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Tonight’s 2014 Bye-Bye Celebration (#132)

This will be a quick post…  (Lots to get ready for New Years tonight!  Just drove back 5 hours from Banff and Calgary, things to arrange here in Vegreville, then off to Edmonton in a few hours for New Years, taking buddies to the airport tomorrow morning, then I fly back to Toronto on the 2nd… Phew!   The next post may not be for a couple more days).

It has become a huge tradition in Québec to watch the annual Bye-Bye comedy celebration on Radio-Canada.  It’s a comedy show which people watch in the hour running up to midnight.  When people are celebrating New Years at home with family and friends on New Years Eve, it’s almost a guarantee that the Bye-Bye will be playing on the TV screen (if not taking centre-stage in the room, it will at least in the background).  Everything comes to a full-stop the seconds before midnight for the final countdown as everyone turns their heads to the TV and raises their glasses of bubbly (just as many people in the US watch the apple drop in on TV in New York, or others in Anglophone Canada watch the major fireworks live on various stations).

In 2013, almost 4,000,000 people in Québec (and elsewhere in Canada) watched it (with over 5,300,000 overall viewers, including later re-broadcasts on the web, etc.).   That makes it one of the most watched annual television programs in Canada.

It’s in French, of course.  If you’re a learner of French, the style of speaking might be a little quick, and a little bit “slangy”, with fair doses of Joual.  But even if you’re a beginner learning French, give it a shot… the comedic scenes which you can watch sometimes carry the punch-lines in and of themselves.

There are going to be some major cast changes in this year’s Bye-Bye.  Louis Morissette and Véronique Cloutier will not be part of the cast, but Morissette will nonetheless be a producer of the show (so it’s guaranteed to be funny).

Here are some links to articles with info on tonight’s show:

The last link above has Radio-Canada’s entire New Years Eve line up (I’m providing the Radio-Canada line-up since it’s watched more on New Years Eve than the TVA line-up… plus everyone in Canada, regardless if you live on any of the three coasts, all gets Radio-Canada and the Bye-Bye).   Check out the last link… there are a number of New Years specials you can watch all evening.

  • The Bye-Bye starts tonight at 11:00pm in your own time zone (regardless of which of Canada’s five time zones you live in).
  • There are re-runs on January 1st at 9:00pm on Radio-Canada.  
  • If you’re not in Canada or are not in front of the TV, you can watch the Bye-Bye live online at the official website (Canada’s Ontario/Québec Eastern Standard Time zone, same time as US Eastern Standard Time, ie: New York).

The official Bye-Bye website is:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/bye-bye/2014/

I’m unfortunately not going to be able to catch it tonight (I have four different house parties in Edmonton tonight), but hopefully you’ll have the chance to check it out.   If it’s you’re first Bye-Bye, you’ll be in for something very special and quite unique.   Enjoy it!  It has become a BIG part of Québec’s and Canada’s culture — and thus yours’ too!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Will see you in 2015!


Simon Durivage (#129)

Simon Durivage just received the Order of Canada.

He’s a very famous, longtime anchor — with a television anchoring career dating back to 1968.  Actually, he’s one of Canada’s and Québec’s most respected Editor-in-Chiefs and Chief Station Anchors.  He continues to be a television host, and in this respect, he is among a very small group of Québécois anchors who could be considered the Québec version of a living/ongoing Nolton Nash & Lloyd Robertson (in English Canada) or a Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, or Barbara Walters (in the US).

Durivage started his career with Radio-Canada, and for many many years, he hosted several of R-C’s pillar programs including:

  • Enjeux (a W5 / 5th Estate / 60 minutes type program)
  • Le Point (the 30 minute analysis / special reporting section which used to follow the 30 minute news segment of the daily evening news on R-C)
  • Montréal ce soir (the Montréal evening news).

He had also anchored programs on Radio-Québec (today’s Télé-Québec) at the tail end of the 1970s, and he also hosted a show on TV5 (“the” international French television station) for a short period.

Durivage then moved to Québecor’s TVA network in 1997 in prominent Chief Anchor roles, hosting his own programs.

He moved back to Radio-Canada in 2003 as a Chief input anchor on R-C’s 24-hour network RDI.  Today, we see him on air everyday as the host of his own opinion-maker / commentary show, Le Club des ex.

Le Club des Ex is daily a program which sees Durivage as the moderator and interviewer of a 3-personal panelist of “ex”-politicians (hence the title of the show, “The Club of Ex’s”).  The three panelists are paid by Radio-Canada on a year-to-year contract, and are given full-salary by R-C (the salaries have been the topic of media attention over the last few months, and Gilles Duceppe even declined a panelist position because he would lose his former MP Federal pension if he were to derive a salary from a Federal agency, including Radio-Canada).  Each of the current panelists were former Members of Québec’s National Assembly, and they provide commentaries based on their personal experience, views, and political opinions.

Actually, it’s quite fitting I mentioned Simon Durivage’s current role on Le Club des ex, as it ties into some political commentary posts I’ve written in the past.  You may have read my previous post “Québec’s Network of Opinion Makers”.   In that post, I listed some of Québec’s most high profile and well-known opinion makers and opinion maker programs. Among that list, I mentioned Le Club des ex.  I mentioned in that post that some of Québec’s opinion-makers and opinion-marker programs often slant and lean their media-expressed commentaries and views towards sovereignty (although I do not believe “Le Club des Ex” has any political agenda).  In the past post entitled Le Plateau I gave some of the main reasons why this may be, despite a strong majority of Québec’s population not being in favour of sovereignty (although I discussed in the post Maurais Live that, although a majority of people do not support sovereignty outright, there is still an important segment of the population who could be considered “soft sovereignists”).  If you read these few posts together and take them as one continuous series, you’ll get a fairly good insight into how the ideology of sovereignty and the media-world meet (and for a further dose of insight of this sovereignty-meets-media phenomena, you might want to read the continuously running post No way, Le Figaro).

But unlike some other opinion-makers, Simon Durivage, as the host of Le Club des ex, does an  commendable job of maintaining political neutrality – with a sincere attempt to objectively get to the bottom of matters, regardless of the political topic being discussed.  I have absolutely no idea what Durivage’s personal political views are, and I frankly don’t care because he can be trusted to deliver a non-partisan point of view and to take everyone to task equally… always seeking to see and report the bigger picture. As such, Simon Durivage is one of the Canadian journalists who I trust the most (be they Anglophone or Francophone). Add to that a career dating from 1968 (46 years), and all the experience that entails, there truly is almost nobody in Canada’s media who can deliver topics quite like Simon Durivage.

He truly is the one of best that Canada’s media has to offer – and he deserves all the accolades he receives.

ADDENDUM: 2015-06-19

Today is Simon Durivage’s last day as host of Le Club des ex.   He is retiring, but he says the public will continue to see him in media projects dear to his heart.

I sent him a note earlier today, and I wish him the best.

Bonne semi-retraite Simon!  Profitez-en du temps libre avec vos proches.  Vous le méritez.   B.

Gérald Fillion – Watch this guy if you want to know about Québec’s economy (#124)

I haven’t yet done an economic post – which, if I think about it, is quite strange since I love looking at economic numbers, metrics and indicators.

In general, very few reporters or columnists in Québec seem to be preoccupied with economy stories.  This certainly isn’t unique of Québec (reporters & columnists everywhere would rather throw their opinions around regarding political or social issues – the “sensational” stuff on which they feel they can place their own stamp, and thus say they have the right opinion.  I suppose that’s just human nature 😉 ).

But Québec does have a few good economic reporters – and it takes a special breed to truly understand and decipher hard-core, objective numbers (numbers don’t lie, after all).

Québec has a 24-hour economic, business & money-talk television station, Argent (owned by Québecor).  The station’s website is http://argent.canoe.ca/, and playback videos of various programs can be viewed here: http://argent.canoe.ca/grille-horaire.  Unfortunately it does not stream live video, but it does stream live audio (click in the upper right of its home page).   Argent is sort of the Québec French equivalent of BNN, Bloomberg or CNBC.  Argent supplements TVA’s economic commentaries and reports.

But apart from Argent and a few faceless reporters in newspapers or magazines like Les Affaires, generally speaking, high profile economic reporters and columnists are far and few between in Québec.

One notable exception is Gérald FillionI’m in business, and I can say he knows his stuff and he has my attention.  Fillion is Radio-Canada’s (and their 24-hours news station RDI’s) star economic reporter.


The closest equivalent to Fillion in Anglophone Canada would likely be Amanda Lang (and just as most people across English Canada would recognize Amanda Lang, most people across Québec would recognize Gérald Fillion).  Fillion, like Lang, has his own business & economics analysis television show, RDI économie, but his television appearances on Radio-Canada news programming are even more frequent than what Lang’s are on CBC.

Fillion is Radio-Canada/CBC’s lead Francophone reporter for all of Canada, but his reports and posts are very much focused on Québec, which again, brings home the concept that Québec media is very Québec-centric (I’ve mentioned this in “Quebec-centric” media tendency quite a number of times in past posts – it’s important to understand it upfront so you don’t get too frustrated as you rely on it while incorporating more and more Francophone culture into your own lives).   I suppose a comparison I can make on this front would be if Amanda Lang or Don Pittis (also at CBC) made their reports 90% Ontario-specific (that wouldn’t go over so well with people in other provinces).   But I’m also very much a realist, and Radio-Canada needs to attract large Québec viewership numbers to woo advertising dollars their way (Patrice Roy, of Radio-Canada has said so much himself) — so it probably wouldn’t pay for Fillion to do economic reports on matters in Nova Scotia or BC.

I do NOT blame Fillion at all on this front.  He does a very good job in the context that he has been given to work within — and it is a very difficult context he has to work with, with very tight budgets and limited resources.  He’s one of Canada’s best and brightest journalists, but many of these broader funding issues are out of his hands.  He has a system he has to work within.

Something I find interesting, when I watch Fillion’s competition, Argent, I feel a good number of Argent’s reporting is right-right economic reporting, and you sometimes need a strong economic background to understand certain issues being discussed.   But not so when watching Fillion.  Sometimes I think his economic views are centre-centre, sometimes I get vibes he’s centre-right… and sometimes I get a sense he’s centre-left, and then other times he’ll approach issues from the extremes at both ends… in that sense I haven’t quite figured out his own true standpoints yet.  But that’s perhaps a good thing because it means he’s trying to report economic issues to as wide an audience as possible (his target audience is the average person on the street in Québec, so he needs to simplify issues to garner broad appeal).

Fillion has an official blog on Radio-Canada’s website which speaks to issues of interest.  He writes a new post every few days pertaining to an important topic being hotly discussed in the news.   When he explains the issues, he does so from the standpoint that the viewer is encountering the matter for the very first time.   Thus he takes special care to make very complex matters quite easy to understand, all in just a few short paragraphs.

When he interviews politicians, I’ve seen him take them to task.  I’ve smiled a number of times when watching Fillion’s interviews, because certain politicians, who are managing the economy and who are supposed to have the answers, are sometimes at a severe loss for how to answer very basic economic questions posed by Fillion.   In that sense, his interviews have given me much insight into who is and who is not a good politician.   My guess is that Fillion probably scares the wits out of a good number of politicians (unless certain politicians actually know what they’re talking about – and some do… And that’s when they shine and get my respect!).

I can point you to a very recent interview which demonstrates this point.  Fillion recently conducted an interview with Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP).  Throughout the interview, it was Fillion’s economic prowess which carried the discussion.  PKP, regarded as the Québec business tycoon, was at a loss for coherent, straight answers when questioned hard by Fillion, and he simply wordsmithed (la langue de bois as we say in French), floundered, then sank.  I couldn’t believe it – “surprise” would probably be the best word to describe the expression I must have had on my face.  I was expecting an amazing performance from Péladeau, and in the end, an average Joe Blow from the street could have probably answered better.   I’d say that out of all of 2014’s television interviews, I’d put this very interview as one of the years’ most face-losing interviews for any of Qubéc’s politicians – the link for the interview is HERE.   My guess is that PKP will never want to be interviewed by Fillion again… but that lets you know who does and doesn’t know how to marry the world of economics and politics (if you want my opinion, if you can’t marry those two worlds, then you shouldn’t be in politics).   As a side note… of course, Argent did not mention so much as two words about Péladeau’s less-than-stellar performance when put on the economic question hot-seat by Fillion… but then again, Péladeau owns Argent, so who in their right mind at Argent would criticize him (PKP will return one day, after all).

Below are links for Fillion’s economic posts over the past three months on Radio-Canada’s website.  Take a look at the titles – they give you an idea of what economic issues are of interest to Québec’s public.  Because he will cover issues specific to Québec’s social programs, some issues would be less of an interest to an Albertan or Ontarian (Anglophone or Francophone).  However, there are still similarities with matters of importance to all Canadians (lots of coverage of resource issues and government finances for example), but with a slightly different twist in Québec.

If your French is not sufficient to read them with ease, may I suggest you use Google Translate (Google’s French-to-English translations are instant and generally pretty good)  https://translate.google.com/

Regardless of where you are in Canada, see if you can catch Gérald Fillion on RDI every Monday to Friday at 6:30pm and 10:00pm.   You can also stream RDI Economie online at the following link:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/economie/ (far left, scroll down half way, and click “RDI Économie”).

A bit of issue-related commentary on my part: 

In the above post, I mentioned that there tends to be very little economic reporting on matters outside of Québec (let alone within Québec.   Because RDI and Radio-Canada could be considered one of the very few sources to which Francophones outside Québec can turn to for their economic news, it makes it so I really feel for Francophones in as diverse as places as Nova Scotia and BC 😦 .

To Francophones around Canada, I say this; I know the last thing you want to watch is a “headline story” about the economic impact a budget will have on the Conservatoire de musique in Trois-Rivières (the bit about the “system” I just spoke about above).  Honestly, if you are Francophone or Francophile in a place like Kelowna, B.C., depending heavily on our public broadcaster Radio-Canada, and you want to catch up with the economic news in French, but you see this latter Trois-Rivières Conservatoire de musique headline as the day’s main economic news article, I can fully understand why you’d want to jump into Lake Okanagan!  (believe me, the thought has crossed my mind many times in the past myself – it’s a case where Québec poorly understands the rest of Canada, just as unilingual aspects of the rest of Canada often poorly understand Québec – it goes in both directions)…

So I’ll say it once again… This is one of the reasons why I have not been so hot-hot on budgetary cuts to Radio-Canada (RC’s headquarters in Montréal calls the shots for RC’s French-language reporting everywhere else in Canada).  RC’s regional French news outside Québec has almost NO reporters who are adequately informed on local or regional economic issues.  With the exception of the odd francophone hors Québec (local Francophone), most regional French language reporters are imported into our regions from Québec rather than hired locally, they haven’t been trained locally, and they haven’t grown up in the local economic climate — and that makes a huge difference between good and bad local reporting.  THAT, my friends, in part is what you call “The Two Solitudes”.  It’s sometimes as frustrating as hell – and needlessly so – but that’s part of the reason why I’m writing this blog.  (See, the blog is slowly starting to come together, bit-by-tiny-bit).

What type of news falls victim of this apparent “News wall” across the linguistic lines?:

I’ll give you an example of what I mean… British Columbia’s brand new “Site C Clean Energy Project” (a MASSIVE planned hydro-electric dam project on the Peace River in Northeast British Columbia) was approved earlier this week by the B.C. provincial government in Victoria.  It will be breaking numerous world records and will cost almost $10 billion dollars (making it one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in the the world).  Work will start soon.  By any North American standards, this is a major economic news story.  Québec also is a major hydro-electric powerhouse on the world stage, but I’m not sure any single dam in Québec has ever cost as much as what this massive dam in British Columbia will cost.  This is big news for Canada as a whole, and it should be huge news for Québec because BC hydro, with all of its projects, is set to become the new “Hydro Québec”.  Because both companies are located physically far apart from each other, they are not going to be in competition with each other – and the opportunities for them to work together to do amazing things on the world stage is tremendous,   How much coverage was it given to this story in Québec?  ZERO.  How much coverage was it given by francophone reporters based in the local French studios in Vancouver?  “5 minutes and 20 seconds”, and then after that… zero… nothing since.  If you want to see the only French language news that came out on this project, you can view it online at “Le Téléjournal Colombie-Britannique” website by clicking here:  http://www.radio-canada.ca/widgets/mediaconsole/medianet/7217064.  The report starts at 0:50 seconds mark, and runs until the 6:10 minutes mark.

This new “Site C clean energy” hydroelectric project is going to help propulse Canada much further onto the world energy stage in a new way, and it will benefit everyone and every province in Canada through equalization rebalancing, research, company contracts, cheaper manufacturing costs, less dependence on oil, etc. But yet it has zero coverage in the Francophone media. And frankly, even here in Ontario, there’s hardly any talk of it in Toronto-centric Anglophone media.  (Arrrr… Frustration!).

You read my last post on Québec’s views towards oil pipelines and a desire for things to progress towards clean or carbon-neutral energy, not only in Québec, but elsewhere in Canada also.  This dam serves just that purpose, right on Alberta’s border, not far from the oil sands.  But again, there’s no coverage in francophone media.  Need I say anything more?

Likewise, ask an anglophone what Manic-5 in Québec is (I visited it once – it’s a huge dam of massive importance to Québec and Canada, inland from Québec’s North Shore, North of Baie-Comeau), and their eyes will also completely glaze over too (but at least most people know The James Bay projects and they’re incorporated into out high school history curriculums across Canada).   Now, If I were to ask someone in the Brazilian state of Paríba if they had ever heard of the Itaipu Dam on the other side of Brazil, (also one of the largest dams in the world just like these two Canadian dam projects I just cited), it would be absolutely inconceivable to hear a Brazilian say “no”.

I know it’s a complex situation with many different factors.  But I do see more and more signs that things are getting better – there is more East-West communication and exchange of ideas than ever before (the internet can be credited with much of this change)… but there still is lots of work to do.

Possible solution:  It’s actually quite simple.  My message to all reporters, Anglophone and Francophone, don’t be afraid to report on news events beyond a 500, 1000 or 3000km radius.  If you give people the news, they will want to know more – and ratings will follow. 

People are curious, and they generally want to know more… it’s human nature – and fortunately the information and internet age can help facilitate this.  I can give you some very recent examples of how people can be curious about things beyond their immediate vicinity – if they are given the opportunity to be curious.   I recently encountered this human-nature sense of curiosity earlier this very week:

A few days ago, when I was in Québec city, I took the opportunity to do some runs to various shopping malls for last minute Christmas shopping;  from Les Galleries de la capitale in the North to Place Laurier and Place Ste-Foy West of downtown.  I like to chat with people, and a number of people heard me speak with a bit of a different French accent than the local Québec City accent.  That lead to questions about where I was from.  When I said Alberta, questions and conversations on all sorts of subjects came up.   One thing I’ve always thought was interesting is that when a stranger finds out you’re from a very far away place, they tend to open up and take the initiative to talk to you about things they would NEVER talk about to their neighbours.  I liken it to a Brit visiting Canada — there are Canadians who would invariably bring up the Royal Family when conversing with a Brit, but those same Canadians would never ever talk about the royal family with their neighbours or even family members.  It’s quite an interesting experience to see what people want to talk about, on their own initiative, when I’m in “non-Montréal or non-Outaouais/Gatineau” regions of Québec, and they find out I’m from Alberta (especially when they find that not only am I from Alberta, but that I grew up in large part in French, which kind of makes me part Francophone — at least it often feels that way).   Faced with this, people’s guards and walls towards me automatically come down, and people open up about economics, politics (even telling me out of the blue how they vote – it floors me every time this happens, because some people say they have never even told their children how they vote), they ask me stuff about Alberta, they say they’d like to visit the West, they tell me about stuff going on in their lives, about their spouses jobs, etc, etc, … it’s a very very interesting psychological phenomenon that occurs.  And usually I just listen… People in general, regardless of where they’re from, feel they want to be heard, and listening is the biggest compliment and sign of respect you can pay someone (it’s also the best way to learn what matters to others).  The more you listen, the more people tell you.

A couple of examples:  I was in a clothing store in Place Laurier, and the middle-aged lady who was helping me find clothes just wanted to stand there and chat… Apparently, being a “Franco-Albertan” was quite a “novelty” in her eyes, and she told me about everything going on in her life.  She asked a gazillion questions, wanting to know if people in Alberta were going through the same things (prices of groceries, gas prices, struggles paying the kids tuition fees, difficulties in affording housing, the job market, even food and the types of cars which sell the most – you name it, she wanted to know about it).

In Les Galleries mall, across town, it was a similar thing.  I was standing in line at Target, the cashier asked how I was, I answered “I’m pretty good, but trying to make a mad dash to get all my Christmas shopping done”.  She heard my different accent and said “You’re not from here, are you?”   I said no.  She asked where I was from and I told her to guess… “Gaspésie? Outaouiais? J’chu pas sur, c’est pas clair…”  I told her I’m from Alberta, and it just about bowled her over.  I was the only one in the cashiers line… and again, out came the questions, and she wanted to talk about everything from A to Z.  After after a few minutes, she asked me how people in Alberta vote (boy, how do go down that road when you’re standing at a check-out counter??)… but it’s just to say that people are curious, and they do want to know about things that matter to them… and judging from the questions I get, I guess Alberta matters.

Same thing happened at a Tims on Industrial Road in Val Belaire, on the North edge of Québec City.  Here’s what happened:

It’s an area with lots of new suburb home construction.  I sat at one end of a bar-like table in a Tims restaurant, and 3 construction workers were at the other end, hard-hats n’all.  I forget what started the conversation, but we were chatting, and again (accent thing) I was asked where I was from.  One guy in the group had some pretty hard views about Alberta (he was a pretty rough guy), but it was the first time in his life he ever met someone from Alberta (and quite possibly the first time he ever met an Anglophone or someone from outside Québec), let alone having the opportunity to talk with an Albertan in French.  And boy, he wanted to let me know everything he thought.  He actually thought the Reform Party sent Harper to Ottawa to take Alberta out of Canada and that Harper’s strategy was to intentionally p***-off Québec so he could achieve Alberta independence.  This guy unfortunately saw a terribly inaccurate, (unrepresentative), and dare I say politically motivated anti-Alberta documentary entitled Les États-déunis du Canada by Guylaine Maroist.  (I’ve seen it myself and it’s awful in how it twists reality in an unrepresentative way.  It’s a documentary that purports that Anglophones all over Canada hate Canada and each province has an activist separatist movement to dissolve the country).  As soon as this guy mentioned Harper being “sent” to Ottawa to separate Alberta from Canada and sock it to Québec, I knew exactly where he was going with this and it was more than obvious to me that he saw this documentary, even before he told me he saw it.   (This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this same story… I feel Maroist has done damage with this inaccurate documentary, and she continues to garner media attention through more recent documentaries – but that’s a whole other subject).   He also heard some of the anti-equalization rhetoric Daniel Smith (formerly of the Wild Rose Party) was spewing during the last Alberta election (Smith’s political-scoring remarks were picked up by a good number of sovereignist columnists, amplified and sensationalized in Québec with the goal of scoring political points at home).  This guy had developed a number of views I believed were inaccurate or incomplete, amongst which was his focus on “what’s it it for me in Québec” rather than a “what’s in it for us in Canada” from an economic and social standpoint.  He was quite sovereignist directly because of all of the above.  He had a few rationals:  one was that if Alberta wanted to sock it to Québec, pick up and leave, then so should Québec sock it to Alberta and do the same thing.  Another was that anytime another province economically benefitted more than Québec from an economic program, then that was bad for Québec (instead of viewing it as being good for all of us, because each province garners its own benefits, which are then redistributed on many government and non-government levels so we all can live an equaled out lifestyle.  My argument is that this is of benefit to all of us as we or our friends and relatives move around the country to seek new opportunities, or as we expand our business and breadth of our lives… just as, in a scaled down comparison, certain regions of Québec may benefit more than others from certain programs or expertise.  Québec has numerous “scaled-down” versions of exactly what I’m talking about – such as Gaspésie getting a cement factory subsidized by Sherbrooke tax payers, or a subsidized pharmaceutical R&D company in Terrebonne being funded in part by Alma taxpayers so it can attract world-class researchers.  Canada simply works of a much larger scale, with much larger opportunities in that sense).

His two fellow construction workers weren’t sure what to make of the whole thing.  None of these three guys were very old (in their 30’s, around my age), but they had just never been outside their own Québec City region (two had visited Montréal a couple of times when they were younger, and they had been to some nearby local regions in Québec, but that’s it).   So their views of the real deal is completely dependent on what others tell them and what they hear in the media and from opinion-makers (such as the political documentary mentioned above).   I’m not one to look for confrontations, or to say that My views are the only correct views, but I’m not one to let inaccuracies slide by if I think the person I’m speaking with would be receptive to hearing me out.  So we chatted… a lot.  The four of us basically ended up sitting there and having lunch together (one of the guys even trotted off unexpectedly to buy me another coffee half way though our lunch – so I guess they wanted to keep me around to talk more).  We talked about a host of things… but I can tell you that the views those three guys walked away with were quite different than the views they had when they walked into that Tims.   The one guy who initially was pretty harsh, in the end, actually said he’d really like to check things out elsewhere in the country because there seemed to be a lot of things and perspectives he was unaware of.  I don’t thik it was a world-changing conversation, but It was a good chat, and it’s more than likely that guy’s views are not the same as they used to be.

It’s almost like there’s no risk for people to talk to a stranger from Alberta who they’ll never see again.  Their guard comes down even further when they know that there’s zero language barrier.  People let it all out, and they feel they’re in a comfort zone as if talking with “one of their own” (in that sense, I am kind of one of their own – at least I feel I am).

On this last trip, I was actually quite surprised how much people actually did know about things happening in Alberta and elsewhere in the country, even if it was in a very macro and general sense.  I remember, during my university years when I took courses at Université Laval some 20 years ago, people were not so well informed.  So progress is being made — slowly.  We’re heading in the right direction.

And all of this goes in reverse too.  I’ve traveled around different parts of Anglophone Canada with Francophone friends from Québec, and my francophone friends have often been bombarded with lots of questions from unilingual Anglophones (particularly in Western Canada).  Sometimes (actually many times) the questions are along the lines as those I described above.  It’s quite natural, and it kind of makes me smile.  In this sense, people are not very different at heart.  I usually just stay quiet, and let my Francophone friends take the questions, answer as best they can, and give their own perspective on things.   It’s good to see how curious people can be — it’s healthy, and I wish we had a lot more of this type of interaction.  It’s truly very unfortunate the country is just so big, which physically prevents a lot of East-West communication and mixing.   But I see it as a positive rather than a negative.  The way I view it is we pretty much own a huge continent, and it’s all ours to enjoy and explore any way and any time we want.  It’s so big that it offers endless possibilities – so why not look at it as a good thing?   And with the internet, we can really begin to explore it in detail (something we couldn’t do before).  I really think this is why I see Anglophones taking much more personal interest now in Francophone Canada (certainly more now than at any time in the past 15 or 20 years).  The internet has made Canada much smaller for Anglophone Canadians, and hundreds of thousands of parents across Canada want their kids to become bilingual (hence, why there are huge waiting lists, in every single province, to enroll their children in French Immersion schools).   I think it’s great that people are curious about each other and are taking a genuine interest across linguistic lines.  It’s bound to make the country a much smaller place (and my guess is you’re one of those people — otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog 🙂 ).

In the end, Canada’s Anglophones are amazingly cool people, and Canada’s Francophones are amazingly cool people.  We’re doing incredible things together as a country – things many other countries around the world could only dream of doing.  It’s the most disconcerting thing to think that a lack of East-West communication, a language barrier, poor education on certain issues, petty politics, and now media politics (with the arrival of the PKP/Snyder team on the scene) can actually damage things.  But debate is healthy I suppose, if everyone engages in it with an open mind.  We owe it to ourselves to keep our participation, communication and interest in our country moving forward.  In part, that’s what this blog is for.

Anyways, I’m at the airport… I have a rather long 4.5 hour flight to Edmonton in a few minutes.  Am on my way to Alberta and Saskatchewan for Christmas and New Years.   I’ll still try to keep up with my posts over the holidays, but there might be a bit of a delay (I have lots of holiday cheer to take in).   But I’ll see you again soon !


Our roots… “Qui êtes-vous?” (#114)

There is a very interesting series airing on television named “Qui êtes-vous?” (“Who are you?”).   It’s a Montréwood adaptation of the British television program “Who do you think you are?”.

It’s a program which traces the family roots of some well-known Montréwood television personalities.   The famous personalities being featured work directly with genealogists, travelling around the world and tracing where their ancestors came from.

In Canada, and even in Québec, there tends to be a false belief that most white Francophones, are descended in full from the French colonialists of the 1600s and early 1700s.  This program debunks that false belief.  Even the personalities involved in the program are surprised to learn of their non-“pure laine” roots (an increasingly politically incorrect term meaning “pure-blooded” Québécois [literally translated as “pure wool”]  from the original French colonialists).   For example, Normand Brathwaite (the subject of an earlier post), born in Montréal in the early 1950s, unexpectedly discovered he was descended in part from African slaves in the Caribbean.

Québécois, just like any other Canadian, are descended from everywhere:  First nations, European heritage of all origins, African of all origins, Mid-Eastern of all origins, Asian of all origins, and Latin American of all origins.

We’re undergoing a period of tremendous demographic change in Québec and all over Canada.  In many ways, we’re moving in the direction Brazil took many generations ago:  that of many ethnic communities mixing to the point that many people in Brazil can now find their roots from multiple continents.   80 years ago it would have been common for people in Québec to say they were of French, and sometime Irish / British Isles decent.  But now people all over Québec can trace their backgrounds to many nations (such as mixed “Haitian, French, Irish”, or mixed “Vietnamese, Scottish, Italian”, etc.).   This is the new face of Québec and of Canada.   (I myself have ancestry from England, Germany, Scotland, Germany, Russia, France, Wales, Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, and the Netherlands, with most branches of my ancestors having immigrated to what is now Canada and the US in the 1600s and 1700s, I have cousins with Chinese ancestry, and I’m currently dating someone of Korean descent… this is the face of Québec and Canada today.  A large portion of my friends and people who I grew up with are Canadians of Indian descent, Arabic descent, African descent, Latin American descent, East and Southeast Asian descent, and many mixed-combination descents.  It’s the face of our Francophone and Anglophone societies, it reflects our common values, our common lifestyle, and our common outlook on life).

The highest per-capita immigration rates of all OECD countries are those in Canada and Québec.  Considering we have such high rates of immigration from all over the world, over the next 50 years the face of Québec will change even more, as people from South Asia, East Asia, Latin America Africa and the Middle-East mix and marry within Québec’s already diverse population.

This is one of the reasons I find “Qui êtes-vous?” such an interesting program.   The longer our ancestors have lived in Québec and Canada, the more surprises can be found with just a little investigation.

The show has been on the air for two seasons, and many of the people featured have already been the subjects of earlier blog posts.

But over the next few posts, we’ll look at a few of the personalities from the last two seasons.  These are people who are very well known in Québec, and it’s good to know who they are (everybody else in Québec already knows them).

The program’s website is found here:  http://quietesvous.radio-canada.ca/

Charles Tisseyre – Découverte, his activism, and his “Cuys” (#104)

Charles Tisseyre is an interesting, well-known fellow.   (For Anglophones, the spelling of his last name might throw you since it’s not pronounced how it is spelled.   Orthographically, it sounds like “Tissère”).

For more than 20 years year, he has been hosting a popular science television show, Découverte, on Radio-Canada.   We don’t really have an equivalent of Découverte in Anglophone Canada.  It’s not quite like Bob MacDonald’s “Quirks and Quarks”, nor is it necessarily an environmental advocacy program (like David Suzuki’s “Nature of Things”).    Rather, it’s almost as if the magazine Popular Science went to Hollywood.  (Incidentally, if you like “Popular Science”, you might also like the magazine “Science & Vie” from France, which is very similar to “Popular Science” and which is sold in Québec and in French book stores across Canada).    But picture Découverte being narrated in a format similar to David Suzuki’s “Nature of Things”, meaning we hear the narrator, his voice is instantly recognizable, but we don’t see his face during the program.   That’s Charles Tisseyre.

Any time he appears on television or the radio, his voice needs no introduction – we all recognize his voice instantly.  But his face is also as well-known as David Suzuki’s or Bob MacDonald’s are across English Canada.

Before he became forever associated with Découverte, Tisseyre also hosted the Radio-Canada evening local news in Montréal, and was a journalist in various capacities.  He is also the controlling heir of a rather famous publishing house in Québec, geared towards younger readers, named Éditions Pierre Tisseyre (as well known to the public in Québec as perhaps Harlequin Romance would be in Anglophone North America).

Recently, over the last three months or so, Tisseyre has been getting a bit of extra attention – for two very different reasons.

Radio-Canada is facing major budget cuts from Ottawa and is having to let go large numbers of staff and re-engineer some of its programming.  Charles Tisseyre, in his capacity as a prominent Radio-Canada journalist, has taken it upon himself to be the spokesperson on behalf of a group of reporters and employees, to voice their discontent with the decision.  He has publicly voiced his worries regarding the impact it will have on the quality of programming and Radio-Canada’s role in society.  Sometimes his discontent has been highly public, on Tout le monde en parle for example, as well as at the Radio-Canada general meeting (click here for the officially approved YouTube video of the latter).

The second thing to put him square in the lime light is a comedic television advertisement which came out several days ago for the prevention of testicular cancer – and the advertisement has gone viral.  Because males of all ages are targeted by the advertisement, the writers decided to give it the greatest impact possible.   Although Tisseyre does not appear in the advertisement himself, the voice of the narrator is unmistakenly his – presented exactly in the same format as his TV show Découverte.

To set the scene, couilles means “testicles” (the word “testicules” also exists in French, but it is a bit more formal.  In the same breath, In Canada we also say “gosses” to mean couilles or testicules – but in France, gosses means “children”.  Thus, it’s always fun to hear people from France talk about their “gosses”).   A guinea pig is a Cochon d’Inde in French… but it is also known as a “Cuy”, which has the exact same pronunciation as couilles (or balls / testicles).   In the video, Tisssyre narrates how to best conduct a monthly self-examination of your Cuys.  While giving the instructions, an actor is holding two guinea pigs in hand, fondling them in various ways and positions.  It’s hilarious and has caught on like wildfire.    You can view the YouTube version of the advertisement here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBedYZBEu_c.

In closing, Découverte can be viewed across Canada on Radio-Canada every Sunday at 6:30pm, with re-runs on Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm.

The official website can be viewed here: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/decouverte/2014-2015/

Related post on the same topic & just as funny:  https://quebeccultureblog.com/2015/03/01/a-bit-of-humour-see-if-you-can-figure-this-out-195/