More France / Québec dynamics, and plays on stereotypes (#375)
You may remember the post entitled Examples of Stereotypes France has of Québec, and vice-versa (#141) from back in January 2015.
That post has been quite popular. I receive daily stats for my blog, and there has rarely been a day which has gone by in which it has not been read by at least someone in Canada, Québec or France.
Stereotypes are always a popular topic. There are many types of stereotypes. Some are played upon in not a nice light, but others are generally harmless and are played upon for the fun (and most people take them as such).
One such stereotype which falls into the latter (harmless) category — at lease more or less — has to do with an advertisement by a French company. And, boy, has it been getting a good deal of attention in Québec, both by word-of-mouth and online in Québec’s social networks.
Orange is a major cell phone company in France.
They put out an advertisement in France in which a customer approaches an Orange representative because he lost his cell-phone. However, the customer speaks with what is “presumably” a Québécois accent (although he’s a little off from nailing it).
He uses vocabulary and syntax which people in France would not necessarily understand (and several words are not used correctly or are not even used on this side of the ocean in French). However, it would be generally understood on this side of the Atlantic.
Regardless, the punchline comes when the Orange representative speaks “Québécois” back to the customer so as to ensure the customer can understand him. The narrator then said “We understand you better so as to serve you better”.
Is this grounds for controversy?
If someone were to ask me this, I would say “NO“.
Everyone knows the context, and I fail to see a “negative” context.
Granted, for someone in France who has never had contact with someone in Québec, it may lead them to incorrectly believe they would not be able to understand someone from Québec, but I doubt many people would view it as such.
Regardless, a good number of people on Québec’s social networks took offense to this advertisement, particularly in their vehement criticism that the accent and “vocabulary” is “off”.
My response to those few people in Québec who are complaining:
Don’t get your shorts in a knot.
How do you even know it’s even “Québécois” French? Sheesh!
Perhaps it’s “Ontarien” French or “Prairien” French – You’re not the only ones who exist, so get over yourselves.
Hahaha — I can be an ass!! — Hahaha!!
Thanksgiving in Canada & Québec (#374)
Last year I wrote a Thanksgiving post on the US Thanksgiving holiday.
I’ll take that post and modify it slightly to reflect our realities (plural) here.
This is the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada & Québec. In Canada, we always have our Thanksgiving the second Monday of every October, rather than the last Thursday in November (the US holiday). But it wasn’t always like this, and even today Thanksgiving is celebrated differently in Anglophone Canada and Francophone Canada.
In French, Thanksgiving is “l’Action de grâce(s)” (it’s acceptable to spell it with or without an “s” at the end).
Originally, in Greek times, there were Pegan traditions which offered thanks to the gods. These traditions lasted for hundreds of years. As Europe Christianized, the tradition of giving thanks for specific events or dates continued, but this time in a Christian context, through prayer and celebration. The reasons for Thanksgiving could be anything, and it could be held anytime (upon the winning of a battle, conquering an illness, or a bountiful harvest – essential for survival).
The first Thanksgiving in North America was when the English explorer, Martin Frobisher, held a ceremony to give thanks for the survival of his explorations in 1578. It was held in Newfoundland.
The second Thanksgiving was when French explorer (and founder of New France), Samuel de Champlain, gave thanks for the survival of his explorations in 1606. It was held on Île-Royale, present day Cape-Breton, Nova Scotia.
As commemoration of his ceremony of thanks, Champlain founded the “Order of Good Cheer” (l’Ordre de bon temps), which has been reconstituted by the Nova Scotian provincial government – and thus which can continue to receive recipients today.
It could be the oldest order in North America.
In 1621, Pilgrim settlers founded the Plymouth colony and gave thanks for their success. They celebrated with the bounty of their harvest, and a Turkey came to symbolize the celebration. This “Turkey tradition” took hold in the New England colonies of the time.
It is quite possible there were other Thanksgiving celebrations in New France, between 1606 and 1621 (owing to the fact that there was already an Order established around it). However we may never know for sure, since Thanksgivings always coincided with an event — giving rise to suddenly call a ceremony of thanks — rather than being cemented in specific dates.
Thanksgiving ceremonies were also held post-1621 in all parts of British North America (both in what is now the United States and Canada), as well as New France, all with a religious connotation, all related to an event warranting thanks, but the specific “Turkey tradition” still remained in the New England regions and other regions which would become the USA.
During the American revolution, the shores of Lake Ontario in Upper Canada (present day Ontario), and the Eastern Townships of Québec received a massive influx of “Loyalists” who did not wish to succeed from the British Empire. They brought with them the Turkey tradition from what was quickly becoming the United States.
Gradually, with time, their tradition of incorporating a Turkey meal into the already existing Thanksgiving ceremonies of Anglophone Canada had begun to spread.
But owing to the the French / English language lines, but probably more owing to the Protestant / Catholic religious lines (remember that Thanksgiving was still primarily a religious ceremony), the Turkey Tradition was not incorporated into the Francophone Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada — rather it remained very much a church-based celebration of prayer in Francophone Canada.
Thanksgiving continued to be held in Canada whenever thanks was called for, until 1879 when Parliament in Ottawa declared it a National holiday (essentially “nationalizing” it, and taking the decision on when to hold it out of the hands of Church and family). It was not held every year, but was held when called for by Parliament. However, the traditional ways of celebrating it (Turkey & harvest-based for Anglophones, and Church service-based for Francophones) was maintained.
After World War I, it was declared by Parliament as a type of Remembrance Day, celebrated every November 11th (the precursor to Canada’s modern Remembrance Day).
In 1931, Parliament separated the traditional Thanksgiving from the need for a lone Remembrance Day, and in 1951 Parliament degreed that the traditional Thanksgiving holiday would be held the 2nd Monday of October (the date it is celebrated today). This day was chosen owing to the fact that thanks had become synonymous with a bountiful harvest (rather than a religious event), and Canada’s harvest generally was finalized by the second week of October.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a major secularization movement across Canada. For Anglophones, Thanksgiving had been, for many generations, a more-or-less secular affair not affiliated with the Church. It was celebrated with feasts and Turkey, and had already made the leap from Church to home. Thus secularization’s impact on the festival did not have a major effect in altering it for Anglophone Canadians.
However, the secularization movement of the 1950s and1960s had the effect of pretty much wiping Thanksgiving off the map in Francophone Canada. It was religious matter, celebrated in church. When Francophone society secularized, people stopped going to church and the celebration disappeared.
Francophones did not have the (Loyalist) Turkey Celebrations on which to fall back on. To this very day, Thanksgiving is considered by most people in Québec simply as a statutory holiday – a day off from work to be filled with other activities like travel or leisure.
I know a number of people in Québec who, in fact, have never even eaten a Turkey once in their lives – it depends on the region of Québec and the family. Sometimes Turkey at Christmas, for some families at least, is supplanted by other dishes such as Francophone Canada’s traditional meatball stew and other Francophone Christmas dishes).
I know one person in Québec who decided to go out on a limb and try to make a Thanksgiving supper for the first time (out came the recipe book). But apparently the attempt failed miserably, the meal was terrible, and she’ll never try it again. But you can’t fault her for trying. 😉
So with that, to everyone across the country, I wish you a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving !!
The party leaders’ final major interviews before the election (#373)
You know the election is (finally) winding down when you see the leaders start to wind down. They just gave their last major interviews to one of Québec’s most popular television programs.
Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP = “Everyone is talking about it”) often jockies for the 1st spot place in Canadian television ratings along with Québec’s other top rated show, La Voix.
I have spoken many times before about TLMEP. In fact, TLMEP was the subject of my very first blog post.
It is a left of left (yup, that’s left), very sovereignist friendly interview program which has interviewed thousands and thousands of Québec’s who’s who (and to a certain extent, others from elsewhere in Canada who are able to muddle through in French).
Despite being well-known as being well-entrenched politically, people of all political strips love this show because we get to see how politicians fare under intense circumstances (especially when they are out of their element… it ain’t no Peter Mansbridge interview!!).
Case in point: The show does not really align with my own political views, but nonetheless, I like it as much as everyone else!
It is also a very pop-culture friendly show, which allows us to see and hear the inside stories behind some of the most famous faces in Québec, French Canada, and the Francophone world.
It airs every Sunday night on Radio-Canada, for two hours per episode, and has been on the air for over 20 years.
Despite the show’s the far left and sovereignist leanings, they’ve toned down the leftness over the years. You can see the host and his sidekick gritting their teeth as they forceably tone it down – likely because of Radio-Canada management directives to tone it down.
This latter link is for a post I previously wrote… It’s talks about quite an unbelievable series of events involving Radio-Canada which likely led to TLMEP having to tone itself down. It is worth a read if you have not read it before (but grab a drink before you do… you’ll likely need it when you read what is in that post).
With average show ratings hovering between 1.5 million to over 2 million views, TLMEP has made the careers of numerous invitees, and it has broken the careers of others.
One thing has remained constant. If it becomes publicly known that someone has refused an invitation to appear on TLMEP, they are instantly (and very vocally) labelled as a coward by both Québec’s media and by Québec’s public. This in itself can become a career breaker.
In this sense, I am not sure if there has ever been a more politically and socially powerful program in Canadian history.
With the exception of Stephen Harper, all of our political party leaders attend interviews on the program at least two or three times a year.
But because of the burdens of our mighty democracy, Harper as always
hid been too busy and has refused to be interviewed been permanently “unavailable” (Oh, the hectic schedule of a Canadian Prime Minister. Fortunately President Obama’s schedule is far less cumbersome, since he has lots of time to appear on shows like Jimmy Fallon… Poor poor Canadian Prime Ministers… gotta feel for ’em).
This has drawn the ire of Québec’s public for many years, and has resulted in Harper becoming the butt of countless everyday jokes:
(Example: Two Joe Blow warehouse workers might have a colleague who is late for work. One warehouse worker would ask the other one “So where is Johnny X this morning?”. The other warehouse worker might answer “You didn’t know his middle name was Harper? He confused work with TLMEP and was too chicken shit to get here on time”.
If your constant refusals to attend Canada’s & Québec’s #1 show (in terms of overall ratings) gives you that sort of overtly negative reputation among your electorate, it shows you are grossly out of touch with your electorate. Perhaps you should throw in the towel before your electorate takes it from you (unless you turn to less-than-noble tactics to sneakily maintain power, such as Niqab bashing two women at a citizenship ceremony as if it were a greater threat to humanity than an asteroid headed for Earth).
On October 4th, Thomas Mulcair was one of TLMEP’s guests.
Last night, Justin Trudeau and Gilles Duceppe were TLMEP’s guests (appearing separately on the show, of course).
I have not yet seen the ratings, but based on how the shows were hyped in advance, I would not be surprised if they crested somewhere between 2.3 and 2.8 million viewers.
These were the last major interviews for the party leaders before E-day. Many voters missed the televised debates, and so the TLMEP interviews would have been the leader’s last major opportunity to appeal to a large audience.
I was actually quite surprised by how the interviews went. The host, Guy A. Lepage, never let any of them off the hook for a second (you sense that Mulcair has become too centrist and soft for him, Trudeau is too much of a joke for him, and Duceppe is too passé for him).
My take on the final results (and boy, I really tried very hard to come to objective conclusions… you have no idea how much I tried):
- Mulcair remained average (not great, not bad) and explained his positions quite thoroughly. It was OK, but he didn’t appear to say anything which would stop his downward slide in Québec. Usually it is Mulcair who aces TLMEP intervews. I didn’t get the sense he did this time. Usually it is Trudeau who fares far worse than Mulcair, but not this time. Read on for the big shocker…
- Trudeau gave what was probably his best interview of the entire election campaign (I have been less than kind to Trudeau throughout the election campaign, much less kind to the man than I am to his party – so for me to say this is no small thing).
The TLMEP audience is carefully screened weeks in advance, and the waiting list is supposed to be half a year to a year (I know this because I wanted to attend one of the airings, and I had to present a CV of my life, I was ready for the blood tests and retina scans. But I drew the line when cavity probes were likely to be performed — I don’t think I would have fit their ideal audience member). The audience tends to be staunchly far-left, and staunchly pro-sovereignty.
So with this said, by simple nature of who the TLMEP audience is, the audience generally has not bee kind at all to
the son of a man who forced a constitution on Québec Trudeau. Yet, when Trudeau held his ground with curve-ball questions being thrown at him in all directions, a number of his responses were so good that even the traditionally hostile audience broke out in applause (there was one time they even broke out in cheers for Trudeau). I have never before seen this happen for Trudeau on TLMEP, and I was even surprised at how good he came across.
- Duceppe’s interview was miserable. You had to feel bad for him. Usually he owns TLMEP, but this time he sounded like a broken record with nothing new to add. The fact that he was being lambasted on the show by his own base left him nowhere to hide. I was shocked actually. At the very end of the interview, the TLMEP co-host and long-time Duceppe supporter, Danny Turcot, bluntly told Duceppe he was no longer going to vote for him. You should have seen Duceppe’s speechless face (that has to hurt, especially when you know “you got taught” by your own base in front of over 2 million people – perhaps closer to 3 million).
- And Harper… Oh yah, I forgot… No Harper… Too busy (they should have invited Obama).
Will these interviews translate into a shift in voting patterns?
I don’t know. It is possible. After all, a much larger swath of the electorate saw these interviews than the debates.
There were surprises during these interviews, so perhaps (just perhaps) they may influence the final vote
You can watch the interviews yourself by clicking below (all interviews are in French):
A very good election ad from Laval – which highlights Québec’s inclusive diversity (#372)
As usual, we have seen a lot of mud-slingning attack-ads in this election campaign. It is par for the course.
Nobody should harbour wishful thinking that there will ever be election campaigns without them. Therefore, when we do see them, we should simply laugh them off.
However, I will say that it is very nice – very very nice – to find those few ads (regardless of the party) which do not throw mud or attack another “person / candidate / party”.
One of my favourite such ads comes from Laval, Québec.
Laval is Québec’s second largest city after Montréal (it is larger in population that Québec City). Laval is to Montréal what Surrey would be to Vancouver or what Mississauga would be to Toronto (complete with it’s own downtown core and increasingly separate identity from the larger city which it butts up against).
The greater Montréal region is comprised of a number of cities dispersed on islands in the St-Lawrence River, and on the mainland around those islands. Both Montréal City and Laval are their own islands (below, openwiki photo credit Jeangagnon).
There is one candidate in Laval who put out one of the most brilliant — and good spirited — advertisements of the entire election campaign.
It was so brilliant in fact, that it is the one advertisement which sticks out in my mind against all the rest, and has since become my favourite ad of the entire campaign.
Before showing you the advertisement let me give you a backgrounder.
Unfortunately, because of one’s own background experiences and because of how human brains work, people often make judgments about strangers based on skin colour, clothing, what that stranger may be in the act of doing the moment we first set eyes on them, and accents.
(A few posts ago, I even talked about my own prejudices which I held against Québec’s Squeegee kids — until I found out about the stories behind the faces and clothes of those asking for money to squeegee my window: Québec’s Squeegee Kids (#365))
During my 13 year absence from Canada, I myself have lived and worked in China, India, Lebanon, Ghana and Syria.
Believe me when I tell you that accents make a difference in how people judge you. In the above countries, I have used other languages to speak to local citizens over the phone. Often I was judged and treated differently because of my accent, sometimes not in the a good sense.
In addition, I have been treated different because of the colour of my skin, and again, sometimes not in a good sense (in some places, being white can lead you to be treated negatively).
Even in Canada I have been on the receiving end of this. My French accent is a Prairien French accent, but when I lived in Western Québec, one of the first things some people would ask were I was from (those living in Western Québec would often think I was from Québec’s far Eastern North Coast, or Gaspésie, or New Brunswick’s Acadia).
Such assumptions and questions based on “surface characteristics” can sometimes build walls. They can send a message which subconsciously says “I’m asking you questions because you are different from me, you are not one of us, and you must be an outsider whose origin I need to identify so I can squarely label “how” you are not one of us”.
I can tell you that such walls can be uncomfortable in certain circumstances – especially when you have adopted you new city, province or country as home (and especially when you feel you are one with your new home, just as anyone born there would feel).
First, I want you to consider this to be an a-political post. It is not an endorsement of any one candidate or party – but it does show us the good in society when a candidate (regardless of the party) portrays messages which should matter.
One Conservative candidate, Roland Dick, in Western Laval has obviously felt he has come up against the same walls I described above.
I am not going to mention what country Roland Dick was born in. That is not relevant. But he does have a very heavy foreign accent when he speaks French, and he might be considered by some as being a visible minority.
He has put out an amazing advertisement which seeks to tear down these walls, and sends a message to people to look beyond what they physically see or hear. He asks them to discover the candidate himself.
The advertisement highlights that we’re all the same, and that we’re all in this together. In Québec and Canada, I have never seen a political advertisement like this one before.
In the advertisement, he tells us that he most often is asked about his “personal details” because people wish to place him in a “category” (imagine how that must feel if such questions are among the most asked questions he receives has he knocks on doors while campaigning).
He then goes on to describe how he has worked his butt off for his city (Laval) for more than 25 years through his volunteer work, how he has won national awards for his community work, how he has volunteered for the downtrodden, how he is proud to have graduated from a local university, how he tries to make a difference to his city, and how he is just as proud of his family as you would be of yours.
In my blog, I try to tear down the Two Solitudes which exist between Francophones (mostly in Québec) and Anglophones (mostly elsewhere in Canada).
In Roland Dick’s advertisement, he tries to tear down a different type of Two Solitudes. My hat goes off to him.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Here is the ad.
As a point of camparison, contrast the above with mud-slinging advertisements which directly attack other politicians or parties.
Sure, they may make us laugh for a moment (how often do you get to hear Justin say “OW!”).
But what is the substance in hearing Justin say “OW!”, and what does that say about the person making him say “OW!”.
In my books, any person who makes another person say “Ouch!” is a word spelled
Would you vote for a haughty-like bully?
Here’s that “other” ad (and to think that he actually called Justin’s escalator ad “ridiculous”? — Serious dude?!).
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)