AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘Montreal

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

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

Does Montreal need more immigrants?

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That’s the fascinating and highly controversial question a small but determined group of scholars have been debating in Québec newspapers lately.

49 000 new brothers and sisters. That’s how many new immigrants the Québec government decided to recruit for Québec in 2008. That number, which is proportionally much higher than the immigration levels in the United States and most of Western Europe, will be increased to 55 000 in 2010.

The standard justification for this high level of immigration is that it necessary to compensate for the low birthrate in Québec, to maintain the province’s demographic and economic weight in the federation and simply because we need the workers.

Last week demographer Marc Termotte publicly denounced the Québec government for not publishing his study–that the same government had commissioned–demonstrating that French was declining in Montreal at least partly because Montreal Francophones were having a hard time integrating an always increasing number of immigrants.

In a December 28th letter to Le Devoir (google’s robot translation), demographer Guillaume Marois takes another look at Québec’s seldom questioned immigration policies and concludes that immigrants already in Québec will be among those who have the most to lose with a more ambitious immigration policy!

Pointing out that in Québec, as in Ontario and the rest of the Western World, immigrants move to urban areas and stay away from far away regions, he argues that increased immigration will do nothing to solve the shortage of workers in Rouyn and Alma.

The true question is not, according to him, if Québec need more immigrants, but:

Does Montreal need more immigrants?

“In December 2007 the unemployment rate in on the island of Montreal was 8,5% while it was only 7% for Québec as a whole. How are immigrants doing? According to the latest ISQ (Institut de Statistique du Québec) compilations, more than 10% of immigrants are unemployed…”

So if there is no worker shortage in Montreal, why are we bringing more people in, Guillaume?

“We often hear that “immigrants don’t steal our jobs, but occupy jobs that Quebecers don’t want because of bad conditions”. But if working conditions are staying bad, it is precisely because employers find in the immigrant community people who are ready to take these jobs. Employers don’t have to raise salaries or improve working conditions.”

“Although immigrants are generally better educated than average Quebecers, they are over represented in menial and manual jobs. They’ve been promised a lot of nice things but, in the end, they have to go towards this type of employment for various reasons (not recognized diplomas, false promises, etc…) or be unemployed. A good proportion of immigrants who are here will pay the price of an increase in immigration.”

More immigrants means lower wages for poor working-class Quebecers. Guess who are the poor working-class Quebecers of 2008?

That’s right! Immigrants.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 4, 2008 at 11:22 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

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

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