Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Confessions of a Quebec Anglophone



The other night I wrote about how shocked I was by the senseless act of cowardly violence that stole the life of poor Denis Blanchette.

And how stunned I was to see his deranged killer scream "The English are rising!!!"  As if he was acting in our name, as if we the Anglos of Quebec shared his crazy views and his blind hatred.

When we most definitely do not. We are a peaceful community, we live in harmony with our French-speaking neighbours, friends, colleagues, strangers, lovers. We have our little quarrels like any others. But all the Anglos I know, live in Québec because they LOVE it.

And what we dearly wish is that all sides in The Great Quebec-Canada Debate would stop using us for their own purposes. The federalists who would have us waving Canadian flags like idiots in downtown Montreal. The anti-Quebec kooks who make it sound like we're living in Nazi Germany, waiting for the dreaded language police to knock on the door.

The New Jesuits in the PQ who would make us appear like a threat to the future of French on the island of Montreal, to win votes from those who do not know us. The French and English media who would turn us into caricatures, to suit the prejudices of their readers.

Not long ago, the magazine L’actualité ran a story that claimed that the Anglos were stubbornly refusing to integrate, didn't care about the protection of the French language. 

And estie crisse de tabarnac, didn't even know who the pop starlet Marie-Mai is !!!!! 

When the reality is far more complex, and far more encouraging.

So I was really happy to see that the great Montreal writer, filmmaker, and funny guy Josh Freed, has replied to that L’actualité article, and that at a tragic time like this one it couldn't be more BEAUTIFUL.

Here's the original article.

And here's my slightly edited for length translation: 

Hello, My name is Josh and I admit it, I'm an Anglophone. I'm a pretty typical Montreal Anglo, I'm Jewish. Like most Jews here, I went to a Protestant school, because at that time, Catholic schools did not really want us. I spent every morning of my childhood learning traditional Christian songs that only Jewish Montrealers sing: Like Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, and Onward Christian Soldiers .

Unfortunately, as I learned all those Protestant hymns, I did not learn much French. At that time English schools in Quebec did not teach that language well. In high school, my French teacher was Mrs. Schwartz. She taught me French three hours a week with an English accent from the West End - which was partly Paris and partly Cavendish Mall. But my French became incomprehensible as soon as I went east of Schwartz's Delicatessen.

I grew up on a Montreal street named Deleppy. At age 15, I learned its real name was De L’épée. I discovered that when I took a taxi for the first time and the French driver passed twice under the sign with the name of my street without finding it. 


Slowly, I learned to adapt, to speak French better, and live in this French city full of francophones, allophones, xylophones! I worked in French, I flirted in French, I even voted for René Lévesque in 1976 to boost the power of French. 


My wife (also English) and I sent our son to French schools for eight years. At first, he spoke a language with bastard phrases like: " Dad, I want a collation (snack). ' Even today, he believes that "depanneur" (convenience store) is a regular word in Canada like "metro" and "autoroute". 


Our goal was to make sure he spoke French better than me. And we succeeded. At age 16, he is bilingual and totally embarrassed to hear my Anglo-before-bill 101 accent, which makes me say ' Longay ' instead of Longueuil. 


And I think my story is typical of many of us. The community around me has changed and adapted a lot in 30 years. Our grandparents and their ancestors did not speak any French, they were too busy with their daily struggle to survive. Now, almost all send their children to English immersion or French school. 


And many of these children have the Quebecois accent of a lumberjack and the sophistication of a sommelier.  " Dad, passe-moé le Grand Cru Château Dépanneur 2004, s’il te plaît. "


To borrow a joke from Yvon Deschamps: "We can't make fun of our anglophones anymore, they have become bilingual! They understand us. "


That said, it seems that we do not know Normand Brathwaite, Véronique Cloutier, nor many other French stars L’actualité asked us about. Even I don't really know Marie-Mai. But hey, I don't know 99% of young English-Canadian pop singers. 


Yes, many of us are in solidarity with the dreams and fears of francophone Quebec, but as l'Actualite discovered, many are simply tired of Quebec politics. The important thing is that 80% of Anglophones say they define themselves as Québécois in the survey, something we never would have done even a decade ago.


We Anglos chose to stay here while hundreds of thousands of others left (although many of their children  returned to study and live here because they missed their hometown). We Anglos like Montreal, while too many francophones have left it for the suburbs. Maybe we need a new law "301", which prevents francophones from leaving the island to ensure that Montreal stays French? 


Like many Anglos, I have tried to live elsewhere, but I've always missed my city... I have Montreal in my blood. It is a city that I love, a city totally unpredictable, chaotic and vibrant like no other in Canada. It is a tolerant city, sometimes frustrating, but always fun.


This is a great laboratory where French and English mingle and mix as in no other city on the planet. A place where the stand-up comic Sugar Sammy can make a show that combines English and French and sell more than 30 000 tickets. No, Anglos and Francos do not mix enough in their personal lives ... It will take time. 


The important point  is that things are improving rapidly in Quebec, our English-speaking community is growing faster than many others in the Western world. Quebec is a fascinating place and it has made us anglophones more interesting too. 


Just like my journey from Deleppy Street to De L’épée, our community has come a long way over the years. But it is a journey that has just begun, and we must all have patience, generosity and empathy to help it along. 


With that, I think we can build a strong anglophone community in a strong French Quebec, a place where the two solitudes will be one. 


My name is Josh and I admit it, I'm still an anglophone. Until next time!


Yup. Good boy Josh. Sometimes we have to speak for ourselves eh? Tell the New Jesuits tasse toé câlisse or shut up, and the angry Canadians to just fuck off. 

So we can live in peace, haul our asses down to the corner depanneur or dep, pick up a case of beer, give thanks we can only do that in Quebec.

And ask ourselves the existential question: When our kids start to say moé, the slang version of moi, is it all over, or have we finally arrived?

And as for me who does know who Marie-Mai is, what I want to know is it OK to say that I don't like Justin Bieber either?

But say instead that I prefer a group like Vulgaires Machins, that dedicated the following song to, among others, the striking students, the artists, the drug addicts, the gays, the feminists, the nudists, the lazy, the crazy, the unemployed, the hippies, the pacifists, the parasites, the professional troublemakers, the whores and the marginalized.

In short: just about everybody who lives in this wild and wonderful French nation in Canada.

And invites them all to shove it up the asses of the Quebec Liberals and the Harper Conservatives.

I thought so eh? That's my Québec.

And this is my musique... 



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32 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:20 AM

    Yeah whatever. Out here almost all the people who fled Quebec see it as a racists Franco shit hole. More than one would nuke the place if they could. But I say why waste a few good MIRVs when the Quebecois are busy doing the job anyway.....mass shootings, poor health, low birth rate etc.... All the things that make Quebec "great"!

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    1. hi anonymous....and where is 'out here?' Alberta, Alabama, or Brockville where they stepped on the Quebec flag? What kind of people would want to nuke another province? Are they sick or what? It saddens me to see so many bitter people withering away with hate, like grapes to raisins. While we in Montreal have such a wild and sexy time.... :)

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    2. Anonymous11:53 AM

      You're full of shit. You think the francos are little angels and the big bad rednecks are mean to them.

      Teen attacked for speaking English
      Posted By: CJAD news@cjad.com · 9/25/2012 5:17:00 PM

      A St. Leonard Mother is outraged, after her 17 year old son was viciously attacked because he spoke English.

      The family, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect themselves, says last Saturday following supper with visitors, five teenagers, cousins went for a walk. Around the corner, near a park, a man between 18-20 began hassling them, hurling racist epitaphs their way.

      "In French that man said, ici a Quebec, il faut que tu parles Francais, or something like that, went up to my son's face and my son just kind of put his hand to his chest and said please move back, in English. And, he got in his face and was screaming hey Gee, hey Gee ( a derogatory name for Italians), and turned around and punched him in the face twice."

      The Mom tells CJAD the guy reached into his pocket for something. That's when her son and four others ran home to call police, who in turn brought in an ambulance.

      She blames the politicians for ramping up the language rhetoric, especially since the P.Q. win, with the issue now boiling over and turning violent.

      Police have not yet arrested a suspect.

      The family is expecting medical test results within a few days.

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  2. Anonymous1:42 PM

    There is no doubt. Canadians are living through, very sad and terrible times. As long as Harper is leader, it's going to get much worse. Anger is seething just beneath the surface. Canadians really despise dictatorships. Harper has stepped way over the line.

    Doesn't matter where I go, Dr. office, supermarket, or a pharmacy, everyone hates Harper. Quebec isn't alone in that department. Canada is clearly, under a zone of destruction. Everything Harper touches, he destroys. Harper pissed away a, $13 billion dollar surplus. He now has Canada, in the worst debt we have ever known.

    Harper will never convince us, he didn't use his robo-call cheat, to win the election. Harper is famous for his, dirty tactics, dirty politics, lies, corruption, thefts, and cheating to win. That will be Harper's history, in our kids future text books. The worst and most corrupt P.M. The Canadian traitor of this century.

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    1. Anonymous6:46 PM

      You must live in one those failing parts of the country, because in some places he still popular, despite his faults. After all the NDP and very soon the Liberals are only offering the same stunted, myopic Quebecers.....no thanks.

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    2. hi anonymous...historians will record that Stephen Harper was the best friend Pauline Marois ever had. For she invoked his name on the campaign trail all the time, promised all those who hate him that she would spank him regularly, and it obviously worked.
      But not for long. For I'm also sure that history will record that his divisive policies finally caused Canadians to united, and the moment the NDP came alive in Quebec, the writing was on the wall...

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    3. Anonymous8:32 AM

      Really? History will record the NDP will have their life blood sucked out, just like the PCs, Liberals and even the Bloc. Quebec voters are fickle to the extreme and it will cost the NDP in the long run. To keep their Quebec voters happy, they will piss off the rest of the nation.

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    4. Anonymous8:38 AM

      Really? History will record the NDP will have their life blood sucked out, just like the PCs, Liberals and even the Bloc. Quebec voters are fickle to the extreme and it will cost the NDP in the long run. To keep their Quebec voters happy, they will piss off the rest of the nation.

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  3. Anonymous2:34 PM

    'Out here almost all the people who fled Quebec see it as a racists Franco shit hole.'

    - 'racists,' hey?? Hey Einsten, let me guess, who aren't an English teacher. Reform Party idiots think because there's French on a cereal box they're 'forced' to be bilingual. Most of these toothless hayseeds can't even speak English properly. The current measures taken by Quebec to protect its lingual integrity are perfectly acceptable. If anything, it's thanks to them them there are far, far more bilingual Québécois than there are bilingual ROC Canadians.

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    1. Anonymous6:51 PM

      Toothless hayseed? Oh thats a good one! Well better than fat, drunk Franco who smokes to much and has to worry about when the next mass shooting takes place in their "progressive society"

      Or are you one of those latte sipping urbane liberals who is just so much smarter than everyone because you and your little echo chamber all say so. Hope you don't mugged by a poor person or a person of colour, haha, might mess up your world view. But hey keep defending the racist land of Quebec, they are going to need friends pretty soon anyway.

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    2. hi anonymous...I always thought our bilingual policies made us a more interesting place. As well as setting us apart from the Americans, which is essential for the survival of our culture. I've always wondered why the Anglos who fled Quebec were so afraid of another language?
      I guess they weren't very brave....

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    3. hi anonymous...may I remind you that your precious Tim Hortons now sell lattes, and so does MacDonalds. So the snob value of the beverage has gone way way down....

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    4. Anonymous8:38 AM

      They left because they didn't want to waste their time on a tongue that is basically worthless outside of Quebec. They also left because they didn't want to in a economic shit hole either. As for Quebec "culture" Pfff, I don't see any "culture" in that place, or anything of value really.

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  4. Anonymous9:23 PM

    Well Said. Thanks.

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    1. hi anonymous...thanks. Actually thank Josh. Because he spoke for all of us. In the midst of this horror, a calm,friendly,and funny voice of reason and friendship, is just what we needed....

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  5. Anonymous10:46 PM

    just sayin' hi
    comments sayin' more about the commenters than the post
    don't let the bastards get you down
    empathy and compassion might be the key
    blessings ...mike

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    1. Anonymous1:38 AM

      Or they might hate your guts so much that not only is it not the key but might actually be seen as weakness. Just a thought.

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    2. hi mike...thanks and don't worry I never let the bastards get me down. I simply can't believe the level of angry bordering on violent rhetoric I'm seeing. Canadians attacking other Canadians for who they are, in a country like this one, is just madnes, and can only lead to bitterness and disaster...

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    3. Anonymous8:34 AM

      Then you really don't understand the rest of the country. So many, so very many would kick Quebec out if they could.

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    4. Anonymous1:45 PM

      most of the resentment in western canada has to do with the perception of the "privileges" Quebec garnered over the years.
      as a westerner i watched this happen over and over, often enough to ask myself why?
      it seems quebec leaders asked for things for their people and negotiated hard.
      western leaders really never cared about their people trusting in the economy and corporations to take care of their employees
      if westerners were more honest they would have to lay the blame at the feet of their representatives rather than at the success of Quebec negotiators and by extension Quebec in general.
      western conservative (include republicans) insanity runs like this :
      I believe that it is of direct benefit to me to have all Canadians homed, fed, have decent water available , be educated, have health care provided, live in a non-toxic environment, be informed and provided the resources and support to have a productive life as a birthright of being born into one of the richest countries in the world …a non-comprehensive list but you get the idea.
      When a man provides these to his own extended family regardless of their abilities or contributions he is a sainted pillar of the community.
      When a politician wants to do these things for the citizens of his country he is a god-less socialistic communist
      simple really ....but really insane.

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    5. You do seem to like shitting on Alberta Simon. Watch those rocks. You just might break a window in that glass house.

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    6. hi Red...you're wrong. I don' shit on a whole province. I don't generalize like many Albertans do with Quebec. There are good Albertans and bad ones like everywhere else. But I have noticed that for years Albertans have been making tons of foul comments about Quebec, while French Quebecers don't say the same things about Alberta. So I figure I should speak up for them, and if sometimes I'm a little rude when dealing with SOME Albertans, who can blame me eh?

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  6. Putting white text on a dark background hurts peoples eyes

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    1. hi anonymous...empathy and compassion are always a good idea. And I can assure you nobody in Quebec hates other Canadians, as much as some of those Canadians seem to hate them. When you read the comments in the French papers there are no ugly ones like I read in the Globe every day. If more English Canadians could read French they'd understand that, and better understand the situation, instead of mouthing off and showing their ignorance. Like it or not, the French and the English are condemned to live side by side FOREVER however they choose to govern themselves,
      so we might as well we friends, or we will ALL drown in our own bile...

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    2. hi Mich...you're not the first one to say that The reason I have a dark background is that I like to run pics and I find they stand out better that way. I'm rather attached to the look, but I do care about my readers, I have been wondering why I'm going blind, so maybe it's time for a template change.... ;)

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  7. Sylvain3:12 PM

    Here's something that would never happen in Alberta,

    http://www.globalmontreal.com/montreal+man+recovering+after+tomato+sandwich+attack/6442713050/story.html#ixzz26D1GgABT

    Your blog's motto is "Fighting bigots, and bullies as hard as I can". You should start closer to home buddy.

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  8. Anonymous11:06 PM

    I am leaving Quebec next year after spending 4 years here. I spent 50 years in the U.S. and 4 here. But in these 4 I have heard more anti-Jewish comments than in all my years in the U.S. I have had more nasty anti-American and anti Anglophone comments or unkind behaviour than I care to remember. THe anti-immigrants sentiment is all over.

    I have received hostility again and again from Francophones.

    Actually, I came in thinking I would love the culture-I had always been fond of French culture. I quickly learned that I would not be able to appreciate the hostility and anger and exclusionary prejudice of a substantial part of the Francophone community. I was not able to comprehend the 300 years of pain that Francophones use to justify their angry sense of self justification. Nor did I get why that was being dumped upon immigrants, First Nations People, Jews, Anglophones and me.

    Several years ago, a study by Leger showed Quebec to be the most racist province in Canada. Francophones are fond of saying "at least we admit our racism, the others are lying". Many Anglophones who live here tell me "what racism, I have never been despised". Immigrants know better. An American woman took me aside during an Anglophone's rant about how there's no problem here. She said "Honey, I have been here for 10 years. They never stop hating you, and I'm married to a Francophone.".

    There are businesses, such as Hydroquebec, I am told, and the Quebec government that practically won't hire anyone other than French named white people. This is not a healthy place, despite the nostalgia some Anglophones here feel for smoked meat at Schwartz's and the "good old days".

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  9. Anonymous11:26 PM

    Well here it is... I guess. Montreal Simon, I respect you but I think your love of Montreal is causing flaws in your reasoning in regards to the whole french/anglo debate regarding Quebec. So to set some context..I am a born and raised Montreal , Quebec as an Anglo. My parents were both first generation immigrants from Europe. My first memories as a kid were walking in the deep snow in Parc Mont Royal.i am still here at 36.I am raising my first born child here eventhough I can choose between several other places. I grew up in French immersion schooling since kindergarten. By the time I was in highschool I was called the guy who can speak the craziest french by all of my anglo collegues. I had friends and family in Quebec city and one of my best friends was French Canadian. I celebrated and learned all the Quebec traditions.etc. etc. etc. All this being said I appreciate Montreal for its diversity, its originality, youth, cultural flair, uniqueness etc. However none of this makes up for the fact that this place is....and will be forever completely screwed over by the pety bullshit language debate. I have travelled to so many countries in the world and lived in many of them over the last 16 years. I always felt welcome and embraced anywhere I went as broken as my Italian, German, Spanish or any other language was. Here comes the best part. As a Canadian who is "well travelled" I travelled very little in Canada throughout my life. My first experience was living in Victoria BC for 4 years. . When people found out I was from Montreal, Quebec the knives really started coming out. People hated my guts before they even knew me...and the best part...I agree with them. People would say. aww you frenchies are disgusting...why don't you have a rotten accent like the rest of them? You guys always stir the pot...we could care less if you seperate..etc. On every account western Canada was pretty close to the truth. Eventually we (wife and I) decided to come back to Montreal. I can safely say this is the single place on the globe that I hate with all my heart but somehow I am still here. I gerw up being discriminated against for job interviews because my name wasn't Ivon Deschamps, I was sworn at by STcum transport workers because I spoke English. and coat check charge. Doesn't matter the subject at school if the teacher was french I was flunking and the kids with french family names were acing..eventhough most couldn't read ABCs and I was reading Fyodor Dostoyesfky at the time. There are a million incidents of discrimination I have been through but to cap it off I will leave you with one. I went to a "depanneur" near work the other day. One I always go to where the girl speaks both French and English. In fact the girl is English but out of respect for the law she always starts in French. She has served me in English many times. This time what looks like a manager is near by...he is disgruntled and mumbeling all sorts of things in French. She greets me in French "bonjour"... I answer Hi! she says it will be 5 dollars 11 cents to witch the manager starts ranting " another pig, another damn pig, make it five fifty for that pig..etc etc. So to wrap up don't try to wax over ..1. a completely rotten infrastructure / corroded pipes from 1945 and collapsing buildings/ bridges and slackness in evaluations of structural integrity by the city due to internal corruption and language politics. A complete failure of a functional public transit system, deteriorating streets and highways, medicare system that is parallel to what is happening in Nigeria or Haiti,snow removal that takes three weeks after initial snow fall, a city that invests billions in language laws in regards to buisnesses, multi national corporations that are ready to pack up and leave due to harrasment and minimal growth. Icing on the cake...All people who are not PURE LAINE...will be call immigrants and fakes and made to feel unwelcome

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    1. hi anonymous...maybe my love of Montreal does blind me to some of the city's faults, but I'm not blind to the petty bigots who would make Anglos feel unwelcome, and I'm not deaf to the chattering of the PQ language parrots who are forever drawing the most dire conclusions, and claiming that the province is turning into another Louisiana. And had I been in that depanneur I would have told that manager what I thought of him/her in English and French. But what I'm saying is that these smallminded people are a minority. French-speaking Quebecers are always going to be concerned about being culturally assimilated, but most recognize that their language and their culture, but most of them recognize that their language and culture have made great progress. And as more young Anglos grow up at ease in both English and French, the inevitable frictions will eventually disappear.
      Now as for the city's infrastructure...I'm not even going to try to defend that. Except to say that Toronto, where I live these days, is just as bad. We're not the smartest of people, but we do have some hidden qualities, and hopefully we can learn to live with each other as we have for so long, and will forever...

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    2. Anonymous12:04 AM

      you are wise in your responses. Much appreciated.

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  10. Anonymous11:40 PM

    forgive bad spelling and grammar on the last post. i had to chop it down because my rant was so long that the site requirements wouldn't take it. I just want to say.. to any rebuttle in defense of the bullshit culture anglophones and allophones suffer in Quebec and Montreal...Please bring the best you have..because I can argue this subject until I croak or for the next hundred years. We Suck. Love Montreal Quebec

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  11. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Un insulte dans chaque déclaration d`amour. Le sado-masochisme en amour avec Montréal qui malgré tout garde son humeur bon-enfant.


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