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RadioEGO – Québec’s audio equivalent of a “Talk-radio YouTube” (#267)

This post can help to provide you with additional audio material if :

  1. You are looking for various opinion-pieces to help round out your views about what many people are talking about in Québec, and
  1. If you are learning French, working to improve your French, or are are looking to improve your comprehension of (a) informal French, (b) Joual, (c) street expressions, (d) every-day colloquial accents.

RadioEGO (Ego Radio) is a website which accepts and collates submissions of short radio segments and interviews from around Québec’s world of radio – be it mainstream professional radio stations, or amateur web-based “radio” stations.   The segments are made available for everyone to listen to.

In this sense, RadioEGO could be the equivalent of a “Québec Radio YouTube”.

The website is http://www.radioego.com/

When you open the main page, you will notice it is divided into three sections.   You can chose segments from any of the three sections.   There is also a “search” option for any topic of your choice (just like YouTube).  You can open additional pages at the bottom of each of the three main sections.

Radio EGO

If you search for “culture”, for example, you will get a ton of segments.  The results can be quite varied (ie: an interview with the minister of culture, or a segment about a cut in funding to a music conservatory, or perhaps a segment about a summer concert, etc.).  The same goes for any type of topic search.

A growing number of people have started their own “amature” radio stations – and they turn to RadioEGO as a platform on which to post various segments of their radio programs.

There are also other people who are well-known to the public (such as the columnist and blogger Joanne Marcotte) who are regularly invited guests on mainstream radio stations (such as Québec City’s CHOI FM), and who also post their radio-segments on RadioEGO’s website.

Certain mainstream radio stations, such as talk radio Radio9 in Montréal, talk radio CHOI FM (Radio X) in Québec City, 93FM (Québec City), CKOI FM (Montréal) will also post segments of their radio programs (there are other mainstream radio stations which also post their segments)

What is good about this website is that you can sift through tons of radio segments to listed precise topics of interest.

Example:  Let’s say you’ve been following the Parti Québécois leadership race… you may find the radio interviews of Pierre Karle Péladeau, Bernard Drainville, or Alexandre Cloutier to be of interest (all three were leadership contenders).  The audio segments have self-evident titles “Interview with Alexandre Cloutier” or “PKP” or “Drainville”.   The date is provided, as well as the number of other people who have listened to the audio clip (ie:  if you see that 3500 other people have listened to the clip in the last week, chances are that the clip is much more interesting than one which was listened to by only 15 listeners).

Topics are all over the map:  Politics, sports, society, and economics – you name it.

A WORD OF CAUTION:  The contributors are radio columnists/opinion-makers.   None of the programs are to be considered unbiased or objective (although you will run across some interviews and programs which try to bring a more balanced approach).   The website is open to all who wish to contribute their radio programs and segments, but the tendency is that programs are most often a bit towards the right (although there are programs / segments which are a bit more in the centre, and sometimes further on the left end of the spectrum).

With that said, I think there is still something for everyone.  I’m a firm believer that it’s always good to listen to all points of view from all over the spectrum.   That’s how you round out and form your own views, thus allowing you to feel better informed and more comfortable in your own viewpoints.

Bonne écoute !!!

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A brief history of France’s former languages, and how they helped to shape our French in Canada (#217)

Not long ago I came across two well-made YouTube videos.  One offers samples of France’s 28 different accents.  The other offers samples of 45 languages which are native to France — from the three major French language groups.

In a nutshell, French(as we know it today) is a relatively young language.  It was based in part on languages / dialects which existed in regions in and around Paris for centuries.  Modern French came about when it took elements from the languages / dialects of the Paris area, as well as a number of other nearby and closely related dialects.  In broad terms, they became mixed together in a big language stew, and voilà! — Modern French was born, primarily in the 1600s & 1700s.   (This is an oversimplified summary of what happened – but that’s basically it in a nutshell).

When I use the word “dialect” or “language”, my choice of words is a question of semantics.  Here I’ll use the word “language” (instead of “dialects”) because speakers of many of the dialects referred to in this post would not have necessarily been able understand one another (which is a characteristic of what constitutes separate languages).

Prior to the birth of Modern French (in the 1600s & 1700s), all the languages which existed in the Northern half of France were descended from a “super-group” of languages called the Languages of Oïl (les langues d’oïl).  These 20+ languages existed for roughly 1,500 years, well into the 1700s — at which point modern French began to supersede and replace them.

ld.1

Even though the Languages of Oïl were related, if you were to travel across Northern France in the year 600, 1000, 1500 or even 1700, you would have possibly traveled through 20 different language zones.  Likely you would not have been able to understand the locals as you crossed from one language zone to another (at that time in history, French was not the common every-day language of France).   However, when French began to supersede these other languages, French spread beyond Paris to the outlying regions, and the government began to forcefully suppress (basically wipe-out through forced assimilation) all the regional languages.

A very similar phenomenon existed in the Southern half of France.  Whereas the related languages of the North fell under the umbrella of the Languages of Oïl, in Southern France, there was a different group of many related languages called the Occitan Languages.

A region of Eastern France also had a separate grouping of languages called the Franco-Provençal (or Arpitan) Languages. 

Unlike the Oïl Languages, the Occitan and Franco-Provençal languages did not contribute as much to the formation of Modern French (if you listen to recordings of the Occitan & Franco-Provincial languages, they sound very different from French – with sounds and pronunciations much closer to Italian, Latin, Catalan and Spanish — whereas the Oïl Languages have sounds and pronunciations much more related to Modern French).

Also, just like the other Oïl Languages, the Occitan and Franco-Provençal languages were forcefully repressed by the government, starting in the 1700s, and replaced by Modern French.

Although all these languages of France were wiped out over the course of 300+ years, the inhabitants of each language region retained many different accents which can be associated with the original languages.  Thus, as you travel throughout France today, you will hear many different French accents, sometimes very different from one another.

What I find extremely interesting is that there are still some individuals in France who still speak the former regional languages.  Depending on the language, their numbers can be quite small.  Native speakers are often senior citizens, and some languages may have almost no speakers left (with the only remnants existing only in old audio recordings made 40 to 90 years ago).

How this fits into Canada’s style of French:

In the 1600s and 1700s, the original settlers to Ontario and Québec brought with them the languages of the Paris region (at least how it was spoken in Paris at that time – which is different from how it is spoken in Paris today).  The Parisian language was the main language spoken in New France (the French colonies of North America), but there were significant numbers of other Languages from France such as Norman, Saintogeais, and Gallo.  Settlers also came from other areas in the Northwest and North-central parts of France.   Paris’ language became the standard norm in Québec and Ontario in the 1600s and 1700s, but it carried heavy language influences from other regions of Northwestern and North-central France as people mixed and added their own linguistic nuances to the overall pot.  It was this mixing of Northern France medieval languages which gives us our way of speaking French in Canada today.

Consequently, there are two major forms of French in Canada today (each with many varieties of accents and colloquialisms).

  1. One grouping covers Québec, Ontario, the Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and British Columbia.  This is also the dominant style in the media (owing to the fact that Montréal is the epicentre of Canada’s Francophone media).  It is based on a much broader mix of old languages and accents which came from France.
  2. Conversely, in Canada’s Easternmost provinces we find Acadia (the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador).  The original French settlers to Acadia in 1605 (and those who continued to come up until the 1700s) came from narrower, more localized regions of France.  In France, they came from regions a bit further South than the settlers who went to Québec and Ontario.  But the Acadian settlers were still from the Northern Half of France and the still spoke languages of Oïl.   Because the settlers spoke different Oïl languages than those who went to Québec and Ontario, Acadia ended up speaking a different style of French — a unique style which is still spoken as the main type of French in our Atlantic provinces today (called Acadian French).

The YouTube recordings:

Someone went to a good deal of work in creating the following YouTube videos, and making them publicly available for our viewing and listening.  They found and put together a collage of sound recordings of 28 accents throughout France, and 45 of the languages of France.

  • France’s 28 accents from all regions of France: 

In this first video, see if you can hear aspects of accents in Northern and Northeast France which share some traits with Canadian French accents.   There are some shared traits – and it is quite intriguing to listen to.

Pay particular attention to the Charentes (Saintonge)”, “Nord-Picardie (Thiérache)”, “Orléanais (Blésois)”, andPoitou (Deux-Sèvres)”, accents.   Sound familiar???  —  I especially find the Charentes (Saintonge) accent to be quite interesting – but all of them are very interesting (I’m thinking out loud here… When I listen to the above accents, I certainly can hear accents which share definite traits with those of Québec’s North-Coast,  Gaspésie, Northern Ontario and older Canadian Prairie-French accents).  Now mix all the above accents together (plus a few more), and guess what overall accent you’re likely to begin to get!  (Wink, wink!!).  And that, my friends, is precisely what happened 300 – 400 years ago here in Canada.

  • France’s 45 languages:

As a speaker of Canadian French, what I find fascinating about the video below is that I (quite surprisingly) find some of the languages relatively easy to understand.   Three of the languages which stick out as relatively easy to understand are PercheronMainiot, and Poitevin (despite that I had never heard them prior to listening to this video).  Even though I can understand them, I am not sure that people in other regions in France would understand them quite as easily.   This is because they seem to share many more traits with our colloquial French in Canada than with standard International French (or even colloquial European French).

Something I find quite shocking (but equally fascinating) is that I can hear vocabulary and expressions in these languages which we regularly say in Canadian French but which are not said in France French and have died out in France.   The following are some prime examples of words / phrases I heard in the languages I pointed out.  They are things we say everyday in Canadian French (many many times every day).  I, like most people in Canada, took it for granted that these were uniquely Canadian words — but apparently they’re not, and we now know their true source! (from some of the old Languages of Oïl).

  • où-ce que t’as..?” or où ce qu’y est…?”
    • instead of “où est-ce que tu as…?” or “où est-ce qu’il est… ?”,
    • which means “Where did you…?” or “Where is…?” in Canada
  • à c’t’heure
    • instead of “maintenant”
    • which means “right now” in Canada,
  • fait-qu’là
    • instead of “alors”
    • which means “so in Canada,
  • M’a faire, aller, etc….”
    • instead of Je vais faire, aller… etc.”
    • which means I’m going to do, go… etc.” in Canada,
  • ben’qu-là
    • instead of “bon!”
    • which means “well…”, or “so then” in Canada, etc.

And then there were the accents and tones… such as the old French Montréal-Windsor-St.Louis corridor aveolar “Rs”, and Acadian vowel flattenings.

Truly fascinating stuff — like a 400 year old time-machine, but with a mirror with our face in it!

I suppose it indicates that the degrees of separation from the original French dialects which came to Canada in the 1600’s & 1700’s, and the style of colloquial French we speak today across Canada and Québec may not have diverged as much as one would think.

Other languages which I surprisingly do not have major difficulties understanding are aspects of Picard (Ch’ti), Orléanais (which appears to share many traits in common with Acadian French in Canada), and Gallo.  

It was actually quite eerie listening to these languages for the first time.  There was an instant sense of “familiarity” with them, despite having never heard them before.

Go figure!  😉

Where all this fits on a language tree:

As with any language, I suppose you could say any given language has “sibling” languages and “cousin” languages.

A cousin language would be when one older language gives rise to a few parallel new languages.   In a broad sense, Latin gave birth to many different language groupings.  Some examples would be the Italo-Dalmatian grouping (which includes Corsican, Italian, Sicilian, etc), the Eastern Grouping (which includes Romanian, Aromanian, etc.), the Langue d’Oïl grouping (which includes French, Norman, Walloon, etc.).

In general, these “groupings” could be said to be positioned like “cousins” with respect to one another on a family tree.   In language terms, sometimes you can understand your cousins, but sometimes you cannot.   Some of French’s cousins would include Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.  I can understand (especially read) a good deal of these three language cousins.  Conversely, English’s closest cousin is the language of West Frisian which is spoken in the Northern Netherlands.   English speakers cannot understand or read West Frisian (or any other cousin of English) owing to too much separation in terms of time and geography.   So it’s hit and miss when it comes to understanding cousin languages.

Then there are the sibling languages.  Each of the “cousin groupings” gives birth to a number of other languages (“sibling” languages) through closely related circumstances of geography and history.   In the Oïl Language grouping, we find the languages in the above video (for example, Percheron, MainiotPoitevin, Picard (Ch’ti), Orléanais and Gallo).  As a Canadian French speaker, the above-mentioned sibling languages are not difficult for me to understand, despite that I had never heard them before (whereas other “sibling” languages in the Oïl Language grouping are difficult for me to understand).   Conversely, English has two sibling languages… one has gone extinct (Yola), and the other is Scots.  Sometimes Scots can be a bit difficult to understand if you are not used to hearing it (see the video below), but if you were to read it aloud, chances are you would understand 80% of it if your native language is English.

Click below to open the language tree to see where French and English sit with respect to their language “cousins” and “siblings”.    The languages discussed above are in “Blue” on the tree.

Indo-European Tree - blue - jpg

We already heard samples of some of French’s language siblings.  But as an English speaker, if you’re curious about English’s only remaining sibling, Scots, here are some examples:

This is a sample text of Scots from Wikipedia:  Quebec (Québec in the French leid) is a province o Canadae. It is the mucklest province gaun bi aurie o Canadae. Quebec haes a population o 7,651,531 fowk. The offeecial leid o Quebec is French, an aboot 90% o the indwallers o Quebec speaks it (aside French, baith Inglis an Inuktuit are spoken). The caipital ceety o Quebec is Quebec Ceety (Ville de Québec in French), an the mucklest ceety is Montreal (Montréal). Maist o the fowk in Quebec are French Canadians (or Québecois), but Erse-Quebecers, Scots-Quebecers, Inglis-Quebecers, Italian-Quebecers an Jewish-Quebecers bide there an aw.

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to have a go at translating it.  Let’s see how I do (I’ll put my guesses in parenthesis):  Quebec (Québec in the French language) is a province in Canada.  It is the largest (?) province (something something) of Canada.  Quebec has a population of 7,651,531 people (or folk).  The official language of Quebec is French, and about 90% of the inhabitants (dwellers) of Quebec speak it.  Apart from French, (something) English and Inuktitut are spoken.  The capital city of Quebec is Quebec City – Ville de Québec in French.  And the largest city is Montreal.  Most of the population (folk) in Quebec are French Canadians – or Québécois, but (something) Quebeckers, Scottish-Quebeckers, English-Quebeckers, and Jewish-Quebeckers also live (abide) there (but I assume they’re not saying they live there “in awe”… so I don’t know what the last word is).

How did I do?  It looks like I could understand 90%.   If you want to read the full Wikipedia article, you can find it here;  http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec

But… Let’s ramp this up a notch, and see how well your listening skills are.  I’ve seen the following video, and although I would likely not have many problems “reading” what is being said – I cannot say the same regarding my listening skills.  I have only ever had minimal exposure to listening to Scots, so believe me when I say that 80% of what is being simply flies over my head.   Have a listen and see how you do (if you are an Anglophone Canadian, I’m sure you will do NO better than me in understanding what is being said):

FURTHER READING

If you want to read more on all these topics, you can check out the following Wikipedia articles:


RELATED BLOG POSTS:

OUR 32 ACCENTS (7 POSTS)

OTHER RELATED LANGUAGE POSTS (2 POSTS)

Real-life documentary: Le Garage, “Bienvenue chez Normand” (#215)

This documentary, “Le Garage”, caught my eye the moment I first saw a short 20 second clip, and now I’m hooked!

I’ll provide you with trailers, and an official link for online viewing a little further below.

This is one of the most “real” documentaries I think I have ever seen.  I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before; one which has surprisingly left me with a feeling of having a strange bond with the people featured in it, despite never having met them.

At the very bottom, I’ll provide you with links to official sites where you can watch the full hour-long documentary, officially approved for internet viewing.

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The Trailer:  Here’s how the film maker, Michel Demers, describes his film (translation) : “It is along the banks of the North Coast where we find The Garage.  Between forest and sea, adults, children, and grand-parents all gather in the garage to tell their stories and to gossip.  In an atmosphere in which everyone has each other’s back, you can sample the moose meat, trout, and mussels that everyone has pitched in to bring home together.  Norman and his sons are mechanics, and are under the ever-so-watchful eyes of those who drop in and who watch from the side-lines”.

C’est à Longue-Rive sur La Côte-Nord que nous retrouvons LE GARAGE. Entre mer et forêt, adultes, enfants et grands-parents s’y rencontrent pour raconter histoires et menteries. Dans une atmosphère de solidarité et d’entraide, on déguste orignal, truites et moules que l’on a capturé ensemble. Normand et ses fils y font de la mécanique sous les yeux des gens qui “veillent” dans le côté salon.

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THE STORY LINE:

The film maker’s brother, Norm, lives in a very small village, Longue-Rive, in the relatively remote region known as Québec’s North Shore.    Norm is a mechanic in the village, and works out of his garage set up on his property.   In small towns and villages across Canada, particularly those which are quite remote, neighbours have grown up together and/or know each other very well.   In such places, people often do not lock their doors at night, and villages take on a family atmosphere of sorts (you can walk into your neighbour’s homes without knocking, everyone knows where everyone’s chilren are at all times, and adults spend a lot of time with each other.

Map1

Map2

In Longue-Rive, there is no bar or cafe.  But the blue-collar nature of the small town makes it so everyone has a garage where they work (either professionally or as a hobby), and everyday life revolves around the garage (much like everyday life may have revolved around kitchens 50, 70 or 100 years ago).

I’ve personally driven through Long-Rive a while back, as well as many other communities like it along the North Shore, and all across Canada.  In villages like these, it tends to be more cultural the norm, rather than the exception, to see homes with detached garages, in which residents work or whittle away their time (even in my own family, we I have a number of relatives whose lives semi-revolve around their garage).

Culturally, it is very Canadian to see this phenomenon in remote, rural settings, in all provinces.   It’s something I have never really thought of before, but I think it’s an aspect of our rural culture.    It’s a part of our culture which the film maker, Michel Demers, has captured beautifully.

In the absence of a bar or café in town, Norm’s garage doubles as the local hang-out for family and friends.  People drop by in their free time, pull up a chair (or a “living room recliner”) and meet for a beer, to chat, to eat, organize group activities and just pass away the time.  And it’s not only the village men who have turned Norm’s garage into their local “hang-out”.  Women and children also gather to gossip, joke, and play.

Because everyone shares the same lifestyle (a love of the outdoors, catching up on community news, bonding as a community, hunting, trapping, fishing, clam digging, ski-dooing, etc.), there are more than enough topics for everyone to talk and laugh about.  There is rarely a dull moment.  People bond, and the entire village becomes one big family.

WHAT I TOOK AWAY FROM WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY:

What I love about the film is its simple and genuine nature, its innocence, and how life is uncomplicated for those we see on the screen.  If one member of the community falls on hard times, there will be a whole network of others around to help pick him/her up by their bootstraps and step in until that individual is back on their feet.

Although I now living in our largest city (with Toronto at the heart of the “Golden Horseshoe” which counts over 10 million people), and even though I have lived in a few cities overseas which have ranged from 8 million, to 17 million, to 25 million people people, a film like this still resonates so strongly with me because I see so many echoes of my own early childhood in it;  be it clam-digging close to home with my family, ski-dooing with my dad and his buddies, spending time with my dad as he did odd things around his own garage, or simply growing up in a small, isolated community in which neighbours spent the bulk of their time together.  I talked about many of these things in a couple of earlier posts:

It find it quite interesting that so many aspects of life on the North Coast of Québec (where the St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic) are almost identical to many aspects of life on the North Coast of British Columbia (where the Skeena meets the Pacific), and a good number of other places.  Fascinating stuff!

INTERNATIONAL SCREENINGS:

Apart from the various Canadian cities in which this documentary has or will be screened (both inside and outside of Québec), it is also set to be screened or has been screened in cities as far away as Moscow, Marseilles, Brussels, Chicago and Mexico.

A NOTE ON THE STYLE OF FRENCH USED :

The French accents and expressions spoken are those commonly heard in Québec’s North Coast region.   This style of French has more in common with French spoken in Québec’s Gaspé region, the Atlantic Province’s Acadian regions, and the older generations of Prairie French speakers than it does Western Québec (which includes Montréal) or Ontario.   (You can click the above links for more information on these various accent styles).

However, if your French is at an upper advanced level, and if you’re used to hearing a couple of different Canadian French accents to a fluent level, you should not have much difficulty understanding what is being said.   Just be aware that even if your French is perfectly fluent, or even if French is your first language (such as for those from Montréal or Québec City), but if you are not used to hearing a North Coast accent, the super-strong accents of a couple of Normand’s buddies may throw you off here and there (there were a couple of times when I had to rewind to catch the words in a couple of different phrases).

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SOME ADDITIONAL OUT-TAKES:

Here are some clips of people in the documentary talking about their lives and their”Garage” culture:

Here are some clips of reactions from local residents in Long-Rive when they first viewed a showing of “Bienvenue chez Normand”.

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The documentary’s official website: http://www.micheldemers.com/?cat=67

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HOW TO VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY ONLINE, FOR APPROVED VIEWING:

The documentary will be available on Radio-Canada’s “Tou.tv” website for free viewing until approximately September 2015.

The direct link is as follows:    http://ici.tou.tv/les-grands-reportages/S2015E189

Subtitles (in French) are available in the video if you need them (click the subtitle button at the the bottom of the screen).

Happy viewing !!

PKP’s major Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Immigration Muck-up (#213)

Yesterday, during the Parti Québécois debates, Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP), the most likely contender to be the next head of the PQ, stated (and I’m quoting as accurately from French as possible, with context being provided in square brackets):

“We will not have [another] 25 years to achieve [Québec independence].  With [Québec’s] demographic [changes], with its immigration [rates], it is a sure thing that we are losing [the support of the equivalent of] one riding every year.   We wish we could better control [this situation], but let us not hold any illusions [about it]”

“Who is in charge of the immigrants who come to settle in Québec?  It is the Federal government.  Of course, there is shared jurisdiction [in immigration between the provincial and federal governments], but [immigrants] still pledge an oath to the Queen [to become citizens, and thus are eligible to vote in any referendum].   Therefore, we don’t have another 25 years ahead of us.  It is now that we must work [on this problem].”

Reactions to PKP’s statement have so far boiled down to two camps:

  • One camp believes immigrants are “not” the problem.  Rather this camp believes the issue is with either sovereignist ideology (which is what federalists argue), or the successful communication of this ideology to all sectors of Québec’s society (both federalists and sovereignist can share point of view, as did Alexandre Cloutier, another contender for the leadership of the PQ). What they mean by this is that rather than (a) turning off the immigration tap, or (b) choosing only immigrants who would be demographically “more apt to support sovereignty”, the PQ should instead concentrate more on getting their argument to resonate with all immigrants.  Federalists will argue that in the end, if immigrants will not support their proposal, then the PQ should question the validity of their own proposal rather than the intelligence of immigrants.  To do otherwise creates a “them-and-us” society (A similar analogy would almost be as if the Federal government were to restrict immigration numbers so as to garner enough votes in the off-ball chance they were running on a platform that was about… I don’t know… ceasing subsidization of education [I just chose this completely at random]).  This means Québec has to determine if it wants a globalized, cosmopolitan (ie: all inclusive, multi-ethnic/racial, we’re-all-in-this-together) society, or if we want a “them-and-us” society, with a sovereignty debate axed on ethnic nationalism.  This camp believes that you can’t just turn immigration on and off depending on how you think this segment of the population will vote (otherwise it becomes a question of ethnically rigging our entire system and population — very dangerous!).
  • Another camp believes that immigrants are the roadblock to sovereignty because they are statistically less apt to vote for sovereignty in any referendum. This camp argues that a referendum should be held as quickly as possible to beat a demographic time bomb against sovereignty as Québec continues down the road to becoming more cosmopolitan (some veteran, high-profile sovereignists, such as Denise Bombardier, argue Québec is already past this point and will never achieve sovereignty).  This camp believes part of “beating the demographic time-bomb would involve controlling immigration levels so that, in the eyes of supporters of this camp, no more “damage” could be done.   This argument can be summed up in the following statement: Québec sovereignty should be decided by those of New France origins, and also by those who are allied with citizens of New France origins and culture, and to hell with the rest. (harsh, but that’s kind of where this camp stands).  This argument advocates that, if at all possible, “the rest” should be prevented from coming to Québec, for fear that they may influence any referendum’s outcome.  It also insinuates that those of Non-New France origins would never support sovereignty (yet, interestingly, 20% of visible minorities did support the “yes” side in 1995).  It is interesting to see that there are are people who advocate this view — and based on what was said at a number of pro-Charte des valeurs rallies in 2012, perhaps there are more people who support these views than what one may think (it is a view which very much echoes the 1995 Parizeau statement).

One little factoid I wish to explain, one which is not very well understood in Québec or elsewhere in English Canada:   Under the constitution, Québec and all provinces have sole jurisdiction to decide which immigrants can settle in their respective provinces.  However, Québec is the only province which has opted to exercise this jurisdiction (all other provinces, with the exception of some limited immigration categories, have “voluntarily decided” to let the Federal government handle selecting their immigrants for them).  What this means is that in Québec’s case, Québec has provincial immigration officers, posted abroad in Québec immigration bureaus, who receive applications from foreigners to “immigrate to Québec”.  These provincial immigration officers then decide which immigration applications will be approved (it is not Ottawa who chooses the immigrants to Québec, unless they fall under certain categories of refugees.  However Ottawa conducts the police and health checks on all immigrants before the permanent resident card is granted — but this has nothing to do with choosing the “person” who is about to immigrate).  In this sense, all immigrants in Québec have been chosen by Québec, for Québec (including by the Parti Québécois when they were in power).   That’s why I find PKP’s statement quite curious – (in many, many respects) – as well as misleading, ill-informed, and frankly ignorant.

The intention of this post is not to report the news.   Believe me when I say this story has already become one of the most reported individual stories of 2015 (and it has only been news for 24 hours).   We have not seen this sort of political statement since Parizeau cried foul of the “ethnic vote” on referendum night in 1995.

Nor is the intention of this post to analyze the validity or invalidity of PKP’s statement (the above is more of a backgrounder, than anything else).  Again, reporters, columnists, other bloggers, and political circles are covering this topic like oil takes to the sands in Fort McMurray.

The intention of this post is to question why PKP made such a statement now – at this point of time.   This is a question I have heard absolutely nobody talk about.  I have some initial thoughts, and it’s worth pondering aloud.

In English Canada, the whole debate of reasonable accommodations (mostly orbiting around headscarf & facial-veil issues), and the political capitalization of religious tolerance issues (in light of recent jihadist-related events) has only become acute in the last few weeks (with the introduction of Bill C-51, recent court decisions, questions of extensions of military action in the Middle-East, homegrown terrorism issues, etc.).

Whereas this debate is relatively new news in English Canada, in Québec this debate has already been going on for the better part of three years — starting with the PQ’s initial proposal of the Charter of Values, and subsequent arguments for codifications and limitations of reasonable accommodations (within the framework of a debate surrounding multiculturalism and interculturalism).

This has allowed more than enough time for segments of Québec’s population to become quite galvanized along certain views in this debate – much more galvanized that in English Canada, which is still doing a lot of soul-searching.   In many respects, such soul-searching is already “finished” in Québec, and we see clear lines of public opinion already being drawn in the sand;  “for” and “against” various degrees of accommodation, “for” and “against” measures such as bill C-51, “for” and “against” increased or decreased levels of immigration, etc, etc.

Over the past year, many in our media in Québec have been stating that PKP’s manner of frank speech and political naïveté are a mix which makes him prone to severe verbal gaffs.  More than a handful of veteran reporters have been predicting for months that it would only be a matter of time before PKP says something which would land him in very hot water – to the point that it could jeopardize any public support he has garnered (be it for his run at the PQ leadership, or his status as the leader of the PQ after the leadership race).  Today, the vast majority of the media establishment have been citing yesterday’s statement as one such gaff.

However, I’m not so sure they are right.  PKP is an extremely intelligent individual, surrounded and counseled by skilled, veteran political warriors.  I actually have the funny feeling PKP knew exactly what he was saying when he made the above statements.   I would venture to bet that he was fully aware of the type of public attention such statements would garner.  It could very well have been part of his strategy.

Over the past months, even over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a stark galvanization of Québec’s population around issues of immigration, and how immigration touches upon matters involving integration and accommodation.   In part, this galvanization has garnered unprecedented, historic support for “post-Alliance party” Conservatives in Québec — to the extent that they are for the first time leading in some polls of some regions in Québec, such as in Québec City.

The PQ has had a very difficult time attracting support over the past three years.  I have a hunch that PKP saw how the Conservatives were able to capitalize on immigration & integration issues (as well as related security issues) to gain support in Québec – and I’m almost lead to believe that PKP is trying his hand at the same antics.

If this truly is part of his strategy, of course it is not without risk to PKP (and I’m sure he would be aware of that).  Having one’s remarks labelled in the same breath as those of Parizeau’s 1995 remarks comes with the risk of a heavy political price.  But unlike Parizeau’s remarks which we pronounced on a stage at the “end” of a highly emotional political process, PKP’s remarks came during a time when “other coincidental public debate” on related issues could provide him with a wider, more receptive audience towards yesterday’s remarks.  In addition, unlike Parizeau’s remarks which went down in the history books as “closing” remarks at the “end” of the referendum process, PKP’s remarks yesterday are coming at the “beginning” of several political processes which will be debated for quite some time (such as the PQ’s leadership race, the 2015 Federal election, the 2018 provincial election, and a possible future referendum).

For a couple of reasons, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that his remarks are coming at the “beginning” of a whole set of political events (rather than at the end).  In Canadian & Québec politics, the longer the time-frame that issues are debated, and the more certain issues are debated, the more our population has a tendency to become “numb” towards what is being debated.  Parizeau’s remarks did not come at a time when sovereignty was still being debated (the debate was finished) — and thus the population did not have the opportunity to become “numb” towards them, or to “rally” around them as part of a campaign.   Perhaps PKP is hoping the population, over time, will become “numb” towards the controversial aspects of his words, and that he may eventually succeed in rallying a segment of the population which perhaps would have otherwise lent its support to other parties (or did in fact lend its support to other parties in the last provincial election).

Perhaps PKP is willing to risk a few weeks of “uproar”, believing that criticism of his statements may eventually die down at some point — and in the meantime he may be hoping to pick up some of the same support that the Conservatives have managed to garner.

I’m sure there are people who agree with PKP, but to what extent they may be close to (or far from) a majority (even within the Parti Québécois) is a whole other question.

I suppose only time will tell.


Update 2015-03-20, 18:00pm:  This is quickly becoming a very fluid topic.  As of this evening (26 hours after first making his statements), it is being reported that PKP has apologized.   I’m going to try to catch 24/60 in a few minutes to find out what is happening.

Public condemnation of PKP has been swift, hard, and virulent from the full range of the political spectrum, from friend and foe alike (even from some of his closest allies).   It is rare to see such across-the-board condemnation of a Canadian political figure (at least without them resigning – which he likely will not).    If you wish to read the full-range of condemnations he has attracted, you can view them here in the Radio-Canada article, PKP présente ses excuses. (sorry, no time to translate the article — but “google translate” works great!).

Regardless, I’m not sure what is going to hurt him more; having made the above statements in the first place, or having retracted them and now coming across as completely incoherent and incompetent, especially as the aspiring head of a major political party.

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Update 20:00pm:  Evening news & talk shows, their guests (from all political streams) and the windows they’re giving into the public’s perception is unanimous condemnation of PKP’s statements.  People are still questioning whether his apology is sincere or not, or if it is a mere reflex after he realized it did not have the desired effect (he was sure sticking by his remarks earlier in the day).   But frankly, at this point, I don’t care.   What matters the most is that Québec, as one society, has dropped all political labels to says with one voice that this is not acceptable.  That’s worth more than anything else – and really sums up what we’re all about as a society, in Québec and coast-to-coast across Canada!

———————

Update 20:30pm:  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering how PKP’s own television network, TVA, covered this story today (considering it was the top news event on every other network, on the radio, and in the newspapers), well, TVA’s main evening newscast in Québec City, the capital city of Québec (Le TVA Nouvelles 18h de Québec) buried it behind 7 other stories in their major evening news broadcast, behind

  1. A funding story about a skating rink in Québec City,
  2. A union dispute at Olymel,
  3. A loud city counsel session in a small city near Québec City,
  4. A court case regarding students who want to attend university when other students are striking,
  5. A story about an ex-juge convicted of murder three years ago and who is now appealing,
  6. A story about Québec City’s airport terminal expansion

And PKP and the PQ want to have us believe there is no conflict of interest between his position as a politician and that of a media mogul.  I just shake my head.   As we say… “mon oeil!”

And on top of it, TVA was the only network which did NOT broadcast video of his apology.  They only broadcast a short, face-paced clip of him saying “It was only my intention to say that we need to act faster than taking 25 years”.   I can tell you one thing, if this is the tone they’re setting for themselves in front of the public, things ain’t gonna go very far for ’em.   Unbelievable… absolutely unreal.

———————

ADDENDUM 2014-03-15:  Radio-Canada knocks down PKP’s argument (bluntly saying PKP was wrong) that the Federal government is responsible for what PKP perceives to be Québec’s immigration woes (I’m still shaking my head with it buried in my hands after what he said yesterday).

Here’s Radio-Canada’s article:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/politique/2015/03/19/005-parti-quebecois-pkp-peladeau-immigrants-vote.shtml

It basically says the same thing that I said above with respect to how immigrants are chosen (by Québec, for Québec).   They go a bit further by stating that

  • Ottawa takes Québec’s advice into consideration when deciding immigration numbers
  • Québec looks after integrating and allowing immigrants to learn French
  • That Ottawa gives Québec $320 million annual for the above integration and “Frenchisization” process.

ADDENDUM 2015-05-19

It has been over two months since PKP has made the above statements.   Four days ago he became the head of the PQ.  There has been no more talk of the subject since the statements were made last March.

I’m left wondering:

  1. if this means the PQ believed the initial virulent reaction to the statements were so strong that it remains too dangerous to evoke the immigration card any further?
  2. if this means that the PQ continues to let Québec’s population quietly ponder the who question of immigration? (after all, the seed was planted, but will it sprout into something in favour of PKP’s initial arguments at a later time?).  Like I said earlier, Canada’s and Québec’s population often changes their minds on issues of a social and societal nature if slowly eased into the idea (we’ve seen this many times over the past 50 years… think of how many subjects used to be taboo in the past, but are no longer taboo now).   Far-right wing parties in Europe have played their immigration cards in this way.
  3. if PKP may try to reinvoke this same argument in the run-up to the 2018 election, but in a re-packaged format – perhaps in a different format?   He perhaps may try to invoke an “immigration crisis” on another issue.   Perhaps he will try to make an argument that temporary foreign workers are taking jobs (the Couillard government has been bucking Ottawa’s bid to quell temporary foreign worker numbers).  Perhaps he will try to invoke an argument that massive immigrant investment in the real-estate sector is driving up prices.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…  Regardless, such arguments (even if incorrect) have the potential to diminish public appetite towards immigration.  I would hedge my bets that we’ll see something of the making of this 3rd point in the run-up to the 2018 election.   But as always, who knows.  Only time will tell.

Patrick Huard (#212)

Two nights ago, Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy cleaned house, yet again.  This time it was an arm-full of trophes at Montréwood’s Jutra awards.

The 2nd most important back-up actor in the film was Patrick Huard.

Regarding Montréwood cinéma, we often say if you want to know what film is worth watching (ie: what constitutes a “good” film), then follow the “director”.  Conversely, in Hollywood, more often than not it tends to be the reverse; people in Hollywood say you should follow the “actor” to find the “good” movies.

One major exception to the Québéc/Montréwood rule of following the “director” is in the case of the superstar actor, Patrick Huard.   In Huard’s case, if you follow the actor (just as you would in Hollywood), you are bound to find the best films.

With a few exceptions, if you look at the biggest of the big Montréwood films from the mid 1990s to present, Patrick Huard has held either a leading acting role, or a major back-up role.

I’ve never personally seen Huard walk down the streets in Québec, but I can only imagine he would be pounced upon from all directions by adoring fans looking for autographs.

Some of the more notable, very successful Montréwood films he has appeared in were:

  • Les Boys (1, 2 & 3) – all of which were among the highest grossing, and most viewed films in Canadian history
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop – (Patrick Huard was the main actor)… the highest or second highest grossing film in Canadian history when it came out in 2006
  • Starbuck
  • Mommy
  • Omerta

The above films have gone down in the Montréwood, Québec and Canadian history books.  I think it’s fair to say that so has Patrick Huard.

If you want to hear a half-hour conversation between Patrick Huard and his co-star in Mommy, Anne Dorval, you can hear it on Radio-Canada’s radio program, L’autre jour à la table d’à côté” (“The Other Day at the Table Beside Us…”).  Click HERE for the program on Radio-Canada’s official website.

Check out some of his work… I think you’ll be impressed.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop – ENGLISH TRAILER (the film was 50/50 French-English)

Starbuck – SUBTITLED English Trailer

Omertà – (Also starring Céline Dion’s husband, René Angélil)

Mommy Trailer: