AngryFrenchGuy

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

6 Myths about McGill and Concordia

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So here you are. You’ve left New Jersey or Bangalore behind, came to Montreal, McGill and Concordia and you are now ready to explore your new home and indulge in your new life of freedom and very loose drinking laws.

During your stay in Québec you will be expected to ingest quite enormous quantities of cheese, fries, gravy, beer and bullshit about your new home, all of which could quite understandably make you sick to your stomach if you are not careful.

Lucky for you, you’ve found the AngryFrenchGuide, the voice of reason and truth about Québec who will help you see through the fog of dinsinformation and closet francophobia that you might come accross in the streets of Montreal.

To start you off, here are a few myths about McGill and Concordia universities that you should be weary of:

1. McGill is Montreal’s only world-class university.

Although it has often claimed to have more international students than any other university in Canada and even though half of those “international” students live only a few hours down highway 15/87 in the United States, McGill only managed to attract 400 more students on a visa than l’Université de Montréal (the big yellow building that kind of looks like a mosque on top of Mount-Royal).

In 2006 McGill had 5549 international students while UdM, with it’s affiliated engineering and business schools, Polytechnique and HEC, had 5130. Every single one of those had to take an airplane to get here. Who’s world-class now?

2. Québec needs McGill and Concordia to attract young upwardly mobile students from abroad.

What is this? 1998? You guys need to get with the program.

According to the British Council, the demand for a Western English language education by international students is falling fast, especially in Asia. In 2005 4 out of 5 UK universities recorded a drop in foreign students, as sharp as 50% in the case of students from China.

Most countries in the World have adapted to the reality that English is the global language. People are learning English at home, now. They don’t need to come to Canada and the West anymore. The British Council’s conclusion: “The recent decline in international students studying in the main English-speaking countries is unlikely to reverse.”

The latest numbers from McGill tell us that although international admissions were stable this year, admissions from China, Japan, Mexico and Latin America all were down.

3. English is still the global language. There will always be a demand for an English education.

India’s outsourcing business is in crisis because it doesn’t have enough multilingual staff. They need German, Chinese and Spanish-speaking staff to get new lucrative markets. It started outsourcing the English-language business to more inexpensive places like Viet Nam, Guatemala and the State of Georgia (not the country, the US state). English is no longer a high value skill. Anyone can speak English.

The word on the street is multilinguism. You can’t graduate from Montreal’s French-language universities without a high proficiency in English. You can very easily spend four years at Concordia without learning a word of French, which makes you unemployable in Québec, and just another unilingual English-speaker in that big multilingual world out there. Maybe you can get work at that Indian call-center in Atlanta?

4. I’ve heard about you AFG, you’re one of those bitter separatists trying to wipe English out of Montreal.

There are exactly 744 430 English-speaking people in Québec, not even 10% of the population. Nevertheless Québec has three English-language universities that receive 27% of the government higher education funding, including 33% of the research budgets.

The rest of Canada has exactly ONE French university and it doesn’t have enough money to have a medical school.

You’re welcome.

5. Yeah, but Montreal’s English universities help offset the “brain drain” in Québec.

Actually, if it wasn’t for Montreal’s Anglo universities, Québec would be in a “brain gain” situation. 70% of English-speaking students leave after earning a Ph.D. Every year, wilst Québec is in the middle of a doctor shortage crisis, more than 50% of doctors trained by McGill leave the province.

Québec’s French universities can train more fluently English-speaking doctors and engineers than McGill and Concordia at a fraction of the cost. McGill and Concordia are just not good investments.

6. Fuck you AFG! English Montreal built McGill and Concordia and you separatists don’t have any business telling us who and what we should teach!

Actually, McGill and Concordia have received between a quarter and a third of all the higher education budgets of Québec for the last 40 years. They were built by the Québec people and belong to the Québec people. If the people of Québec decide they need Concordia to train people to work in Tagalog, that’s what Concordia’s should do.

So there you have it. French-speaking North Americans (3% of the continents population) are subsidizing the education of English-speaking North Americans (90% of the population). Pay attention in your your PoliSci class when the teacher will describe neo-colonial systems. You just might hear things that sound like this post.

But it’s cool, don’t worry about it. You’ve got time. Take those four years, learn some French, explore the east, make some friends and join the good fight.

And remember, don’t go back home without having that poutine. It helps keep everything down.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 25, 2008 at 12:36 am

The Other Montreal Music Scene: The Real Underground

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It’s been three years now since The New York Times, SPIN and other Rolling Stones officially labelled Montreal a Hot Music Scene, based on a not-necessarily-undeserved but very Anglo-centric coverage of Arcade Fire and their friends.

Are we still cool? Probably not. Three years is an awfully long time for that kind of hype.

There is however a whole other music scene in Montreal, one that is mercifully immunized against the mainstream English-language media. A scene that goes way beyond les Cowboys Fringants. Here’s a few names for those into that type of thing.

Paul Cargnello

Remember when a Québec Anglo signing in French wasn’t so much of a curiosity? Remember Me, Mom and Morgentaler, GrimSkunk and… euh… the McGarrigle sisters? Yeah, neither did I. Paul Cargnello – think Jean Leloup and Joe Strummer in Leonard Cohen’s suit – redeems English Montreal from the tragedy that is Crescent street.  (That said, we sometimes wish he’d go back to English once in a while just to kick Jack Johnson’s ass.)

Radio Radio

Straight out of Moncton! Not from Québec at all, New Brunswick’s Radio Radio is the first Acadian hip hop crew ever represent the 506 and demonstrate how Shiak, the acadian slang, just might be the ultimate rhyming language ever! Don’t worry, nobody in Québec has any idea what their talking about either.

Manu Militari

Côte-des-Neiges’ M.A.N.U. is often guilty of some simplistic rhymes but he just as often makes it up with inspired gems: “J’suis sur la voie rapide comme monsieur Jack Layton/Fuck ceux à droite comme le maire d’Huntington”. La Traversé du Lac Nasser is a more lucid and subtle reflexion on the conflict between the West and the Islamic world than anything ever published by any Canadian newspaper, complete with an aknowledgement of Canada/Québec’s hypocritical stance and a condemnation of the way Arab regimes blame Jews for all their own failures.

Xavier Caféïne

True to the original punk spirit Xavier Caféïne infiltrated commercial radio with catchy pop tunes that dissed Montreal, baby boomers and his ex-girlfriend Gisèle while celebrating the rise of China that will liberate us from the Bald Eagle and Jesus Christ. That and he still defends smoking.

Gatineau

There are now two solitudes in Québec Hip Hop, with on one side the not uninteresting Old School orthodoxy and, on the other a new breed busy deconstructing the genre into something the American and French godfathers of Québec Rap never saw coming. Gatineau have gone farther into these uncharted waters than anyone else. Think Dr. Dre: The ‘Schrooms 2008.

For more check out:

bandeapart.fm

hhqc.com

And Mange ta Ville’s beautiful collection of artists performing around Montreal.

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

There is no such thing as the Québec Language Police

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When it comes to negative branding, opponents of Québec’s language legislation hit a home run when they coined the term Language Police to designate the governement bureaucrats charged with enforcing the French Language Charter. Probably the only thing that could do worse damage to your international public image than a Language Police is footage of your citizens hitting baby seals on the head with harpoons…

The nickname, however, was not even their own idea. The best the most clever Angryphone of them all, Mordecai Richler, could come up with was Tongue Trooper. It is Morley Safer of CBS’s 60 Minutes who is said to have been the first to use the term Language Police.

There is, of course, no such thing as a Language Police in Québec.

The general objective of Québec’s French Language Charter is to protect the right of every citizen of Québec to work and receive services and information in French in Québec, something that has often been problematic, especially in Montreal, even though French-speakers are the majority of the population.

To acheive that goal it made it mandatory that all businesses in Québec be able to serve their customers in French, both verbally and in writing, whether it be through menus, posters, telephone customer service, advertizing, on the internet or in person.

If a citizen felt his right to service in French was not honored, he could make a complaint to the Office de Protection de la Langue Française, the governement agency in charge of the Charter’s application. The agency would then send a agent to investigate if the complaint was justified, and if it was, to inform the business in question that there had been a complaint and assist him in correcting the situation.

If, and only if, the business in questions refused or failed to make the corrections the OQLF could forward the complaint to the Minister of Justice, who has the power to impose a fine.

In 2006-2007 there were 3873 complaints. Only 72 of those were eventually forwarded to the minister.

The OQLF agents are no more a police force than food inspectors or workplace safety agents, but Language Police is a powerful image and through endless repetition by less thorough reporters than Mr. Safer who couldn’t spell hyperbole, the idea that Québec has an actual Language Police has taken on a life all it’s own and otherwise informed visitors fully expect to see them patrolling the streets of Montreal in uniform.

The myth of the Language Police has hurt Québec and Montreal’s image, but it’s to late to do anything about it. The image is there and the name stuck.

In such situations the only thing left to do is embrace image. Québec could make the agents of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française actual constables of an actual Language Police, give them uniforms, badges, governement issue tape-measures and taser guns.

This change of terminology, however, will cause changes accross Canada as other pencil-pushing civil servants will also want to be called police officers. You see, cops earn more money and have way more luck with the ladies than white collar bureaucrats.

Employees of the CRTC, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, will be become the Thought Police, to reflect their power to decide who has the right to broadcast, what they can broadcast, and how much they can charge for it. The bureaucrats in charge of monitoring the 35% of Canadian music radio stations are required to broadcast by law will be known as the Rock n’ Roll Police and those found guilty of not playing enough Bryan Adams will be sent to a jail in Newfoundland known as the Jailhouse Rock.

Workers at Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal who investigate complaints of discrimination against visible minorities and women in the workplace will be renamed the Race and Sex Police.

City zoning officials in Saskatoon, whose job includes inforcement of a city bylaw that legally requires residents of the Hughes Drive developement to use a minimum of four colors on the facade of their houses and that “the selected colors should match the range of Benjamin Moore “Historical Colors”, will be known as the Royal Canadian Color Police.

Soccer moms in Saskatoon risk heavy fines if they should fail to coordinate with their neighbours, but that is nothing compared to the plight of homeowners in Edmonton where the Veranda Police will patrols the streets of Spruce Village on the lookout for violators of the “covered porch” architectural guidelines.

Well, the decision whether or not to turn any little government employee into a police officer is one Alberta and Saskatchewan will have to make for itself.

As for Québec, the world already asumes we have a language police so there will be nothing lost in getting one. In fact, it would be a unique opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

An actual Québec Language Police could play the role Mounties play in the rest of Canada. Language cops in crisp blue uniforms and funny hats could be posted arround Montreal and Québec, tourists would line up to be photographed with them and a paraphenelia deal could be struck with Disney Corporation.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 5, 2008 at 9:43 am

Pure Laine Black Sheep

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I am Pure Laine.

I’m the prototypical Frog. I’m a Pepsi, a Pea Soup, a fucking Frenchy. I’m white and French-speaking and baptized in the Holy Catholic Church.

I’m exactly who you’re talking about when you call someone Pure Laine. The grandson of a farmer who was the grandson of a voyageur who was the grandson of a Norman sailor.

I’m Pure Laine. As pure as they come.

How pure is that? I’ll tell you how pure.

As pure as my English-speaking father and his Jewish girlfriend. As pure as English-speaking grandfather and his protestant mother.

Last year a man in Toronto asked my mother if she was Chinese. It wasn’t the first time. That’s how Pure Laine my mother is. As pure as any other Paquette out there. As pure as the anonymous Huron warrior or Cantonese railway worker who left the genes to those eyes in my bloodline. As pure as the Irishman who brought my red hair to America.

I’m as pure as the Beauce’s Besré, Maheux, Allaire and Dallaire who’s ancestors were German mercenairies. As pure as the Russians of Rawdon and the Italians of St-Léonard.

In 1764 David David was the first Jew born in Québec. In 1912 Fleurette David, my grandmother, was born in Montreal. Was she a descendent of David David? Am I? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. So how the fuck would you you know? And what exactly would that change between you and me? Do you think I’d feel less Québécois because I had a Jewish ancestor? How about you, would you think less of me?

Would you take my name of the Pure Laine registry?

My name is Georges Boulanger. Google it for fun. Georges Boulanger is also the name of a French fascist general and a Romanian gypsy violinist. So what’s in a name? What could my name possibly tell you about who I am?

I’m as pure as any Québécois who’s family tree has at least one root that goes back to those first French settlers, as pure as Gregory Charles, Aly N’Diaye, Normand Brathwaite and Donald Brashear.

That’s about as pure as it gets. Even if I accept the ridiculous premise that there is such a thing as a “Pure Québécois”, an idea that no one cares about except a few retarded traditionalists and their biggest supporters, Canada’s English-speaking media.

Even if I accept to even think about Québec from that fictional point of view, that there ever was pure seed to the Québec genome, that Québec was somehow isolated from the movement of peoples in America and Europe before that.

Even if I let you suppose that I would for one second consider that someone who’s ancestors came here a little bit later, maybe five, six, three or two generations ago, were any less Québécois than I am, that’s still about as pure as it gets.

Why would you call me Pure Laine? Who exactly are you to cast the Québécois out of the ebb and flow of peoples and cultures? On what authority do you isolate a group of people, French-speaking North Americans, as somehow “pure”, untouched by time, as an anachronistic impediment to what should have been the ‘natural’ course of history?

The idea of the Pure Laine Québécois, the ethnicity of the Québécois is an invisible leash drawn around Québec to limit it’s contact with the world outside, folklorise a people and marginalize a culture. It’s a mental reservation.

It’s a lie. I’ve got the same parents as the rest of you, I just turned out a little bit different.

Yes I am Pure Laine. A Pure Laine Black Sheep.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

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

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Maka Kotto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 14, 2008 at 12:53 pm

The Glorious Bilingual Montreal of the 1940’s

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The AngryFrenchGuy and his grand-father

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

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

Consider this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm