AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘language laws

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…

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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

In Montreal French-speakers are still second class

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Bilingual montrealIn Montreal, the second largest French-speaking city of the world, French-speakers are still second class citizens.

Le Journal de Montréal, the city’s most read newspaper, sent out a reporter to look for a job in downtown Montreal with an English only resume and a single word of French: “Bonjour”. In 14 days, the reporter got 15 jobs.

In Montreal, speaking French is apparently not a job requirement. Not even for a customer service job.

That means that in Montreal, 62% of the population is apparently not entitled to services and information in it’s own language. Considering that Montreal is Québec’s economic and commercial core, it’s 85% of Quebecers who are still treated as foreigners in the heart of their metropolis.

When she asked what to do about customers who wanted service in French the reporter was told by one of her new employers not to worry about them and that they were ‘pains in the ass’. The French term was chiâleux.

In the 1970’s, Pierre Bourgault wrote in the magazine Point de Mire about being kicked out of a downtown Montreal disco for ordering his beer in French. The owner told him she didn’t want any politics in her establishment. “In Montreal, in 1970, it’s a political act to order a beer in French.

Apparently it still is in 2008.

Of course they won’t kick you out of the store anymore. They might kick you out of an airplane, though.

Last march Jules Léger, president of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia, was refused on board of a Ottawa-bound flight in Halifax for demanding service in French and videotaping the carrier’s inability to provide it.

Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal and as a former crown corporation is required by law to provide services in both of Canada’s official languages. Air Canada openly ignores this obligation despite being the all time complaints champion Official Languages Commissioner office in Ottawa.

French-speakers are not only second class citizens’s in Montreal, they are also second class in their country’s capital, but that we already knew.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 16, 2008 at 5:08 pm

The return of the sad clown. Howard Galganov runs for office.

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Apparently feeling that the Québec Indépendantistes needed a little bit of help in these difficult times, Canada’s most outspoken bigot Howard Galganov has decided to run for parliament and lend his voice to the marginal but still very alive anti-French movement in Canada.

Mr. Galganov’s campaign platform is to “scrap the Official Languages Act, and to show the door to Quebec”.

Known for his extremist anti-French rhetoric, Howard Galganov first appeared on the political scene as the leader of a quite reasonable campaign to demand that some shopping malls in an English-speaking suburb of Montreal abandon their policy of having French-only signs.

The campaign failed. In the 1990’s he opened a ‘store’ for his Quebec Political Action Committee on Monkland Avenue that had bilingual signs in open defiance of Québec’s bill 101 that states that French must be prominent in commercial advertising. Many other businesses in that English-speaking neighborhood already had bilingual signs and Galganov’s store never became the political statement he wished it to be.

After failing to obtain changes to the Québec French Language Charter or to be elected as leader of the Anglo Rights group Alliance Québec he ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Saint-Lazare.

Howard Galganov responded to every defeat with a more radical attack on a weaker target. From demanding of bilingual signs accordance with existing laws he moved on to demanding the right of English-speaking shopkeepers to NOT HAVE TO SPEAK FRENCH to their French-speaking customers.

By the late 1990’s he complained in a phone interview with me that his his company was losing business because his French-speaking employees had to much of an accent when speaking English.

Unsuccessful in his Québec campaigns, dismissed by Montreal’s English speaking community as an agitator and by the French Media as a clown , Howard Galganov moved to the Loyalist bastion of Alexandria, Ontario and refocused his political action against the weakest of all targets, English-Canada’s French-speaking minority.

On his website, Howard Galganov now preaches nothing less than the return of English dominance over all of Canada:

“I see no reason why 95% of Canada’s population must dance to the tune of LESS than 5% of French Canadians living outside of Quebec.

I have said it for years: CANADA IS NOT A BILINGUAL COUNTRY. This most recent federal government survey has removed all doubt.”

Forever tormented by his failure to become a leader in the Québec’s English-speaking community, Howard Galganov struggles to be the leader of something. Anything.

Reduced to speaking for an ever shrinking base of racist bigots as he loses support every time he opens his mouth, Howard Glaganov is now only a few actions away from having to face the hard reality that he only speaks for himself.

And that day the sad clown will be the only one to cry.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

January 11, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Québec needs an English-language newspaper

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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

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.