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Philippe Couillard’s “premptive” damage control positioning and constitutional preps (#334)

The marriage of the “adrenaline-charged Super-Duo”, PKP (Pierre Karl Péladeau, the head of the Parti Québécois) and Julie Snyder (Québec’s best known super-star celebrity), this weekend was a reminder to all that the 2018 Québec election will be squarely about Québec independence.

Premier Philippe Couillard knows that this will be the #1 topic coming from the lips of the PQ for the next few years (a major shift from the past which saw the PQ be just as pre-occupied about subjects of day-to-day governance as the Liberals and CAQ).

The turfing of the Bloc Québécois leader a couple months ago, Mario Beaulieu, by his own party (and presumably by PKP) and the resurrection of Gilles Duceppe has shown to what extent the sovereigntist movement is prepared to go to in order achieve their goal.

Under PKP’s leadership, the entire movement is beginning to resemble more and more an extremely slick, well ran, and super-competitive board-room or corporation (of the likes of Wal-Mart when it tries to run all other competitors out of town), rather than that of a political party.

This is new.  We have never seen something like this before.

Although it continues to be new to the extent th at it has not yet found “solid” traction with the electorate, there have been polls which have shown a slight increase in support for the PQ and sovereignty (hovering around 35% or 40% at its highest.  But the numbers remain quite low considering that the figures group soft sovereigntists — who are less inclined to vote “yes” during a referendum, which would probably bring a “YES” to under the numbers I just provided….  But 35% still isn’t a number to laugh at).

Update 2015-08-20 – A new CROP poll today shows that the PQ’s support has fallen to 29% (35% for Francophones) in the days following the PKP/Snyder marriage.  Pierre Karl Péladeau’s personal popularity took a nose dive to 23%.  Perhaps people are seeing after all that the PKP/Snyder’s Party will only be about one topic, and perhaps people have had enough … for now.  The Liberals are only slightly ahead.

Three years can be an eternity in politics, and 2018 could be enough time for the movement to bounce back if the “corporation’s” PQ’s business political plan is effective.

Since 1995, the most effective method Federalist parties have invoked to avoid mass sovereigntist sentiments from reigniting has been to avoid a Federal-Provincial clash between Ottawa and Québec – especially one involving constitutional matters.

Both the Chrétien/Martin Liberals and the Harper Conservatives were of the opinion that slow and stable civil-service governance, and tackling each issue as it arrives (without opening the constitution) was the best way to prevent a show-down or constitution crisis.  I also have to admit that the fact that Harper has kept a very tight reign on the flow of information has probably, and ironically, helped somewhat too (in the sense that it has likely avoided unintentional slips-of-the-tongue from backbencher MP’s… especially preventing comments which could have inflamed sovereignist politicians and debate).

The Chrétien/Martin Liberals, and the Harper Conservatives firmly took a stand that a large degree of national reform could be achieved “on-the-ground” via small adjustments over time (supported by Common Law at the courts) rather than through re-opening the constitution.   In this sense, the constitution, its interpretations, and its application has been able to keep up with the times — turning it into a “living” document, without ever having to change the document’s wording or provisions.

They were of the view that the constitution could be re-opened at a date in the distant future once enough incremental “administrative” and “legal” reforms had occurred over a number of years (or decades) on the ground.  Thus, when it would come time to re-open the constitution, it would have simply been a matter of “updating it” to reflect “already-existing” realities (rather than having it “create new realities” in and of itself).

So far, this approach from Ottawa seems to have worked (on many levels, independent of one’s political affirmations or party beliefs).  It has been good for governance, good for Canada, and good for Québec.

Just as importantly, it had completely taken the wind out of the sails of the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois.  It had given them nothing to grab on to – and a few times the movement had come to the edge of collapsing.

But lo and behold, something has changed this year.  It appears that both Mulcair’s NDP has expressed its desire to try to re-open the constitution (although Trudeau’s has  not expressed a desire to open the consitution on the campaign trail, he has said in his book that he would support such a move in the right “time and place”).

Trudeau’s book “Common Ground” talks in length about his disappointment in that Québec has not signed the constitution.  He did not necessarily believe in Meech or Charlottetown, but he did say that the constitution will have to be re-opened and signed by Québec eventually (something I also say).  But you get the feeling that his “right time and place” may be sooner than later.  I say this because the book gives you the impression that wants this whole issue to go away as fast as possible, and that he believes his terms will be the right ones.  Thus, if elected PM?  (Oh, Oh – there just might be a new constitutional round, and that could mean trouble).

Mulcair has even gone so far as to campaign on the issue of re-opening the constitution in order to abolish the senate (Oh crap – big trouble!).

Their intentions (Trudeau’s and Mulcair’s) might be good, but the timing could not be worse.

They would be putting Premier Couillard in a very difficult position, and they would be picking a fight with PKP-Snyder, as well as with PKP-Snyder’s grasp on Québec’s media, pop-culture elite, and their board-room games to capture the hearts and minds of Québec.

P.Coui1

Above;  Premier Philippe Couillard… If you’re not familiar with him, take a good look now, because if Mulcair or Trudeau (or both of them together) try to re-open the constitution, it will be this man’s face which you will see plastered all over English Canada’s news for the next several years as he tries to keep Canada together.

Although Premier Couillard is the most Federalist premier Québec has possibly ever had, such actions on the part of Trudeau or Mulcair would thrust Couillard into the political battle of not only his life, but possibly for the survival of Canada.

A new round of constitutional discussions would be messy – very very messy.

It would not be as clear-cut as what Mulcair says (and Trudeau isn’t letting us know what he would throw on the table – but if his book is any indicator, it could quite possibly be everything, since he seems to want to change everything [remember that Mansbridge interview a few years ago when Trudeau said he want to, quote “change the world”?] ).

  • This would result in the PQ crying for everything to be put on the table at a new round of constitutional negotiations (which is impossible to do), otherwise they would shift into war mode to raise emotional tensions to the maximum with which to convince Québécois to vote to leave Canada,
  • BC, AB, and SK would have their own demands (Christie Clark, Rachel Notley, and Brad Wall have all hinted they want bigger roles and controls (code for constitutional changes) for their provinces).
  • Ontario (under Kathleen Wynn) says Ontario want new mechanisms to prevent Ottawa’s “lack of cooperation” on matters of importance to her government (with the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan being a prime example).
  • And then there are the Atlantic Provinces which would likely want their own constitutional provisions to counter the effects of what they believe is the “fight of their lives” to retain political relevance at the national level (as their populations continue to shrink as people move West).

This could not be better news for the PQ and the PKP-Snyder duo.  They must be salivating at the prospect of a possible Mulcair led government (and it would be even better for them if it is a minority government with Mulcair as PM and Trudeau as head of the official opposition – thus paving the way for re-opening the constitution, a demonizing of Canada, and emotions getting the better of everyone – including the public).

Last weekend was the Québec Provincial Young Liberals convention.  Premier Couillard is well aware of the unfolding situation which I just described.

True to his brain-surgeon style, Philippe Couillard is a strategist hors-pair.  At the Liberal convention, he announced that he will “not concede an inch to the sovereignists”.  

For the very first time, we have just seen Couillard shift into high gear anti-sovereigntist mode – that of pre-emptive damage control.

He knows that should the Federal NDP or Liberals come to power in October (as a minority or majority government), they may try to re-open the constitution.

Couillard wants to be ready and have his ducks all in place.

This weekend, he asked Liberal delegates to “quickly” (within hours) give him a short-list of what they would want to see added to the constitution should it be re-opened.  Precisely, he asked them “What is Québec’s role in Canada?”

Do not forget that Couillard is 100% pro-Canada.

His convictions make it so he would do anything to avoid hurting the federation.  He would want any propositions to work for his own electorate and all people in Québec, as well as for everyone else across the country.  In fact, at the Liberal congress, he delivered a fiery speech against sovereignty – one which carried an overtone which would have anyone believe we were already in full referendum mode.  

Thus his question to provincial Liberal delegates should not be viewed as something negative by the rest of Canada.

When he posed the question to delegates, he asked them to bear in mind issues such as:

  • Equalization program,
  • Health payment transfers,
  • Economic development file, such as infrastructure, Northern development, and Maritime strategies.

These are all soft (and safe) issues.  They are issues people across Canada can agree on.

Couillard also asked federal party leaders to make clear their stance on how they view Québec in Canada.  (After all, if he’s going to stick his neck out to confront the PKP-Snyder offensive, and if Mulcair & Trudeau are going to back him into a corner by forcing him to confront PKP-Snyder, he naturally wants Trudeau and Mulcair to also step up to the plate, to put their money where their mouths are, and to take some responsibility for their own words and actions).

The delegates gave Couillard their thoughts, and he sent off a letter to all Federal party leaders with his views on what he believes needs to be reviewed in the constitution:

  • Senate reform
  • Supreme Court judge nominations
  • Limitations on Federal spending in the areas of provincial jurisdiction,
  • A veto vote for any other constitution changes.

When elected in September 2014, Couillard told Harper that he would like to see Québec eventually sign the Canadian Constitution.  Ever since 1982, the fact that Québec has never signed the constitution has been the “raison d’être” and free wind in the sails for the sovereignty movement – precisely the ammo the PQ was always used to argue their point.

Couillard wants to put this to rest once and for all.

But as you can see, re-opening the constitution is a double-edged sword.

So while the rest of the country is talking about things such as whether Toronto should or should not host the 2024 Olympics, whether it should be illegal for regular citizens to transport wine from Halifax to Fredericton in their cars, or whether Alberta should or should not regulate the flavour of chocolate, Philippe Couillard is already beginning to fight the political fight of his life, and that of the future of Canada.

Owing to the fact that others in Canada do not seem to know what is happening, I just hope the rest of Canada does not (innocently and naïvely) act too surprised, offended, or dare I say “angry” when all of this suddenly comes to the fore should a new government in Ottawa try to do something risky such as “prematurely” (or foolishly) reopen the constitution at this point in time — or at the very minimum, before Couillard specifically tells Ottawa, and all the provinces (after back-door discussions) that he’s ready to go forward and safely deal with all of this.

After all, the rest of Canada will have had had someone in Québec who has long since been trying to do his damndest to avert what could have easy been a catastrophe had anyone else been at the helm.

What can I say… The two solitudes (Sigh).


Edit:  An earlier version say that Trudeau was disappointed with the failure of Meech and Charlottetown.  What I meant to say that he was disappointed with the “wording” of Meech and Charlottetown which lead to its failure (meaning his own deal, if he were dealing with the issues, would have proposed quite different matters to entice Québec to sign the constitution… or he would have waited for another time to open the constitution).  I corrected my post.

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Louis-Jean Cormier – A politically charged singer (#317)

Here is a more-than-interesting experience I had last night in Dundas Square which demonstrates a couple of things:
(1) the two solitudes which exist between some (but not all) Francophones inside Québec and some Francophones outside Québec, and
(2) the awkwardness which can occur when sovereignists and federalists meet on the field of culture.
I wish the following had not happened, and that everyone could have just behaved without people having to score political points in public like this.
To battle out ideological differences in the written press and on internet is one thing (I do so in my own blog, but people can chose to not read).  Yet to do so in a public square and / or concert?   For crying out loud.  Not cool.
Fortunately, these sorts of “hiccups” occur less and less frequently, so I do believe the situation is much better than it used to be (and indications are that it will continue in that direction).

A snapshot of the de-politicization of young artists in Québec:

If we were to describe Québec’s artists’ “public political” involvement 20 years ago compared to today, the story would be very different.

40, 30 or 20 years ago we would have been able to classify large swaths of Québec’s artists in a category named “the politically involved” — which, by default, would have meant lending their public support towards nationalist and sovereignist movements.

Yet something has happened over the last 20 years.  A new generation of “artists”, and a new generation of “fans” has come along (a generation which was not even born at the time of the 1995 referendum, or at the very least, was quite young in 1995).  These new generations tend to be “indifferent” towards patriotic politics, or at the very minimum, they are un-engaged towards the subject.

What I am saying is not new news.

Many in the Parti Québécois have been openly complaining about this situation (Jean-François Lisée has been the most vocal, but PKP, Alexandre Cloutier and Bernard Drainville have also said they need to do more to try to capture this new and “lost” generation).

The Federalist parties (provincially and federally) also publicly talk about this phenomenon, usually with the tone that Québec’s youth “are just not interested in sovereignist politics” (without mentioning they’re equally unengaged towards federalist positions).

I think that the Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, may have most aptly summed up the reasons “why” youth are detached from “local” nationalist questions.  A few days ago at the Premiers’ Counsel of the Federation she stated that she believes the PQ will no longer succeed in its goal for Québec independence because

“Québecers are no different from British Columbians… There is a generation of people who are forward looking global citizens who are interested in creating wealth, building their lives, being able to be a part of the world — not just a part of Quebec or a part of Canada.”

The above statement is also not new.  Others have drawn similar parallels (I too have made similar statements elsewhere in this blog).  Yet Christy Clark’s wording is perhaps the most “concise” I have seen yet.

In addition to how she views the “average” person, she also added emphasis on the younger generations.

Will this new trend be a lasting trend?  I don’t know.

The PQ believes things are going so bad for them that they have nowhere else to go but up; slowly wooing the younger generation simply by way of the vacuum effect (or even more if the PQ makes an extra effort — which they are trying to do).

Yet there are others who say that this is a lasting trend owing to the fact that the world is a different, more global, more connected place compared to 20 years ago.  They argue that starting now, future generations will remain in this “detached-from-sovereignty” mindset, regardless if the Federalist side seeks to woo these generations or not (unless some major constitutional crisis or major economic shake-up comes along).

How does this fit in with Louis-Jean Cormier?

Louis-Jean Cormier is a very popular singer in Québec, especially with younger people.   Cormier (born in 1980) has become a chart-topping pop-singer (I have written a few posts which provided top chart music listings – and Cormier has appeared in those lists).

Corm1

Yet, despite the fact that his fan-base is not politically engaged, he is one of the most politically, pro-sovereignty engaged artists of his generation.

With the exception of a very small handful of other young artists, you would be hard-pressed to find other singers in Québec who are his age or younger and who are as politically engaged as Louis-Jean Cormier.  He is now a rare-breed, and perhaps part of what will continue to be a dying breed ??  Only time will tell (I don’t know any more than the next person).

This past winter, he became heavily involved in Parti Québécois politics, going so far as to write rallying poetry for them.  He publicly supported Alexandre Cloutier for PQ leader, he appeared on the popular television program Tout le monde en parle (in front of a million people), asking the public to take out PQ memberships and to support the cause.

He even described how his first name “Louis” was actually given to him by his parents to signify “OUI” (yes), in support of sovereignty (Louis).

Fast-forward to 8:25 in the video below.

His concert yesterday in Toronto

Louis-Jean Cormier is a very talented singer.  He is very popular and very well known in Québec (and most Francophone music enthusiasts elsewhere in Canada also know who he is – particularly younger people).  I like his music, even if I do not agree with his politics.

He was invited to Toronto to perform at Franco-Fête.

Here is a Radio-Canada interview with Cormier not long before his concert in Toronto:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/widgets/mediaconsole/medianet/7318918##

Considering the degree of his very vocal politics, I was initially a bit surprised he was invited to Franco-Fête.  After all, he advocates for the demantalment of Canada – a country which Francophones outside Québec tend to be profoundly attached to and engaged towards.

In all honesty, I was not all that keen on attending his concert.  I suspected that it would be filled with nationalist speeches, remarks on giving “us” (outside Québec) lessons on how we should think and act, and I wasn’t sure that the crowd would be very big, nor was I sure if they would be enthusiastic (after all, who wants to attend a concert when the crowd is not enthusiastic?).

Regardless, all said and done, just before the end of the day I decided that if the organizers of Franco-Fête could take the moral high road and place themselves above petty politics by inviting Louis-Jean Cormier in the name of culture and music, AND if Cormier could do the same by accepting an invitation to come to Toronto, then I too should do the same and attend his concert.

If anything, I thought that perhaps a strong and enthusiastic “Québec friendly” crowd may actually send a message to Louis-Jean Cormier that Canada is actually a pretty cool country which holds a special place in its heart for Canada’s and Québec’s Francophone culture and music.

I showed up 20 minutes before the concert, and just as I predicted, hardly anyone was there.  The other Franco-Fête concerts I attended were packed with waiting crowds long in advance.  I thought to myself that perhaps Cormier’s performance wouldn’t fly owing to his political affirmations.

But a few minutes before the concert, people began to arrive.  This crowd was much younger than previous Franco-Fête concerts I attended (mostly an under 30 crowd).   The crowd did not become as big as the other Franco-Fête concerts, it was not as enthusiastic, but Dundas Square (Canada’s equivalent of Times Square) was full of fans by the time the concert started (Dundas Square is not very small, so that says something).

Error 1:  When Cormier was introduced, Franco-Fête’s M.C. not once, but twice introduced him as one of “Canada’s” great singers (or something of the like).  Yes, fine – technically correct — but I think it may have rubbed Cormier and his political complex the wrong way (setting the tone for what you’re about to read).

If it had been any other singer, that would have been fine to say.  But Cormier this past spring was “PQ Darling #1”.   Would you also introduce Mario Beaulieu one of the countries “greatest Canadians” if he were in Toronto (his head would explode).

Granted — we’re all proud of our country despite any issues it may sometimes have.  And granted, if I thought he would be receptive to being called one of “Canada’s” greatest singers, then by all means, do so.

But this is Louis-Jean Cormier.  For crying out loud, don’t rub the “great Canadian” title in his face seconds before you give him a microphone on a stage in front of a crowd he doesn’t necessarily understand or identify with.

Did you seriously think he would take the title of “greatest Canadian” sitting down? 

Because of Cormier’s advocacy, the Franco-Fête should have known such an introduction could have wound him up and ready to fire back – especially in what he may perceive as the Anglo-heartland epicentre of Toronto.

And fire back he did with a couple of shots of his own.

The M.C. should have just kept the peace and should have simply introduced him as “a” great singer who they were happy to have travel from Québec for our entertainment.  If they had done that, then Cormier perhaps may have not felt provoked (regardless if no harm or ill-will were intended).

Error 2:  As I predicted, Cormier spared no time in quickly uttering several “nationalist” words to the crowd with a theme of what could be interpreted by some as preaching morals to Francophones outside of Québec (For cripes sake!  sigh).

He said something to the effect he was going to sing a song about taking political action, and that perhaps it would inspire Francophones in the crowd and outside Québec to rise up and not put up with their situation (am paraphrasing, but it could be interpreted by some as such).

IF this was his intention (and again, it’s open to interpretation), it could be considered condescending and ignorant — as if Francophones outside Québec are “colonized” victims or something.

They’re as engaged as the rest of the lot in the country:  citizens who care about their country and who are working hand-in-hand with their Anglophone compatriots to make it a better place in a better world.

I mean, seriously – who does he think he is and what does he expect people to do?   Take pitch-forks and chase everyone we live with, grow up with, and care about down the street if they’re Anglophone?

Such an approach is a sure-fire way to get people’s backs up.

I believe he must have also been completely oblivious to the fact that around 1/3 of the crowd seemed to be composed of Anglophones who are standing side-by-side with their Francophone compatriots and embracing Canada’s Francophone fact – a trend I have noticed from one Franco-Fête concert to another.  Franco-Fête is not the Fête nationale au parc Maisonneuve.  Francophones and Anglophones in Canada’s other provinces are proud to mix and share in each other’s cultures… Just as there are many in Québec who are also doing so.   His shots were a direct insult to that fan base who came out to see him.

Cormier also said he was happy to be in Toronto and performing a concert in “Canada” with extra intonation when he said “Canada” (inferring he is not in Canada when he performs in Québec).  Again, an insult to the many Québécois in the crowd who have transplanted themselves to Toronto, or others like myself whose lives have much to do with Québec (and for whom Canada would not be the same without).

Error 3:  Of course, the next song was one which contained a line which could be interpreted as a veiled reference to the nasty Anglophones who oppress French, and that you have to fight until you are free (sigh x 10).

A number of us in the crowd couldn’t help but exchange looks, sigh, shake our heads, and shrug our shoulders.  These are Francophones I am talking about.

As far as the Anglophones in the crowd, they simply stayed stone-faced when he sang it – I mean seriously, I wonder what they were thinking.  After all, Anglophones are NOT the devil in disguise, and the proof is that a large part of the audience was Anglophone — who expressively came to watch Cormier perform (It was completely uncalled for to sing insults to them).

Error 4:  One older guy in the crowd with a very noticeable Montréal East-End French accent (perhaps in his late 50’s) standing not far from me pulled out a large enough Québec flag and started to shout pro-sovereignty affirmations in response to the song (I have to ask myself why a guy like that would even be in Toronto if such a place is enough of hell-on-earth that he needs borders to feel secure, but whatever – free country).

Error 5:  A couple of younger people with Ontario French accents and another with a Montréal French accent (all in their late 20s or 30s) standing beside the yelling guy with the flag “took him to task” and quickly put him in his place (I’ll leave it to you to interpret what that means).

That put a bit of a damper on part of the crowd’s enthusiasm for the concert (and it also demonstrates the generational difference involved in these issues).

There are a couple of lessons in all of this unnecessary madness:

LESSON ONE:

If you are famous, especially within cultural circles, and you have already made a name for yourself owing to highly controversial or divisive political actions, you can consider yourself to be forever walking on eggshells in the eyes of one segment of the population or another (regardless of your political stripes).

Thus, people will have pre-conceived notions that you could be entering the stage with an ulterior-motive, and everyone around you will be looking for the slightest message from you (regardless of how subtle it may be).

Thus you can chose to do one of two things:

  1. You can either continue to send messages, regardless how strong or weak they are, or
  2. You can be on your best behaviour, a pleasure for everyone, and you can make an effort to keep things on an even keel by not rocking the boat.  This means remaining politically neutral and choosing your words wisely.

It’s not for me to decide which one of the two choices a person elects to pursue.  But if you do chose the first option, be prepared for a backlash in one form or another (and live with the consequences when they occur – because there more than likely will be a backlash).

LESSON TWO:  

If you provoke someone (ie: you label someone something you know they will react to — such as calling Louis-Jean Cormier one of the greatest “Canadians” out there), then yeah, you’re going to get a reaction.

Even if the intentions were innocent and pure, still, what was the M.C. thinking ??

Had it been Arianne Moffatt, Kevin Parent, Lisa Leblanc, Marc Duprès or Garou or dozens and dozens or other singers, I am more than sure they would have been flattered (even Robert Charlebois would likely be flattered considering he views the nationalist questions from a distance now).

But Louis-Jean Cormier?  C’mon!  He just finished being one of the biggest and most public cheerleaders for the PQ leadership race and recruitment campaigns.

Who is Louis-Jean Cormier’s fan-base?

I asked a Francophone group of younger people beside me if they also understood what was happening (they were perhaps in their early 20s).  I was simply curious to know if they were aware of Cormier’s political activism (I wasn’t telling them anything… I simply asked a couple of questions to see if people in their age bracket were aware or following these issues).

They told me they did not know anything about Cormier’s politics.  I asked why they attended the concert.  They said that Cormier’s music is top of the charts, and they really like his music (the same reasons why I also attended).

That probably sums up his fan base.  It is generally non-political, despite Cormier’s own political affirmations.

But more importantly, it likely sums up young people’s sentiments across the country; they are more interested in their daily activities, relations, global connectiveness, and the welfare of those around them than they are with nationalist politics.

And the concert itself?

Cormier ceased the political rhetoric for the rest of the concert and simply concentrated on his performance. He thanked the crowd and Toronto numerous times for attending.

He seemed to loosen up and have more fun with the crowd as the night went on, and the crowd loosened up too.

All-in-all, with the exception of the one “hiccup” I mentioned above, the rest of the concert was non-political and the crowd eventually got into it.  (These sorts of “hiccups” are fewer and fewer as the years go on, even in Québec.  It is a very noticeable change).

The concert may not have started on the best note, but it ended well.  I think we all had a relatively good time.

Here is a video of various clips I made.

If you fast-forward to the end of the video I made below, the lack of enthusiasm on my face after attending this concert is quite evident when you contrast it to the videos I made for the previous two concerts (especially with the last one in which I was super excited to meet Lisa Leblanc!)

Nonetheless, I was happy to have gone, and Louis-Jean Cormier is an extraordinarily talented singer.  I’m grateful he made the gesture to come to Toronto and play to his fans here.  Sometimes gestures count more than anything.

And one last note:

When I got home, a friend gave me a call and asked how the concert was.

I told him that it went well and Cormier’s performance was very enjoyable.   I also mentioned the little political hiccup which occurred.  My buddy’s reaction: “Câlique!  Y en a encore de ces vieilles chicanes?  Pas croyable!” (For crying out loud, these old muck-ups are still happening?  Unbelievable!).  My buddy is from Québec, he doesn’t speak much English, and he also was turned off by what happened.

When he said that, my response was “Ouais, ça reflète mes sentiments, moi aussi” (My sentiments, exactly). 

Conditioning: A few words regarding the death of Jacques Parizeau (#285)

A short word on today’s passing of Jacques Parizeau.

This will be quite an unexpected lesson in conditioning (the subject of the current series of several posts) – one which was not planned and is completely by chance owing to today’s sudden announcement of Mr. Parizeau’s passing.

Although controversial, Jacques Parizeau was a man of incredible vision and one of the most influential people in not only Québec’s modern history, but also Canada’s modern history.

The book “Jacques Parizeau, un bâtisseur”, by Laurence Richard, was the first biography I ever read (in the early 1990s, strangely enough when I was in was about 14 or 15 years old).

During his time as Premier, it was quite apparent to most people that he had one goal. He had the integrity to head straight for that goal as fast as possible — No detours, no hesitation. It was understood that the any pieces and “collateral damage” resulting from that goal could be dealt with after. Regardless if people agreed or not with his approach or end goal, people knew where he stood, and were invited to take it or leave it. In 1995, people left it.

Mr. Parizeau was generally upfront in this sense (as upfront as he could be considering he had to form and maintain coalitions with others who were more hesitant), and he deserves everyone’s respect for having the integrity to let it be known where he stood on issues under such circumstances.

It is a lesson all politicians from all political stripes can learn from.

How this fits into conditioning:

As a builder of government institutions during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, he achieved more in his time as a cabinet minister during René Levesque’s government than what several ministers achieve in the course of a few governments.   He embarked on a wide range of industry nationalizations, the setting up of sovereign investment and pension funds, and other government institutions – many of which have since been copied across Canada – provincially coast to coast, or federally.

I always thought that had Mr. Parizeau been federalist, and had he sought to change the federation, the country in its entirety would have achieved heights never before conceived of.  However, history made it so he assumed a different role.

Yet his role as a builder of Québec’s fundamental institutions, and the values which have ensued from those institutions have undoubtedly had a spill over imbued effect into Canada’s overall collective psyche (one region of the country invariably and eventually affects other parts of the country).

In a strange twist of fate, Parizeau’s role as a “builder of modern Québec” has made him a builder of Québec’s modern psyche and society — and through the spill-over affect, of Canada’s modern psyche and society also (which heavily revolves around our highly province-to-province integrated collective welfare & social systems, economic and political systems, and societal expectations).  Thus, Mr. Parizeau has indirectly (and probably quite unknowingly) played a role in bringing Québec’s and English Canada’s collective psyches and societies closer in line than any time before.

He likely thought that Québec would have achieved independence decades ago before such a phenomenon could have ever occurred.

In this sense, a little bit of Jacques Parizeau will always be with all of us, regardless if you are Anglophone, Francophone, or regardless if you are from Vancouver, Saskatoon, Yarmouth or Hamilton.  We have all be impacted in some way by Parizeau’s society-building efforts.

Yet neither Anglophone patriotic conditioning, nor Francophone nationalist conditioning has him seen in this also equally valid light.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

L’Ontario francophone — Grand, fort, fier, mais souvent peu visible dans l’esprit des autres (#224)

Ce billet vous présente un résumé des quelques billets précédents qui faisaient partie d’une courte série portant sur l’Ontario francophone et les Franco-Ontariens.

Le fond de l’affaire portait sur quatre thématiques ;

  1. Le fait que la population Franco-Ontarienne est deux fois plus grande de celle des Acadiens, mais que l’Ontario Francophone n’attire qu’une fraction de l’attention qu’attire les Acadiens dans l’esprit des autres,
  2. Que les Francophones étaient le peuple fondateur de l’Ontario, et qu’ils y demeurent toujours depuis 400 ans – de l’époque de Samuel de Champlain, qui y a vécu juste au nord de ce qui est maintenant la grande région de Toronto.
  3. Qu’il existe un vaste réseau d’organismes et d’infrastructure francophone en place pour soutenir la population francophone de l’Ontario – au point où le nombre de gens qui parle français à la maison a subi une croissance de 9,5 % entre 2006 et 2011 – chiffre officiel de Stat-Can (Je crois bien qu’il s’agit du taux de croissance du français parlé à la maison le plus élevé dans toutes les Amériques… Assez dois-je dire pour dynamiter à néant ce que le PQ aimerait nous faire croire).
  4. Que malgré le fait qu’il n’a jamais été aussi facile de vivre et bâtir sa vie en français en Ontario, il reste encore certains défis, notamment comment rehausser l’image de l’Ontario francophone auprès des autres (du Québec, auprès des Anglophones, et auprès des pays à l’étranger) afin que les aspects positifs qui pourraient en découler d’une reconnaissance et d’une visibilité accrue puissent trouver leur chemin.

Official flag of Ontario Francophones and Francophiles - often seen flying province-wide in front of government institutions and by private individuals.

Parcourons bièvement chacune de ces thématiques :

Premier Point

Le fait que la population Franco-Ontarienne est deux fois plus grande que celle des Acadiens, mais que l’Ontario Francophone n’attire qu’une fraction de l’attention face aux Acadiens :

Quelques faits au sujet des Franco-Ontariens:  Ils / elles…

  • comptent plusieurs accents régionaux différents en français (j’ai déjà écrit un billet à ce sujet il y a quelques mois)
  • ont l’histoire aussi longue que celle des Québécois et des Acadiens. On peut même dire que Samuel de Champlain était, avec Étienne Brulé, le fondateur de l’Ontario.  Le coin où il a vécu et où il avait fondé sa communauté en 1615 parle toujours le français jusqu’à nos jours (Midland-Tiny-Penetanguishene, 90 minutes de route au nord de Toronto).
  • comptent une multitude de vedettes parmi leurs rangs, qui se sont tournées vers Montréwood pour favoriser leur entrée sur le plateau central (un peu comme le font les vedettes du Royaume-Uni, de l’Australie, du Canada anglais, et de la Nouvelle-Zélande lorsqu’ils se tournent vers Hollywood aux É-U afin de trouver la gloire et la fortune). Parmi les plus connues des temps récents sont Marie-Mai, Véronic DiCaire et Katherine Levac.
  • nous ont donné beaucoup de nos politiciens qui ont eu un impact sur nous tous au Canada, tel l’ancien premier ministre du Canada, Paul Martin (Franco-Ontarien de Windsor).
  • ont un gouvernement provincial, des hôpitaux, et des écoles de tout niveau qui desservent la population en français à travers la province.
  • forment 85% à 90% de la population dans certains coins de la province – des régions plus “francophones” que beaucoup d’endroits au Québec même.
  • ont leur propre industrie médiatique. Côté télévision, Rad-Can a des studios éparpillés un peu partout en province, UNIS diffuse partout au Canada à partir de Toronto, et TFO de Toronto est peut-être le plus grand diffuseur éducatif en Amérique du Nord.  Côté presse écrite, Le Droit d’Ottawa demeure un des plus grands journaux quotidiens au Canada.
  • partage leur province avec une des populations anglophones les plus bilingues au Canada et en Amérique du Nord (en 2011, on comptait 1,500,000 personnes bilingues en Ontario, qui peuvent tenir une conversation en français, selon Stat-Can). Ce fait facilite beaucoup l’accès aux services et à l’infrastructure en français à travers la province – car les rouages gouvernementaux tirent de cette population bilingue afin d’offrir ses services en français.

Les gestes et les avancements sur tous ces fronts progressent à un rythme du jamais vu depuis plus que 100 ans – au point où que les premiers mots du discours de la victoire de 2014 du nouveau maire de Toronto, John Tory, furent prononcés en directe à la télévision en français, et non pas en anglais.

Mais malgré tout ce progrès, malgré une population aussi enracinée que celle de l’Acadie et du Québec – et malgré une population deux fois plus grande que celle de l’Acadie, l’Ontario Francophone demeure toujours relégué loin derrière l’Acadie dans l’esprit des Québécois, de beaucoup d’Anglophones ailleurs au Canada, et d’autres pays.

C’est un mystère qui me bafoue – et beaucoup de Franco-Ontariens le trouve choquant.

Deuxième point :

Cette année en Ontario, les Francophones et anglophones célèbrent ensemble le 400e anniversaire du français en Ontario, et la fondation des racines de la province par Samuel de Champlain – un héritage qui parle fort jusqu’à nos jours.

La célébration s’appelle “ONTARIO 400” – qui durera l’année longue, partout en province.   Le site web se trouve ici : http://ontario400.ca/.  Croyez-moi quand je vous dis qu’il vaut vraiment la peine d’y jeter un coup d’œil.

Troisième point

Le réseau d’organismes et d’infrastructure francophone mis en place pour soutenir la population francophone en Ontario en est parmi les plus grands au monde, en dehors de l’Europe.  Ce que je trouve fascinant, c’est que la grande partie du réseau demeure indépendante de tout gouvernement.   S’il vous intéresse, j’ai offert quelques liens qui ne sont que la pointe de l’iceberg :   Links related to everything “Franco-Ontarian” or “Ontarois (#221)”  

Quatrième point

Il reste toujours un défi de savoir comment rehausser l’image de l’Ontario francophone auprès des autres (au Québec, auprès des Anglophones, et auprès de ceux à l’étranger) afin que les aspects positifs qui pourrait découler d’une telle reconnaissant et d’une telle visibilité accrue puissent trouver leur chemin en Ontario.

J’ai abordé onze points que je soupçonne d’être à l’origine des raisons pour lesquelles les Franco-Ontariens ne bénéficient pas d’une plus grande reconnaissance à l’extérieur de ses frontières.   Certaines des raisons invoquées sont assez controversées – au point où queleques uns des points suivants ne sont que rarement discutés publiquement, hormis un chuchotement très discret parmi les francophones en Ontario eux-mêmes.  J’ai l’impression personnelle qu’il n’y a pas grand monde qui ose en parler publiquement.  Mais moi, j’y ai osé dans le billet précédent en anglais (et ce, en détail).

À tort ou à raision, la voici la liste des raisons telle que je les voie:

A.  Une dilution institutionnelle – Par ceci j’entends dire que beaucoup d’institutions fréquentées par les Francophones sont des institutions partagées avec les Anglophones de la province (des institutions bilingues). À titre d’exemple, les hôpitaux à Toronto et ailleurs offrent leurs services en français.  Et ça va de même pour beaucoup d’universités.  Mais au fond, elles sont des institutions “anglophones” qui offrent des services en français.    Puisque ces institutions ne sont pas “Francophones unilingues”, elles ne bénéficient pas du même niveau de reconnaissance que les institutions Francophones de l’Acadie.

B.  Le parcellement de la population francophone – La population francophone de l’Ontario se trouve aux quatre coins de la province. Il faut se rappeler que l’Ontario est 10% la grandeur de l’Europe (40% plus grand que la France), mais ne compte que 613,000 Francophones qui ont le français comme langue principale à la maison.  Même avec deux fois la population de l’Acadie, les Francophones de l’Ontario sont dilués par la distance qui les sépare les uns les autres.

C.  L’Éloignement géographique Les régions les plus francophones de la province (où tout se déroule en français) sont quand même très loin des grandes villes (à titre d’exemple, l’haute-région francophone de l’autoroute 11 se trouve à 12 heures de route directement au nord de Toronto – c’est loin 12 heures!).

D.  La province, dans son ensemble, n’est pas “officiellement bilingue” Tout le monde reconnait les Acadiens en grande partie en raison du milieu dans lequel ils vivent. Malgré tout, c’est le Nouveau-Brunswick qui est officiellement bilingue dans son ensemble.   En Ontario, il existe plusieurs grandes régions qui sont officiellement bilingues (au même niveau du bilinguisme que l’on trouverait au Nouveau-Brunswick).  Cependant, la province elle-même n’est que “fonctionnellement bilingue” et non pas “officiellement bilingue” (il existe une différence, et une juridiction dite “fonctionnellement bilingue” n’attirerait pas autant d’attention dans l’esprit des autres).

E.  Une sphère médiatique franco-Ontarien “peu visible”Si la société dans laquelle vous vivez compte un grand nombre d’organes médiatiques hautement visibles, tels des réseaux de télévision qui penchent fortement sur les nouvelles, ou même des télé-divertissements populaires (un peu comme on voit à TVA, LCN, etc.), votre société serait plus visible aux autres. En Ontario, on a des organes médiatiques, mais elles sont spécialisées ou elles font partie d’un réseau pancanadien et ne sont pas “franco-ontariens” en soient.  C’est en partie la raison pour laquelle les vedettes québécoises sont toujours les invités d’honneur en France, et mêmes les vedettes acadiennes (comme Roch Vosine, Natasha St-Pier, etc.).   Mais jamais les Franco-Ontariens (pleinement bizarre!, et décevant — c’est vraiment décevant d’ailleurs)

F.  Des accents franco-ontariens qui s’assimilent facilement à ceux du Québec lorsque les artistes Franco-Ontariens font le grand saut à Montréwood Beaucoup de vedettes Francophones qui quitte l’Ontario pour trouver la gloire à Montréwood (la scène artistique et des médias à Montréal) est souvent confondue avec les vedettes du Québec.  Oui, les accents en Ontario sont différents, mais ils font partie de la même branche d’accents de ceux du Québec (une branche qui les relient tous auprès de la même famille d’accents qu’on voit aussi loin que la Colombie-Britannique, les Prairies, l’Ontario, et jusqu’au Québec).

Côté personnel, c’est justemment pour cette raison, que lorsque je voyage au Québec, si souvent on me prend moi-même pour quelqu’un de la Côte-nord du Québec, malgré le fait que mon accent porte plutôt des traits franco-albertains.  C’est justemment parce que le français des prairies fait quand-même partie de la même branche que le français de l’Ontario et celle du Québec).

Cela fait que les Franco-Ontariens ne soient pas aussi “perceptibles” à Montréwood que le sont les Acadiens, qui parlent avec un accent et un style de langage très différent (le français des Acadiens vient d’une branche à part vue ses origines)

G.  Un manque d’entreprises et de sociétés à “grande-échelle” en Ontario qui ont le français comme langue de travail Des sociétés à grand-échelle qui génèrent de l’argent captent l’attention du monde entier (et certainement à l’intérieur du même pays). Il existe une multitude d’entreprises francophones en Ontario, mais lorsqu’ils atteignent une certaine grandeur, leurs opérations internes se font généralement en anglais.  Cela veut dire que l’Ontario Francophone aurait perdu cette visibilité côté affaires.

H.  Il existe toujours les “deux solitudes” entre Québec et les autres Francophones du CanadaAu Québec, en école et dans les médias, on n’apprend carrément rien sur l’Ontario Francophone, mais on en apprend sur l’Acadie. Probablement les raisons trouvent leurs origines dans les vieilles chicanes politiques qui datent de l’année du siège.  Dans le temps, le PQ et ces prédécesseurs ultra-nationalistes faisaient tout ce qu’ils pouvaient pour se distancer de l’Ontario.  On voyait l’Ontario comme une méchante province “Anglophone”, et on se foutait de tout ce qui avait rapport à l’Ontario, y compris ses Francophones.  Heureusement la donne change petit à petit – mais il prendra encore un bon bout de temps avant que l’Ontario francophone s’enracine dans la conscience collective du Québec.

I.  Une participation internationale assez “douce”La nature du statut bilingue du Nouveau-Brunswick fait que la province puisse se joindre à plusieurs organismes internationaux — telle la francophonie internationale — à titre de membre à part entier (au même niveau que la France, le Canada et le Québec). L’Ontario n’a pas ce droit;  peut-être parce que le gouvernement n’y met pas l’accent, peut-être parce que la province n’est pas officiellement bilingue.  Un manque d’adhérence aux organismes internationaux (au nom des Franco-Ontariens) nuit à la visibilité et au prestige des Franco-Ontariens à l’échelle internationale.

J.  Ottawa (la ville), au plan civique, n’est pas encore “officiellement bilingue” Ottawa est déjà une ville dite “fonctionnellement bilingue”, mais non pas “officiellement bilingue”. Qu’elle est la différence?  En réalité, sur le terrain, il n’y a pas une si grande différence.  La ville se permet déjà d’offrir tous ses services en français.

Une désignation “bilingue” serait plutôt une question de dignité et de respect pour les habitants de la ville, de la région, et du pays en général.  Mais une désignation bilingue pourrait ouvrir la porte à d’autres mesures, telles l’obligation d’un affichage extérieur bilingue au niveau des entreprises – et même plus encore.   Mais je crois que la plupart du monde qui se lutte pour une désignation bilingue se contenterait d’une désignation simple (plutôt que d’amener le débat et ses implications aux extrémités de la terre).

Cependant, c’est un débat qui court depuis les années 1960.  Le débat, irait-il un jour mener aux protestations dans la rue?  Peut-être – mais je ne suis pas sûr.  Si on veut hausser le ton, bien-sûr la possibilité est bien là.   Il va dépendre la volonté des Francophones, de leurs alliés et amis Francophiles et Anglophones, et la façon dont ils s’organise pour mettre le projet de l’avant (25% de la population côté “ouest” de la rivière est francophone.  85% de la rive “est” est également francophone.  Les sondages démontrent que 25% à 35% des anglophones de la ville sont, sans équivoque, dans le camp des francophones sur la question de faire d’Ottawa une ville bilingue.  Et une grande partie de ce qui reste de la population “n’est pas” forcément contre l’idée.  D’autant plus, les Anglophones ailleurs au Canada — et surtout les Francophones ailleurs au Canada — ne sont pas contré l’idée).

K.  Manque de pouvoir d’attraction aux yeux des immigrants francophones:

Les immigrants s’installe où il y a des emplois en français.  Ce n’est pas dû à l’existence des “programmes d’immigration” qui les incitent à s’installer en Ontario.

Si on veut des immigrants, il faut créer une économie qui fonctionne “en français”.

Alors, plutôt que d’entamer des nouveaux programmes d’immigration, il faut créer des institutions qui soutienne l’épanouissement de l’industrie — et des sociétés qui opèrent en français.

Sans ça, les immigrants viendront pas, point.  (Croyez-vous qu’une personne qui parle le finlandais irait immigrer dans un zone où le travail se déroule en suedois?  Bien sur que non!   Si vous le croyez, il faut maintenant arrêter de rêver en couleur).

Solution:  Ceux qui militent pour la survie des communautés francophones en milieux minoritaires doivent arrêter de mendier auprès du gouvernement fédéral et doivent fonder des:

  • banques de développment
  • sociétés privés de gestion des pensions pour ceux qui travaillent dans des sociétés qui opèrent en français
  • universités “privés”, indépendants des gouvernement, pour s’assurer un main-d’oeuvre qui alimente les sociétés francophones en milieu minoritaire
  • un movement de révolution tranquille en Ontario – penché sur les affaires.   Autrement ces militants seraient eux aussi en partie responsables pour la mort de la communauté “à petit feu” — et non seulement l’inaction de nos gouvernements.  Désolé, mais ne mâchons pas nos mots.

Au fur et à mesure que la société Franco-Ontarienne continue d’évoluer et de se diversifier, il serait fort intéressant de voir comment son profil, aux yeux des autres, changera avec le temps.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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Why Franco-Ontarians are not better recognized in a pan-Canadian sense, or internationally – Part 2 of 2 (#223)

This is a continuation of the last post (part 1).   In the last post I offered six reasons why I believe Franco-Ontarians do not garner as much attention as Acadia, despite being twice as populous as Acadia, despite having a higher growth rate of French used at home, and despite having a much larger bilingual population around them which supports its Francophone institutions.

This post will offer you six additional reasons why I believe Francophone Ontario does not receive more attention.  However these six points are much more controversial than the previous six.  I’m also going to be quite blunt (but sometimes blunt is the only way to spur action).

They are also “elephants in the room” which I feel many people do not wish to touch.  Provincial and federal politicians may not be willing to discuss them, and Franco-Ontarian columnists may not be comfortable discussing them for fear of upsetting a balance which took decades to achieve, and to avoid risk jeopardizing government funding.   But if Francophone Ontario wishes to garner more support, more recognition, and continued growth, I believe they are topics which should be talked about and addressed head on.  Otherwise it will be difficult and slow for Ontario’s Francophone society to continue to grow in an economically healthy and dignified manner.   It is time a serious discussion begins.

Here are the last five reasons why I believe Francophone Ontario does not garner more attention outside its borders:

1.  A lack of “large-scale” businesses in Ontario which operate in French:

Societies are often judged by their business and economic strength – full stop, period.

In Eastern Ontario, I know of a couple of business which employ over 50 people, and which operate primarily in French.   There are also many small businesses which operate primarily in French throughout Northern and Eastern Ontario.    But I know of no large-scale businesses which operate primarily in French.

If you have a society (or even a city) with 600,000 people, but yet it does not have one single business which employs over 100 people which operates in the language of that society, what would your perceptions of that society be?  Would you think they’re a strong, vibrant society?   Would you give them much thought?  Would you write about them or speak much of them, either across the country or internationally?  Would you think they should garner as much attention as the society next door which has the same language, but which does have very strong business sector and business presence?

This is precisely the situation Francophone Ontario is facing.

Acadia may not have many French-language companies with over 100 employees.  But because Acadians live and work together in a very concentrated society, without being diluted by vast distances, their business environment is conducted in French – and thus they get attention as one cohesive society.  They are noticed.

What I find bafflingtruly baffling… is that there are many entrepreneurial Franco-Ontarians out there who operate large or growing companies.  Yet, once they reach a certain size (ie: more than 10 people, beyond just family members), they generally begin to internally operate in English.   Yes, of course they have to provide their services in English to be able to attract Anglophone clientele.  But I’m not talking about services to the public.  I’m talking about the internal language of business operations.  Is it a lack of confidence?  Is it a lack of entrepreneurial spirit?  Is it a fear of how they will be perceived?  Is it all of these reasons and more?

I do not understand why Francophone-owned companies in Ontario do not continue to internally operate in French once they begin to significantly grow (after all, they can still do so while still maintaining services and offerings in English to their Anglophone clientele).

Of all the provinces outside Québec, it is in Ontario and New Brunswick where it should be very easy to operate a business in French.  The government of Ontario, and its major cities have gone to great lengths to ensure that Francophone business can operate in French (actually… I know this because I run a business in Ontario, and from day one the provincial government has always given me the option to conduct all my interactions with it in French).   You can do all your interactions with the Ontario and Federal governments in French.   Ontario’s major cities (and even many smaller centres) allow you to interact with their local governments in French.  You can do all your health and safety procedures in French.   You can hire French-speaking accounting and law firms in Ontario.  Your staff hiring can be done in French (you’re not going to get wrapped on the knuckles for discrimination if you hire employees based on their ability to speak French…  it is legally ok to do so).  Everything can be done in French.

So why are Francophone in Ontario not jumping on board?  Why are Franco-Ontarians not doing this on a grand-scale?   Why do we not see French-language companies in Toronto (or other parts of the province), which operate primarily in French and which have 100, 300 or 500 employees?

I simply don’t get it.

Furthermore, there is a reason why I don’t understand it.    I have a business associate who has perhaps 200 employees in Toronto, and the language of internal operations of that company is Spanish (even the signs within the building are in Spanish, right down to the employee time cards, and the men’s & women’s washroom signs).  I know another company in Toronto with 50+ employees, and the internal operating language is Portuguese.  I know of two other companies in Toronto; two with over 200 employees, and one with over 400 employees – and the internal operating language is Chinese! … in Toronto! (accounting staff, warehouse staff, internal emails & reports, staff meetings and all!)

With 600,000 Francophones in Ontario, and 1,500,000 people who can hold a conversation in French in Ontario, I find it scandalous that Francophone associations in Ontario are not concentrating more on promoting an entrepreneurial spirit (on a grand scale) to Ontario’s Francophones.  I do not understand why so many Francophone organizations concentrate solely on things like the arts & plays, or history projects, or dotting the landscape with a monument or plaque here or there, or asking the government for more money for feel-good projects.

Yes, these are important things, but I do not understand why they do not seek more ways, as Francophone associations, to help Ontario’s Francophone society create more money for the government of Ontario, for the benefit of all Ontarians, and for the benefit of their own community.  If you create more money, then more money will come back to you, and the momentum simply grows.

Not many things gets a government’s attention more than successful businesses and the jobs they create.  It would be a win-win for Franco-Ontarians.  (The money starts ‘a runnin, and the politicians come ‘a knockin).

I’ve always been a fan of the Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”.   In this context, Ontario’s Francophone associations should be asking “Ask not what your province and government can do for you, but what you can do for your government, your province, and how you can contribute to its economic growth on a grand scale!”  (I warned you this post was going to be controversial 😉 ).

I make the above statement in the spirit of being someone who is 100% for the promotion, strengthening, and growth of French in Canada.   I want to see Canada’s French fact and society thrive.   In this sense, I urge Francophones, and the organizations and governments who represent them to take the bull by the horns and economically do something about it.  Francophones in Ontario have the numbers, infrastructure and tenacity to make this happen.   They have the ability to become an economic powerhouse.  I wish we saw more people take the initiative in this direction.

2.  A lack of ability to attract immigrants:

Personally, I believe many advocates for minority Francophone communities have got it so wrong on this front.  I feel many people completely misunderstand the most important factors which dictate how immigrants chose where to live.   I myself was an immigrant to another country (I immigrated from Canada to China — Chinese green card, house purchase, car ‘n all!).   And I’ll tell you what attracts immigrants.   It is NOT federal or provincial immigration programs, as many advocates would have you believe (that is simply the bureaucratic paperwork end of things).

Rather, it is JOBS! JOBS!! AND MORE JOBS!!!

I’ll give you an example:  If you’re an immigrant, and you speak Finnish, are you want to immigrate, will you immigrate to a place where the jobs are in Swedish or in Finnish?  Of course you are going to immigrate to a place where the jobs are in Finnish.  There is no way you are not going to immigrate to the place where the jobs are in Swedish.  Get your head out of the sand if you thought otherwise (by the way, Finland has both Finnish and Swedish speaking regions).

This plays into the first point.

Minority Francophone community advocates in Canada need to shift their focus.  They have to start concentrating on creating French-language jobs on a massive scale.  Put bluntly — they have to start creating the wealth rather than asking governments to provide it.

How might this happen?  Well, it might just take a Quiet Revolution, “hors Québec style”.

Advocates for the growth of minority-setting Francophone societies should be:

  • cooperating with our our governments to create a Francophone business development bank
  • grouping themselves and our various Francophone associations to found private Francophone pension funds (like our teacher’s pension funds or other private insurance pension funds) into which Francophone workers in Francophone companies (which prove they operate in French) can contribute
  • working with Francophone associations to found “private” universities (if individuals in the Canada and the US can form private universities, then our Francophone associations can do the same thing, INDEPENDENT of any government).   This will ensure a steady and reliable stream of trained Francophones for a Francophone work-force
  • Founding French-first-language banks, insurance companies, etc which are found province-wide

Advocates should be lobbying for immense tax credits and special operating capital loans for construction companies, utility companies, and any company which employ over 100 people outside Québec, and which proves they operate primarily in French (place a bar on it to qualify, ie: 90% of employees speak French at a Federal government C-level and internal operations are all in French, subject to independent annual inspection).

It’s the “carrot and stick” approach… not the panhandling approach.  It’s huge paradigm shift.  If Québec could do it in the 1960s, then why the heck can our Francophone communities outside Québec not do it (under the umbrella of our numerous Francophone associations).

  • Is anyone doing this?  Nope!
  • Yet, are their cries out there saying that various Francophone communities are already past midnight minus one?  Yup.
  • Are those making such cries saying it’s not their fault?  Yup.
  • Is that the right approach?  Hell no!

If anything is responsible for killing our Francophones communities “à petit feu” due to a lack of being able to attract Francophone immigrants, it’s a lack of grandiose economic actions which which to attract Francophone immigrants, as much as it is a lack of government initiative.

I love the expression that says “when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you”.   This is a perfect example of one such case.

I am a business owner, and I’m more than willing to take a stab at making a big chunk of it fly in French.  Who knows, it may even go national within a few years.  But, guess how much support there is for me out there on the part of advocates for the protection of Francophone communities outside Québec?   Zero!   (Thank-you very much).

If I hire Francophone immigrants, it will be because I go out of my way to find them… not because they chose to settle in Ontario with the hope that people like me would try to find them out of the goodness of my heart (Told ya this post would be controversial).

3.  The Two Solitudes which exists between “Québec and other Francophones of Canada”

The border between Québec and Ontario sometimes is more than just a mere line on a map.   There’s often a psychological rivalry and division in the mind of many people on both sides of the border.  It stems from years of political posturing and opportunism on both sides of the Ontario-Québec border.   Québec, in part, has historically defined itself by defining how it is different than Ontario.

At various times in history (especially when the PQ was in power or when PQ partisans went to town with Ontario-bashing), there has been a posturing of outright hostility from powerful Québec personalities towards Ontario — simply to score political points.   With time, political scars have formed and have clouded perceptions in Québec of what Ontario is all about (and yes, this works in the other direction as well).    Under such circumstances, people’s imaginations shift into overdrive, and non-issues tend to become issues in the minds of significant segments of the population.

Example:  When I lived in Gatineau, across from Ottawa on the Québec side of the river, I knew of Ontario Anglophones who would not cross the river from Ottawa into Québec because they had the absurd notion that Québec police were specifically on the hunt for Ontario or other Canadian license plates with the sole aim of giving them a traffic ticket for amusement.   These same Ontarians also feared that if they ever had a traffic accident or other incident in Québec, that Québec police and courts would never side with them (sounds absurd, doesn’t it?!?!).   Likewise, I knew Francophones who would prefer to drive from Gatineau to Montréal on the old Québec 148 highway (a 2.5 hour drive) rather than cross the river into Ontario and take the faster 1 hour 50 minute Ontario 416 expressway from Ottawa to Montréal (they too felt Ontario police would hunt down Québec license plates, and they also didn’t want to give Ontario their sales tax money in the event they became thirsty and decided to buy a soda en-route).  — Major sigh! —

I am seriously not kidding you here – I have met such people on more than one occasion — as unbelievable as it seems.

As someone watching all this from the sidelines, I feel the above notions are grossly exaggerated by those who dream up such absurd ideas.   They are notions which are untrue, strange, unnecessary, counterproductive, immature and frankly pathetic.

Despite the fact that most people do not hold views as bizarre or extreme as those above, the fact remains that certain influential individuals and organizations in Québec go to great efforts to distance themselves from anything Ontario related (the PQ, la Société St-Jean Baptiste, the Snyder/PKP duo, TVA-LCN television networks, Le Devoir newspaper, a good deal of actors & actresses, the proverbial Clique du Plateau, etc. etc.).

Damage occurs over time, little by little, when the views of the above few are conveyed in a very public forum – and they begin to slowly shape public psyche and perceptions.

Francophone Eastern Ontario is only a short 30 minute drive away from Montréal.  Therefore it never ceases to amaze me that for many people in Montréal and Québec, it might as well be on another planet.   You have no idea how many people I have met over the years from Montréal who have never been to Ontario – even Eastern Ontario — just a short 30 minute drive away.

Yet, a number of these same people will be the first to find some reason to blast and criticize Ontario on some front or another.   They’ll come up with all sorts of strange, twisted reasons to talk negatively about Ontario:  be it their belief that Ontario harbours

  • an unfair hidden-agenda regarding trading practices,
  • a hidden agenda to entice Québec manufacturers to move to Ontario,
  • a hidden agenda to capitalize on Canadian Constitutional mechanisms to the detriment of Québec,
  • a hidden agenda of Ontario MPs in Ottawa against Québec,
  • a hidden agenda to assimilate Francophones,
  • an agenda in this direction, that direction, and every other direction.

And it is all topped off with an incorrect perception that Ontarian views and values are completely misaligned with those of Québec.   Yet every day I see just how similar people in Québec and Ontario are (despite their differences).  Thus it all just leaves me shaking my head in utter disbelief.

I’ll say first and foremost that Québec’s education system fails its citizens miserably on this front.  If you go looking through Québec’s texbooks, you’ll only find silence on this subject and many other subject related to Ontario (unless they have to do with distant historical injustices induced by people who are long dead, and who frankly shouldn’t even matter anymore).

For years, the sovereignist camp has constantly sung a song that Ontario is one big federalist entity which operates against the interests of Québec… and I suppose that eventually this has to have some type of psychological effect on the overall population, despite a recent dip in support for the sovereignist camp.

Mtlacnt1

You may recall the above map from the accent series (“Our 32 accents” Series: Post 4 – The Three big accents“)

Take a look at the yellow at the far left of the map.  This is part of Eastern Ontario, and part of a region which has around 200,000 people who speak French with an Eastern Ontario French accent.

Look how close it is to Montréal.  It extends right up to Montréal’s Westernmost edge (like I said, Eastern Ontario is only a 30 minute drive from Montréal).  Yet many in Montréal and elsewhere in Québec don’t even know that it, or that its Francophone population exists (however, it is one of the most Francophone regions of Ontario).

But when it comes to Acadia, at least an 8 hour drive away from Montréal, everyone in Montréal and Québec knows all about it.  Thus, you can see how it blows my mind how “Francophone Eastern Ontario” can remain a completely unknown to so many (and perhaps most) Québécois.  It is only a 30 minute drive from Montréal.  Eastern Ontario’s Francophone population is the same as Acadia’s (Acadians also constitute around 200,000 people), and it very much resembles Acadia (as you drive though Francophone Ontario, many of the towns are 70-80% Francophone and the main societal language of these towns is French, not English).

It really makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Here is the danger:  If Quebec continues to give Francophone Ontario the snub over Acadia, other Francophone countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland, and international organizations such as the EU and UN, will also not give it as much attention – despite any efforts Ontario’s own government makes on the international scene.  It’s all one big chain reaction.

It’s not fair, and it is not just:  Yet these are two principles which Québec conversely and consistently demands Canada’s federal structure applies to Québec on all fronts… Thus, do you see the hypocrisy?

Keep in mind that I say this as someone who also has Québec’s interests at heart.   Frankly speaking, I have said the following many times to friends in Québec (and most are more than open to, and completely understanding of the following criticism):  Sometimes it takes your best friends to point out your worst faults — simply because others will not, or are too timid do so.

4.  A lack of International Participation

This concept plays into the above paragraph.

The Ontario government and various Francophone organizations have invested vast amounts of time, energy, and resources over the past two decades to build and reinforce Ontario’s Francophone civic infrastructure.

However, despite these efforts, I do not believe the Ontario government’s efforts to raise the profile of its Francophone population comes anywhere close to that of the efforts of New Brunswick’ government.   In this respect, New Brunswick punches far above its belt (New Brunswick is even a full-fledge member of La Francophonie, at the same level of independent countries).

Ontario can learn much from New Brunswick’s example.  Ontario can take many more actions on the home front to raise its Francophone profile and interests, both domestically within Canada and internationally.

5.  A lack of Francophone (French-first-language) institutions

Among other things which Ontario can learn from New Brunswick are the creation of Francophone universities and hospitals (instead of simply settling for a network of bilingual universities or a network of Anglophone hospitals offering bilingual services).   These are attention-grabbing, economy-building, tax-generating initiatives.  They garner societal recognition and strength, they grant dignity to those who use them, they form economic and societal polls of gravity, and they serve a practical purpose.

6.  Ottawa is not yet designated as an “officially bilingual” city

Declaring Ottawa as officially bilingual would be a good first step in reinforcing Francophone Ontario society.  It just makes sense – not only from the perspective of reflecting Ontario’s French fact (after all, a quarter of Ottawa’s residents have French as their first language), but it also makes sense from a national perspective.   There are also a good number of Anglophones in Ottawa, in Ontario and across Canada who likewise support this initiative.

Unfortunately, we have had a series of mayors in Ottawa who have not seemingly understood this, and there has been a series of premiers who have not been willing to take the initiatives necessary to get there (although some have come closer than others).  But at some point, public dissatisfaction will catch up to them, and things will change.   However, the arguments, and the importance of such a gesture to Francophone Ontario’s overall international and national recognition must be better articulated to those in power.

What I am about to say is quite controversial and sensitive, but I feel it needs to be said (I believe many think it, but there are not many who dare to say it — but I will).   In Ontario’s Francophone media, I have been hearing and seeing a consistent grumbling and complaining that Ottawa has not yet been declared bilingual.   To those in Ontario’s Francophone community who constantly complain, I say the following:  If you truly believe that your lobbying efforts to have the city of Ottawa declared bilingual have been effectively planned, then Ottawa would have already been declared bilingual.  This means that existing lobbying efforts have not been good enough, nor have they been successful.

Thus, as Franco-Ontarians, if this is truly something that you really want, and if you know this is what is needed to increase your dignity as a society, and to raise your profile as a society to a level it deserves (similar to that of Acadians in New Brunswick), I offer the following words of advice:  Sometimes in life, if things are not going your way, you have to take a hard look at your own efforts and ask yourself why things have not worked (instead of pointing fingers at others).   Just as I too blame our politicians, I also believe that Franco-Ontarians are equally guilty for not succeeding in having Ottawa declared a bilingual city.

If, as Franco-Ontarians, having Ottawa declared officially bilingual is truly something you want, but if 20 years of assertive lobbying has not worked, then it is time to realize you perhaps have come to a cross-roads.

At this point you have two choices:

  1. On one hand you can say you tried but it didn’t work, and you can just be content with having tried (at which point you should stop complaining, and perhaps hope that the stars and moons may someday mysteriously align and that the politicians may eventually say “yes”).
  2. On the other hand, you can ramp things up.  If you are not content to settle, and you are not willing to stop complaining, then at least put your money where your mouth is and crank things up a notch or two.

If you are willing to take the second option and ramp things up, there is much you can do.   I personally have never been one for civil disobedience, but this might actually be a case where it could be acceptable (peacefully, of course).  One quarter of Ottawa’s population on the West side of the river is Francophone.  On the east side of the river, 85% of the region’s population is Francophone.  Polls indicate that at least another quarter to a third of Ottawa’s Anglophone population outright supports declaring Ottawa officially bilingual, and the rest are not completely opposed to the idea (most see the logic).    If these numbers were to take to the streets, they could essentially shut down Ottawa if the protests were channeled properly.  Imagine what would happen if Ottawa were to basically be shut down for two weeks.  It would be felt far and wide… from city hall, to Queens Park, to the House of Commons, and right across Canada.

The topic of Francophone rights is so sensitive and emotional for such a large segment of Canada — at least 40% – 50% of the country as a whole (from the Pacific to the Atlantic) would back your fight.  It is the “good fight” after all.  It would be political suicide for the Federal, provincial and municipal governments to not concede to your demands in the face of such organized (and peaceful) civil disobedience.  You likely would succeed, and likely very quickly.

You’ve been placidly lobbying for 20 years (actually even more, since the 1950s and 60s) but Ottawa has still not been declared officially bilingual (granted, there is “functional bilingualism”, but it’s not the same from the standpoint of personal dignity and visibility).  It is becoming obvious things may not change for a very long time unless your demands are taken to the next level.   You are at a cross-roads.  Make a choice.  But whatever your choice is, come to terms with it and live with it.

Québec has had its Quiet Revolution.  It is perhaps time that Francophone Ontario has its own.  But it will be the “loudness” of the “quietness” which will dictate how fast and how far the changes will come.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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