Monday, July 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Flags

Most of us have heard about the argument going on over bilingual signs in New Brunswick, specifically in Moncton where a proposal to force stores to post bilingual signs is meeting some resistance. Pressure is mounting to match the bylaw passed in a neighbouring town, Dieppe, that made bilingual signage mandatory.
I'm loathe to say that the proposal is meeting with a firestorm of criticism, because just as in Quebec, the publicity surrounding those militating against the proposal, far outweighs what popular opinion represents. Read a newspaper story about the opposition to French signs.
A note to readers- both of these towns have a significant francophone population, so bilingual signage is not pandering to a tiny percentage of citizens. 

Listening to the arguments of those against 'forced bilingualism' is just as exasperating as listening to the cretinous arguments made by French language zealots in Quebec, who also believe that any sign in the opposite language is an automatic step towards assimilation.

The argument that "forcing" merchants to post bilingual signs is an attack on 'freedom of expression' is particularly specious. Those against the bilingualism proposal, hold that merchants be allowed to post signs in whatever language they want to, with the public acting as final arbiter, voting with their wallets whether to support the business or not.

Our society has long ago decided that the government has not only the right but the obligation to regulate business practices and so, for example, there are laws concerning product safety and food labelling that force manufacturers to follow certain manufacturing norms along with the obligation to disclose ingredients on their product's labels, in both official languages. Should these requirements be voluntary?

A bylaw demanding bilingual signs is no more an attack on freedom than a bylaw demanding that a restaurant keep clean or that merchants not sell cigarettes to minors.

Speed limits, red lights and stop signs are all restrictions on our movement. Hate laws are a restriction of freedom of expression. Labour laws are a restriction on employers ability to exploit workers and health and safety laws restrict how we prepare food or operate equipment.
There will always be those who argue that wearing a seat belt in a car or a helmet while operating a motorcycle is an abusive restriction on freedom.
Regulation, by definition is a restriction of freedom, but certain restrictions are deemed reasonable and desirable and society has long accepted regulation as a necessary evil.
New Brunswick English language militants may argue that bilingual signage is a restriction on 'freedom of expression,'  but so what?  The only question to be argued is whether that restriction is reasonable.

Forced bilingual signs in a community with significant numbers of both language groups is not only reasonable but downright neighbourly. Those who oppose it are language zealots.

Now to the story of two flags.
It seems that one of the radical English language groups opposing the proposed bylaw, the 'Anglo Society' asked permission to fly their flag over City Hall in Bathurst for a day, as a salute to their organization.

Now before I go on with the story, I want to explain that the Anglo Society is as nutty, shrill and as unreasonable as any of the militant French language groups in Quebec.  Go over to their web site to see what I mean.

They similarly believe that any concession to the other language is an attack on the future viability of their own culture and language. Translate the content of their web site into French and it could easily be posted on that of the Mouvement Montréal français!

And so now, a real firestorm has broken out over the decision to fly this "Anglo Society" flag over city hall.  When the town council was made aware of certain 'facts,' the invitation was withdrawn.

As you'd expect, there was also an outcry in Quebec against the flag raising in a variety of militant quarters, led by none other than the prolific Anglo-basher Louis Prefontaine who devoted a hate filled column about the injustice of it all.
Mr Prefontaine noted that the date that the flag was to be raised corresponded with that of the date that the City of Quebec was defeated by the English back in 1759. I don't know if the Anglo Society was aware of this fact and chose the date specifically, but Mr. Prefontaine chose to concentrate on this fact and railed against the insult, real or intended, with a vituperative blast. LINK (Fr)
"...For French speakers in North America - or what remained of them, the end of the French presence marked a turning point, a collective trauma, possibly as bad, if not more so, than the atomic bombings in Japan. The society of our ancestors was beheaded, our language was banned and more than two-thirds of the population of Acadia was deported. We had our land stolen, we were killed and  destroyed. And now the English want to celebrate it?
.... a bit like the Germans hoisting the Nazi flag over Auschwitz." 
As you see, Mr. Prefontaine was none to pleased about the possibility of the Anglo Society hoisting their "Nazi" flag over Bathurst.

But wait, Mr Prefontaine has more to say about flags, this time about another flag incident that took place in Quebec.

Let me  take you back to an article I wrote last year about the annual Fêtes Saint-Jean celebration in a Montreal neighbourhood where a  controversy erupted over the decision by organizers to invite some English artists to perform. Read the story.
In the end, the organizers stood up to the militants and allowed the groups to perform amid some small protests. Almost all of the attendees expressed support for the inclusive decision of the organizers, which earned the event the undying enmity of French language militants.

At this year's celebration, a small group of militants was told that they could not enter the park to attend the show because of the controversial nature of the flag that they were bearing, to which Mr. Prefontaine had this to say;
".....On Wednesday, June 23, some people were barred from Pelican Park in Montreal,  for the (Fete Saint Jean celebration) event called  'l’Autre St-Jean." What crimes did they commit? Were they in possession of explosives, rifles, knives, Molotov cocktails, chainsaws or tactical nuclear weapons? No. They waved a Patriot's flag, symbol of the desire of Quebec liberation for one hundred and fifty years.
Mr. Prefontaine is too modest, the flag is not just the symbol of the desire for Quebec liberation, it was adopted by the FLQ as their standard and was brandished during their reign of terror during the infamous FLQ kidnapping crisis and is forever linked to the organization. It was for that reason, organizers banned the flag from their Fêtes Saint-Jean celebration, in a sensible effort to keep the event non-political.

So it seems that when it comes to flags, a Quebec terrorist flag is perfectly acceptable, while an Anglo Society flag in New Brunswick is an affront to all humanity.

The French have a wonderful saying - "Deux poids, Deux mesures," a delicious double standard.

I'll leave you all with one last quote from Mr. Prefontaine, one that I found sadly ironic;
"But for English extremists, one French word is a word too much. At a previous demonstration against bilingualism in Moncton, they marched carrying  placards saying- "Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow"
 Replace the word "English" with French and vice-versa and it pretty much sums up Mr. Prefontaine's own philosophy!
Is the irony really lost on him?


  1. You can’t blame the people in Moncton for their reservation and reluctance to comply with the demand for Bilingual signs. They have witnessed the gradual erosion of rights in the use of English in Quebec for decades. It is better they nip it in the bud in the beginning rather than trying to get those rights back, like those that have been taken away from the Anglophones in Quebec never to return.

    Yet, you can understand the Francophones in their plight and right to have French. However, we have a situation where the pendulum has swung so far to the extreme on both sides of the spectrum that no one trusts anyone anymore. We are no longer neighbors, but paranoid and suspicious of every move. We have no trust or faith in our government to come to any type of resolution, so we have unreasonable extremists on both ends and the people who are reasonable, just want to get on with their lives, end up stuck in this quagmire of muck for decades. The French extremists are using symbols of intimidation based on past aggression. If they were just using the symbol of their desire for Quebec liberation, the fleur-des-lis would suffice. Intimidation is their ploy to silence the descent. Why was it easier for so many Anglophones to just pack up and leave Quebec rather than deal with the extreme language zealots of Quebec? They had every right to remain in Quebec, but chose to leave. The intimidation, the culture of silence to refrain from speaking against the majority, the lack of government support and the constant whittling away of rights of Canadian citizens born and raised in Quebec, flagrantly denying their rights as Canadian citizens to live peacefully.

    If there is a way to legislate a “downright neighborly” solution to the never ending Quebec saga, then there needs to be some creative ingenuity, because the way things have been handled the past 50 years is not working. To have Bi-Lingual neighbors considerate of others on both sides of the fence, both sides need to respect the others right to be informed and communicate in the language of preference and to not be bulldozed by one or the other. Bilingual today for a Bilingual tomorrow, but Bilingual has to be enforced equally on both sides of the fence and not one over another, not one more supreme than the other or primacy of value. Until French is on the verge of total extinction….and only 3 Francophones are left, then we may discuss some alternative neighborly arrangements for the preservation of French. They are far from extinction. Thus far Francophones have been demanding so much more than they are willing to give and it is just not right. Anglo societies…wave your flag! Don’t give up until; you have a neighborly resolution written in stone for the next 200 years.

  2. I completely disagree with this article. Forced bilingual signs are just wrong. End of story. Regulation and rules by government concerning product SAFETY are ONE THING. This is another matter altogether. You are being disingenuous here. There is no valid parallel or comparison. To imply that Joe Smith's reluctance to offer bilingual signs in his local hardware store somehow endangers Francophones is patently absurd! You are also (perhaps subconsciously)revealing much of what I so despise about Quebec Anglophones - expecting Anglos outside Quebec to make sacrifices and accommodations from which YOU and other Anglophones in Quebec hope to benefit from. You want us to take one for you guys. Naturally you hope by encouraging bilingualism abroad the Quebecois will reciprocate at home. You can't demand English in Quebec while not supporting French outside it without fear of being called a hypocrite. Anglophones outside Quebec have absolutely nothing at all to gain by bilingualism and shouldn't have to be put out for your benefit. At the same time you guys do nothing but vote for the liberals who hold you in open contempt. And you guys wonder why so many people outside Quebec want to give your province the boot. The Toronto guy.

  3. ''Listening to the arguments of those against 'forced bilingualism' is just as exasperating as listening to the cretinous arguments made by French language zealots in Quebec, who also believe that any sign in the opposite language is an automatic step towards assimilation. '' Can you explain that to Mr. Galganov He just distributed a booklet called ''How to wipe out the Franco Ontarian Language & Culture '' in my neighbourhood !

  4. I agree with the Toronto Guy. I drive through the large Chinese community in Markham Ontario and see stores that have their signage exclusively in Chinese. Should the government be forcing the owners to put up signs in English and/or French? No. If I don't shop at these stores because, not speaking Chinese, I have no idea what they're selling and I don't feel welcome, who's loss is that? The store owner's, because my dollars are spent elsewhere. If his business model works by catering exclusively to Chinese-speaking clientele, good for him. If it was MY business I wouldn't want to tune out the 3+ million people in the GTA who don't speak Chinese, but that's me. Either way, the government should butt out.

  5. Has it every occurred to all that the fundamental problem is that the anglos and francos in Canada simply do not have a lot of trust or respect for each other. In essence, they simply don't like each other. I agree with the Toronton Guy on the forced signage, as I do with Galganov and Co. in Embrum, ON. There should be no restriction on what language you wish to post commercial signage. Anything less is a fundamental erosion of individual rights. Canada is not a bilingual country and likely never will be. Countless tens of billions of dollars have been spent on a program which is a total failure. I agree that services should be provided in both languages in areas where it is warranted. In other areas (which is the majority of Canada) there is no need for bilingual services and the federal hiring quotas which discriminate against anglo unilinguals unecessarily should be terminated.

    Western Guy

  6. ''Le Québec sera distinct à l'intérieur du Canada, ou alors il le sera à l'extérieur du Canada.'' Brian Mulroney- Optons pour la deuxième affirmation.

  7. ''Les Québécois francophones sont déjà, en comparaison avec la plupart des peuples de la planète, très bilingues. C'est bien sûr une bonne nouvelle dans la mesure où ce bilinguisme reste individuel et, surtout, non essentiel. La connaissance d'une autre langue doit être considérée comme un savoir parmi tant d'autres et non comme une obligation moderne. À ce titre, par exemple, et pour refroidir les fanatiques du bilinguisme, Dufour, citant Christian Rioux, rappelle «qu'un grand nombre de personnalités politiques internationales de premier plan ne [parlent] pas anglais, ni à Berlin, ni à Moscou, ni à Madrid, ni bien sûr à Paris».''

  8. Christian Dufour «La pertinence de la règle de la claire prédominance du français au Québec [sans prohibition de l'anglais], explique Dufour, trouve son origine dans le fait que, même s'il a été important, l'ajout britannique n'est pas au coeur de l'identité québécoise de la même manière que le sont le vieux fond français et le vieux fond canadien de l'époque du Régime français. [...] Essayer de bilinguiser le Québec, c'est vouloir réécrire l'histoire, en faisant de 1763 le moment fondateur de notre identité sans en voir les aspects négatifs.»

  9. "Optons pour la deuxième affirmation."

    Il pourrais etre plus agreable pour moi et l'autres gens sans Quebec. Ils avoir un grande appetite pour l'argent du Canada. Le prequatione en 2010 etant 8.5 Milliards. Pour quoi? Les gens du Quebec avoir un problem avec travaille?

  10. It seems that Préfontaine makes your daily bread and butter over here.

    Hasta la vista baby ;)!!

  11. It seems that Tym_Machine préfère utiliser l'anglais plutôt que le français. Pas mal pour un Canadien-français ! On voit toute la fierté vous animant ! :) Parlez-vous plus blanc que blanc pour reprendre les termes d'un éditorial précédent !
    ''L'indépendance du Québec se fera. Même ceux qui s'y opposent savent au fond d'eux-mêmes que ce n’est qu'une question de temps.'' Lise Payette

  12. "''L'indépendance du Québec se fera. Même ceux qui s'y opposent savent au fond d'eux-mêmes que ce n’est qu'une question de temps.'' "

    Hopefully, the sooner than the later.

  13. @ "27 juillet 22:00"

    T'es qui pour décider quelle langue on commente sur un blogue. Si t'es pas content, surtout que tu n'as rien à dire de constructif ici, va donc jaser avec tes semblables chez Louis Préfontaine!

  14. To derteilzeitberliner July 28, 2010 1:26 AM : Sorry, can you speak me in a civilised language ? Le vouvoiement est de mise MONsieur, on a jamais garder les chèvres ensemble, je crois ?

  15. @anonymous 10:00PM:

    Since you seem to fixate on the ravings of a senile separatiste, I thought I'd give you a quote from the real world:

    "la souveraineté: ce projet n'est pas une solution puisqu'il n'est pas réalisable."

    Lucien Bouchard.

  16. Forced bilingual signs in a community with significant numbers of both language groups is not only reasonable but downright neighborly.

    But, and it's a BIG but:
    1) Moncton is approximately 80% English, and 20% french (hardly "significant"). There being currently more than 20% of Canadians who speak neither french, or English, at home.
    2) These "demands" for "regulated bilingual signage" originate from outside OUR community, from folks who have contributed NOTHING to OUR community (other than "demands").
    3) Who is more qualified to identify his/her target market, and erect signage accordingly, the business owner, or some "desk operating do nothing", or some "outsider" on their own agenda?

  17. The very idea that there should be a law demanding bilingual signs or any other sign law is a slap in the face for freedom. And I'm in Quebec, so I know and have lived with fascists who think they have the right to bully people into giving up their rights.

    "Neighbourly"! What exactly is neighbourly about threatening and bullying your neighbour into giving up their rights. If you want to put up a sign that is bilingual or french only or english only or any other language it's up to you. It is not the states business to demand anything from you on such matters. What may look neighbourly to you is a slipper slop to others in the removal of individual rights.

    And this sir is the sorry state that exists in Quebec. From language to healthcare to freedom of religion etc. etc. etc.

    Spend anytime watching the National Assembly and you will see not good government in action. But hours, and days, and weeks spent by members who are trying to control the population with laws, entry barriers, and any other form of restriction placed upon the individual. And all the while, the population in Quebec can no longer even see the difference between individual rights and the right of the state to suppress the individual.

    This is neighbourly! I'm sure the great nut bars in history also thought there actions were neighbourly as well.

  18. si le Québec ralentirait un peu et laisserai les Anglais avoir des droits le reste des français du canada aurait moins de misère vous êtes très égoïste