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I may miss a couple of days of posts… had to drive to Montreal and Québec City for work meetings. For those of you who are not from Canada (or even Eastern Canada), winter blizzards when driving can be interesting…
But I made it, so lets get into this next post…
If you go back to the first post in this series, “Our roots… “Qui êtes-vous?”, you’ll recall a major part of the idea is that modern Québécois roots are from everywhere – and this notion definitely comes through with a name like McQuade.
Pénélope McQuade has a popular evening television talk show named after her – simply named “Pénélope McQuade”, which airs on Radio-Canada . It has been on the air since 2011, and for the average person, she is likely most associated with her talk show. She interviews famous personalities (many of the subjects of my blog posts to date have been guests on her program at one point or another), and she relates their appearances to trending topics of the day. In that sense, McQuade incarnates pop-culture. However, her public career started many years before she became one of the Queens of late night talk.
Much of her career was spent on TVA’s television network. In the 1990s, she was a host in popular TV shows such as Automag Plus, Salut Bonjour (TVA’s morning news and talk program), and Star Système (sort of like Montréwood’s equivalent of “E” or “Entertainment Tonight” in English Canada). She also had prominent host positions on some of the highest rated hit-music radio stations in Montréal, such as Rythme FM, NRJ, and Rock Détente.
Even though McQuade was born in Québec City, she spent part of her childhood growing up in Toronto. Her father, a relatively well known Francophone reporter for Radio-Canada was one of the network’s reporters for the French component of the network in Ontario.
Something that always strikes me is that even though she’s 44, McQuade looks more like 34 (I think most people are surprised to learn she is not much younger).
In the show “Qui êtes-vous?”, Pénélopé McQuade traced her family roots to Ireland, and physically travelled to both New Brunswick and Ireland in her quest. She learned that certain branches of her family were some of the earlier colonialists of New France, but that the women at the time were practically slaves to their husbands (an emotional discovery for McQuade). One of her great grandfathers won a Stanley Cup, and another ancestor was an Irish immigrant to St. John, New Brunswick.
The official website for her evening talk show can be viewed at: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/penelope_mcquade/2014/
The Sugar Sammy post which I wrote more than a week ago has garnered some of the highest viewership of all the posts I’ve written. It took me a little by surprise. The interest probably stems from a desire to better understand on-the-ground issues and how those issues are communicated when opinions come into play.
I think the interest generated in that post also shows there a significant segment of Anglophone Canada which cares about what is happening in Québec and what people in Québec are feeling towards issues.
How opinions are publicly communicated in Québec is a little complicated and different than in the rest of Canada. I’ll use this post to lay a bit of groundwork upon which I can build later posts when discussing the above matters in more in depth. So let’s dive into it…
When we use the word “opinion-maker” (in French, faiseur d’opinion), in the widest context it includes anyone who uses a public platform with which to try to influence public opinion. In Anglophone Canada, when we hear this word, our thoughts most quickly turn towards politicians.
However, in Québec, it becomes a bit more complicated – this is one of the least-understood aspects of Québec society on the part of Anglophone Canada, but one of the most important and influential aspects of Québec society. There is an entire media industry which employs and works in synergy with a group of “independent” opinion makers (independent in the sense that they express individual opinions, rather than corporate opinions). Most often they take the form of
- editors (through editorials),
- bloggers who are financially supported and publicized by the media industry
- personal opinion television programs, their hosts and their regular signed guests
- radio programs, their hosts and their regular signed guests.
When I refer to opinion-makers in this post, I am referring to those described above (to the exclusion of current sitting politicians, and regular news programs and journalists).
Anglophone Canada also has columnists, editorials, and opinion radio programs. There are similarities between these Anglophone and Francophone opinion-makers in the sense that those who are featured on TV & Radio tend to garner more attention (such as Tasha Kheirridin, Ezra Levant, Rex Murphy, Dave Rutherford and John Gormley in English Canada, or Richard Martineau, Guy A. Lepage, Benoît Dutrizac, and Marie-France Bazzo in Québec). But in many ways, that is where the similarities end.
In Anglophone Canada, these types of opinion-makers are known much more in a regional context than a national context (such as Adam Radwanski better known in Ontario for his political columns, Haroon Siddiqui better known in Toronto through the Toronto Star, and Licia Corbella being better known in Calgary through the Calgary Herald, and so on). And those opinion-marker outlets which do have a wider reach (such as Sun News TV) generally have very low viewer ratings, in fact some of the lowest ratings in Canadian broadcasting.
But in Québec, there are some major differences from Anglophone opinion-makers:
- the reach of Francophone opinion-makers is province-wide,
- they are much more concentrated,
- they are much more visible (the public in Québec can name opinion-maker individuals much more readily, whereas average Anglophone Canadians are often hard-pressed to name 3 or 4 opinion-makers who would be known to all Anglophone Canadians, irrespective of their region),
- In Québec, opinion-makers have higher audience numbers.
- One of the biggest differences between such Anglophone and Francophone opinion-makers is that in Québec, the same personalities are regularly circulated between numerous TV and radio interview, opinion and news programs. They also provide cross-print opinions (meaning their opinon pieces may be published in more than one newspaper). This contributes to the public being more familiar with them.
- Québec opinion-makers are often former newsmakers and activists (example: Martine Desjardins), politicians (examples: Nathalie Normandeau, Jacques Brassard or Gilles Duceppe), business people with influence (example: Jean-Marc Léger), moonlighting reporters (examples: Marie-France Bazzo, Francine Pelletier), and former television hosts (example: Denise Bombardier) – which gives them an added degree of notoriety and attention.
If you really want to understand the issues – and you truly want to understand what opinions and views are being projected to Québec’s public on a mass scale on almost every topic, then it’s important to know who these opinion makers are (in a general sense), and what relationship-networks they operate in. It’s also important to understand individual opinion-makers’ overall personal views (after all, they convey their personal views, as well as their societal and political objectives when they discuss individual topics of the day).
You might recall in the post entitled “Evening News Programs”, I mentioned that the internet age has made it so the major networks and news industry (including newspapers) have had to redefine themselves to remain relevant. To remain relevant, the media industry has maintained public interest by greatly supplementing their news with analysis and commentaries (by opinon-makers). This has reinforced the star-appeal Québec’s opinion-makers have in society, and the public attention they garner.
For the sake of ratings, it’s in the interest of the television networks and newspapers to promote the star-power of these people, or attract already existing star opinion-makers: Guy A. Lepage in Radio-Canada’s “Tout le monde en parle”, Marie-France Bazzo in Télé-Québec’s “Bazzo.tv”, Richard Martineau in LCN’s “Richard Martineau”, Le Journal de Montréal’s star columnists like Martine Desjardin, Le Devoir’s star columnists like Lise Payette, La Presse’s start columnists like Patrick Lagacé, etc. etc. And then there are the radio stations which have their own start-studded programs, such as Radio-X’s run-away ratings morning show with Jérôme Landry and Denis Gravel, Radio 9 with star radio host Dominic Maurais, 98,5 with stars such as Pierre Curzi and Jean Lapierre, and 93FM with Nathalie Normandeau. If you want sparks, sensationalism, and ratings, you make sure you have people like this on the air and in print – and then sit back and watch the $$$ come in. This is how the networks and papers are distinguishing themselves from one another and remaining relevant in the age when their audiences could otherwise turn to other entertainment and news venues with the click of a mouse.
The popularity of these opinion-makers has some additional spin-off side-effects, which further amplifies Québec’s opinion-maker voices in the internet age. Some of these effects are as follows:
- As one network or newspaper gets a leg-up over another, the competition feels they’re being outdone and they then seek to attract an even greater number of star personalities. Personalities with more vocal and entrenched views are the ones who often attract the most attention – and thus you see the makings of a larger, very vocal, very militant opinion-maker line-up with hard-line political opinions.
Below is a chart showing Québec’s most prominent opinion-makers, classified by media venue. I colour-coded it to denote how prominent and well known the personalities in question are to the general public. Those in red are the best known personalities across all segments of society. Those in green are fairly well-known, and those in white still have a relatively strong and opinionated voice in the public sphere (otherwise they wouldn’t be hired).
- This next graph is very interesting (and perhaps the most telling). It maps some of the interconnected networks. I’ve taken 22 of some of the best known opinion-maker personalities (columnists, opinion TV show hosts, radio-show hosts, regular TV and radio guest commentators), and mapped where they are most often seen and read. This list is not exhaustive, which is why I included another box on the far right and left sides stating these same people are also seen in other media venues (which may be various shows, magazines, conferences, etc.). If it looks complex, it’s because it is… but the point isn’t to understand all the connections, but rather to be able to see that Québec’s opinion-makers are very interconnected on many levels. Click the diagram to enlarge.
- I’m mentioning this Sovereignist / Federalist ratio because these statistics are pretty much in line with the overall opinion-maker ratio on the excel document. In light of Québec polls pegging sovereignty support at around 35% (rarely having exceeded 40% in the past 20 years), why would most opinion-makers be sovereignist? There may be a few reasons. But rather than speculating on what many of the reasons may be, I will say that one of the reasons is probably because Sovereignist opinion-makers can be much more vocally passionate about their convictions, and thus tend to find a place on the public stage much easier. This passion also makes for great ratings for those who employ them.
What I find troubling, however, is that because there is such a high concentration of Sovereignist opinion-makers, it risks disproportionately influencing public opinion.
- As you can imagine from the graph denoting the interconnectedness of opinion-makers, it is very difficult in Québec to turn on any media source and not see, hear or read at least one of the major opinion-maker personalities in a given day (perhaps several personalities in the same day). Little by little, over time, their opinions are bound to have an effect on peoples attitudes towards issues (be it sovereignty, legislation, economics, provincial budgets, federal, provincial, and municipal politics, left vs. centre vs. right viewpoints, how people view their place in the world, etc.).
One thing you may have noticed is that Radio-Canada and TVA both have relatively few opinion-maker programs and personalities listed in the excel document.
One major opinion-maker program which Radio-Canada does have is Tout le monde en parle. This also happens to be the highest rated TV program in Québec. But on balance, Radio-Canada does a very good job of balancing view points and not tending to be very political. I’ve also noticed a positive difference in the last several years in the amount of coverage they accord to the rest of Canada, as well as a greater presence on the web (a very good presence on the web in fact). In light of the cuts they have gone through over the past 20 year, my hat truly goes off to Radio-Canada for a job well done.
TVA’s main network also has a program line-up which does not lean heavily on opinion-maker programs However, their pan-Canadian coverage is not very good (it is a very Québec-centric network), but it’s a Québecor private network, and that is how it is was set up. It is what it is. That being said, I can easily argue that much of Anglophone Canadian television often ignores things East of Ottawa (there is often very little coverage in Anglophone Canada of events on the ground in Francophone Québec – especially from a cultural and day-to-day living point of view). Thus, TVA is far from being the only guilty party in this realm. I even hear people in the Anglophone regions of the Atlantic Provinces complain that they’re given little media coverage in the rest of Anglophone Canada.
I can offer you a concrete example of where opinion-maker programming risks unjustly influencing public opinions. This risk is greater in the case of programs with higher ratings or where personalities are regularly recycled through interconnected media venues. In my view, the following example embodies the risks a lop-sided and/or biased opinion-maker industry can have when it creates an element of spin, angling, persuasion through omission (ie: by omitting the other side of the coin or by not providing opposing or more rounded views), etc. It basically is an example of “the politics of opinion”. Here’s the example…
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To set the scene, Richard Martineau is one of Québec’s best known opinion makers. He is a very well known columnist, blogger, he has his own opinion TV show on Québecor’s LCN 24-hour news TV network, he is a frequent commentary guest on radio stations, and he is often sought as a guest commentator on many other programs. He’s recognizable to most people in Québec. His views and thoughts are also well thought out. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t, but he’s always able to professionally rationalize his thoughts – which I respect, and I think most people in Québec respect him for the same reasons as me.
In 2006, he was interviewed on Tout le monde en parle. Up until that point it was unclear if he was Sovereignist or Federalist. But during his Tout le monde en parle interview, he was asked point-blank if he is for or against sovereignty. Back in 2006, there was a lot of discussion on how best to integrate and deal with immigrant cultural differences in Québec society (whereas Canada has a federal multicultural official policy and legislation, Québec has an official provincial integration policy and legislation – which is sometimes as odds with Federal official policy). There was a Québec government commission relating to this question – so keep this context in mind as you read on. Here is a translated synopse of Tout le monde en parle’s 2006 question and Martineau’s response:
Question, Guy A. Lepage :
- Are you for or against Sovereignty for Québec?
Response, Richard Martineau :
- (Long hesitation…). I would say… listen, honestly, I’ve been asking myself this question for 20 years. But I think I’m representative of Québec, and I’m extremely divided on this point myself. But during this time [ie: in light of the immigrant commission], I would say that with everything going on regarding “reasonable accomodations”, and amongst others, I find that the Canadian Charter of Rights, and that Canadian multiculturalism is not the right response [to the questions Québec is facing right now]. So, the way to protect Québec values and to affirm them maybe would be, perhaps, to separate, and to have all the tools available in our own tool chest.
Fair enough. I can live with this answer. It was well thought out, it was not aggressive, it was not extremist, and it was reasonable in Martineau’s mind. Martineau is a pretty open, level-headed guy, and it would be easy to have a discussion with him. I would have given a different answer myself, but Martineau obviously was a torn guy on the issue and had given it profound thought. I respect that. His response still had an element of nuance to it, and I kind of felt bad that it was an issue he was struggling with.
Fast forward now by six year, to September, 2013.
Bazzo.tv is one of Télé-Québec’s two most popular programs (the other being Les Francs-Tireurs, the subject of an earlier post). Both are opinion-maker programs, and Bazzo.tv can be very political. It’s guests are often pro-sovereignty, and its host, Marie-France Bazzo has very entrenched political views – portrayed through her interview style and guest line-ups.
In September, 2013, Bazzo had a segment on her show asking if Québec does or does not have a good image in the eyes of people outside Québec. You can view the entirety of the segment on Télé-Québec’s website here (in French): http://video.telequebec.tv/shadowbox/?fn=1176&tc=5&src=2&sec=1
Marie-France Bazzo Invited Barbara Kay, a columnist from the National Post, to present Anglophone Canada’s views on Québec.
Generally, across Canada, Barbara Kay is not well known. If you were to ask anybody on the street who she is, in any given part of the country – I will bet you that the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians, coast-to-coast, would not know who she is. After seeing this Bazzo.tv interview in 2013, I asked a good number of people if they ever heard of her, and I have yet to find one person who can tell me who Barbara Kay is. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, and so the National Post gives her print-space (keep in mind, that even though the National Post is a newspaper with national distribution, as is the Globe & Mail, these two papers routinely lose out in readership numbers because Anglophones spread across such as vast country would much rather pay for a local paper than a “national” paper from Toronto – it’s a fact with the published readership numbers out there for you to see yourself).
So, with that context behind us, Barbara Kay was to explain on Bazzo.tv how English Canada viewed Québec, as well as English Canada’s views on the Parti Québécois’ proposed Charte des values (Charter of values) – a charter which was to increase the secularism of the state by disallowing overly religious symbols to be worn by provincial civil servants.
As I describe to you the following events, keep in mind that this program was being watched live by viewers across Québec. Also, try to put yourself in the shoes of viewers, as if someone from another part of Canada was talking about you and your province. What would you feel? What would you think? Now, let’s continue…
In the segment’s introduction, the host, Marie-France Bazzo, stated that from BC to Newfoundland, critics were “bashing the Québec nation” for proposing the Charter. She said it “was not the first time Canada pounded Québec: the referendums, bill 101, corruption, and “pastagate” were targeted by the Anglophone media”. She then went on to state that Québec’s student and cree nation protests caught the world’s attention. But despite these negative views, there is an opposite, better image of Québec in the world – Québec’s Latin blood, fine dining and Montréal’s night life are the envy of the world. Bazzo stated Québec’s artistic industry is also well known. She concluded her introduction by asking “Does Québec have reason to believe it has a good image?”
With this question, the discussion then began. The guests were Barbara Kay (columnist at the National Post), Richard Martineau (mentioned above), Guy Lachapelle (Political science professor at Concordia University), Josée Boileau (Editor at Le Devoir newspaper), and Paul St-Pierre (Lawyer, political activist).
Barbara Kay, invited as the “spokesperson” to give Canada’s views, began by stating the following (the following is a translated synopsis of what you will see in the above video link in French):
- Québec has a bad image, and Canada considers Québec and the government of Québec “the laughing stock (la risée) of the world. She then stated, “…and absolutely the laughing stock of Canada”. Bazzo took her word at face value – with no challenge to it.
- Kay continued by stating Québec’s image, within the rest of Canada, is that Québec’s recent “plans” (regarding secularization) make it so Montréal is suffering economically, that Québec is too preoccupied with culture, language – and that Montréal just keeps going downhill.
- Kay said her own Editorial team (at the National Post) did two articles on Québec stating the people of Québec are better than Québec’s government.
- During these statements, you could see Richard Martineau’s face drop. He looked less than pleased, and hurt. Kay’s last comment lead to Martineau’s emotional response “We voted for them. They weren’t imposed on us.” In response to Martineau, Kay repeated “The government of Québec is the laughing stock of the world.” (Almost as if she were egging him on, and almost as if there was little regard for sensitivities for the topics being discussed or respect for who the audience was. Kay was to represent English Canada’s views, but she quickly made me feel she was twisting things for her own agenda and this went way too far – and that Bazzo was giving her this forum knowing full-well the type of things Kay would say).
- Marie-France Bazzo then stated to Barbara Kay, “In 2006, you called us ‘Québecistan’ because so many people were sympathizing with the plight of the Palestinian people. It looks like you people (Anglophone Canadians) have been doing a lot of Québec-bashing”. To this Kay responded, “No No, It was a ‘bashing’ of your leaders”. Kay tried to justify her words by saying Québec leaders should not support terrorists because no other Canadian leaders support terrorists. Kay then stated “And I am right!”. (I was in disbelief… Kay was calling Palestinians terrorists? And then trying to associate that to Québec’s government somehow?)
- Bazzo asked “Who then is at fault for this bad image of Québec in Canada? The economy? The Parti Québécois?” Kay answered “It’s the Parti Québécois – those people who are so obsessed with sovereignty, those who appeal to a sector which is also obsessed with sovereignty, and they are xenophobic and Anglophobic”.
- This last comment, accusing those with sovereignist beliefs of being xenophobic and Anglophobic really made the guests take offense. The guest were generally sovereignist — and Martineau was a “soft sovereignist”. But I can safely say, after having watched some of these guests over the years, I know they are not xenophobic, nor Anglophobic (I might disagree with them, but that does not mean these are bad people – and they are still our compatriots). Kay’s words went too far. They were insensitive and disproportionate. I know the guests have friends and family of all sorts of backgrounds. Kay had no right to paint everyone with the same brush like. Yes, the guests may have had sovereignist leanings, but to basically call them racists, and to do so in the name of Canada, was unacceptable. The other guests tried to defend themselves against Kay’s attack by stating that xenophobic and Anglophobic incidents in Québec are isolated incidents (which they are – just as such incidents are isolated in the rest of Canada). They told Kay she shouldn’t be painting everyone with the same brush.
- One of the guests, Paul St-Pierre, said that Québec didn’t criticize all of Ontario’s population along racist lines when Toronto was having economic woes or had issues surrounding its mayor, so it wasn’t fair that Québec as a whole should be receiving such accusations from English Canada (remember… Kay was invited to tell Québec what English Canada thought of Québec).
- By this point, you could see the anxiety and emotion (even pain) in the faces of the guest and the audience. It all began to fall apart and go downhill before our eyes, and before a province-wide television audience.
- Richard Martineau then jumped in and stated: “I’d like to thank you, Mrs. Kay, you and your colleagues from English Canada. My sovereignist feelings were dormant, they were weak, they were soft. But you just made them come alive! For the last month (I assume the time that Kay has been writing Québec-related articles in The National), I’ve been asking myself what are we going to do with this country, Canada, which is looking at us with so much disdain and so much condescension! (at this point the audience went wild with cheers and applause)… and this colonialist, colonialist reflex!”. (Kay just sat there and smiled). Martineau then continued by saying “The Parti Québecois created a trap, a hole, and all the English Canadian columnists just fell into it – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this.”
- Another guest, Guy Lachapelle, said that he believed the Charter proposal was to bring a higher degree of secularism to Québec, to try to end racism, and that Kay simply showed Canada’s racist side – he said that Canada thinks that everyone at Radio-Canada are all sovereignists (to which Marie-France Bazzo, who doubles as a Radio-Canada reporter, could be heard in the background saying “Uh huh” or “Yup” – I was surprised that she would intervene on air with her own affirmation to this statement, considering her links to Radio-Canada). Lachapelle then tried to bring some balance to the conversation by saying people have to be careful what they say, that there is freedom of expression in English Canada, but that people sometimes say things they shouldn’t. He said that as a professor at Concordia (an English university in Montréal), his students are from all over Canada, and they feel Québec’s reputation is good…
- But by this point Kay had caused emotions to run so high, that Martineau cut Lachapelle off and said, while pointing at Kay, “This is what English Canada thinks of Québec… Really, this is what English Canada thinks of Québec, and this is what’s interesting in this debate, because the masks have fallen.” By this point, my face must have had an expression of complete disbelief – watching Barbara Kay, someone purporting to speak for me, my family, my friends, my peers, my city, my province (Alberta), and all of Anglophone Canada – portray us in a horrible light, and turning mass audiences in Québec against us, on live TV. Martineau was a rational man, a man of great influence, and he was so vexed by Kay, that he openly declared a new-found die-hard sovereignist conviction to all of Québec — much much different than the nuanced one he declared six years earlier on Tout le monde en parle.
- Josée Boileau, editor at Le Devoir newspaper then jumped in saying that any time there’s a question of the Parti Québecois, Canadian columnists are all over Québec, attacking it. She then said even the Gazette (Montréal’s English newspaper) will come out with a nice article, but then at the end of the article they will say “but Québec people are really not nice people”. She said “You (English Canada), really must hate us.” (You can certainly see that emotions were running sky high from Kay’s provocation and very insensitive remarks… and Kay just sat there, and continued to laugh). You can see how this continued to unravel and just became plain emotional.
- Marie-France Bazzo said “One last question… are we Québécois too obsessed by what people think of us?” Kay again piped up and said “Yes you are… and it gives the image you’re a ‘little / insignificant’ people, obsessed by image.” This concluded the discussion, and Marie-France Bazzo thanked everyone with a smile.
Whoa!! (deep deep breath!).
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If you’re Anglophone, and you’re reading this from somewhere in Canada, I’m sure you find the above event as unrepresentative of Anglophone Canada, and as disconcerting as I did.
I have never seen Richard Martineau as upset as he was here – and can you blame him?
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but if I were on this show, and if I were facing everyone in this room, I would have voiced my opposition in four ways:
- I would have made it clear Canada does not consider Québec racist, nor have I ever heard regular people ever make the assertion that any whole region of our country, or of our own people are racists (Xenophobes and linguiphobes).
- I would have made it clear that columnists do not speak for the population as a whole. They seek ratings and accompanying $$$ through sensational opinions, but they are not to be confused for “us”, the people.
- I would have made it more than clear to Barbara Kay that she does not speak for us – Anglophone Canada; neither me, my family, my friends, my peers, my community, my province (Alberta or any other), or my linguistic group – period. She has no right, and her views are not representative of us – Anglophone Canadians.
- I would have made it perfectly clear to Marie-France Bazzo that it is not ok to invite someone like Kay to speak for all Anglophone Canada (at least not in that context) – it is not ok to hold that person up as an example of all of us. I would have also said that if she does host a guest like Kay, she should stand up and challenge such a person when they present incorrect views of what Canada thinks — especially considering who the other guests are to whom Kay is presenting her views. In this respect, I would have expressed my view that Marie-France Bazzo was just as wrong as Barbara Kay. Ratings or achieving political goals are sometimes not as important as the truth. There are questions of professionalism and ethics in the balance – and the stakes were high.
These are dangers that come with having a very concentrated group of opinion-makers. Sensitive topics can become quite exacerbated in such a setting. If the opinion-makers then take their experiences and views (such as those stemming from this sad experience above), and re-transmit them through their columns, guest appearances, and programs to a mass audience, there is a real risk of damage– of people being influenced by it. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people across Québec were influenced by this episode and by how Bazzo set this up.
It’s a very difficult situation – and I’m not sure what the answer is.
I suppose what I find the most disconcerting is that the rest of Canada has been shut out of such discussions. It’s a structural problem, more than anything. There are Federalist and pro-Canada personalities within the opinion-maker group, but they seem to be a minority, and they aren’t necessarily invited onto shows like Bazzo.tv.
Even though I see tremendous strides on the part of Anglophones across Canada, trying very hard to become bilingual and/or to understand and sympathize with the issues, I know that the average person who is making efforts in Sydney (Nova Scotia) or Thompson, (Manitoba) is not going to appear on Québec province-wide TV, and have the opportunity to stand up and say, “Look… look at what we’re trying to do… look how we’re trying to achieve a greater connection, and look how we want to understand” The structure and realities just won’t allow for it.
In a sense, it’s heartbreaking when you see many people make so many efforts and you see how far we’ve become as a society over the last 40 years, but yet a few individuals can sweep it all under the carpet in a heartbeat. It is disconcerting.
But on the whole, most of the opinion-makers in Québec are responsible, level-headed individuals (I grew up in Alberta watching many of them – and I have a lot of faith in a good number of them – even if they don’t share the same views). They may have a different opinion, but most take the time to research their point of view, and present their arguments in a logical fashion. Their opinions then become a reasonable viewpoint for discussion.
In the end though, I think most people in the public try to find reason in what is being presented to them. That’s one of the values which we share in Canada which transcend linguistic lines. From my own feelings on the ground, when people see things sometimes get a little out of hand (such as reactions to certain language politics which I explained in the Sugar Sammy post), I think people generally realize it’s not reflective of reality, and just tune it out — for the most part. But that doesn’t mean that damage still isn’t being done.
One thing I probably should have mentioned, because it does make a difference: There’s often a view in Québec that English Canada’s columnist and commentary industry is very “in tune” with, and closely followed by the English Canadian public at large (Québec’s columnist and commentary industry holds a large place in Québec’s media – so it’s assumed in Québec that the same situation exists in English Canada). However, this is generally not the case. As I mentioned above, Anglophone Canadians have a very difficult time naming even two or three English-language columnists who would be known across Canada (a situation very different from Québec’s columnist industry). Thus, Québec often gives disproportionate attention to “rogue” or “unrepresentative” Anglophone columnists — taking them face-value as being representative of Anglophone Canada’s views. This causes serious problems, as we can see from the above example.
The earlier blog post, No way, Le Figaro, also speaks a bit more about this phenomena, but in the context of Québecor’s Sun TV. It’s quite, sad, really – because it has the potential to do real damage (and it has done real damage in the past).