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One week after the Federal election: The aftermath in Québec’s context (#380)

The following is a commentary I wrote, in conjunction with consultations and discussions with Andrew Griffith of the widely read blog Multicultural Meanderings.

It is a blog worth following (it’s very unique and insightful).

It has been a week since the Federal election (although it feels like more).  Stephen Harper is Prime Minster for a few more days.

It is not unreasonable to ask what has changed, in particular in Québec.  Although Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau will not assume office until November 4th, the answer is that actually quite a lot has changed.

In fact, everything.

This week we are seeing the convergence of two very important events in Canadian history.  Their importance is not to be underestimated.   How these two events are being viewed in Québec constitutes an earthquake of change.

First, the obvious event which everyone is talking about in Québec is how a Liberal government, headed by a new leader who appears to embrace a new spirit of openness (relative to the outgoing Prime Minister), embodies a focal point for cohesiveness in both a pan-Canadian and Québec societal sense, rather than regional or partisan divisiveness.

Second, and perhaps more profound, is that this week marks the 20th anniversary of the 1995 referendum for Québec independence.  Yet, the manner in which this week is already unfolding, being talked about, and “felt” with the backdrop of a newly elected Trudeau-led government is something I would not have fathomed only a year ago.

Political commentators in Canada’s English media often report on events in Québec from the perspective of being “outside the fish-bowl looking in”.   Sure, they can tell you which direction the fish are swimming, as well as the colour of the fish and the pebbles.

However, how the water tastes, the suitability of its temperature, and how the fish feel about each other (and how they feel about those peering in at them from outside the bowl) can only be told from the perspective of the fish themselves.

I’m going to take a crack at describing the tone in Québec from the perspective of the fish (ignoring the colours of the pebbles and the likes).

Let’s back up to a year ago.  

Trudeau had already been head of the Liberal party for more than a year.  Not only was his party in third place in terms of physical seat counts, but in the minds of Québécois, he might have well been in fifth place.  The Liberals were stagnant from a legacy going back to the 1990s, years of leadership gaffes, and a lack of innovative policy.

For the longest time, Trudeau was not making decisions which demarcated himself as a credible replacement to Stephen Harper, and was viewed in Québec as the greater of the two evils.

A large part of the reason was that in the minds of Québécois, he was viewed as “the son of…”.  To many Francophones in Québec, Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) is still viewed as the man who forced a constitution down the throats of Québec rather than finding common ground which could have seen Québec otherwise sign it.   To this day, the constitution is regarded by Québec’s baby-boomer generation as being an illegitimate document, and by some as a reason to withdraw from Canada.

This all played against Trudeau (Jr.) for the longest time in Québec.  He was viewed as leader who was set to go nowhere (another in a long line of Liberal Martins, Dions and Ignatiefs).

Let’s move forward by a few months to the winter of 2015 and what happened on the provincial political scene.  

Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) was campaigning hard for the leadership of the Parti Québécois (PQ).   With Harper at the helm of Canada, those in the sovereigntist camp saw PKP as the man to take on the Federal government and achieve sovereignty.  He was a successful billionaire, he was business-friendy (able to connect with a new demographic) and he was viewed a potential “saviour” (to quote an often-used word in sovereignist circles last winter).   The optimism towards PKP from both soft and hard sovereigntists alike had not been seen since the days of Lucien Bouchard.

Add to this mix that PKP’s wife, Julie Snyder, is Québec’s #2 pop-culture superstar, only eclipsed by Céline Dion.  Thus,  the PKP/Snyder power-couple was viewed as a potentially unstoppable force to woo the masses and lead Québec to sovereignty.

But starting last April, PKP proved to be awkward in his speeches.  His stances on critically important issues were incoherent.  For example, one day he would say the Bloc Québecois was utterly useless in Ottawa, and the next day he would say it was as important as oxygen is to life.  He would attack immigrants as being detrimental to the sovereignty movement on one day, and then the next day he would say that he loves them and that they’re family.

It was clear that PKP was testing the waters in every direction to see what issues might find traction with the public rather than speak from consensus-reached convictions.  It showed a side of him the public did not like.  In the end he began to develop an aura of “playing” the public.  It diminished his credibly, and prevented support from ever coalescing on a massive scale (he ended up winning the PQ leadership with only 58% of the membership vote, and he and his party have only ever hovered in the 32%-35% percentile range of public approval since his accession as party leader).

In addition, Julie Snyder’s injection of “showmanship” into sovereignist politics (using her TV programs to drum up nationalism, and even going so far as to give autographs in exchange for PQ membership cards at the subway entrances) has been viewed with more and more cynicism on the part of the public.   The Julie card appears to have backfired, and her Princess Diana styled wedding in August seemed to be the straw that broke the back of a camel named “credibility”.

This past summer, the PKP/Snyder duo flopped faster than an ice-cream cone melts in the August sun.   In Québec, you often hear the phrase “There was no PKP effect” (let alone any political honeymoon) when political commentators talk of the new PKP era of sovereigntist politics.   The provincial Liberal government in Québec City has managed to remain at the top of the polls (although their overall polling numbers are not sky-high either).

Fast forward to the present and back to federal politics. 

Three weeks before the Federal election the Trudeau Liberals attracted the public’s attention in both Québec and English Canada.

The Liberals developed a wide-range of policy proposals, and famously broke the mould needing to avoid deficits.  They were able to position themselves as the ‘change’ option.   This shift saw their “no-harm, broad-range middle-ground” brand positioned to the left of the Conservatives.

The NDP — hemmed in by fears they would constitute being irresponsible spenders — adhered to deficit-avoiding orthodoxy (in itself less distinct from the Conservatives).  Given the NDP orthodoxy on avoiding deficits allowed the Liberals to carve a platform niche.

In Québec, a lack of enthusiasm for the PQ translated into a lack of enthusiasm for the Bloc Québécois.  The Bloc was already dealing with a troubled recent past.  It was not viewed as being organized (several months ago it voted in a highly unpopular leader, Mario Beaulieu, who was to be booted out a short while later and succeeded by a recycled Gilles Duceppe).

The Bloc was simply not viewed as a viable contender (the PQ and the Bloc were both riding on the same sinking ship – leaving the public to ask “Why bother?”).   On election night, the Bloc had the lowest percent of the popular vote in the history of any sovereignist party in Québec (and only gained new seats through a division of the popular vote, which saw the majority of the popular vote in those same ridings go to the Liberals and NDP – and not to the Bloc).

Yes, the Conservatives played up the Niqab issue in Québec, and kept it front-and-centre.  In past elections, the Conservatives’ success hinged on being able to play to their base.  They believed the PQ’s 2013/2014 hijab/secular debate in Québec ignited the same base they were looking for.  Many of the niqab announcements were made in Quebec..

Even if the public shared the view that the niqab should not be worn during citizenship ceremonies or in the public civil service, Québec’s and Canada’s public showed that they have a greater distaste for “wedge politics”.

Ultimately, the public proved they would rather vote against wedge politics than for policies invoked by such politics.    In nutshell, the Conservatives overplayed their card.  The tipping point perhaps came with the ‘snitch-line’ announcement (a new government hotline to denounce barbaric cultural practices) by Ministers Leitch and Alexander.

Combined with a lack of enthusiasm for Harper-style politics in many other areas of governance, it is noteworthy that the Conservative gains in Québec were with moderate Clark/Mulroney PC-styled MP’s, and not Harper-style MP’s (the Conservatives increased their seat count to 12 from 5 in Québec, however their share of the popular vote in Quebec only increased to 16.7 compared to 16.5 percent in the previous election).

The Bloc and the Conservatives both played politics on the “extreme ends” of the political spectrum.  It left a bad taste in the mouths of both English and French Canada.

On the other end of the political spectrum was the NDP.   Traditionally another “extreme end” party, Mulcair tried to moderate the NDP’s tone, pulling it towards the centre on many issues.

However, the feeling in Québec (and seemingly elsewhere in Canada) was that Muclair was trying to bring the party towards the centre on one hand, yet trying not to alienate his own far-left base on the other.  It left room for vast amounts of doubt and uncertainty in the minds of the electorate.   Not wanting to risk another bout of “extreme end politics”, the public quickly jumped off the NDP ship.

The niqab issue also played a role.  Mulcair’s defence of the niqab was framed in legal terms in the context of the Charter and Constitution, a sore point with many in Quebec.   In contrast, while having the same substantive position, Trudeau spoke in terms of values, a softer way of making the same point.

Who did this leave as the first choice for Québec and English Canada?   The Trudeau Liberals.

Talk radio and TV interview programs tend to reflect a wide spectrum of the public’s thoughts towards issues of the day.   What I find fascinating in all of this is that during the past week, Québec’s talk radio (even those commentators and radio hosts who have been cozy with the Conservatives / NDP / Bloc, or vehement anti-Liberals in the past) all seem optimistic — or at the minimum, comfortable — about Trudeau’s victory.

You get the sense that many are even relieved that there is finally middle ground which is finding broad-range consensus.   It is a new middle-ground which has the allures of being acceptable to both the left and right elements in Québec’s society, in addition to Atlantic Canada, Ontario, the Prairies, and BC.

The newly elected Conservatives MP’s in Québec and elsewhere in Canada appear to be more moderate than Conservatives of the past.  The NDP members who won their seats are more centrist than those who were voted out.  All of this is resonating in Québec.

Many sovereignists for the first time are not sad to see the end of the BQ (that’s new).   Yet this week in sovereignist camps, there has been quite a bit of talk about how they can learn from the federal Conservatives’ mistakes (as well as the mistakes of the Marois era).

There is now talk that the PQ may want to consider abandoning nationalist identity policies, and embrace all-inclusive (ie: a “multicultural’ish” but labelled as interculturalism, of course) style of sovereigntist policies in order to try to woo the youth and the electorate in the 2018 provincial election.   The PQ may be looking for ways to capitalize the public’s sentiment enough is enough with divisive politics based on ethno-religious grounds (ie: the niqab and state secularism).

In this same vein, the BQ looks as if it may be trying to quickly create their own “Trudeau” by having 24 year-old (and defeated BQ candidate) Catherine Fournier slipped into presidency of the BQ.   Fournier has been front-and-centre in Québec’s talk-show and panel circuit for about 6 months now.

She has taken many by surprise with her maturity and insight, and people are saying she’s a real change from the old guard.  I don’t have any idea if she would be able to woo the youth to the sovereignist cause.  However, she’s getting noticed, and she may be just the type to introduce a style of “multicultural’ish” sovereignty.

Yet, if open-style politics led to Trudeau’s election win, he may have already taken the sail out of the sovereigntist movement’s countermeasures (it is difficult for an opposition party to re-invent itself on a new platform when their number one challenger already owns that platform).

The question will be if he can avoid a Federal-Provincial clash of ideologies and values with Québec leading up to the 2018 provincial election (Harper managed to take the wind out of the sails of Québec’s sovereignist politics by staying out of matters of provincial jurisdiction and keeping a tight rein on what issues his MP’s were allowed to comment on… It remains to be seen how Trudeau will manage to juggle similar issues).

For the first time after a federal election, people on the street and in the media in Québec are no longer referring to the Canadian West as the “Conservative base” or the “Conservative West”.   Yes, the majority of the Prairie ridings have gone Conservative, yet Québec’s political commentators are emphasizing the fact that that a large chunk of the Prairie’s Conservative ridings only saw Conservatives elected through vote splitting, with the majority of the popular vote in many ridings going to the Liberals/NDP – especially in cities which make up the bulk of the Prairie’s population and decision-making base:  Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

That’s a big change in the conversation in Québec, and an even larger change in how Québec views the rest of Canada.

To see almost no federalism-bashing or Canada-bashing in Québec following a very long and hotly (even venomously) contested election — even from those in the sovereignist camp who traditionally love to Canada bash — is quite a game-changer.

To think that we’re seeing this change in tone during the week of the 20th anniversary of the 1995 referendum makes it even more significant.


Qu’est ce qui est arrivé durant les quelques années suivant l’arrivée des Britanniques au Québec? (#379)

Il y a plusieurs billets, je vous ai offert une vidéo d’un discours qu’a tenu Jason Kenny lorsqu’il était ministre fédéral Conservateur de Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada : Funny what gets dragged from the attic when politics get involved.  

C’est une vidéo qui a fait jaser au Québec.  Dans cette vidéo, il parlait de sa manière de voir le rôle qu’a joué les Britanniques et le multiculturalisme dans le contexte du transfert de la Nouvelle-France.

La vidéo a tant fait jaser que Rad-Can sentait le besoin de mettre les choses au clair il y a un couple de jours.

Comme j’ai souligné dans le billet ci-dessus, je ne suis pas d’accord avec la caractérisation que nous a présenté Kenny sur les origines des politiques du multiculturalisme moderne du Canada.

Toutefois, ceci étant dit, j’ai mentionné que l’approche Britannique quand-même se basait sur une idéologie assez laissez-faire (même malléable et ductile) quant à leur système de gouvernance au cours du siècle suivant le transfert du pouvoir (du moins dans le contexte de l’époque, et surtout comparé aux autres systèmes ailleurs au monde).

J’ai mentionné que cette approche elle-même a pu poser les fondements sur lesquels on a pu bâtir un bon nombre de projets de société… des legs dont on ressent toujours, et dont on ne devrait pas considérer sous un angle négatif.

C’est une époque dont on ne parle très peu, et qui est très mal comprise.

Nous sommes tous le produit de notre passé.  Et l’ère des britanniques fait autant partie de notre passé (et de notre identité collective) que l’époque coloniale française, ainsi que tout le kit qui nous est arrivé au vingtième siècle jusqu’au présent – tant au niveau de la société que personnel.

Le voici le récit de Rad-Canada.  Je le trouve assez intéressant.


(Voici le lien pour l’émission complète:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/les_samedis_du_monde/2015-2016/chronique.asp?idChronique=386638)

Immigration et certaines prises de position des associations francophones hors Québec (#342)

Vous vous souviendrez peut-être du billet que j’avais écrit sur les formations francophones quasi-politiques qui existent dans chacune des provinces et des territoires hors Québec :  (billet en anglais, Official Francophone Representation Outside Québec).

Hier, j’ai vu une vidéo par rapport au nouveau phénomène d’immigration francophone dans l’ouest du pays, en particulier en Alberta.

Lorsque j’ai quitté l’ouest il y a plus que 15 ans, ce genre de mouvement d’immigration n’existait pas.

Ça m’a fait réfléchir un peu aux prises de position des organismes francophones quasi-politiques, telle celles de la Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA).

À chaque fois que je rentre dans l’ouest du pays, parfois deux ou trois fois par année (que ce soit à Edmonton, à Régina ou ailleurs), le “visage” de la francophonie change de plus en plus – c’est bien visible.

C’est encourageant et c’est du jamais vu depuis 100 ans (de 2001 à 2011, la population francophone de l’Alberta s’est vu accroître de 14,5% selon le dernier recensement).  C’est fort intéressant.

Sur ce même thème, sans vouloir trop y pencher, je vous présente le lien d’une autre vidéo; une entrevue à TFO (le diffuseur publique francophone de l’Ontario, l’équivalent ontarien de Télé-Québec).

Dans cette prochaine vidéo, l’ancienne présidente de la FCFA penche sur plusieurs sujets (Marie-France Kenny n’est plus à la tête de l’organisme depuis cet été).  Sa réponse à la question “Est-qu’on peut vivre aussi bien dans l’ouest du pays qu’en Acadie?” m’a fait soulever un sourcil.

Je dois avouer que moi-même, j’étais un peu étonné de constater qu’elle ne mâchait pas ses mots envers ses observations entre l’est et l’ouest du Canada (compte tenu de son rôle très médiatisé).  Cependant, sa façon de voir les Anglophones de l’ouest du Canada est tout à fait différente. Intéressant pour dire le moindre.

Cette question spécifique est posée à 5:43, et sa réponse dure jusqu’à 8:07. Ça vaut la peine d’écouter cet extrait.

D’ailleurs, au cours de l’entrevue, elle parle des défis des communautés francophones hors Québec.

Malgré mon optimisme personnel, j’avoue que les défis demeurent bien réels – mais c’est certainement mieux qu’avant, surtout avec l’arrivée de l’internet et les possibilités qu’il présente (du côté économique, social, et politique).

À mon avis, plus souvent qu’autrement la responsabilité de préserver et de promouvoir sa langue tombe sur les épaules des francophones hors Québec eux-mêmes… car si une personne “lâche” le français, ce n’est pas forcément la faute des Anglophones.

Du même coup, je dois dire que j’avais l’impression depuis des années que Mme. Kenny penchait trop peu sur le positif, même lorsque le positif lui sautait aux yeux (peut-être une manque de balance dans ses entrevues et discours — mais en revanche il faut reconnaître son rôle de “batteuse de profession”)… mais c’est juste mon opinion à moi.

En même temps, pour la santé du pays, j’étais toujours confondu s’il était mieux d’avoir

(1) un niveau accru du bilinguisme français/anglais chez les anglophones hors Québec, ou

(2) un niveau accru du nombre des francophones hors Québec (car on lorsqu’on retire Toronto et Vancouver de l’équation, on constate que le taux du bilinguise chez les anglophones ailleurs au pays est en pente ascendante.  Il faut retirer Toronto et Vancouver du jeux des chiffres car ces deux villes accueillent la plupart des immigrants « anglos » récents au pays – et la première génération n’a pas encore eu l’habilité d’envoyer leurs enfants en immersion française comme ailleurs au Canada).

En écoutant les discours de Mme. Kenny au cours des années, elle me porte à croire qu’elle etait de l’avis que la deuxième question fût primordiale.

Cependant, je ne suis pas certain d’être en accord.  Je suis plutôt de l’avis qu’un mélange soit préférable – un point équitable si vous voulez – et qu’il faut encourager ces deux tendances en même temps (l’une avec l’autre).

Une bonne partie des changements positifs des années récentes est due au fait qu’il existe une population anglophone de plus en plus bilingue.  Une telle population bien sûr serait plus réceptive et accueillante envers l’évolution et la protection du fait français au Canada.

Dans cette même veine, j’ai toujours pensé que l’accent « économique » des organismes, telle la FCFA ,était mal placé ou quasi non existant.

Plus tôt cette année, devant le Comité permanent des langues officielles du Sénat, l’ancienne présidente de la FCFA avait plaidé l’aspect négatif qu’apporte l’immigration anglophone à la population proportionnelle des communautés francophones hors Québec (c’est-à-dire – et je n’ai pas les chiffres exactes devant moi – si le Canada reçoit deux immigrants anglophones pour chaque 1.2 enfants francophones nés au Canada à l’extérieur du Québec, on verrait l’impact négatif au cours des générations à venir).

Sur la surface, je suis d’accord avec le constat de Mme. Kenny.  Mais c’est quant à sa position sur les solutions que je ne suis pas en accord.

À titre de présidente de la FCFA, elle était de l’avis que le gouvernement du Canada devait augmenter massivement le taux d’immigration francophone au Canada anglais pour contrer ces tendances.  Elle voulait que le gouvernement fédéral entame des programmes d’immigration qui visent mieux les immigrants francophones afin de les accueillir dans les villes hors Québec.

Elle a laissé croire que si les programmes d’immigration seraient mieux que ceux qui existent maintenant, les immigrants francophones débarqueraient au Canada anglophone à grand pas.

Là, je ne suis pas d’accord.

J’aimerais vous proposer une analogie.

En Finlande, on parle le finlandais dans la plupart du pays, mais on y parle également le suédois comme langue principale protégée dans l’état de l’Åland, une partie du sud-ouest du pays (une mini-version de la réalité linguistique du Canada, mais avec le suédois et le finlandais comme exemples).

Si vous parliez déjà le suédois mais non pas le finlandais, et si par hasard vous alliez vous installer en Finlande, iriez-vous vous installez dans la partie suédophone (où là langue suédoise de travail est protégée)? Ou iriez-vous dans la partie finlandophone, là où il serait plus difficile de trouver un travail selon votre expérience et compétences antérieurs  en suédois? (n’oubliez pas que vous ne parlez pas le finlandais).

Bien sûr que vous n’allez pas choisir de s’installer dans la partie finlandophone, et ce même si le gouvernement finlandais vous ouvrirait les portes d’immigration grandes ouvertes en raison de votre connaissance du suédois.

Pour vous, en tant qu’immigrant(e) qui doit s’installer et gagner votre pain le plus rapidement possible (car vous avez une famille à nourrir et loger malgré tout), de s’installer dans la partie finlandophone n’a très peu de bon sens (peu importe la bonne foi et la grandeur de n’importe quel programme d’immigration entamé par le gouvernement finlandais).

Votre premier choix serait de s’installer dans la région suédophone.  C’est la nature humaine.

Pour reprendre ce même exemple:   En tant que suédophone, si dans la partie finlandophone il vous serait possible de trouver un emploi « comparable » en suédois, du genre que vous pourriez trouver dans la partie suédophone, dans ce cas-ci vous seriez peut-être plus apte et ouvert à l’idée de s’installer dans la partie finlandophone.

Mais si vous êtes mécanicien, nutritionniste, courtier d’assurance, banquier, chauffeur de camion, coiffeur, travailleur dans un Tim Hortons, comptable, avocat, recherchiste, ou caméraman suédophone, et vous croyez ne pas pouvoir trouver du boulot dans votre langue dans la partie finlandophone, vous allez écarter toute possibilité de s’y installer (surtout si la plupart des postes suédophones dans la partie finlandophone ne sont que des postes limités au secteur publique, ne sont pas dans votre métier d’expérience, et ne vous satisfont pas / ne correspondent pas à vos désirs non plus!).

Alors la problématique se pose concernant la solution.

Je suis de l’avis que la solution ne se trouve pas dans l’encadrement de nouveaux programmes d’immigration (même les programmes d’immigration les mieux bonifiés au monde n’auraient qu’un impact minime).

Je suis plutôt de l’avis que la création d’emplois en français dans le secteur privé demeurre la baguette magique.

Il y aurait une certaine remédiation à toutes les problématiques reliées à la croissance de la francophonie pancanadienne si les francophones (et les francophiles d’ailleurs) créaient eux-même, et trouvaient plus facilement, des emplois en français, dans tous les domaines privés, là où ils se trouvent au Canada.

Mais bizarrement, la question économique et la création d’emplois en français est une discussion qui ne se fait pas publiquement de la part des organismes francophones — du moins comme cible primaire.

Devant le public, ce sont leurs réclamations pour plus de programmes d’immigration qui semblent toujours être au première loge.  Mais une telle discussion est mal placée à mon avis.

Il faut faire une réingénerie du marché si on veut créer des emplois en français hors Québec (je répète:  si on veut “vraiment” les créer).  Une mini-révolution tranquille « économique » hors Québec est possible sur plusieurs niveaux afin de déclancher une telle restructuration:

  • On pourrait créer un fonds de solidarité francophone pancanadienne pour les cotisations des entreprises francophones hors Québec (cela pourrait remplacer le rôle de revenu Canada dans ce domaine, et pourrait inciter les entreprises francophones à continuer d’opérer en français hors Québec si, en revanche, on leur offre des avantages sur la taxe sur la masse salariale).
  • On pourrait fonder une banque de développement d’affaires francophones spécifiquement pour les entreprises hors Québec qui prouvent que leurs opérations internes se déroulent presque uniquement en français.
  • On pourrait créer une société d’assurance pancanadienne francophone avec des branches partout au pays.
  • On pourrait financer des cliniques médicales francophones, et de les loger dans les hôpitaux anglophones à travers le pays (il existe des cliniques de langue anglaise dans les hôpitaux chinois en Chine pour les étrangers, alors pourquoi ne pas implanter un système semblable au Canada anglais pour les francophones?)
  • On pourrait offrir une aide financière au niveau des cours de formation pour les employés qui travaillent dans les entreprises qui ont le français comme langue principale d’opérations internes (affichage, réunions, documents, main d’oeuvre).

Un tel programme serait nécessaire, et je vous offre un exemple pourquoi.

    • Mettons il existe deux sociétés en distribution de matériaux en construction en Saskatchewan.  Une société de langue anglaise compte 20 employés et existe depuis déjà 20 ans.  L’autre société francophone n’a que 4 employés, n’existe que depuis 2 ans, mais fonctionne à 100% à l’interne en français.  La société francophone veut faire concurrence avec la société anglophone.  Alors, puisque les opérations internes sont en français, il faut engager des francophones pour combler les postes de vendeur et du marketing.
    • Mais en Saskatchewan l’employeur n’arrive pas à trouver des francophones avec l’expérience nécessaires pour vendre ce genre de matériaux de construction assez particulier (pourtant, des anglophones qui ont de l’expérience avec ce matériel spécifique, il y en a à la pelle en Saskatchewan avec 10, 15 ou 20 ans d’expérience).
    • Cela veut dire que l’entreprise francophone fait face à deux choix difficles, et presque insurmontables :  (1) abolir les postes francophones et convertir les opérations en anglais pour se garder concurrentiel, or (2) embaucher des francophones/francophiles (locaux ou des immigrants) et de les former à un coût très élevé.  Mais les coûts de formation de six mois à un an (une formation sur le champ, et pas nécessairement dans une salle de classe) rendrait l’entreprise francophone non concurrentielle face à l’entreprise anglophone.
    • Pourtant, s’il existait des programmes de remboursement des coûts de formation (peut-être sur la masse salariale?) pour les entreprises francophones qui se trouvent dans une telle situation, cela pourrait inciter les entreprises francophones à « embaucher » et de « garder » les employés francophones.
  • Et finalement, les prestataires et fournisseurs hors Québec d’une certaine taille, qui désirent obtenir les contrats du gouvernement (soit du gouvernement fédéral, ou des quatre provinces et territoires qui opèrent en français tout comme en anglais) devrait embaucher un seuil minimum de francophones (dont les compétences linguistiques auraient été évaluées au préalable par un tiers neutre et impartial).

Personne ne semble vouloir parler de ces enjeux hors des huis clos.  Je suis entièrement reconnaissant qu’il s’agirait d’un changement de paradigme majeur pour ceux qui se préoccupent de ces sujets.  Pourtant, c’est un changement qui pourrait avoir lieu (et devrait avoir lieu).

Arrêtons de blâmer le Ministère de citoyenneté et de l’immigration du Canada (CIC).  Ce ministère ne devrait se servir d’outil pour faciliter l’entrée des immigrants une fois que toutes les autres fondations soient en place.

Franchement parlant, quant à CIC, ce n’est ni leur responsabilité, ni leur bataille.

Ai-je tort?


S’il vous intéresse, voici le procès-verbal du témoignage de Mme. Kenny devant le Comité sénatorial permanent des
Langues officielles:  http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/412%5COLLO/04EV-51239-F.HTM

Le voici un petit aperçu de la volée d’attention médiatique qu’a obtenu le témoignage de Mme. Kenny suite à sa comparution:

A little bit of insight into Québec’s unique “Culture for Children” (#341)

You might say that this post is “childish”, but that is exactly what I am aiming for.

(A note to readers outside Canada:  this post contains cultural references which are likely more familiar to Anglophone Canadians than to people outside Canada).

My last post on the small Francophone town of Debden, in northern Saskatchewan, was no accident.  In this post you will see why.

For those of you who grew up in Canada’s Anglophone experience, as children (from the time of birth to the age of perhaps 10 or 12), you were surrounded in a world of “Canadian pop-culture for children”.

It didn’t matter which of the 10 provinces or 3 territories you lived in – the experience was very much the same for children across the country (which is an amazing feat considering the distances involved).

  • Kids across the country played with the same toys (Mr. Potato head, Jenga, Star Wars action figures, My Little Pony, cabbage patch dolls…)
  • We listened to kids’ music which our peers listened to (The Chipmunks, Sharon, Louis & Bram…)
  • We watched the same children’s movies as our peers (Bambi, Snow White…)
  • We watched the same children’s television programs (Canadian Sesame street [which was somewhat different than the US Sesame Street], the Smurfs, Paddington Bear, Fraggle rock, The Friendly Giant, Polk-a-dot door…)

Of course, different ages had different pop-cultural references(toys, programs, and songs for a three year old toddler would be different than for a child 8 years of age).

But the experiences were generally the same for children who grew up in the same age bracket as you.

We can group such references from three different angles.

(1)  International children’s culture shared by children across borders (the Smurfs are Belgian, Paddington Bear is British, Fraggle Rock was a tri-way British/American/Canadian produced program, Snow White is American, etc).

(2)  National children’s culture (Polk-a-dot door was specifically Canadian, as were Sharon, Louis & Bram, Degrassi Junior High, The Friendly Giant, table top hockey toy sets are almost a uniquely Canadian-used toy, etc.)

(3)  And then there is localized children’s culture. I can offer you some of examples.

I remember as a young child playing with toy logging equipment when I lived in Northern B.C. (Yup!  Toy logging trucks and toy chain saws as I imitated what I saw around me in Terrace, BC).

Later, when I grew up on the Prairies, I recall I used to love to play with toy farm sets.  Around age 8, I would play for hours with my toy tractors and animals, imitating what I saw on the farms around the areas we lived.

(As an adult, I play with motorbikes… but they ain’t toys – hahaha — but on second thought, I suppose they are!).

I have friends from the Atlantic Provinces who tell me they played with “fishing” toys as children, such as toy fishing boats, nets, and toy lobster cages (It makes me wonder what toys kids in the far Arctic play with).

But have you ever wondered what children’s pop-culture might be like for children in Québec?

Many of the references I provided above are “English-language” references.

Granted, many of the international references exist for children in Québec, as they do for children elsewhere in Canada and in other countries (translation of Disney movies, the Smurfs and Tin-Tin from Belgium, Babar from France, Barbie Dolls, Star Wars and Superman action figurines, etc.)

Yet for Francophone children in Québec, many of the children’s pop-culture references at a “national level” are different from those of Anglophone Canadians.  In Québec there was no Polk-a-Dot Door, no Mr. Rogers, no The Friendly giant, no Sharon, Louis, and Bram.

Children and adolescents in Québec (and Francophone children elsewhere in Canada) grew up (and continue to grow up) with unique pop-culture references such as

  • Watatatow (sort of like a “Saved by the bell”)
  • Ramdam
  • Bobino & Bobinette (there’s an oldie for you!)
  • Sol, le clown (another timeless classic!)
  • a Québec version of Sesame street entitled “Bonjour Sésame”

Now for the shocker!

(Buckle up, because you might fall off your chair with this next one)

Over the years, when people in Québec have found out I have family roots in Saskatchewan going back generations, what do you think one of their first reactions and comments to me were?

Think about it for a moment…

Come on, what do you think it might be?

Perhaps a reference about the flatness of the Prairies?  The cold Prairie winters?  Wheat fields?  Come on, think hard…

Hint:  It’s not about being to continuously see your dog running away in the distance three days after having lost it…

I’ll give you one more second to think about it…

(Trust me when I say you’re not going to believe this one!)…

Can’t come up with the answer?  In fact…

One of the first sure-fire comments I routinely receive from Québécois when they discover my Saskatchewan roots is…

“Oh! Saskatchewan! That’s where Carmen Campagne is from!!” (I bet you didn’t see that one coming!)

Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that statement in Québec… !!

I’ll make 2 bets with you:

Bet 1:  If you’re Anglophone Canadian, you likely have no idea who Carmen Campagne is.

Do you know who Carmen Campagne is?  If you do not, that means that many cultural aspects of the Two Solitudes remain alive and well (as you can see).

Bet 2:  I would venture to say that most people who grew up in Québec, and who are anywhere from 0 to 50 years of age knows who she is (they have either grown up listening her, or have had children who have grown up listening to her).  Likely there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Québécois whose first thoughts turn to Carmen Campagne when they think of Saskatchewan.

In fact, because there are so many Québecois who may know who she is, it is quite possible that in terms of real numbers alone, Carmen Campagne could be one of the most well-known Saskatchewanites outside Saskatchewan (and possibly in the world).

How is that for a jaw-dropper for you !!  (Hello Two Canada’s Two Solitudes!)

Carmen Campagne is a French language children’s singer & entertainer.  Perhaps the closest Anglophone Canadian equivalent would be Raffi, or the singers from the group Sharon, Louis and Bram.

Now you can see why I wrote yesterday’s post on Debden, Saskatchewan.

In the last post, I specifically wanted to emphasize that there are many towns and villages all across Saskatchewan with significant Francophone populations (as I’ve said before, everything in this blog all weaves together to give you a much broader and more complete portrait of Québec’s culture, its place in Canada, Canada’s Francophone culture in general, and often how it relates to Canada’s Anglophone realities.  (Funny how different posts keep “bumping into each other”, isn’t it?)

She is a Fransaskoise (a Saskatchewan Francophone) children’s singer and quite famous in Québec and all across French Canada.

She is from the Francophone town of Willow Bunch in Southern Saskatchewan – South of Moose Jaw

(BELOW is a map of the French sub-accent zone in Southern Saskatchewan which encompasses Willow-Bunch).

So Sk 4

For Francophone children in Québec, she is part of their childhood memories.  The songs she sings are part of Québec’s children’s references when growing up.

This is not only an example of Québec’s own culture for children, but it also serves to show how Canada’s overall Francophone society is tied together (across provincial lines).

Just as Anglophone adults might make quip remarks among themselves regarding their own childhood pop-culture references, such as saying “That guy’s beard is as white as Papa Smurfs”), adults in Québec also make everyday remarks regarding their own childhood references;

  • That lady there looks as sad as the clown Sol”, or
  • “Hey!  I told you to turn the radio to a hit-music channel… not something like Carmen Campagne!”

Children’s culture, for any society, eventually becomes part of our adult culture.  It is what makes a society unique, and reinforces societal bonds of having “grown up together”, and “experienced the world as one”.

It’s interesting, and it is something I feel more Anglophone Canadians should be aware of.

I’ll leave you with a couple YouTube videos of some of Carmen Campagne’s songs.   Now, you can also say you’ve experienced a little piece of what Québécois (and Francophones across Canada) have collectively grown up with as children 🙂

Legendary loggers of a by-gone era – an online documentary from 1962 (#338)

This documentary is quite a time-capsule of a by-gone era, that of Québec’s legendary former loggers.

It is a lifestyle which no longer exists.  These days, logging camps are far and few between (modern loggers can “drive to work” from home), and logging methods are much different (there are no longer log-runs on rivers or lakes).

In Québec, there are many traditional stories, songs, poems and legends about this former life-style, which lasted from the 1700s until the mid-20th century.  That is why this documentary is quite special.  It is the last window we have into this former life-style.  Had television / film been invented even 15 years later, we may have missed the opportunity to have had a documentary like this (which is why I believe it is so special).

The documentary was made in 1962 by the National Film Board of Canada.

It is set in the Haute Mauricie region of Québec.   It is a region which remains sparsely populated.  The town of La Tuque is the only community of any notable size in the region.


Above:  Haute-Mauricie on a map

Below:  The town of La Tuque

La Tuque d'aujourd'hui

You can watch the documentary online, via the National Film Board’s website, by CLICKING BELOW


Some things in the film which stand out for me :

  • The men in the film are from all regions of Québec.  They congregated in the camps in search of work.  Thus, you can hear various different French accents in the film (from Gaspé, Lac St-Jean, Côte Nord, and La Beace regions).   These accents stand out because the documentary was from a time when regional accents continued to be much more prevalent than a standardized Québec accent.
  • On that same topic (of a standardized accent), in 1962 Québec had not yet achieved a point of speaking wth today’s standardized accent.  Thus, up until the early 1960’s, Québec’s television announcers and documentary narrators spoke with a very “European” intonation.  This documentary is a very good example of what I mean.  Narrators today would have a more noticeable “Québec” characteristic to their accent than this “faux European” accent with which the narrator speaks.  I spoke about this phenomenon in an early post on accents.  You can read it by clicking HERE.
  • The film makes me thing of today’s modern oil & gas camps in the West and North.  Especially the fact that the camps are filled from people from all parts of the country (much like these old logging camps were filled with people from all parts of Québec).

I translated the first part of the documentary, so that you can understand the generally meaning of what is being said.  Here is the translation (after my translation, the scenes in the documentary speak for themselves):

0:51 – Travailleur / Worker :  On dit que le thermomètre est à 23, 24 sur la route.   Plus que ça, 27.  Aïe, que c’est fort!   T’ends un peu là.  Entre 25 et 30.  Entre 25 et 30.  Comme la semaine passée.

Worker :  You’d think the thermometre is -23 or -24 on the road.  More than that, -27.  Wow, that hits hard!  Wait a sec.  Between -25 and -30.  Between -25 and -30, like last week.

2:42 – Sur la carte, un désert.  Une forêt à faucher, une forêt vierge continue qui couvrirait sept fois la France.  À vol d’oiseau, Trois-Rivières n’est qu’à 120 miles au sud, Montréal et Québec à 150.

On a map, it’s a desert.  A forest to fell, a continuous virgin forest seven times the size of France.  As the crow flies, Trois-Rivières is 120 miles to the south, Montréal and Québec City are 150 miles.

2:50 – Pourtant, avant d’atteindre la première route marquée sur la carte, il faut parcourir 140 miles de chemins privés, ou prendre le train. 

Yet, before arriving to the first marked road on the map, you have to work your way through 140 miles of private roads, or take the train.

3:02 – Pour moissonner épinettes et sapins, ce matin comme les autres matins de la semaine, 165 scies de cultivateurs ont quitté leurs baraquements à 06h45. 

To harvest spruce and fir trees, this morning like all the other mornings of the week, 165 harvesting saws live their camp barracks at 6:45am.

3:28 – Deux par deux, quatre par quatre, les Breton, Le Guen, Kérisoré et Naffe, venus de vieux pays du Morbihan et Finistère (des régions en Breton en France)… Et le cuisinier Émile, et l’assistant cuisinier Lucien dit Beau-Sourire, Alphonse Lacasse, Candide Malenfant, Julien Gagnon, Marcel Piché, Henri Frenette, Jean-Charles Charon, Guy Charon, Flavien Charon, Normand Lafontaine, Henri-Paul Labonté – tous venus de vieilles paroisses aux sols maigres et revêches…

Two-by-two, four-by-four, the (Family names) Bretons, Le Guen, Kérisoré, Naffe, from the old country of Morbihan and Finistère (regions of Breton in France), and Émile the cook, Lucien the assistant cook who is nicknamed Cute-Smile, Alphonse Lacasse, Candide Malenfant, Julien Gagnon, Marcel Piché, Henri Frenette, Jean-Charles Charon, Guy Charon, Flavien Charon, Normand Lafontaine, Henri-Paul Labonté – all have comme from parishes with poor and unproductive soil…

4:00 – … Des Laurentides à la Gaspésie, de la Beauce au Lac St-Jean, pour accomplir des travaux exemplaires. 

From the Laurentians to Gaspé, from the Beauce region to Lac St-Jean, they have come to do what could be held up as a model of work.

5:36 – Dallaire, il est canadien français.  Il ne parle pas anglais.  Il ignore Cuba et le marché commun, le Congo et l’Algérie.  Il coupe le bois pour six dollars la corde à neuf miles du camp. 

Dallaire is French Canadian.  He doesn’t speak English.  He knows nothing of Cuba or the free market, nor the Congo nor Algeria.  He cuts wood for six dollars a cord, nine miles from camp.

6:06 – Son ami A.S. Pérot (?) dépique les arbres et empile la pitoune de quatre pieds.  Une chorde, quatre pieds de large, 8 pieds de longue, quatre pieds de haut, cent billots et six dollars à partager entre deux. 

His friend A.S.(?) Pérot takes the branches off the trees and piles the pitoune (a 4 x 8 ft cord or wood). A cord, 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, 4 feet high, 100 blocks and six dollars to share between the two of them.

7:30 – Travailleur / worker :  Il y a des moyens l’bois ça vend.

There are ways to sell the wood.

7:37 – La Rochelle et son ami sont aussi entrepreneurs.  3,55$ par corde transporté sur une distance de six miles.  2,35$ pour le camion, 60 sous pour chacun.  Quatre cordes par voyage.  Et, avec de la chance, six voyages par jour.

La Rochelle (family name) and his friend are also entrepreneurs.  They receive $3.55 per cord which is transported at a distance of six miles.  $2.35 for the truck, 60 cents each.  For cords per trip, and with any luck, six trips per day.

8:01 – C’était le 1e février.  Le dernier voyage en bateau sur la (rivière) Manouane en aval du barrage.  En amont, sur la glace du lac Chateauvert, des tracteurs à chenille remorquaient des trainouches rangés de bois.

It was February 1st.  The last trip by boat on the Manouane River downstream from the dam.  Downstream on the ice of Lake Chateauver, tank-track tractors which were pulling chain-trains full of wood.

En aval, dans l’eau courante, 35 camions jetaient 52,000 cordes de bois à la rivière, de quoi alimenter en papier en 18 mois le quotidien la Presse, et pendant les deux mois le New York Times. 

Downstream, in flowing water, 35 trucks were dumping 52,000 cords of wood into the river, serving to supply 18 months worth of paper to the daily La Presse newspaper, and two months worth for the New York Times.

Flotterons ainsi sur la Manouane, puis sur la St-Maurice, et rejoindrons les deux millions d’arbres coupés pas huit mille bûcherons. 

Let’s sail down the Manouane, and then to the St-Maurice river to meet up with 2 million felled trees by 8000 loggers.

Les 125 million de billes de quatre pieds qui chaque année voguent vers La Tuque, Grande Mère, Shawinigan, et Trois-Rivières pour produire autant de papier que l’en exporte toute la Scandanavie.

The 125 bundles of 4 foot logs, which each year sail down to (the towns of) La Tuque, Grande Mère, Shawinigan, and Trois-rivières to produce as much paper as what Scandanavia exports.

8:58 – Vingt-deux indiens de la tribu des Têtes de bulls travaillent ici pendant quinze jours.  Ils vivent sous la tente.  Albert Connolly est leur chef et son jeune fils l’aide à empiler un bois dont la coupe est peu rentable car il est petit. 

22 indians from the Bulls Head tribe work here for 15 days.  They live in tents.  Albert Connolly is their Chief, and his young son helps him to pile wood which has little value because it is too small.

9:43 – Trente-cinq camions, soixante-cinq chevaux, huit tracteurs à chenille, 165 hommes pendant neuf mois, 22 indiens pendant 20 jours, et six ans de labeur pour jeter dans la rivière quarante miles carrés de forêt.

Thirty five trucks, sixty five horses, eight tank-track tractors, 165 men during 9 month, 22 indians during 20 days, and six years of (combined) labour to dump 40 square miles of forest into the river.

11:47 – Travailleur / worker :  En hiver dans l’bois on va manger de bonne viande.  À part d’t’ (de) ça un couple de bières tranquillement pas vite.  La première fois que j’étais en chantier de l’hiver de bois je me demandais qu’est-ce que je fais.  Je vais me prendre une assiettée de bines, pis un bon petit bone steak, pis je va leur montrer aux bines comment je mange ça un steak!

Travailleur / worker (in a very heavy accent which I think is from North-East of Baie Commeau, further East along the North Coast region of Québec, if I’m not mistaken) :  In the woods in the winter, we’s be eatin’ good meat, along with a couple beers which we down nice ‘n slow.  The first time I was in the winter camp, I wondered how the heck I’d I find my way.  I just took a plate of (pork and) beans, and a ‘lil chunk of T-bone, and I showed ‘em all (my co-workers) how to down a steak!  (Laughs).

Once my translation stops…

In the documentary, they later they talk about how the aboriginals workers came to eat in the camp once, how they live in their own camps outside with their families.  The narrator says they continue to eat food they hunt.

At 21:20 they show workers who have been injured and are left to their own misery because they have no medical insurance (and no means to purchase medicine).  Basically, you were screwed if you fell ill.

Later they talk about what different men plan to do during the summer for work once the camp closes.  The camp only operates in the winter (when the ground is frozen and it is easier to work).  Many men will be without work if they cannot pre-arrange summer jobs.