Monday, February 7, 2011

Maxime Bernier and Quebec's Sacred Cow

Everyday I wake up and take a measure of cynical satisfaction that I as a Quebec Anglophone am imbued with special rights that my Francophone brethren are denied.

The reality of Quebec society is that there are three distinct levels of citizen status, each providing special privileges (or lack thereof.)

Of course, first and foremost, is Quebec's Native population, who are provided extra-special rights and privileges, too numerous to describe, rights that non-natives in the province are denied.

Most of us begrudge the natives these rights as it seems a bit unfair to us that they can flit between the treaty world, chock full of entitlements, and our regular society, as it suits their fancy.

But Canadian Anglophones living in Quebec are also accorded a special status, one that the majority of Quebeckers are denied, based solely on language and birth, something that logic would tell us that the Charter of Rights, be it the Canadian or the Quebec version would preclude.

Of course we're talking about the right to attend English schools, a benefit that remains exclusive to those born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, an English-educated parent born in Canada.

Most Francophones don't seem overly perturbed by the notion that as the majority, they enjoy the fewest rights of all Quebeckers.
In fact, most will say that while they'd like to preserve choice in education, Bill 101, the law that restricts access to English school, is a sacrosanct piece of legislation that is bedrock to the preservation of the Quebec 'nation'

It's a bit of a paradox, but no matter, Bill 101 is as holy to Quebeckers as is the U.S. Constitution is to Americans. A document worthy of biblical reverence, never to be questioned or disputed.

And so Maxime Bernier's rather flippant remark during an interview last week on Halifax-based radio is rocking the world of Quebec's language defenders.

“It’s like in Quebec — we don’t need Bill 101 to protect the French language over there,” Bernier is quoted as saying. “They know we speak French in Quebec and we will speak French for a long time, I believe it.” Read more in the Montreal Gazette
Mr. Bernier's statement will likely change nothing nor move even one person to the other side of the debate. Many journos are commenting that Bernier said what he said to establish his bona fides as a "conservative Canadian' and to position himself as a legitimate successor to Stephen Harper, a francophone acceptable to Anglos out West.
I'm not going to discuss the veracity or validity of Mr. Bernier's statement on Bill 101, we've all got our opinion and it's a subject that's been flogged to death. It's about as useful a discussion as the debate whether God is real or not. There's nowhere to go, no road that hasn't been travelled.

But the ongoing reaction from Quebec's linguistic 'Defenders of the Faith' is at least fun to follow. 
I'm sitting back and watching for the most outrageous or angry reaction that will surely follow what can only be perceived as a blasphemous provocation by the militant language zealots.
So far it's Pauline Marois who has unleashed the biggest stupidity by inviting Mr. Bernier to Montreal to see what's going on language-wise.  Madame Marois has subtly voiced what so many of her backers believe, that Montreal has become a modern Tower of Babel, or perhaps a Sodom and Gomorrah, where the infidels are fiddling with the purity of the Quebec ideal.
“Mr. Bernier should come to Montreal more often, where we can see there is an anglicization now,” Ms. Marois told reporters at the party's regional convention in the city.
How one can "SEE"  'language anglicization' is beyond me. 
Perhaps Madame Marois was referring to the many black and brown faces, the many hijabs, yarmulkes, saris, turbans and wide-brimmed Hasidic hats as proof of anglicization.
Freudian Slip, perhaps?

The instantaneous reaction of militants to Mr. Bernier's statement reminds me of my dog's Pavlovian reaction to the doorbell--


It's hilarious to see how extraordinarily easy it is to trigger such an overwhelming reaction, like banging on the cage of a sleeping lion at the circus to see him roar, all for our amusement!

Other Bon Mots;

Francoise David, leader of Quebec solidaire;
The fight for French in Quebec is not won. In fact, it will never be won,

Keep them coming!

By the way, Bernier isn't backing down. Read his reply to those attacking him, on his blog.
"Why should francophone parents not be allowed to send their children to an English or bilingual school for parts of their studies, so that they become completely fluent in both languages? English is the language of 350 million people surrounding us. It is also the most important international language all over the world. Mastering it is a major asset.
Not only this, but there has been an important English-speaking population in Quebec for 250 years. Unless we believe that Quebec today is simply an extension of New France, and that only descendants of the French settlers are real Quebecers, then English too is part of Quebec’s identity." LINK {eng}

I'm so happy I can't resist a little poem... (with apologies to St. Nick!)

With a handsome young driver, so hip and extreme,
I knew in a moment it must be Maxime
More rapid than eagles his haters alit,
They whistled, and shouted, and addled with spit!

"Now Curzi! Now Jacko! Now, Gilles and Pauline!
Stand up and be counted, pray call me obscene!
And rage from of the hill top, Your message transmit!
Now dash away all, cuz' I don't GIVE A SHIT! 


  1. As Archie Bunker used to moan in later seasons on the show: "Help me, Lord"!

    This discussion has been boiled, broiled, braised. grilled, pan fried, deep fried, poached, roasted, toasted and probably cooked in other ways I just can't fathom.

    All Max Bernier is doing is reiterating, re-reiterating and re-re-reiterating what he has said previously, and that small fraction of a percent that don't perceive English as the enemy of Quebec speak (or the more common term, culture, something I ingest when I eat yogurt).

    Once my grandparents immigrated to Sherbrooke and Montreal, their children became the last generation to speak Yiddish, a bastardized European language spoken mostly be Ashkenazi Jews (the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe) as opposed to Sephardic Jews (of the Mediterranean regions) who generally don't speak Yiddish.

    Yiddish will probably survive in some small pockets of the world, and be preserved for another generation by those who were within earshot of hearing it at home or by grandparents prior to their eventual deaths. For the most part, it will become an extinct or nearly extinct language that will be catalogued for preservation thanks to modern technology and the Information Age.

    Unlike the resurrection of Sleeman beers by the great grandson of the former brewer (with my compliments to John Sleeman for his perseverence and great success), Yiddish will probably disappear for all time. Then again, Hebrew resurrected with the birth of the State of Israel, but even Hebrew had to be recreated after merely being a scriptural language for 2000 years.

    Perhaps I'm digressing a bit, but there is a relevance here. I've stated many times before and I'm reiterating that French is NOT going to die in Quebec no matter what hideous, twisted and devious secret plots the English speaking world has in store preserving English globally and intentionally squeezing that toxic French language off the planet [nudge-nudge, wink-wink]. Didn't some guy named Lord Durham try this stunt a couple of centuries ago without success? In this world of instantaneous communication, what Lord Durham attempted all those decades and generations ago wouldn't get to first base today!

    Maxime Bernier, take a litte bow! You're a secure man in your mother tongue. It would be wonderful if you can convince your fellow Québécoises and Québécois in the same manner.

  2. Amen, Maxime.

    Tell it like it is.


  3. Vraiment stérile ce Maxime !

    Pierre Tremblay

  4. My comment, totally unrelated to the topic.

    So I watched the Super Bowl last night. Even though I was not rooting for them, I was quite disappointed with Pittsburgh's three turnovers, surrendering 14 points on them.

    Anyway, the halftime performance were the Black Eyed Peas. The performance itself was so-and-so but I do think it was better than last year's the who. Maybe my problem is that they tried to throw Slash and Usher into the mix.

    Getting to the point now. The Super Bowl is the most watched annual single event television program in North America with more than 100 million viewers. Globally, it is the number two after the Champions League Final. And the Black Eyed Peas - for better or worse - got the chance to participate in that event. That is huge for a group of performers.

    Now there are some idiots out there, particularly on saying that BEP played on the main stage of Quebec City Summer Festival is nothing. There are Quebec artists around not named Celine who are capable to deliver as much paying customers as BEP do.

    Really? Who?

  5. Voici le portrait en résumé d'un bon con...serviteur (Pour les anglos:conservateur)

    Est-ce que tu aimes les gros jos Louis?

  6. The reactions of politicians, both in Quebec and the RoC, are very telling.

    “The fight for French in Quebec is not won. In fact, it will never be won” - Francoise David

    “Federal government respects provincial jurisdiction.” - Harper

    “Distancing isn’t good enough. Mr. Harper needs to be clear in denouncing Bernier’s comments” – Ignatieff

    “By musing about getting rid of these protections, Mr. Bernier is playing with fire in an effort to increase his own popularity with the hard right wing of his own party and it's a shame. “ – Mulcair

    I’m not sure if David’s statement was a slip up, but she definitely said it how it is. The point of laws like 101, or movements like the Quebec separatist movement, is not to reach a finite goal or some definable objective, but it is to create a permanent condition of uncertainty which favors the interest of Quebec’s elite especially, but also Quebec interests in general.

    It’s also clear that the federal government is complicit in the debacle involving “the greatest Canadian law”, according to one “federalist” politician. Quebec has Canada by the balls and on its knees. A country that could count for a lot on the world stage has been reduced to a joke by one cynical province.

    As I tend to stay out of provincial elections (considering that the PLQ and the PQ are two cheeks of the same backside), I think I will be staying out of the federal ones too, unless Maxime Bernier or Reed Scowen run in my electoral district (from whichever party or as independents, it doesn’t matter). Other than this unlike eventuality, I might vote in the event of another referendum, in which I will be tempted to vote Oui. Not for my sake, but for the sake of Canada, which deserves better.

  7. "As I tend to stay out of provincial elections (considering that the PLQ and the PQ are two cheeks of the same backside"

    Je dirais plutôt le PQ et QS sont les deux fesses et que le PL est au centre.

  8. This is priceless coming from Max Bernier, a guy who can’t speak English fluently, a guy turned from cabinet for stupidity, leaving sensitive files in his biker chick’s house. Yes this clown who has criticized Harper, called him fat in private, who would like to lead the party. He is nothing but an opportunist, a backstabber and not to be trusted one bit.

    That being said, he is correct, bill 101 is not necessary. What he didn’t say though was that it was racist, it is bigoted in nature. That the UN has called it discriminatory…

    My suggestion to you Max is take some ESL classes, learn how to speak English properly before telling the rest of Canada what we have known for decades. Yes bill (law) 101 and all the other racist, bigoted language laws passed in Quebec over the last for decades such as bill 22, bill 178…are all racist, intolerant BS. But Max, why say it outside Quebec, why not say it Quebec regularly, why not condemn the liberal and all parties for allowing this to continue and most importantly MAX, why not come out and say that the English speakers should have equal rights in Quebec like they did for 200 years???
    That’s what I thogut Max, you might mention it, but you won’t protect the English speakers of Quebec. You are full of it Max, just like all politicians when it comes to enshrining equal rights in Quebec for all.

    Yes repeal Bill 101 and give us back our equal rights in Quebec. No more, no less.

  9. "It is always going to be an endless debate as far as I can see. But this is what Quebec is all about."

    Pierre Arcand, PLQ, Quebec International Relations Minister

  10. "Bernier needs to understand there's a consensus among Quebecers on language that doesn't reflect his opinion." - Jean Charest

  11. Bernier vient de perdre plusieurs votes pour une seule affirmation très maladroite.

    C'est mister Harper qui doit être fier de son candidat qui semble avoir un penchant pour les bévues.

    Bravo Max!

  12. Consensus sure, where any othe opinion is just beat down, consensus is so overused in Quebec and usually it means, we know we screw the right of people but it's ok because we all agree on it. So funny to see the usual suspect go to the barricades and ignatief us as always a moron lol

  13. While I agree with Bernier I chuckle each time when someone making a comment against 101 will say how surprised they are that their comment raises such emotional ire.

  14. I'm glad Bernier said what he said. It takes a man of guts to stand against the madness that Quebec has gripped itself with.

    And the cowards that represent Quebec's fears have once again shown themselves by howling the same old fears.

  15. Thank you M. Bernier. Well said. I am always dismayed as to how so many Quebecois pure laine are willing to forgo individual rights for the sake of collective ones. And can someone tell me what a real Quebecois is? M. Bernier touched on a very important point. My maternal great-parents came to Montreal at the turn of the century; my dad has been here for 50 years. Yet, many Francophones refer to me and members of my cultural community as 'vous autres, les italiens', etc...

    How long does one have to be here in order to feel at home??? As a side note: Most of the kids of Italian immigrants went to English school because they were largely barred from attending the French Catholic school. In 1966, my father-in-law walked down the street to the neighborhood French school in St-Vincent de Paul, Laval and tried to register his little boy. He was curtly told that the school was full. So, the child ended up in the local English school. It was later learned that the school was not full as the Francophone neighbors' kids were all admitted. Bigotry and racism ruled back then. It is still alive and well. Today, that boy is a 50 yr old McGill grad!

  16. Well said Maxime. There is no consensus in Quebec. Down with The Ministry of Silly Walks! Down with the OLF!

  17. Anon @ 8:18PM:

    It's actually downright disgusting, on the one hand, that you were turned back by the SVdeP school, but on the other hand, you probably got a better education in English anyway. Why I write "disgusting" is because you were Catholic and should have had every right to go to that school. Ten years later you probably wouldn't have had any choice!

    If you were not Catholic, a.k.a. «les autres», you would have had to go to an English Protestant school like I did, and I'm not even Christian! All the Protestant schools were English instructional schools. One woman I worked with back in the 70s was a Hugonot - French Protestant - and so she had NO choice but to go to English schools notwithstanding the fact she was a Francophone!! In the end, it didn't hurt her one iota because she was fluently bilingual, and that's not all bad. I don't know how good YOUR French is, but if you're still living in Quebec and in East End Laval or Montreal, I'm sure it's pretty good, and so it's all good for you, too!

  18. Sorry Anon @ 8:18PM, I forgot to answer your question, "How long does one have to be here in order to feel at home?"

    The answer is: Forever, and you STILL won't be able to feel "at home"! I left for good half my lifetime ago for the exact reason I was made to feel like a foreigner in my own back yard despite having been born, raised and educated there, from birth until my mid-20s!

  19. As someone who has lived all his life in Quebec I feel that there has always been a masterplan to eliminate all anglophones from Quebec and it is slowly working. During elementary school french and english went to the same school but we were not allowed to speak to each other or you got the strap, Our report cards came in french and even sometimes the exams were sent to the school in french and needed to be trnslated to english for us to be able to take them. The language of the workplace is now french so unless one is self employed you are out of luck finding a job. Many of the Quebec gov't websites are in french only. The school systems have been endoctrinatining the students for years (copying the Nazis I surmise). People are thus receiving an inferior education. I wonder sometimes if Canada would not be better off without Quebec, but Quebec wants to keep the benifits of canada while becoming separate. I guess they are real special. I am not leaving.