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Québec and Anglophone Canada, a relationship of symbiotic evolution (#230)

We often hear people say that Canada is influenced by Québec’s public debates – be it societal, social progressive, or economic in nature.

The argument is that Québec plays a role in “boost-starting” societal debate elsewhere in Canada, policy and legislation in the rest of Canada, or will sometimes lend that “extra little push” to public debates which already exist in Canada – enough to tip it over the edge to incite change.

Over the years we have seen several such examples:  recent issues surrounding the allowance of doctor assisted suicide, the much earlier debates and policies pertaining to abortion-related issues, gay marriage, national linguistic policies, certain Federal parties adopting a Québec approach to things such as universal daycare platforms, environmental issues, etc.

I tend to agree with the above portrait in a “general” sense, but I also firmly believe that it is a two-way street.

As much as Québec has a Québeconization effect upon the rest of Canada, the rest of Canada also has an overall Canadianization effect on Québec  (just as all provinces are influenced by this Canadianization effect).  Examples of this include the earliest notions of industry nationalization (huge swaths of key Canadian  industries, and other provincial industries were once “nationalized” much earlier than Québec’s round of provincial nationalizations — which helped to serve as a model for Québec’s nationalizations, such as Hydro-Québec), universal health-care from Saskatchewan, or provincial-aboriginal autonomy agreements to name just a few (BC’s landmark Nisga’a agreement could be said to have served as a model for Québec’s historic “Cree Nation Agreement” signed by Bernard Landry — although I doubt Landry would admit it, considering that it serves as a perfect example of the effectiveness, practicality and pragmatism of Federalism).

This mutual influence works as a mutual symbiosis — which I believe is beneficial to all of us in Canada.

It has a “tempering” effect, as well as a “call-to-action” effect.  It makes us a well-rounded, level-headed and worldlier country, with greater opportunities for all (socially, economically, and environmentally).  One could think of it as a check-and-balance approach at a practical level.  But I tend to think of it more in practical terms; as a matter of debating the largest and most important issues across all provinces, then taking the best approaches (and best practices) and adopting them throughout the country.

As things are debated, as policies & laws are formed, and as they make the jump back and forth between Québec and English Canada, we mutually influence each other.  The changes spur our societal evolution, and ends up shaping our collective and individual psyche (both in Québec and elsewhere in Canada).  These changes do not occur overnight.  Rather, they form over years, decades and generations.

This is also a major reason why we have a unique way of approaching and viewing things; a unique perspective and a unique national psyche which differentiates us from even our closest neighbours and friends (such as the USA, Australia, NZ, the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and the list goes on…).  We simply would not be the same people or same country without this internal symbiotic relationship (even in the furthest reaches of Canada are affected by it, as we all our subject to the influences of our national policies, legislation, and growth of our shared values).

This is why, despite the continued existence the Two Solitudes (which are apparent in daily aspects of our lives, such as Francophone versus Anglophone pop-culture), we still share a deep “collective” culture, train of thought, approach to issues, and mindset – common to both Québec’s society and English Canada’s society (you may recall that three posts ago, in the post entitled “How a little bit of ignorance of the Two Solitudes can lead straight to failure” I mentioned that you cannot “split” Canada’s “combined” Anglo-Franco culture when talking about public policy and laws in a national context (versus talking about them in a regional context).

Even today, we’re currently experiencing a series of “national” events which fit with the notion of a melding of common public debate, the formation of public policies and legislation, and the continued evolution of our collective society, values and psyche.

The next three posts will look at three current and specific examples in which

  • the overall Canadian context is now influencing Québec’s own internal public policy,
  • Québec’s recent public debates are now influencing Canada’s overall current public debates,
  • a possible future public debate, which is slowly gathering more-and-more steam throughout English Canada, and which has the potential to provoke a debate in Québec on the same subject at some point in the future.

I’ll see you soon as we explore the above three examples in the next posts.

Elvis Gratton – “Unveiled” (#188)

The last few posts touched on matters which have much to do not only with societal accommodations, and political correctness, but also matters involving society’s respect for others.  Thus, for those of you who DO know “what” Elvis Gratton is, you may think I’m lacking a bit of tact and judgement by writing a post on Elvis Graton directly after a series discussing multiculturalism.

You may even be thinking “There he goes…– he’s going to hold Elvis Gratton above everyone’s heads as a statement of societal intolerance, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”.

Well, actually… don’t get ahead of yourself.   I want to say that I AM going to hold Elvis Gratton up as a statement regarding bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and gross prejudice.  BUT, I’m sure my take on it is going to surprise you.   I’m actually going to tout Elvis Gratton’s place in Québec’s culture to illustrate some of the best of what Québec is – the best of its people, the best of its society, and Québec’s deep concern for others, regardless of their backgrounds.

I need to first explain who and what “Elvis Gratton” is (considering that many Anglophone Canadians may not know about Elvis Gratton).

To start, if I were to mention Cheech and Chong”, most people in Anglophone Canada will definitely remember this iconic Canadian-American comedy duo (at least those who have a cultural recollection of 1980s)

Québec also has two similar cultural phenomenon – which are some of the most iconic, most widely referenced and biggest Québec pop-cultural hits of the last 35 years:

  • The Québec equivalent which could embody the “stage comedy” aspect of Cheech and Chong could be the stage comedic duo Ding et Dong” (popular in the 1980s & 1990s).
  • But the Québec equivalent which could embody the “movie” aspect of Cheech and Chong probably would be “Elvis Gratton” — which not only spanned the 1980s with the release of several movies, but also continued will into the 1990s, and up to 2009 in a later televised series format.

Elvis Gratton was a series of comedy movies, centred on one main character named Bob Gratton.  He had an ever-present sidekick best-friend, Méo.  In the movies, Bob Gratton won an Elvis impersonation competition, it went to his head, and he lived a frankly bizarre life and an even more bizarre view of the world.

Posters for two of the six movies, not to mention 40+ television episodes

e.gr.1

What made the movies stand out was the bigoted nature of its characters, the political incorrectness of the plots, nasty cheap shots at every possible aspect of society, and some of the most crass language and behaviours I have ever seen of any movies in Québec or Canada (if you want to learn every Québec swear word under the sun, you only need to watch 10 minutes of any of the given movies).   The movie was so raw and crass, in fact, that I’m even a little embarrassed to attempt to describe it.  I could go so far to say that it plays on themes which are downright racist (think of the themes of South Park x 10, or Borat x 20).  Needless to say, you’ll be able to find sufficient movie footage of it online to see what I mean.

Why and how could such a series of movies and television shows be such a hit (to the point that I would describe it as an iconic cultural hit)?   I think you have to understand the timing of it in Québec’s own modern history, in addition to understanding the movies’ creator’s own place in society.

In a nutshell, the first movie came out shortly after the first 1980 referendum.  The subsequent movies came out between the two referendums and during the first several years following the 1995 referendum.

The movie director, Pierre Falardeau (died 2009), was one of Québec’s few larger-than-life directors (it’s difficult to not think of Québec cinema without thinking of Pierre Falardeau)Falardeau was a very public supporter of sovereignty, and brought a good deal of philosophical perspective to the arena – debating it from his unique vantage point of the creator of many of Québec’s most appreciated cinematic works.  The loss of the 1980 referendum would have been a tough blow for Falardeau, as would have been the loss of the 1995 referendum.  It’s pure conjecture on my part, but men and women like Farlardeau often express their frustrations through their artistic works.  Their works can also embody a healing process for their own anxieties.

The fact that Falardeau chose to use the Elivs Gratton movies to make fun of the most taboo, most delicate, most emotional and most intense topics in Québec before and after the referendums could possibly have been his way of not only coping with the issues, but perhaps helping society to cope with the issues themselves.

When individuals internalize their own pain and thoughts, the psychological damage can be crippling.  Thus phycologists encourage people to find a way to externalize pain and painful.   I wonder if Falardeau felt that Québec society as a whole was also in need of a psychological therapy session and a way to externalize its referendum anguish.  Perhaps he was using the Elvis Gratton movies as a “psychologist’s sofa” to allow Québec, as a collective society, to revisit and externalize what it had been going through during the 15 – 20 years surrounding the two referendums.  Perhaps he used Elvis Gratton as a catalyst for Québec to “get it all out”, on their movie and television screens, so that society could begin its own healing process.  After all, the referendums tore apart aspects of society, pitting segments of society against each other.   The fact that Pierre Falardeau used some of the most crass and politically incorrect plots and humour with which to make people laugh was perhaps the only way he felt he could compel society to look at these issues head on.

Regardless if my above take on Elvis Gratton is or is not correct, the movies were a monstrous success.  They were so successful and so popular that lines and language from the movies have been immortalized in every-day common Québec French (I have even used some of them myself in some earlier posts).   In this respect, lines and scenes from Elvis Gratton movies could be to Québec what the lines and scenes of Monty Python are to Great Britain.

Because Falardeau perhaps used the movies as his own substitute for a defacto “Truth & Reconcilliation Commission”, he took on issues as complex and sensitive as the chummy relationship between the federal Liberals and Power Corporation (a media corporation), how Québec viewed and treated visible minorities and immigrants, how sovereignists and federalists treated and viewed each other, how disabled people were viewed by society, religion’s place in society, how people seemingly followed ideologies like blind sheep without understanding what they were following, some of the least desirable aspects of marriage… and the list goes on.   He created comedic sketches making fun of all these matters, in the most crude and extreme ways – using the most crass language in French vocabulary.   But it made the masses pay attention, and laugh.   People laughed like you would not believe.  Years later, I know people who still recall Elvis Gratton scenes, and who continue laugh at them.

I’m not sure if you read my earlier post on “Sugar Sammy” (click HERE for it).   If you have not read it, I recommend you read it before reading the remainder of this post (it will put the following into perspective).

In the “Sugar Sammy” post, I made the specific point of emphasizing that laughter is the best medicine – especially when people can laugh at themselves.  In the Sugar Sammy post, I used the example of comedy + language politics to make the point.    However, in the case of Elvis Gratton, I’m using comedy + “sovereignty vs. federalism vs. society vs. everything else” to make the same point.  Laughter lets people heal, and it allows people to reconcile.  Under any other circumstances, the type of politically incorrect and controversial humour we saw in Elvis Gratton would have been condemned (after all, it contains repeatedly strong undertones of racist humour and other taboo topics).   But in this case, the movies were not condemned at large – probably because Falardeau did a great thing… he used his talents as a producer to portray these topics in a manner to invoke laughter for the sake of society’s healing.

I think these movies did serve their purpose, and they did allow Québec, at large, to heal and to come to terms with the turmoil and emotion which stemmed from the referendums.

One specific example I can give you was during the Bouchard-Taylor Commissions (it was a commission which explored the whole issue of reasonable accommodations in the context of multiculturalism and interculturalism)The commission suggested that Québec cease to use the expression “Québécois de souche” (“purebred Québécois”) when refering to anyone whose roots in Québec can be traced back to white settlers in the 1600s and 1700s.  Rather, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission suggested using the expression “French Canadian”.

Pierre Falardeau knew that these latter terms stirred up strong emotions from opposing aspects of society, almost to the point that it pitted certain groups against other groups, based on lines drawn by the opposing use of these expressions;  invoking notions of nationalism, federalism and sovereignty.  He therefore incorporated a puzzling mix of this confusing “identity” vocabulary into Elvis Gratton to come up with some of the funniest scenes.  Prior to these movies, society likely thought there would be no way they could ever laugh at such emotional and gut-wrenching issues.  But after the movies, everyone was laughing at these matters – to the point that many of these former “society-shredding matters” simply became cursory points of discussion.  That is a very powerful transition – by any definition.

The scene to which I’m referring to above can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZS7sOOpELI.

From 2007 to 2009, for a period of three years, the movies were re-interpreted into a 3 year television sitcom.   The fact that Elvis Gratton made the jump from the big screen to television in no way diluted the crassness or political incorrectness of the scenes.   The television series was named “Bob Gratton” (not “Elvis Gratton”).  It aired on TQS (today known as Télé-Québec).  Again, I’m sure you’ll be able to find video clips of Bob Gratton online.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that Elvis Gratton’s place in Québec’s culture illustrates some of the best of what Québec is – the best of its people, the best of its society, and Québec’s deep concern for others, regardless of their backgrounds.

I said this because after Québec’s society had its emotional “release” through laughter, by way of these very politically incorrect movies and television, society never really re-embarked on making fun of such issues, at least at a societal level, ever again (issues which, under any other circumstances, should never be made fun of… i.e.:  it’s not OK to laugh at and make fun of people with cerebral palsy, such as the movies did with Bob Gratton’s side-kick friend Méo; nor is it ok to make fun of gay people, or Muslims, or developing countries and their people, etc. etc.).   And in this spirit, after Québec’s healing-period via Elvis Gratton, Québec put this kind of humour to rest.  It has never really crept back into Québec’s mainstream media again.   I think this shows that society knows how and when to put things into context.

In my blog series talking about Multiculturalism and Interculturalism, I spoke of “isolated” flare-ups of culturally sensitive matters, as well as political point-scoring by “lone” political camps.   But I truly cannot emphasize enough that these are just what I said:  “isolated” and “lone” scenarios.  They do not represent a tendency towards societal racism, intolerance, or bigotry.  On the contrary, Québec is one of the most welcoming, caring and warmest societies in the Western and developed world.  Québec may be soul-searching for the best way to integrate immigrants (and it may have its odd hiccups and growing pains), but frankly speaking, so too are Vancouver and Toronto, and other provinces have issues as they are dealing with these subjects.  But on the whole, we (as Canada as a whole or as Albertans, Manitobans, Québecois, or Newfoundlanders, as well as individual towns and cities) do a much better job of dealing with these matters than other parts of the world.  We tolerate and empathize with them more than most other countries in the world.  How Québec’s society has waded its way through these matters is truly commendable and remains a model for other societies which are undergoing rapid diversification while, at the same time, they are facing questions on how to best deal with serious, complex, and intense questions of cultural and heritage preservation.   All-in-all, Québec has pulled it off and continues to evolve.

We really have to be careful to differentiate lone political camps (ones who seek to capitalize on isolated instances from society at large) from society’s individuals who exercise the utmost humanity with which to build a compassionate, just and tolerant society.

The significance of Canada’s French Immersion Program – for Québec (#165)

This post builds upon the prior posts on French Immersion in Canada.

Note:  The French version of this post has a longer, “beefed-up” and much more “poignantly-worded” few paragraphs in the middle, as well as additional paragraphs and videos at the end.  You can refer to the French version here:  https://quebeccultureblog.com/2015/02/02/limportance-du-programme-dimmersion-francaise-au-canada-anglophone-pour-le-quebec-166/

In the prior post I mentioned that a reader from the US sent me an email with the following USA statistics:

  • US immersion schools offer 22 languages, with the top three being
    • 45% Spanish
    • 22% French
    • 13% Mandarin Chinese

Let’s do a comparison between the US’s immersion system and that of Canada.  I’m not an expert in the field of education.  But there is a bit of a difference between the French immersion systems in Canada versus the USA.

What is French immersion?

First, for readers who are not too familiar with what Immersion programs are, they are programs designed for non-native speakers to become fluent in an alternative language by allowing them to complete their entire (or a good portion) of their kindergarten to grade 12 education within the alternative language.    French Immersion schools are not Francophone schools.  (Francophone schools, which also are found all across Canada, are for the children of at least one Francophone parent, or who have previously attended Francophone schools.  The right to attend Francophone schools across Canada is enshrined in Canada’s constitution; “des ayants droit” as these students are called in French).

In Immersion schools, the language of instruction (i.e.: the language in which the courses are taught by the teacher) is in the alternative language, and the text books are also in the alternative language.   Sometimes there are variations in the way immersion is offered.  In Canada, most immersion program courses are 100% in French all year long.  But there are some options which allow for “late start” immersion, in which Anglophones who used to be in an English language system can transfer into the immersion system in later years (say grade 6 for example).  Other variations provide for a half/half approach, i.e.: some courses taught in immersion, others in English.  There also exists a compressed approach, in which half the year and half the courses are taught in English, with the other half of the courses and half the year in French (which allows for efficiencies in mixed schools with immersion & non-immersion programs).  Nonetheless, the outcome is the same – to allow students to grow up functionally bilingual, with a strong sense of Canada’s cultural duality.  Take my own situation for example:  I grew up in Rural B.C. and mostly Rural Alberta and I’m a good example of this, my sister-in-law, who grew up in Ottawa, is a good example of this, my cousins and cousin’s children in Saskatchewan are good examples of this, my brother’s kids are now about to enter the immersion program in Edmonton and they will be good examples of this, and many others I know are also good examples of this.

What distinguishes Canada’s French immersion programs from that of the United States?

In Canada, like in the US, languages other than French are offered as possible Immersion alternatives (I know of some Chinese, Ukrainian, German, Spanish, and Icelandic immersion programs in Western Canada for example, as well as additional languages in Ontario).  But French Immersion in Canada by far outweighs any other program – to the point that there really is no parallel which can be drawn with other languages.  In yesterday’s post, I mentioned I discovered that in just four provinces alone, there are 980 individual immersion programs of various levels in French.   I’m taking an educated guess that if the remaining provinces were factored in, Canada’s overall number of various levels of French immersion programs would likely be in the neighbourhood of 1500 programs, give or take a few.

When you compare that to the United States’ overall 500 (or so) Immersion programs, that gives you an idea just how staggering in size Canada’s French Immersion “system” has become (in a proportional sense, the United States would have to have 15,000 separate immersion programs just to match the Canadian proportion).   I’d venture to say that Canada’s immersion program is likely the largest of any such “institution” in the world (once you reach these proportions, I think it’s safe to start labelling it as a national institution).

One of the major differences between Canada’s French immersion program and that of the United States (or other countries for that matter, such as Australia, the UK, Germany, or India) is the nature, intent, and desired outcome of the program.  There’s no point tip-toeing around the issue, and I might as well name the elephant in the room for what it is.  The program’s roots in Canada were political and had to do with a sense of civic duty, just as much as it has to do with possibilities for future employment and mobility.

Why is it this way?

Canada was subjected to a rough period of hard political reality in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  The reality began to set in that there were serious linguistic inequalities in Canada.  Anglophone Canadians began to realize that French was just as much a Canadian language, to be respected at-level with English in situations where this could reasonably be accomplished.  People came to the realization French was not to be relegated to being a folk-language, nor treated at par with immigrant languages (Francophone culture has been, is, and always will be just as synonymous to Canada as Anglophone culture).  In addition, the world in the 1960’s and 1970’s was changing, and it was no longer acceptable to subject one national group to the will of another. Upon realizing that something must be done, Anglophones, concerned parents, school boards, provincial governments, and the Federal government undertook an amazing feat of cooperation to try to fix this situation by launching the very first French Immersion programs (of which I was part of).  Then came the 1980 referendum, the constitutional repatriation, the Meech and Charlottetown constitutional rounds, followed by the second 1995 referendum.  It was a serious reality shock to the country, and something had to give.

Without wanting to sound negative (on the contrary, I am quite positive and optimistic about what I am writing about here), I could give you a whole list of PQ and BQ politicians, as well as other prominent individuals in Québec who greatly and passionately criticized Anglophone Canadians for the mass 1995 pre-referendum rally in Montréal.  Hundreds of thousands of Canadians flocked to Place du Canada from all over Canada to attend the rally and to profess their love for Québec.  I was in my first year of university and I and a large group of friends also tried very hard to secure plane tickets to fly to Montréal from Edmonton for the rally, but all tickets were already taken.  The criticism towards those who attended was that there were enormous crowds of Anglophones making a foolish spectacle of themselves, trying to convince everyone they encountered to vote no, and doing it in English.   Critics said it was a hollow gesture of pure hypocrisy, in part, by virtue of all the English being shouted at random Montréalers on the street.  They argued that if the mass “love in” was sincere, things should have changed since 1995.  (In hindsight, I can understand some of the criticisms, and I’m able to see both sides of the coin).

Well… things did change my friends, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to get much attention in Québec’s media.  The vast majority of the friends and people I know from Québec were not even aware of Canada’s French Immersion program’s existence outside Québec – at least until they met me.  When trying to convince Québec’s public to embrace sovereignty, hard-core Sovereignists have been saying that nothing has changed in the rest of Canada during the last 20 years, since 1995.

The way I see it, the giant Montréal “love in” was just the start of a grass-roots movement of individuals taking matters into their own hands (governments, by their very nature, anywhere in the world cannot deliver instant results… regardless if it’s a government in a united Canada or a government in a sovereign Québec).  Since the 1995 Montréal “love in”, French Immersion in Canada has ballooned into the largest such program anywhere in the world – and it continues to push the boundaries of what people could have only dreamed of in 1995.   The reasons are exactly because people care, and they want to take matters into their own hands, across in Canada.

Two posts ago, in the post entitled Learning French – don’t be afraid to take things to the next level, I mentioned the incredible numbers of students enrolled across Canada in the relatively new immersion programs.  There are approximately 320,000 students currently enrolled in the program today, and it is increasing every couple years by 10,000 to 20,000 students.  Since its inception, perhaps 1,000,000 (one million) Anglophone Canadians have at one point been in, or gone through the program, with the largest portion of the students having passed through the program between 1995 and now.  I also mentioned for every student in the program, there generally are two concerned Anglophone parents who, by expressive choice, had placed their children into the program (when you count the students and parents as a total number together, that’s a total of 3 million Anglophones right there who have taken direct action – and this does not even begin to count the entire bureaucracy of all 10 provinces, 3 territories, and the Federal government which support the movement to ensure its success).   I also mentioned that the success of the program has led to long waiting lists to get in, in part because schools cannot be built fast enough, and in part because there is a shortage of teachers (I even had teachers who came from France to teach French Immersion).

You would be hard-pressed to find any town in Canada between 7,000 to 10,000 people which does not have a French Immersion program.   Just the other day, I learned that a smaller English-language school in my hometown (Vegreville, Alberta, population 5,800), looks set to introduce a French Immersion program – a trend which is continuing across the country.   Here in Toronto the program continues to make the news owing to it being so hot and people fighting the waiting lists to get in.

When I hear hard-core sovereignists say nothing has come of Canada’s promises to change since 1995, the argument does not bother me because there is now the reassurance that there are so many of us out there whose lives have been directly involved in realigning French in Canada.   Our numbers are now in the millions – and contrary to the 1995 “love in”, those millions have now earned the right to be heard.   Actions show intent, and show there are hordes of people who care.

My only concern is that Québec’s media continues to, for the most part, skirt the issue – and continues to deny the existence of the immersion programs and their importance to to Québec, and to Canada’s cultural-linguistic duality.   It should be one of the national scoops of the century.  At the beginning of Québec’s nationalist movement around 1960, what is happening now in English Canada could not have even begun to have played itself out in the wildest dreams of most nationalists.   But guess who owns Québecor (who disseminates the majority of Québec’s news) — and even look at how other journalists in other media networks and platforms who do not seem to want to run with this story either.  It really makes you wonder if there are ulterior motives in large segments of the media (… a very touchy, extremely extremely sensitive subject… so I’ll stop now on this front regarding certain realms of the media in Québec).

Sidenote:  I wrote this particular post in French also.  For the most part it is the same, but respect to the preceding paragraph, I elaborated a little bit more in French.  It’s important that more people in Québec are aware of this topic, and I wanted to ensure that it is a little more clear in French.  If you read French, you may want to check out the longer version of the preceding paragraph (it’s not much longer in French, but it drives the point home a little more poignantly).

Another argument I hear from sovereignists is that French outside Québec has been relegated to an “ethnic language”.  What they mean by this is that, through multiculturalism, it is treated the same as any immigrant language outside Québec (Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, you name it).   But again, everything that is happening points to the exact opposite.   Such an argument is a dead in its tracks and seeks to twist the meaning of multiculturalism for the purposes of scoring political points.   If this argument held water, there would be no French immersion program, no Francophone schools, no officially mandated Francophone regions outside Québec, no French government services, and all of what already exists would be in decline.   Yet, look what’s happening.  It truly is no longer 1995.  It is very encouraging to see that things are changing, almost annually, and to know that these changes can have a positive impact.

Yes… there are Québec-Canada political issues which have yet to be resolved.  But governance and politics are always complicated, everywhere in the world.   But the mass’s sentiments are above government, and ordinary people and their gestures mean much more than any political process.  It is people’s intentions, sentiments, and gestures from the heart which matter more than any constitutional wranglings.

Not long ago, I heard a very high profile, well-respected sovereignist (in fact, one of the elder-statespersons of the sovereignty movement) say something very interesting.  She is a person for whom I have much respect (even if our ultimate goals are not the same).  In a nutshell, she made the point that if you put all your eggs in the same basket – meaning you base your life happiness on things like the wording written on a white piece of paper (such as the constitution) — you are bound to lead a sad, disgruntled and unsatisfied life, regardless whether you live in Canada or in an independent Québec.  She saw that you have to look beyond political bickering, and you have to find comfort in the fact that there is a population around you who will be there in times of need, either financially (meaning through the taxes which we all pay to support one another), or through the fact that we live in a society in which people generally are looking to make a difference.  I agree with her sentiments.  Me, personally, I believe this massive grass-roots commitment towards bilingualism and Canada’s Francophone culture outside Québec embodies many of the points she values the most.

Millions of Anglophone Canadians outside Québec have taken up this cause of solidarity.   French has truly become a part of Canada’s soul.  Anglophones across Canada have taken up the cause in extraordinary numbers, and are using French immersion as their primary tool.  And what’s more important is that when Canada said it would change in 1995, guess what ordinary Anglophone people did… they put their money where their mouth is.

That’s the difference between Canada’s and the US’s immersion programs.

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SERIES:  FRENCH IMMERSION (4 POSTS)

Public Systems:

Private Systems:

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“L’autre midi, À la table d’à côte”; Nadeau-Dubois / Payette discussion summary, post 3 of 3 (#155)

This is the last in our three part Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Lise Payette activist mini blog series.

The last two posts touched on some complex and controversial subjects.  However, these topics have played a role in forming Québec’s culture and phyche.  It’s difficult to attempt to answer “What is Québec’s culture?” without delving into these types of issues.  Because they are complex, and because the nuances can only be picked up through knowing French, it contributes to why certain aspects of Québec are poorly understood by Anglophone Canada (just as Anglophone Canada’s culture is often poorly understand by aspects of Québec’s society).

Let’s now bring together Nadeau-Dubois and Payette, and look at the one-on-one conversation they shared over a meal on the radio program « L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté ».  Again, like the two other posts I did using « L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté » as a series summary, I am providing you with a link to the recorded program, and I will only give you a written summary of their conversation.

If you are learning French, I really want to encourage you to continue do your best to continuing to improve your language skills.  For Anglophone Canadians, it truly will open a whole world for you – one which is your own country after all.  It’s perhaps one of the finer gifts you can give yourself, and it will give you a sense of belonging, wherever you are in Canada (and it will tear down that sense that there is “you over here”, and “them over there”).

Even if your French is not at a very high level, give the audio recording your very best try.  Here is the link:   http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/lautre_midi_a_la_table_da_cote/2014-2015/.

Click on “audio fil” half way down the page.  An audio feed window will then open.  If there are parts you cannot understand, you can rewind and listen again until you do get it.  Use my summary notes below as a crutch to help you work through it.   I’m super proud when I see Anglophone Canadians trying their best to improve their French – something which I regularly see.   The fact you’re just reading this and are simply interested in tearing down your country’s Two Solitudes, by way of arming yourself with a sense of understanding and awareness is more than reason enough for you to be proud too.

The summary below will be a little bit different than the wrap-up summaries in prior related posts.   Nadeau-Dubois says certain things regarding sovereignty which I do not agree with and which I feel quite strongly about.  There will be parts of the summary below where I am going to annotate with my own thoughts on why I do not agree with him.  A soft sovereignist friend suggested I perhaps could be a bit more “forceful” in my own convictions on sovereignty vs. unity (he’s a pretty open guy, and I’m a pretty open guy too – and making one stances known isn’t a bad thing when speaking with other open-minded people about the topic).  I’ve always been a bit hesitant to being too “direct”, simply because I don’t want it to tint the main purpose of the blog, which is simply to bridge the Two Solitudes (regardless of one’s own politics).  But I guess I’ve written a number of other posts in a way that its kind of obvious where I stand on the unity front.   So, OK… For this post, why not just say my stand on the whole issue?  Here we go…

Summary of the recording:

  • Payette: She says her mother raised her in the Montréal borough of St-Henrie.  Unlike most other mothers in the 1930s, she only had 2 children instead of 6 to 8.   Payette feels this was a good thing because it helped the family fight off the poverty others in their neighbourhood were struggling with (in that era, poverty was a daily fight for so many families).
  • Nadeau-Dubois: his parents were both militants, his father was a syndicaliste (union leader), Left wing, and both parents were independentistes (sovereignists).
  • Nadeau-Dubois: He first attended May Day celebrations (for world labour solidarity) when he was just 5 or 6 years old.  It was the first time he saw a group of 100 people wearing cagoules (balaclavas) while beating drums.  His father explained to him that the people were anarchists.  This made a big impression on him, and he finds it interesting that 15 years later he was marching with the same type of people.
  • Payette : She said her grand-mother brought her into politics.  Her family wasn’t religious when she was young, which was strange for the era.  This gave her a political freedom people which other families didn’t have.
  • Payette : Her first job in radio allowed her to meet numerous personalities.  One such person who she met happened to regularly perform in front of large crowds on stage.  He once told Payette “When I’m on stage in front of crowds, if I wanted to, I could make the crowds run out into the streets, and it could easily get violent.”  Payette said this statement left her with a rather deep impression.  It was a scary thought for her because it made her aware of the danger which comes with the power of being an influential figure.  Payette lightly nudged Nadeau-Dubois to be careful and to remain aware of this.   Nadeau-Dubois responded by saying that he understands her counsel.  He says he understands it because he did incite people to protest in the streets through the delivery of fiery speeches.  However, he realized later that if he had given the same speeches in a different time and place, the situation could have become quite violent.
  • Payette said she wants a “recall” law which will allow the electorate to fire a government while they are in their executing their elected mandate. She wants such a measure to be able to be used if the population becomes unhappy with the government.  She says this ties into her vision of sovereignty.  Her argument is that when people vote today, they too often are voting for a preferred personality rather than on substance.  Only after they vote do they find out that they do not like the substance of the politician.  She believes this is a way to fix the problem of cynicism towards politics.
  • Nadeau-Dubois says one thing that hit him in 2012, during his protests, was that ordinary people were telling him to go home and stop making so much noise and to stop creating disturbances. He was surprised that the people telling him this were not meeting him on an idealogical basis when telling him to go home.

My personal comment related to the above:  Take from that what you will… my interpretation of what this signifies is different from his.  I believe that if people were not willing to engage him in an ideological debate, it means they did not agree with his ideology, and it should perhaps have been Nadeau-Dubois who should have been more respectful rather that the other way around.

  • Nadeau-Dubois says he believes Québécois are not willing to become more militant like him, and are not willing to take up his causes because he feels they have it in their heads that the province’s population is not big enough to take up causes which may cause divisions within society

My personal comment related to the above:  I find NadeauDubois’ comment condescending, and bordering on insulting.  It’s almost as if the notion or reality could not occur to him that there are people – a majority in fact, based on two referendums and poll-after-poll – who actually care for, and have a vested interest in the health, advancement and strength of Canada (not just a majority in Québec, but elsewhere in Canada too).   I mentioned in earlier blog posts that Anglophones can be amazingly cool, and Francophones can be amazingly cool.  There are many of us, in Québec and across Canada, who enjoy living together and building something together, as compatriots.   The reasons both referendums failed in the past is because there “is” a majority which is concerned with splitting up the country, and who would not feel whole – culturally, as a nation, or as individuals – without one another.  This is quite unique on the world stage, and it is very special.

Canada is not dysfunctional or abnormal, as many sovereignists do argue (their words, not mine). Rather, for Federalists, it is sovereignty which can be argued as dysfunctional and abnormal, in the sense that Sovereignists proclaim sovereignty is the right option, whereas the majority does not agree.  (On that note, I’m not a big fan of the word “Federalist”… simply because in many people’s mind, it has a legal association related to the signature of the 1982 constitution defining the legal framework of the “Federation”.   That’s a whole other kettle of fish, and that’s not what I’m talking about when I say “Federalist”  When I use the word “Federalist”, I simply mean someone who is pro-Canadian Unity… and the “legal” stuff can be hashed out in a different context).

Most people across the country (including Québec) do not want to give Canada up or allow others to take it away from them. Most people want to seek and work for the continued evolution of Canada through collaboration.  Canada is not what it was 100, 40, or even 15 years ago.

For Federalists, why sovereignty seems like a dysfunctional and abnormal option is because it feels like someone is telling you the brother or sister you have always lived with (even when there was tension in an earlier era) is someone you should try to not like, and you should turn your back on them and learn to dislike them because there are differences in personalities.  Most people, when faced by that type of discourse, would simply tell that person to kiss off!  Family is family.

When I’m told that Québec’s relationship with Canada should be severed so Québec can normalize its economics and policy decisions, that argument also doesn’t hold weight with me. What is normal?  If a majority of the population accepts it, or wishes for its continued evolution, improvement, and reform within Canada, then it already “is” normal.   Getting into specific economic or policy arguments, frankly speaking, is just a waste of time for both Federalists and Sovereignists.  Why?  Because anyone can twist numbers or policies in their favour (A Federalist can make it sound like 4+4 = 9, and so can a Sovereignist).    So what boils down to is what do you harbour as feelings, emotions, and sentiments.  You either feel attached to Canada, or you do not.  If you do not, fine – that’s OK, and Federalists should respect that.  But if there are people who are attached to Canada, then as a Sovereignist – you too should respect that, live with it, and also move on… just as you would want, and ask for Federalists to respect Sovereignist’s sentiments, especially if Sovereignists were the majority – am I not right?  It should not be a one-way street when I hear that Federalists should respect Sovereignist sentiments right now, then thus move on if they lose a referendum, but that Sovereignists should not accept Federalist sentiments right now, nor simply move on if they lose a referendum (and continue to lose a majority of the public’s support and sentiment).  How does that make sense??  Think about it.   The old adage is “if you can’t beat them, join them” (at least that’s what Sovereignists often tell Federalists they should do if a majority wants and votes for Sovereignty).  But if the reality is the other way around (as it is right now), why does that not hold true in the opposite sense?    Actually… I don’t advocate that Sovereignist should drop their convictions and “join” Federalists.   I think both sides should respect each other’s sentiments.  But I do advocate “acceptance”, which means accepting and “moving on” if public opinion is not on your side (regardless if you’re Federalist or Sovereignist – and at this moment, and quite possibly for a long long time – if not indefinately- public sentiment is towards a united Canada, both in Québec and in every other province).

But hey, Gabriel NadeauDubois is entitled to his opinion. His exposure and experiences in the Canadian context are very different than mine and many others (which is why most people in Québec seemingly did not, nor do not agree with a good deal of his actions).   But I figure that’s ok – everyone can lead their life how they want.  It’s a free country.  I suppose for Federalists like myself, the idea of respecting and having strong sentiments and emotions “for” Québec, its people and other people across Canada goes hand-in-hand with what we represent as a country.  These values are not out of sync with some of Québec’s most profound values.  It’s about caring for people, sharing our wealth, our accomplishments, creating something we can be proud of, encouraging others to pursue a better life, and to give society the tools and opportunities so people can also help themselves make life a little better.  We share those values, in Québec, and across the country – and people are given the opportunity to live anywhere they want in this country in pursuit of those goals.   End of my commentary.

  • Nadeau-Dubois says he is always having to consult his entourage to help him make decisions. Payette says that’s a healthy thing, and doing the same thing has always been important for her too.
  • Nadeau-Dubois says he didn’t know what to do when he was awarded the Governor General’s award. Payette said if it was her, her initial reaction would have been to reject it.  Payette said she was very surprised to see what happened when Dubois accepted it.  She was surprised he donated the money to another cause of his liking, one linked to Québec independence.  Both he and Payette agreed that receiving the Governor General’s award money wasn’t such a bad thing after all, and served their cause well (commentary supplement:  through garnishing media attention in the form of a media event, as well as providing money to a cause of their approval.  As I stated two posts ago, after receiving the money, Nadeau-Dubois was given a platform on “Tout le monde en parle”, where Nadeau-Dubois began a telethon of sorts to increase the dollar value of the fund).
  • Both said that they felt it was too bad that people frown upon those who disagree with others (Commentary: I can only guess they’re talking about mud-slinging politics. To Nadeau-Dubois’ credit, I’ve listened to him criticize ideas and other people’s actions from A to Z, sometimes quite forcefully – but, with the exception of some of the most heated moments of the 2012 protests, he generally does not launch personal.. so on this point, I agree with him). 
  • Nadeau-Dubois says he feels the Quiet Revolution should continue because he feels societal inequalities were dealt with during the Quiet Revolution. Payette responds that it should start with a connection between the old guard (her generation) and younger generations.  After forging such connections, she believes the torch should then be left to the younger generations to re-take up the causes of the Quiet Revolution and morph into into a new movement.
  • (Commentary: this next paragraph is an interesting point of disagreement between Nadeau-Dubois and Payette):  Nadeau-Dubois asks Payette what she thinks of Pierre Karle Péladeau and the likelihood of him becoming the leader of the Parti QuébécoisPayette responded she believes PKP can incite Québec’s business spheres to take up the sovereignist cause (which, for the most part, they never have before).   She said, because PKP knows Québec’s business community very well,  it would be interesting to see if he can convince the business world not to choose sovereignty because of the Parti Québécois, but rather to simply vote yes in one referendum, and then vote for whatever party they want (left, right, centre) after a referendum succeeds.  She feels PKP would also be a good negotiator against the might of Ottawa should a referendum succeed.  She doesn’t know if having PKP as the head of the Parti Québecois will bring about these results, but she said it would be interesting to find out.  Nadeau-Dubois rebutts what Payette  (Comment For Anglophone readers who do not speak French or who do not follow the sovereignty debate in Québec, you may find the following insightful because it will allow you to see that there can be quite different views within the sovereignty movement itself).  Nadeau-Dubois said he’s very worried by the idea of PKP becoming the Parti Québécois leader because of his refusal to resolve his apparent conflict of interest.  PKP should not be allowed to be both the owner of the Québecor media empire and a politician at the same time.   He said he believes politics are not like business – that politics call for a different kind of compromise and self-restraint.  He said PKP’s background as someone who goes on the offensive until he achieves what he gets will cause more problems than what it will solve.  He believes PKP was too anti-worker, too anti-unions, and too far to the right in his business relations.
  • Payette retorts that if there will be another referendum, regardless of which way it will go, it will be the last one (Nadeau-Dubois agreed), and thus, regardless of how PKP may have managed his businesses, if he can get results in a referendum, everyone should stand behind him. Payette says she believes PKP would rapidly introduction a referendum, and everyone in the Parti Québécois should set aside their differences to make it a reality.
  • Nadeau-Dubois said, as a person, he’s calm on the outside by nature, but that’s a good thing because it naturally tempers strong emotions he harbours on the inside.
  • Nadeau-Dubois said one of the motivating factors for his social & political engagement was having seen a new-immigrant child living in poverty. He said his life-engagements have since been as an anti-poverty activist.

This 3-post mini blog series, for me personally, was one of the more interesting ones I wrote.  As you saw, I through both hands into the dough in a political sense, and in this post I opened up about some of my own convictions on the unity vs. sovereignty front – more than I have in other posts.  Like I said earlier, one friend in Québec (someone who is a “Soft” Sovereignist) gave me a hard kick in the butt for hesitating to be a bit more direct on my own thoughts on sovereignty encouraged me not long ago to not be afraid to be more upfront, in my blog from time-to-time, with respect to my own convictions.  He’s of the same mindset as me that if you’re open about your thoughts, and those listening are also open people – dialogue can still be a great thing for mutual understanding and respect (even if views don’t change — but, hey, sometimes they do too).  So with my commentaries above, there you now have how I view the sovereignty debate.

But I’m not going to keeping focusing on this particular political matter… Rather, the posts will continue to be based on what I think will be of interest to bridging the Two Solitudes (with the odd political-related post inserted here-and-there 😉 ).

I hope you found these last three posts insightful.  🙂

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ADDENDUM:  2015-02-02  

I mentioned above that it will be interesting to see where Nadeau-Dubois pops up next.  Well, he just appeared… and you’re not going to guess where.    Read the post GND Does it Again.

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES