AngryFrenchGuy

Archive for the ‘What Canadians don’t know about Canada’ Category

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

The Montreal Gazette is Lying to You # 234

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It is with a tearful eye and a trembling hand that I write today after reading Taking a Personal Stand, a piece by J.D. Gravenor about the plight of a poor 12 year old called Audrey-Laurence Farmer.

Poor Audrey-Laurence is a 12 year old student at a school called Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s… or was a student, we should say, because, as we learn in the article, she is being forced by the Québec government to leave her school and her friends.

Audrey-Laurence is not eligible for a Certificate of Eligibility for English Language Education, you see, because her parents have not been educated in English. The loophole that her parents had used to get her into Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s in the first place has been closed by bill 104 and, even though that law is being challenged at the Supreme Court of Canada, little Audrey-Laurence is being forced to leave her friends and classmates and start all over again in a French school.

Cue teary eyed child: “It makes me feel really sad, because I’m losing a really close friend. A lot of people who are really good friends with her are upset and they wish she could stay here, because they’ve been really attached to her.”

Audrey-Laurence Farmer is the perfect poster-child for the campaign waged by parents and Anglo school boards against bill 104: a bright bilingual kid forced to leave her school by mean bureaucrats.

It’s very dramatic indeed. It’s also a total fabrication.

Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s is not your average private school where a couple of thousands of dollars a year buys your kid ivy covered walls and pretty uniforms. Kindergarten at the Westmount school costs 12,810$ a year! Kindergarten! Tuition for grades 1 through 6 costs 14,580$ a year!

From kindergarten through grade six, Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s functions as a non-subsidized school. That means it receives no money from the government. It also means it is not regulated by bill 101 and that it can admit any child they want, even those who are not eligible for English public and subsidized private schools. Children like Audrey-Laurence.

So what happened? After grade 7 Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s becomes a subsidized school. As a subsidized school that receives government funding it can only admit students whose parents have been to English schools or who have themselves been to English schools in Canada. That’s the rule as established by the Charter of the French Language 30 years ago.

Until 2002 the school’s entire structure was built around a loophole used by some parents to get otherwise ineligible kids into subsidized English schools. Parents willing and able to pay the price of a brand new Volkswagen every year to send their children to Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s primary school were essentially buying the right to send their kids to English schools in Québec.

By the end of the sixth grade enough children had received “the majority of their education in English in Canada” and were legally allowed to attend Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s taxpayer-financed high school.

That’s exactly the loophole members of the National Assembly unanimously (yes, even the English-speaking ones!) voted to close with bill 104. Not so much because it was a way for parents to get their kids into English language schools in total violation of the spirit of bill 101, but because the loophole allowed wealthy parents to buy the right to a GOVERNMENT FUNDED English education

If grades 7 to 11 at Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s school were not subsidized, Audrey could’ve stayed. Because it is, now after the sixth grade students like Audrey-Laurence who are not eligible for English schools will have to go to French schools…

Or will they? Although most crusty private high schools in Montreal and Westmount operate on the same model of unsubsidized primary school and governement funded high school, there are some unsubsidized English high schools out there. Parents who have paid over $100,000 to send their child at Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s from kindergarten cannot claim that money is the issue here.

Schools like Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s were part of a vast network that provided a way for the wealthy to ignore Québec’s laws and obtain governement funding for high schools filled with privileged children that should not have been eligible for taxpayer financed English education.

The wealthy already have absolute freedom of choice when it comes to the language of education in Québec, as long as they forfeit about $3,500 of governement funding a year. What we are talking about here is extremely expensive schools that that had found a way to ALSO receive government money.

Let’s not forget that no other province in Canada gives as much government money to private schools as Québec. Ontario would not have contributed a dime to Audrey’s private education, in French or English!

If Audrey-Laurence’s parents had sent her to an unsubsidized school, she wouldn’t have to change schools next year. Sadly, her parents tried to have it both ways: an exclusive private education AND government money to pay for it.

They tried to cheat the system and it didn’t work out. So, as any good parents would, they told their daughter the governement is to blame.

Now that’s a lesson Audrey-Laurence will certainly remember.

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 8, 2008 at 11:26 am

Letter from Ottawa

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Ottawa bilingual sign

Salut Georges,

You probably remember me: we worked together in another life. We worked weekends and I remember you enjoyed reading the National Post to get angry. I just discovered you blog thanks to the article published in the Gazette and I said to myself: I only know one Georges Boulanger and it can only be him!

So congratulations for your blog, I’ve read a few articles and I found it very interesting. I think we have to tell the Anglos in their own language what the fucking problem is. I’m not sure they’ll get it but if we write in French they’ll say “Oh it’s French” and it stops right there. Communication breakdown.

I felt especially concerned since I now work for the federal government (Oh yes! The superb city of Gatineau) and I work in English 90% of the time. I write briefing notes in English, memos in English, instructions in English, research and analysis in English, etc… My colleagues are all Anglophones, except for the secretaries, of course. Ah, government secretaries have to be Francophones (bilingual, of course) because they are the point of first contact with the public.

French training usually gives rather poor results. In theory management jobs are bilingual but it’s a hoax: once someone has passed their French exam, they can easily never speak French ever again. I do have some Francophone colleagues in other ministries but meetings, even if Francophones are the majority, are in English.

That’s the big problem with Canadian bilingualism: its purely institutional and imposed from above. The reality is that Anglophones (except those who live in Québec, and even then…) have no reason to learn French, so why would they?

Anyway, all this to tell you I found your blog interesting and that I’ll continue following it.

Again, congratulations,

T.

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 19, 2008 at 9:59 am

Bill 101, hum… 101… The School Law

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montreal high school

Québec’s language laws limit access to English schools for most citizens of the province. That is true.

Yet, if any other Canadian provinces or American state wanted to offer it’s linguistic minorities access to the kind of education network Québec finances for it’s Anglophone minority, every single one of them would have to increase dramatically the number of minority schools it finances.

For example, if American states were expected to give their Spanish-speaking minority the same education rights that Québec gives to it’s English-speaking minority, then New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Utah, Rhode Island, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Kansas – all states that have more Spanish-speakers than Québec has English-speakers – would have to create a second publicly funded Spanish-language schools system.

Although all Canadian provinces have some minority education rights and schools, no other provincial minority has the vast network of schools, colleges and universities that English-speakers in Montreal and Quebec have access to. There are in Québec about 367 English public schools, 3 English public colleges called CEGEPs and 3 English universities.

In fact, if you use that standard definition of a major university as one that has both a law school and a medical school – New Brunswick’s Université de Moncton, the only autonomous French-language university outside Québec, does not have the latter – then Québec is the only state or province to fund a complete education system for it’s linguistic minority.

That’s if you accept the premise that English-speaking North Americans can be considered a minority at all…

In the 1970’s Francophones in Montreal became increasingly alarmed to see the vast majority of new immigrants to Québec sending their children to English Schools. That situation, combined with the demographic decline of Francophones in Canada and the availability of an extensive and totally free network of English schools in Québec meant that within one generation French-speakers could become a minority in Montreal.

Québec’s Francophones, representing over 80% of the population of Québec but barely 5% of North Americans were put in the position were they had to assist their neighbors in anglicizing immigrants.

Not only were Francophones being assimilated, but they were paying for it.

In 1977 the Québec government adopted the French Language Charter, known as bill 101, which made French the mandatory language of primary and secondary education. From that moment on, all residents of Québec – except the Anglophone minority – had to send their children in French schools from 1st grade through the end of High School.

Many people in Québec’s Anglophone community and in the rest of Canada were angered by this apparent limit to their freedom to choose their children’s language of instruction. Few noted that Québec was the only place on the continent where an actual school network made that choice possible at all.

In any case, the right of English-speaking Quebecers to a “separate but equal” public English-language school network was constitutionally protected. Parents who have been to English schools anywhere in Canada have the privilege to send their children to either school network in Québec.

It is only Francophones and new immigrants – those who make the informed decision of living in the French-speaking part of Canada – who are limited to French Schools.

In 1972, before the adoption of the Charter, only 10% of immigrants to Québec sent their children to French schools. Since the adoption of bill 101 the situation has reversed. Parents who send their kids to private schools can still send them to English schools as long as the school does not receive government funding.

Freedom of choice remains total when it come to higher education and students can study in English at college-level CEGEPs or in one of Québec’s three English-language universities.

In the decades since the law was adopted, some wealthy families figured out they could send their eldest child to an unsubsidized school – one that usually cost over 10 000$ a year – and then switch all of their children to the English public system the next year.

The National Assembly of Québec unanimously adopted law 104 to put an end to the loophole. The Québec court of appeals struck down the law in 2007 and the matter is now headed for the Supreme Court.

Click here for information of the Charter of the French Language’s sign law.

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 12, 2008 at 11:06 am

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

Bill 101, hum… 101… The Sign Law

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montreal english sign

In 1977 The Charter of the French language, a.k.a. bill 101, made it illegal to put up commercial signs in English or any other language but French in the Canadian province of Québec.

From that moment on, French and only French was allowed on storefronts, signs and posters inside stores, billboards and all other signs of a commercial nature.

Yes, Montreal was going to become the first city in the world to have a Chinatown without any visible Chinese alphabet…

That… odd… situation ended in 1993, after quite a few court challenges, when the law was changed to allow other languages on commercial signs as long as French was present and “predominant”. Nonetheless, as the 2008 Irish Pub Troubles demonstrated, the law remained controversial.

Montreal vs. Montréal

In most countries the language of commercial signs is not something that is legislated and to those who know the Montreal of the 21st century where practically all signs are in French, the very idea of regulating the use of other languages might seem a little bit closed-minded. To understand the reason for this regulation, one must absolutely step back a few decades.

Back in the day, French was not so visible in downtown Montreal. American professor Marc Levine wrote in his 1990 book called The Reconquest of Montreal that “before 1960, although Montreal’s linguistic composition was predominantly French, its linguistic character was undeniably English. Montreal was the urban center of English Canada where downtown boardrooms functioned in English, the best neighbourhoods were inhabited by English-speakers, downtown was festooned with billboards and commercial signs in English.”

The sign law was seen by many Francophones as a way to proclaim the end of centuries of Anglo-Saxon domination in Québec and there was certainly some feelings of vindictiveness in the air.

Nonetheless, the French-only rule was a very powerful symbol of the political and economic empowerment of the French-speaking people that were the overwhelming majority in Montreal. It was a way for them to stake a claim on the city, it’s downto…, er, Centre-Ville and it’s boardrooms. It was the unapologetic claim of Montreal by the Québécois as their city and metropolis.

Some English-speaking Montrealers gracefully accepted the new ways. Others left for Toronto. Some took the Québec government to court on constitutional or freedom-of-speech grounds. Others refused to comply.

The pressure did not only come from the English-speaking side of Mount-Royal. When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down parts of the law in 1988, 25 000 people took to the streets of Montreal demanding that the law be maintained intact. This set off a series of events that culminated with Québec nearly leaving Canada in 1995.

Although usually loathed and misunderstood in the 9 other provinces, Québec’s language laws have some strong supporters in… native Canadian communities. The government of Nunavut, a Canadian territory where 83% of the population is Inuit, is currently working on a language law inspired by the one in Québec. (Really. Even the National Post had to deal with it…)

Bill 101 and 86 only apply to commercial signs. Nothing in the law says anything about the language of signs in Churches, non-profit organizations or, of course, private homes. Political organizations are exempt, as are cultural activities. Very bad pop bands like, say, Simple Plan can have English-only posters plastered all over the city if they think it makes them look cooler.

Businesses who do not comply with the sign law can be fined, but only if a private citizen files a complaint and after provincial bureaucrats of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française notifies them and gives them time to modify their signs appropriately. These bureaucrats were nicknamed “Language Police” by angry Anglo shopkeepers, which lead to the widespread myth in Canada that Québec has a uniformed Language Police patrolling the streets of Montreal!

Click here for information on the Charter of the French Language’s School Law.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Language Suicide Bombers

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montreal irish pub

We knew about the language crusaders and zealots who have made it a hobby of finding and reporting any and all infractions to the Charter of the French Language.

Now it seems there is a new phenomenon that will have to be addressed in Montreal: Language IEDs.

The first bomb went off last week after the Office Québécois de la Langue Française sent an inspector to McKibbin’s after one of the pub’s patron’s filed a report in which he complained about being refused service in French and English-only signs in the pub.

Québec’s language law is a complaints-based law, meaning that the OQLF only intervenes if it receives a formal complaint from a private citizen. The idea was that in small English-speaking communities like Hudson, Chelsea or Beaconsfield, no one would be bothered by the occasional English-only sign and no one would ever file a complaint. It was a way to protect the right of Québec’s French-speakers while giving different localities a way of regulating themselves, depending on their own demographic make-up.

This sensible arrangement was messed up by the rise of self-proclaimed vigilantes, Hall-monitor types who ventured deep into Anglo territory, looking for apostrophes and measuring the size of French letters on signs in Snowdon and Kirkland.

It now seems we will have to deal with another threat to harmonious cohabitation between French and English, this time coming from the other Side of the Main.

McKibbin’s Irish pub owners got the world’s media attention with two deliberate lies: that they had been told to take down vintage Irish posters and that they were told the staff spoke to much English amongst themselves. Vintage posters in English or any other language are perfectly legal and there is nothing the law can do about the language employee speak amongst themselves, unless an employee complains he was discriminated against, which wasn’t the case here. Check out the Montreal Gazette’s excellent article on the stunt.  Or read the Toronto Star.

This case is about a customer being denied service in French and English-only menus are that are not vintage in any way.

There is no way a downtown businessperson in Montreal can reasonably claim to be in good faith when French customers are refused service in French in his establishment. There is no way a downtown business person does not know that English-only signs on a Montreal street are an open invitation for complaints to the OQLF.

In fact they are traps.

Anyone who has ever gone out for a beer in the western part of downtown where the now infamous Irish pub is situated knows that, although we can’t make generalizations, many establishments can be fairly hostile territory for French-speaker. The many other pubs on Bishop street that have English-only signs and unilingual staff cannot reasonably claim a spirit of openness and tolerance towards Francophones.

Exactly like the Francophones zealots who go out looking for language law violations and picking fights with Anglo shopkeepers, Bishop street pubs had laid a bomb and patiently waited for a Francophone customer to step on it.

This week it went off. TV reporters were called in. Web sites went up. The spin was ready.

Tick, tick, tick… boom.

How appropriate that it exploded at McKibbin’s, a pub named for Albert McKibbin, an Irishman who followed English orders as a soldier in the English Army…

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 17, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Why French is still in danger in Montreal

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Today we learn in La Presse that the Québec government has been sitting on another study on the decline of French in Montreal (or in google English). This time the study is about the language of work in the city. This comes about one week after the revelation that the government was holding back on another study on the demographic weight of Francophones in Montreal.

By and large, English-speaking Montreal was astonished to discover that Francophones still felt that their language and culture was threatened in the city.

Preposterous! More agitation from those darn separatist! All the signs are in French and all the immigrant kids have to go to French school thanks to that bill 101 that English-speakers had reluctantly learned to live with. Nearly everyone in Montreal is bilingual and the income gap between French and English has vanished. How could Francophones conceivably think their language and culture was in danger?

Here’s why, Tim Horton, these trends threaten not only French in Montreal, but even the bilingual character of the city:

The First Generation

In 2008 49 000 new immigrants will arrive in Québec and over 75% of them will head to Montreal.

When he gets here the new immigrant will learn that his engineering and business diplomas are not recognized in Québec and that he’s going to have to work in a factory.

At the factory he will have about a 50/50 chance of working in French (40,1%) or English (38,9%) even though the Charter of the French Language has made French the official language of the workplace 30 years ago.

At work he will quickly understand that immigrants who learn only English earn an average of 27 216$ a year while those who only learn French earn 21 233$ a year. If he is one of the growing number of immigrants who already knows French when they arrive, these numbers will tell him he also has to learn English. If he doesn’t speak French these numbers aren’t telling him he should.

Anyway, it won’t be long before he figures out that even old school Montrealers who don’t speak a word of French earn 34 097$ a year compared to 29 665$ for unilingual Francophones. (CD Howe numbers)

On his way to the better and wealthier life he left his country and family for, the new Montrealer will also learn that although over 80% of Québec’s population is French-speaking, in 1996 they counted for only 35% of the upper management in companies that had more than 1000 employees.

He will also understand that in wealthy neighborhoods like Westmount, 75% of the population is English-speaking.

The Second Generation

For that reason he will prefer that his kids attend English schools. If he can afford it, he will send them to a private school. If not, he will strongly encourage them to go to an English Language CEGEP and University. At this university his kids will develop his more durable social and professional networks.

Although able to speak French and English, this immigrant’s son will live and work in an English environment and feel he is part of Montreal’s English-speaking community. His relations with French-speakers will be cordial, but their preoccupations and culture won’t be his own.

He will not notice the absence of French language services in downtown Montreal because he will be just as likely to speak English in the shops himself. The exodus of Francophones who are increasingly frustrated not to be able to work and shop in French in Montreal will not affect him because his friends and colleagues are Anglophones.

The Third Generation

The girl he will get married is also more likely to be an Anglophone. A cute girl from Regina he will meet at McGill University, perhaps. Because she went to English schools in Canada, they will be able to sent their children to English-language public schools in Montreal.  And these children will grow up to be even less bilingual than their father.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 7, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Québec hid scientific proof French was declining in Montreal

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French Montreal

The government of Québec and the Office de la protection de la langue française had scientific studies (or here is a mediocre google translation) demonstrating that French was in decline on the island of Montreal. A press conference to make these studies public on January 18th was apparently canceled at the last minute.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm