well known for turning any issue, from municipal elections to the colour of margarine  into issues of ethnic confrontation, was overjoyed by the (supposed) ban.   The familiar series of editorials carrefully balancing seething bitterness with anglocentric self-rigeousness followed with their familiar 3-point structure: 1. Evoque the myth of the perfect society that existed before the separatists got the French-Canadians excited 2. accuse French-speakin nationalists of systematically excluding Anglos (no questions about the Gazette’s support for separate English schools and hospitals, please) and 3. blame the Parti québécois. 

“An ancient holiday, once celebrating the summer solstice, then a saint, then all French-Canadians, was converted by the Parti Québécois into a subsidized festival of nationalism. For some, this means no English need apply – though we are allowed to pay taxes to subsidize such events. (We’re almost afraid to ask the people who hold that view : would anglophones performing in French be acceptable ?)”

What the Gazette’s editorials fail to tell you is that the separatist Parti Québécois publicly supported the Anglos right to play.  “Maybe their intentions were good, the PQ’s culture critic Pierre Curzi said, “but they need to reconsider this bad decision.  I think it’s great that anglophone bands want to take part in the Fete nationale. It shows that our society is open.”

Guy A. Lepage, the openly separatist host of the “big” St-Jean show, also publicly spoke out for the Anglo’s right to play.  “I’ve always lived in Montréal and I’ve always been a sovereigntist.  I’ve seen my city welcome Anglos, Haitians, Chinese, Arabs and Jews.  I’ve seen my city transform itself and I love it.  I love its multiethnic reality and I believe the only possibility to one day get the nation we deserve is if we make all Quebecers trip out on our opinions.”

Louise Harel, the former PQ minister and separatist running for mayor of Montréal who’s been the victim of a very ethnically divisive and partisan slander campaign by the Montreal Gazette, also said she thought the Anglos should be allowed to play.

By the way, if the Montreal Gazette had ever bothered to cover any St-Jean show in their (very) long existence, they would know that many Anglos who enthusiastically partake in Québec’s French culture, artists like Paul Cargnello and Jim Corcoran, have performed many times at the celebrations.

In the end the various separatist sponsors of l’Aut’ St-Jean had a conference call and it turns out almost none of their members had any problem with the concept of Anglos at the show.  In any case, the separatist promoters of l’Aut’ St-Jean were very clear that either their Anglo friends were going to play, or they were going to cancel the whole thing.

Of course there are some angry ultra-nationalists who were, and are probably still, upset about the shows not being pure reflections of their vision of Québec.

The Gazette gave them a soapbox.  The real leaders of Québec’s separatist movement told them to shut up. 

And in the end, it’s the separatists that saved the show and stood up for the Anglos.

But don’t expect the Gazette to ever tell you that story.

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm