AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘bill 101

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

Separatists for English Unite!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less English schools, more English in School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm

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

AngryFrenchGuy in The Gazette!

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Even the mighty Montreal Gazette has to bow down to the AngryFrenchGuy’s rock solid reasoning!

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January 24, 2008 at 2:58 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.

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January 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Harper Trades Minority Rights for Votes

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In 2000 Stephen Harper’s National Citizens Coalition financed lawyer Brent Tyler’s attempts to strike down parts of Québec’s French Language Charter. The Calgary-based NCC was even the biggest donor in Brent Tyler’s attempt to change Québec’s laws in the provincial jurisdiction of language and education.

The challenge to Québec’s language law was considered a civil rights issue by it’s Brent Tyler and his backers.

Seven years later Stephen Harper is actively trying to win the support of the strongest supporters of Bill 101.

Since he became the head of the Conservative Party Stephen Harper has performed better than expected in Québec, winning 10 seats in the last general election and an eleventh in a by-election last year. His success in Québec has been attributed to his openness to Québec nationalists and his pledges to keep the federal government out of provincial jurisdictions.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a vote in the House of Commons recognizing Québec as a Nation within a united Canada and recently hinted that wants the recognition of the Nation of Québec to be part of the Canadian constitution.

Québec’s French Language Charter, bill 101, is considered a near-fundamental law by many in Québec and several hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 1988 when the Supreme Court invalidated some dispositions regarding commercial signs.

In 2000 stepehen Harper was not considered a friend of Québec. Along with Stephen Harper, others who were financing Brent Tyler’s efforts were Howard Galganov, Diane Francis and the weekly newspaper The Suburban, all of whom have often been accused of racist sentiment against French-Canadians.

Many of the people represented by Tyler were even angry to learn that their legal campaign was being financed by money from Alberta.

In his attempt to build a coalition large enough to win a majority in the House of Commons the Prime Minister has actively been reaching out to French-speaking nationalists and Québec right-wingers, a group that generally supports Québec’s language legislation and does not approve of Canadian activism in Québec politics.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected Brent Tyler’s attempt to open Québec’s English schools to francophones in 2005. The English-Rights lawyer recently announced that all his legal campaigns were jeopardized by the Conservative government’s decision to abolish the Court Challenges Program, a program designed to help minorities fight for their rights in court.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

We are Italians

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

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