AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘Montreal

The Ignoble Character Assassination of Louise Harel

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parti-quebecois-accuse-de-racisme

“If we go from 19 to 10 boroughs, but these boroughs remain quasi-municipalities as they are now, we will end up in the worst of situations because we’ll have cities … an Italian city, a Haitian city, an anglophone city, an Arab city – Ville St. Laurent, a Jewish city, etc. We will no longer have this sense of one big city with boroughs that speaks with one voice.”

Louise Harel


I don’t care if you agree or not with the characterization of Ville-Saint-Laurent as an “Arab City” or if you feel that describing other Montreal boroughs as Haitian, Italian and Jewish is a bit of an oversimplification.  There is no way you or anyone in good faith that thinks former municipal affairs minister Louise Harel meant anything offensive when she said the above on RDI last week.

Everyone very well understood that she was speaking out against ghettos and division and for a more diverse, multicultural and united city.

To imply anything else is bullshit.  It is another example of the ignoble character assassination The Montreal Gazette and Québec federalists are willing to perform on anyone who has ever been associated with the Parti québécois.  It is spreading lies, it is sewing the seeds of hate, it is one more desperate attempt to create ethnic division for political purposes.

To find the appropriately outraged quotes to give credibility to its malicious interpretation of Louise Harel’s quote, the Gazette turned to a Montreal imam who favours the implementation of Charia Law in Québec and one, two, three members of Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montréal party.

Oh yeah, Madame Harel is rumoured to be thinking about running for mayor in the next municipal election.  Do you think this has anything to do with it?

Robert Libman, a former mayor of Côte-Saint-Luc, leader of the Equality Party and member of Mayor Tremblay’s party accused Louise Harel of  “sowing the seeds of xenophobia by pointing to identifiable communities.  It’s as if she sees bogeymen in everything that is not white and francophone.”

Hey Robert?  Wanna know how your own electors identify your city?  And by the way, for those who don’t know, Robert Libman is the former president of the Québec chapter of B’nai Brith, an organization so open to non whites and francophones that it actively campaigned for a separate network of publicly financed Jewish Schools in Québec.

Tony Sciascia, president of the Italian Canadian Congress, Quebec region, was also offended by Harel’s characterization of some boroughs as Italian.  Wanna know how the kids of St.Leonard see their own city?

How far up their asses are these people’s heads?

After reading that Harel called his borough, Ville Saint-Laurent an “Arab City”, Alan DaSousa said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for our community to be dissed in such a cavalier fashion”

Care to explain how being called an Arab is a diss, Alan?  Really?  I understand you are not an Arab and that Ville Saint-Laurent is more diverse that Harel implied.  But what do you mean when you say being called Arab is a diss?

Montréal municipal politics have always been an upside down mirror of provincial politics: those associated with sovereignty movement usually in favour of a strong centralized metropolis and the federalist are the ones pleading for a very loose confederation of independent municipalities.

The only thing that doesn’t change is the willingness of the latter to use hate, lies and slander in their pathetic attempts to drive a wedge between francophones and other communities.

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 13, 2009 at 9:19 pm

English is Back in the Québec Workplace

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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.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

The Definitive Guide to Switching Between French and English in Québec

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bilingual Montreal

At the Dépanneur, the Caisse Populaire and waiting in line at the SAAQ

In business situations, there is one rule and it is the same as anywhere else in the world:  The customer is always right.

The Good Faith Clause:  For months I had to visit the Royal Victoria Hospital twice a week to se a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist.  Both were English-speaking.  The Ocupational therapist always greeted me in French, apologized profusely for not speaking it better, and tried really hard.  The physio greeted me in English and made no effort to find out my preference.  I eventually asked the Occupational Therapist if we could speak English.  She had been very respectful and made a sincere effort but my English was better than her French and we mutually agreed that the communication would be easier in English.  Because the physio never made an effort, neither did I.  I only spoke French with her and she eventually had to deal with it.

At the Yacht club, Bingo and your local chapter of the Bilderberg group

When speaking to Montreal Anglos in social situations, I always speak French.  The Anglo usually responds in one of three ways:

French: The Anglo answers in fluent French and that’s that.

Franglais: The Anglo responds in a half French/half English bastard tongue.  I can understand him/her, so it’s cool.  I, however, stick with French.  Franglais is great for Hip Hop lyrics but I have no inclination to trade my ability to converse in two of the world’s greatest international language for the regional creole of Federal government secretaries.

English:  My fellow conversationalist answers in English, I respond in French, he continues in English.  We both understand each other, we are both speaking the language of our choice.  All is good.

The rules above are exactly the same for Anglo-Québécois addressing Francophones.

How to avoid being labelled a Maudit Anglais if you don’t speak French

French-speaker in Québec have very high expectation for their Anglo neighbors.  They’ve been telling us they are fluently bilingual for three decades now and, get this, we believe them.  That is why some visitors to Montreal and Québec sometimes faced with an aggressive response when speaking English.  To avoid this use accents and dress like a tourist.  If you can pull off a British or Australian accent people will not expect you to be able to speak French.

Sri Lankans, Philipinos, Canadians and other Immigrants

There are two schools of thought concerning the proper way to communicate with our new countrymen and women.

The pseudo-cosmopolitans: They believe that everyone who is not from Québec speaks English and that they are ‘helping’ immigrants by communicating with them in English.  This school of thought is very widespread in Québec City and other places that have little to no contact with actual immigrants.

The AngryFrenchGuys: We assume immigrants are just like real people and would appreciate to understand the social conventions of their new home as soon as possible, therefore we only speak French with them.

The Switch

English-speaking visitors to Québec frustrated by the Switch – the habit of Francophones of switching to English as soon as they hear the slightest hint of an accent your speech – should refer to the rules above.  The Francophone can switch to English if he wants to, but who is forcing YOU to switch with him or her?  Just keep on speaking French!  That or pretend to be a German tourist.

These are the rules.  Put them on the fridge.  Carry them in your wallet.  Now you know.

Written by angryfrenchguy

January 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

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.

Charmed by Leonard Cohen

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Beautiful interview with Leonard Cohen (google translation)in La Presse this morning. It is so refreshing to hear a Montrealer who understands and accepts with such lucidity the reasons of the estrangement he feels in his own city, without feeling he needs to condone or condemn.

“In Montreal, everybody felt like a minority: the French because they were a minority in Canada, the English because they were a minority in Québec and the Jews because they were a minority everywhere (nervous laugh). Three solitudes, indeed. It persisted until René Lévesque. I think the Parti Québécois really brought the French fact into consciousness.”

It is also rare to see a Anglo-Canadian artist, let alone one who is an international legend, treat the francophone public with such affection and respect. Not many international superstars play the Cégep de Chicoutimi and I’m pretty sure none ever addressed the Moncton public mostly in French.

Last Wednesday underground deities and most brilliant musical group since Harmonium to come out of Montreal, A Silver Mt.Zion and Tra-la-la Band (formerly Godspeed You! Black Emperor) played Sala Rossa on the Main. We got one “Merci” and one “Merci d’être venu ce soir”.

Written by angryfrenchguy

June 14, 2008 at 1:28 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