Sunday, April 16, 2017

Québec solidaire and the regressive left

« Version française de cet article ici »

Our current conceptions of egalitarianism came out of philosophical presuppositions emerging from the Enlightenment. From medieval nominalism came the modern tradition putting forth that objects in the world do not actually possess “natures,” but rather are assigned metaphysical categories and “essences” by a human conceptual framework. Thus, human nature is a tabula rasa. A large part of modernity is built upon the false notion that the source of mankind’s ills are located in differences — race, religion, language, gender, etc.  If these can be obliterated through a revolutionary myth which places all blame on class warfare, hierarchy, gender warfare, etc., then the humanistic gospel can finally create some distant utopia.

Maybe some leftists are realizing that humans do look to leaders and don’t always operate as rational, atomic units. Average folks always clings despairingly to clichés. Take them away and people have to do their own research, their own thinking and deciding. On a deeper level, can one really expect this sort of elitist behavior from ordinary people? Having recently watched a video conference organized by Québec solidaire: “Defeating the Liberals, what role for the anglophone left,” I am left wondering what role indeed does the left have? Having briefly flirted with QS back in 2007-08, I sort of understand their world view. That flirt, however, didn’t last long. Now I tend to see the left digging their own graves for their eventual post-modernist death in nihilism. But maybe Québec solidaire can redeem itself through a convergence with the Parti Québécois?

They begin by giving the usual line about how anglophones use words like “dépanneur” and “terrace,” so we shouldn’t worry if francophones speak franglais, meaning that anglophones using a few gallicisms here and there means that French is in no way threatened and we are living in a pluralistic and exciting “crossroad of culture” and other inane and empty catch-phrase type declarations.

Following the first speaker’s brief introduction, at around the 12:50 mark, the second speaker proclaims that if one is “progressive,” then one of the fundamental starting points is recognizing a people’s right to self-determination (I can only guess she is specifically referring to Amerindian nations). According speaker #2, while most progressives recognize this, those same progressives do not support Québec self-determination and sovereignty.

She says that all peoples have the right to “govern themselves in a traditional way… ” Alright. But I wonder… what does traditional mean for the far left? Who are the nation groups that have Québec solidaire’s seal of approval to govern themselves in a traditional way? Would they condone a traditional Catholic Québec society? From what I have seen and heard, such Catholic groups usually get the label “far right” slapped on them and the public is led to believe that those groups are populated with radical and violent skinheads.

At around 13:30, she says that we want to make sure that primarily Québec women are in the work force. Why primarily women? Furthermore, in supporting the right for traditional societies to self-determine, I can’t help but wonder how they would react if such-and-such traditional society decided that women should not work and stay home to raise the family. Is the speaker here suggesting that we should support that group’s choice for women not being part of the workforce in the name of self-determination?

Around the 18:15 mark, it is stated that Québec solidaire so often ends up defending itself in a right-wing sovereignty framework. The lady doesn’t seem to know her history, for if she did, she would know that Québec sovereignty, as we know it today, has been a predominantly left-wing movement since the Quiet Revolution, following the death of Maurice Duplessis. Only very recently has the PLQ begun framing it as a supposed far-right world view — in the European political party style like the Front national or Sverigedemokraterna. They know that such neurolinguistic programming gets people to associate Québec self-determination and sovereignty with Nazism, xenophobia and mass murder, which works only to the detriment of the sovereignty movement as a whole (and keeps the Québec Liberals in power).

Of course she brought up the supposed rise of right-wing ethnic nationalists in Quebec as one of the most pressing crises that our society faces, dramatized with a few anecdotes regarding one of the supposed right-wing groups carrying banners with Nazi-era symbols in her Quebec City neighborhood. Did she take a picture of the supposed Nazi-era sign? Because after having asked around, I was told that this is a bare faced lie. Seriously, think about it. It would be way too cartoonish and stupid for these groups to display Nazi symbols on their banners. It would be social and political suicide. Does anyone really believe that these people have the luxury of doing something so socially frowned upon and then expect no harm brought to their professional reputations and their ability to earn a living? Don’t the people in these “far right” groups also have lives, families, mortgages and cars to pay for? I swear, it seems that certain “activists” start with a certain belief and then go about looking to confirm their bias instead of dealing with the facts as they are presented. Then when they don’t find anything supporting their bias, they either exaggerate or outright make things up, just to say: “See, I told you! Quebec City is run amok with skinheads.” What can I say to that?

She also curiously said that the aforementioned group were distributing pamphlets calling for a boycott against multinational corporations like Starbucks and to support our local businesses. Isn’t this a good thing? Is this why such people are now being called the “regressive left”? They are now defending multinational corporations to the detriment of mom and pop stores.

Around 19:00, the second speaker closed with more questionable words: “[at Québec solidaire] we will come up with the best arguments and strategies to shut down the haters, [in any way that] we can”. I would like to know how she defines “haters” and “hate” as well as what “shutting down” actually entails. Sounds like shutting down, through slander and character assassination, anyone who doesn’t agree with you. What about defending freedom of speech? That means also defending speech that goes against you ideaology. Maybe they should come up with better arguments instead of “shutting down” people with other opinions.

The third speaker didn’t have much to say worth noting here, aside from stating, at 23:00, that he is a progressive, but not a separatist. So, does  speaker #2 still like him? After all, she did say that being progressive means supporting self-determination/sovereignty of a nation.

At around 31:30, the fourth speaker begins by declaring that “the issue” (I am assuming the anglo-franco divide) is not about language, but about “[social] class.” This leaves me scratching my head. With Montréal becoming more anglicized every day, with huge amounts of newcomers not knowing, needing to know, or wanting to know how to speak French, with the Liberal government doing almost nothing to protect and promote the French language, how is this possible? How can she just brush aside the very thing that speaker #1 said in the introduction regarding linguistic diversity that cited Montréal as “one of the cultural capitals of the world”? French is at the center of this debate, which is something QS has always been lukewarm about. This is a typical red-herring among anglophones, trying to take attention away from the very real problem of the anglicization of Montréal and splitting hairs on typical tired old Marxist class struggle gobbleygook. They would not be sitting there talking about any of this if Québec were just another anglophone province or US state.

At around 34:00, she spouts out the similar misinformation that speaker #2 said, that most of the sovereignty movement has been promoted by nationalist and racist right wing organizations. Again, anyone with an inkling of Québec history would know that the post-Quiet Revolution sovereignty movement has been primarily on the left. How can they keep on affirming such uninformed falsehoods? And what about Québec solidaire? Are they not part of the sovereignty movement? Is this to say that they are on the right?

This speaker also states that she thinks Québec solidaire has the most interesting program out there, but fails to give any examples of the superiority of their program. And she is left pondering why Québec solidaire does not get the immigrant and Amerindian vote. Well, that’s easy. Because people falling into those categories vote overwhelmingly Liberal. This is why QS needs a convergence with the PQ. There is no other way around it. The majority of immigrants and Amerindians do not live in Mile End or the Plateau. They don’t see things the same way QS does. Furthermore, at 35:30, she says that Québec solidaire is too pale, male and stale (and francophone). Apparently white, francophone (older?) men need not apply.

At 36:00, while vaguely addressing a possible PQ-QS convergence and further demonizing the Parti Québécois (which she called, in bad faith, the Parti Québecor), she asks: “why would we ally ourselves with a party that won’t question the economic or democratic political structure that is the very problem we have?” Again, she is talking about class struggle and thinks sovereignty isn’t a good enough base on which the PQ and QS can ally themselves. When are the folks at Québec solidaire going to realize that nothing can be done without sovereignty? None of their grandiose ideas can happen without the self-determination they claim to support. Even Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (QS male spokesperson candidate) recognized that in his campaign launching speech.

While talking about Montréal’s “new anglophones,” she reduces Indians and Pakistanis to being poor wretches who are desperately trying to earn their living, implying that expecting French from them is somehow cruel and cold-hearted. Does she mean that these people have absolutely no social/linguistic responsibility to the society that welcomes them? She puts them in a non-aggressor position by comparing them to the historical wealthy and white anglophone oppressor in Westmount. I know that the left likes to see everything in binaries. Oppressor vs. Oppressed. Man vs. Woman. Bourgeoisie vs. Proletariat. However, life is not a simple as the Oppressor/Oppressed dialectic. The (anglophone) South-Asians she mentioned may not be the historical anglophone that is rich and white, but they too are being used as pawns by the ideology behind multiculturalism. So, in this binary world view, while they are not direct oppressors, they are instruments of this oppression against the French language, because, heartfelt wishes aside, the end result is further anglicization of Montréal, more tension between various ethnic groups and further political divide between English and French.

At around 40:00, she also reiterates the old adage that “Italians were refused entry to French schools,” not seeming to be aware of the St-Léonard crisis that largely led to bill 101. I get that some Italians were, once upon a time, made to feel unwelcome in French-language schools, but how can anyone believe this cartoonish story about all the mean French nuns who were cruel to poor Italians, forcing them into the open arms of the kind English schools? What does she base this on? A few anecdotal stories? Anyway, I already addressed this in my text Allophones who are really anglophones.

One final incongruous thing she said was that the language someone speaks doesn’t define their political views. Has she ever seen an electoral map? The ridings where English is more commonly spoken are always, without exception, Liberal.

Toward the end, at around 45:00, Amir Khadir said that Québec solidaire’s militants have been lazy about not reaching anglophones—which is true. He expresses puzzlement over why their message — so inclusive, so just, so right — didn’t reach the masses they expected from their 2006 beginnings. Well, probably because Québec solidaire refuses to cooperate with other parties that should be their sovereignist allies. Getting back to the topic of the video, what is the (anglophone) left’s role in defeating the Liberals in 2018? It’s clear to me that Québec solidaire’s role in defeating the Liberals is to quit grumbling and proceed with the PQ convergence.

Quebec solidaire has rejected the idea of cooperating with the PQ.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Allophones who are really anglophones

Lately thinking about all things problematic going on in Québec, maybe it might be too petty to pick on the allophones. But then I run into one or two of them throughout the day and I’m reminded how silly the whole thing is and feel compelled to have my say. Ever since I came to Montréal, I had been surrounded by a species of people who only seem to exist in Québec—I am talking about the allophone! Now, if you’re not from Québec, you may be wondering what in the world is an allophone? Short answer is this: an allophone is a person in Québec whose mother tongue is neither French nor English. 

Here’s the way I see it. 

Having always disliked the politically correct term allophone, as it doesn’t do much besides distort the Montréal’s linguistic statistics, I suppose that you’ve got to say something for addressing the phenomenon of anglophones who are the children or grandchildren of Italian or Greek immigrants running around claiming to be allophones. These allophone shenanigans especially come up when you ask them why they don’t know anything about Québec, despite having spent their whole lives here. What's more, on the statistics side of things, certain allophone groups can be considered, for all intents and purposes, francophone or anglophone. 

Think of people from the Maghreb, Haiti, or even the Vietnamese from a few decades ago—these people function in French in Québec. As far as I am concerned, they are francophone. On the other hand, you got these “allophones” from India, Pakistan, Nepal or Jamaica who function in English in Québec—and usually only in English. For all practical and every day purposes, they are anglophones. But they get counted as the elusive “allophone” in statistical counts. I wish these people would just own their anglophone-ness and stop referring to themselves as allophones. 

It has been my experience that many of the faux-allo anglos, when spoken to in French, will freak out and tell you that they pay their taxes and therefore don’t need to be integrated or whatever. They will tell you to not patronize their businesses if you have the audacity to speak in French, all the while claiming to be speakers of some other language. They do this thinking they will be forgiven for acting like the historic Québec anglophone stereotype. Perhaps from a strict libertarian point of view, one could justify such assholery. But I, for one, would like to see Montréal keep its uniqueness as a francophone city. Furthermore, it’s really just common courtesy and only normal to speak French. Most of them are ill informed and will repeat the old “Canada is bilingual” line. Doesn’t matter what the laws really are, they will continue spouting that excuse for their own laziness, lack of interest and closure to the world. The worst part is that many francophone Quebecers have internalized this way of doing things and just let it keep happening. 

Then there are those faux-allophones who were “born and raised in Montréal,” (they just love saying the “born and raised” bit) with real immigrant family members from a generation or three ago. I usually find myself coming back to the faux Greeks and Italians. Montréal is full of them. I used to know a guy named Mike, who claimed to be Italian. He didn’t speak Italian. He had never been to Italy. He did speak French as a second language though, with English as his first. So that being said, what makes this dude an Italian? With that logical output, I could claim to be a Quebecer-Norwegian, since my mother’s ancestors were something around 80% from Québec. However, I am always referred to as American. But anglophone Mike from Montréal, he’s an Italian, as illustrated by one of his silly friends on the street who referred to Mike as “that Italian guy!” WTF? Similar stories abound in offices that I used to work at where this other anglophone girl was referred to as that Greek girl. 

When I bring all this up to them, they usually come back to me with some sob story about how they or their parents were refused access to French schools and how the Québec people were mean to them or something like that. They act like the pre-loi 101 reality of 1968, when 40% of Montreal’s Saint-Léonard were Italian immigrants, most of whom sent their children to English school, had nothing to do with it. Some say the French schools refused the Italian immigrants, but I find that suspicious when everybody knows that the vast majority of immigrants wanted the English schools, not the French ones, as was typical of immigrants of the time. 

They act like there was never any good reason for the existence of the Mouvement pour l'intégration scolaire. They ignore that the Italian reaction to francization was by opening clandestine English-language schools schools in private homes that lacked basic supplies (although Montréal anglophone networks were providing some financial assistance). People in crass coffee shops on rue Jean-Talon near métro Fabre will tell you stories about how much they wanted to go to French school, but the mean francophones wouldn’t let them and the civilized Protestant (English) school board would. Anyway, none of that matters anymore. When the faux-Italians and faux-Greeks don’t speak French or don’t want to, they just use their “I’m Italian” or “I’m Greek” to justify their worldview of Québec indifference. After all, like that crazy dépanneur dude from India said in the link above: they pay their taxes, so shut the eff up and spend your money elsewhere! 

The most annoying thing is when they use it as an excuse for not knowing how to speak French, despite many years and decades of living in Québec. Once, I was at one of those Chinese restaurants on rue de la Gauchetière in Montréal and, while paying for the meal, the woman at the register spoke to me in English. I responded in French. She responded in some Asian language. I then asked her in French if she spoke French. She retorts by asking me if I speak Mandarin. (WTF?) I told her that we are in Québec, not China, so why the hell should I speak Mandarin Chinese? Eventually, she ended up serving me in French. Aha! The old bag did speak some French after all. Lady, why didn’t you just do it from the get go? Maybe the stereotype that some people in Asia think that all European languages are the same is true in her case? But it does go both ways. I once asked some silly guy in Minnesota what language his asinine oriental-language-character tattoo was and he told me it was “Asian.” Then he got upset when I told him there is no language called “Asian.” 

It’s weird, because in the grand scheme of things, these “allophone” people end up being not much of anything, blended as they are in the Canadian/North American multicultural feces-brown blob. They don’t want to be Quebecers and keep saying they are from this or that nationality—even when they are not. No real Italian would consider Mike a fellow countryman. They might say that they are “Canadian” in some way—whatever that means. When I lived in Minnesota and met Canadians, I asked them how they distinguished themselves from their USA counterparts. They usually repeated the tired old socialized healthcare bit. And they can’t even use that one anymore, cos those lucky Americans have now got the likes of Obamacare! 

Anyway, the allo-anglo situation isn’t getting any better in Montréal’s climate of anglophones telling stories about how awful they got it in Québec. Sometimes the STM tortures them. Sometimes there are stories that will make you think paramedics are eating children like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Sometimes their brethren from other provinces chime in. Could you imagine the reaction in the anglo media if a francophone talked like that guy? 

Now before all the anglophones send me a bunch of negative comments, talking about their rights and blah blah blah, take note that I am merely pointing out that all you fake allophones should just fess up, stop calling yourselves allophone and say what you really are—an anglophone, none too different from any other, usually oblivious to Québec and all that goes with it, while using the language of your ancestors to justify your mediocrity. 

To end on a positive note, there are some anglophones in Canada starting to wake up and recognize that Québec was right all along regarding language, identity and society. 

Let’s hope more of the “allophones” will take heed.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Québec anglophones will vote OUI after reading this.

I’m not sure why the truth hasn’t been told to people in Québec. The immigrants, for example, who are after wealth and not integration have somehow been convinced by English Canada that it’s in their interest to stay in the poorest province per capita (I’m talking about the actual money you have to spend) in Canada. So they come here and run around talking about how great all the anti-colonial movements were in their countries, but then prevent us from doing the same thing. By calling its own shots, Québec could provide the possibility of generating much more wealth than it is currently in this Canadian federal regime. 

Since racism is attacking people for their race and not for what they actually do, I don’t need to excuse myself merely for saying what I see. Of course it’s fashionable among SJWs to say I am “privileged” because of supposed past wrongdoings. Before some start bringing up First Nation genocides to shut up Québec nationalism, I’ll just get it out of the way that Québec never massacred Amerindians. So, in today’s Québec, to immigrants, I say: “You do realize that you force us to stay in Canada and prevent us from acquiring the wealth that is ours and would also be yours? You force us to give them taxes and soldiers to bombard your brothers and sisters. Why believe the lie that it’s in your best interest to vote NON?”

Nobody seems to realize how rich Quebec is, including Anglophones who almost unanimously vote NON and Liberal, no matter what the Liberals do. They blindly give them carte blanche every time.

Doesn’t anyone ever ask why we have several enormously high bridges crossing the Saint Lawrence? It’s because of the huge vessels that pass through our territory, toll-free, from and to Ontario and the ocean. The new Champlain Bridge is supposed to cost us around $5 billion. Even though this bridge falls under the responsibility of the federal government, they want to make it a toll road. And who’s going to be crossing that bridge? Why Québec taxpayers of course! Certainly not anyone from the supposed have provinces (since they say Québec is have-not in federalist Newspeak). Doing a little math, the bridge will probably cost between $1,200-2,000 for each person paying taxes in Québec, depending on how expensive it actually ends up being. Regardless, it will cost a fortune because it has to be of a certain height for passing ships.

Next to the Champlain Bridge there is a much lower and unnoticed two-lane bridge, the Estacade du pont Champlain, which is a great deal less expensive. Let’s say that constructing a similar bridge, with six lanes, as is planned for the new Champlain Bridge, would be more in the ballpark of $1.5 billion. That being said, since the $1.5 billion would cover the needs of the average Montréal commuter, wouldn’t it be fair to say that the $3.5 billion difference ought to be paid through tolls of the passing ships? That’s not what our dear federalist friends tell us though. Oh no. They say that we are going to pay for it all! However, we don’t need a bridge that high. The ships do. And they pass through our territory free of charge!

I am not saying to shut down the Saint Lawrence Seaway, but tolls, taxes or whatever else on English Canada to move their products is what should be paying the enormous difference in price for that bridge, not us. And that us includes our fellow anglophone citizens from the West Island as well.

An independent Québec will be able to control the strategic geographic position of the Saint Lawrence as well as having the right to impose or to not impose a toll to cross through our territory as is done in every other country, such as the Suez or Panama canals. In 2013, the Suez Canal generated $5.5 billion. Currently, the Saint Lawrence Seaway has less activity because of the deindustrialization in the Great Lakes region (except of course the paradox that is Toronto—where wealth is arbitrarily concentrated in the Golden Horseshoe for political reasons, certainly not because of its geography).

Landlocked territories, without access to the ocean are generally poorer. Look at Laos, Bolivia, Mali, Mongolia… even in Canada, Alberta has its tar sands, but Vancouver is the one always cited as having the best quality of life on tons of lists. Montréal has a navigable access to the ocean, but is poorer than Toronto. And no, it’s not because of sovereignty movement or the French language, as the distributers of the federalist kool-aid love to say. It’s because Canada has made a political decision that Toronto will be its metropolis and Montréal will become a satellite city of that metropolis, like all the other Canadian cities.

Political and economic sovereignty, however, would transform Montréal into a financial metropolis on an international level, with large multinationals headquartered there again (and the huge salaries that go with it). Montreal’s airport would be an international hub instead of having to go to Toronto for everything. Quebec City would greatly benefit from becoming an international capital—imagine the 30-40 embassies that would spring up and the wealth it would generate. For a city with such an inferiority complex with Montréal, vote OUI and watch Quebec City renovate itself into a capital on an international scale.

No country has ever regretted attaining its sovereignty.

It’s becoming clear that the old victim discourse (the historic betrayals of English Canada that are usually the backbone of independence arguments) isn’t reaching Québec’s youth anymore. The younger generation has pretty much moved on from the victim phase and they want to hear a positive message about how independence would benefit them by defending their values and economic interests. It’s things like having a population that is 50 times superior to that of, say, Prince Edward Island, but having more or less the same amount of political power as that tiny island that seem ridiculous.

Furthermore, independence would eventually bring back those $150,000 salaries from Toronto to Montréal, because Montréal would once again become the great financial metropolis of an independent country instead of an outpost of Toronto—Canada’s chosen metropolis. Montréal will regain its Stock Exchange, as it was moved/merged with Toronto’s purely for political reasons, despite what our federalist friends will tell you when they blame nationalism.

Look at cities like Oslo. Norway has a population of about 4.5 million and they have a stock exchange. So do the other Scandinavian countries. Imagine if the three Scandinavian countries were one united country, since their languages are 90% similar and they share a common history, do you think Oslo would have the same importance that it now has as an international capital?

Canada is a very long and narrow east-west strip where 85% of the population resides. For political unity, to make this costly arrangement work they try to push economic trade in and east-west direction, instead of the more natural north-south axis, as 70% of Québec’s exports are to the United States. When counting trade with the rest of the world, that doesn’t leave much activity for the ROC east-west thing. Hydro-Québec was probably created with the north-south axis in mind, as it sells a good part of its electricity to the New England region.

What about the deplorable state of our roads? The Maritimes move the product by truck, and a truck can do as much damage as 10,000 automobiles on our roads—and they pass through our territory free of charge! The enormous wear and tear of truck transport coupled with our Québec winters means that the cost of our road maintenance will always be high. However, we in Québec rarely traipse around the Maritimes or Manitoba; we don’t need to pass through their territory. But they do in ours. Could that be one of the big reasons why our roads are worse off than theirs? Why are we letting this go on?

What about the whole Equalization payment comedy? They portray it as if Canada gives poor Québec a gift of around $9-10 billion every year. They call Québec a have not. If we were really such a heavy burden for Canada, wouldn’t they be happy to get rid of us? Yes, Québec receives a sum around those figures, but it isn’t as if Québec doesn’t pay equalization payments too. The federal government admits that Québec pays 18% of it. With that, the “gift” gets reduced to around $6-7 billion. It’s also organized as if there were only ten provinces, without counting the northern territories, in the Territorial Financing Formula (TTF). That’s another huge sum to subtract. There are also three times more Amerindians in English Canada than in Québec, many more millions that we pay and from which we benefit nothing. Québec’s 8 million population is the second largest in Canada, and the amount in equalization payments per person in 2014-15 was around $915 as opposed to Prince Edward Island’s $2,320 per person. The federal “gift” is enormously less than they are claiming in the media, especially considering the many millions we forego by not managing our own affairs. Is their “gift” worth it? The Saint Lawrence Valley currently generates little wealth for us, when it ought to be producing a lot more given the traffic going through it. The mirage of equalization makes people in Québec think they are receiving handouts. The reality is that Canada is organized in such a way as to take what is ours. They don’t give us anything.

What about the environment in all this? Look at it this way: Alberta produces expensively extracted oil from the tar sands. Alberta has no access to the ocean. British Colombia refused a pipeline. For political reasons, they are obliged to pass through the Saint Lawrence Valley. Not only should Québec impose a passage toll, as is done everywhere else on earth, the wealth generated could, for example, finance our existing electrical transportation network. The big picture is that Québec produces cleaner hydroelectricity, which currently equalizes dirtier petrol based energies coming from other provinces. Québec makes Canada look good environmentally. Without Québec, Canada would be seen more as a polluter and would perhaps even be pressured by the international community to pay carbon credits to Québec—the UN initiative currently acting on a local level that gets big polluters to pay money to smaller polluters. Whether or not it’s a scam of the “New World Order” approach, it’s an interesting way to look at ways Québec could benefit.

What about the “dreaded” 3rd referendum? Well, is democracy good or bad? If you believe democracy good, referendums are a much better way to measure what a given population wants about a specific thing, rather than some election on vague and unimportant stupidities like the candidate’s hair. As a superior form of democracy, referendums win with 50% +1 on a specific issue, instead of something like 30-40% of the voting population with an election. When federalists say that they don’t want another referendum, what they are really saying is that democracy is harmful—so we should just eliminate elections all together because the separatists are crazy! Rather than convincing the population that federalism is superior, federalists have decided to destroy their own patrie with massive immigration that is already preventing them from demographically defending themselves. They even put forth the idiocy that the Syrians coming to Montréal should be allowed access to English language schools with the idea that they have already suffered so much that it would be cruel to impose French upon them. Studying in French is a form of torture, you know.  

In any case, I think I’m going to have to do a part II to this article. For now, let me close with this: some say that we need to reinforce the Québec state before concerning ourselves with independence. Just the opposite is true! By using the enormous benefits of independence, we could finally address the problems that are currently plaguing us. The polls show that the majority of Québec youth consider themselves Quebecers first. Younger and older, whatever language, we just need to realize that independence really pays.

It’s not radical, nor extreme. It’s just moral.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How is immigration in Québec really turning out?

I recently spent a weekend in Montréal with two friends of mine from a South American country. I had met the woman in France while doing a sort of stage in Lyon. Her husband came to visit and, while a very nice guy, conversation was somewhat limited as he spoke solely in Spanish. She spoke French rather fluently and had good English too. All in all, we got along well and kept in touch when our short working stint was over.

A couple of years later, I was living in Montréal and I had the occasion to visit them in their country. I knew that they didn’t want to stay there because so many things were going wrong—what with food shortages for the most basic items, like chicken. I talked about my experience with the Skilled Immigrant paperwork and process for Québec Immigration. I mentioned (to her mostly, as we spoke to one another in French) on numerous occasions that they should consider moving to Québec as skilled immigrants, being that I thought they could easily fit in.

They eventually filled out and sent in the Skilled Workers immigration paperwork, but his language abilities were not up to par. Their dossier was rejected. Later on though, she was accepted into a program at the Université de Montréal and was able to secure for herself a student visa as well as papers for him. So, they came here last summer. I went around with them the first few days, somewhat showing them the city and helping to find an apartment. They ended up choosing one in Côte-des-Neiges. Not the best neighborhood for any meaningful integration—even though large francophone institutions like the university and Sainte-Justine are nearby. But where they decided to live wasn’t my choice.

I had trouble hiding my distaste of the dwelling itself and especially when I saw that the building’s owner was some old-stock anglophone that didn’t speak French and looked at me funny when I spoke to him in French. The woman who collected the rent was some older Portuguese immigrant that only spoke in a broken English with a few words of French. I thought: how are they going to integrate when this is their first impression of Montréal? Yes, she would be a student at the francophone Université de Montréal, but what about him? I then gave them all the information they would need to enroll him for francization classes, offered free of charge by the government. Some of these courses were even being held just a few blocks from where they were going to live.

Anyway, fast-forward a year. He still has not learned to speak one word of French. His English isn’t very good either—maybe functional on a very basic level—but French ought to take priority. They have neighbors from Alberta and plenty of acquaintances who speak Spanish. She told me that her part time job was almost always conducted in English. As for him, he found a job at a sausage-casing factory where there are a handful of Spanish speakers. When he needs to speak to non hispanophones, he may do so in his basic broken English. He complains that jobs here are usually advertised to require knowledge of both languages. Just that in itself is ridiculous—why should someone working in a factory making sausage casings need to have functional English in a supposedly francophone society? But Philippe Couillard, for example, seems to think this kind of bilingualism is oh-so-necessary in case Americans (or Canadians?) ask the workers questions.

When large amounts of immigrants are hired somewhere, to get the ball rolling and getting them to work, those immigrants will usually do whatever is easiest, which usually does not involve using French in the workplace. Anyway, why should the people running these places care about things like community, language, way of life and society? I know that business exists to generate monetary wealth. I get that. People need money and those who are indifferent to the fragility of French in Montréal will merely say that these workers are just adapting themselves to the reality of the situation in order to make ends meet. 

So, he feels a bit stuck. He is not, however, making any effort to learn French.

I told them that it might be better to move to Ontario or somewhere else where the language situation is more straightforward. Still their response was that they like the quality of life in Montréal and want to stay. I then told them that learning French is imperative and that it is generally looked down upon to not know French and continue to live here—except of course by indifferent francophones, anglophones and “allophones” (I really gotta write a new article regarding these allophones in Montréal).

So, if Montréal’s quality of life is what interests them, which can be found nowhere else, isn’t it reasonable, if not obvious, to say it comes from the French factor? It seems to me that what really interests them is a Montreal with a very marginalized and folkloric French language. Why do they stay when paradise on earth is just a few hundred kilometers to the west (or to the east or the south)! Nevertheless, they want to stay in uniquely francophone Québec, a place unlike anywhere else in North America (or in the world really), without contributing to its preservation or helping it thrive. All they’re doing is contributing to Montréal’s anglicization, while finding the whole French thing to be just a cute detail. Can’t they see the contradiction?

Now, I know that my friends are just responding to the current reality of Montréal. The—what many would consider—dead end jobs do not require French and these seem to be the only jobs they can get, so they adapt to the requirements presented. Where is personal initiative? Where is the will to integrate into society? Why don’t they just admit the real reason they came here, as it clearly wasn’t for French Québec. It wasn’t for integrating into this society and trying to help make it better. It was purely for economic reasons as well as believing what they see in Hollywood films, which happens a lot more than most are willing to admit. I know because some of them have actually told me with a straight face that this or that Hollywood film gave them the idea to move to a certain place. Why not just throw darts at the map?

The more important questions is this: if Québec wants to not only survive and thrive, how can we afford something around 50,000 economic migrants every year, who are not at all motivated nor inspired by a Québec societal project ? 

And I don’t know what to tell my friends, because they are right when they say that they don’t need to use French for their work, so why bother learning it? She already speaks it and may have a better chance at getting a better job later on. I think they understand that getting a better job in Québec often usually means knowing French (in addition to English), but is that even true? She isn’t deaf and knows her colleagues don’t need French. I’m not saying she has that great of a job (some part-time office job downtown), though when I worked in the Peel/Maisonneuve area and in Ville-St-Laurent, I had what can be considered a good, well-paying job. And while being bilingual French-English was seen as an asset, French really wasn’t necessary. The project was done in English, most of the people with whom I worked were unilingual anglophones—usually 2nd or 3rd generation Greek or Italian anglophones, who tend to be pretty hostile towards French, or the occasional anglicized Chinese/Thai/Filipino person.

I know from my own experience that French wasn’t necessary and even somewhat frowned upon. Aside from the anecdotes I’ve already mentioned in my previous article, another one involved some black girl whose parents were from Nigeria. While talking about protecting French, nationalism and such, she smugly retorted: “Oh, then you must hate me then…” I think in Québec, the word hate, among others, has become a code word for anti-French, anti-nation and anti-Québec. Oh, you must hate me. You must be an idiotic racist, anti-Semitic bigot who can’t speak English. Seriously, do these types of clichéd insults to shut the other person up even work anymore?

Back to the topic at hand, my motivation in moving here comes from my will to help contribute to French Québec and make Montréal and in general Québec as francophone as possible—leading to a real diversity, strong and durable. With this in mind, why should someone coming from a poorer country that doesn’t speak French and doesn’t really want to, why should they go above and beyond just wanting to feed, clothe and entertain themselves with Made in China garbage? If knowing how to speak basic English can provide these vulgar, base-level needs, why bother taking the time to learn French and take part in Québec’s cultural life that they claim to like? Observing this multicultural environment in which we live that promotes mediocrity and citizen-of-the-world bullshit (basically the glamorous lie of a jet-setting anglophone), one can almost understand the actions of the typical immigrant. 

You’ve probably already guessed that I now regret telling them to come here. Even if they are both pleasant and dependable, I shouldn’t have just naïvely thought they would have the same interest for Québec and its North American French language society as I do. That not being the case, like most immigrants, they are leaving behind more difficult conditions in their real country, while not adapting themselves to their new host society. They often don’t speak French and if they speak white, it’s because speaking white means speaking money.

I don’t mean that these immigrants end up being rich, neither that their lives aren’t difficult. I am not saying that I necessarily want them to leave Québec. But I do want them to integrate. I want them to speak French. I want them to contribute to Québec society in ways going beyond just paying their taxes. In a strong and francophone Québec, people from other countries are welcome, provided that they want to help me as well as the rest of us build Québec. Even though we are individuals, I am not interested in extreme individuality, with a fuck all attitude to go with it.

Let the accusations of racism begin! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What are Anglophones in Québec really like ?

Looking for a job is never easy. You can’t always be as choosy as you would like to be. I know I wanted to use French at my work, both written and spoken. However, job markets require that we all make a lot of compromises and consequently, we accept things that stray from what is better suited for us. I am certainly not an exception to this. For a few years, I worked in a large multinational in Ville-St-Laurent with colleagues that were about 80% anglophone. That bothered me, as I didn’t come to live in Québec to end up in the same environment I had in the United States.

I suppose it could be considered normal that it was so overwhelmingly anglophone, since the written documentation for the project on which we were working was to be produced in English. So I rather begrudgingly went to work, often saddened on the inside that I had to listen to all these anglophones drone on and on all around me. I would ask myself : “What am I doing? Why did I come here? I might as well have stayed in the US where I was comfortable and knew my way around, because this office environment is exactly the same as one in back home (or Ontario, or Manitoba, or Texas, or anywhere else).”

On a more mundane level, it was weird hearing things called the Champlain Bridge or Nun’s Island (instead of how I was used to calling them, le pont Champlain and Île-des-Sœurs). On a level a bit more complex, because I talked in the same language and accent, these people usually thought I was one of them. So they spoke rather freely around me regarding Quebecers : “Anne-Sophie is stupid and makes so many mistakes in her English” or “Quebecers are racist” or “Pauline Marois is cunt who should die”… At some point, one of them put up a huge Canadian flag on the office wall. I talked about putting up a Québec flag, which was greeted with a “oh, I didn’t know you were a separatist.” Something tells me that putting up a Franco-Ontarian, Catalan, Scottish or Norwegian flag would have been just fine though.

One time I got into something of a discussion with this second-generation-says-she’s-Greek colleague of mine about how little she knew about Québec popular culture (Québec media personalities/actors/singers/authors). Actually, she couldn’t name any (though she had heard of Mitsou…). Despite her complete lack of knowing anything about the cultural life of Québec and Montréal, in her own little head, she is a true Montrealer, much more so than I could ever hope to be. She also thought that Quebecers were racist.

Another person I worked with was a second generation francophone/allophone whose parents were Hungarian. She is what the media calls an enfant de la loi 101—with no allegiance to the Québec nation. Like most of the enfants, she views English and French languages as exactly the same and does whatever is the easiest while out in the world. Unfortunately, the French Language Charter, law 101 (or bill 101 as the anglophone media calls it, even though it hasn’t been a bill since 1977) hasn’t been as successful at making francophone Quebecers instead of bilingual Canadians. They can interact without any problems with their host society, to the point of getting all the societal codes and unsaid aspects, but they refuse that society’s grand ambitions. And this colonized reflex to celebrate and applaud those who despise their host society (such as Sugar Sammy), without paying any attention to the facts, makes them look down upon Quebecers as a conquered people with the confidence of the dominant, dafault party.

Then there was the anglophone Annabella of Italian origins, a huge busybody, always organizing Panini lunches and collecting money for this or that social gathering, a third of the time speaking in an English-heavy franglais, the rest of the time in English, all the while claiming to be perfectly bilingual, telling me that Montrealers say “Park Avenue” and not Avenue du parc. Another Montréal stereotype could be found in the actually-from-China Chinese dude, always purring in a sing-song accented English, not knowing a word of French and being very impressed that I could speak it. That however is less common than the self-flagellating francophone.

One francophone woman spoke with an accent in English as well as making plenty of mistakes in both written and spoken English. However, she prided herself on her English identity and considered herself anglophone, with a French side, because as a sickly child, she spent a considerable amount of time at the anglophone Montréal Children’s hospital (as opposed to the much larger francophone children’s hospital Sainte-Justine) which, in her mind, made her an anglophone. Other whipped francophones coming to mind was one who particularly crushed his French origins in a very Trudeau-esque way, which I found more heartbreaking than infuriating.

The angryphones were the funniest though. Sometimes, when the subject of Québec or the French language came up, they got so hysterical that you’d think francophones were drowning puppies and torturing kittens. At a team spirit building get together one evening, some months after the 2012 Québec elections, Mitch was spitting fire about how the province was still filled with a bunch of racists who still vote for that racist party (the PQ). When I questioned his own integration, he said he was from a generation where people didn’t do that. Okay, whatever… what about your two kids? Why don’t you send them to French school and speak English to them at home? Oh, the horror! He said they would never learn to read or write in English at the French school, never mind that our allophone second generation Hungarian immigrant colleague was able to do it, along with countless others. Besides, he had heard that the French schools were of inferior quality.

There was the banal and formulaic James, who barely can muster a sentence or two in French, but was always spouting hockey metaphors (“I want this mandate to be a puck in the net”). Can’t forget that oaf Ben, a Homer Simpson type who wanted Madame Marois to “suffer a horrible death” or that dreadful Ontarian woman, now living in NDG (it’s too much work for anglophones to say Notre-Dame-de-Grâce) with an aggressive, anti-Québec attitude, however married to another one of those self-erasing francophones.

Of all of them in that office, Natalie really took the cake. A rather dull and silly Ontarian, married to what she called a “Franco-American” (whatever that means—I could be considered a Franco-American, being that my mom’s family comes from Québec and I grew up in the United States). She took herself very seriously and was always touting her Concordia education (?) and expertise in the work we were doing. When talking about protecting French in Anglophone North America, she retorted in a tone of profound wisdom: “why can’t Francophones just be bilingual?” That way, she reasoned, they can have the best of both worlds. She didn’t have anything wise to say about herself though, when I asked about her own missing out on the best of both worlds (she didn’t speak French either).

I did have a soft spot for one of them though, a certain Dorothy, about 20 years older than me, living in Montréal-Ouest with her husband and young son. We got along really well from day one. Had we worked together outside of Québec, there really wouldn’t have been any problem between us. Nevertheless, when it came to Québec and French, she fell into the same trap as the majority of anglophones. To give her credit, she did speak it a little, with a heavy accent and hardly any vocabulary. She was sending her son to French school and hired a tutor to help him with his written and spoken French. She was more open than other people of her ilk, she just naïvely believed in the idea of “Canada”. Her husband was a nice person too, from New Brunswick. He too fell into that tired old anti-francophone trap, talking about how Acadians kept their distance and “wanted nothing to do with us”. Probably a gross exaggeration, especially when the Acadians are all bilingual and are used to working with Anglophones. He is just another unilingual soul in the anglophone mass culture. Seriously, who’s got a bad track record regarding hostility—Acadians or anglophones?

Now I must add that Montréal’s anglophones, as people, are not bad. They are ordinary working folks, trying to make ends meet and to get along in the hectic modern world. It’s true that they live in a bubble and if you remove the fact that they are contributing to the slow but sure destruction of Québec, whether they can see it or not, they are nothing more than the ordinary, run-of-the-mill populace found all over the North American continent. They could make themselves at home just about anywhere in North America. What about Quebecers? Aside from Montréal, what other important metropolis is there for the North American French speaker? Anglophones have their English language mass culture everywhere. Why do they think they are special and under attack from a nation of 7 million when they are over 300 million? Isn’t it plain as day that what deserves protection are the francophone institutions?

Why don’t anglophones take an interest in their surrounding community? Do they not realize that without French, Montréal would be just another North American anglophone city? If they valued Montréal’s difference, why don’t they help contribute to that said difference, instead of indirectly destroying it? They harp on and on about diversity and accepting everyone. Why can’t they see that North America’s French-speaking society is real diversity?

Anyone who isn’t a hysterical anglophone living in Montréal, frothing at the mouth when spoken to in French, can see that.