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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:

Jean Leloup (#366)

The last few posts touched upon some serious subjects, as well as and election topics.  Let’s take a break and lighten things up a little.

Jean Leloup is one of the singers I grew up listening to.  His real name is Jean Leclerc, but everyone knows him as Jean Leloup (Jean “the wolf”)

Although their music styles are different, Jean Leloup’s career in Québec could be considered to have many parallels with Jon Bon Jovi’s career in the USA.

  • Both are equally well known on their respective side of the border (Jean Leloup in Québec, and Bon Jovi in the USA)
  • Jean Leloup was born in 1961, Jon Bon Jovi was born in 1962.
  • Both of their music careers essentially started in 1983.
  • They both came out with albums in 1980s, although Jean Leloup’s career really started to take off a few years’ later than Bon Jovi’s
  • Both of their better-known albums did not come out until the mid-1990’s — both of which are still regularly heard today on the radio and in cultural contexts.
  • Both went out and came back into the public spotlight at various times in the 1990s, 2000s, right up to the present.
  • Concerts helped to keep their careers front-and-centre in people’s minds through this entire period,
  • Both have become music icons within their respective society’s music culture.
  • By the start of the 1990s, both were becoming known names in various countries (Bon Jovi in various English-speaking countries, and Jean Leloup in France, Belgium, and even the Netherlands.  I also read Jean Leloup found certain success in Japan).

So who is Jean Leclerc Leloup?

He is an alternative rock signer with a very unique style, which in itself seems to meld various styles.

His style is not “rock” in the traditional sense (which is why I said his style is very different from Bon Jovi’s).

When he sings, he often half-talks, half-sings.  Yet when put to music, the measured alternative rock elements tend to comes out.  In this sense, his genre is almost story-telling rhythmed alternative rock.   Confused yet?  That’s fine… the rest of us are as well.   But we like it!

When I look back to my teen years in the 1990s, I think back to a few of his better-known songs from that period which I grew up listening to (which remain among his most iconic songs, and which you will still hear on the radio):

  • Le Dôme
  • I lost my baby
  • Le monde est à pleurer

His latest album came out in 2015, À Paradis City.  Jean Leloup supposedly spent 10 years making it.

Here is the fun part… 

A few days ago, Jean Leloup posted a video online in which he showed off his choreographed moves for his latest album À Paradis City.  It made me instantly think of a younger Mick Jaggar.

The video went viral in this week in Québec (everybody is watching it).

Here is the context:  Imagine if Bon Jovi stood in the doorway of his kitchen – much smaller than anyone would have expected, in a much humbler home than anyone would have expected – with his dirty dishes scattered all around (complete with an coffee press and other furnishings from IKEA, and a piano keyboard in the kitchen… yes a piano keyboard in the kitchen), with a messy desk in the background, flipping around with his crazy new moves.

What would people’s reactions be if they saw Bon Jovi do that?

That’s precisely what happened with the video that Jean Leloup made.

I think everyone in the Franco-sphere just kind of stared at the video with their mouths dropped open – just like I did… half in disbelief, but nonetheless with a big smile (the video is a little shocking… I mean, we’re actually in his modest kitchen – and it’s not what anyone expected!).

That’s our Jean Leloup!!

If English Canadians were to take the time to explore his albums, I truly think they would greatly identify with his music, and would rapidly embrace him as one of their own..  So, let’s hope.  It is worth getting to know him better.

Here is the video.  The latter half lets you hear his immediately recognizable music style.    I like!  I hope you do to.

Québec’s Squeegee Kids (#365)

I had an interesting conversation the other evening.

A good friend of mine is an officer-level social worker in the Canadian military, for both the army and the air force.

Needless to say, he has an interesting perspective on life.  He has seen a range of issues which most of us could not even imagine.

Having myself lived in Lebanon from 2006 to 2008 when I was posted abroad with my former foreign service government job, I can sort of relate to some of the events he has to deal with on a daily basis.

Those two years in Lebanon included the Israeli air bombings of Beirut, two years of constant car bombings, and topped off with Hezbollah’s seizure of Beirut (this latter night-scene link was filmed not far from my house, and that’s how it sounded from inside the house… It was quite a night to remember, to say the least).

Part of the latter happened right outside of my front door with machine guns while I was at home, causing Lebanese friends to be trapped inside my house for a few days.  When one lawyer-friend down the street did try to get through the blockades to go home, he was gunned down in cold blood by Hezbollah supporters, only 2 blocks away from my door.  The week of May 8th, 2008 is one I will never forget.  This video was also filmed just down the street from my house.

It’s strange because this is perhaps only the second time I have spoken of this event in the past five years.  It’s rapidly becoming a very distant memory, which I suppose is a good thing.  But when I have returned to Lebanon on vacation to see friends from that period, there has always been a silent mutual understanding from having lived through this experience together – without having brought it up again.

All-in-all, after witnessing events similar to what our own military sometimes has to contend with, it gives me a lot of respect for Canada’s forces and their various intervention units.  I’ll leave it at that.

But maybe this also gives some perspective of why I sometimes write with a bit of a sarcastic streak when it comes to our politicians who make petty politics and cheap political shots on the Canadian and Québec home-front.  Petty politics and cheap political goal scoring, on so many levels, can demonstrate a lack of “big-picture perspective” on the part of our politicians (and even on the part of portions of the public who they are pandering to).

Some of the issues they endlessly squabble about, in the big picture, are so insignificant and unrelated to people’s lives.

So back to what happened with my friend who is a social-worker in the military, and what he just experienced — something which I believe is significant … …

The reason I mentioned the above is because my buddy deals with major crisis in the military, he is used to dealing with major and traumatic events, and he intervenes when he believes there is a major crisis which needs intervention (the above was an example of how major some of the events can be.  Soldiers witness these types of traumatic events regularly, and sometimes they carry they carry the emotional impact with them back to Canada.  In my case, I suppose I am lucky in that I never had any PTSD, I never had emotional trauma from my experiences, and I never needed to talk to anyone).

But as you”ll read below, my friend felt that Québec’s squeegee kids constituted a significantly large enough crisis which merited a small personal intervention and his attention on his own personal time.

He lives one of those types of 24/7 on-call jobs, never knowing when the phone will ring, and what sort of personal or professional crisis he may have to respond to.

Because of this, when he does have down-time, he tries his best to completely “detach” himself from work.  Knowing this, I’ll sometimes take the initiative to drive out to the base, pull him away from it all, and just head out for an outdoor BBQ, hiking, or a day trip somewhere.   We have become quite good friends as a result.

The two of us were chatting the other evening and he told me about a more-than-interesting encounter he had with a group of Québec squeegee kids (this also highlighted the fact to me that my friend can sometimes have a very difficult time turning off the 24/7 social worker in his head).

For those of you who are not aware, squeegee kids (or “des squeegees” as they are known in French) are scrubby-looking young guys and girls — often with a dog in tow, often with spiked punk hair and cargo clothes — who stand on street corners and will “squeegee” (clean) your car window for a dollar or two.

This is a phenomena which “generally” is restricted to Montréal, but is also found in Québec City, and Ottawa (which I consider to be half-within Québec’s-cultural sphere).

These “kids” are generally Francophone.

You will sometimes encounter them elsewhere in Canada.  I can remember having seen them in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in small towns along the Trans-Canada highway, holding cardboard signs saying “Travelling from Québec to Vancouver – will wash your car or window for donations”.

This is mostly a Québec cultural phenomena.   There is even a Wikipedia article on it.


My friend is Francophone, from Québec.  Last weekend he was in Montréal.  As he was walking down the street, he crossed a group of squeegee kids.

After he walked past them on the sidewalk, he stopped, turned around, looked at them for a few moments, went into McDonald’s, bought a few combo meals, went back out, sat down beside the squeegee kids, gave each of them a combo meal, and engaged them in conversation.

My friend said to me “You should have seen the look on their faces – it was like Christmas had arrived!”

The Squeegees immediately opened up and started to tell him their stories.

They were all between 18 and 22 years old.  Some had been beaten by their parents since infancy, some had been sexually abused by relatives their whole lives, others had been in the foster-care system their whole lives and could never quite settle into the school system, eventually dropping out.

All were homeless, with no families to fall back on.  They had, by default, become each other’s support group (a de facto street family).  None were life-long habitual drug users, but some had got caught up in drugs an alcohol at one point or another by simply having found themselves on the streets.  However, in this particular group, all had gone dry and were trying to resist falling back into the drugs and alcohol trap.

Christmas and other holidays are spent on the streets.  During birthdays there are no phone calls or gifts from family members.

All of them unanimously said that they were looking for ways to get off the streets, but they knew it would be difficult because it is a viscous cycle.  With no fixed address, it is difficult to qualify for various programs, let-alone secure employment.   A couple of the Squeegees in the group were planning on setting out for Vancouver to spend the winter, raising money for the bus along the way by offering to clean windshields along the way (the phenomena I described above).  They were planning to return to Montréal in the spring.

During the winter, they sometimes resort to sleeping beside parked cars to benefit from the heat given off from recently shut off engines.

My friend talked to them a bit about various non-profit and governmental programs available to them, and the importance to take advantage of such programs.  He told them that it is not important that they fully throw themselves within the net of these programs, but just to begin to slowly take advantage of bits and pieces of these programs, one small step at a time.

He offered advice on how to climb out of the viscous cycle they had fallen into.

He also emphasized the importance of concentrating on the here-and-now, and to look for what things they can do in the future to improve their lot, rather than concentrating on the past.  We cannot re-write the past, but we can write the future.

He said they lapped up every piece of information as if it was something they had been waiting to hear for a very long time.

He spent over a good hour with them, and they had no shortage of questions for him.  It became obvious to him that these kids were desperate to improve their situation, and they knew full-well that if things did not improve, this could quickly become a life-long trap of homelessness.

In the end, when he left them, he was very moved by the whole experience.   It gave him a perspective of a situation of a particular group of people he had no previous idea about.  Like me, he saw Squeegee kids on a regular basis, without ever knowing the story or the situation behind the face.

He suggested to me that the two of us should make a weekend trip to Montréal and perhaps do a weekend of volunteer work with organizations helping these kids, or if for no other reason, to even just lend an ear.

It’s interesting, because I’ve often wanted to ask panhandlers about their stories.  But I guess I have always been a little chicken to do so.

I do volunteer work when I have the time, and I do donate to certain charities, but it has never directly been related to the homeless.

Yet, my friend’s experience emphasized the fact that homelessness can often start right at the time when youth are becoming young adults, and that is the key moment for intervention.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have been cynical in the past with respect to some aspects of Canada’s homeless problem – often assuming that people beg for money for alcohol or drugs.

Perhaps part of the skepticism came from the failed “food coupon” program (a project a number of years ago in which Edmonton grocery stores sold cash-value coupons to customers.  The customers could give the coupons to Edmonton’s homeless when they begged for money.  The coupons were redeemable at any grocery store for anything except alcohol or cigarettes.  But Edmonton’s homeless overwhelmingly rejected the coupons when offered the coupons in the street.  Only a small fraction of them were ever redeemed.  Within a year, the program was cancelled as a failure).

Perhaps another part of my skepticism subconsciously stems from my overseas experiences.

I regularly saw real-life “maimed slum-dog” children when I worked in India, or adult “handlers” in China standing at one end of a street as they forced maimed children to beg for money at the other end of the street.   The children would then hand the money to the adults afterwards.

I remember one incident in particular in China. A child, about 5 or 6 years old (perhaps a bit older, but maybe looked younger owing to malnourishment), was begging for money as I was getting into my car.  I refused to give the child money.  Yet the child pushed his way into my car.  I tried to push him out of my car, but he crawled right in and would not let go until I gave him money.

I had a friend with me who was visiting from Canada.  My friend wanted me to give money, but I refused because I knew these children were being “used” by adult “handlers”.  Sometimes the children were kidnapped, and often they were purposely physically crippled by their handlers to evoke an emotional reaction to get more cash.

My friend did not believe me when I told her this.   So to make a point, when the child refused to get out of my car and started to scratch us, I purposely started to drive several metres down the road with the child in my car.

Just as I knew would happen, two adult ladies came running after me, only to start beating the child for not succeeding in getting money from me.   My friend and I had to pull the ladies off the child and I grabbed a lady telling her I was calling the cops.   The ladies did everything they could to run away.   But 10 minutes later, I saw that they put the child back “on duty”, begging for money again.

Here in Canada, when I host friends who are visiting from developing overseas countries, they often refuse to give money to Canadian beggars, saying that people in Canada have all the opportunities in the world, and this is not an environment or society in which people should feel they need to beg for money (I have one good overseas friend in this category who is financially quite successful – a multi-millionaire.  He came from an extremely poor background.  He was penniless when he left his parent’s home in rural China as a young adult.  With only about $20 to his name, he left rural NW China to find a job in the city so as to be able to support his parents in their village.  He actually had to sleep in a park for the first two weeks in the city because he had no money… but he worked his butt off, and made it – never begging once.   20 years later, he now does what he can to support the down-trodden where he lives in China – even going so far as to sponsor poor youth by paying their university tuition, or giving money to elderly without pensions – yet he views Canada’s homeless problem as something completely different).

Since moving to Toronto, I have become more aware of the fact that a portion of the problem has to do with mental issues and perhaps institutional discharging in the 1990s as a result of health-care restructuring (the rapid en-masse closure of mental institutions without half-way house infrastructure having properly been in place for economic and social re-integration).

Having also grown up near reserves in the West, I am also aware of the aboriginal component – the effect of social ostracization and cultural displacement – and how this has contributed to homeless issues in Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Regina.

But, with all that said… my military-social-worker friend and his experiences with the Québec squeegee kids has put everything in a whole new perspective.  It made me stare at my own prejudices straight in the face, and it hit me.

Frankly speaking, I will never again look at Québec’s Squeegee kids, or this problem in the same light.