Tag Archives: activism

Angryphones and frangryphones

CBC has a story about a new protest by French-superiority groups Impératif français and Mouvement Montréal français: They want to change when “For English, press 9” appears on government-run automatic telephone menus.

As it stands, many government departments have it at the beginning of their menus, so that anglphones don’t have to sit through French options they don’t understand. But the French groups want the option to be read only at the end of the French menus.

I honestly have no words to express how stupid this is. Arguing over automatic telephone menu orders is trivial enough, but what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Save time for francophones who have to endure that two-second delay? Help anglophones learn French by forcing them to sit through menu options?

No, this is just a pointless power grab and pissing contest. And unfortunately for us, the government actually listened. So if you have to wait through a five-minute list of menu options before finding out what number to press to get English service, you know who to blame.

Shouldn’t journalists correct wrong information?

During the CBC News at Six report on this scandal, it featured a few man-on-the-street soundbites from Montrealers about the issue. Naturally, the people interviewed said what the journalists could not: That this is a stupid issue to focus on and people should get a life.

But one of the interviewees defended the English language (because in Quebec, English needs a defence), saying it was the most commonly-spoken language in the world.

Of course, as any knower-of-pointless-facts would tell you, that’s incorrect. Mandarin (Chinese), with over a billion speakers, is spoken by more than twice as many people as English (which is second or third with over 300-500 million, depending on your source). French is ranked in the teens with 130 million (60 million natively).

But this apparent misinformation went uncorrected by the journalist. Why? Did she not know this (in which case, why didn’t she confirm it?), or are statements from random people on the street not subject to the same fact-checking treatment as those from journalists?

Quebec Office of the English Language

Another thing mentioned on the CBC evening news today was the creation of the Office québécois de la langue anglaise, a bad joke grass-roots English rights group that hopes to pressure businesses into providing bilingual services. Considering the word “racism” appears on their forum, you can guess what kind of people this website is attracting. No doubt it will serve to hurt its cause more than it helps, by propagating the angryphone stereotype.

(UPDATE: Patrick Lagacé and his commenters have some things to say about this new group)

UPDATE (Nov. 10): We should send the Anglo Rights Brigade to Laval University, where it seems they’re clearly needed.

9/11 truth exposed!

I’ve always been skeptical of the official explanation of 9/11. I mean, fire causing a building to collapse? When has that ever happened? And the official explanation that the towers fell so fast because the lower floors provided minimal resistance to all the higher floors falling down on them at once doesn’t make any sense either. It’s obvious that the government secretly put explosives in the buildings, detonating them after planes had crashed into them, then later secretly removed all traces of evidence from the rubble, so that the casualties could be limited to a magic number between 2,500 and 3,000. Obviously.

Well now, a local group called Montreal 9/11 Truth has proved once and for all that the World Trade Centre collapse was deliberate using the best scientific means available: asking a bunch of laypeople at a metro station what they think.

George W. Bush’s resignation in disgrace can be expected within the hour.

Making the case for a quieter Toupin Blvd.

This week I spoke with Nicolas Stone, a resident of Cartierville three houses away from Toupin Blvd., who is one of many in that area opposed to a northern extension of Cavendish Blvd. The plan would connect Cavendish, through a new development in Bois Franc, to Henri-Bourassa Blvd. at Toupin Blvd.

Toupin Blvd. … not so whiny

The residents (whom I dubbed “concerned citizens” as you see above) oppose it for the obvious reason that it would turn Toupin Blvd. into a throughway (even though there’s nothing beyond the neighbourhood — the closest bridges to Laval are at Marcel-Laurin to the east and Highway 13 to the west).

Stone (a husband with three hyperactive toddlers I found after he made a comment on this blog) makes a compelling case. His concerns mainly revolve around philosophical objections to creating more roads and encouraging single-passenger traffic. He takes public transit to work and used to bike everywhere.

He was a good sport about the interview, even when I flat-out accused him of being part of the problem by contributing to urban sprawl.

Mouvement Montréal français is right about Second Cup

A protest by members of Mouvement Montréal Français yesterday has prompted Second Cup (in one of the shortest press releases I’ve seen in quite a while) to announce offhandedly mention that it will review its policy concerning its signs.

The tiff was caused when the coffee giant decided it would remove “Les Cafés” from its coffee shop’s signs and just become “Second Cup”. They can do this, despite Bill 101, because Second Cup is a registered trademarked, like McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Future Shop.

MMF wasn’t happy with this. So they protested. No firebombing or anything like that, but they held signs and asked people to take their patronage elsewhere (Starbucks? Java U? Tim Horton’s? Dunkin Donuts?)

Good for them.

I’m no fan of Bill 101, and I oppose government over-regulation of commercial signs. But this isn’t government regulation, it’s regular citizens expressing their right to free expression in attempting to get a company to change its ways. Second Cup’s signs should be French not because the government forces it on them, but because it’s respecting the population to speak to them in their language. Imagine having English-only signs in China, or Spanish-only signs in the U.S. It’s understandable for a mom-and-pop operation or a store in an ethnic village, but for a major company it’s a slap in the face to French-speaking Quebecers.

Second Cup’s move was just plain stupid. It’s not like nobody recognizes “Second Cup” when it’s “Les Cafés Second Cup”. Instead, this smacks of a decision made by a clueless manager who has far too much free time on his hands and doesn’t know anything about Quebec politics.

Hopefully they’ll come to their senses and leave “Les Cafés Second Cup” alone.

The penny isn’t free

You know, I thought our government had some common sense when it came to copyright and intellectual property laws.

BoingBoing and BlogTO point to a complaint from the City of Toronto’s One Cent Now campaign for getting one cent out of the six-cent-per-dollar GST to be given to cities. Apparently the Royal Canadian Mint considers the design of the penny and the words “one cent” to be its property and is charging the campaign over $47,000 for the right to use them on its website.

Because the Mint is a crown corporation and not government directly, it can own intellectual property and charge for its use, even when that property is literally in the hands and pockets of millions of people.

In the U.S. and other countries, they don’t have this problem. Unless an image on a coin was licensed from an artist (say, it was a portrait of Elvis or something), it’s considered public domain and people can use them as they wish (so long as they’re not counterfeiting).

Even if the Mint is right in asserting its control over the image on the penny (and I don’t think it should), its request is ridiculous. No one will mistake the One Cent Now site for that of the Canadian Mint, and they’re not selling T-shirts with the penny on them. It’s political speech, and they’re justified in calling this a slap in the face.

UPDATE (Oct. 9): Datalibre.ca makes the case that even if the image of the penny was subject to copyright, it expired years ago.

Turcot project should please everyone, but doesn’t

This week in St. Henri there was a public consultation meeting for the Ministry of Transport’s Turcot project, which will see the Turcot Interchange (Highways 15, 20 and 720) reconstructed primarily at ground-level (saving money for maintenance, clearing some views and helping easing tensions of driving through an intersection built on decaying stilts).

The project would also see reconstruction of Highway 15/20 through Ville Emard (which would be lowered significantly now that giant ships aren’t passing through the Lachine Canal anymore), and more interestingly Highway 20 through Turcot Yards, which would be moved next to the Falaise St-Jacques along with new train tracks:

Turcot Yards redevelopment

This would free up a giant lot to be developed (though nobody’s come up with a good idea of what to do on it).

Though the MTQ has been holding consultation meetings, there are organized protests against the project, most notably from the Village des Tanneries, a small neighbourhood in western St. Henri whose residents are afraid their homes will be expropriated by the government and they’ll be stuck without fair value for them.

Other concerns include:

  • That the Falaise St-Jacques, a protected eco-territory, will be made inaccessible by putting a highway and railway next to it. (Of course, it’s already inaccessible, mostly because it sits on a cliff.)
  • That residents in neighbouring cities and boroughs (Westmount, NDG, Montreal West, Lachine, Sud-Ouest, Ville-Marie, Verdun, etc.) are not being sufficiently consulted by their municipal and borough governments.
  • That not enough is being done to ease traffic on local streets, especially in Montreal West (where a new highway access from Brock Ave. is being planned), Ville Emard’s Cabot neighbourhood (where accesses are being reworked to the 15/20 at de la Verendrye to simplify access to industrial areas for trucks), and NDG (where the MUHC is being built at the old Glen yard with no apparent direct access to the highway, and where the St-Jacques onramp to Highway 720 East is being made more complicated).

But when it comes down to it, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. A giant space will be made available and nobody will have to cross a highway to get there. The highway will have a natural barrier on one side, eliminating the need to make those ugly artificial sound walls on that side. And it’ll be much cheaper and easier to maintain the highest-trafficked highway interchange in Quebec.

It should be an extremely popular project. Unfortunately, citizens are getting short-changed at public meetings. This is entirely the boroughs’ faults. They’re saying it’s the MTQ’s problem and cutting off debate at council meetings, without mentioning that the MTQ is coming to the boroughs to take the pulse of citizens’ issues.

Let’s not let bureaucracy get in the way of progress, shall we? Let’s work together to make this work and see the creation of a new neighbourhood when this is all done… in 2015. Maybe.

Oh the poor oppressed Quebec white man

Did you know we live in a plutocracy?

Michel Brûlé knows it. He knows the big Quebec media is out to get real Quebecers. La Presse is friends with Jean Charest, Radio-Canada is “radio propaganda”, CBC has Don Cherry.

And more importantly, English Canadians are in bed with U.S. Americans because we watch their TV shows and we’re pro-war or something.

Oh, and we’re under control of “U.S. feminists”, who have convinced Quebec’s women that they have to go after all men, when in fact it’s just the English-speaking ones who are oppressing them. (He insists, meanwhile, that objectifying women is OK because he finds them very pretty — but only in ads for sex shops, not beer.) He also says Quebec women are too stupid to realize the need for Quebec independence to free it from the English Canadians, because they only voted 45% yes in the 1995 referendum while men voted 55% yes.

This is what he explains, in his opening videos (which I can’t link to*) to Les Dents du Québec.TV, his new citizen media website.

His thesis: (French) Quebec men and women must band together and end the battle of the sexes so they can fight their real enemy: the English language.

I’m all for citizen media, and giving people the right to express the opinion that the French language is endangered in this province. And his point about how much American TV we watch concerns me as well.

But I’d take him a bit more seriously if most of his ideas didn’t make him look like the other side of the Reform Party coin.

* Seriously folks, what’s with all these video sites that don’t allow people to link directly to the videos? That’s not even Web 2.0, it’s the kind of bone-headedly simple hyperlink technology that gave birth to the Internet in the first place.

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Maclean’s student activism series focuses on Concordia

Kate Lunau, a former Concordia journalism student (who interned at The Gazette last summer) writes Part 1 of a Maclean’s series on student activism, which focuses on Concordia University and the risk assessment committee which is headed by its VP services and … uhh … “doesn’t exist” according to the university.

It quotes David Bernans, the professional student behind the crusade against this secret committee after it “mistakenly” stopped a reading from his book last year.

It also mentions my alma mater, The Link, and its editorial demanding more transparency in the university’s handling of security issues.

Facebook does not fear Infoman

Yves Williams has a YouTube video of Infoman Jean-René Dufort saying we need to destroy Facebook. As if it somehow furthers that point, he created a profile for wanted murderer Sylvain Vincent and got Justin Trudeau to add him as a friend.

I guess we shouldn’t take Mr. Dufort too seriously, since his Facebook profile has almost 100 “friends” as well.

UPDATE (Sept. 26): Jean-René Dufort… Dominic Arpin… seduction… leather…  

Howard Galganov is still an idiot

Hey, remember Howard Galganov? He’s that anglo-rights crusader who was popular back in the 90s, ran for office a bunch of times (and lost) and eventually gave up on our province and moved to Ontario.

Well, Howard doesn’t let silly provincial boundaries stop him from opining, which he does now through his website. His latest diatribe talks about the declining anglophone population in Quebec, and he blames it on what’s clearly the most logical source: the anglophone media. (Except The Suburban and CIQC.)

His diatribe is long and venom-filled with overuse of the words “sell-out”, “racist” and other insults, so I’ll boil down his arguments:

  1. They wanted to be nice. Their refusal to let slip the dogs of war and stab at government with their pens was surely a missed opportunity.
  2. They didn’t support “anglo rights leaders”. Translation: They didn’t support me. As if the leaders deserve support regardless of whether their positions are sound.
  3. They’re like Jews who supported the Nazis. Nothing quite like a Holocaust simile to get a point across when everything else fails.
  4. Some say we should celebrate Bill 101’s anniversary. That’s simplifying the issue a bit. The Gazette’s opinion, for example, is that Bill 101 was a compromise that ensured linguistic peace. And even then, it also carried an opinion piece from Robert Libman saying it was devastating to the anglo community. CFCF’s Barry Wilson certainly hasn’t strayed from the anglo rights beat, and CBC doesn’t really have an opinion section.
  5. They called me “Angryphone”. That’s because you’re always angry.
  6. They equated me with francophone terrorists. Really? Has anyone called you a terrorist? You’re a radical on one side, just like Impératif Français are radicals on the other side. You may disagree with where the middle is supposed to be, but that’s something you have to live with.
  7. They didn’t sponsor rallies to raise money for lawsuits against the government. Is that really the role of the media? They raise money for literacy, but they tend to take a back seat to, you know, actually trying to change the law.
  8. They never said ethnocentric nationalism is wrong. I don’t see it that way. They routinely make the point of saying that the anglo and immigrant communities are important to Quebec. They were pretty united against the stupidity in Herouxville.

Galganov’s solution to the problem is simple and stupid: Have all the anglos and immigrants leave, shut down tourism and watch as their economy self-destructs.

Howard doesn’t seem to understand the problem. It’s not that Quebec doesn’t understand the value of its English-speaking citizens, though they do take us for granted. It’s that many anglophones are leaving the province because they can’t be bothered to learn some French.

In other words, the problem is people like Howard Galganov.

Unions can be sued for protest inconvenience

A judge has ruled that a 2003 blue-collar protest which tied up traffic downtown inconvenienced Montrealers significantly enough that they should be compensated. In a judgement on a class-action suit from Boris Coll, the judge ordered the union to give $1.16 million to charity (determining individual compensation was deemed too impractical).

Reaction has been mixed. The Gazette calls it a victory for regular people who should be able to travel freely without inconvenient traffic jams. Dennis Trudeau, meanwhile, worries about future protesters getting sued because their marches might cause traffic disruption.

Both sides have reasonable points, but I have to side with Trudeau. A traffic jam is an inconvenience, but there’s no constitutional right to free roadways. There is, however, a right to assemble, protest and express yourselves on political issues. The latter right should take precedence.

Protesters already wear masks and keep their routes secret because they fear police repression. Making these things actionable is just going to drive them further into lawlessness and make those protesters angrier.

Uprising 2?

The folks at the McGill chapter Quebec Public Interest Research Group (read: hippie anarchists) have produced an “alternative” student agenda with activist propaganda.

Called “School Schmool” (education is a tool of the proletariat!), it commemorates the invention of the pipe bomb and encourages vandalism of advertisements.

Those of us with long memories might remember “Uprising“, the 2001 Concordia student agenda, which had a similar ultra-activist slant, titles in Broken Typewriter font for that extra edge, the same “alternative” calendar anniversary notes, and encouraged people to vandalize advertisements, dismantle the capitalist system by firing their “bo$$e$” (l33t!), squat in abandoned buildings, steal expensive cars to take for joy rides and then crash into other expensive cars and setup pirate radio stations.

It also, of course, demonized Israel, the U.S., the media, the university, police, heterosexuals, capitalism and just about any large company.

Unfortunately for Concordia’s student handbook, it was released in September 2001, which was pretty horrible timing. It eventually helped lead to an unprecedented student revolt that took the student union’s executive out of office. (This one probably won’t generate a reaction on the same level, if only because it wasn’t the official student union agenda.)

Like all stupid student ideas, after five years when everyone’s graduated, they start repeating themselves. Embezzlement of student funds, patronage appointments, election fraud, all tend to come and go on a five-year cycle. As do all the election promises that later turn out to be too complicated to accomplish or too impractical to be worth the time.

Arresting the homeless doesn’t cure homelessness

Kate points me to this Hour story about the increasing pressure placed on homeless people in this city. Banning dogs from parks. Banning people from parks overnight. Ticketing people for sleeping in the metro.

At the end of the article is mentioned a new tactic being used: forcing people who have been arrested to sign a document promising to stay out of the area as a condition of their release. The problem, of course, is that services aimed at the homeless are right there. (I’ve seen this technique used for other annoyances the police can’t get rid of legally: They tried to make activists Jaggi Singh, Samer Elatrash and Yves Engler sign  agreements that he wouldn’t participate in protests.)

I passed a woman begging at a metro station today. A friend gave her some spare change, despite it being clear from the woman’s behaviour that she was a drug abuser and that the money would probably go to feeding her habit. I didn’t. I don’t give money to beggars for exactly that reason.

But for crying out loud, let these people sleep in peace. If you’re worried about crime and drug use, put more police officers on duty and arrest people who are breaking the law. But nobody should be declared illegal just because you find them icky. And so-called “loitering” laws (loitering means “doing nothing”, which is the one right above all others that nobody should take away) should be done away with.

Our government is failing its poorest citizens. That’s an issue that needs to be tackled directly, not swept under the rug in the hopes it becomes some other borough’s problem.