Thursday, March 5, 2009

McGill Français

It's hard to believe that this March 28, will be exactly 40 years since the infamous 'McGill Français' demonstration. Most of you weren't even born back then, when between 10,000 and 15,000 demonstrators marched to the school to demand that the institution convert to become a French language institution (really).
The marchers were met at the school gates by hundreds of police and security guards, but the demonstration was nonviolent and broke up peaceably.

Ten years ago, on the 30th anniversary, the McGill News Alumni Quarterly wrote an interesting retrospective concerning the event.
You can read the article HERE.

Forty years later you would think that things would have evolved, but as they say in French-
'Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme chose.'

For radical nationalists, McGill continues to be a thorn in the side. What seems to gall them the most is McGill's success and it's worldwide reputation, which they believe comes at the expense of the Univeristé de Montréal.
For nationalists, McGill's very existence is a humiliation, a constant reminder that Montreal is home to one of the finest English universities in the world and that there is no French institution in Quebec that comes remotely close it, on any level.
McGill is also uniformly reviled in the French press and nary a week goes by without a 'done me wrong' story about McGill or the MUHC, it's affiliated hospitals.
Last September the dedication of the new $73 million "Life Sciences Complex" was the subject of a particularly nasty rant by the Mouvement Montreal Francais which complained that the Federal and provincial governments shouldn't have helped fund the project. They complained that the money should have gone to a French institution and that the donation to McGill insured that the biotech industry remains an anglo domain.

My favorite negative story about McGill is the one told by Jean-Philippe Pineault of Le Journal de Montréal where in an article he describes a program whereby students from France are subsidized to come to Quebec to study in our universities. The idea of this exchange is forge strong links between the two Francophone nations. The only problem is that some six hundred of these students use the subsidy to study at McGill and in English! Quelle horreur!
"C'est une perversion..." according to Jean Dorion, president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

Amusing as that may be, there is a real and emerging threat to the future McGill superhospital. Radical nationalist organizations are forming into a coalition and are gearing up for a fight. Buoyed by their success in the cancellation of the Plains of Abraham battle re-enactment, they have firmly set their eyes on getting the project cancelled. They already have started a website Unseulmé and a petition.
Given the new economic reality and the mood in Quebec in light of the massive losses at the Caisse de dépôt, I'm not sure that a concerted effort will not be successful.

Watch Out!

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