AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘Gazette

English is Back in the Québec Workplace

with 288 comments

anglo exodus montreal

“I just love Montreal”, I overheard a lady tell her friend in Avenue Video in Montréal.  “I’d live here if I spoke French.”

“I don’t speak French”, scoffed a passerby.  “Don’t worry about that.”

English is getting stronger in Montreal.  I’m not the one saying it.  The Montreal Gazette is saying it.  There’s just no way around the numbers.  Québec’s English-speaking population rose by 5.5% between 2001 and 2006 according to StatsCan.

How did this happen?

“The easy answer to the question of why young anglos aren’t leaving Quebec like they did a generation ago”, writes David Johnston, “is that they speak better French, and aren’t being chased away by political uncertainty.”

You will all remember that the “political uncertainty” started in the 1950’s and 1960’s when francophones started asking why they were paid less than any other nationality in Québec, why no francophones held any management position in Canada’s banking and finance industry and why they were forbidden to use their language to speak to each on the shop floor.

English-Canada’s business elite responded by moving the country’s entire financial sector and 800 000 jobs from Montreal to Ontario where discrimination against French-speakers was allowed.

But a more important reason, according to the Montreal edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, is that it’s getting easier and easier for English-speakers to live and work in Montreal because there has been a “cultural shift” that has made English “acceptable” in the workplace.

“By the 1990s”, continues our man,  “speaking English had become more acceptable in Quebec as firms came to see the need to improve the capacity of their workforces to operate in English. This created new opportunities for anglophones.”

As if English had ever disappeared from the Québec workplace!  As if the French-speaking majority of Québec that had been forced to work in English for 250 years suddenly found itself unable to communicate with the outside world in the international language of business after bill 101 gave them the right to work in French!

The failure of Bill 101

When I was a truck driver satellites communications between French-speaking drivers and French-speaking dispatchers had to be in English so the English-speaking security team in Toronto could understand what was going on.

In 2005 the Metro chain of grocery stores bought A&P Canada and Christian Haub, the CEO and chairman of the board of A&P got a seat on the Québec company’s board.  Thirteen Francophones and one Anglo.  Guess what language the board meeting are in now?

Yep.  Even when the French businessmen win, they lose.

That’s the way the modern workplace functions.  It is entirely structured around the needs of the less qualified people.  French-speakers in Québec, and all non-English speaking people around the world, are required to acquire additional language skills so that unilingual Anglos won’t have to.

Québec briefly tried to change that with the Charter of the French language, but the truth is that the rules that were supposed to protect the right of Québec workers to work in their language are broken.  They don’t work anymore.

They were designed for businesses that could be contained in a building, to make sure that the 15th floor would communicate in French with the 6th and 2nd floor, all the way down to the shop floor.

But businesses don’t work like that anymore.  Management is in Toronto, accounting’s in Alberta and IT is in Bangalore.  Toronto’s and New York’s business culture is once again being imposed on the workers of Québec, and the entire world, actually.

Québec’s workforce has always been the most multilingual in Canada, and probably one of the most linguistically versatile in the World.  Québec’s business culture did not change, it’s the world’s business structure that changed.

And once again, after only a brief interruption, unilingual Anglos can come back to work in Montreal.

And just in time, as the stellar generation of brilliant financial minds that left Montreal a generation ago have now managed to completely scrap Ontario’s economy and is now ready to come back home.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

February 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Ethnic Panic

with 28 comments

Now we know.  Teaching English to the Québécois is not a central recommendation of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodations. In fact, and contrary to what the editors of the Montreal Gazette thought they had read in a few leaked chapters of the Commission’s report, there is little to no trace of English Montreal’s longing for the bilingual and multiculturally segregated Montreal of yore in there.

English Montreal’s worse nightmare has come true. English Montreal is no longer synonymous with the benevolent coalition of all the citizens of Québec who are not of the proper kind. English Montreal leaders no longer speak for all of those who are not of the majority.

English Montreal is only about English Montreal.

It is this realization that has lead the Montreal Gazette to try to use some leaked chapters of the Bouchard-Taylor commission to define the coming debate on it’s preferred terms: Francos vs. the Others.

The first sign that something had changed was the Jan Wong affair. The Globe and Mail columnist set Québec on fire with her insinuation that all residents of Québec who were not, to use her vocabulary, Pure Laine, were outsiders and outcasts. Maybe the concept that a Québécois is only someone of French-Canadian heritage still had currency in Toronto’s Montreal expat community. The reaction in Montreal made it clear that the ethnic conception of the Québécois did not exist anymore in Québec.

This sent English Montreal’s leaders into a panic. All around them they saw a new Québec identity taking shape. A new identity that did not include Anglos. They saw Hijab-wearing muslim women and turbaned Sikhs testifying at the Bouchard-Taylor commission about their vision of a new Québec, in French.

They saw Immigrants and members of cultural communities like Vivan Barbot, Maka Kotto, Joseph Facal and Alexis Wawanoloath take a leadership role not only in the French-speaking community, but in the independence movement!

The cabinet minister who is supposed to represent Anglos in the Charest government, Yolande James, was now a 30 year old black woman who spoke French like a native and consistently said unthinkable things like: “Nous les Québécois”!

The redefining of Québec’s identity on a basis other than the tired “Us” vs “Them” was threatening English Montreal’s power base and had to be reversed. That’s what the Montreal Gazette tried to do last Saturday with it’s controversial headline last Saturday aimed directly at French Canadians.

The “Get informed. Learn English. Be nice to Muslims.” Headline was a desperate attempt to drive a wedge between what some call “cultural communities” and the French-speaking majority.

Today, again, the National Post’s Daniel Goldbloom blows hot air into that old Anglo obsession of the ethnically pure French-Canadian: “The mainstream sovereigntist line that the term “Québécois” refers to everyone living inside of Quebec’s borders is a lovely idea that simply isn’t true. The boundary between “us” and “them” in Quebec in general — and the separatist movement in particular — has never strayed from linguistic lines.”

It’s bait. Nasty bait. It’s a revolting attempt to define the debate on the racist idea of a so-called ethnic Québécois.

The Québec Anglo media has a unhealthy obsession with ethnicity and race that it systematically tries to project onto the independence movement.

But guess what, the only group that benefits from that definition of Québec based on ethnicity is the Anglos who use that tired scarecrow to artificially enlarge their constituency and morally excuse themselves for living in a segregated society.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Québec needs an English-language newspaper

with 23 comments

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

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

In 2008 that means Québec doesn’t exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 7, 2008 at 9:41 pm