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Monthly Archives: October 2015

NOTA – None of the above (#371)

Three posts ago, I wrote a segment entitled How you know you’re doomed on election day (kidding… well, kinda)

Near the end of that post, I stated:

I’m on the fence about “forcing” people to vote (such as the Australian model). It may be better to allow the uninformed — and those who simply don’t care — to “opt out” if they so desire, rather than risking them mark an “X” (chances are that our higher voter absentee rate may be related to the numbers of the “uninformed” just not wanting to vote… and perhaps that’s not a bad thing).

In some jurisdictions around the world, ballots offer people the opportunity to choose “None of the above” (NOTA).   This is sometimes a way to make up for “issues” caused when uninformed / uninterested / disheartened / disenchanted / cynical voters are forced to vote by law (such as in Australia).

Essentially, NOTA is a protest vote (in addition to being an “opt-out” option for those who feel they are ill-informed / grossly ignorant on the issues).

Providing NOTA on ballots is also a principle adopted by some countries which do not force people to no cast their ballot.

There is a world-wide movement (particularly strong in France) to provide NOTA options on ballots.  Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for links providing a little more insight.

To be honest, I have not given this option much thought in the past — until now (personally, I would not check NOTA, but I do think some other people should have that opportunity).

In Canada, this grass-roots movement has not had an organized face yet.   But if it does, I do NOT believe the following French-English should be that “Face”.


A bilingual sign from the Vote Blank / Votez Blanc movement in New Brunswick (image SRC)

If there is any way to make people even more cynical about the whole election thing, this sign just did it!!

Yes, the translations are correct…

  • “Votez” = Vote
  • “Blanc” = White (as in the whiteness created from leaving a space blank on a form… Such as “une case blanche” which means “a blank box” on a form)
  • In English, “Vote Blank” tells people to vote for “None of the above”
  • In French, the expression “Un vote blanc” (a white vote) means to select NOTA, whereby you would tell someone to “Votez blanc”.

Although these translations are correct, the problem arises when you put them side-by-side, with English and French together.

Given the technicalities and room for misinterpretations in Canada’s bilingual context (and particularly in New Brunswick, Québec, Eastern Ontario and other highly bilingual regions), I would recommend that the organizers of this movement rapidly find another way to express their desires in French, other than stating (what could easily be misinterpreted as)…


Ooops X 20, and bad, bad, bad!!  Unbelievable.

As you have seen in various other posts of mine, I sometimes push the boundaries of political correctness and combine it with satire for the purposes of effect or to make a point.

But I will never do it on the back of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethno-linguistic bashing, or traumatic events in life such as rape, sexual abuse, or other similar related matters (I draw the line at these, and I have been known to call others out on it when they do not).

So with that said…

You would think that the organizers of this movement in Canada would have chosen different wording in a bilingual context where they know that not everyone would be familiar with the expression “un vote blanc”.

Let me also explain to you how this is different from other similar public “goof-ups” (at least on how they may share similarities on the surface).

You may recall a couple of years ago that Coca-Cola ran a publicity campaign by placing random words and names on their products.   The campaign was bilingual.

Part of their campaign was to place one random computer-generated English word, and one random computer-generated French word on the seals under the bottle caps.

In an unfortunate (but completely innocent) event, the computer put the words “You retard” under the bottle cap (in French, “retard” means late, not “retarded”).

An Edmonton family with a daughter who has cerebral palsy and autism opened this bottle and found “You retard” staring them straight in the face.

The family rightfully remained calm, rational, but they did the right thing and contacted Coca-Cola.

Even though this was a computer-generated mistake (and even though everyone knew it was such), Coca-Cola immediately did the right thing, and unreservedly apologized.


An article on the Coca-Cola bilingual goof-up

But what is different between the “Votez Blanc” campaign and the “Coca Cola” error is that people were involved in choosing to write “Votez Blanc”. 

Computers cannot make deductions of “reasonableness”, but people can.

The people who wrote this campaign slogan are in Canada, in very bilingual regions of the country.  This did not occur in the backwoods of France or Saguenay where there is little exposure to English.

If this campaign slogan was meant to garner instant attention for their campaign (and I suspect it may have been), then the organizers need to be called on this hard and fast.

This is NOT how one should attempt to attract instant publicity for one’s cause.

If more people call them out on this, I am sure we will soon see them put out a press release saying “… we’re sorry, but it wasn’t our intent…”.

Fine… But they still need to be called-out on this so that it is publicly made quite clear this is not acceptable (and at lease, at a very minimum, they should offer clear clarification).

I can only hope my worse suspicions concerning this are not true.

(Seeing this sign sure made me do a double take).


(credit Acadie Nouvelle)

Related articles:


Enric Bellemare – Somewhat of a Québec fitness guru (#370)

Every society always seems to have its fitness gurus.

  • Anglophone Canada had Joe Weider (an Anglophone from Montréal) – who was credited with developing and changing gym culture across North America.
  • The US has had a governor… er… I mean a terminator… er… I mean a guy who really really got along “extra-well” with his house cleaner… er… screw it – you know what I mean.  So let’s just focus on Richard Simmons, K?  Less complicated (well, sort of).
  • Francophone Québec is no exception to having its own fitness gurus.

One such person is Enric Bellemare.  Yet there is one “small” thing which has set him apart from all the rest – something which is nothing short of inspirational.

I’ll let the video speak for itself.   While you’re watching it, I’m off to grab a Big-Mac… But on second thought, nope 😉

More about his story, how he is inspiring others, and how he is challenging others can be found on his website:  http://enricbellemare.com/

Funny what gets dragged from the attic when politics get involved (#369)

12 days until E-day, and armchair political activist are scouring the archives at a frantic pace, looking for any mud they can sling at their opponents.

This lovely video apparently came from the latest attic shoe-box to be opened.  It is now hitting the streets in Québec with a thud (I actually think the thud sound came from when it hit the concrete after being kicked out of the attic window like a soccer ball).

Oh boy.

Listen… I myself have “highlighted” to separatists and others, face-to-face, how the British did have a laissez-faire approach (albeit a strategic one) to enable them to better govern in centuries past.

I have also highlighted how it was not bad, and how, given the circumstances, it actually may have turned out for the best in the sense that it left very solid foundations upon which a lot of good stuff was later built (thus on the scale of brutal barbaric conquerors, given the Québec-British context, it is wholly incorrect for people in Québec and elsewhere to lump the British in the same category as the Spanish conquistador’s conquest of the Aztecs — which unfortunately some people do more than you would think).

However, I’m not sure I would have quite worded it the same way as Kenny (in fact, I am categorically telling you I would not have).

The little leap of historic context I would have perhaps taken to describe our current context, at least for Kenny, apparently warranted a huge leap.   His leap is so large, in fact, that he is trying to bridge too grandiose of notions as one big event (the British came, conquered, had a love-in, and boom 2015 arrived).

Over the course of centuries, it is always a “course of chain reactions” which leads to final outcomes.  Yet Kenny made the leap from the initial event straight to the final outcome, but almost completely neglected everything in between (which were the actual events which have led to today’s context and society).


T’is election season, and it’s coming back to haunt him.

Here is the write-up for it in the Huff Post Québec from which I took the above video (along with another video in which Kenny speaks more to his thoughts on multiculturalism):  L’empire britannique a bien intégré les colons français à l’époque de la Conquête, selon le conservateur Jason Kenney 

As an aside:  Interestingly, the Conservatives have led what appears to have been a very successful economic and Niqab-bashing advertising campaign in Québec in the last few weeks.  The catch phrase of their TV and radio advertisements:  “Au Québec, on est plus conservateur que l’on pense” or “Au Québec, nos valeurs sont plus conservatrices que l’on pense”.   (“In Québec, we’re more conservative than you’d think”, or “In Québec, our values are more conservative than you’d think.”

In Québec, every time a politician (regardless of political stripes) makes a statement based on their record or the record of their opponents, the Rad-Can reporter Denis Martin Chabot (who I actually knew from when he was a reporter in Edmonton) does a television and print segment which quickly verifies the veracity of politicians’ statements.

The segment is called “Qui dit vrai?” (Who’s telling the truth).  Sometimes Chabot will do several of these segments a day.  Let’s say a politician states “We will create tax incentives for industry X because they have lost 322,000 job in the last 6 years”.  Chabot will then quickly research the facts.  He will come back to the public within an hour or two to either confirm the figures thrown around, or to declare that the figures were twisted and manipulated.

People in Québec are lapping up “Qui dit vrai?”, and they are apparently putting a lot of confidence in it.   Of all the political leaders who have been caught with their pants down with twisted numbers, Harper has been caught the least.  Harper stays on script (nonstop), and he gives numbers which can be backed up (whereas Trudeau and Mulcair have been caught in the nuances of their numbers more than a few times — to the point that, over the last several days, the latter two have almost stopped citing figures in French, rather than risk having them intensely scrutinized by Chabot on TV, the radio and the internet).

I believe this may be having an effect in Québec, especially on the front of giving economic benefit of the doubt to the Conservatives.

The poll numbers for the Conservatives in Québec are going up.  Polls in the last few days have shown they’re getting close to the 1/3 support mark.  That’s huge.

What this suggests to me is that the “attic clean-outs” in Québec, like the one above, will likely only intensify in the next few days.  It will be interesting to see what other tid-bits Conservative opponents will drag out, and if it will have an effect on what has been an otherwise very successful niqab-bashing political campaign in Québec.

How you know you’re doomed on election day (kidding… well, kinda) (#368)

Here is a factoid which more than universally transcends the Two Solitudes…

How you know you’re doomed on election day.

First in English (Toronto), then in French (Montréal).

Moral of the story:  Stay in your car, drive straight to work, and don’t get out (lest you find yourself having to interact with them)… Oh, and pray like hell come election day.

English (Toronto)

French (Montréal)

Québécois and history

Québécois and geography

Some last thoughts?

For the last several weeks, Canada’s various social media have begrudged the fact that there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Canadians living abroad who would not have the right to vote in the upcoming election.

The rule is simple:  Save for a very narrow set of exceptions (such as working for the Federal government abroad), if you have lived outside of Canada for more than 5 years, then you cannot vote.

Incredibly, there are a few non-resident Canadians out there — who haven’t lived in Canada for years, decades, or even their entire lives — who are complaining that they don’t have the right to vote owing to a 5+ year absence from the country.

Think of it this way:  If there are people in the country who can’t tell their foot from their hand (to used a “toned down” expression), then do ya think it’s a safer bet to extend the right to vote to people who have been absent from the country 5, 10, 20, or 50 years?  (Me thinks not… perhaps it may even be just a teeeny weeeny bit worse.  Just perhaps).

If they were allowed to vote, then about 300,000 Hong Kongers (who also coincidentally hold Canadian passports), or 50,000 Lebanese (who happen to also have Canadian passports), and not counting perhaps up to a few hundred thousand others in many other countries, would cast their ballots primarily in 20 or 30 ridings of Vancouver, Toronto or Montréal (which would be a vote tipper for sure, and which would rob the citizens of those cities of the opportunity to have their votes count on issues they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis… and that could be up to 10% of Parliament’s seats — no small number).

Many of these people abroad have not lived in Canada for any more than 3 years in their entire lives — just long enough to obtain citizenship and then high-tale it “back home” (with home not being Canada).

And then there are those many cases where Canadian citizenship was acquired abroad, simply by having been born to a Canadian parent who themselves may have only lived in Canada for 3 years (note the 3-year citizenship rule has recently been extended to a whopping 4 years, but most people I’m referring to still fell under the old 3-year rule).  These “Canadians” born abroad may have never ever lived in Canada, may have never set foot in Canada, are more than likely not at all aware of the issues which affect the day-to-day lives of Canadians, and perhaps do not even speak English or French.

So, at the end of the day, they’re not allowed to vote.

It’s all about a beautiful word spelled B-A-L-A-N-C-E.

(Did I ever mention I was more than happy to not have the right to vote when I lived out of the country.  I was content with the situation because I felt I was contributing to the voting system’s integrity.   I met waaaaay too many of these types of “Canadians” abroad who couldn’t even name one, let along two provinces in Canada, or let alone anything to do with Canadian politics or election issues).

As an aside…

Until we come up with a better system, then let us leave the system as is.

If politicians are looking for suggestions…. Perhaps there are ways to “tweek” the system, but it would still remain a subject for debate if it is a “better system” or not.

France has a model in which one deputy/MP seat is specifically designated for nationals abroad.  Nationals abroad could cast their vote for this lone MP, and no others.  But we could make it so that this lone MP would not be allowed to vote on matters of budgetary importance, nor on matters regarding immigration/nationality, nor matters involving Canadian social services which could be accessed by citizens abroad.  It may also be necessary to have this lone MP sit as an independent.

This falls under the purview of the elections act, not the constitution.  Thus it is a modification which could be made by way of an Act of Parliament (if the need is even there – but I’m still not convinced it is).

Without such restrictions, the dreadful alternative would be that everyone abroad would be able to vote for a party which would advocate for beefed up air-ambulances back to Canada for some dumb thing like a broken arm, or for widening citizenship laws to automatically grant citizenship to 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins, plus their dog.  Of course this is an exaggeration, but it drives home the point.

We’re already seeing parties panhandle to certain groups in this election campaign.  Imagine if, out of desperation to tip the outcome in several ridings, they also had the opportunity to panhandle to “citizens” abroad (ie: how much can we give them and spend on them) in order to simply gain a few extra seats by tipping the balance in ridings which may not have otherwise voted that way?  It could be disastrously costly, and would jeopardize the voices of those at home who would be drowned out in their ridings by those abroad (who tended to reside in a concentration of only 30 or so ridings when they did live in Canada before moving back “home” — with “home” being places like like Lebanon, Europe, the US, India, Pakistan, China mainland & Hong Kong, and other places).

This is also why I’m on the fence about “forcing” people to vote (such as the Australian model).  It may be better to allow the uninformed — and those who simply don’t care — to “opt out” if they so desire, rather than risking them mark an “X” (chances are that our higher voter absentee rate may be related to the numbers of the “uninformed” just not wanting to vote… and perhaps that’s not a bad thing).

Hey there all of you people on Canada’s social Media:  Tone down down the tears being shed for those abroad who are not allowed to vote.

Point made?

Have a great day!

Thierry Doucet, and his not so politically correct YouTube hit videos (#367)

When talking about any culture, it isn’t just about the politics, or just about serious topics which are of interest to mature, sane adults.

Every culture has its crazy side, and often it is this side which the public loves the most.

Thierry Doucet has been taking YouTube and Québécois in their teens and 20s by storm with his hit improv videos, usually involving his girlfriend or some other extremely hesitant willing friends.

His short, uncensored videos have been viewed by millions, mostly by Québec’s younger generations.  He has 100,000 subscribers who instantly see his videos the moment they come out, with the rest viewing them within the next few days as word quickly spreads.

All of this has likely made Thierry into one of the better-known ad-hoc pop-culture names with Québec’s younger generations.

Just the other day, he did it again, and released another crazy-ass video – and as expected, it went viral.

If you’re frigid and rigid, this video might not be for you.

But if deep down inside you still have that youthful wild streak which causes you to smile at the dumber things in life (even if you would never dare show that side to others), then sit back, watch, and laugh a little (life really is too short to take everything 100% serious).

Here’s Thierry’s latest video, which is taking up so much bandwidth in Québec:

Some of the most popular ones which have made PKP lots of money through Vidéotron eaten up a whole lot of Québec’s bandwidth are: