AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘identity

Oscar Peterson is a Québécois

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Oscar Peterson Québécois

Two out of three participants in the AngryFrenchGuy’s Who is Nous? poll feel the late Oscar Peterson should be included in the definition of a Québécois. Both Francophones and Anglophones were split 50/50 on the issue but 100% of Allophones who answered did not hesitate to say Oscar Peterson is one of us.

It is interesting to note that in a previous poll 100% of Allophones said another former Montrealer, Leonard Cohen, was not a Québécois.

Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal in 1925. He grew up in Saint-Henri, a working class neighborhood that was mainly populated by the French-Canadian factory workers who worked along the Lachine Canal but also had small Irish and black pockets. Oscar Peterson’s father was a CN railways porter, one of the few professions available to black men at that time. St-Henri is situated right at the base of Mount-Royal and the massive mansions of Westmount, then Canada’s wealthiest municipality, towered directly above.

Other famous Montrealers from Saint-Henri include fellow jazz pianist Oliver Jones, the legendary strong man Louis Cyr, comedian Yvon Deschamps and the former Parti Québécois MNA and first female cabinet minister in Québec, Louise Payette.

Oscar Peterson Montreal

Oscar Peterson left Montreal in 1949 for the United States where he played with many of the greatest jazz musicians of his time. He lived his later years in Toronto where he was chancellor at York university and even considered for the position of Lt-Governor of Ontario.

Click on the picture above for a link to a rare Radio-Canada archive of Oscar Peterson speaking French and playing one of his most famous compositions: Place St-Henri.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 11, 2008 at 11:04 am

Leonard Cohen is a Québécois

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Leonard Cohen quebecois

The results are in. 100% Francophones who answered the AngryFrenchGuy’s totally unscientific Who is Nous poll, consider Leonard Cohen to be one of them, part of Nous, a Québécois.

Anglos are split right down the middle and Allophones don’t see Leonard Cohen as a Québécois at all.

Born in 1934 in Montreal, son of Jewish immigrants, Leonard Cohen lived most of his youth in Québec and studied at McGill university before eventually moving to the United States. As it was common in those days in Montreal’s immigrant communities, he was raised to be and English-speaker.

Cohen himself explained in a 1975 Crawdaddy magazine article, that he was never fluent in the language of Montreal’s French majority: I can get by, but it’s not a tongue I could ever move around in in a way that would satisfy the appetites of the mind or the heart.”

Does the poet feel like a Québécois? Here is what he had to say in the 1975 article in Crawdaddy Magazine:

“I live in Montreal, which is a French city, in Quebec, which is a French country–especially now, it is a country. I live as a minority writer, almost in exile, because there is no English writing community where I live. These are very special Canadian problems which to me form the Canadian character, because we’re very much involved in this notion of what is minority and what is majority; and yet while these questions are in the air, it seems that everybody has space. Because we don’t have the melting pot notion at all in Canada, we have a federal system that runs right down into the psyche of the country.”

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 28, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Membership has it’s privileges

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Instead of a Québec citizenship that is more restrictive that the Canadian citizenship we already have, why not create a citizenship that is broader and designed to attract the bright and dynamic immigrants Québec needs? Why not give Québec citizenship to non-Canadians?

All over the demographically-challenged western world countries are engaged in a fierce battle for the world’s young bright dynamic minds. If Québec plays by the same rules as the others it will lose. Québec’s geography and culture are not a disadvantage anymore in the online globalized world, but only if it plays a smarter game than its competitors.

The controversial clause of the Parti Québécois’ Identity Act that would restrict the right of newcomers who don’t speak French to run for public office or submit petitions to parliament is superfluous and distasteful but it was not racist or ethnically motivated. It was a botched attempt by the PQ to put some meat around their proposed Québec citizenship when they realized it was a hollow concept that people had no use for.

The idea of a Québec citizenship itself is not to keep anybody out. Quite on the contrary, the concept is meant to facilitate the integration of immigrants into civil society and the use of French as the common language of this society.

Who would want a Québec citizenship? Membership should have its privileges. What privileges can the government of a province provide? Health services and education are by far the two main services provided by provincial governments and are certainly a big factor in any immigrants decision to chose Canada and Québec over New Jersey and Portugal.

Giving out free health care to more people is unfeasible. And a system designed to attract the sick and the old is not what I have in mind.

On the other hand, Québec also maintains a highly subsidised quality network of Universities. These universities have a three tiered pricing structure. Québec residents pay the lowest tuition, Canadian students from other provinces pay more and international students more still.

My proposition is this: Quebec should make the cheaper price available to all students who pursue a higher education in French and have a second price for students studying in English.

Yes, I think Québec “citizenship” and a cheap education should be made available to all students, even those who are not Canadian citizens, if they study in French in Québec. This would help make Québec and Montréal the choice destination for young and bright francophone and French-speakers from the world over. These French-speaking and French-educated students would be more likely to build relationships and social networks in the province and to stay after they complete their studies.

Smart kids from Saskatoon or Surrey who don’t have to prove their fluency in English to anybody now have to pay a premium if they want to pad up their resume with a university degree in French from a Québec university. This is madness! These are the kids we want!

All residents of Québec would have Québec “citizenship”, of course, and automatically be eligible to the cheaper price. The novelty would be the possibility for Québec to grant “citizenship” to anybody in the world who chooses to come to Québec to pursue a higher education. Under Canadian law they would remain students temporarily in the country with a student visa, but with their Québec “citizenship” they would have access to other services not usually available to international students. The cheaper tuition is one such privilege. Access to other provincial services such as the 7$ kindergarten network could be another.

There are many advantages to have English-language universities in Québec and with my proposal these universities would not be jeopardized. If they certainly will be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Québec residents, their access to English-Canadian, American and worldwide English-speaking students remain unchanged.

Under this plan, absolute civil equality of all citizens is also rigorously protected. If Brandon from Kirkland studies in French, he gets the cheap price. If Sylvain from Cacouna wants to study at McGill, he’s going to have to pay more. People will be writing tests at school, where they should, not at Immigration Québec offices.

One possible objection is that all programs are not available in all languages. Perhaps a program could be eligible for the cheaper “citizen” price if a certain percentage—80%, 50% or 30%?—of the classes are in French. I don’t see why students of McGill Law School who take a great deal of their classes in French and usually stay in Québec to practice should not be eligible. On the other hand I don’t see why students of McGill Medical School who often graduate without the skills to carry out a basic conversation with a French-speaking patient and who leave the province after graduation in alarming numbers should have their education subsidised by the taxpayers of Québec.

The End of the Parti Québécois

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René Lévesque did not want the political party he founded to be called the Parti Québécois. His choice was the much less emotionally charged and very descriptive Parti Souveraineté-Association and it is apparently very reluctantly that he accepted the choice of the party members. He did not want his party to be the party of a people. He wanted it to be the party of a people’s project.

The essence of this project and what made it a model from Scotland to Catalonia was that you could create a country for a historical and cultural community while protecting a strictly legal atheistic deaf-dumb and blind definition of citizenship.

It seems we have lost this notion of citizenship. Mario Dumont’s action Démocratique du Québec became the official opposition by correctly identifying a real discomfort in the francophone population and positioning himself as the defender of Québec’s “identity” and “values”.

Because of its very narrow victory many forget that the Liberal party narrowly escaped annihilation at the last election. Its francophone supporters were massively jumping over to Mario’s ship. In the end, only the Anglophone minority’s stubborn refusal to participate in democracy and their soviet-style support of the party with the most red on its logo allowed the Liberals to win the most seats in the election with less than 20% of the francophone vote.

After the election Liberal Jean Charest formed a cabinet with only one self-described member of the Anglophone community even though half of the votes that elected him were from the Anglos and other minorities. The Liberals new priority was to shed its image of Parti des Anglais and position themselves as defenders of Québec’s “identity” and “values”.

During the last election campaign, only André Boisclair chose to stand above this very real dividing of votes along ethnic lines. René Lévesque latest successor, Pauline Marois, has decided to turn her back on this principled heritage of her party’s past and decided that the party’s future was to become another party defending Québec’s ‘identity’ and ‘values’.

All three parties are no waiting for the Bouchard-Taylor Commission to tell them exactly what are these values they are defending.

If they had not panicked, the Parti Québécois could have realized that they actually had an ideal position in the current political climate. First of all, they had and irreproachable record when it came to the protection of Québec’s rights.

Second, while the Liberal’s and Mario would have been arguing about who was the “real” spokesperson of the Québécois, the PQ could’ve turned to voters and said: “Listen, we won’t try to tell you who you are or what your values are. We will give you the tools for these values, whatever they may be, need to not only survive, but thrive. We will give you an independent country.”

By removing from her party’s program any obligation to actually do anything about independence, like holding a referendum, Pauline Marois has relieved sovereignists of their “duty” to vote for the PQ. Just like the Liberals could count on the rock solid base of Montreal’s Anglophone community to deliver 15 to 20 ridings even in the worst of times, The PQ had its own hardcore base of indépendantiste who would have supported them through the darkest hour. These voters will now feel free to vote for any party that they feel can best defend Québec’s ‘interests’. And I don’t think many of them feel that is Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois.

In an era of identity politics and cultural polarization, it seems the only thing the Parti Québécois has got going for it is it’s name. René Lévesque would not be proud.

Written by angryfrenchguy

October 3, 2007 at 9:48 pm

All Québécois are racist

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Kristian Gravenor wrote one of his always clever columns in witch he tells about the citizenship test his wife had to take to become a Canadian. The questions were hard, he said, and even he couldn’t answer many of them.

“If Quebec separates”, he wrote, “the questions could worsen. For example: “Who was the first mayor of Drummondville and how much beaver could he bag per day?” “What brand of shoe polish did Camille Laurin rub into his hair?” “What’s Celine Dion’s dog’s name?””

I am sick and tired of English Montreal and Canada’s media license to make unsubstantiated allusions to the alleged intolerance of the Québécois in general and of Québec’s sovereignists in particular. Saying ‘black people are dumb’, ‘Jews are cheap’ or ‘Quebecers are racist’ is the exact same thing. It is making a blanket generalization about a group of people. It’s prejudice. And prejudice lives across the street from real racism.

Go ahead, bring out Parizeau’s ‘money and ethic votes’ remark and Lucien Bouchard’s white babies. I raise you (former liberal minister) John Crosbie telling Bloc MP Osvaldo Nunez to ‘go back to his country’ in the House of Commons and Mel Lastman’s comment about sitting in a boiling pot of water surrounded by cannibals in Africa. Should I understand from that comment that all English-canadians are prejudiced against Africans? Or is it Ontarians? Torontonians? 905ers? Or maybe it’s just MEL LASTMAN?

How about we ignore the politicians and take a look at our city, ok, Kris? Let’s talk bout the wonderful ethnic and social diversity of Westmount, and Beaconsfield, and Hampstead, and Pointe-Claire. Oh no! That’s right! They ‘separated’ from Montréal. That must mean that the white English-Speaking people of Westmount and Beaconsfield hate Asians and French people, right?

But no, how about we do talk about Westmount and Beaconsfield and the Philipina ‘nannies’ employed in these neighborhoods in conditions that human rights groups have described as slavery. Let’s talk about the Bloc Québécois being the only party that came to these women’s defense. Do you think they’ll ask your wife if she knows that on her Canadian citizenship test?

Or do you think they’ll ask her if she knows that it’s under the rule of the Patriotes and Papineau that Québec became the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to give full rights of citizenship to jewish people? Or that the first black man elected to the National Assembly in 1976 was a member of the PQ while the liberals fielded their first black candidate—candidate!—in 2000!?!

Get it, Kris. Nationalists don’t want to keep immigrants OUT of Québec, they want to bring them IN! They want more immigrants. They want immigrants who will stay and not leave after three years because there are no Mounties and they can’t send their kids to English schools. They want immigrant kids in their schools. They want them in their neighborhoods and not only to cut the grass and take care of the baby. They want them to be part of our community, to be part of our family to the point where when one of them is named Governor-General of Canada we protest not because she is black or because of the monarchist institution, but because they claim she is one of theirs!