Saturday, July 18, 2009

Anglo Theater Director Enrages French Language Nationalists

A nasty story appeared in the news last week concerning Theatre St. Catherine in Montreal.
The theater sent out a mass email promoting several English language theater presentations and as you can guess, many people took exception that the email was in English only.

Usually the offending party would cave, falling over themselves to correct the language slight, but that's not what happened this time. Fed up with so many complaints, some very nasty, Eric Amber, the theater director told one complainant to bugger off - in no uncertain terms.
Here's the exchange, starting with the original email.

Just For Laughs / ZooFest wrote:

Just For Laughs / ZooFest Presents:

*_5 Shows for $25. @ Theatre Ste-Catherine!_*

*The Improvised Shakespeare Company* - July 16 to 25 @ 8:30pm
(No show July 23)

Based on one audience suggestion, The Improvised Shakespeare
Co. creates a fully improvised play in the Elizabethan style,
language and themes of William Shakespeare.

"Staggeringly Brilliant" - Time Out (Chicago)
“Mind-blowing… one of the funniest, most amazing things I’ve
ever seen.” -The Charleston
(The rest of this long post goes on to describe the presentations and is redacted)

*TICKETS AND INFO available at: (514) 845 2322 or
On Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 9:35 AM, Les Sages Fous

>> wrote:
Merci de nous envoyer vos messages en français ou de nous retirer
de votre liste d'envois.

Les Sages Fous

 Theatre Ste Catherine wrote:

The shows listed were in english and therefore so is the message.
You obviously can't read in english because you are an
uneducated bigot.

estce que vous comprenez l'expression anglophone: Go Fuck Yourself?


Your answer is is unacceptable.

We asked to receive your messages in french or simply to take us off
your mailing list.

Your response is an incredibly inappropriate, ugly and aggressive
We have filed a complaint. We have sent your message to all of the
main newspapers and the artistic community of Quebec. Your boss will
be informed as well before the day is out.

It seems that it is you the bigot. We, at Les Sages Fous all speak
at least three languages, have travelled the world and are obviously
more educated and open minded than you.

I myself am one of the few anglophones who proudly speaks french in
a continent that insists on being monolingual. I heard your voice on
the phone. Your french is not too good for someone that calls people
uneducated bigots for not being able to read english.

Are you having fun playing the persecuted anglophone? Or are you
just a Speak White brute?

Ever thought of moving to Georgia? Back woods Texas? They like
people like you down there.

Be careful. You are obviously to stupid to know the difference
between right and wrong.

South Miller

just delete the message and move on with your life.
fuck you
After this exchange of emails, it was inevitable that the incident would escalate. It was reported in the press and the incident raised a firestorm of negative reaction amongst French language militants. Mr. Amber received some of hate mail which included personal threats. At first he declined to publish these messages claiming that he didn't want to add to the controversy, but relented and did pass on some very disturbing messages to the Journal de Montreal.
One included a death threat.
Aussi longtemps que nous aurons des individus de votre espèce chez nous, je vous haïrai, les anglophones de Montréal», poursuit-il. Franchement, je ne sais pas pourquoi nous attendons à vous botter le cul... et ne parlez surtout pas de racisme, vous qui n'êtes même pas capable de respecter la culture française, chez nous, au Québec.... Qu'attendez-vous donc pour aller brailler avec vos amis ontariens? Qu'on vous tire dessus?»

"As long as we have individuals like you here, I will hate you, the anglophones of Montreal. Frankly, I don't know why we are waiting to kick your ass... and don't talk about racism, you who are incapable of respecting French culture, here in Quebec. What are you waiting for to go cry with your friends in Ontario. That we shoot at you?"
The radical group RRQ has called for a protest demonstration in front of the theater doors.
My, my!

In disgust Mr. Amber decided he's had enough and announced his intention to close his theater later this year.

The slew of posts and articles in the French milieu all had the recurring theme of righteous indignation and were universally quick to make the point that Mr. Amber was a radical francophobe who needed to show respect to the francophone majority.

My question is "Why?" Why on Earth do anglophones 'owe' Francophones respect?

This 'respect' idea permeates throughout nationalist circles, the idea that the anglophone community owes the francophone majority respect if for no other reason than the fact that francophones represent the majority.

Do those making this assertion accept that by logical extension, francophones 'owe' respect to the anglophone majority of Canada?
Ha! I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone among them that would agree.

Respect, they should be reminded, is something to be earned, not demanded.

There's an appropriate French saying- "Deux poids, deux measures" which aptly describes how different standards are applied, depending on who is being measured.

I salute Mr. Amber for his spunk, because he had the guts to challenge the basic tenet of the language issue, the one that says discrimination against English is not only fine, but honourable and that anglophones are required to show deference to the French majority.

Josée Legault makes an interesting point in an article 'Excuse my French'
Cette attitude où parler français à ses concitoyens, dans les commerces, en art, dans les affaires, lorsque le «produit» vendu ou présenté est de langue anglaise, redevient lentement superflu.

This attitude, where to speak French to co-citizens in stores, the arts, business, when the product is in English, is slowly becoming superfluous.
According to Ms. Legault, when English people communicate amonsgt themselves in public, they must include French, in order to show respect.

So for example, an English school which sends a messages home to parents should be required to include a French version. Bah!!!

Back to the email exchange.

Don't be fooled by the polite tenor of the complaint made by the "les Sages Fou'. As Mr. Amber pointed out, they could have just deleted the email and added the sender to the spam list.
But they chose to respond by sending a very political message, one that reminds anglophones of their place, one that Mr. Amber obviously disagreed with.

In a later interview, Mr Amber was reminded that his website was illegal because it was an English only affair. Mr Amber was unflappable and remarked that homosexuality was illegal once too.

Great fun!!


  1. Well... Sorry, but I think Mr Amber went overboard with this. The email from Les sages fous did not strike me as offensive in any way, Mr Amber responded in a way which suggested he should have anger management sessions.

    I'm not a language bigot (as you can guess, with me francophone writing in your language), but I was offended by Mr Amber's reaction. If someone asks me to speak or write in their language, do I insult them and tell them to "go f*ck themselves"? No, I usually comply, understanding that they might be limited to that language. I see nothing political in this.

    Nor do I think that Mr Amber's rudeness and obvious bigotry should in any way be seen as representative of ALL anglophones attitudes toward francophones. That would be over-simplification, wouldn't it?

  2. I agree that Mr. Amber’s response was over the top, and the fact that Les Sages Fous's request for a French version is not offensive. However, the fact that they must be contacted in French OR ELSE be removed from their mailing list is basically telling the Anglophones Exist in French or do not exist at all.

  3. Well, that's one interpretation of what they were saying. And given that this group has anglophones members makes this interpretation dubious at best. IMHO, they were asking to be removed from the list if messages were to be only in english. What's the harm in that?

    And BTW, there are some anglophones who are rude to francophones when these do not speak english... Should we go over the top because of some a***oles? I know, some separatists will do that, but if we're all going to follow extremists from one side or another, we're in for more trouble...

    As a francophone, I have NO problems with anglophone presence in Quebec, as long as my culture and language can thrive...

  4. Well anyone who is rude just because the other person does not speak thier language is just that, rude. I doubt Les Sages Fous were not looking to be Sh%# Disturbers when they sent that message. Unfortunately, not everyone is like yourself. For some (small but vocal group) any word of English heard, is like hearing the devil himself. I was born and raised in Quebec and 3/4 of my life is in French, however i am still seen as the "Minority" and for some I should just know my place and mind P’s and Q’s.