Tag Archives: Bouchard-Taylor-Commission

Gazette was (mostly) fair with Bouchard-Taylor scoop

The Quebec Press Council has ruled that The Gazette acted properly in its scoop of the year last year, getting its hands on a final draft of the Bouchard-Taylor report before any other news outlet.

When the Gazette published excerpts of the report (though not its conclusions), it elicited a lot of anger and hostility from hard-core separatists and francophone media who accused it of misleading the public even before the report was issued. Having failed to get the scoop themselves, La Presse, the Journal, Le Devoir and Radio-Canada tried to raise doubts about the paper’s take.

A week later, when the report was released, it turned out the Gazette got it right. Even then, other media (you know, the ones who put “EXCLUSIF” and “EN PRIMEUR” before every headline) questioned whether the leak was irresponsible, as if knowing the rather obvious conclusions of the commission on reasonable accommodation ahead of time would somehow undermine it.

The QPC process took longer than the media analysis. The panel rejected any notion of racism or irresponsibility that had been alleged by anglo-haters Jean Dorion and Gilles Rhéaume. It did, however, uphold a charge that the Gazette “misled the public with respect to the real value and importance that should be given to the information published.” In other words, pretending it was a bigger deal than it really was. The Gazette is appealing that part of the ruling (UPDATE July 24: The Gazette’s appeal has been rejected).

No one’s holding their breath waiting for corrections and apologies.

Bouchard-Taylor love wasting paper (literally)

So as I was taking a short break from doing my job yesterday, I downloaded this report that everyone’s talking about, in its original French. I expected a long report taking up far more paper than is necessary, and I wasn’t disappointed.

But I noticed something on one of the pages of the report:

I thought that was funny because the report had so many blank pages in it, to serve as bookends for the title pages. I did a quick count of the blank pages and mentioned to my boss that of the 310 pages in the report, 34 were entirely blank (not a single dot of ink).

She asked me to give her a couple of paragraphs saying that, and it turned into the shortest article I’ve ever written, in today’s paper. (It was a bit longer than that to begin with, but it was cut down for space, and also because it went on a bit too long, by a ruthless copy editor who ironically turned out to be myself).

Admittedly, both the environmental policies and the blank pages are common practice in government reports. The Johnson Commission report (PDF) has a similar notice (though it actually calculates how much of the planet you’re saving), and also has blank pages (though not as many).

Without the blank pages and title pages (including pages that repeat the title page or just include photos of the commission chairs, but not including the environmental/copyright notice above which is on an otherwise blank page), the Bouchard-Taylor report would have 60 fewer pages, for a 19% reduction in paper use.

Wouldn’t that have been better for the environment?

Judging the Gazette scoop

On Wednesday, Alain Dubuc took the Gazette Bouchard-Taylor scoop as an excuse to philosophize about the nature of pre-emptive document leaks and ask whether they’re good for society:

Cette question est la suivante: en quoi le public est-il mieux servi quand un média rend publique une information quelques heures ou quelques jours avant qu’elle ne soit diffusée de toute façon?

He argues in La Presse that the Bouchard-Taylor leak was a bad one, because it emphasized things that were not core to the report (like having francophones learn more English). He thinks whoever leaked it did so to embarrass or usurp the commission.

I’m thinking Alain Dubuc hasn’t seen The West Wing. (You can get it weekdays on CLT, though that channel isn’t useful for anything else sadly.) There, he’d learn that leaks are commonplace in government just before a big announcement in order to “soften up the ground” and prepare people.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that leaking to the anglo paper was a calculated effort to do just that, knowing it would pounce on the controversial aspects (especially about language) and that the report itself would seem tame by comparison. (I haven’t talked to Jeff Heinrich because he’s too cool for me and I doubt he’d leak through this blog something he wouldn’t say in the paper)

So was the scoop wrong? Inaccurate? Misleading? Some people think so.

I’m not in a position to judge, both because I work for The Gazette and because I haven’t had time to read the report in its entirety.

But La Presse’s André Pratte has read the report, and he thinks my paper did a good job.

UPDATE (May 24): EiC Andrew Phillips cites Pratte’s blog post in saying the paper didn’t have a nefarious agenda.

Stage 2: Anger

The media’s feelings toward The Gazette have started to move from Stage 1, denial (“if what The Gazette says is true”) to their predictable second stage, anger:

The bargaining stage seems to have failed, with the government saying it will only release the report on Thursday (though it was initially to be made public on Friday). The depression stage will continue until then, as the media have to continually attribute all their information to a competing newspaper.

That just leaves acceptance.

Meanwhile, as this news starts hitting the funny pages elsewhere, The Gazette has put PDFs of its partial drafts online (margin notes, reporters’ food stains and all): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Expect analyses tomorrow of anything the paper has missed or gotten wrong.

UPDATE: Jim Duff has some thoughts on this as well.

The reasonable accommodation debate begins again

The Gazette’s Jeff Heinrich today has an OMGEXCLUSIVE!!!!11 on the salient facts that will make their way into the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report. It’s in a bunch of parts:

  • The main story, which boils down the conclusions to: learn about immigrants (especially Muslims) and be nice to them; and learn more English
  • A list of common fallacies in arguments against accommodation
  • A sidebar on the need to learn more English, which will no doubt be interpreted not as “we need to be more multilingual like world-leading countries” but as “we need to surrender to the unilingual anglos who will enslave us”
  • Some comments from members of the commission not named Bouchard or Taylor
  • Criticisms from UQAM prof and commission adviser Jacques Beauchemin, calling the report a “whitewash”

There’s also a piece noting that Taylor has been named one of the world’s top 100 public thinkers, an editorial praising the commissioners, a soundoff forum for people’s comments, and a post-publication reaction story from the premier (he’s not saying anything) and others, including Mouvement Montréal français (I won’t spoil the surprise)

I don’t know how Heinrich obtained the parts of the report he bases his stories on (maybe he found them in a cab?), but I’m sure plenty of ink will be spilled noting that it was the anglo paper that got the scoop on a commission report that says we should learn English.

Meanwhile, my bosses are (insert disgusting metaphor for happiness here) that the competition is all over talking about their scoop (it was even in Le Monde!). Patrick Lagacé blogs about it (and the comments give a pretty good idea of why this commission was needed in the first place). Maisonneuve also has (coincidentally) a story about the commission from yesterday.

My take

Anyone who expected the commission report to magically solve the issue is clearly fooling themselves. It simply won’t do that. So then the question becomes what we spent all that money on. Was it just a chance for people from the régions to vent about immigrants they’ve never met? Or was it something to clearly define what the issues are so we can slowly work through them? Either way, expect a lot of people to be angry.

And anger is what the commission brought out more than anything else. It made racism, xenophobia and all sorts of discrimination acceptable and normal by allowing people a forum to express it.

As the Habs riot showed us, crowds are like children. Without proper discipline, they revert to the intelligence of an infant.

This problem isn’t unique to Quebec. The U.S. has the same issue with immigration: the media and politicians practice open discrimination, and that makes it acceptable for everyone else to do the same.

One of the knee-jerk reactions we’ve already seen is that francophones are the ones expected to do the accommodating while anglos don’t have to change. I don’t think that’s the point. Anglos already have to learn French here, otherwise they won’t get jobs in public service (outside of Fairview anyway). Statistics show that those who are bilingual make far more than their unilingual counterparts, anglo or franco. So the solution is to make sure both language groups get education in both languages, no?

I think there’s an even more fundamental issue that wasn’t explored here, and one that would have pissed francophone activists off more than anything else: Is it still in our best interest as a world society to preserve minority languages? So many conflicts can be boiled down to communication difficulties, and so many of those can be boiled down to translation problems. What would be so bad if the entire world spoke just one language, whether it be English, French, Latin, Esperanto or Mandarin?

And what about the media?

The commission thinks it went a bit far, and the media will no doubt disagree. I think the real answer (as always) lies somewhere in between. The media (especially tabloids like the Journal) overhyped the issue, which is a large reason why people who have no real connection with immigrants became so frightened. On the other hand, the media only serve to reflect society, and there was clearly some latent xenophobia there to exploit.

We can’t accomodate freedom

Leaders of the FTQ and CSN told the Bouchard-Taylor commission that workers in Quebec should be forbidden from wearing anything that indicates what religion they are.

So I guess that means no more crucifix necklaces.

The article (I’m guessing it’s more their position) is a bit confusing, later going on about how they just don’t want employers to have to change any rules about safety or uniform codes in order to accomodate religious minorities.

It’s odd to hear about a trade union arguing for restricting workers’ rights, but then again these hearings are creating a lot of crazy ideas.

So when does the witchhunt begin for determining what constitutes a religious symbol? Does a black top hat make you Jewish? Does wearing a loose-fitting dress make you Muslim? Does a spaghetti-strap top make you a Pastafarian?

Reasonable information on reasonable accommodation

La Presse has a myths vs. reality article on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation. It includes some enlightening figures about religion, immigration and language in this province.

Naturally, the facts make it clear that pur laine Quebecers don’t have anything to fear from a few thousand immigrants.

BTK: Bertrand Targets Koivu

Guy Bertrand, the lovable lawyer and rabble-rouser, has finally shown his face in front of The Commission, and shown what a hero he is by clearing up once and for all what the greatest threat is to the French language and Québécois culture:

Saku Koivu: Menace to société

Saku Koivu.

You see, because the Finnish player who happens to be the captain of the Montreal Canadiens has trouble with his third language, he’s violating our rights by not allowing hockey fans to be served in French.

When Koivu is inevitably found guilty in a court of law for crimes against humanity, should we subject him to lethal injection, the electric chair or just force him to be a panelist on Tout le monde en parle?

UPDATE (Nov. 1): Gazette letter-writers come to their captain’s defence and let Bertrand have it. La Presse’s André Pratte points out that anglophones, not francophones, are in linguistic danger in Quebec, and François Gagnon has some good insight into the matter.

More xenophobia at the Bouchard-Taylor commission

The expressions of blatant xenophobia at the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accomodation is continuing with no end in sight:

  • The Quebec council on the status of women seeks to impose a dress code on all public employees, preventing them from wearing “visible religious symbols” like a scarf over their head or a little hat. Of course, it goes without saying that Catholics wearing crosses around their necks are specifically exempt. They get special treatment because they believe in the correct God.
  • The group also wants the Quebec charter amended to make sure that gender equality usurps religious freedom. This makes sense, but does that mean that women could sue for the right to become priests? If they’re for gender equality in all religions, then they must be in favour of that as well.
  • Pauline Marois is opining that the solution to reasonable accommodation is … wait for it … Quebec independence. In a statement that sounds almost Third Reich-ish, she suggests that independence would remove “ambiguity” concerning what Quebec is. Instead, immigrants would see it as the racist, intolerant, French-only haven of backwards ideas we all know and love. And if these ethnics want to join us, all they have to do is rid themselves of their religion, their culture, their language and anything else that makes them different.

Bouchard-Taylor Commission legitimizes xenophobia

The news stories coming out of the Commission on Reasonable Accomodation (or whatever it’s official name is) have really been eye-opening. It’s no secret that we have paranoid xenophobes here. But this commission, going around the province (starting with small rural towns and ending in Montreal) seems to be legitimizing it.

Suddenly, it’s no longer taboo to express an irrational, paranoid fear of immigrants flooding in to take over your country. To suggest that a few dozen quiet immigrants with cloth over their faces settling in a town hundreds of kilometres away is going to somehow radically alter the way of life in a place that is 96% Catholic might have once been considered ignorant racism. But now that the commission is coming along, it’s giving these lunatics a forum in which to express their paranoia.

Tonight in a park, as I watched a free movie screening, one of the spectators shouted at the end, complaining that the film was not in French and that Quebec is a French-only province. The man was clearly off his rocker, and the crowd stayed silent in response. The young moderator of the evening, in an attempt at diplomacy, repeated an invitation to a post-screening party in the province’s official language, but the man was still yelling as she spoke in his tongue. He wasn’t interested in accomodation, he just wanted to yell.

Now if that same man were to walk into a commission hearing room and give those opinions into a microphone, suddenly it would become news. It would get into the newspapers, and would require acknowledgment and analysis.

I realize I’m generalizing here, but normal people have better things to do with their lives than attend these hearings. It’s the unemployed crazies who want someone to blame for their crappy lives that come to these town halls and blame immigrants they’ve never seen or met.

Perhaps there’s no alternative to this. We’re dealing with questions of morality, and that requires public consultation. But it still irks me that we’re giving an open mic to racist, xenophobic extremists and pretending like their opinions are justified.