Archive for the ‘New ideas for a new Québec’ Category

Possible changes to Bill 101

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Soon after the adoption of Bill 101, the French Language Charter, in 1977, Participation Québec – Anglo-rights lobby that would later become Alliance Québec – demanded three changes to the law. One, that bilingual signs be allowed. Two, that all Canadian Anglophones, not just the ones from Québec, have access to publicly funded English schools. Three, that health and social services remain available for Anglophones.

And done. Since bill 63 allowed bilingual signs in Québec 15 years ago, all of English Québec’s demands have been met.

So what the hell are we still arguing about?

We are still arguing because contrary to what was the case in the 1970’s the smart, informed and moderate leaders of the Anglophone community have shut up. They have disappeared from the public debate.

This has had serious consequences. It allowed Howard Galganov, Brent Tyler, Bill Johnston, Allen Nutik and a whole cast of clowns to stage an appalling parody of an “individual rights” argument against Bill 101. They have also made themselves complicit with the spread of the most ridiculous myths about Québec.

The consequence today is that Francophones have turned bill 101 into a sacred monument and concluded that dialogue with the English-speaking community on the issue of the protection of the French language is impossible.

The very term Anglophone leader has become so dirty that Prime minister Jean Charest has to hide the fact that his party has Anglo support and keep his Anglo MNAs in the back benches!

This said, legislation should be a living breathing thing and Bill 101 is no exception. It is simply not true that the choice is between a vindictive language legislation that victimizes Anglophones and an institutional bilingualism that would lead to two hermetically segregated societies.

So as a public service to Québec, the interns in the West Wing of the AngryFrenchHouse have come up, as a starting point for discussions, with two changes to the French Language Charter that would solves some problems Anglos have with the law without threatening the French language in any way.

1. Stop legislating our names!

As it now stands the French Language charter requires that all “raison sociale” – the names of stores and businesses – be in French. Companies with internationally registered trademarks, however, can keep using their international brand name in Québec, unless they also have a French brand name, in which case they have to use that one.

This means McDonald’s can use it’s “English” apostrophe but Schwartz’s Deli Bob’s quincaillerie in Gatineau can’t.

Not only does this rule not serve any discernable purpose, it has the exact opposite effect of the one intended by the creators of the law: it gives more leeway to big transnational corporations than to small local businesses that happen to be owned and operated by Anglophones.

The rule has absolutely no effect on the “French face” of Montreal as Blockbuster, American Apparel, Urban Outfitter, Future Shop and a thousand other Best Buys with international trademarks are allowed to put up their signs while small local start-ups would not be allowed to use those very same names had they been available.

The name of the store does not in any way reflect the quality of the French service offered in those stores anyway. I can very well call my store Skateboard Kings and have French-only signs and catalogues and fluently French or bilingual staff. In fact, last year the OQLF gave a prize to Mountain Equipment Coop for the quality of it’s French service. Yet, if MEC had been headquartered in Québec instead of a prize they would’ve received a fine and would have been forced to change their name to Coopérative d’Équipement de Montagne inc….

It’s a silly rule and it must go.

2. Stop the Vigilantes!

A frequent complaint of businesses that have had run-ins with the OQLF is that procedures can be started on the basis of a single anonymous complaint.

The logic behind the complaint mechanism of bill 101 is that it would allow communities to police themselves. In small rural English-speaking town in the Eastern Townships no one, not even visiting Francophones, would be offended by some English-only signs or the odd unilingual English waitress at the local diner. No one would complain, nothing would change.

Sadly it’s a well known fact that there are some ideological vigilantes out there who go out looking for such “threats” to the French language. Because of the one complaint policy, the Office is legally required to launch an investigation.

Contrary to the myth of the all powerful Language Police that Anglo media in Canada works very hard to perpetuate, there is actually a grand total of four (google English) – that’s right, four – inspectors investigating complaints against small businesses in the entire province of Québec, and those inspectors are barely able to process 60% of the files on their desks.

I don’t know for a fact how they chose which ones to investigate but you would hope they prioritize those businesses that received multiple complaints. There is probably a de facto filtering out of single random complaints.

Nevertheless, as a goodwill gesture and also as a way to clear the backlog, a higher treshold should be required before the OQLF has to launch an investigation. Let’s say five complaints? Other measures should be established to discourage vigilantes, such as requiring that they supply a postal code proving that they can reasonably claim they are part of the same community as the business they are complaining against.

Next week: AngryFrenchGuy solves the conflict in the Middle East.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 8, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Canada Rocks!

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Blame Canada

The one recommendation of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation that was not met with total indifference was the idea that we should revive the use of the term “French-Canadian” to designate the white, catholic descendents of the French settlers that are otherwise designated as “Pur Laine” or “Old Stock” Québécois.

The idea was universally ridiculed. Sovereignists objected that they were not Canadians. Federalists took offence that they should wear an hyphenated label in their own country. Third generation French-speaking federalist descendents of Portuguese immigrants wondered if the label applied to them or not.

The two wise men did have a point. If Québécois is to designate all the people of Québec, we need some sort of word to designate the white French-speaking majority, if only because without it the Canadian media will have to project all of it’s self-righteous fear of Others on the Americans, and that’s bad for business.

But on this Canada Day I want to bring to your attention the fact that there is second very important word missing from both the French and English languages. How do you call English-speaking Canadians?

Belgium is the name of the country shared two people, the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Wallons. Britain is the country shared by the English, Welsh and Scots. All these people can call themselves British without fear of losing their own national identity. European is a label increasingly popular with a younger generation that can use it without feeling like they are abandoning their French, Spanish or Greek identity.

Canada is the union of the Québécois and the, well, eh… Canadians….

If Canada is to remain united (for many reasons the AGF is not a supporter of a united Canada, but for argument’s sake, let’s suppose he is) it needs an umbrella identity that can be used as a label for all the people living in the federation without implying that their more specific identity is not valid anymore.

That label is probably… Canada and Canadian.

Canadian was until the 20th century the label used to describe exclusively the French-speaking North Americans. Since the second world war, the label has been embraced by English-speaking Canadians while it was rejected by a growing number of French-speakers. On early maps and journals by the settlers, Canadian was a word used to describe natives.

As a label that was once used to describe all three of Canada’s founding peoples, Canadian is the obvious choice for a general name for all inhabitants of the federation the way British is used for the English, Scots and Welsh.

So now the problem is: We need a name for those darn English-speakers!

Although it is sometimes resented for a variety of reasons, I say we should baptize English-Canada The ROC. I mean officially.

Beyond it’s etymological root of Rest Of Canada that some find reductive, ROC is the only name for English-Canada as a whole that has any sort of real use in current language.

ROC has some geographical grounding, evoking the Canadian Shield, the Rocky mountains and The Rock, Newfoundland. ROC also evokes English-Canada’s extremely successful music scene and the rugged rock and roll sport of hockey.

Not to be underestimated, ROC sounds cool. There are worst things that could happen to English-Canadians than to become known as Rockers!

If it was up to me, here’s what I’d give you for your birthday, Canada: I’d get the House of Commons to officially recognize the ROC Nation!

Happy Canada Day

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Written by angryfrenchguy

June 29, 2008 at 10:13 pm

CF Montréal vs Montreal FC

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Club de Football Canadien de Montréal

The owner of the Club de Hockey Canadien de Montréal George Gillette and Montreal businessman Joey Saputo said this week that they were working together to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Montreal.

That’s cool. People in Montreal are loving soccer. Support for Saputo’s Impact soccer team of the struggling United Soccer League is very strong and a new 15 000 seat stadium is being built for the team in the eastern part of town. MLS itself is a league on the rise with no less than David Bekham now playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

One thing bugs me, though. In every story I read about this news item, Montreal’s new Major League Soccer team is called Montreal FC. As in Montreal Football Club.

I don’t know if M. Saputo and Mr. Gillette have expressed their preference for that name or if it’s only a coincidence, but Montreal FC is a really bad name for a soccer team.

Common, now! I get it! I understand those who want a name that recalls the great FC’s of international soccer, but I don’t think Montreal should have a soccer team with an English name, and I don’t think I should have to explain why.

FC is lame. It’s so lame it’s what Toronto’s team picked as a name.

If Montreal wants to look to Europe for inspiration, I think l’Olympique de Montréal is the obvious choice.

Right… Olympic is not necessarily an inspirational word in this town…

How about the more subtle CF Montréal

CF for Club de Football de Montréal? Get it?

The name is directly inspired by the truly glorious Montrealers: le Club de Hockey Canadien de Montréal – That’s what the CH on the jersey and tattooed on your heart stands for.

CF makes you think of Canadiens-Français, so federalists can’t claim it’s covert separatist propaganda.

CF Montréal instead of Montreal FC is a name that will hint at Québec’s and Montreal’s frenchness without the cruelty of forcing Anglophones to say words like Alouette.

It’s in French yet “Club de Football” gives the name that true franglais feel that all Montrealers can bond around.

Plus, it’s obvious. CF Montréal instead of Montreal FC. People will get it.

Or how about AC Montreal, for Associazione Calcio Montreal?

It’s neutral ground, being neither French nor English, and still is very Montreal as italian has long been Montreal’s strong third language.

Furthermore, the role of Montreal Italians in Québec soccer is undeniable.

Unless you’d rather go with another another classic Football club name: Montreal United.

Right. Montreal United. All Montrealers, Franco, Allo, Anglo united around a united team. Montreal United… Or will it be l’Unité de Montréal?

And then they’d have to do one of those silly graphics that kind of looks like a D but at the same time kind of looks like an accent aïgu and a Fleur-de-Lys….

How about not?

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 28, 2008 at 11:59 am

McGill français

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McGill français

The first thing our professor told us on the first day of our first semester in the political science program at Laval University in Québec City is that we had to be able to read English at a very high level. “If your English is not good enough, leave right now. Go take English classes or go spend the year in BC and come back next year.”

Laval is a French language university in Québec City, which is 95% French-speaking. It’s the university of Lucien Bouchard. But English is the language of scholarly research, explained the professor. You had to be able to read and write in English, whether you were a separatist or a federalist, a communist or a neo-conservative.

English was a basic tool you needed to be able to work with in order to become a political scientist, the same way that an engineer needs math. The school functioned in French, our lectures were in French and we wrote our assignments in French, but being able to read many relatively arcane monographs and articles in English was a necessary skill required to do our job as a student and in the world beyond campus.

So my question is: if it is reasonable to expect political science students to understand English, why is it not required that nurses and doctors trained by McGill and the MUHC speak French?

What could be a more basic skill required of a doctor or nurse that she be able to understand easily and with great accuracy the language of her patients?

In Montreal and Québec the vast majority of people still speak French, as far as I know. Montreal’s so-called English-language hospitals like the Montreal General, the Royal Victoria and the Jewish are required by law to be able to provide French-language services to anybody who asks for it.

So how can an advanced knowledge of the French language not be an admission or graduation requirement?

McGill does not require language testing of it’s students either before admission or graduation. As a result about 50% of McGill trained doctors leave Québec every year!

The medical sector is not, by any means, the only one affected by this total failure of Quebec’s English higher education institutions to properly train students for the Québec job market. According to a recent study, 61% of English-speaking bachelors, 66% of English-speaking masters and 73% of English-speaking PhDs leave Québec.

The vast majority of Anglo-Québécois are self-declared bilinguals, that is absolutely true. But how comfortable is someone who has only ever studied in English, from kindergarten through university, in actually working, reading, and writing in French on a daily basis?

We don’t know the answer to that question because studies and census data on bilingualism in Québec and Canada usually rely on self-assessments. Actual second-language ability of students has not been tested at any point during their student career.

Because the vast mass of technical and scholarly literature is published in English, graduates from French language universities are actually much better prepared to work in a multilingual environment than graduates from McGill and Concordia!

McGill’s law school makes it mandatory for students to be fluent in French because to practice a legal profession in Québec’s legal system you not only need to be able to understand French, but actually work in the language.

And they would have us believe that health care professionals don’t?

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 14, 2008 at 6:19 am

Separatists for English Unite!

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Pauline Marois’ leadership of the Parti québécois is a first in more ways than one. She is, of course, the first woman to lead a major political party in Québec. She is also the first PQ leader not to be perfectly comfortable speaking English.

René Lévesque spoke English fluently, having grown up in the English-speaking town of New Carlisle and spending the Second World War in Europe with American troops. Although bilingual, neither Robert Bourassa nor Claude Ryan had his ease and fluency in English.

Jacques Parizeau evidently enjoyed using the British English he picked up at the London School of Economics while Robert Bourassa, a Harvard man himself, spoke his English adequately, without any style or apparent pleasure.

Jean Charest raised the Liberal standard considerably, but Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry were not impressed. (And I’m pretty sure Charest doesn’t speak Spanish or Latin like Landry!)

At the Federal level, with the notable exception of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the Liberal leaders speak even worse English than their provincial counterparts. Jean Chrétien carefully cultivated his non-threatening image with a heavily accented pea soup English while Stéphane Dion has the bookish accent of someone who learned the language by reading, not talking. Their Bloc opponent Gilles Duceppe’s English, while it would’ve been considered mediocre in Québec City, was paradoxically more than good enough by the standards set by Québec federal politicians.

Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin spoke easily in French and English, but they were Anglophones.

The current situation, with Pauline Marois speaking considerably less English than the fluent Jean Charest is the exception, not he norm.

Less English schools, more English in School

Pauline Marois is under attack these days for suggesting that the Québec education system should make sure that all children are functionally bilingual when they graduate from high school. She demanded that English be thought from the first grade on, and even that some form of immersion be created, by teaching geography and history in English, for example.

As expected, the cowardly Right of the independence movement opposed violently the plan. More frighteningly, some intellectual elites, such as author and playwright Victor-Lévy Beaulieu used the T word. Treason.

VLB, as he is known, certainly speaks English. He just published a 1000 page essay on James Joyce, one of the most notoriously difficult writers in the English language. Yet, the knowledge of English has never diminished his commitment to independence or his passion for the French language!

The knowledge of English has never had a negative correlation with support for Québec’s independence or support for the protection of French. Support for independence rises in the Francophone community with education level and income, both of which usually suggest some knowledge of English.

Nor does bilingualism diminish a student’s ability to speak and write in their mother tongue. Many studies have demonstrated that the kids who go through the French-immersion program in the rest of Canada score better in ENGLISH than those who go through the regular program!

The modern independence movement was born in Montreal’s bilingual Francophone intellectual community, inspired by hearing Martin Luther King and Gandhi speak about freedom, justice and liberty, in English!

80% to 90% of young people in Scandinavian countries speak English. Yet, they are still Swedes and Finns, still speak Swedish and Finnish and still play hockey not football. If the Québec school system could properly teach English to Québec’s youth, the English language CEGEPs and universities would not look so attractive to young people who want to practice the language.

By suggesting that the knowledge of English is dangerous for the people, that they are not ready or that it could threaten the integration of immigrants, Pauline Marois’ elitist bilingual opponents like Victor Lévy Beaulieu only managed to demonstrate that speaking English won’t make you smarter either.

(Also published in the Montreal Gazette as Pauline Marois and her problem with English)

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Give TQS to Québec’s cultural communities

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What should be done with bankrupt Télévision Quatre Saisons? How about using the prime broadcast real estate of TQS to revive la Télévision Ethnique du Québec, the multicultural and multilingual cable TV network hijacked by CanWest Global in the early 00’s.

TEQ was a locally owned and operated community channel that aired programming by and for Québec’s cultural communities. The station experienced financial difficulties in the late 1990’s and was eventually sold to Rogers and later CanWest Global.

CanWest turned TEQ into CJNT-TV. Nearly all of the Québec-produced programming of TEQ was dumped by the new owners. CJNT now airs a mix of ethnic programming from Toronto and Montreal in the daytime and American TV in prime-time, all tied together with English-only branding. Montreal’s so-called “multicultural” TV station has an ENGLISH-ONLY website!

There is some French-language programming on CJNT, essentially produced by Montreal’s Lebanese and Haïtian communities. The token French-language shows, bundled up with Urdu, Cantonese and Armenian programming and the station’s deliberate editorial choice to make English the common language of the station strongly suggests that Montreal’s French-speakers are just another one of the city’s minorities.

It’s as if an American multicultural channel used Spanish as the common working language. Or as if a French channel used Arabic.

From being the voice of Québec’s minorities CJNT became the agent of their ghettoization and Anglicization by CanWest’s owners who only really cared about the 40% of American programing the station’s license allowed it to air.

“There is a debate that we need to have on Québec’s ethnic television and the Anglicization of ethnic communities through television”, declared Michel Tremblay, president of TEQ’s producers union in 2000.

TQS’s bankruptcy might be a good opportunity to have that debate.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 9, 2008 at 7:30 am

Québec needs an English-language newspaper

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Québec doesn’t have an English-language newspaper. Québec doesn’t have an English-language television, radio station or Internet portal.

The Québécois are keeping silent in the lingua franca of the Internet.

In 2008 that means Québec doesn’t exist.

French-speaking North Americans who are celebrating 400 years on the continent have no media of their own to talk to the 400 million English-speakers who surround them.

Is it any wonder the wildest politically-fictional fantasies still circulate about Québec?

An Indian or an Armenian googling some news about Québec has 10 times as many chances to come upon Barbara Kay’s or Mordecai Richeler’s paranoiac diatribes about a fascist ethnic tribe trying to wipe it’s province clear of strangers and “coloreds” than a simple description of the French Language Charter.

What about the Montreal Gazette? The Gazette is not a “Montreal newspaper that happens to be in English” as columnist Henry Aubin once told me. It’s the newspaper of Montreal’s English-speaking minority. Period.

One token separatist columnist is not enough to fairly translate the diversity of thought of a population twice as numerous as Ireland’s. The Gazette deserves credit for giving some space to strong voices, from former RIN leader Pierre Bourgault in the 80’s to the current incumbent Josée Legault, but one person can’t possibly incarnate the diversity of ideas and opinions barely skimmed by 13French -language dailies.

Is it any wonder Canadians confuse the Parti Québécois, small-town nationalists, right-wing conservatives, 19th century ecclesiastic ideologues and violent student radicals of the 1970’s into a single seditious movement of anti-Canadianism that has to be crushed?

Why does Québec need an English-language newspaper? 2 reasons:

1. Because if Québec doesn’t talk directly to the world, it lets Barabara Kay, Jan Wong, Mordecai Richler and the Gazette do it for them. If the curious individuals around the world have access to The Gazette’s, The National Post’s and The Globe and Mail’s perspective on Canadian events, they should have access to Québec’s. Or more accurately to the plural: Québecs’.

2. 48 000 newcomers will come to Québec this year. At least half of the will not speak French when they arrive. Many of them will have some understanding of English, though. These people will learn to know their new country through the biased, truncated and partial coverage of the Anglo minority’s newspaper. With no access to French-language media, they will assimilate and adopt the Anglophone perspective and identity. They are entitled the French majority’s perspective as well.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 7, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Membership has it’s privileges

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Instead of a Québec citizenship that is more restrictive that the Canadian citizenship we already have, why not create a citizenship that is broader and designed to attract the bright and dynamic immigrants Québec needs? Why not give Québec citizenship to non-Canadians?

All over the demographically-challenged western world countries are engaged in a fierce battle for the world’s young bright dynamic minds. If Québec plays by the same rules as the others it will lose. Québec’s geography and culture are not a disadvantage anymore in the online globalized world, but only if it plays a smarter game than its competitors.

The controversial clause of the Parti Québécois’ Identity Act that would restrict the right of newcomers who don’t speak French to run for public office or submit petitions to parliament is superfluous and distasteful but it was not racist or ethnically motivated. It was a botched attempt by the PQ to put some meat around their proposed Québec citizenship when they realized it was a hollow concept that people had no use for.

The idea of a Québec citizenship itself is not to keep anybody out. Quite on the contrary, the concept is meant to facilitate the integration of immigrants into civil society and the use of French as the common language of this society.

Who would want a Québec citizenship? Membership should have its privileges. What privileges can the government of a province provide? Health services and education are by far the two main services provided by provincial governments and are certainly a big factor in any immigrants decision to chose Canada and Québec over New Jersey and Portugal.

Giving out free health care to more people is unfeasible. And a system designed to attract the sick and the old is not what I have in mind.

On the other hand, Québec also maintains a highly subsidised quality network of Universities. These universities have a three tiered pricing structure. Québec residents pay the lowest tuition, Canadian students from other provinces pay more and international students more still.

My proposition is this: Quebec should make the cheaper price available to all students who pursue a higher education in French and have a second price for students studying in English.

Yes, I think Québec “citizenship” and a cheap education should be made available to all students, even those who are not Canadian citizens, if they study in French in Québec. This would help make Québec and Montréal the choice destination for young and bright francophone and French-speakers from the world over. These French-speaking and French-educated students would be more likely to build relationships and social networks in the province and to stay after they complete their studies.

Smart kids from Saskatoon or Surrey who don’t have to prove their fluency in English to anybody now have to pay a premium if they want to pad up their resume with a university degree in French from a Québec university. This is madness! These are the kids we want!

All residents of Québec would have Québec “citizenship”, of course, and automatically be eligible to the cheaper price. The novelty would be the possibility for Québec to grant “citizenship” to anybody in the world who chooses to come to Québec to pursue a higher education. Under Canadian law they would remain students temporarily in the country with a student visa, but with their Québec “citizenship” they would have access to other services not usually available to international students. The cheaper tuition is one such privilege. Access to other provincial services such as the 7$ kindergarten network could be another.

There are many advantages to have English-language universities in Québec and with my proposal these universities would not be jeopardized. If they certainly will be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Québec residents, their access to English-Canadian, American and worldwide English-speaking students remain unchanged.

Under this plan, absolute civil equality of all citizens is also rigorously protected. If Brandon from Kirkland studies in French, he gets the cheap price. If Sylvain from Cacouna wants to study at McGill, he’s going to have to pay more. People will be writing tests at school, where they should, not at Immigration Québec offices.

One possible objection is that all programs are not available in all languages. Perhaps a program could be eligible for the cheaper “citizen” price if a certain percentage—80%, 50% or 30%?—of the classes are in French. I don’t see why students of McGill Law School who take a great deal of their classes in French and usually stay in Québec to practice should not be eligible. On the other hand I don’t see why students of McGill Medical School who often graduate without the skills to carry out a basic conversation with a French-speaking patient and who leave the province after graduation in alarming numbers should have their education subsidised by the taxpayers of Québec.