What part of “terre de nos aïeux” don’t you understand?

Dear VANOC,

Remember a couple of weeks ago, just after the opening ceremony to your great Olympic Winter Games, when there were complaints from around here that there wasn’t enough space given to Canada’s other official language?

I defended you back then, downplaying the seriousness of your transgression, deflecting some attention to the media, and criticizing those who criticized you. I said there should have been more French, but I wasn’t going to make a federal case out of it.

After watching the closing ceremony, I’m reconsidering that.

Outside of a few “bonjour”s and “merci”s, introductions and a speech by Jacques Rogge, the ceremonies seemed devoid of French. In the concert that came after, I kept waiting for some good French Canadian artists, but was disappointed when among the dozen or so English acts, all there was in French was a song by Marie-Mai (or as the Globe and Mail called her, “Marie-Maiv”*).

I’m not the kind of person who will sit with a stopwatch and complain when something’s not exactly 50-50. Even 75-25, reflecting the approximate ratio of English to French speakers in Canada, would have been fine by me. But it wasn’t even that.

When combined with the opening ceremonies, which included a single performance by Garou, it’s really hard not to see this as tokenism of one of Canada’s founding peoples.

But unlike some of the newspaper columnists you’ll no doubt be hearing from over the next couple of days, I’m not mad.

I’m disappointed.

It’s not like you weren’t aware of the problem. You knew about it months ago. Both the federal and Quebec governments made sure you knew about it. You made efforts elsewhere in the organization of these Games to ensure bilingualism (which apparently took a lot of work), and I commend you for that.

And even if you didn’t realize before these complaints how little attention you gave to the French language, you made plenty of changes to the closing ceremonies after the opening ones were over (including adding a very cute bit about relighting a defective column for the Olympic flame). You could have added some more French Canadian artists, maybe even a speech or two in French.

Those who want to justify this slight can come up with all sorts of reasons why. It’s Vancouver’s games, not Quebec’s. These ceremonies are for the world, which for the most part speaks English as either a first or second language. Some might even argue that you just don’t care about French, that Canada should let Quebec separate and become an English-speaking country.

None of those explanations work for me. The ceremony was all about Canada, not Vancouver or British Columbia. Hell, French Canadians didn’t even represent the majority of the acts you brought in from Montreal (William Shatner and Simple Plan were the others). And though the world speaks English, I’d like to think they’d want to be exposed to different cultures, even if they don’t understand the language. Some Americans appreciated Marie-Mai even if they had no idea what she was singing about. And not knowing Russian didn’t take away from enjoying the Russian national anthem as performed live.

The third explanation, that you just don’t care, is something I have no rebuttal for. It’s just something I’d like not to believe. Because even though I’m an anglophone, I live in Quebec, I have friends and relatives who are part of this culture, who speak this language as their mother tongue, and who hoped that maybe, just maybe, they could spend a couple of hours believing that the Vancouver Olympics were their Olympics too, not just those of English Canada. The opening ceremony brought on doubts that this could be achieved, and the closing ceremony confirmed them.

I love this country, but I love Quebec too, and Montreal. I’m a federalist, and even facing what some might think are overwhelming practical arguments against it, I believe that a Canada that has two languages makes us all better. It’s not something I have a rational reasons for, or scientific data to support, it’s just something I feel.

What you’ve done has made justifying this belief more difficult. A few people on Twitter half-joked that you’d done more for the cause of Quebec sovereignty than the PQ has in decades. It’s easy to dismiss that as the close-minded ravings of a die-hard separatist, but I’m understanding where they’re coming from. You’ve made these people seem like a minor part of your country, confined to a single province out of 10. You’ve made them feel excluded from their own Olympics.

A people, I’ll remind you, that contributed greatly to the Vancouver Games as athletes, including the one who gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal at home, the one who stole your hearts this week with a spectacular performance, and three of Canada’s four double medallists. (I’m not usually one of those people who will separate Quebec athletes from Canadian ones for the sake of argument, but this point needs to be made.)

And yet, all of these athletes were proud to contribute to Canada’s historic medal count, proud to drape the Canadian flag around their shoulders as they celebrated their Olympic medals, proud to look up as the Canadian flag was raised and the crowd sang their anthem in English, proud to have the word “Canada” across their chests and backs during the two memorable weeks they spent in Vancouver.

Those athletes have too much class to complain about the closing ceremony. Most of the rest of us don’t care enough to make a case out of it. Even some of those in the media who calculate how many of Canada’s medals came from Quebecers will take away good memories of these Olympics. Which leaves people like Réjean Tremblay, whose words can be so easily dismissed because they’ve been heard so often before.

So I’m speaking up. As a Canadian, as an anglophone, as someone who’s not a separatist or hyper-sensitive to every perceived slight against French Canada. As someone who believes that francophones, whether they’re in Quebec or elsewhere, are part of Canada too. Not just an interest group, but an equal partner in the creation of this great country. One that has as much right to speak and hear their language and live their lives in French as we do in English.

I speak as someone who believes that the French language is as much a part of Canada as the beavers, Mounties, self-deprecating humour and endearing politeness that you so proudly showcased during these ceremonies.

You may think this is minor, and in the grand scheme of things it probably is, but in what is supposed to be an event that brings the entire country together and serves as a shining moment of national pride, even a slight movement in another direction makes a big difference.

VANOC, you disappointed many Canadians. And even if every French speaker in this country comes on this blog and says it didn’t matter, what’s important is that you disappointed me.

And now that the Games are over, you’ve lost your chance to make up for it.

*UPDATE: A Globe and Mail insider tells me this wasn’t actually a spelling mistake but a coding error. The “v”, which also appears after other names in the piece, is actually an internal-use checkmark used by Globe editors – ironically to verify the spelling of a name – and was improperly translated into a printable character on the CTV Olympics website.

80 thoughts on “What part of “terre de nos aïeux” don’t you understand?

  1. Isabelle Cote

    I totally approve your text. I’m a french Canadian of Montreal. I participate in those olympics by working on olympic torch of my own country, i was so proud, and i don’t feel that i been represented enough at the olympics. I love english language, i love to read, speak or listen it even if i’m not perfectly bilingual, but it’s just not who i am. It’s not easy for me to have the feeling that i’m a Canadian when i don’t see myself i an event that is suppose to represent my country. I want to stay with the Canada, but the reel question for me to be ask is did the rest of Canada think that we are as Canadian as they are? If the answer is yes, why the french people of all over the country was so unrepresented at the olympics ceremony? The only thing that make me feel good on all that story, is to read someone like you. It’ good to ear that even a english spoken person think what you think. I’m not a separatist, i love the Canada but i simply don’t feel that i’m a part of it when things like this happen… Isabelle Cote

    Reply
  2. Peter

    Bravo, Steve. Couldn’t agree more. When bringing in a Quebec mime seemed to be the biggest accommodation of franco culture, you’re tempted to say “va chier.” It’s bilingual “clôture” not culture when one of the country’s TWO official languages is so sidelined in a national celebration.

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  3. Andrée

    Even if I don’t share your disappointement (I know since a long time that Canada doesn’t care about its French speakers, even more so when they come from Québec), I am pissed off at their insult to Québec’s musical talent. Inviting nobody would have been more respectful than choosing Garou, Marie-Mai and Annie Villeneuve from the lot.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t think any of the artists you mention constitute an insult to Quebec. I have no issue with any of them, and I certainly don’t think the ceremonies would have been somehow better without them.

      Annie Villeneuve wasn’t part of either ceremony (unless I missed her somewhere). She sang the French version of the Canadian broadcast media consortium’s theme song, which isn’t formally attached to the Games (despite how often it was heard). Despite what I said in my post two weeks ago, even CTV seemed to care more about presenting Canada as a bilingual country (the closing ceremony was actually available in at least five languages) than VANOC did.

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      1. Andrée

        Let’s just say that Montreal didn’t earn its title of “new Seattle” due to the contributions of Star Académie participants. I don’t think it is even a matter of taste here, but of sheer talent, which is why I disagree with you on this. As for Annie Villeneuve, you are right, I meant to list here the whole contribution from Québec singers to the Olympics, which included the theme song. Hell, even if he’s not my type of singer, I respect the choice of René Simard for the Montreal Olympics much more!

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  4. Bill Lee

    More French in Ben Heppner’s Olympic Anthemn than in whole ceremony [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Hymn ]

    St. James Street strikes again.

    And no Quebec, or Francophone stars. Boycott, weren’t to be paid much or just ignored.

    Producer just took his Sydney show and plugged in Canadian refs: Hills Hoists = Canoes, Kylie Minogue = Alanis Morrisette? etc.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      NBC continued its coverage of the closing ceremony (which by that point was just back-to-back musical acts) at 11:30, and followed it through to the end on tape delay, capping it off with what was actually a very nice tribute to Canada.

      Sure, putting a reality show there was a bit silly, but they did air the rest of the ceremony.

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  5. Robert Favreau

    Bonjour. Vous avez bien résumé les opinions des Québécois, qu’ils soient anglophone ou francophone. Ce n’est pas en utilisant April Lavigne, Alanis Morissette que la culture francophone fut représentée. Seul leur patronyme y était. Vous savez sans doute que la plupart des membres du groupe Simple plan sont francophone. Tous ont chanté en anglais. Si les athlètes québécois ont mérité un grand nombre de médailles il n’y a pas eu d’effet miroir dans les cérémonies à Vancouver. Le Canada anglais aurait-il été aussi fier sans cette participation.
    If you are disappointed, I AM MAD.
    Robert Favreau

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  6. David Lisbona

    My sentiments exactly, you forgot the incredible Nikki Yanofsky from Montreal as well, incredible but also not reflective, sorry. As I mention in my Suburban column this week, I think they blew it, but now is not the time for that, we will have plenty of time for introspection later. Now is the time to bask in the Golden glow!

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  7. Jean Naimard

    Crocodile tears.

    You just can’t stomach the idea of a sovereign Québec (like 99.999% of the english) and you are scared shitless that this blatant display of the care the english have of the french (none whatsoever) will yet another time prove again that Canada is not for us.

    The flow of History goes towards the independence of Québec. Denying is is major ostrichism.

    Reply
    1. wkh

      You’ve got to be kidding. It’s never going to happen. Bill 101 effectively assured it won’t. No reason to separate now!

      As for English not caring about the French… meh. I think it’s more geography. I don’t really give a shit about Toronto, or Sept Iles. I doubt Saskatoon cares deeply about Lethebridge culture and history.

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  8. malstain

    This is the most (practically the only) reasonable thing I’ve read in all the deluge of debate on this topic. Thank you!

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  9. Jack

    Too bad, get over it. French may be the “official” second language, but there are more Chineese speaking people than French. French is a minority compared to other languages. Also, Quebec has language police, which is totally disgusting to anglophones. It’s funny, we have to conform to Quebec, but they don’t have to conform to the rest of Canada. They also get their way in almost everything else, such as huge handouts from Ottawa. Paid for by the West. You don’t like the lack of French, in an English speaking province (BC), don’t watch.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      “It’s funny, we have to conform to Quebec, but they don’t have to conform to the rest of Canada.”

      The idea that “the rest of Canada” is English is part of the problem. Quebec is not a French province inside an English country. Or, at least, I don’t believe it is.

      I have my own issues with the so-called “language police”, though I don’t think they’re nearly as overbearing as their reputation suggests. But just because my provincial government is full of hypocrisy doesn’t mean I’m going to keep my mouth shut.

      These weren’t the B.C. Olympics.

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      1. Marc

        The idea that “the rest of Canada” is English is part of the problem.

        Why is it a problem that the rest of Canada is mostly English?

        Quebec is not a French province inside an English country.

        Hate to break it to you, but it pretty much is.

        These weren’t the B.C. Olympics.

        Correct, they were the Vancouver Olympics.

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          “They were the Vancouver Olympics.”

          Except they didn’t bring William Shatner on stage to talk about what it’s like being a Vancouveran. They didn’t bring Simple Plan and Alanis Morissette to showcase Vancouver musical talent. They didn’t make jokes about how Vancouver is different from the rest of the world.

          You can’t have it both ways – either this ceremony was about Vancouver or it was about Canada. The organizers chose to make it about the latter, but ignore one of the very fundamental things that makes Canada what it is.

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        2. Guy Robichaud

          Québec is NOT a French province in an English Canada.
          There are about 550 000 Francophones in Ontario, part of the 1 million people that speak both official languages in this province. In fact, Francophones form the majority in many Ontario towns (ex: 96% of 6000 in Hearst / 78% of 13,000 in West Nipissing, just to name a few). Even our larger cities have many Francophones (ex: 17% of 800,000 in Ottawa / 30% of 155,000 in Sudbury).
          Francophones represent over 33% of New Brunswick’s population; they call themselves “Acadiens” but are French-speaking nonetheless.
          Sorry about the demographics lesson, but here’s my point: It would be beneficial for all Francophones in Canada if the majority of our cousins in Québec knew the facts and stopped describing Québec as a nation.

          In response to other posts:
          Why is French an official language? Because we are founding members of Canada, we developed many parts of this country, but most importantly, we are still here and still contributing to the development of this awesome country. Je suis Franco-ontarien de descendance acadienne, et j’en suis fier.

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    2. wkh

      Speak for yourself. Not all anglophones find the “language police” disgusting. Some of us realize we’re an international majority language speaker and can deal with a minority language having their own place and protections on that language.

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    3. Steve Hatton

      RE Jack: “there are more Chinese speaking people than French. French is a minority compared to other languages.”

      There’s one major flaw with your argument. Chinese is not a language. Some people in China speak Cantonese, some Mandarin; Are suggesting that all Chinese dialects become official languages?

      In any case, thanks for speaking on behalf of a cultural minority which I’m pretty sure you’re not part of.

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    4. Jean Naimard

      What language police?

      There is no such thing.

      You are just rehashing the tired old clueless clichés about Québec.

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      1. Jacques from Laprairie

        I agree,

        There is no such thing as the language police.

        There is worse, BUREAUCRATS.

        eh eh eh eh eh . I could not resist the temptation.

        But all kidding aside.

        Canada is an officially bilingual nation with 2 main cultures sired by the french and the english. and it is only normal to reflect that.

        A first nations musical act would have been cool too.

        Jacques

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  10. Coppell

    You are right in saying that both opening and closing ceremonies were seriously lacking in French content and were disappointing.
    I am a francophone, and have lived all my life in Ontario. My parents were born and raised here as well. And I have three bilingual but very francophone children. I felt insulted, excluded and in a way mocked buy the cheap way the O and C ceremonies tried to represent who I am to the world. And I agree with most of your statement. BUT I think that, just as we tend to think of francos or anglos in Canada as two monolith, I beg to differ.

    I think that most anglophones in Canada feel just like you do. Wondering how a show put together to represent who we are, had but a sliver of French culture. And when you see the athletes, those wonderful dedicated people giving interview in both official languages, whether they hail from Québec, from Alberta or Cole Harbour, I think that is where, as Canadian we should take pride. They are our ambassadors to the world. And they recognize that to succeed in Canada, it is best you speak botn English and French.
    We can keep on being disappointed at VANOC for thinking that they did enough, that an outsider can understand the complex nature of who we are. And I believe (sigh!) that people should complain to Heritage Canada or to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages because these VANOC is accountable to all Canadians.

    But I will take pride in our athletes, who owned the podium in their own way, in French or in English, and who gave us again nos plus brillants exploits.

    Mireille

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      “And I believe (sigh!) that people should complain to Heritage Canada or to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages because these VANOC is accountable to all Canadians.”

      I won’t stop anyone from doing so, but I’m pretty sure the federal government was already complaining about the lack of French at the Games and didn’t need public prodding to do so.

      Besides, as I said in the post, the Games are over. There’s nothing VANOC can do to redeem itself. The best we can hope for is that some other Canadian city hosting the Olympics (or similar international event) someday understands and respects this country’s official languages.

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  11. Marc

    Since what you’re arguing for is a lost cause, I assume you believe Quebecers should be competing under their own banner in 2012 and beyond? Because with that, the problems will be solved, yes?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m not sure if your message was meant for me, but I think I made it quite clear that I don’t believe in Quebec sovereignty, on the Olympic stage or elsewhere.

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    2. Maud

      Sometimes I wonder why I have the feeling that English speaking Canadians want the separation MORE than Québec people do. It’s shameful… Stop generalizing with separation, start watching the news, and you’ll understand that more than the half of Québec citizens don’t even want to separate from Canada.

      I have met many english Canadians very curious and interested in french canadian culture. Many English Canadians ashamed of their global attitude toward French Canadians… Bilingualism shouldn’t even be an issue… but still, you’re making it a big deal.

      I am a francophone federalist, I have learned english in elementary school, I answered to many English Canadians customers in THEIR primary language, respecting THEM… I don’t get why I don’t deserve the same respect when I meet a guy from BC asking me “Who needs French anyway?” I’ll answer “Well at least I’m here to steal your job, since I’m mostly fluent in 2 languages, unlike you…”

      On devrait être fiers de qui on est… au moins, nous, on agit avec respect envers les autres de notre pays… On parle Français ET Anglais, et on vit dans un pays, le Canada. Je ne vois pas pourquoi on devrait se battre pour ce droit. Personnellement, ces jeux m’ont fait haïr le B.C. encore plus. Quelle honte.

      Une canadienne qui n’a jamais vu de police montée vaincre le crime dans les rues de son patelin, honteuse et déçue de son pays.

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  12. Kevin

    As I said when you posted similar stuff two weeks ago, you’re ranting against a pinhead from Ireland who isn’t even aware of your complaints.

    It’s not arrogance, it’s not willfulness, it’s just the sheer stupid bloody-mindedness of a real estate agent who wants to earn cash in Vancouver.

    The only reason he included four first nations groups in the opening ceremonies was to avoid lawsuits. If he wanted to be inclusive, he would have included the Chinese and Indian communities (which number about 150,000 in Vancouver).

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    1. Jean Naimard

      It’s not arrogance, it’s not willfulness, it’s just the sheer stupid bloody-mindedness of a real estate agent who wants to earn cash in Vancouver.

      For us, it is obvious that giving the organization of the olympic games to a real-estate speculator/developper is a birdbrain-dead überstupid move. We just sit back on our arses, laugh in your general direction whilst saying “told you so!”…
      But for you (the english), you are culturally unable to think that the State can do some good (magna-carta, etc…) that you blindly give all the power to private companies, then wonder why the result is subpar (if you don’t get screwed outright — what’s truly moronic is that after being screwed, you guys go back for another round, like those beaten wifes that go back for a second helping of fist).
      The english cannot fathom why Québec is so “anti-business” with our huge State institutions (Hydro-Québec, Caisse de Dépôt, etc…). Well, it’s simply that because, in the past, we were at the mercy of private companies who stripped us clean of our ressources (both human and natural) and kept us out of the loop when it came to decide what to do. So 50 years ago, we said “fuck that” and we elected governments that took back the power that was usurped by foreign free entreprise.
      (Note: if Drapeau screwed the 1976 olympics big time, it’s simply because he was a liberal that had absolutely no problem with the graft and corruption, a normal liberal business process, that gravitated around the olympics. Had he been a proper statist, there would have been proper governemental oversight of the process).
      You (the english) got exactly what you bargained for: a marketing exercise centered about Vancouver done the cheapest way possible so the sponsors would have the highest return on their investment possible*.
      Sometimes, when the stakes are high enough, you have no choice but micromanage.
      * Back in 1976, there was no orgy of the crass commercialism the olympic games have become; we were doing it for the olympic spirit, something that has been woefully lacking since Los-Angeles.

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  13. Karine

    Although I do agree there was a serious lack of French at the opening and closing ceremonies (and as Nathalie Petrowsky pointed out, producer David Atkins being Australian probably had something to do with it), I have to say that when watching the competitions themselves there I heard the announcers speak as much, if not more French then English. So in that sense, I think VANOC did a good job. Frankly I barely watched the show after the Sochi presentation (or after the cauldron was extinguished, whichever came last): that mishmash of Canadians who now live in Hollywood and artists past they’re peak of popularity, and lack of ethnic diversity (you wouldn’t know Vancouver has a large Chinese minority looking at the ceremony) pretty much made it uninteresting to me.

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    1. Jean Naimard

      Vanoc only did “a good job” because french is an official olympic language, and as such, it is mandated.

      You can bet your arse had lithuanian been an official olympic language, there would have been no french coverage whatsoever.

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    2. Paul André

      La langue francaise est obligatoire durant les compétitions des jeux olympiques, étant donné que le CIO est un organisme à prime abord français. C’est la même chose à chaque j.o., d’Athènes à Sotchi.

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  14. AngryFrenchGuy

    (Oupsidou… This is where I wanted to comment. The Internet is hard.)

    “These ceremonies are for the world, which for the most part speaks English as either a first or second language.”

    Now that has to be the most ignorant statement I’ve ever read outside a Montreal Gazette editorial!

    Native English-speakers reprensent about 5% of the world’s population, and it is a geriatric community who’s numbers are going down fast.

    English is huge as a second language, but as someone who lives in Québec should understand by now, it is neither the world’s principal or prefered means of communication. It has it’s undeniable uses in business and science (which one could argue are their own languages, loosely based on English) but not the language in which cultures express themselves.

    An international event like the Olympics should either reflect the hosts culture (why I defended English at the Openeing ceremonies on my blog) or be a reflection of the worlds diversity, in which case English should have about 5% of the airtime. Period.

    English was NOT dominant because there is a consensus that the world wants a world in all-English all-the time, but because they were a show put on by NBC, which purchased the whole thing.

    That’s it. That’s all

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    1. Kevin

      Oh you’re another idiot.
      English is the world’s second language. You either speak English, or you’re poor.
      Jean Naimard and his crew gnash their teeth at this reality, but it’s got nothing to do with the oppression they faced from Westmount Rhodesians in the first half of the 20th Century.

      It has everything to do with Germans, Chinese, Americans and Indians getting together and speaking English between themselves because it’s the only language they all understand.

      Enough. I said when Vancouver won the games (I was living there) that it was a bad idea.

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  15. gfors

    No one outside of quebec cares about this. its a none issue, no one outside of quebec would even debate with you. what a silly thing. french v. english is over.

    this is simple case of geographic insecurity in light of Vancouver becoming the center of Canada, in the eyes of the world.

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    1. Jean Naimard

      For two weeks only.

      Next week, don’t worry, the world will be back to normal, attributing the “center” of Canada to Toronto.

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  16. Shawn

    You know what mighta been cool? And just a little cheeky? If the closing ceremony in Vancouver could have included some hat tip or tribute to Quebec City as a ‘future’ winter games host city.

    Also, doesn’t Alanis speak French?

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    1. Maud

      Yeah, she’s from french roots, and so is Avril Lavigne… but the world wouldn’t know… they both live in Hollywood now, don’t they? Even Simple Plan, all French speakers, didn’t even burped a “Merci” in their first language… whatever! Only Marie-Mai did… the only french ambassador out there. Props!

      Reply
  17. Antonio

    I did not see the closing ceremony but it appears that the “Maple Leaf Forver” was sung in it. If so, this is clearly inappropriate as it glorifes the British conquest. The organizers cannot pretend ignorance to what this song means to francophones.

    The more and mor, English Canada and the Olympics committe claim ignorance and promises to do better, the more and more I don’t believe them. Their conduct was intentional.

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  18. Tux

    Initially I defended the amount of French used in the opening ceremonies because I felt that the olympics are a world event, and that all Canadians were represented in the opening ceremonies. Like you Fagstein, I felt that the haters sitting there with stopwatches should pull their heads out of their asses and just enjoy the show.

    After watching the closing ceremonies, I feel I must re-consider my position. From the English officials’ butchering of the French they did use (seriously, how hard would it have been to work on pronunciation even just a little) to the lack of any French-language performance, it all points to the organizers just not giving a shit, which is pretty disappointing. Tokenism is definitely the correct term.

    Hey Naimard, the discussion was not about sovereignty. If you’ve gotta go there you could at least do so civilly instead of hurling insults.

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  19. Hypnotoad

    Why is everybody wasting time discussing the representation of francophone culture in the ceremonies? Olympic ceremonies are always a long boring and useless waste of time. No one so far addressed the most important point in Fagstein’s post, and in my eyes the only valid reason to complain about the lack of french in the ceremonies, the francophone athletes. It was their games too, they represented our country with class and were great contributors to Canada’s historic results. I don’t care if artists or language-obsessed people feel hurt, olympics are about sports and athletes and our athletes deserved better. But they couldn’t even congratulate Alexandre Bilodeau in french before that giant beaver parade (in that part of the show Joe Posnanski delightfully called “the sort of thing you would see if you gave a third grade teacher $30 million to put on a school play”).

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    1. wkh

      The commentator I was listening to said it looked like someone made a Vegas show about Canada. I think they were horrified and trying hard to sound positive.

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  20. dan

    i felt the performances were basically canadians trying to show-off to americans. “look at this guy, he’s canadian, don’t you know!” i was surprised by the absence of really good canadian acts like k’naan, arcade fire, wolf parade, great big sea, and a.c. newman in favour of a bunch of warmed-over 90’s teeny boppers. the only exception to this was k’os, but his performance was overshadowed by those neon people.

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  21. Ha Ha

    I couldn’t care less. What a waste of time watching the closing ceremonies and feeling sorry or proud yourselves. The thing looked like something out of “Logan’s Run” renew ceremony. I did something better. I watched FOX’s amazing Sunday night cartoons. If any of you had any sense of humor about all this bullshit, you would have done the same.

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  22. giornalista

    The sad reality is that the closing ceremony was designed primarily for American, not Canadian, consumption. It’s all about ratings and Canadian insecurity (see: all the fuss about “owning the podium”), despite the fact NBC probably didn’t broadcast very much of it anyway.

    Virtually all the performers, whether comedians, musicians or the unfortunate cavalcade of Canadian stereotypes (lumberjacks, coureur de bois, et al), were chosen because they’re familiar to our neighbours to the south. My guess is that, just like that olde timey French-Canadian tune that played during the most surreal moments of VANOC’s flying moose circus, Americans (and more than a few Canucks in the ROC) view Canada’s francophones as some quaint anachronism.

    As for the francophones not getting their fair due, sure, it would have been nice to see some more French or bilingual content. But cultural relevancy (not caricature) was more or less absent from the program. A duo with K-os and Luck Merville would have been interesting (hey, we’re not all WASPs up here!) Arcade Fire or Feist (who have some tunes in French, I believe) would have been WAY better than Avril, Nickelback, Simple Plan or Hedley. Even Alanis was pretty blah. I’m not that connected to the franco music scene, but surely there’s more depth than just Marie-Mai?

    I’m sure Quebec will do it better if they ever get a chance to host the games (not really, but we can dream!)

    Reply
    1. wkh

      About anachronism… when I started dating my Quebecois boyfriend some 16 years ago, I was in the US. Now I knew he had an accent, and I knew he spoke French with his parents, but I swear I really truly thought they spoke French at HOME and maybe amongst other speakers and such. I had NO IDEA people lived worked and played in French. He didn’t help matters, telling me “don’t worry, Montreal’s very English.” Talk about culture shock (major) when I arrived. It was a good surprise, however! :-)

      Reply
  23. Nathalie

    I am as disapointed as you are. As a francophone federalist who learned English (can’t get more frenchie than coming from Shawinigan ;) because I believed in what the country is supposed to stand for, it was painful to see that the rest of the country doesn’t value my culture as much as I value theirs. On Twitter on Friday, you commented on how Hamelin was signing the anthem in English, and I jokingly replied that the anthem was bilingual so it wasn’t a surprise. No, it’s not because that’s what we hear at the Habs game. It’s because to me, it just makes sense that our Anthem should include both languages. Proudly. Like those games should have.

    Reply
  24. wkh

    I wish you’d heard me and the husband going back and forth. When the Quebec trad-rock started and he asked “what is this, Boittin Souriante second generation or something?” I said “I think this is your part of the ceremony!”

    Except for Michael J Fox (yes, I cried) and William Shatner, he had no idea who the other people were. Now, admittedly he’s very pop culture sheltered when it comes to Anglo Canadian life, but still…. dang.

    I was actually almost embarrassed watching it. I couldn’t help think “omg.”

    And let’s not forget… *French is an official language of the Olympics* There was no excuse. Fricking Beijing had more French! No really, they did!

    Reply
  25. Kakei

    Complains were made about lip-syncing in the 2008 opening ceremony, about using fake ethnic children, about not inviting enough Quebec artists to the 2010 one, about the lack of French, about the women hockey team celebrating too much… all will be forgotten in no time. Do most remember anything about the Athens games (almost did not finish facilities), the Sydney one (under representation of natives), the Atlanta one (bomb in one of the public space)…

    There won’t be any redemption, nor correction by future organizers. There’s nothing worse than making a show to please and not offend absolutely everyone, like a watered down focus group scripted blockbuster romantic comedy. So enjoy them for what they really are, which are big parties for athletes to wind down after a grueling games.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m pretty sure people still remember the bombing in Atlanta.

      But it’s true most of this will be forgotten (it was, unfortunately, a very forgettable ceremony for the most part). Nationalists won’t point to this ceremony as the reason they support Quebec separation. But VANOC missed a golden opportunity to be a good reason for them to say they’re proud to be Canadian.

      Reply
  26. IAMCANADIAN

    French canadian, that is. Yep, not from Québec, from Ontario. There are 500 000 of us in this wonderful province, New-Brunswick, Manitoba and every province in this country (including B.C!!!) has a french-speaking population. We participate in our communities and our economy. As do every other hard working canadian, no matter what their ethnical background is. But the thing is, there are two official languages in Canada. That’s it. That’s all we’re saying. And I don’t understand why all canadians can’t embrace our culture. ALL of it. And I mean this for everybody, french and english from B.C to Newfoundland. We all have our own quirks (people from the West coast are different in some ways then ontarians) and so what? Geez, haven’t you guys heard that diversity is in?! So what’s in representing and being proud of both founding people (after the First Nations) ? It doesn’t take away from the English speaking or the French or the Chinese for that matter. It’s simply a celebration of our whole culture and our diversity while respecting our heritage. Finally, I do agree the seperatist speech is somewhat old and does nothing to stimulate a better understanding and apreciation of the “two solitudes” but poorly representing the french culture in our canadian culture doesn’t help either…

    Reply
    1. William Moss

      Even if he got the name wrong? (He said “University of McGill” instead of “McGill University”)

      Reply
  27. moi

    I found it funny after the opening ceremonies that a lot of people in the ROC where insulting Quebeckers (or just telling them to shut up) for complaining about the lack of french. Did they know the people they were insulting are the real federalists in Quebec (Pratte, Fagstein, etc…)? The ‘separatists’ already know this country’s supposed bilinguism is a farce and most of them could’nt care less about the lack of french at the olympics.

    Reply
  28. AssezC'estAssez

    Bon, on voit ici une tres belle raison pour laquelle le Quebec est si mal regardé par le reste de l’amérique du nord.

    Nous ne sommes JAMAIS contents. On bitch pour tout et n’importe quoi. On est des jaloux. On est des peureux, qui passent le temps à blamer tous sauf nous memes pour nos problemes sociaux et économiques. C’est toujours la faute aux anglais, aux americains, aux premieres nations, etc.etc. C’est la faute à l’église, aux gouvernements, aux fonctionnaires, aux médias, etc.etc.

    Christ, think about it: if this was ANY normal relationship and one of the partners was always negative and radiating such negativity about everything in a CONSTANT fashion, there would be VERY little love left (unless you are are into that sort of self-punishment by continuing to be with someone like that). In a crowded room, are you going to be interested in making friends with the happy smiling people with interesting things to say or the frowning angry people that promise you nothing but negative energy and expressions of frustration?

    What a depressing image to portray to the rest of the world: instead of the welcoming “belle province” image, we now openly broadcast “listen all of you, you’d better not offend us in any way or we’ll f*** you over until the cows come home” and “trust us, we will remember!”. Is there any surprise we’re frightening everyone away?

    Assez c’est assez. J’en ai marre de voir mes opportunités d’emplois disparaitre au fils des années. I gladly accept having sacrificed some economic growth in order to avoid turning out like Toronto, but I think it’s gone too far. I’m not saying to put on some cheap lipstick and sacrifice our ideals to whore ourselves to any company out there, but seriously: our “belle province” needs to open up a couple of cases of 24, get it out of our system, and start showing a positive face to the world for once. Otherwise, all we show up in the news will be associated with complaining and being offended.

    Pensons à nos enfants. Je veux léguer à mes enfants une culture de joie et de promesse et surtout de POTENTIEL et non une terre oubliée et pire: évitée!

    So for the sake of the future generations and the promotion of the Quebec culture: SMILE and BE HAPPY, for God’s sake. Life isn’t THAT bad to be of Quebec origins on this planet, so let’s put it into perspective and try to paint a happier image of our culture! And while we’re at it, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put some effort into tidying up our bullsh*t infrastructures, our corrupt politics and snail-like government workers, our dying worker class. Who do we have to blame for all of this?

    (it’s particularly striking to see our priorities and negativities so soon after the devastations in Haiti, Chile and now the various countries in Europe affected by that killer storm!)

    In the context of this article in particular, the Olympics were put on by Canada using canadian money and it paid off. Hopefully Quebec City will get its chance in the coming years as well, so we can have the opportunity to showcase this side of the country once again. If it does happen, hopefully the participating nations will be seeing some happy faces of people looking to the future instead of scowling at the past.

    Let’s get over it. Let’s move forward and let’s have a great time doing it.

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Pierre-Luc Beaudoin » Blog Archive » The rumors of our extinction have been greatly exaggerated

  30. Colin Tod

    Here’s a thought – instead of harrumphing over the lack of French (francophones, French Canadians, Quebec, Quebecers, Quebecois) in representing the fabric of Canada at the Games and Ceremonies, why not take pride in the fact that every Canadian athlete there, was doing a bang-up job of representing us all? As long as there was one Canadian there to raise the Maple Leaf we were all there, as Canadians, whether we come from Quebec or Alberta or PEI. Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Reply
      1. Colin Tod

        Becaues it is all part and parcel of the same thing. A bigger thing. Something that wasn’t just about Quebec. Or PEI. Or Newfoundland and Labrador. Or any province, or ethnicity or language or whatever the defining characteristic that was missing from these ceremonies that seems to have been so offensive (because it wasn’t language, there was plenty of French spoken throughout the Games and Ceremonies).

        Reply
          1. Marc

            The Governor General declared the games open exclusively in French. Hayley Wickenheiser took the athlete’s oath exclusively in French. And Michel Verreault, took the judge’s oath, also, just in French.

            Reply
              1. Colin Tod

                Let me try to come at this from a slightly different tack. I consider myself a Canadian – in my blood and in my bones. When I speak of us I mean all of us, all ~34 million. But you inject an “and them” into it. You seem to be saying it is ok for them to represent us, but we can’t represent them, they can only represent themselves. Even in the context of us, if they don’t represent themselves, the us is somehow inaccurate or….
                Quebec has a reputation as the spoilt child of Confederation, a province that never saw an action that couldn’t be a slight. And here we are again. The party’s over, the guests have gone home and we’re just with family again, looking at each other and and smiling, saying – wow, wasn’t that just about the greatest thing ever? And a single voice pipes up and says “no, it wasn’t, because you didn’t pay enough attention to me”.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                Just because Quebec is whining about something doesn’t make it untrue.

                I don’t know what you’re talking about with the “them represent us” thing. The issue is that the ceremonies give people the impression that Canada is an English country with a small French minority, that the Olympics are an English event that provides some translation into French.

                The ceremonies made francophone Canadians (whether they live in Quebec or not) feel like they were an “and them”, not an “us”.

              3. Westerner

                It is by far majority english. Quebec is a minority who speak a language which is less than 2% of NA and decreasing by the year. Canada is not a bilingual country, now everyone including the politicians in Canada should quit misrepresenting the facts. The head of the francophonie commented on this on national media ” I thought Canada was bilingual – interview with Celine Galipeau”. French or the less proper “joual” version in Quebec is fine but quite making it an issue on the world stage. Embarrasing!

  31. AngryFrenchGuy

    “And a single voice pipes up and says “no, it wasn’t, because you didn’t pay enough attention to me”.”

    Really? A SINGLE voice?

    What about this?:

    Gil Lebreton, Dallas Star-Telegraph

    http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/02/28/v-print/2003874/in-these-olympics-canadians-only.html

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.

    Flags were everywhere. The country’s national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone’s clothing.

    Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.

    But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
    (…)

    There is no earthly event that reinforces that notion as well as an Olympic Games. For all of the latter-day Games’ inherent commercialism, that ideal persists. I truly believe that.

    It persists, despite the overwhelming chauvinism of the past two weeks.

    They showed us Canadian Games, all right. And in most cases, nothing but Canadian Games.
    Yes, every host nation cheers lustily for its native Olympians. But never in my experience to the extent that we saw here, where the rest of the world’s athletes were little more than drink coasters at the party.

    (…)

    I’m still mystified that Canada fans were able to grab what seemed to be 98 percent of the tickets at the hockey venue. Olympic crowds have always been more inclusive.

    (…)

    Canada wanted to hold a party, and the Canadians did. The gold medals only seemed to fuel them.

    Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.

    One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

    I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.

    No political reference is meant, just an Olympic one. What on earth were the Canadians thinking?

    An Olympic host is supposed to welcome the world. This one was too busy being (their word) “patriotic.”

    “Now you know us, eh?” chief organizer Furlong said.

    We thought we did two weeks ago. Now, I’m wondering if Canadians can even recognize themselves.

    Nice party. But so 1936.

    Reply
  32. Hugo Shebbeare

    That’s it, time for a bilingual Vancouverite to contribute to this one: I shall be terse, b/c Master Fagstein knows how verbose I can be.
    BTW for those of you who just watched the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and heard complaints about the lack of French, please understand that Vancouver is FIVE AND HALF hours by plane from Quebec, and there are very few bilinguals to learn the beautiful language with, as I noticed while growing up. From reading up in La Presse recently [and this great blog] (at least pointing out that our first Canadian Olympic Gold won at home was by the Great Alexandre Bilodeau) it seems as if the journalists were hoping for bilingual levels the equivalent of Ottawa, on the border of the province: they seem to have a complete lack of the importance (as do several above) of geography regarding this issue. Whatever the case, the QC media can try and rain on Vancouver’s great Olympics all it wants, they have New Yorker’s approval and that is far more impartial.

    Veuillez prendre en note que je ne suis pas francophobe, je blogue en français et je partage, vers un côté de la famille, les mêmes racines que la majorité ici. Je suis né à Vancouver, et ma soeur Monique et moi aussi, nous sommes allés à l'école bilingue.  Je veux que nous améliorons notre société au Québec; non pas seulement pour faire des accommodations raisonnables aux nouvelles arrivées dans la province, mais pour donner du respect à la minorité anglophone qui vit ici depuis des siècles. Le mal traitement dont j’ai vécu à la Caisse de Dépôt est un cauchemar absolu, mais ce n’est pas isolé à cette organisation gouvernementale exclusivement, et existent dans  certaines sociétés privés aussi au Québec. Je resterai toujours positif, parce que je suis un Champion pour le Canada, and Quebec is included in my country. Mais, il faut que ces extrémistes ultranationalistes soient mis en règle afin de laisser le Québec se progresser, car à mon avis, c’est leur faute que la province est en déclin tranquille (à cause de deux referendums, et maintenant $47 Milliards perdus à la CDPQ).

    For the woes of trying to be a Bilingual Anglophone and trying to break into the govt in QC, please read: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/blogs/hugo/archive/2010/02/15/first-public-hearing-against-quebec-s-pension-fund-manager-the-beginning-of-proof-multiple-laws-were-violated-before-sabia-took-over.aspx

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      If your argument is that Vancouver is far from Quebec, then you’re arguing that (a) this was Vancouver’s Olympics, not Canada’s, (b) the only French speakers in this country live in Quebec, and (c) if people are far away, they don’t matter.

      My argument is simple: The Vancouver Olympics tried to showcase Canada to the world, and they failed in this very important point during the opening and closing ceremonies.

      Reply
      1. Hugo Shebbeare

        The closing was neither a failure, nor the opening. I mentioned before the Olympics that there will be issues, as with any host city As mentioned just below, this was a BC, and speciifically Vancouver-centric Olympics. If you do not understand the Geographical realities of the great distances we have between our regions please travel across our multi-nation state a little more. I’m afraid to say it Dude, but you’ve been living only in Montreal for too long perhaps.
        If Quebec City gets the Olympics, good for them, then they can showcase a QC-oriented opening/closing ceremony (and you know they will) – you will not see Vancouverites windging about too much French because it is not our ‘nationale’ pastime.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If the intention was to make this a “specifically Vancouver-centric Olympics”, then neither the opening nor closing ceremonies reflected this. Where was the “Vancouver-centric” humour? Where was the “Vancouver-centric” national anthem? Where was there anything “Vancouver-centric” in the ceremonies at all?

          This wasn’t the Vancouver Olympics during those ceremonies, it was the Canadian Olympics. They brought in East Coast fiddlers, Nikki Yanofsky, William Shatner and Simple Plan, but apparently decided against having too much French. That’s my problem.

          And I never said either ceremony was an overall failure.

          Reply
        2. Westerner

          It can be entireley in french, (if its still around at that time) as I doubt anyone will really care. Will not offend me and I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Perhaps at this time it will be Quebec adding to their debt by hosting the Olympics as a sovereign country on their own.

          Reply
  33. Hugo Shebbeare

    I am very happy with Jacques pointing out how our brethren feel across the country, and not in the borders of QC, about the QC Nation. Francophone schools across Canada are thriving, as not only they are attending them, but also competitive recent immigrants (especially Asian in Vancouver) that want to qualify for top Govt jobs.

    Now back to Vancouver -for a few facts that I forgot to mention:
    There are approx. 225k, or let’s say 250k (with bilinguals like me added perhaps to that group?) French speakers in BC…given my previous point of Geography, and the lack of persons to immerse themselves in French with (poor Furlong, he tried, but I know was a bit poor in FR, sorry) it should not be hard to understand by the Games, run by BC-centric organisers have a little more Shatner than Bublé (trying for an oxymoron with a twist of geographical reversal) in the mix.

    BC license plates state now, instead of ‘Beautiful BC’, ‘The Best Place On Earth’ – so Vancouverites and they boys in Victoria have not been holding back on their pride for some time now, so why should they (like they care what a jealous yank journo in Dallas thinks?). BC, and especially our grandest City, hosted our most fruitful Olympics – respect that with all the good intentions and not as a slight to the Franco-Canadiens.

    Reply
  34. me

    I find no real harm when a small group of organizers ends up not caring about my culture, even if it is unfortunate that they happened to be working for an event of such a scale.

    There are misguided people everywhere and sometimes we get unlucky.

    What really destroyed my morale was when I looked at the comments on anglophone news sites. It didn’t seem like such an isolated perception from a small group of individual anymore. It seemed like the vast majority of commenter either failed to see a value for french or were downright hostile and claiming that it was *better* that there wasn’t much — that there was too much in fact.

    It wasn’t just bad luck all of a sudden, but just the logical expression of a prior in the population.

    At the risk of sounding delusional, I want to believe that these comments are biased and not representative of the true feeling of my compatriots.

    Your post felt like an unexpected gift in that regard.

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      What really destroyed my morale was when I looked at the comments on anglophone news sites. It didn’t seem like such an isolated perception from a small group of individual anymore. It seemed like the vast majority of commenter either failed to see a value for french or were downright hostile and claiming that it was *better* that there wasn’t much — that there was too much in fact.

      Welcome to Canada! Canada doesn’t care about french and would rather see it vanish.
      Want more proof if it? Here are more than 1600 proofs of that.

      Reply
      1. alex.r.

        I understand your frustration, but I’m not one to equate a couple hundred voluntary comments done by a couple individuals as proof of anything.

        Reply

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