Archive for the ‘What Canadians don’t know about Canada’ Category
Just two weeks ago the Sith’ari of the Conservative Party of Canada, the University of Calgary’s Tom Flanagan, explained to La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé that his boy Stephen Harper had pretty much filled up on all the Québec votes he was going to get.
« Stephen Harper has made some big efforts. But he’s not a native son. He faces Gilles Duceppe, who is a native son. Is there an example in Canadian history of a party leader able to win Québec when his main opponent is Québécois? I don’t think so. It might be an impossible burden. » (My backlation of Lagacé’s French translation)
If you can crunch that quote into 140 characters, you might want to tag a #FAIL to it. According to the latest polls, Jack Layton’s New Democratic Party is ahead of the Bloc in Québec with 36% of the votes to Gilles Duceppe’s 31%. Even with the all important Francophone demographic Jack Layton is in the margin of error at 34% compared to Gilles Duceppe’s 38%.
Not only does the NDP not have a Québec or Francophone leader, it doesn’t even have a decent token Franco. The NDP’s only Québec MP, Outremont’s Thomas Mulcair, is also a Maudit Anglais. It apparently hasn’t stopped them from a formidable surge in Québec.
Of course the NDP will not win much more than a handful of seats on May 2nd. The very poll that puts them in the lead might spook voters back to the old parties, the NDP doesn’t have the political muscle to get the folks from the retirement home to the voting booth and many voters might change their minds when they see unfamiliar names instead of « Clayton » on their ballot.
But this latest poll once again challenges the tenacious Canadian myth that Québec voter base their democratic decisions on obscure tribal loyalties.
This idea that the Québécois vote ethnically is more a cop-out than a myth, really. Instead of actually trying to come up with policies and a vision of Canada that the Québécois could buy into, English-Canada’s politicians have wasted three decades in grooming Frenchie Saviors willing to sell their agenda to « his people ».
It’s that kind of thinking that led the Liberal Party to choose Stéphane Dion, against the loud opposition of its own Québec caucus, as leader. Native son or not, Dion was trounced in the 2008 election.
So now I have a question for Tom Flanagan. When was the last time the voter of Alberta voted for a Québécois when there was a Albertan on the ballot?
I had to spend 27 minutes on the phone with a CBC producer last week to realize I had no real opinion about the upcoming federal election.
This of course is one of the great universal truths of our lives in this valley of tears: we know nothing, indeed are nothing, until we’ve got someone else to bounce off.
I had no idea what a America could possibly be until I went on my first trip to Europe. I can’t even count how many of my unpoliticized friends became sovereingtists in Spain, Belgium and BC. As a matter of fact the AngryFrenchGuy was born in the USA and the first post written in a Volvo 630 with Ontario plates parked at a Flying J somewhere near Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania.
Think about it, what could Canada possibly be if it couldn’t not be the United States?
And then, just as I was reflecting on this the Universe hooked me up with the Québec Redneck Bluegrass Project, drifters from the Lac Saint-Jean now based Kumming in the Yunnan province of southern China who sing in French, English and some southern chinese patois about the universal truth that we are so much cooler when we’re drunk.
The great novelist Mordecai Richler forever associated the cause of Québec’s independence to proto-fascist ideology in English-reading minds when he wrote in a series of articles in the New Yorker, later published as Oh Canada! Oh Québec! Requiem for a Divided Country, that:
« From the beginning, French-Canadian nationalism has been badly tainted by racism. The patron saint of the independantists, the Abbé Lionel Groulx was not only a virulent anti-Semite but also a nascent fascist, an unabashed admirer in the thirties of Mussolini, Dollfuss and Salazar. »
Although absolutely true, Richler’s diatribe obscured the fact that Mussolini had many admirers in the 1930’s, from industrialist Henry Ford to presidents and Prime ministers.
One of the most vocal and successful proponents of North American fascism was indeed a French-Canadian, but he was not a nationalist. From his early days as a reporter at the daily La Presse, through his internment during the war and well after the Allied victory, Adrien Arcand remained an admirer of the British Empire and a fierce opponent of an independent Québec that would have been, in his words, « at the mercy of the Jews. »
The AngryFrenchGuy spoke with Jean-François Nadeau, the author of Le Führer Canadien, the first biography of Adrien Arcand.
On the AngryFrenchGuy website the fascist past of Québec society, and the supposed roots of the nationalist movement in that past, are regularly brought up by some people. Just how big was the fascist movement in Québec in the 1930’s?
This idea of a movement essentially concentrated in Québec is bullshit. A thesis upheld by ignorants. In that period, it’s everywhere. There are movements like this in Brazil, Mexico and many in the United States. As a matter of fact, Arcand will experience a triumph of sorts in New York where there are gatherings at the Madison Square Garden—today known for hockey—and the New York hippodrome of tens of thousands members of organized groups who welcome him with the fascist salute. This is before 1939.
We tried to forget this, but in the 1920’s and 30’s, even people like Gandhi and president Roosevelt were very open to some aspects of Italian fascism.
In the case of Québec, some have tried in recent years to correlate that past with the national affirmation and indépendantiste movements. It doesn’t hold water. Those people hate the very idea of Québec’s national affirmation. They are the most fierce opponents of that idea. They dream about an imperial system—French or English style—but in the name of a very very strong, authoritarian and structured Canada.
Because Arcand is quite the anglophile, isn’t he?
His troops are commanded in English. He speaks English fluently. There are other groups like his in French-Canadian society, but he is the one who succeeded in federating other groups in English-Canada, in the West and the East. He speaks in meetings in the Atlantic provinces and in Toronto. He travels a lot in Canada, with the objective of founding a far right party, which he will achieve in 1938: the National Unity Party of Canada.
You’ve written that Canadian Prime Ministers encouraged his movement, at least in a underhanded way.
Prime Minister Bennett financed Adrien Arcand’s first antisemitic and virulently racist newspapers in the hope that Arcand, who is a brilliant marketer, would support him and help him elect enough Conservative candidates in Québec for him to form the government in Ottawa. It worked.
Even after the war, after 1945, there are many federal conservative MP’s who are very close to Arcand, who go to him for counsel and try, in one way or the other, to support some aspects of his doctrine.
Québec Conservatives or Canadian Conservatives?
Mostly French-Canadian, but also English-Canadian. He always said that the Anglo-Saxon world paid more attention to him than his own Latin world. In fact his own models are not so much Hitler or Mussolini as they are British Lords who are proponents of a British Imperial Fascism. People like Mosley who inspire him, and with whom he corresponds.
His is a racist, antisemitic, very Hitlerian approach to the far right, but English-style. That’s peculiar. For him, the New World will come about through the British Empire, the defence of a King and of the British monarchy. That’s why French-Canadian nationalists hate him so much, even if they defend ideas that aren’t far from his. They reject him because he is an imperialist.
It’s fascinating to read in your book that Arcand was one of the first Holocaust deniers.
After the war, even if his newspapers have lead him into a detention camp, Arcand doesn’t change his mind.
He can’t accept the idea that there had been a massacre of Jews and of political opponents. He doesn’t need any proof of a Jewish conspiracy, he’s already convinced. He will be one of the first to deny, on the basis of faith in the irrational that supports all his thought, that death and concentration camps could have existed.
He will be one of the first in 1946-47 to develop those ideas, which he will maintain, to the point of enriching the thinking of those we consider today to be the pioneers of Holocaust denial—that’s not a very appropriate name, we should call them falsificators of History. He is the one at the root of many of their ideas. In temporal terms, I see that he is writing these sorts of things before the leading theorists of denial even started to write.
One very surprising revelation in your book is that Pierre Elliot Trudeau defended Arcand. In what way? Was it a purely legal exercise?
When he was a student in London—but let’s be clear, when I say a young student, I mean a man of almost thirty years, with all his head and able to make a judgment—he wrote in a very conservative newspaper called Notre Temps that what was done to Adrien Arcand was horrible. He will write that a regime that claims to be democratic but is not able to support the opposition and freedom of speech of Arcand is denying itself.
That’s a little bit odd because he will himself use that very law, the very exceptional and contested War Measures Act, in 1970, to contain the supposed insurection of the Front de Libération du Québec. Yet we could very well take everything he writes in the case of Arcand and transpose it very exactly to the situation in 1970.
It’s very peculiar because people from the far right like Arcand, who are likely to have contacts with the enemy, are a real menace to the Canadian State. The country is at war against a formidable force. It’s not an apprehended insurrection like in 1970, it’s a real war with real tanks and aeroplanes and a real man called Adolf Hitler. And we have people here who wear uniforms with the swastika and are likely to help the enemy from the inside.
It’s not a coincidence if in May 1940, in England and South Africa and all over the world members of these groups are arrested on the exact same day. In 1970 we suppose there is a menace, but there is no proof. In 1939-40 we know that Poland has fallen, that France will be hit, that Belgium was hit, that Danzig is done and Czechoslovakia too. It’s not an apprehended menace. It’s a real physical menace.
So Trudeau’s point of view is a little bit peculiar…
Now, in all fairness, fascist movements in that period weren’t all as anglophile as Arcand’s. There are also nationalist French-Canadian factions with fascistic tendencies, right?
Yes, and they weren’t quite as important.
A few years ago we decided to do an ideological trial of the work of Lionel Groulx, and it is impossible to deny that there is an antisemitic variable in his thought and his brand of French-Canadian nationalism of the 1930’s. There is some very antisemitic prose published under his name or his pseudonyms.
But there is a great difference between this thinking and that of Adrien Arcand. First of all, it’s very latent and there isn’t much of it. More importantly, it doesn’t support the architecture of the thought. To use architectural language, if you remove the antisemitic variable from the discourse of people like Lionel Groulx, everything still holds. If you remove it from Arcand’s movement, everything collapses. The foundation of his ideology is that there is a Jewish project of world domination and that it is imperative that they be eliminated. That’s not the issue in right wing nationalist movements.
There is also Paul Bouchard’s La Nation group from Québec City, which is very strongly for independence and very antisemitic. They will strongly oppose Arcand’s ideas, even though they essentially are the same as their own: coporatism, against democracy, against representation, against traditional political systems.
But it’s Arcand who succeeded, in those networks, to structure the far right. Not that he was that successful. In the 1930’s, he wasn’t on his way to become Prime Minister of Canada, far from it. He was probably 3 or 4 years too late.
What does American health care reform and the Québec government’s proposed bill 94 have in common?
Why, they’re both collectivist ploys to take away your rights and guns, of course!
This morning the Montreal Gazette prints an editorial in which it argues that bill 94, a proposed rule that would require citizens to show their faces before receiving government services, is nothing short of an attack on human rights:
On July 1 1960, proposing his Bill of Rights in Parliament, Diefenbaker concluded with these much-quoted words: “I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and for all mankind.”
Quebec’s Bill 94, meanwhile, shows how “collective rights,” even so badly defined as this new right for bureaucrats to see people’s faces, can overrule individual freedom of attire. (…) Basic freedoms keep coming under attack from forces seeking more control over our lives. Ultimately laws and lawyers will not save us unless there is a strong public understanding that the limits on free choice, imposed by mobs or governments or both, will keep growing unless we all resist them.
This is the exact same reasoning the American right and groups like American Majority are currently using to convince people that Obama’s health care reform is only the first step towards the transformation of the USA into a Spanish-speaking slave labour camp:
On March 23, 1775, 235 years ago today, Patrick Henry gave his immortal speech, closing with the lines, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
I think the American people have a very important choice: are they going to resign themselves to the ever growing chains of government control over their lives, submitting willingly like sheep to acquire some false illusion of peace and prosperity? Or are they going to fight against the forces of statism and push back? That is the great question of the day.
From the defence of the right to hide your face to the government to the discovery, year after year, of illegal religious and linguistic schools who operate in total impunity, civil disobedience by assorted creationists to Québec’s ethics and religious culture high school course (that teaches, G-D forbid!, that all religions carry some wisdom), constant legal challenges to Québec’s elected officials constitutional prerogative to determine the language of education in Québec, the hysterical reaction to the merger of English-speaking municipalities in a united City of Montreal and Louise Harel‘s run for mayor… All this is starting to look more and more like the obscure reaches of the USA where “sovereign citizens” and “tax resisters” oppose the very legitimacy of the democratically elected government.
There seems to be, in Québec, as in the USA, a weird coalition between Anglo Conservatives and various ultraorthodox religious minorities against the very legitimacy of a State run by people who are not like them.
More than a decade ago, Josée Legault demonstrated in her book L’Invention d’une Minorité how the rhetoric of “individual rights” was highjacked by so-called activists to defend the “collective right” of Québec’s english-speaking minority to opt-out of Québec institutions and build their parallel network of (fully subsidised) institutions.
Today a new cast of minorities: ultra-catholics, orthodox Muslims and and uniformed Jews, are re-enacting the fight for the right to opt-out of Québec society with full compensation, play-by-play, with English-Canada’s elites cheering them on.
That’s no surprise. The English-Canadian media has been able to come up with arguments for surprising shit, from segregation to organized crime and now to giving self-appointed clerics veto power over the laws of the land, as long as it’s been able to squeeze an argument against the legitimacy of Québec’s government and it’s democratically elected officials out of it.
In that way they are no different than American Tea Party leaders who welcome anyone, from Birthers, to Minutemen and the Militia movement to their rallies, just as long as they oppose The Government.
The good news is that the vast majority of English-Canadians agree their media elites are idiots.
There is something profoundly dishonest about Canada’s English-language press coverage of the expulsion of Ms. Naema Ahmed from her French class in Montreal for refusing to remove her niqab–a form of dress apparently inspired by Star Wars’ Imperial guard favoured by ultra-orthodox muslim women.
According the Globe and Mail, Ms. Ahmed “was told to remove the niqab or leave because a student’s mouth must be visible so an instructor can work on pronunciation.” This, according to the Globe, was akin to the practices “in some Arab and west Asian countries, such as the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan” and that “empowering state agents to enforce dress codes and bar the education of women is hitherto unknown in Canada.”
Sure… Except that, as it has widely been reported in the French-language press, even though Ms Ahmed’s teacher had agreed to let her do some exercises one-on-one and give oral presentations facing away from the class, she STILL refused to remove her veil AND demanded that male students be removed from her line of sight in the class.
The student was expelled after the teacher, the school and her classmates, who also, by the way, have the right to learn French, had made considerable efforts to accommodate her. Her demands reached the point where other students were being penalized.
We could forgive the editors of the Globe and Mail who are so thoroughly isolated in the English language that they actually published an editorial last week against changing the word forefathers in the first line of the French lyrics of Canada’s national anthem on the grounds that “Forebears doesn’t really work, because it sounds like four bears.” (Actually, Forefathers and Forbears are English words and therefore neither are in the French lyrics of O Canada. In French the word is Aieux, which sounds nothing like four bears or quatre ours, but a little bit like loser.)
But the boys and girls at the Montreal Gazette certainly speak French and yet they also chose to grossly simplify a complex issue that still divides Muslim nations like Turkey and Egypt–Ms. Ahmed’s homeland–centuries after the passing of the Prophet and turn into the more familiar narrative of redneck Québécois chasing out a foreigner out “their” schools. “Your face or your faith, she was told. She chose her faith.”
Well, if it’s OK to ask that men, be denied the privilege of contemplating your holy self, if that what your faith says, is it OK to ask that, say, Jews, gentiles and infidels sit in the back of the class? Maybe that they try not to touch to many things?
Just last year the case of a woman refusing to remove her niqab in a courtroom was in the news in Ontario. No Canadian newspaper thought this story worthy of an editorial. In fact, a quick search of “Quebec +niqab” and “Ontario+niqab” on the Canadian Newstand search engine tells me that the Canada’s English media has already killed four times as many trees over the Quebec incident.
Four times? Surely the right to cover your face in court will have consequences on our justice system and society at least as important as the right to learn French with a mask.
What’s going on here is that the “French people Bad, Canada Rocks!” bit is just English Canada’s natural defence mechanism against controversial issues that it is not mature enough to face yet. But it doesn’t work. These things are complicated and repeating “Canada is bilingual and multicultural” over and over again won’t make them go away.
It sounds like the setup to a bad joke: it’s 33° and I’m driving a bus full of sweaty Inuit teens in their bathing suits to a water park in a place called, of all things, Pointe-Calumet.
The day had not started well. I drove up to the address on my paperwork in the leafy West Island suburb of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to find out that the street was closed. After some pretty awesome driving that nobody got to witness, I finally made my way to my pick up location where a dozen bored Inuits just stared at me.
–C’est vous la gang pour les glissades d’eau? I asked.
–English!, some obnoxious fat eskimo girl barked back.
-Français!, I answered.
I tell you kids these days. English please, maybe?
I was fuming. I was ready to fight the battle of Oka all over again. I was making plans to get on a plane to Kuujuuak right that day and just spend the day walking around yelling Français! every time someone addressed me in Inuktitut.
Driving down highway 40 all the way to the other side of Montreal to pick up the other half of my group at the Cégep Marie-Victorin it occurred to me that my chances of someone addressing a white boy like me in Inuktitut, even in the North, were probably quite slim. I was tired and cranky. Maybe my usually cheerful AngryFrenchDisposition had not come across well.
I blame the Jews. Two of them: Jon and Benji who had me out drinking until way passed my bedtime the night before.
So anyway, by the time we reach the East End, I’m considerably less pumped. Another dozen Inuits come on the bus but this time no one speaks to me in the world’s great order-giving language.
It turns out these kids had literally just landed in Montréal and were spending their first few days away from home. They were all from Nunavik, a series of Inuit villages that line the northern shores of Québec, from Hudson’s Bay to the very tip of the province and back down to Labrador.
Québec’s Inuit villages, contrary to popular belief, are not reservations and the Inuits who live there pay taxes even though they receive precious few government services. One of the many services they don’t get is higher education. The kids on the bus were in Montréal to go to Cégep. Half of them we’re studying in English at John-Abbott College in the West, the other half were going to school in French at le Collège Marie-Victorin.
Language politics are obviously completely different in the North—where, at least until further notice, the first language of most people is neither French nor English—but it still struck me how the French and English Inuits reproduced so many of the south’s social behaviour.
Anglo and Franco-Inuits kept apart, with one group occupying the back of the bus, the other the front. If the Anglo-Inuits spoke or understood any French, they weren’t using it. On the other hand, the French-Inuits all seemed to be able to speak English. Indeed, they often used English when addressing the Anglo Inuits. The Anglo-Inuits were (as the morning’s experience illustrated) loud and testy. The Franco Inuits ate poutine for lunch and their women were hotter.
The Franco Inuits also had their token white boy who was able to speak (what seemed to me) fluent Inuktitut, which is pretty cool.
As the sun came down and the humidex level fell, my white guilt shot up. I had had negative feelings about native kids. Micheal Ignatieff would so hate me.
I needed to redeem myself from the morning’s tense encounter with the first group and to demonstrate what a culturally sensitive person that I really am. I asked the big and beautiful First Nation lady who had yelled to me in English if she could teach me how to say Hello in Inuktitut so I could impress the other kids as they came on the bus. Apparently unaware that we had been fighting, she was glad to teach me.
It turns out that Hello in Inuktitut is Ai, which, with a gringo accent, sounds exactly like English Hi, which left the kids absolutely unimpressed with my linguistic skills.
There is even one of the Franco Inuits who replied with a very dry Bonjour, as if she was annoyed that I assumed she spoke English because she was an Inuit.
This is exactly why Québec must become an independent country.
Once upon a time, back in the late 90’s, Québec’s different cultural communities had their own TV station, called la Télévision Ethnique du Québec. It was a public access community station that broadcast cheap looking shows of uncomfortable looking men and women sitting on chairs and talking in one of 35 languages in front of cartboard sets.
Of course it sucked. How could immigrants and wide-eyed community activists fresh out of CEGEP ever produce any good TV? Especially back in those days before digital when making TV actually cost money?
Yeah, but it was local TV. Made by Montreal’s immigrants and about their lives and concerns.
In the summer of 1995, a date which I am sure has no significance whatsoever, Canada’s guardian of the airwaves gave away TEQ’s valuable cable channel to some vast media empire that eventually traded it to CanWest media, the owners of the Montreal Gazette, Global TV and the National Post. Within 18 months of the sale, as many as 20 local shows were replaced by shows produced in Toronto or the States. Interestingly, the cut shows were essentially those “from communities more integrated in the francophone majority”, according to Pedro Quirido, president of producers union of TEQ. Eventually locally produced programming was all but abandoned and actual ethnic content dropped from 100% less than 60%. David Letterman and infomercial made up the rest of the grid.
“One City, many Cultures”, became CJNT slogan. To which we can add: One language.
Yep. Nearly all of the station’s ID and promos suddenly became all-English and French became just another one of Montréal’s linguistic communities. Montréal’s “multilingulal” TV station still only has an English only website.
Just like the founders of the station warned ten years ago, the owners of the Montreal Gazette transformed a TV station run by and for Montréal’s ethnic communities into a pedagogical tool used to perpetuate the myth that Québec’s allophones and anglophones are one and the same community and the “ethnic” programming became like training wheels on a bike used to train immigrants into consumers of anglo media.
Either these people don’t know that at least 60% of Québec’s immigrants are French-speakers when they get here…
…or they do know, and they are trying hard to do something about it.
You know, for all the angst about the use of English by Québec’s immigrants, the majority of them are already part of the French-speaking community when they get here! Seven out of the top 10 countries of origin of immigrants are part of the Francophonie. The US is the only English-speaking country of origin in the top 10 and, please, I beg you to argue Americans don’t have acces to enough TV in their language. French is still the most used language by 60% of immigrant workers, it is the language their children study in and the language of the majority of the people who live around them.
There is no justification for CJNT treating them like generic Anglos. It’s not based on demographics, culture or any real numbers.
Except economics. Of course, the owners of CJNT are going to trash locally produced programing in favour of cheaper mass produced Toronto and American fare. And of course a media empire in the business of selling English-thinking minds to advertisers will use all its ressources to train and format more and more English-thinking minds and consumers.
That is why they put on air a channel where nearly all station IDs, commercials, and promos are in English and an English only website when targeting a market that is mostly French-speaking and living in a city where French is supposed to be the common language. That’s somewhere between disrespectful and socially dangerous.
And it sure as hell is not an innocent decision.
This week CanWest Global sold CJNT to Toronto’s Channel Zero. Will the pornographers give back the station to cultural communities?
It’s doubtful. Not only did the CRTC not demand that the station stop acting like an ESL network, it straight out relieved the new owners of of any obligation to use any French at all! (Which is not a reasonnable decision, Fagstein, if CJNT continues to broadcast in English). Read all about the company’s purchase of a multilingual channel in a French-speaking city in their English-only press release right here.
The CRTC’s decisions consistently reduced the amount of programing available to cultural minorities in their language, encouraged the exclusion of immigrants from Québec society and CanWest didn’t even make any significant money. This is a perfect illustration of why a Canada-wide body like the CRTC is inadequate to govern Québec’s airwaves.
And this is why Québec should become it’s own country.