The translation was done with the help of Facebook users in Quebec, I guess because Facebook is too cheap to hire a real translator for a week to make sure they get it right. These crowdsourced translations caused problems last time, but I don’t notice any glaring errors so far.
Had they done such research (and by “research”, I mean “going to the websites being talked about”), they might have noticed that the French version, nouvellesmobile.ca, doesn’t have a word of French on it. Oh, and the website asks us to “enter your US mobile phone number”, basically because this CP website just redirects to the Associated Press version.
Memo to CP: Before announcing websites, maybe it would be best to do some sanity checks first.
I’m getting a bit tired of the language debate in Quebec.
I feel a bit guilty saying it, because the neverending battle has become so central to the province’s identity that it’s almost like I can’t call myself a true Québécois unless I have a spot on the front lines. What does it mean to be a Quebecer if not to constantly argue about French vs. English, federalism vs. sovereignty, Liberal vs. PQ/BQ?
The most popular post on this blog, by far, in terms of comments is a criticism I made in 2007 about anglo rights crusader Howard Galganov. The comment mark on that post just passed 500 (all of which I had to individually approve), and new comments are added every day. Discussion of the statements made in the post or of Galganov himself have long fallen by the wayside. The four participants who keep the thread going just yell at each other, call each other racist and compare each other to Hitler in their discussions of the great divide. I block those comments that go too far, but if I deleted those that I didn’t think advanced the conversation enough, over 90% would disappear immediately. At this point, I’m just watching the counter go up, in awe about how much time people can waste trying to change the mind of someone who is obviously never going to agree with you.
I’m an anglophone. Even though I’ve lived in Quebec my entire life, I’m seen as the enemy. No different than the Rest of Canada. It’s assumed that I’m just waiting for my chance to make it in Toronto or New York, and that I don’t really belong here because I don’t really want to be here. Though I love Quebec as much for its culture (which is inescapably intertwined with its language) as its politics (which is inescapably intertwined with language issues), because I use English more than French in my daily life I’m set aside from real Quebecers.
Once, in a conversation with some young francophone journalists, I was asked about my opinion on Quebec politics in a way that gave me the impression I was introducing these people to a culture they’d only read about. I felt like I was giving them a sociology lesson on what it’s like to be an anglo Quebecer.
One of the things that was odd about the conversation is that it came a bit out of nowhere. People don’t stop me in the street to debate politics. I’ve never been refused service at a commercial establishment on account of my language. Francophone bloggers link to me, and I link to them, with little regard to the fact that our posts are in different languages, unless the thing were talking about is language politics. Quebecers are more concerned with daily life, gossiping or getting laid than they are convincing others of their point of view on separation.
I got dragged into a brief debate about my positions on Bill 101 recently, and though I have serious issues with some of its provisions that seem more anti-English than pro-French (and the psychological factor and selective enforcement only exacerbate the anti-English sentiment), part of me wanted to scream out at one point: “I don’t care!” I can read French signs fine. I can communicate fine in that language (just don’t ask me to write in it for a living). In that sense, Bill 101 doesn’t really affect me. Though I cringe at how much the government is spending on language enforcement rather than language education, I think there are far more pressing issues for it to deal with than reforming our language law.
I bring this up because of a couple of debates going on that really make me wonder where Quebec’s priorities lie.
La Presse’s André Pratte had to apologize on Friday for noting that Michael Sabia, the ex-Bell CEO who has just been named to head the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, is (a) not a Quebecer and (b) doesn’t speak French very well. It seems he was wrong on both counts. Sabia has lived in Quebec for 16 years (“how long do you have to live in Montreal before you become a Quebecer?“) and his French, while accented, is fine. He attributed his first error to “un détestable réflexe québécois” – namely that if you’re anglo, you’re not a Quebecer. Believe me, this is a big problem. It’s not just in Quebec, of course. People, media and PR agencies all over Canada will look at someone with brown skin and assume they’re an immigrant. In the U.S., if you’re latino, it’s assumed you’re an illegal immigrant or the descendant of one.
Now we know why there are rules against political interference in the Caisse’s affairs. If something as petty as province of birth is a political issue (and deemed more important than making money for Quebec pensioners) then who knows how many ways 125 MNAs could figure out to screw with the system and doom our finances in order to maintain political correctness.
As Martin Patriquin points out, “Quebec must be the only place in the world where it actually matters what language money speaks.”
Not just money, but pucks.
Jeu de puissance
The other debate, which has just started, is over who will fill Guy Carbonneau’s shoes as head coach of the Canadiens. For any of the other 29 NHL teams, the only criterion would be the ability to coach a team of players to a Stanley Cup victory. (Well, that and not being a child molester, hockey gambling addict or 9/11 terrorist, I guess.) But in Montreal, they want to add another: the ability to speak French. And because former Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever is a prime candidate (he was promoted to Habs assistant coach when Carbonneau was fired), there’s already discussion that, no matter how good a hockey coach he might be, he can’t get the job because he won’t be able to speak properly to the media and to fans. Even Bob Gainey, who speaks French fine but with a strong accent, isn’t good enough for the people at RDS.
This debate should come as no surprise. The same debate has been going on ever since Saku Koivu was promoted to be the Canadiens’ captain. Patrick Lagacé complained about it when he was at the Journal (though he’s softened his stance at La Presse – Lagacé the old softy disputes this in a comment below) in a column more notable in media circles for its hilarious follow-up. Of course, there are plenty of NHL players who don’t speak a word of English, but nobody complains about that. After all, their job is to play hockey, not to give speeches. But, in defence of this particular point, there aren’t any NHL captains who can’t at least carry on a conversation in the language of Gary Bettman.
And then there’s debate any time you see a trade, a call-up, a healthy scratch, or even a line-change which alters the makeup of the team to make it less francophone. It doesn’t matter what Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre or Mathieu Dandenault’s skills are. What matters is that they can be interviewed in French on RDS during intermission, and therefore they must be on the team and in the lineup. For these people, a Patrice Brisebois is more valuable than an Andrei Markov, and certainly more than a Mike Komisarek.
Fans can demand these things. It’s their right. And Canadiens fans aren’t exactly known for their logic or cool-headedness anyway. And it’s the government’s right to demand that the head of the Caisse is a Quebec-born francophone who watches Star Académie.
But when you say that language and nationality is more important than skill, you can’t complain when you don’t get results compared to others. You can’t complain that the Caisse is losing more money than other pension funds when you passed over a qualified anglophone for a less qualified francophone for the job. You can’t complain that the Canadiens failed to bring home their expected 25th Stanley Cup when you cut the field of head coach candidates to less than half of what it was so that RDS viewers don’t feel uncomfortable.
In the United States, the military is mocked because it fires gay Arabic translators even when it’s in desperate need of them. We make fun of the Americans because they put what you are above what you know, to their own disadvantage.
Sometimes, I wonder if Quebec is any better.
Except, I’m tired of debating the point. So I’m just going to hit “publish” and move on to something more interesting.
It’s really a story only The Gazette can do. And therefore it’s a story The Gazette must do: The exodus of anglophones from Quebec.
So in a five-part feature series that ends today, the paper went all out, sending reporter David Johnston and photographer/videographer Phil Carpenter out to Calgary and Vancouver to interview ex-Montrealers.
DiMonte’s more recent departure can be seen as an example of the “normalization” of anglo migration from Quebec. As political and linguistic uncertainty has subsided in Quebec, anglos now leaving Quebec are tending to leave for the same ordinary dull reason that people everywhere move – opportunity. In DiMonte’s case, there was also the added complication of a troubled relationship with a new boss; but there again, as he says himself, there’s nothing so unusual about that. Here he was, a big fish in a small English market in a large French city, breezing along in midlife at the top of his profession, when suddenly he was presented with a new contract that called for him to sign in and out of work every day.
Until that offer was put before him by Bob Harris, newly arrived operations manager at CHOM, DiMonte had worked for years under simple contract terms: a 2-per-cent annual salary increase, and a car. But now he was being asked to sign a 15-page contract with a lot of fine print. DiMonte says he went to see Astral Media vice-president Rob Braide about it all, and Braide warned him, “Don’t you dare try to bring in a lawyer.”
The day after the 15-page contract was put before him, Corus Entertainment, owners of Q107 in Calgary, called DiMonte. A five-year offer; big money. Patti MacNeil remembers being at home on the day she heard DiMonte was moving to Calgary, and thinking, “Cool, someone new in the market, someone I know and like and will listen to.” But then the incumbent morning-show team at Q107 was let go, and the next thing she knew, DiMonte phoned her up and asked what she would say if Corus were to approach her – about teaming up with him.”
Aside from the big features are two video series from Carpenter (all compiled on this page): a documentary of interviews from those same ex-Montrealers (including DiMonte), and some interviews with young students here about their future.
If you’ve never seen Red Bull’s Crashed Ice event, you need an immediate injection of testosterone. Every year, “competitors” in this event gather in Quebec City to “skate” down a 550-metre track whose grade is better suited for tobogganing than anything one would do on skates. (It’s a 56-metre vertical drop, according to this PDF press release).
The point is not important, I guess it’s a race of some sort. The fun is watching everyone crash as the tumble down the ice. And this year, for the first time, they’re opening it up to women.
I think it’s a bit insulting to have an event like this in Quebec City with an English name. I’m sure Red Bull’s marketing people could come up with a bilingual one or a clever French name that would solve this situation easily. (They’ve already done it for Italy’s Toro Rosso F1 team) But this should be a result of grassroots pressure, not government fiat.
Either way, let’s not let the political discussion ruin the fun.
Crashed Ice is being broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in French on TVA and in English on TSN HD.
The Office québécois de la langue française, always looking for fun ways to spend money making anglos feel unwelcome, has started a new campaign to get store owners to place stickers in their windows reassuring people that yes, they speak French. They even got comedian Louis-José Houde to lend his voice to radio ads (because some unfamiliar voice telling you your language is in jeopardy just isn’t good enough).
The campaign is focused mainly on Montreal, but also Gatineau and the Eastern Townships, which are the three places you’re most likely to find anglos in Quebec.
I don’t quite get the point.
By law, all Quebec merchants should serve customers in French. So this sticker would be at best redundant.
The supposed idea is that merchants who don’t show the sticker would not see any francophone customers (or at least no card-carrying members of the St. Jean Baptiste Society). But that would only work once a majority of businesses got the sticker, which won’t happen any time soon no matter how free they are. Indeed, anything that smells of the OQLF would probably be rejected by Montreal businesses who don’t want to rock the boat and make things political for no reason.
Not to mention that searching for stickers would also annoy hard-core francophones who think all businesses should serve people in French (which, again, they’re required by law to do).
So this campaign, which encourages retailers to unnecessarily affirm that they follow the law, and which annoys francophones and anglophones alike, is good for what exactly beyond wasting a bunch of taxpayer money?
Richard Therrien points out that TQS was the only “généraliste” (read: broadcast) network that didn’t broadcast the Quebec leaders’ debate last night.
Well, that’s not exactly true. CBC, CTV and Global didn’t broadcast it either, even though all three are based in Montreal and have a duty to the people to bring these kinds of things to them. So the question is: Why didn’t they? Why wasn’t the debate broadcast on the English networks?
The basic answer, of course, is that it was in French. Rebroadcasting it would have required simultaneous translation, and wouldn’t have had as much of an impact on the voters. But does that mean it’s irrelevant? Unlike the federal leaders’ debate, we don’t have an English version to turn to. That was it. Two hours at a table was all we would get of the leaders facing each other directly, of the networks showing political programming that wasn’t paid for by the parties or filtered through news anchors.
The other argument you could make is that those who wanted to watch the debate could just turn to RadCan or TVA. But if that’s the argument, why bother having “broadcast consortiums” at all? Why not just leave it to Télé-Québec and CBC?
What’s worse is that anglos with cable couldn’t watch the debate translated either. While RDI and LCN carried it live, CBC Newsworld and CTV Newsnet didn’t. Even CPAC didn’t carry it live, though they repeated it later (it’s not on their online schedule, so I can’t tell if it’s being repeated again).
Of course, you could also argue that anglos don’t matter because they’re all going to vote Liberal anyway. So perhaps nobody but me is going to be outraged that a million Quebecers are being left out of this entirely.
But it bothers me that not a single anglophone television network, even those specifically devoted to news, could be bothered to show two hours of a political debate that will affect how this province is governed over the coming years.
Patrick Lagacé put this video up on his blog (so if you read his blog, don’t bother watching it again). He didn’t add much commentary, so I guess he just found it funny.
It’s an old sketch from RBO, which makes fun of anglo TV news, specifically Pulse News (what CFCF’s newscast used to be called before CTV decided local brands were a bad thing).
But much as I admire RBO, I don’t find it funny. Instead, it seems ignorant, bitter and sad.
Part of being able to do a good caricature is knowing your subject well. They got the logo right, and that joke about people in Ottawa going to bed at 8:30 was funny, but that’s about it.
There is plenty of stuff about anglo TV newscasts in Montreal that is very worthy of caricature: Ron Reusch’s pronunciation skills (though they won’t be an issue soon), Todd van der Heyden’s over-the-top gravitas, Lori Graham’s wardrobe, Frank Cavallaro’s zucchinis, Tim Sargeant, Global Quebec’s green-screen studio-in-a-box are just a few examples. A lot of these references are contemporary, but I’m sure there are plenty of similar examples from back when this sketch was made.
And sure, the anglo media is predominantly federalist, fears sovereignty and many people have trouble pronouncing French names. And, as a commenter on Lagacé’s blog points out, it does tend to discount most of Montreal east of St. Laurent.
But instead of understanding the target and eviscerating it where it is most vulnerable, RBO made the same mistake that Culture en péril did: put anglo Montrealers in the same boat as anti-French Albertans, franco-incompetent Ontarians and gun-toting southern U.S. rednecks (it even calls one of its reporters “John Redneck” as if this is somehow funny). It’s insulting name-calling (“Brian Britt” becomes “Brian Twit” – oh, how my sides are splitting).
And yet, it was a hit (a “classic”, even) among other uninformed unilingual anti-English francophones which form their target audience, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
When I watch these sketches from RBO and Prenez Garde Aux Chiens (another group I greatly admire when it does media criticism right), and I see people with incredibly thick francophone accents pretend to be anglos who can’t (and don’t want to) speak French, it seems painfully obvious that they are completely unfamiliar with what they’re targetting, beyond the ill-informed caricature that makes no sense in the first place.
I find it somewhat ironic, at the same time, reading another post from Lagacé in which he says the government shouldn’t be teaching francophones English. I’m fine with that. I’m more than happy to take the job of a unilingual francophone whose government put ideology over proper education in an unavoidably globalized world.
But I just wish some francophones would learn to understand the anglos a bit better. We might find some stuff in common. For example, we both know what it’s like to be a linguistic minority. And they might find we agree on a lot of non-sovereignty-related economic and social issues.
More importantly, anglo TV news is in desperate need of really good satire.
This week, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which represents non-CBC radio and television broadcasters across Canada, awarded its annual Gold Ribbon Awards for “excellence” in broadcasting.
Looking at the list of finalists and especially the winners, it’s clear that Quebec is vastly under-represented here, both on the anglophone and francophone sides. In fact, only one Quebec-based broadcaster won an award, and that was the one specifically for French-language broadcasting. CKMF won the “Humour – French” category for its insanely hilarious Les 2 minutes du peuple.
Looking at the list of finalists, here’s how it stacks up for Montreal and Quebec:
Number of nominations for anglophone Quebec broadcasters: 2
CJAD 800 (Breaking news for Dawson Virginia Tech shooting)
CFCF (Diversity in news and information programming for My Montreal)
Number of nominations for francophone broadcasters outside of French-only categories: 5
Info 690 Montreal (Diversity in news and information programming for Philippe Bonville en Afghanistan)
CJDM 92.1FM Drummondville (Promotion: Audience building for Drummond Matin)
CKMF Énergie 94.3 Montreal (Promotion: Station image for Le week-end des hits perdus)
CFGS Gatineau (Television documentaries for De Gatineau au Kilimandjaro)
CJNT Montreal (Television magazine programming for Le Pont)
Number of categories with no nominations for Quebec-based or francophone broadcasters: 16
Radio community service (large market)
Radio community service (medium market)
Radio community service (small market)
Radio humour (English)
Radio information program
Promotion of Canadian musical talent
What radio does best
Television community service (large market)
Television community service (medium market)
Television community service (small market)
Television entertainment programming
Television fictional programming
Television breaking news
Television special/series and public affairs
Television promotion (station image)
Television promotion (Canadian program/series)
Nominees in the humour (French) category: 5
CFTX-FM, Tag Radio 96,5, RNC MEDIA INC., Gatineau (Katastrophe)
CIGB-FM, Énergie 102,3, Astral Media Inc., Trois-Rivières (C’est l’fun de bonne heure)
CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Les 2 minutes du peuple)
CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Le Retour de Dominic et Martin)
CKMF-FM, Énergie 94,3, Astral Media Inc., Montréal (Salvail Racicot pour Emporter)
Now, let’s compare these numbers to other ones I’ve compiled:
Nominations for broadcasters in Vanvouver: 17
Nominations for broadcasters in B.C. outside of Vancouver: 11
Nominations for broadcasters in Alberta: 12.5*
Nominations for broadcasters in Saskatchewan: 7.5*
Nominations for broadcasters in Toronto: 16
Nominations for broadcasters in Ottawa: 6
* Stupid Lloydminster. Pick a province, we’re at war.
So Quebec’s seven non-token nominations rank Canada’s second-largest province about on par with Saskatchewan, a province with 1/7th our population. Does that sound right?
I’m not including pay and specialty channels here, because Montreal is fairly well represented here through MétéoMédia and Astral Media’s Canal D, Canal Vie, and Ztélé, all based out of Montreal. Astral media ended up winning awards here (two for Canal Vie and one for Ztélé), which I think shows how little original programming Canadian specialty TV contributes.
To the public announcer at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto,
You should be fired. Like, immediately.
Or am I being too demanding in suggesting that someone who works as a public announcer at a hockey game should be able to speak both of Canada’s official languages?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that there were bilingual announcements tonight, but that mockery of the langue de Molière brings shame upon a city that you’d think couldn’t look worse in the eyes of the rest of the country.