C’est quoi le 24 juin? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: L’Autre St-Jean seems to have changed its mind again. See below.

Quebec flag

As an anglophone Quebecer, it always annoys me when people confuse “Québécois” with “French-Canadian”. Not all Quebecers are francophone, and not all francophones in Canada live in Quebec.

It’s not just the Rest of Canada that does this, it’s also many of the Québécois themselves. Us anglos are really better off living in Toronto, where we belong. And French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec are ignored because they won’t be part of the new sovereign country anyway.

Thankfully, these views aren’t shared by the majority. Which is why I’m heartened at the near-universal outrage in the comments section of an article by La Presse’s Martin Croteau about two anglophone bands being banned from Fête Nationale celebrations on June 23. (The fact that hell is being raised by francophone publications (see also Voir, Bang Bang, Josée Legault) instead of just The Gazette, CJAD, CTV or The Suburban is also nice. Those outlets would be quickly dismissed for bringing up stories like this first.) There’s even a petition going around to bring them back (with requisite Facebook group).

It seems that the Autre St-Jean organizers were getting pressure from Fête Nationale directors (read: SSJB) and others to remove Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew from their event, even to the point where protests were threatened if they were allowed to go on. Though both are Quebec bands, their songs are in English, and that’s just not right, they argue. Fête Nationale is about celebrating a French Quebec.

This, of course, comes mere days after celebrating the fact that they were including anglophone bands and being more inclusive.

UPDATE (June 15): A short, bilingual message posted on the event’s website says they are “maintaining” their list of invitees, including the two anglo bands:

Montreal, June 15th 2009 – As the producer of L’AUTRE ST-JEAN, we, C4 productions, have been mandated by l’association Louis-Hébert to create an alternative musical event to celebrate our National Holiday.  In that sens, we maintain our choices for the line up of the event with Malajube, Vincent Vallières, Les Dales Hawerchuk, Marie-Pierre Arthur, Lake of Stew et Bloodshot Bill which represents forty minutes of anglophone music on a six hour show.

We wish that the event on June 23rd at Park ‘du Pélican’, which is, in our opinion, in the image of Québec and Montreal in 2009, will be peaceful.

More info will be communicated wednesday.

Mind you, in Quebec City, it’s still French-only.

Whether or not they’ll actually get to play, I think back to the basic question: What is the Fête Nationale supposed to be about anyway? Is it about language, culture, or about the province of Quebec?

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Fête Saint-Jean-Baptiste was about language and culture before the Quebec government got its greedy little paws on it. It was about French culture, and by that logic you might consider having only francophone bands perform at such an event.

But the Quebec government turned it into the civic Fête nationale holiday, wrapping it in the fleur de lys, blocking off non-Quebec francophones and making it to Quebec what Canada Day is to Canada.

Perhaps it’s because of their proximity on the calendar, combined with the political Quebec-vs-Canada divide that’s overwhelmed our politics over the past half century that people see an equivalence. Patrick Lagacé suggests if we turned this around – francophones being banned from Canada Day celebrations because of threats of protests from Albertans who want it to be English-only – that the outrage would be much higher.

If we accept that le 24 juin is a civic holiday about celebrating the state, then the comparison has some credence. The only catch is that Quebec wants to be unilingual while Canada does not.

But if it’s about culture, then a more apt comparison would be with St. Patrick’s Day in Quebec (indeed, the holiday has its genesis from those who wanted a celebration of the Québécois on June 24 like that of the Irish on March 17). And anyone who’s been to a St. Paddy’s parade in this town knows they’re very liberal when it comes to who can call themselves Irish. It’s not just Scottish pipe bands that slip by. Ukrainians, Israelis, Chinese are all welcome. Just put a shamrock sticker on your cheek and some green in your beer and you’re accepted into the club. So even then, anglophones (and any other language) should be welcome.

Provincial civic holiday, or francophone cultural celebration? Which is it? And which should it be?

32 thoughts on “C’est quoi le 24 juin? (UPDATED)

  1. Frank

    Whichever definition you go with, the fact remains that this festivity was an *alternative* to la grande fête thus enabling the promoters (before they chickened out) to invite the 2 groups.
    If we go with the original def. then La St Jean would only be for the francophones (St Jean being their patron saint as St Pat’s for the Irish) However, it is now touted as La Fête des Québécois which would welcome, one would think, Quebecers of all origins.
    The veil of hypocrisy will be lifted when hardcore nationalists start using the word Assimilate” instead of Integrate.

  2. stfu

    Attached is a link to the Canadian online encyclopedia with an explanation of what St-Jean Baptiste is.


    Should it be an inclusive celebration, I feel it should. It definately should not be thought of as a “national” holiday, unless the term “national” identifies with Canada, which we know in Quebec, it does not.
    Quebec claims to be an inclusive and open society and I feel it should reflect this. Sadly it doesn’t and unfortunately it has removed the meaning of this holiday for all other Francophone-Canadians. Years ago, all used to take part in it. This should not change today. All should be welcome!

  3. DAVE ID

    I stopped celebrating it a long time ago when I realized it was a separatist celebration and not pride in being Quebecois anymore. When all those fraking artists starting sounding the chants of Quebec Libre to get cheers assuming that all Quebecois are separatists. I prefer St-Paddy’s day since we can all take part, even the fucking separatist who all of a sudden, in the mood for some beer and fun, want to join in.

  4. Philippe Chaput

    Dave Id: Many of us would like to see St-Jean-Baptiste an an apolitical party celebrating Quebec and its apolitical awesomeness. Separatists and federalists welcome. Of course, such parties will bring about sovereignist/separatist/nationalist sentiment, but what also must be realized is that many separatists envision a Quebec with its anglo community living harmoniously with the majority.

    Basically, make it a French St-Paddy’s day with fleur-de-lys’s instead of shamrocks.

    Of course, if separatists want to organize a politically themed party, they should be allowed to, but it shouldn’t be the norm! Most of us just want to get drunk and dance to music.

  5. Michael Forian

    Ukrainians at the Saint Patrick’s Day parade? Of course, we even have our own god damn float! :) I was one of the people on the Ukrainian float this year after my dad (Peter Zytynsky) was given the title as Mr. Ukraine of the Year!

    Great post Steve!



  6. Sam

    i’m a franco-Quebecer and it’s always sickened me when the St-Jean time rolled around because of these assumptions and exclusion of non-French Quebecers.

  7. Scott in Montreal

    It’s a civic holiday. My tax dollars help to sponsor these events. I’m a Quebecker (or Québecois si vous préferez). Alors, it’s my party too and I think de-inviting two Quebec artists because they sing in English is really small-minded. Also, the worry of them sparking protests speaks little of the confidence some have in the abilities of today’s truly modern and open-minded Quebec society to deal with a little English mixed in with the event. Besides, does anyone doubt that music forms from anglo cultures – like American Bluegrass for example – were important influences to francophone Quebec acts like les Cowboys Fringants? It’s obscene, really. I know a lot of francophone musicians who write exclusively english lyrics just for reasons of personal esthetical preference. There is no need to politicize lyrical content. This bone-headed move is simply a matter of intolerance trumping inclusiveness.

  8. Philippe-A

    I’m one of those Die hard separatists, as you might already know, and I consider you to be 100% Québécois. It’s basically like I said to a morrocan friend in University, many years ago, when he asked me: When will you consider me Québécois? … simple, as soon as you’ll consider yourself Québécois.

  9. newurbanshapes

    I am anglo de souche and I don’t feel excluded. Then again, I don’t try to force my English on a francophone celebration. And why should I?

    There are plenty of occasions to speak English in the world – like every day in 50 US states and 9 Canadian provinces and 3 territories and the West Island, several of the richest countries abroad, European Union institutions and the world of international finance, among others. So having a francophone celebration without disney-fying it, and turning it into a universal celebration of everything & everyone doesn’t seem to me, an anglo, as too much of an imposition.

    I don’t see this as a rejection of a “band-made-up-of-anglophones” so much as a rejection of an “anglophone band”. But it serves the ongoing trope of “intolerant separatist” to intentionally confuse the two.

  10. Horonymous

    In Ontario the St Jean is a celebration of Franco-Ontarien heritage.


    There was a bit of issue when Celine Dion sang some songs in English in Toronto at the St Jean celebrations in 88 or 89.

    When ever I identify myself as Quebecois some of the pur laine get their knicker is a knot.

    I’m an Anglo, born in Montreal and I work int the language of Molière in Toronto with lots of Quebec ex pats.

  11. Maria Gatti

    I have about zero sympathy for angryphone rants as one finds in Gazette comments, but I agree that this disinvitation is unfortunate and reflects a small-minded attitude by whichever sponsor pushed for it. Most comments on the cyberpresse website agree with the idea of a Fête nationale du Québec open to all ethnic, national and linguistic groups. I was looking forward to this concert, though I’ll probably wind up going to the closer show in Jarry Park, which also includes performers of many origins and musical styles, including Tomás Jensen.

    I used to really enjoy the Fête nationale events on St-Viateur in Mile-End. Many anglophones took part in that, along with francophones and people of many origins.

    Philippe, I agree that part of the problem is also the fact that certain anglophones do not see themselves as QuébécoiSEs and don’t really take part in the society or even know much about the current culture here. Fortunately that mindset is in decline. Certainly the musicians invited to the concert in Rosemont are very much a part of the Québec musical scene.

    Although Rosemont is certainly a very francophone neighbourhood, there is an old anglophone and allophone presence – there is a beautiful small Irish Catholic church on Rosemont, and Orthodox and Catholic Ukranian churches, and other Ukranian institutions.

  12. Alexandre

    Honnêtement, j’ai vraiment honte de mes compatriotes Québécois qui agissent de cette façon. Comme l’auteur de ce blogue nous le rappelle, la St-Jean est la fête du fait Français en Amérique. Par contre, au Québec, le gouvernement a décidé de l’adopter en tant que fête nationale du Québec.

    Si le 24 Juin était là pour fêter les Canadiens Français, je pourrait comprendre les réserves envers un groupe anglophone qui font une telle performance, et j’en aurais même moi-même. Par contre, sous la nouvelle définition de fête du Québec, je crois que ça devrait être la fête de TOUS les Québécois.

    C’est drôle parce que les souverainistes se tirent dans le pied en agissant ainsi. Il nous montrent une image de ce qu’il perçoivent être le Québec et un avant-goût de qu’aurait l’air un Québec souverain: un pays qui rejette et ignore sa minorité anglophone. Ça ne me donne pas vraiment le goût de voter oui.

  13. Laura Roberts

    I think the name of this so-called holiday says it all: Fête Nationale. In other words, this is about celebrating the nonexistent “country” or “nation” of Quebec. Given that Quebec is a part of Canada, and thus is not a nation unto itself, it seems to me that it’s actually impossible to celebrate this holiday without being considered a separatist. And if it’s a holiday about separatism and glorifying the concept of an independent Quebec, well, then I guess they don’t want to have any damn, dirty Anglos present, regardless of their backgrounds or political views or cultural ties since, obviously, all anglos = anti-separatists. Just like all francos = separatists, right?

    The whole thing is totally illogical, and in my opinion just continues to promote the Anglo vs. Franco racism and stereotyping that a society like ours should be fighting against, rather than encouraging.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      “Nation” and “country” don’t necessarily mean the same thing. In French, there’s more of a distinction between the two words than in English. Even the federal government has declared that the Québécois form a “nation”. Of course, it’s up to anyone to decide what that means.

  14. Bloke Quebecois

    L’anglais est une langue quebecoise.

    So is Mohawk, Cree and Abenaki. Those languages, of course, are REALLY endangered, and not just perception fueled by a language based hypernationalism and unchallenged assumptions.

    It’s a simple fact that language laws that determine “official languages” do not change these basic facts. Quebec may be officially French only, but it isn’t in reality.

    Until Quebec nationalists can acknowledge basic facts, we’ll just be revisiting these incidents over and over again.

  15. Bloke Quebecois

    In other words, it’s the language and culture of anglophones that is being rejected, not the anglophones.

    Thank you for that clarification; it makes me feel much more welcome now.

    I’ll be on the beach in Burlington playing my Miracle Fortess CD’s. Hope it doesn’t rain.

  16. Maria Gatti

    Laura, Scotland and Wales are nations, as are Catalonia and Euskadi (the Basque country). Interestingly the latter too cross the sovereign-state borders of Spain and France, just as the Mohawk lands do at Akwasasne!

    Not only people who advocate independence consider these nations to be such. I am actually rather offended by people who deny the existence of the Québec nation (which I also see as made up of all its components), it sound like a deliberate rejection of Québec’s culture and history. Anyone who has lived here and in English Canada can see that there are MANY cultural differences. (And I’m not “pure laine”).

    I do hope you see the First Nations as nations!

    I doubt the crowd at the late, great street event on St-Viateur, with a strong anglophone presence as well as francophones and many other cultural communities, was majority favourable to independence. I’ll be attending the party at Parc Jarry; I’m sure there is no single opinion there, with people from so many different cultural communities attending.

  17. Jacques

    Excellent post.

    This whole debate starts when you confuse “La St.Jean Baptiste” with “Fete Nationale”

    As a French Canadian originally from Manitoba I tend to favor La St.Jean Baptiste and , while it is not an official holiday in the rest of Canada, I’ve been to parties organised by french canadians in their communities. they tend to be french promoting french culture and music and that makes sense since St.Jean baptiste is the patron saint of french Canadians.
    In Quebec, things get confusing, It you make it a “national holiday” ( please use the french definition of “nation) and you say EVERYONE in Quebec is a Quebecer “a part entiere, them you have to include everyone and that includes Anglo Quebecers.

    the positive side to this whole stupidity is that the majority on BOTH sides of the language divide and political spectrum spoke up to say that TRYING to ban these 2 groupes from participating was incredibly stupid and smallminded.

  18. annonymous

    Just a quick comment to something Frank said about the promoters ‘chickening’ out. I personally know the people involved and the story has been so blown out of proportion, that this detail needs to be made clear: The promoters are the ones who fought the hardest in keeping the english bands on the roster. From day one, they never agreed nor caved to the demands of the radical minority.

  19. Frank

    Yet both bands received emails from C4, according to the CTV news segment, that they were uninvited. Would C4 have “stuck to their guns” if the majority of the of outcries were *for* keeping the groups out?
    Whatever the case, bravo to C4 for inviting the bands in the first place, huge Kudos to BangBang who did a way better job in demystifying this story than regular richer media and a big fat ripened tomato (and a “bird”, why not) to Mario Beaulieu. Mathieu Bouthiller, and Maryline Lacombe for lying left and right and issuing veiled threats.

  20. Paam

    I am very impressed by the response in the press which was overwhelmingly positive and supportive of keeping them on the roster. Even the Suburban which is usually so anti french/separatist/PQ etc. that they enrage me had the decency to be civil.

    What was odd about this is that all over the island anglo groups participate in neighbourhood events. Hell, even Westmount has a Saint Jean Baptiste Celebration. But I guess French quebec was unaware that anglos actually put on parties for the 24th and part of the celebration is in English. I guess anglos should be seen but not heard?

    I have to admit though that when they interviewed the guy from Lake of Stew, his french was freaking pathetic. An Ontario french immersion student would have done better. How can anglos who live in Montreal know so little French? As an anglo I was hoping he would be the poster child of the nouvelle génération anglo and be accent free and articulate and turn the old stereotypes on their heads.

  21. Patrick

    For Pete’s sake!!! Did you know it was a freaking plan christian celebration… I am a bloody Irish descendant… So sorry for the fucking curse words… Yeah, in “Bretagne” France they all it “Noz Fest” and it dates back to Celtic times… They where celebrating all night long, making bone fires… and signing “Gwenth ar an lu an tan!!” “Feu feu Joli feu” in French… St-John was the one who baptized Jesus, therefore is work was done… so night came… and Jesus is the savior in the night! So he is celebrated on December 25th… That’s fucking all… So “Québécois” Claims a religious Christian day to be theirs !!! Pog mo thoin!!!

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