AngryFrenchGuy

Archive for the ‘French Bastards’ Category

The Black Mayors of Québec’s Logging Country

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black power abitibi

Special Black History Month edition AngryBoys and Girls.  It’s the story of Michel Adrien and Ulrick Chérubin, two buddies from the town of Jacmel in Haiti who both ended up as mayors of Mont-Laurier and Amos, two lumberjack towns of Québec’s North West.

The story of both men starts in the late 60 and early seventies when a whole generation of scholars, professionals and intellectuals was chased out of Papa Doc Duvalier’s Haiti.  Quite a few of these men and women came to Québec where they found a surprisingly familiar society that spoke French and shared their catholic faith.  Québec was also a society that, unlike Haiti, was now moving on after the long reign of it’s own tyrant, Maurice Duplessis.

Michel Adrien came to Québec in 1969 and took a job teaching high school physics for a year in Mont-Laurier, a small city of some 13 000 souls in the Laurentians.  Québec’s Quiet Revolution had lead to massive education reforms and there were many jobs jobs for all those who were willing to do a tour of duty in the woods.

He remembers the Mont-Laurier of the late 60’s as an effervescent regional hub.  Black people were rare, but not unheard of as many came to work in the many government agencies in town.

“What was funny was the reaction of parents when we has PTA meetings.  The students, for the first few weeks had a natural curiosity that lead them to ask questions, but once they got their answers, I’m the teacher.  That’s it.  Often they would forget to even mention it to their parents who would freeze when they first saw me.  But I’m talking about the first few years, here.  Young people have a wonderful ability to adapt.”

Adrien made friends and signed up for a second year.  Then a few more.  He met a girl.  Classic.  He founded the city’s astronomy club, the bike club and was eventually elected union representative, first at his school, later at the regional level.  “You have to remember the era was one of major union militancy in Québec.  That position had some kind of power.”

michel adrien entrevue

http://ia310833.us.archive.org/3/items/MichelAdrienInterview/MichelAdrien-Redux_64kb.mp3

Michel Adrien’s childhood friend, Ulrick Chérubin, came to Canada a few years later, to a New Brunswick seminary where he studied to become  a priest.  The seminary closed and he moved to another seminary, in Trois-Rivières.  There he met a woman that asked him he had ever thought of being a father instead of a priest.  “I told her I had never considered it”, he lied.

After leaving the Church, which was a very fashionable thing to do in those years in Québec, Chérubin recycled his theology credentials into a teaching career.  Like his friend, he headed north, to the small city of Amos in Abitibi.  Amos is almost exactly the same size as Mont-Laurier and is also dependent on the forestry industry.

Chérubin’s political career started after retirement, following a dream in which his deceased mother reprimanded him for watching to much TV.  In 2002 he was elected mayor with an ultra-thin majority of only 50 votes.   A year later his childhood friend Adrien was elected mayor of Mont-Laurier.

In 2005 Ulrick Chérubin was re-elected, his time with a record-breaking 84% of the votes.

Québec’s Haitian community is usually associated with the urban neighbourhoods of North East Montreal, but there is actually a surprisingly long history of Haitians not only living , but becoming political leaders in Québec’s and French-Canada’s remote communities.

The first black mayor in Canadian history was Dr. Firmin Monestime, an Haitian who was elected in the little bilingual logging community of Mattawa in Northern Ontario in 1964, only one year after Martin Luther King’s march on Washington.  The first black mayor in Québec was René Coicou, another Haitian who in 1973 was elected in Gagnon, an ultra-remote mining town half way between Montréal and Irkutsk that was shut down and evacuated in 1985.  Another Haitian political figure is the Parti québécois’ Jean Alfred, the first black member of Québec’s National Assembly, elected in the Outaouais ridding of Papineau in 1976.

ulrick cherubin entrevue

http://ia331410.us.archive.org/1/items/UlrickChrubin/UlrickChrubin-Redux_64kb.mp3

Could being one of the few visible minorities in an area where people from a different postal code are foreigners actually be an advantage in the highly public profession of politics?

“I don’t think so”, says the mayor of Amos.  After some years, people don’t see my colour.  They see Ulrick, a guy who’s active in the community.  I forget I’m black.”

“I would say it can be an advantage”, the mayor of Mont-Laurier disagrees.  “People go through three phases.  First, I’m the Black guy.  Then I’m Monsieur Adrien.  Then I’m Michel.”  That said, Montrealers might find it odd to find a black mayor in Mont-Laurier, but his constituents got over his skin colour a long time ago, he swears.  “When I’m in a public forum, talking about Mont-Laurier, no one finds it caricatural or unusual.”

Would Monsieur Adrien or Monsieur Chérubin consider provincial or federal politics?  “If I was seven or eight years younger”, muses Chérubin.  “I have more affinities with the PQ.  What happened to me is that in my riding we have François Gendron [of the Parti Québécois] who’s been there since 1976.  So I don’t think I’ll have a shot at that seat as long as he’s there.”

The 1970’s were a time of tremendous political and social upheaval in Québec and there were plenty of opportunities for adventurous immigrants like Michel Adrien and Ulrick Chérubin, especially since, at that time, the Haitian community had yet to set deep roots in Montréal, or anywhere else.  But times have changed.  The forest industry is in crisis.  There are few jobs in Amos and Mont-Laurier, today.  For immigrants or anybody else.

“We used to have a very cosmopolitan society”, reminisces Michel Adrien.  We even had an Afghan in Mont-Laurier.  But they’re gone.  Of my group that came in 1969, I am one of the few who stayed.”  He talks of recent statistics that suggest that Mont-Laurier is one of the Canadian cities of over 10 000 people with the fewest immigrants in Canada.  “Certainly the fewest immigrants of any city where the mayor is an immigrant!”

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Paul Cargnello: The Token Anglo

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Special treat today, kids.  The best dressed man in showbiz, Pointe-Claire’s own Paul Cargnello talks about dodging bottles at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Show, making money with Bouchard-Taylor and more strangeness in the life of the Québec music scene’s token Anglo.

Where are from, what’s your story?  487-…  That’s an NDG number, isn’t it?

I’m in NDG now and I grew up in NDG but when I was in High School my parents moved out to the West Island, which was a nightmare.  We were in Pointe-Claire.  It was really really Anglo and it served my sort of enclosed culture very well, which was already happening anyway.

I moved downtown with my wife when I was 18.  She’s totally bilingual but I had always been neglectful of it because of my high school years in the West Island.  I realized I was a fucking idiot and I had to learn it quickly!

You didn’t know French when you moved downtown?

I learned it in school because you had to, but I really didn’t take it seriously.

What made you interested?

It’s not so much interest as it was question of necessity and respect.  I started feeling guilty about how neglectful I was about a place we are sharing, you know?

You’d be surprised.  In Anglophone culture in Québec there’s a lot of fear that we’re going to lose our culture and that we’re going to be swallowed by francophone culture.  We’re very unique compared to Canadians.  We share so much that it seemed stupid to me to hold any of that up.  I was really taken aback at how immature I was in my high school years.

I just discovered you recently with your Une Rose Noire single.  I looked you up on the Internet and I was quite surprised to see that you already had quite a few albums.  In those albums you can see a progression from all English with a few French songs to nearly all French songs. How did that happen?  What’s the story there?

The more I spoke French, the more I started to write in French. I write constantly, and slowly but surely I would start dreaming in French and writing in French.

I’m not going to say it was a political decision…  but it would be hypocritical for me to say that because I truly believe that everything is politically motivated, whether you are aware of it or not.  My interviews were being done in French, my performances were to Francophone audiences, my fan base had become at majority Francophone, and I though that it was time I give something back to that fan base that had been very loyal.

It was a political decision in the sense that it’s a message being sent to Anglophone artists that maybe more of us should be doing this.  The majority of Anglophones and Francophones that I know in Montreal are able to switch.  Fine.  If we can compose in French, why not try?  Why not give a humongous portion of who lives here something to chew on?

Ok, but if Rose Noire hadn’t had the success it had, would you still be recording a second consecutive French album?

Believe me I didn’t do this for any financial reason because I never assumed in my life that commercial radio would ever play me.  My messages are somewhat subversive. Even Rose Noire is not a happy song. It’s about alienation and at the same time I’m referencing the black rose, which is really sort of an anarchist reference.  So it’s very strange to me that it became such a mainstream hit.

I want to be able to do whatever the hell I want and not be “An Anglo that sings in French”.  I’m an Anglo that CAN sing in French.

I was going to say.  You were at the Francofolie this summer and you were at la te Nationale and we know how hard they work to show how inclusive they are at la Fête Nationale.  Do you worry about being the token Anglo?

Constantly.

The new Jim Corcoran?

That’s litterally what people call me, the new Jim Corcoran.  I am constantly worried about being the token Anglo.  I was worried this was all because of Bouchard-Taylor…  and I’m sure that it is.  But why not take advantage of it regardless? I realize that the Saint-Jean organizers were really taking a chance.  The organizers were really afraid for a while.

Really?

Yeah!  There was a fear that there would’ve been bottles thrown…  Because of the fact that I’m not openly separatist.

I’m a socialist.  If a sovereign Québec means a sovereign socialist state, I’m a sovereigntist.  But if Canada suddenly becomes a federation of socialized health care and banks, I’m going for Canada. I vote in terms of politics.  I don’t vote in terms of patriotism or flags.  Pride to me is something that is achieved, not something that’s inherited.

Artists in Québec are often considered spokespersons for the Québec “people”, with a few exceptions like Jean Leloup, or Xavier Caféïne, who don’t want to be labelled Québec nationalists…

An neither did Robert Charlebois.  He’s openly federalist.  The funny thing about this whole thing is I think we DO reflect a little bit of what Québec is.  I think I reflect what my generation of Anglophones AND Francophones better that the generation that came before us.  The old guard of Liberals and Parti québécois types are nightmares because they hold these opinions that range from insulting to absolutely disgusting about each other, about each others cultures and about Canada versus Québec.

There is a certain type of Angryphone that I see on my blog that are absolutely convinced that Francophones are angry, racist ultra-Catholics…  This old antiquated idea of Québec.  You didn’t see Francophones that way?

Definetly not.  With Anglophones I find there is still a lingering, American, black and white racism.  With Francophones I’ve noticed a different tendency of racism.  It’s linguistically-based.  People are like, “I don’t mind the Vietnamese coming here, but I don’t like it when they don’t learn French”.  There’s a difference in the targets of who they pick as the racist butt of the joke.  I’ve met a lot of Francophones, it tends to be outside of Montreal and mostly an older generation, that tend to have a strange thing towards Jews.  There’s a lot more anti-semitisim that I have encountered in the Francophone world than in the Anglophone world.

I have a Jewish friend from Vancouver and his family in Côte-Saint-Luc didn’t believe him when he said he had a Québécois friend, a Francophone friend.  They’ve lived in Montreal all their lives and they have no real relationship with any Francophones.

That’s weird!  I don’t know what it is because I’m cross-pollinating constantly, OK? So it very difficult for me to hone in on, because I have so many Jewish friends, so many mixes.  My keyboardist is Haïtian and he’s got his own hangups about the Francophone thing, because his francophonie comes from somewhere else.  It’s hard sometimes to figure out exactly who hates who…

If I can give you the opportunity not to be the nice token Anglo who likes everything and everybody: What pisses you off about Québec?

Oh Christ…  I guess it’s the egoism in our industry, especially in our arts.  Rockstars in Québec seem ridiculous to me.  We have our own ‘système de vedettes‘ (star system) that’s so evolved that we litterally think…  huh… Eric Lapointe is a ROCK STAR.  And he’s not.  He’s nobody.  He’s a fucking speck on the music industry.

Our sense of self-importance is really hightened.  Did you ever watch TV, things like L’Avocat du Diable?  They’ll be talking about the environment and say things like: “How does the environement affect les Québécois?”  Not talking about us as people.  Talking about les Québécois. We definitely think about ourselves first.  That’s a little bit annoying.

I noticed you said “Nous les Québécois“.  You’re comfortable saying that?  Without qualifying it in any way?

[Hesitates]  Yes.  I don’t typically define myself as Québécois, but if you we’re going to ask me my identities politically, or nationally, I would say: Montrealer, Québécois, Canadien.  In that order.  Québec and Canada are really close, and they’re a distant second and third.  I’m  Montrealer, that’s what I’m proud to say…  let me retract that: I’m comfortable saying that. Saying Quebecer…  I have a bit of a harder time because I constantly feel alienated.  And then, you know, saying Canadian is like saying citizen of the Universe.  I have nothing to do with Canada, but I know that my passport says Canada.

Did you listen to French music growing up?  Did Jean Leloup make it to Pointe-Claire?

Oh Christ yeah!  I mean Jean Leloup is without a doubt one of the biggest influences on me.  And not just musically.  Intellectually.  Jean Leloup is a wacko, but he’s a smart fucking guy too, and his lyrics are fucking cool, and he avoids politics a lot of times but there is an element of darkness in his stuff.  That’s the cross-over act, right?  He managed to touch us as much as he touched Francophones.

The other thing is, when I grew up, my mother was very good friends with Gus Coriandoli from Me, Mom and Morgentaler. He influenced me a lot too. They sang in Spanish and French and English. So what they had an accent? Everybody loved them and they were able to connect with as many people as possible at all times and it was just such a beautiful thing to see.

When are you going to do another English album?

Part of the reason that I’m putting together a French album now is because when I was doing Brûler le Jour, I was writing so much in French that many songs didn’t make it.  I had a lot of New Orleans-themed stuff. I’m going to New Orleans every summer and I’m coming back with a lot of music from another place where Francophone culture exists.  It’s been trampled under for years and years and years, but it’s still there.

It’s an interesting place and there are some links…  because there is such a fusion of culture down there and there’s such a fusion of cultures here.  Over there you can see the example of what happens if you don’t protect the language.  Over here is the example of what happens when you do.  It’s a language going very strong.

myspace.com/paulcargnello

paulcargnello.com

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 14, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec. Part Two.

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Maka Kotto

The AngryFrenchGuy wants to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the increasingly large black caucus of the Québec National Assembly. The Parti québécois’ Maka Kotto was elected last monday as the representative of Bourget, and successor of Camille Laurin, the father of bill 101.

There are now three black MNA’s in Québec. M. Kotto and two liberals, M. Emanuel Dubourg and the immigration and cultural communities minister, Ms. Yolande James. All three represent Montreal ridings.

Mr. Kotto was born in Cameroun, another country with French and English speaking solitudes. He is the second black PQ MNA after M. Jean Alfred, elected in 1976 in the Outaouais riding of Papineau. That’s 1976. That’s before Ms. James, the first black liberal candidate was even born…

It’s not politically correct to count, but then PC is not the AngryFrenchStyle. There are now six visible minorities in the Québec National Assembly. Four are liberal: Ms. James, M. Dubourg as well as Ms. Fatima Houda-Pépin and M. Sam Hamad, both of Middle Eastern origin. The PQ now has two “visible” MNAs: M. Kotto and Alexis Wawanolath, a native.

6 MNAs out of 125 means 4,8% of the seats in the National Assembly are held by visible minorities. The 2006 census tells they are 8,8% of the population. That’s a significant underrepresentation.

A totally unscientific look at the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s website led us to identify 10 visible minority MLA’s. 10 MLA’s out of 107 is 9,3% of the seats. Once again, beautiful multicultural Ontario leads the… Wait a minute!

9,3% of Ontario’s MLA’s are visible minorities but the visible minority population of Ontario, again according to the 2006 census, is 22%!

Québec’s National Assembly is not less, but more representative of the Québec’s population than Ontario’s Legislative Assembly is of Ontario!

So let’s take a minute to ponder, once again, words of wisdom from everybody’s favorite Ontarian columnist, Jan Wong:

“What many outsiders don’t realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city. It hasn’t just taken a toll on long-time anglophones, it’s affected immigrants, too. (…) Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec.”

I guess it’s a good thing Ontario newspapers don’t talk about racial purity. If they did it would expose them as the hypocrites that they are…

Oh, and memo to Pauline Marois: Can we please and be a little more original than M. Charest was with Ms. James and NOT put M. Kotto in charge of the immigration and cultural communities portfolio just because he’s black? Well, at least he IS an immigrant. The fact that, Montreal-born Yolande James, the first black cabinet minister in Québec history was sort of matter-of-factly named to the immigration portfolio sends a very curious message as to black Québécois, don’t you think?

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 14, 2008 at 12:53 pm

The Glorious Bilingual Montreal of the 1940’s

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The AngryFrenchGuy and his grand-father

Did French and English Montrealers ever live in the same city?

Was there ever a Golden Age when French-speakers looking west and English-speakers looking east had a converging point of view on the history and future of Montreal?

Consider this:

In 1941 the National Film Board of Canada hired my grand-father, Vincent Paquette, as the agency’s first French-Canadian filmmaker and head the embryonic “French Unit”

It is important to emphasize that, as his name does not indicate, Vincent Paquette was as bicultural a Canadian as this country has ever produced. His Franco-Catholic father, Albéric Paquette, met his mother, Eva May Hathaway, the daughter of a Loyalist minister, in Toronto. The couple raised their children in Montreal and in the still very English Sherbrooke, Québec of the 1920’s where my grand-father grew up thinking of himself as an English kid.

“In Sherbrooke I went to French primary school”, he wrote – in French – in his unfinished memoirs. “Since my mother tongue was English, since English was the usual language at home and in most of the streets, it made for a rather difficult start.”

He went on to complete all of his studies in French, studying in Montreal’s Collège Saint-Laurent with such Québec icons as Félix Leclerc.

That said, it is needless to say that his English background had something to do with the NFB’s decision to put a 26 year old with no filmmaking experience in charge of the Board’s first French filmmaking department, a department originally created to translate propaganda films during the Second World War.

In 1942 my grand-father set off to direct a film on the celebrations commemorating the tercentenary of Montreal, which would become the first movie ever shot – as opposed to translated – in Canada’s two official languages.

Even with his Upper Canadian roots counterbalancing his Franco-Catholic education, it quickly became clear that my grand-father’s understanding of Montreal was not what the head office had in mind. Right from the start, serious incompatibility between the English and the French perspectives became apparent and on at least two occasions proper Anglophones were hired to finish the project.

In the end my grand-father would get credits for both versions of the film, but while his cut was used for the French version, the English version followed the storyboard from upstairs.

NFB historian Pierre Véronneau writes about differences between the French and English versions in his PhD. thesis: “It would be quite simple to show that the English version trivializes certain actions or certain situations perceived as important or heroic by the Québécois.”

The French version was anchored around four themes: modern Montreal, French Montreal, Montreal at war and religious Montreal. Véronneau notes that the modern and religious themes occupy more or less equal time in the French version, and that the latter is all but evacuated from the English versions.

The religious images are quite frankly astonishing for someone born after the Quiet Revolution. It is near impossible today to imagine the bishop taking the vows of hundreds of new priests in the streets of downtown Montreal, surrounded by thousands of nuns in black and white and clerics in red and gold. The protestant businessmen of the Sun Life building might have been the future of Montreal, but the Catholics had cooler hats

On the war effort, the commentary of the French version went: “Today, grandiose realization of Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve’s dream, Montreal put all of it’s energy and all of it’s resources to the service of peace in plenitude. Concordia Salus.” Véronneau wonders aloud: “Can we see here a covert position? A diaphanous echo to the French-Canadian resistance to any direct participation to the war?”

Athough the metaphore is not quite politically correct, I do note with much relief that my Grand-father had not succumbed to the fascist muses: “Paquette makes the Iroquois of yesterday the German of today, and the determination of the Québécois to combat him, eternal.”

On the question of language, “The English version emphasizes the bilingual character of the city while the French version underlines it’s French character.” Hum… sounds familiar….

Vincent Paquette made a few other films for the NFB before moving on to a career in advertising and the federal public service. Although he never was known as a nationalist, Eva May Hathaway’s son voted YES in the 1980 referendum on Québec sovereignty.

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Black in Quebec City: Webster is Writing His Story

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webster

The first record of a black man in Québec City was Mathieu Da Costa who traveled with the city’s founder Samuel de Champlain as early as 1604 or 1607.

For a city that sometimes seems to be all about history, Québec City sometimes has a short memory.  Just ask Aly N’Diaye a.k.a. Webster, who 400 years after Da Costa often feels like a stranger at home just because he’s black.

“This is where I’m from. My world is here. All the sons of immigrants are gone, to Montreal, Toronto or the States. We are first generation to say: fuck that! You’re not chasing us out! If we go it’s always the same pattern starting all over again.”

Webster is the son of a white mother and an Senegalese father. He studied History at Québec’s Laval university and with his cool lazy flow he is now passing down his knowledge to the kids of Québec City’s surprisingly vibrant hip hop scene. Everything in Québec City, it seems, is about History.

In his song Québec History X from his first solo album Sagesse Immobile (Still Wisdom) Webster raps about Da Costa, who spoke a variety of European and native languages and was employed as Champlain’s interpreter, and other forgotten blacks from Québec’s past, like the 10 000 slaves of New France. “There were blacks in New France. Slaves, but also free men. If that history was better known blacks in Québec would feel a whole lot more integrated.”.

The truth is Québec City has had many different faces over the years, from an Iroquoian village called Stadacona, the capital of New-France, an often very English city after the British conquest of 1763, a diverse and bustling port town and, after business and ship traffic moved upstream to Montreal, the sleepy and homogeneous French-speaking provincial capital of today.

Or should we say yesterday… Once again the city is being transformed by the arrival of new immigrants from Haïti, the Middle East and Africa.

Webster’s native Limoilou district is where Jacques Cartier spent the winter in 1535-36 and his day job is at the Parc National Cartier-Brébeuf commemorating the explorer’s encounter with local native populations. Today it’s a diverse neighborhood that he and his friends call L.Land. “In a bigger City like Montreal people tend to regroup culturally. In Québec City there it’s more mixed. In Limoilou, people of all races live together.”

Unlike in Montreal, language is actually not much of an issue in La Capitale Nationale. “When you arrive somewhere, you have to learn the language. In Québec City, to function, you need to learn French. That’s it.” Webster himself used to rap in English – his name comes from the English dictionary he used to carry around – but he switched to French in 1995. “The identity of Québec Hip Hop was starting to take shape at that time and I wanted to be part of it.”

In 2008 Québec City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of it’s foundation by Champlain. The event commemorates, depending on who you ask, the birth of Canada as a country, or Québec as a nation.

A true historian, Webster doesn’t want to take sides, on that issue or the eternal debate on Québec’s independence from Canada.

“I think the issue of independence is becoming obsolete. If it had to be done, it should’ve been done in the 1980’s. A country that wants it’s independence gets up and takes it. That’s all. If it happens, though, I will be happy from the historical point-of-vue. To see that live, from the inside. To live history. I’d love to see that.”

More interviews:

AngryFrenchguy talks to KRS-One and Alexis Wawanoloath

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 9, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Québec Native MNA Wants Out of Canada!

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wawanoloath.jpg

The conservative-nationalist wave of the Action Démocratique du Québec that swept the greater Québec City area and profoundly destabilized the Québec political map in the last few years has not yet reached the Far West of the province.

In Abitibi-Est it’s still about blues and reds, Liberals and Péquiste, Federalists and Separatists. The 25 year old Parti québécois MNA who beat Natural Resources Minister Pierre Corbeil in the last election doesn’t worry about Mario Dumont, but expects the good ol’ Liberal Party of Québec to fight back hard when the province goes back to the polls.

“I beat a cabinet minister. The establishment here in my city is very Liberal and they still have that defeat stuck in their throats. They never thought the kid could beat them. Especially not the Indian kid!”

Alexis Wawanoloath is an Abénaki-Québécois, son of an Huron-Abenaki mother and a white father. Although he recognizes that a native who is militant about Québec’s independence is a rarity, he insist that the supposed fierce hostility of Natives towards the project of Québec independence is greatly exaggerated.

“The majority of natives are not sovereignists but they see the link between the struggle of the Québécois for the survival of their language and culture and their own struggle.”

I got into contact with Alexis trough Facebook where his hundreds of friends, whites and natives, congratulate him in French and English about his new job and a new baby. He called me up from Brossard on the south shore of Montreal where he was attending his party’s caucus. He has a casual way of talking filled with youthful expressions like “full gros motivé” that had me struggling against the urge to use the informal “tu” with a member of the National Assembly.

His mere presence at the caucus is a step forward for natives, he says. He doesn’t even have to say a word and his colleagues will tend to think of First Nations when drafting positions and policy. He also says that even though most natives are not indépendantistes he now receives phone calls from First Nations across Québec who see him as their representative at the National Assembly.

Alexis is not the first native politician to take sides with the Québec Independence camp. There are others, including Bernard Cleary who was a Bloc Québécois MP in the Federal parliament from 2004 to 2006.

“Historically there has always been business relations between Francophones and Natives. The French traveled around the continent in smaller groups than the English so they had to have alliances and relationships with the natives. When people say the native population was exterminated by the French…”, Alexis sighs deeply… “That’s a bit strong. The “Law on Indians”, the orphanages, the reservations, those are all Federal institutions. They were instruments of assimilation. When I think of genocide, of cultural genocide, I think of federal orphanages.

“It is always under PQ governments that the native cause went forward. Think of René Lévesque’s recognition of Natives as Nations in 1985 or the Paix des Braves signed by Bernard Landry. Sure, many of these deals, like those reached with the Cree Nation of northern Québec, had an economic ulterior motive, but I would like these achievements extended to all First Nations.”

Before running for office Alexis was president of the Aboriginal Youth Council of the National Association of Friendship Centres, a pan-Canadian native association. When he first decided to run for office as a sovereignist he says many of his colleagues from the rest of Canada were skeptical or disappointed. Now that he’s been elected, their attitude has changed. “Now they’re proud. Now many of them want to go into active politics in their provinces and they’re asking for my help.”

Click here to hear Alexis Wawanoloath talk about his dual identity. In French.

More AngryFrenchGuy exclusive interviews:

KRS-One and Webster

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 1, 2008 at 10:29 am

We are Italians

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I used to work with an anglophone called Mike. He was actually an Italian from St-Léonard but, although his French was fine, Mike thought and talked in English. One morning Mike came in to work in the morning absolutely furious. The night before Conan O’brien had aired a show taped in Toronto in which the American comic had amused his Ontario crowd by making ridiculing French-Canadians. « Did you see Conan O’brien last night? », asked Mike, in English, when he came to work. « Did you see the way he talks about us? »

Last week Giuliano d’Andrea, vice-president for the Canadian-Italian Business and Professional Association deposited his memoir to the Taylor-Bouchard Commission on reasonable accommodations. His organisations memoir was written in English to make a point, he explained. “We wrote our brief in English, not because we couldn’t do it in French, but simply to take back a bit of the public space that we have a right to. The English language has a right to be here.”
During his presentation M. d’Andrea also felt the need to salute another organization present at the Commision that day. To the members of French Language Rights activists Mouvement Montréal Français he said. « We like them a lot but sometimes we’d like to tell them two little words in English : Grow up. »
The Italian businessmen mad their presentation during an audience of the Taylor-Bouchard Commission set aside for anglophones. The Mouvement Montréal Français was present at this meeting to denounce what it considered the ghettoization of Montreal’s anglophone community. « How are we supposed to integrate immigrants into Québec society if they never learn Québec’s common public language? ».
The MMF spokesperson was Paolo Zambito. Another Montreal Italian.
Confused, insecure, proud, angry and fiercely attached to this little bit of of North America, Québec’s Italians are us. They are Nous.