Posted in Opinion

Le reste du Canada

This post discusses language politics. Enter at your own risk.

This post discusses language politics. Enter at your own risk.

To me, it sounded like the kind of story that would tickle the news whiskers of Quebec’s francophone media: the government of Quebec publishing a document entirely in English and sending it to a francophone.

Except there was one problem: the francophone didn’t live in Quebec. He lived in Ontario.

When Radio-Canada’s Ottawa bureau came out with the news that Tourisme Québec had sent unilingual anglophone marketing material to surrounding regions, and that this happened to include some franco-Ontarians, it caused a stir … among anglophone media in Montreal. CBC Montreal picked up the story, and The Gazette ran an editorial denouncing the decision.

In the French media, the reaction was minimal. An entry on Chantal Hébert’s blog, a by-the-way mention by Pierre Jury at Le Droit (the French-language paper in Ottawa). Its biggest exposure probably came from a post by Patrick Lagacé, though even then it only received a handful of comments.

Despite RadCan’s use of the term “choquante”, the scandal is fairly minor. The brochure in question was meant for audiences in New England and Ontario, and Tourisme Québec is right that most of that audience is anglophone. The diminishing budget of Quebec’s tourism agency means that they can’t please everyone.

But, as the Gazette editorial says, it fits in with this idea that hard-line language zealots in Quebec care only about the status of French on one side of the Outaouais. Even though the rest of Canada is where French is most at risk, there’s little outrage when stuff like this happens. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it’s because language extremists are also militant separatists, and what happens outside Quebec’s borders is of no concern to them. When sovereignty finally comes, the border will protect les Québécois, and on s’en crisse du reste.

Or perhaps Quebec anglophones like me are overcompensating for their guilt about fighting for anglo rights by pretending to care about other linguistic minorities.

Are the English media paying too much attention to this story, or are the French media paying too little?

15 thoughts on “Le reste du Canada

  1. wkh

    this story is retarded. how are you supposed to know someone is an anglophone or francophone by their name? I know many people with supposedly francophe names who are more anglo than I, and from Alberta. I also know people named the equivalent of Shaemus O’Toole in English who come from families who haven’t spoke English at home since the 1800s. Then there are people like you, a walking talk advertisement for why bill 101 is a good idea. It is a safe bet people in Ontario who they are trying to entice to come to QC would probably like to be spoken to in English so they can, yk, read the thing. Anyone living in those areas should know perfectly well how to speak English, just like anyone here should speak French.

    This non-story is nothing but anglo whiners pissed off they don’t live in Ontario and receive anglo adverts. WTF language do they THINK a mass mail out to Ontario and New England should be written in? Both? And waste space? And increase costs? How about no? Target audience, please.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think the point wasn’t that it should be in French, but that when you’re targetting areas with a nontrivial number of francophones, it should at least be bilingual.

      Reply
    2. morcego

      You would know by area code. Census data is available and used to know specific areas where people speak french and good marketers use them all the time. More than a language issue, this is a bad use of available direct marketing tools. Areas with a high percentage of francophones should’ve received a bilingual advertisement. Of course, that implies producing that material wich means money…

      Reply
  2. Jean Naimard

    Well, of course it’s scandalous; what else do you expect from a government made from the party of the english, the liberal party of Québec? (it’s the party of the english: they vote 95% liberal — talk about ethnic votes!).

    And, no, we don’t really give a hoot about the french outside of Québec; they have been first in line to backstab us whenever we want to get more and more power from Ottawa (not to mention the unmentionnable: separation).

    Canada’s ethnic-cleansing has been doing real good; if they really want to remain french, they are welcome to come here. But otherwise, they shall only expect assimilation. After all, in Switzerland, not exactly a failed state, nobody shoves his language down the other’s throats, and no one expect to live in a given linguistic area without speaking the language…

    Reply
    1. Khosrow

      I’m going to continue on this tangent for a minute:
      Jean, Please explain to me how a language defines an ethnicity? I am new to Quebec, but the fact that I speak English doesn’t mean I’m of the “English ethnicity”. At the same time, being a francophone doesn’t make anyone of any ethnicity. I am still on the fence about language politics in Quebec, but more and more I see language being seen as an identifier of ethnicity and to me that’s a big miss. It makes people miss the real issues of new Canadians. After all, we live in a country that takes about 200k new immigrants a year (45k of those come to Quebec). That’s how we end up with what happened in Hérouxville…

      anyway, that was my tangent!

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        I’m going to continue on this tangent for a minute: Jean, Please explain to me how a language defines an ethnicity?

        By the culture that comes with the language. France and England had markedly different histories, both shaped by geography. The english, stuck on a poor little island, soon had to go overseas to find the necessities of life, hence their huge mercantile empire. France, on the other hand, is a bountiful country, and the only reason why it had an empire was to copycat the english, and because it was fashionable at the time to have colonies.
        But France was never dependent on it’s empire like Britain was; the best illustration is when, following World War II, both Britain and France lost their colonial empires, Britain was utterly destitute (it had to impose strict exchange controls for the 20 following years), whereas France enjoyed 30 solid continuous years of steady economic growth — the “trente glorieuses”.
        Thus, our respective languages bring about very different histories, one of mercantile imperialism for the english, and one of cultural hedonism for the french. We never had to go far away and battle strangers to get our ressources like the english had.
        We also had no magna carta, where a bunch of greedy barons cornered a weak king and extorted from him a charter that basically stripped the State of much of it’s power; eventually, this developped into the current mess where anybody with enough money will prevail over the will of the State. Contrast this to the french who implicitly trust their government and demands a level of State control that is anathema to any anglo-saxon. Oh, we had our revolutions where we violently got rid of the abusive monarchy (the same that left us here at the hand of the hereditary ennemy), but this established a social contract whereas the State kept it’s neck intact if it did not fuck around with the people.

        I am new to Quebec, but the fact that I speak English doesn’t mean I’m of the "English ethnicity". At the same time, being a francophone doesn’t make anyone of any ethnicity.

        Well, I gather that you are an immigrant, and that perhaps even though the history of your country of origin makes you closer to the french than the english (this is a wild-goose guess based on the general phonetics of the name you are signing, so I may waaaaay off the bat), upon arriving here, you see that the power is on the side of the english and you would not really, as an immigrant given the choice (let’s not fool ourselves, immigrants to Québec are nevertheless given the choice of becoming either english or french), you would not want to be on the side of the losers…
        It’s like if people could choose their skin colour; if they were immigrating to the US and able to choose which colour they were, not very much people would chose to become blacks, eh? Well, likewise, no one immigrating here wants to become one of the “white niggers of america”…

        I am still on the fence about language politics in Quebec, but more and more I see language being seen as an identifier of ethnicity and to me that’s a big miss.

        You are the one who misses the fact that french, for us, is much more than just a language; it’s a whole heavyweight culture.

        It makes people miss the real issues of new Canadians. After all, we live in a country that takes about 200k new immigrants a year (45k of those come to Quebec). That’s how we end up with what happened in Hérouxville…

        Hérouxville was mounted on a pedestal by the english media that never loses an opportunity to sling mud at us. But when you look closer, the issues they very publicly raised are very quietly discussed everywhere else in Canada and in Europe (but that does not remove the fact that the people there are a bunch of uneducated, unwashed, mouth-breathing rednecks).
        However, as of the issues facing new immigrants, well, as long as immigrants will willingly integrate to the ennemy, which uses the immigrants as tools to minorize us (do not be fooled for one seconde; anglo-saxons are backstabbing hypocrites what will not show you how much they are displeased at you, and think nothing at using you as tools to minorize the french. On the other hand, when you do something we (the french) don’t like, you can count on us in making sure you are aware of it — we’re not hypocrites — hence Héroutiville who loudly went about it’s issues with immigrants, whereas the english utter them quietly on obscure fascist discussion boards and only let rednecks talk about it in taverns), they cannot really expect to be accepted with open arms.
        The only thing we ask of the immigrants is not to become white, not to eat poutine, not to stop believing in Big Juju™, but to speak french. That’s it, that’s all.
        Case in point, the english have told italians that they have to speak english; now, the italians are thoroughly anglo-saxonized, and they are at the forefront of the anti-french movement immigrants too often espouse; the english have managed the tour de force of making the italians our ennemies, despite that if there are two cultures that are very close to each other, you really can’t beat the french and the italians!!!
        And when immigrants see the true facts of our History, and they have no vested interest in maintaining the status-quo, they will become sovereignists.
        Of course, if you become english, and only see the biased anti-Québec information english media spews forth about us, you can count on us marking you as an ennemy.
        You have the choice (it seems). Now take a minute and look closely at what our culture has to offer you, and compare it to what the english has to offer you.
        It’s your call, really. Either you become french, or you take a hike up the 401. And no, don’t blame us, blame the federal government for not informing you of the true reality of Québec because it wants to use you as a tool against us.
        (Dunno about you, but I would be pretty pissed-off if I saw that I was being used as a tool for imperialistic purposes…)

        Reply
  3. Léonard

    ” I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it’s because language extremists are also militant separatists, and what happens outside Quebec’s borders is of no concern to them. When sovereignty finally comes, the border will protect les Québécois, and on s’en crisse du reste. ”

    I think there are a lot of Quebecois that don’t even think it is possible to live in French outside Quebec. By the way, there is already a provincial border. Changing it for one of an independent country will not change anything for the French fact in Quebec. These people that you are referring to are already worried enough with Montreal and Gatineau, they don’t give a sh** about Francophones in the ROC. And they’re dead wrong when they think that Quebec independence could be the solution to protect French language.

    Reply
  4. Olivier

    I think Quebecers in general, not just the “Hard-line language zealots” (those fabled beasts the Gazoo so enjoys waging war against), don’t really give a rats’s ass about whatever is happening to french outside Québec. Why is that so? My guess is that Quebecers in general see themselves as living in Québec. Canada (even tough it’s their country and they love it) outside Québec is, err… Outside. The ROC, you know.

    And francophone outside Québec are pretty conscious and critical of that fact, if I’m not mistaken.

    As for the coverage… Again it’s only my point of view, but media outlets in general will dig stories they feel are generating interest. They get most of the stuff they find out of the door, but if they get a story out and nobody pays attention to it, they move to the next topic.

    Reply
  5. James

    This whole post seems like a way to comment-whore your more.. sensitive readers. And of course, another pat on the back for superhero Patrick Lagacé.

    Reply
  6. Lef

    Well Steve, how the about fact that 42% (2006 census) of them speak English most often at home ? 5-10% would already be pretty bad in itself, imagine 42%! The picture is worse elsewhere in the ROC except NB.

    http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97-555/table/t9-eng.cfm

    Proportion of Francophones (single mother tongue) speaking English most often at home, Canada, provinces, territories and Canada less Quebec, 1971, 1991, 2001 and 2006

    Ontario
    1971: 29.9
    1991: 36.9
    2001: 40.3
    2006: 41.8
    2011 : ???? (try to guess geniuses)

    Sociolinguists call it “prestige” and, French outside of Quebec has none of it. This is 2009. The protective barriers of catholicism and village life are long gone and the numbers demonstrate it.

    Bilingualism only really works if it is territorial like in Belgium or Switzerland. Otherwise the inferior language is condemned to erosion. This is a mathematical, demographic inevitability, extremely difficult to reverse without impeding on individual rights.

    In Quebec, bill101 has leveled the playing field for francophones in the 1970, but what about the future? Many francophones themselves don’t care about the issue, and francized immigrant’s “loyalty” to the language is thin and can easily shift.

    Do anglophones even realize they speak English, the freakin global language ? I mean if the ROC was Dutch-speaking, French might stand a chance…

    This is a reason why many of us are separatists. So that the french canadian nation gets a chance at living its own version of globalization and multiculturalism (that includes personal bilingualism), so that it gets a chance at evolving further like other nations of this world, not as a mere ethnically-defined minority. I’ll change my mind the day someone explains to me how this is possible within the current Canadian federation.

    Reply
  7. MM

    I think this entire story is retarded. Tourisme Quebec did the right thing to send out English only flyers. If this was marketed to the New England states plus Ontario, it makes perfectly good economic sense. I get plenty of flyers in my mail box, from outside Quebec that are in french. Do they know that my main language of use if English, and that French is my third language. No! Of course not. This material is not addressed to me, but is a general flyer that gets put into peoples mail boxes. So what. People who send those out figure that most people in Quebec function in French. So, Tourisme Quebec figured the same thing, and sent the flyers out in English. And they did the proper thing. If SRC Otttawa thinks that the Quebec government should act in a certain way towards francophones in Ontario, then the people at SRC Ottawa have a screw loose. Quebec’s responsiblities are to it’s residence. Not the residence of other provinces. Yes, I would prefer that Quebec stop the Anglo blame game within the province. But, that doesn’t mean that Quebec owes anything to people living in another province. What are Quebecers suppose to do? Pay more taxes so that our tax money is wasted on somebody in another province who thinks they have a right to get a general flyer in the maiil in their langauge of preference. Sorry buddy. It’s just a ad. Not a right. Grow up. And SRC Ottawa should grow up as well, and should The Gazette editorial staff. Trying to make something over nothing.

    Reply
  8. Kevin

    French media are ignoring this because most Quebecers think everyone who lives outside the province of Quebec is a unilingual anglophone. Or Chinese.

    On top of that, the very notion that someone can speak one language at home and a second language in their daily life offends them. It’s abhorrent enough that the entire island of Montreal lives and breathes in English (joke!), but the idea that someone could actually speak French at home and have to work in English is a fate worse than death.

    Reply
  9. Marc

    Do anglophones even realize they speak English, the freakin global language ?

    7% of the World speaks English. If there was any one global language, it’s Mandarin.

    Or wait, wasn’t it supposed to be Esperanto?

    Reply
    1. MM

      That 7% figure is a little off. There are about 6.5 billion people on this planet. Both Mandarin and English have about a billion speakers each. The problem with Mandarin is that it’s very localised, while English is very wide spread. Perhaps your 7% refers to mother tongue speakers of English. But the vast majority that use English have another langiage for a mother tongue. They may not be perfect in their use of English, but are still very functional in it.

      Reply
  10. John Meadows

    Regarding a global language, with India and China set to become the next economic superpowers, we should remember that English is the lingua franca in India, and that many, many people in China are learning English for business purposes; I think English will be a lingua franca for some time, but at the same time people who speak more than one language will always have an advantage over unilingual English speakers.

    Reply

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