Tag Archives: activism

Is poutine offensive?

The Canadian embassy in Washington is apologizing to Impératif français, among others, after it used a photoshopped picture of Samuel de Champlain holding a poutine on invites (now scrubbed of the poutine offensiveness) to Canada Day celebrations. IF reacted to the image with their usual measured response.

Perhaps I missed something in Political Correctness 101, but what’s so offensive about this again? Is it some stereotype that we eat poutine? Is it because the image of Champlain was sullied in some way?

Frankly, I think the fact that Canadian Press had to explain what poutine was is offensive to me.

Do it for Oscar

Because they have nothing better to do, Mike Citrome’s band of history-rewriters are to descend on the Sud-Ouest borough council meeting tonight to demand they change the name of Lionel-Groulx metro to Oscar Peterson, a campaign that has already gained national attention because it’s being organized on (gasp) Facebook.

Date: Tuesday, March 4
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Sud-Ouest borough hall
815 rue Bel-Air, about three blocks west of the station

And if you can’t come up with an opinion on your own, feel free to check out what other random uninformed people think.

No word yet on whether there will be a counter-protest from the anti-name-change group.

Previously: Oscar Peterson metro won’t be easy to accomplish

The McKibbin’s kinda-non-story

I should give fair play to Jamie Orchard. My last post about her blog was unflattering. But her latest post, about the whole McKibbin’s language-police debacle, is much more interesting:

The OLF insists that all the owner has to do is write back and explain that the signs are artifacts. In fact, when the OLF saw our TV footage of the signs, they said right away the case could be solved easily – here’s the quote from Gerald Paquette:

There are many Irish pubs in Quebec that have these kinds of artifacts and they have all asked for an exception.”

We told this to the owner of the pub on Thursday, and he seemed relieved. But then, on Friday, the co-owner of the pub was on talk radio insisting that he would have to go to court to fight this, making a big show of inviting the premier to his pub to look at the signs, insisting he would refuse to pay the fine. He was getting all the sympathy in the world from the host, from the callers, from everyone, and never once did he mention it could all be solved with a simple letter.

I like this post (especially compared to the previous one) for two reasons:

  1. It’s a simple, rational, thought-out opinion rather than an uninformed reactionary “stupid OLF” rant
  2. It brings some new information to the table (Global’s conversation with the bar’s owner) that is perfectly placed in a journalist’s blog.

I’m not going to leave the OLF (actually the OQLF) off the hook entirely, since they did, in fact, bring up these signs in their complaint (which was from a customer who said he wasn’t served in French and an outdoor menu was in English only).

But it’s clear the media (and I have to include myself here, since I edited the big article in Friday’s Gazette about it) played up the signs and outrage campaign while burying the other complaints and the comments from the OQLF that they could easily get an exemption. (Second-day stories are pointing these things out, but that wouldn’t have been necessary if they weren’t buried in the first place.)

And McKibbin’s owners are clearly using this as an excuse to launch an anti-OQLF publicity campaign to boost anglo business and line their pockets with outrage money (or just get their name in the news). They’ve already got a Facebook group. And another. And another. And another. And another.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

UPDATE (Feb. 27): A video on YouTube shows the original letter from the OQLF to McKibbin’s, which clearly is much more about the posters than the office later suggested to reporters. Also plenty of discussion on some franco forums.

TWIM: Griffintown and telemarketers

This week’s Justify Your Existence features a slew of “urban planning geeks” who met a few weeks ago to discuss the proposed redevelopment of Griffintown, a sad-looking area just south of downtown. They met at the behest of A.J. Kandy, who runs the Save Griffintown blog and lives in nearby Little Burgundy.

Proposed Griffintown redevelopment

They’re not opposed to the project necessarily. It would revitalize the area, be entirely privately-funded, and provide a lot of housing (social and otherwise). But they’re concerned about its proposed size, which would put an entire neighbourhood under the control of a single real estate company, and some measures they think will encourage car use and discourage pedestrian traffic. (Big box stores like Wal-Mart, for example, take forever to walk around and provide nothing but a brick wall for most of its street-level facade.)

They prefer a mixed environment that’s seen all over downtown Montreal: Commercial establishments at street level, with housing above. They also want more consultation with residents, a promise not to expropriate land, and a cookie.

(UPDATE Dec. 30: Kate mentions formatting problems. Unfortunately, The Gazette hasn’t been able to steal Chimples away to run their copy-paste online operation … yet.)

(UPDATE Dec. 31: AJ has a post on Save Griffintown going into more detail about where they are now.)

(UPDATE Jan. 4: I totally missed it (and I think everyone else did too), but coincidentally in the same issue, J.D. Gravenor interviews Griffintown residents Chris Gobeil and Judith Bauer about their place. Both were part of the urban planning geeks and Gobeil is quoted in my article.)

Also this week is a bluffer’s guide to Canada’s Do Not Call registry. Bell was awarded the contract to run the list (as the sole bidder), and now we’re left wondering if the fox is guarding the chicken coop. The list, which will be free and binding on telemarketers who aren’t charities, politicians or newspapers (haha, suckers) is to be up and running by Sept. 30, 2008.

UPDATE (Jan. 23): Chris Gobeil and Judith Bauer have an op/ed in Le Devoir about Griffintown’s future.

The Toupin Blvd. “solution”

Faced with growing opposition from local residents, the city has come up with a solution to the northern Cavendish extension to Henri-Bourassa Blvd.: Fudge it.

Toupin “solution”

The solution to the problem of traffic barrelling down Toupin Blvd. toward a non-existent bridge to Laval would be to simply disallow it. Traffic heading north on Cavendish would be forced to turn left (toward Highway 13) or right (toward Marcel-Laurin Blvd., Route 117), the nearest roads with bridges to Laval. Traffic heading south would be unrestricted.

Meanwhile, a couple of “environmentally friendly” additions to the plan include reducing the width from three lanes to two in each direction (Toupin is two lanes, Cavendish is three), and adding bicycle paths in both directions (which is great and all, but they don’t go anywhere on either side).

If only bus drivers had writers like these

Via Martine, the WGA, the American writers union which is currently holding us hostage by denying us House-isms on strike for the rights to more than mere pennies from DVD sales and all of nothing from online publishing of TV shows and movies, isn’t lying down or holding useless marches with picket signs. They’re creating media to rally support for their cause.

In essence, it’s a tactic we’ve seen before but on a much larger scale. When CBC employees were locked out in 2005, they started producing blogs and podcasts to keep communication going. After it was over, the blogger for CBC Unlocked, Tod Maffin, was given the job of running Inside the CBC, a decidedly uncorporate, uncensored blog about the inner life of the Mother Corp., with its blessing.

Locked-out journalists at the Journal de Québec are still, since April, putting out a competing daily newspaper as part of their pressure tactics. The move has rallied support among other unions (who have helped them financially) politicians and newsmakers (who refuse to deal with Canoe reporters, a fly-by-night “wire services” and other scabs) and readers (who have cancelled subscriptions and are picking up the competing paper).

With Hollywood, the tactic that’s getting the most play is online video (ironic since the dispute is over how little they get paid for online video). Writers for popular shows like The Office, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have been cracking jokes on YouTube, and the actors are coming out to support them. Some like McDreamy and co. talk calmly about the issues, others like Sarah Silverman make the funny, and then there’s Sandra Oh.

The latest campaign, called “Speechless“, involves short black-and-white clips of actors in a world without scriptwriters. Most of them are of the actor-stands-blank-faced-and-says-nothing variety. Others are pretty funny. There’s a new one every day.

Some of my favourites below:

Continue reading

Screaming matches are not interviews

A memo to Jean-Luc Mongrain:

Acting like Bill O’Reilly doesn’t make you a better interviewer. When you invite a leader of the student protest movement on your show and yell at him like a madman, it doesn’t make people agree with your position more. In fact, people already agree with your position that protesters provoke police and that the tuition hikes are modest and don’t necessitate this kind of response.

So why are you yelling like a baby who thinks nobody is listening to him? You invited the guy on your show to speak his mind. At least let him speak.

Mongrain Clenche Porte Parole Etudiant 50 Dollar
Uploaded by mediawatchqc

UPDATE (Nov. 19): Mongrain’s contract expires next spring, and he doesn’t seem worried about his future.

UPDATE (Nov. 20): via Patrick Lagacé comes this example of classic Mongrain:

Santa parade, zombies on Saturday

The “First Annual Zombie Walk“, which has been rescheduled at least twice by my count (I first talked about it in September), looks like it’s finally going to happen this Saturday, a few blocks away from the Santa Claus parade.

The zombies are to meet up outside the de Maisonneuve entrance to Dawson College (3040 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., metro Atwater) at noon. From there, they’ll take an unannounced course and walk zombily around downtown. There are currently no plans to interfere directly with the parade, though there are bound to be some crowd overlaps.

The parade, meanwhile, takes the Standard Downtown Parade Route, starting at Fort and Ste. Catherine and going east until St. Urbain. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and is expected to run until about 2 p.m.

Santa Parade and zombies

For an example of what a zombie walk looks like, you can check out this video of a similar walk in Trois-Rivières in September.

The zombie walk has a goal of promoting environmentalism, and has gotten form letters of support from the office of Al Gore and David Suzuki (though the latter wrote his brief letter by hand). It’s still unclear how zombies are going to help the environment.

At least one after party is already planned, though its location is being kept secret.

For more information on the Zombie walk, consult its Facebook page. (Or, if you have moral objections to Facebook, just ask me and I’ll see if I can find out.)

Honesty is the best journalistic policy

La Presse’s Paul Journet has a story on a journalist for TVA, Karine Champagne, whose three sons attend École Horizon-Soleil. That’s where a 12-year-old boy with a congenital heart defect died after being shoved on the schoolyard by an 11-year-old girl.

Champagne acted first as a mother, giving interviews to journalists complaining about the school’s response to the incident. The next day, she talked about the incident on TV as a journalist.

The article presents this as a journalistic faux-pas, but I’m not so sure. Is it wrong for a journalist to report on something merely because they’ve expressed an opinion about it?

It’s an issue I’m wrestling with, as I both comment on and write about stories that interest me. I try to keep an open mind, I welcome opposing viewpoints, and I like to learn new things. I believe in respecting conflicts of interest (so, for example, I won’t write about a family member’s business without disclosing the relationship), but does having an opinion represent a conflict in itself?

A Wired article explores journalists who blog, and a key sentence in it struck with me:

Reporters are people, too (really), and just because they express opinions doesn’t mean their reporting should be dismissed out of hand, as long as they arrive at their conclusions honestly, through rigorous reporting.

Honesty is something I think has been forgotten in all the talk of journalistic ethics. It means a lot of things:

  • Explaining how you come to your opinions instead of hiding them
  • Being honest to yourself by accepting the fact that you might be wrong
  • Not pledging allegiance to any one group or cause, surrendering your objectivity to the whims of their leaders
  • Not being afraid to disclose things about you that may affect how your reporting is perceived
  • Being self-critical, and being able to admit to yourself when your objectivity has been too tarnished by personal involvement in an issue that you can’t tackle it fairly as a journalist
  • Not being afraid to bite the hand that feeds you (a rule broken by many journalists who keep quiet about their employers for fear of being fired)
  • Allowing people who disagree with you to speak for themselves

I’m sure there are others.

I’m not one of those “objectivity doesn’t exist so don’t bother” people. I believe in fairness, and in not allowing your opinions to interfere with your journalism when you write about an issue. I believe in asking questions to learn instead of talking to people you already agree with. But I also believe that people can only believe what you tell them when they can trust you. And in order for them to trust you, you have to be honest.

The most important thing you have to be honest about as a journalist is how you think.

But enough of me. What do you think? Am I completely wrong about this?

More cries of “police brutality”

As predictable as the sun’s rotation around the Earth, the militant student group ASSÉ, which is on “strike” this week against the unfreezing of tuition (despite the fact that most of its members are CEGEP students who don’t pay tuition), started a fight with riot police during one of their protests and is crying “police brutality”.

It’s not that I think there aren’t any rotten eggs in the police department, or that their tactics aren’t a bit heavy-handed when it comes to protesters (fully-armored riot cops don’t exactly have to fear for their lives against kids), but at some point the boy has to stop crying “wolf”. Especially when the protesters are the ones starting the fights.

The tuition debate is over

As if to deliberately underscore how chaotic and disorganized the student activist movement is, two separate, competing protests are being organized over the next two weeks concerning tuition and accessibility of higher education.

The first, by the CEGEP-heavy, highly militant unlimited-strike-at-the-tip-of-a-hat ASSÉ, is this Thursday afternoon. (The event’s tagline is telling: “Parce que la lutte continue, tabarnak !!!”)

The second, by the bigger-budget, more organized PR-savvy FEUQ, is the following Thursday.

The reason behind the two protests is nothing more complicated than the two groups engaging in a pissing contest with each other. Rather than put aside their differences and come together, student groups prefer to fight and sue each other.

But even if this wasn’t the case, the protest is pointless for one simple reason: They’ve already lost the battle.

In the last provincial election, Liberal leader Jean Charest made it abundantly clear he intended to unfreeze tuition and raise it by a small amount. ADQ leader Mario Dumont even wanted to go further. Those two parties took over 2/3 of the seats in the National Assembly.

The public, meanwhile, made it very clear that keeping Quebec’s tuition the lowest in Canada is not their top priority. Even some students think our tuition is too low, and would prefer to see more student money go into the education system.

These protests (and the laughable “unlimited general strike”, which hurts no one but the few students participating in it) are organized on the assumption that the public supports them. But it doesn’t. And tying up downtown traffic so that some hippies can yell how $200 a course is too much to pay for university education isn’t going to help their cause at all. It will just piss people off and make them think that these students have far too much free time on their hands that they could be spending earning money to lessen their tuition load.

The tuition debate is over as far as the government is concerned. If you’re going to try to revolutionize the way Quebec finances post-secondary education, you have to convince the voters to think like you. That means a big, honest education campaign, not a protest.

And don’t hold your breath expecting attitudes to change overnight.