AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘quebec

A Beautiful Mindfuck

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québec fascism

I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a book. A book and movie, actually. I’ve been trying my neighborhood libraries, bookstores, the National Library, without any luck, even though the package came out in December 2007. In the end I had to drive to the Mile End, to an industrial side street, right to the distributors office where I bought the thing with cash.

The movie is called Un sur 1000 and the book Post-Scriptum. It is about and by René-Daniel Dubois.

René-Daniel Dubois is an actor, playwright and writer who got into serious trouble for calling the 1995 referendum on Québec independence a failed suicide attempt in French daily Le Monde. He quickly found out that talking against the family abroad is a big no-no in Québec.

Unsettled by the violent reaction to what was only one intellectual’s personal opinion, he set off on a quest to seek the roots of Québec nationalism. He came to the conclusion that Québec society was what he called “the first successful fascist society – that is to say where not only is there no form of resistance, but where the very idea of resistance doesn’t even seem to be conceivable.” In a filmed lecture that accompanies the movie he demonstrates how, in his opinion, this society has, at it’s root, the ultramontane French clergy and their opposition to democracy, individuality and, finally, the act of thinking in general.

“No, nationalism does not, not at all, have for objective the preservation of a popular culture–or of a language–, or the welfare of citizens of a given society–those are only pretexts.

Nationalism is not an ideology, it’s a rhetoric: it is not a cookie, but a way of selling it – changing the packaging does not affect it in any way. Nationalism, it’s a way of maintaining one and only one vision of what life in common could be: the one in which, by means of the notion of permanent menace, the population is summoned to obey elites who, because of the gravity of the situation as they describe it themselves since they are the only ones allowed to talk, don’t have to seriously answer to anyone.”

In all fairness Télé-Québec aired the movie once. La Presse and, incredibly, the weekly Suburban (google English), published excerpts (google English) – in French ! – and Dubois was recently invited to Tout le Monde en Parle, a major talk show, again on Radio-Canada.

Most of the above media are considered by Québec nationalists as propaganda organs of the vast Canadian conspiracy to destroy Québec specificity so it only strengthened their conviction that Dubois was a federalist agent earning a comfortable Canada Council of the Arts job with some timely Québec-bashing.

“You’re so vain you think this song is about you….”

Québec’s nationalists are so narrow-minded that they took it personally, but Dubois was talking about a much broader phenomena. Let’s read the passage I quoted again:

“Nationalism is not an ideology, it’s a rhetoric: it is not a cookie, but a way of selling it – changing the packaging does not affect it in any way. Nationalism, it’s a way of maintaining one and only one vision of what life in common could be: the one in which, by means of the notion of permanent menace, the population is summoned to obey elites who, because of the gravity of the situation as they describe it themselves since they are the only ones allowed to talk, don’t have to seriously answer to anyone.”

The outer menace is Americanization, the inner menace is… Québec’s separatists. The situation is so fragile that any questioning of bilingualism, the senate, the division of power between provinces and the federal government could lead to the break-up of the greatest country on earth!

If nationalist had bothered to read the book before condemning it they would have come so hard they would’ve ejaculated blood reading how Dubois tears apart their arch-enemy Pierre-Elliot Trudeau.

Early in the book Dubois remembers how in the days of the Great Darkness Québec free thinkers used to flee to Ottawa – the university and the federal institutions – where they felt they had more wiggle room to think.

“In the middle of the XIXth century, the ultramontane clergy – the catholic equivalent of the Talibans – seize total power inside Québec society, letting the few remaining real democrats to play by themselves in Ottawa. They can run, anyway, one day or the other they will be caught up with and the score settled.”

The score was settled, according to Dubois, when the Jesuit-educated Trudeau and his suite take over the Liberal party and Ottawa in the 1960’s. Proof? His decision to suspend civil liberties and send the army in the streets of Montreal in October 1970. “How do call what I’ve just described? A fascist coup.”

René-Daniel Dubois conclusion that the Quiet Revolution was a sham because television in Québec sucks and and the Cultural Affairs Ministry doesn’t properly fund Artistes like him is not entirely convincing. His demonstration that Pierre-Elliot Trudeau and FLQ terrorists really belonged to the same nationalist elite is, to say the least, very sketchy.

But, the way in which nationalists in Québec immediately rejected Dubois’s work as federalist propaganda and, inversely, the way the federalists, oblivious to the fact his book depicted their messiah as the ultimate incarnation of Québec fascist nationalism, used it as an argument against the separatists…

What could be more convincing proof that Québec is a society where people don’t think!

Don’t think, don’t read, don’t know shit!

The reaction to his book on all sides vividly demonstrates his thesis that Québec is a society where thinking is not only discouraged, but where it simply doesn’t happen!

Feels like we are going to have to keep looking for his books in back alleys for a while….

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 2, 2008 at 10:55 am

The AngryFrenchGuy has been declared a Traitor to the Nation!

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In a post called Les Traîtres du Français about AngryFrenchGuy.com a blogger called Un Homme en Colère (isn’t this just wonderful!) writes:

“It goes without saying that I have no more respect for someone who claims to defend French in English than I do for someone who bombs a country in the name of peace or a rapist who rapes in the name of virginity.”

And later: “What you are doing is SHAMEFUL, a disaster. At least it is only small scale, but your contribution annihilates all the efforts of hundreds of Québécois like me and others who are trying to make French Québec’s only official Language.”

Goddam. Fighting off Barbara Kay on one side and now these clowns on the other. I must be doing something right.

The debate has spread to other blogs, including Renart L’éveillé‘s.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

Jack Kerouac is a Québécois.

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Jack Kerouac Quebec

100% of AngryFrenchGuy.com’s angry Franco readers who took part in the Who is Nous poll consider American writer Jack Kerouac to be one of them: a Québécois. Two thirds of angry Anglos did not.

Jack Kerouak was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. His French-Canadian parents had been part of a massive wave of emigration to the factories of New England that followed the industrial revolution. In those days Lowell and many other northeastern American towns had thriving French-speaking communities known as “Little Canadas” and Kerouac himself did not start learning English until he went to school.

Recently discovered manuscripts of the Beat writer have revealed that Kerouac had attempted to write his classical On the Road novel in French several months before he finally decided to write it in English. In these archives were other previously unknown French writings by the author, including another manuscript entitled Les travaux de Michel Bretagne in which he writes: “I am French Canadian, brought to the world in New England. When I am angry I often swear in French. When I dream I often dream in French. When I cry I always cry in French.”

Kerouac Quebec graph

When Jack Kerouac was growing up in the 1920’s and 30’s, Lowell, Massachusetts and it’s 28 000 French-speakers could’ve been considered the fourth largest French-Canadian city after Montreal, Québec City and… Fall River, Masachusetts!

The once thriving Franco-American community that once had as many French-language newspapers as Québec has now all but disapeared. New immigrants stopped coming when the textile mills closed and half of the 900 000 French-Canadians returned home. The others eventually were assimilated into mainstream American society.

Click here or on the picture above for a link to a 1967 Radio-Canada interview of Jack Kerouac in French.

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 23, 2008 at 11:48 am

Separatists for English Unite!

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Pauline Marois’ leadership of the Parti québécois is a first in more ways than one. She is, of course, the first woman to lead a major political party in Québec. She is also the first PQ leader not to be perfectly comfortable speaking English.

René Lévesque spoke English fluently, having grown up in the English-speaking town of New Carlisle and spending the Second World War in Europe with American troops. Although bilingual, neither Robert Bourassa nor Claude Ryan had his ease and fluency in English.

Jacques Parizeau evidently enjoyed using the British English he picked up at the London School of Economics while Robert Bourassa, a Harvard man himself, spoke his English adequately, without any style or apparent pleasure.

Jean Charest raised the Liberal standard considerably, but Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry were not impressed. (And I’m pretty sure Charest doesn’t speak Spanish or Latin like Landry!)

At the Federal level, with the notable exception of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the Liberal leaders speak even worse English than their provincial counterparts. Jean Chrétien carefully cultivated his non-threatening image with a heavily accented pea soup English while Stéphane Dion has the bookish accent of someone who learned the language by reading, not talking. Their Bloc opponent Gilles Duceppe’s English, while it would’ve been considered mediocre in Québec City, was paradoxically more than good enough by the standards set by Québec federal politicians.

Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin spoke easily in French and English, but they were Anglophones.

The current situation, with Pauline Marois speaking considerably less English than the fluent Jean Charest is the exception, not he norm.

Less English schools, more English in School

Pauline Marois is under attack these days for suggesting that the Québec education system should make sure that all children are functionally bilingual when they graduate from high school. She demanded that English be thought from the first grade on, and even that some form of immersion be created, by teaching geography and history in English, for example.

As expected, the cowardly Right of the independence movement opposed violently the plan. More frighteningly, some intellectual elites, such as author and playwright Victor-Lévy Beaulieu used the T word. Treason.

VLB, as he is known, certainly speaks English. He just published a 1000 page essay on James Joyce, one of the most notoriously difficult writers in the English language. Yet, the knowledge of English has never diminished his commitment to independence or his passion for the French language!

The knowledge of English has never had a negative correlation with support for Québec’s independence or support for the protection of French. Support for independence rises in the Francophone community with education level and income, both of which usually suggest some knowledge of English.

Nor does bilingualism diminish a student’s ability to speak and write in their mother tongue. Many studies have demonstrated that the kids who go through the French-immersion program in the rest of Canada score better in ENGLISH than those who go through the regular program!

The modern independence movement was born in Montreal’s bilingual Francophone intellectual community, inspired by hearing Martin Luther King and Gandhi speak about freedom, justice and liberty, in English!

80% to 90% of young people in Scandinavian countries speak English. Yet, they are still Swedes and Finns, still speak Swedish and Finnish and still play hockey not football. If the Québec school system could properly teach English to Québec’s youth, the English language CEGEPs and universities would not look so attractive to young people who want to practice the language.

By suggesting that the knowledge of English is dangerous for the people, that they are not ready or that it could threaten the integration of immigrants, Pauline Marois’ elitist bilingual opponents like Victor Lévy Beaulieu only managed to demonstrate that speaking English won’t make you smarter either.

(Also published in the Montreal Gazette as Pauline Marois and her problem with English)

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm

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