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Conditioning; The importance of gestures (#277)

In the last post, I discussed how “conditioning” can affect our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche – and more importantly, how, in a broad sense, it is not necessarily a bad thing.   In fact, in Canada’s unique context, owing to vast distances and numerous regional differences, “cultural conditioning” (ie: laying the foundations of cultural “expectations” with respect to how Canadian citizens interact with each other) strengthens to our national cohesiveness.

I ended the last post by saying that negative consequences can arise from conditioning if our upbringing has led us to be conditioned (ie: led to expect, or believe) that Canada’s reality is one thing, when in truth it is another — OR if we are only aware of part of the overall picture.

A word to Anglophones on the negative consequences which can arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning

In an Anglophone Canadian context, such negative consequences arise when Anglophones think of their country only in an Anglophone context.  This often leads to charges from Francophones that they are being ignored, misunderstood, or not accounted for in the overall context.   It goes without saying that such conditioning is not the best for national “cohesiveness”.

If you are Anglophone and if you have been following this blog for the last year, you are undoubtedly aware that many of my blog topics cover matters which many people are unaware of.  This is because many Anglophone Canadians (primarily unilingual Anglophone Canadians) have been conditioned (either by way of geographic regionalism / isolation, school, or silence in the media) into not realizing that there is a need to look beyond Anglophone culture to be able to view and understand Canada in its entirety.

It is an unfortunate reality, because frankly speaking, this “is” one the major reasons why Québec’s sovereignty movement exists.

Some of the things unilingual Anglophone Canadians may not be aware of (including unilingual individuals in Canada’s Anglophone media, political and education systems) – but which exacerbate the notion of Two Solitudes — have to do with

  • understanding Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone culture,
  • who is talking about what issues withing French Canada and Québec,
  • how those people’s views are valued and weighted within Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone society,
  • what Québec’s primary societal values are and what weight is accorded to those values,
  • what discussions may be different in Québec than in English Canada,
  • what actions in the rest of Canada can lead to Québec’s collective sense of alienation from the rest of Canada, and finally,
  • what simple things can be done in the rest of Canada to make Francophone Québécois feel more valued, better understood and a more complete part of Canadian society — just as an Anglophone would feel in any part of Anglophone Canada.

I have always said that we need to avoid a situation in which Anglophone Canadians feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in 80% of their country, but in which Francophones can feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in only 20% of their country.  I truly do not believe we are at this stage (yet)… but many people in Québec have been conditioned to believe we are at this stage.   Once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

I can give you a perfect example of this latter statement.   I have a Francophone friend (originally from Québec) who lives in a small town in Ontario.  He feels that he has been mistreated by a few Anglophones owing to a cultural misunderstanding.  Ever since then, I get the impression he has been “actively” on the lookout for repeated patterns owing to this prior and unfortunate conditioning.   Invariably, any time I talk to him, he always seems to have found a new story of “mistreatment at the hands of Anglophones” to tell me about — despite the fact that I think he is finding issues where issues do not exist.  I’ve been repeatedly pointing out to him that I see other people around him — especially Anglophones — who are experiencing the same things that he is in this smaller community.  I’ve been trying to point out that it is not a Francophone/Anglophone issue, and he just ran into a few bad apples.  But owing to the conditioning stemming from these few experiences, I’m having a tough time getting this point through to him.  His conditioning, owing to these few experiences, has tainted his view and now he believes the issues are deliberate, targeted against him as a Francophone, and it has made him quite unhappy.

Likewise, I have a good Anglophone friend in Montréal who I have known for almost 15 years.  He moved to Montréal four years ago from another part of Canada, before which he immigrated to Canada several years back.  During his first two years in Montréal, he worked in a hostile work environment.   It is important to make the distinction that work environment was Francophone and hostile — not hostile because is was Francophone.  My friend was hired into an English-only high-technology position for which the company could not find Francophones to fill the position    Yet, because my friend was new to Montréal, and because he did not speak French, he was came to the conclusion that he was being harassed because he could not speak English.  As someone looking from the outside in, I could see that he worked in such a toxic workplace that he would have been harassed regardless if he was Francophone or Anglophone.  But his experiences conditioned him into believing the harassment was owing to the fact that he was Anglophone.  His conditioning led him to become so bitter that he refused to learn French out of pure spite.  Needless to say, it is not the most pleasant experience to visit him in Montréal, and I’m actually at the point of urging him to leave Montréal (and Québec) — not only for his own sanity, but for the sanity of those around him (I can see that Francophones around him are now incorrectly holding him up as an incorrect example of what Anglophones are like… It’s just not a good situation all around.  I’m actually surprised to see how it spiraled out of control).

I find it very interesting how both of the two friends above (one Francophone, one Anglophone) believe they are being mistreated at the “hands of the other linguistic group”.  Yet, from the outside looking in, I can see that it is not the case and that these two friends have simply become overly sensitive.   I would love to bring them together to share their experiences and compare notes — precisely so they could see that their emotions are skewing reality (and I might some day).  However, their “conditioning”, which is based on traumatic events, has led them to actively search for reasons to believe that everyone in a particular language group has it out for them.  So they can see that their view of reality is incomplete and skewed, I’m trying to get them both involved in their communities more — to do volunteer work, to join a sports team, or to find a club of people with similar interests.  But it is an uphill battle… especially when emotions are running high.  This is a very poignant example of negative conditioning.

Like I said earlier, once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true.   The sovereignty movement would not exist if a critical mass of people did not have these types of conditioned sentiments, regardless if I or you believe such sentiments are baseless or not.  You can argue facts, but it is impossible to argue emotions.  Thus it is impossible to tell someone their emotions are “wrong”.

That is why gestures are so important.   Gestures and overtures are what influence emotions.

A word to Francophones on the negative consequences which arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning

This leads me to the next point…

Likewise, in a Francophone Québec context, negative consequences can arise when conditioning prevents Francophones from being aware of the realities, context, changes, evolution and nuances of what is happening elsewhere in Canada.   This often results in many Québécois unnecessarily (and often unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally) erecting emotional walls between themselves and the rest of Canada.

It is unfortunate when this occurs, because it can often be based on inaccurate pretexts and preconceptions (false “conditioning”).  It leads to a sense of being more and more detached from the rest of Canada.  The problem is that this sense of isolation is as much to do with (or even more to do with) Québec’s own “wall building” as it is with any unilingual Canadian’s disconnect from Francophone culture.

This blog is primarily for Anglophone Canadians.   But I am told that more and more Francophones have been reading it over the last several months.  If you are Francophone, and you have been following this blog over the past year, you perhaps have become aware of various things about the rest of Canada you were not aware of (things not mentioned in school, in Francophone media, and certainly not by politicians and interest groups interested who seek to score political points by way of playing the nationalist card).

Perhaps some of the things you have probably learned are that there are quite vibrant underpinnings of Francophone society outside Québec and across Canada.  They are vibrant because they continue to evolve and adapt to a changing world.   Francophone society across Canada is increasingly shifting to the online digital world (making it so that a Francophone’s community is available at the touch of a button in any village, town or city across Canada).

Francophone society across Canada is indeed seeing proportional challenges arising from increased Anglophone immigration, but Francophones have been adapting.  In many cases, Francophone immigration is breathing new life into areas where Francophone society was struggling only 20 years ago (Southern Alberta and the Edmonton area are prime examples of regions where Francophone communities have grown by large numbers over the past 15 years owing to international and inter-provincial immigration).

You perhaps have learned from this blog that Francophone society in other regions of Canada comes in many different sizes, colours, and accents – different from one province to another.  You have read how Francophones are working with their local governments (provincial and municipal) to build infrastructure and greater service networks within their communities and across the country (including schools, universities, health and other government services).

One of the more poignant things you perhaps have learned from this blog is the tremendous change in openness which is occurring on the part of millions of Anglophones towards Canada’s French fact.   I have been citing many of my own observations, experiences, as well as many statistics on this topic.  One such example is Canada’s immersion program — a truly ground-breaking program by any global measure.   Other countries are now looking at Anglophone Canada’s grass-roots immersion movement which is transforming a nation.   In absolute numbers, bilingualism is on the uptick and it is “sensitizing” politicians, governments, and the Canadian population as a whole.   Changes are being made across the country.  Courts are recognizing these changes and are providing extra “nudges” in areas where there has been some “slacking off”.   If “conditioning” were to come in the form of a reset button, it is an understatement to say that more than a few Anglophones have pressed it in the past two decades.

In the next post we will look at the “modern” historical context which has shaped much of our current conditioning.



“Conditioning”: and its affect on our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche (#276)

In the last post we looked at what conditioning is, and how it can affect how people relate to one another in various contexts.

In this post, we’ll look at how conditioning plays a role in Canada’s own national and cultural story.

Human conditioning affects how we view the world and others around us.  In the case of the Two Solitudes, if affects how we relate to our own country, and view our country.   It can have the unfortunate effect of giving us (Anglophones or Francophones) only part of the picture – an incomplete picture.  It often results in us making decisions with respect to our societal interactions which do not necessarily take our entire national context into consideration.

Breaking the cycle of the negative side of conditioning is extremely difficult, but very necessary if we’re going to break the cycle of the Two Solitudes.  I do not believe anyone holds any expectations that the wall which forms the Two Solitudes can simply crumble with one big strike of a hammer.  However, breaking it down – little-by-little, one brick at time – is possible, and it is happening on many fronts.

There are signs we have been moving in this direction for quite some time (with Canada’s immersion programs, readily available information from the internet age, various provincial government initiatives across Canada, and others).  But there is still a very long way to go.

Media and pop-culture platforms as major factors of personal conditioning

Due to the vast geographic nature of Canada, it would be unrealistic for most Canadians to break the constraints of conditioning through physical exposure alone.

One cannot expect an Anglophone mother from Yellowknife (NWT) to spent three months in Victoriaville, Québec to learn about certain pillars of Francophone culture.

One cannot expect a Francophone high school graduate from Rivière-du-Loup (Qc), who is about to enter a very intense university program in journalism, to spend three months in Saskatoon to learn about pillars of Anglophone culture.

That’s not to say these things couldn’t happen, but reality and statistics simply tell us that in the vast majority of cases, such physical exchanges do not occur.   The country is just too big, personal finances are always a factor, and everyone has their own lives to worry about (let alone having to worry about a different linguistic group’s cultural tid-bits, especially when the nuances can take a lifetime of exposure to fully understand).

Thus, in a country like Canada, media and pop-culture platforms become our major (and often only) possibilities to break the cycle of unilingual cultural conditioning.  Therefore, media and pop-culture platforms are most Canadian’s only major tool with which to begin to tear down the Two Solitudes.

Owing to the sheer size of Canada, for Anglophones, it is our media and pop-culture platforms which more-often-than-not give a sense of “one-country” and of a united “Anglophone Canadian culture”.   The following are some very simple examples.

Without media or pop-culture platforms:

  • a person from Quesnel, BC would have never known Shania Twain (from Timmins, ON) or any other such singer which promotes our Canadian styles of country music.
  • those with an interest in Canadian history in Cornerbrook (NL), or Thunder Bay (ON) may have never known the late Pierre Burton (who regularly appeared on television) and how he taught two generations of Canadians about our nation-building history.
  • a whole generation of children across the country would not have known The Friendly Giant, Pokadot Door, or Mr. Dress-up (which remains a bonding point of reference of a 20 year spread of Canadians who are now in their late 20s to late 40s).  On this point, I can remember children’s programs I used to watch in BC and Alberta which were often filmed around the unique “Toronto-styled” brick-faced “corner stores” (the type with all the flowers sold outside the doorstep in older Toronto neighbourhoods).  Thus, even though I had never set foot in Toronto until I was 20, in my mind these corner stores were already a familiar part of “my” culture, even before I ever first saw my first “Toronto-style” corner store in person.
  • people from coast to coast would not have known David Suzuki, issues he champions, and matters he has brought to the fore through his television programs and radio appearances over the past 40 years (all of which have helped to shape our collective psyche on the environmental front).

I could write a book of such examples.  Little-by-little all of these have added to a sense of our collective national psyche… to a sense of Anglophone Canadians being able to share the same experiences and reference points — be it with our neighbour, our employer, our politicians, or our compatriots on the other end of the country.

Just the other day here in Toronto, I (from Alberta) had a conversation with my secretary (from Nova Scotia), and an acquaintance from Toronto.  The conversation made numerous references to things we used to do as kids – and much of it had to do with points of reference we all experienced from shows we saw on television, songs we used to sing as kids, or other matters conveyed to us as kids through Canadian media.   The experiences we were referring to were uniquely Canadian, and involved having acted out, as children, things we saw on Canadian children’s programs.  Here we were, from three different parts of the country (West, Central, and East), a distance spanning more than 5000 kms – but yet our Anglophone childhood experiences were the same, filled with uniquely Anglophone Canadian reference points, owing to shared cultural experiences stemming from Canadian television programs we watched as kids.

This is a perfect example of just how powerful media and pop-culture platforms are with respect to forging national identity.  But even more important is that we all had the pre-conceived expectations that all of us would have these share experiences, even if we had not spoken about them.  The expectation component is called conditioning.

As you can see, conditioning is not necessarily a bad thing.   It’s all about expectations – and those expectations can be very important (and powerful) when we hold the expectation that our compatriots can (and will) be able to culturally relate to us.

In the above example, the three of us were “conditioned” to believe we would share certain childhood experiences (even if we had not spoken about them) by virtue of simply haven grown up in Canada (in an Anglophone Canadian settings).  We were “conditioned” to believe that those experiences had played a role in shaping our lives – from coast to coast, and that they remain major factors in our collective Canadian experience… pieces of what makes us culturally Canadian.  And thus it was natural and logical that we would have a conversation about many of the little things we had in common as children, despite 5000 kilometres of separation in three different provinces.

As an aside, you might ask how immigrants can fit into this shared Canadian experience — after all, more recent immigrants may not have these same shared Canadian experiences.  Does it make them any less “Canadian”?.  That is a legitimate and very good question to ask.   It comprises a whole other topic, but I can briefly say this:  Immigrants tend to first adapt to a Canadian value set before they will (or are able to) adapt more intricate and time-based shared cultural references.  However, with respect to “shared cultural experiences” immigrants “pick-up from where they jump in”.

This means that even if they may not share cultural reference points from the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s, they will nonetheless begin to share in cultural reference points occurring from the moment they land in Canada, and they will build on those shared experiences, little-by-little from that point on.

They therefore move forward with all the rest of us (just as earlier generations of immigrants have – be it German, Irish, or Ukrainian migrants 80-100 years ago, Italian and Greek immigrants 50-60 years ago, Vietmanese immigrants 35 years ago, or Hong Kong immigrants 20 to 30 years ago).   Over time, everyone eventually shares the same experiences and cultural reference points, and the country continues to culturally build upon itself.

The next post

Three paragraphs above, I mentioned that conditioning is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it can have negative consequences in Canada’s national context if it gives Canadian the expectation they are culturally all from the same cloth without taking Canada’s bilingual/bi-cultural context into account (and I say this notwithstanding Canada’s multicultural nuances — but it is not necessarily to discuss multiculturalism in this context because the expectation is that multicultural communities very much operate within Canada’s two Anglophone and Francophone dominant spheres).

Just as conditioning can form a sense of collective cohesiveness through the expectation that we have shared cultural experiences, conditioning can also cause major problems in national cohesiveness if it only provides one half of Canada’s entire cultural picture.

If our conditioning gives Anglophones culturally shared experiences from only an Anglo-dominant sphere, or if conditioning gives Francophones culturally shared experiences from only a Franco-dominant sphere, problems then arise when both groups, as a consequence, begin to culturally diverge.   Because each linguistic group may not know what is being experienced in each other’s respective cultural spheres, a chasm results.  We call this chasm the Two Solitudes.

In the next post, we will look at simplified examples of how “incomplete national conditioning” (and perhaps “incorrect national conditioning”) can result in reinforcing the notion of the Two Solitudes.


UNIS (la toute nouvelle chaîne de télévision au Canada) — Tout franco, tout beau (#226)

Il y a un nouveau joueur sur la scène.   “UNIS” est la toute nouvelle chaîne de télévision de langue française – et croyez-moi, qu’elle est différente.

Leur expression fourre-tout : Tout franco, tout beau 


(Toutes les images dans ce billet ont été fournies à Québec Culture Blog par UNIS)

Jusqu’à l’introduction d’UNIS sur la scène du monde télévisuel, nos chaînes et réseaux de télévision (de langue française) au Canada étaient soient :

  • des réseaux nationaux, basés de Montréal. Toute programmation “locale” à travers le Canada qu’ils offraient n’était que quelques créneaux horaires assez restreints (Radio-Canada et RDI en sont de bons exemples).  Cela avait l’effet de “projeter” des points de vue axés sur “Montréal” et “le Québec”, ainsi que des points de vue qui favorisaient le Québec, sans présenter l’angle de quelqu’un qui se retrouvait dans les souliers d’une audience Francophone à l’extérieur du Québec.
  • des réseaux plutôt “locaux” qui portaient peu d’intérêt à poursuivre le mis en œuvre d’une programmation à l’extérieur de leur région ou province (TVA et LCN servent de bons exemples).
  • des réseaux ou des chaînes spécialisées (RDS sport, Argent, TFO de l’Ontario, etc.)

Mais l’instant même qu’UNIS a pris l’antenne en septembre 2014, elle a pu bousculer ce mélange de réseaux et de chaînes qui depuis longtemps étaient les seuls à être solidement cimentés dans leur propre terrain.   De ses studios de production basés à Toronto (Ontario), UNIS diffuse une grande diversité de programmation aux intérêts des Francophones et Francophiles de partout au Canada.   Son approche reflète la perspective d’une chaîne qui présente à la fois à son audience l’idée et la réalité d’une seule famille francophone, de Victoria en Colombie-Britannique, jusqu’à St-Jean à Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador.

Son approche nous permet de constater que, pour de larges étendus du pays, le Canada est autant un pays francophone de langue française (dans toutes ses provinces et territoires) qu’il l’est un pays anglophone de langue anglaise (pour d’autres étendus du pays).  UNIS accorde beaucoup d’importance sur la diversité des sociétés francophones du Canada, que ce soit (sans toutefois s’y limiter) :

  • les modes de vie Montagnarde ou Pacifique modernes des Francophones de la Colombie-Britannque,
  • le mode de vie Prairienne moderne des Francophones de l’Alberta et de la Saskatchewan,
  • le mode de vie de la Valée-de-la-Rivière-rouge moderne des Francophones au Manitoba,
  • les modes de vie super-urbaines ou des forêts rurales modernes des Francophones en Ontario,
  • la diversité de plusieurs modes de vie au Québec, ou
  • le mode de vie Atlantique moderne en Acadie.

Avant l’arrivée sur scène d’UNIS, on avait souvent l’impression que nos diverses sociétés Francophones au Canada se gardaient entre eux, et qu’ils portaient des traits plutôt introspectifs (autant les Québécois que les Franco-Albertains, autant les Néo-Écossais que les Ontarois).  Mais UNIS sert de briser, d’un seul coup, ces murs et cette mentalité artificielle.  Cette chaîne nous permet de voir que nous faisons tous partie de la même société, famille, et pays Francophone et Francophile.  Nos enjeux, modes de vie, passe-temps, intérêts, joies, et nos préoccupations sont partagés dans tous les coins du pays.

En écoutant la programmation dans une même journée, on entend les couleurs d’une multitude d’accents français différents – des accents qui reflètent les lieux de tournage à travers le pays.  Au Canada nous n’avons jamais vu une telle chose auparavant.   Pour la première fois dans l’histoire du pays, on peut se voir ensemble les Francophones et Francophiles, d’un océan à l’autre – comme faisant partie d’un tout.

Ce que j’apprécie beaucoup c’est que nous avons également l’occasion de voir très souvent les “Francophiles” du Canada dans les émissions d’UNIS.  À quelques reprises dans ce billet j’ai fait mention de nos “Francophiles”.  Ils nous appartiennent eux aussi.  Ce sont les Anglophones du pays qui ont expressément décidé, de leur propre volonté, de consacrer une partie de leur vie au fait français du Canada.  Ils sont devenus bilingue.   Mais trop souvent ils se voient reprocher pour quelques lacunes dans leur accent, grammaire, ou vocabulaire.  Pourtant, tout ce qui compte pour moi (et tout ce qui devrait importer pour vous aussi) c’est le fait qu’ils sont là – peu importe leur niveau de français.  Ils sont là en grand nombre.  Ils sont nos alliés, et ils sont nos ponts avec le reste du Canada.   Ils se tiennent debout, coude à coude avec les Francophones du pays.  J’en ai déjà parlé dans mon billet qui s’appelle L’Importance du programme d’immersion française au Canada anglophone – pour le Québec.  (À mon avis, ce billet vaut la peine d’être lu).

Lors du tournage des émissions d’UNIS à travers le Canada, ces Francophiles sont présents et on les voit à l’écran.  Ils participent pleinement aux émissions afin que l’on puisse voir les histoires (nos histoires) des Francophones à l’écran.  Comme j’ai dit, c’est du jamais vu dans l’histoire de l’industrie de la télévision au Canada.   J’ai un drôle de sentiment que cette nouvelle chaîne va changer la perspective du Canada pour beaucoup de gens.

La chaîne UNIS appartient au même consortium qui détient “TV5 Québec Canada”.   Les deux sociétés forment une seule société qui s’appelle “UNIS TV5 Québec Canada”, qui en revanche appartient au “Consortium de télévision Québec Canada”.

Ce consortium lui-même appartient à trois de nos diffuseurs publics les plus grands au Canada :

  • CBC/Radio-Canada (le diffuseur public français/anglais et appartient au gouvernement du Canada),
  • TFO (le diffuseur public provincial français qui appartient au gouvernement de l’Ontario),
  • et Télé-Québec (le diffuseur public français qui appartient au gouvernement du Québec).

UNIS est désignée par la CRTC comme appartenant à la catégorie A des chaînes de télévision.  Cela veut dire que chaque abonné du câble au Canada (que ce soit au point le plus au nord de l’arctique, que ce soit le village le plus à l’ouest ou le plus à l’est du pays) doit le recevoir dans le service de base de tous les câblodistributeurs au Canada.  Si vous avez le câble, mais si vous ne la recevez pas, vous pouvez appeler votre câblodistributeur afin de la recevoir.

Personnellement, je crois qu’UNIS a le potentiel de devenir un moyen de programmation bien plus puissant.  La chaîne est encore jeune, et sa programmation n’a pas encore eu le temps d’évoluer.  Mais j’ai le sentiment qu’elle pourrait devenir bien plus importante, en tant que chaîne de télévision — au fur et à mesure qu’elle continue d’évoluer (qui sait, peut-être un jour elle va introduire un component de nouvelles nationales quotidiennes).  Dans ce sens, UNIS pourrait contribuer à définir l’avenir du pays et la façon dont sa population se voit, et ce au cours des prochaines années et décennies.  Seul le temps dira quelle direction elle prendra, mais j’ai un bon sentiment à ce propos.

Sa ligne de programmation nous offre un assez grand éventail d’émissions :

  • des téléromans
  • des programmes pour enfants
  • des émissions et magazines de société
  • des jeux télévisés
  • des émissions de variété
  • des émissions culinaires

Les émissions suivantes sont parmi mes émissions préférées.  Je vous offre les descriptions qui se trouvent au site-web d’UNIS:

Couleurs locales 

C’est un point de rencontre entre les communautés francophones. Accompagné d’un quatuor de chroniqueurs venant des quatre coins du pays, l’animateur Frédéric Choinière s’intéresse aux sujets qui interpellent les francophones, mais aussi aux grands dossiers de l’heure au Canada. C’est un rendez-vous hebdomadaire à la fois instructif et convivial.


Ma caravan au Canada – 

Rejoignez Vincent Graton et Damien Robitaille à bord de leur caravane pour une virée complètement folle à travers le Canada.  À chaque escale, rencontrez des gens chaleureux qui aiment leur coin de pays.


Canada plus grand que nature  

À pied, en kayak de mer, à vélo de montagne ou en canot de rivière, découvrez les plus beaux parcs canadiens, en compagnie de Patrick Hivon. Que vous soyez passionné de plein air ou promeneur du dimanche, cette émission est pour vous !


J’habite ici – 

J’habite ici présente des villes et des villages à travers le regard de leurs habitants franco-ontariens. Entrez dans le quotidien de ces gens attachants, arpentez leur quartier et laissez-vous charmer par la douceur de vivre en français en Ontario.

Balade à Toronto – 

Une série musicale consacrée aux artistes francophones de la relève. Quittant leur coin de pays pour une promenade à Toronto, ils nous offrent des performances et nous livrent leurs confidences captées à la volée au fil de la découverte de la Ville Reine. Le groupe acadien Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire, la Québécoise Chloé Lacasse, le Mehdi Cayenne Club de l’Ontario, le duo franco-albertain Post Script et plusieurs autres se baladent !

Elles pêchent – 

Mordues de la pêche, Louise Laparé et sa grande amie Suzanne Beaudet taquinent le poisson ensemble depuis plus de 18 ans. En exerçant plusieurs types de pêches, d’un plan d’eau à l’autre, elles démontrent que la pêche ce n’est pas sorcier, et que la pratique de ce sport peut être adaptée à toutes les bourses.  Suivez-les, chaque semaine, dans cette odyssée à travers lacs et rivières !


Le goût du pays

Bien au courant que la bonne chère est le faible de Vincent Graton, quelques-uns des plus réputés chefs canadiens ont l’ambition de lui en faire voir de toutes les saveurs ! Sur les routes du Canada, de Saint-Jean de Terre-Neuve à Vancouver, notre animateur épicurien se laisse prendre au jeu de la gourmande séduction.


Vous pouvez accéder au site d’UNIS en cliquant ici:  http://unis.ca/

Certains vidéos d’émissions peuvent être visonnées ici: http://unis.ca/videos

Prenez le temps d’y explorer un peu.  Lorsqu’on constate que le lancement d’UNIS n’était planifié qu’un an d’avance avec un budget plutôt limité, je crois bien que l’on peut s’entendre que le fruit de leurs efforts est bien évident.

UNIS (Canada’s newest French-language TV station) — Tout franco, tout beau (#225)

“UNIS” (which means “United” in French) is Canada’s newest French-langauge television station – and boy is it different.

Their catch-phrase is Tout franco, tout beau (Everything Franco, Everything great)


(All images in this post contributed to Québec Culture Blog by UNIS)

Until the introduction of UNIS, our French-language television has

  • consisted of national networks, but based out of Montréal. They would offer limited locally presented programming across Canada (Radio-Canada and RDI are good examples).  This often had the effect of projecting a Montréal-centric, Québec-centric or Québec-biased view upon the rest of Canada’s Francophones,
  • consisted of localized networks with little interest in pursuing programming outside its province or region (TVA and LCN are good examples).
  • consisted of specialty stations (RDS sports, argent, Ontario’s TFO, etc.)

The moment it went on air in September, 2014, UNIS instantly shook up this mix in numerous ways.   With its main production studios based out of Toronto (Ontario), it broadcasts a wide variety of programming of interest to Francophones and Francophiles across Canada.  Its approach is from the perspective of producing and presenting its programming to an audience of one Francophone family/country, from Victoria, BC to St. John’s Newfoundland, and everywhere in between.

It allows us to see how Canada is just as much a Francophone and French-language country to large swaths of is population, as it can be an Anglophone and English-language country to others.   It also places much emphasis on the diversity of Canada’s Francophone societies, be it (but not restricted to)

  • the Mountain or Pacific lifestyle of Francophones in BC
  • the Prairie life-style of Francophones who live in Alberta and Saskatchewan,
  • the Red-River lifestyle of those in Manitoba,
  • the uber/hyper-urban or the rural woodland lifestyles of Francophones in Ontario,
  • the diversity of various Québécois lifestyles, or
  • the Atlantic lifestyle lived by Acadians.

Before UNIS’s introduction, we could easily get the the impression that each of Canada’s various Francophone societies were often introspective, and did not mix much among themselves.  But UNIS breaks down these artificial mindsets and self-imposed borders in one-fell-swoop.  UNIS allows us to see that we are all part of one giant Francophone / Francophile society, family and country.  Our issues, ways of life, pass-times, interests, joys, and concerns are shared in every corner of the country.

In one day’s programming, you will hear a multitude of different French accents, reflecting the regions where each day’s programming was filmed.  We have never before seen something like this in Canada.  It’s allowing Canada and Canada’s Francophones / Francophiles to view themselves differently, and as something much bigger.

What I particularly appreciate, as I am sure do many others, is that we see how Anglophones across Canada have also become bilingual over the past couple of decades.  When filming various programs across the country, it is inevitable that Anglophones will be involved in telling the various programs’ stories on air.  We are able to hear and see bilingual Anglophones across the land, even in the most remote corners of the country.  My personal guess is that many are the products of Canada’s successful French immersion programs.   Again, before now, we have never seen anything like this on Canadian television.   I have a feeling it will give more than a few people a different perspective on what Canada is all about.

UNIS is actually owned by the same Canadian consortium which owns “TV5 Québec Canada”.  “UNIS & TV5 Québec Canada” actually forms one company.   The consortium which owns them is called Le Consortium de télévision Québec Canada (the Québec Canada Television Consortium).

The consortium itself is owned by three public broadcasters, owned by three separate governments in Canada:

  • CBC/Radio-Canada (Canada’s French/English public broadcaster owned by Canada’s Federal government),
  • TFO (Ontario’s French language public broadcaster owned by the government of Ontario),
  • and Télé-Québec (Québec’s French-language public broadcaster owned by the government of Québec).

UNIS is rated as a CRTC Category A station.  This means that it has to be included (by law) in everyone’s basic cable bundle across Canada.  If you do not receive it in your television package (even if you are in the furthest reaches of the Arctic), then contact your cable-distributor.  It is supposed to be included, regardless of what package you have or where you live.

I personally believe that UNIS has the potential to morph into a much more powerful programming medium.   It is still very young, and their programming has yet to evolve.  But I have a feeling that it may become a very influential television station as additional programs and divisions are added with time.  In that sense, it could have the ability to help shape the country’s view of itself over the next several years and decades.   Time will tell where it all will go, but I have a good feeling about it.

It’s programming offers a wide variety of genres :

  • adult dramas
  • childrens’ programming
  • societal magazines
  • game shows
  • variety programs
  • cooking programs

Some of my preferred programs include:

Couleurs locales (Local Colours): Every week Frédéric Choinière hosts of panel of columnists and engaged members of society in the studio to discuss what is happening in the four corners of the country.  Topics are of interest to Canada’s current events as a whole.  Matters are often approached from the perspective of Francophones and Francophiles who live in all of Canada’s provinces and territories.  In addition to the regularly featured panel, the show also features a guest (usually an influencial / well-known individual) to give their perspective on matters related to Canada’s Francophonie.


Ma caravan au Canada – (Driving my camper across Canada):  The duo Vincent Graton and Damien Robitaille, take their camper on the road and drive everywhere throughout Canada.   They stop in communities and at lesser-known places of interest.  They meet people from all walks of life, and manage to find Francophones and bilingual Anglophones everywhere in Canada who are doing remarkable things, simply through living what they consider to be their normal lives.


Canada plus grand que nature – (Canada, Bigger than Nature!) :  The well-known celebrity actor, Patrick Hivon, explores Canada’s natural scenery, national and provincial parks, from coast-to-coast-to-coast.  He meets people who lives are closely tied to the land he explores (usually other Francophones and Francophiles, and bilingual Anglophones across Canada), and it’s a great way to see parts of the country we would not otherwise have a tendency to see.


J’habite ici – (This is Where I Live):  The show follows and learns about Franco-Ontarians going about their daily lives in the towns and cities where they live.  It gives us an intimate perspective into the homes of those who it shadows.  And more importantly, we learn about la belle vie of living in French in Ontario.  It is something quite special and unique.

Balade à Toronto – (Around Toronto):  When we think of Francophone musicians who leave their towns and cities around Canada to develop their musical talents in a more structured & professional environment, we usually think of people who head to Montréwood (Montréal’s music, film, TV and arts scene).  However a good number of Francophones are deciding to head to Toronto instead.  This show allows us to meet them, follow them, and simply enjoy what they have to offer us.  Shows like this truly let us see what great a place Toronto is to live in if you are a Francophone or Francophile, or just want to add something different in your life.

Elles pêchent – (And they fish!):  We’re all familiar with weekend fishing shows.  This one is a little different in the sense that it is hosted by two ladies who have a love of the sport.  These two women, Louise Laparé and Suzanne Beaudet are best friends and have been fishing together since the age of 18.   They take us to hidden rivers and lakes and let us into their lives and conversations as they engage in what has been called the world’s “most relaxing sport”.


Le goût du pays – (A taste of the country):  The celebrity Vincent Graton takes us across Canada to discover its regional culinary delights.  He meets local chefs and joins them when preparing their meals, in a natural outdoor setting – often using ingredients from the land and settings in which the program is filmed.


The official website for UNIS can be found here: http://unis.ca/

You can stream past programs here:  http://unis.ca/videos

Take the time to explore what UNIS has to offer.  When you consider that the station was quickly thrown together in the period of about a year, with limited funds, I think you will be impressed.

Guy A. Lepage (#4)

Guy A. Lepage was mentioned in this blog’s first post as being the host of Tout le monde en parle.

Where does one begin (or end) when talking about Guy A. Lepage?  From a pop-culture point-of-view, he has a long list of accomplishments – a force unto himself over a period of 30 years, with wide reaching appeal in Quebec culture (but from his youthful looks and energy levels, you’d never guess he was born in 1960!).

It would take a book to write about the number of cultural and popular awards he has won, or just how well-known he is with Francophones.

In pop-culture, there are past references we can all recall from when we were younger;  references you can joke about any time, and have them instantly understood by your peers.  These shared experiences create a feeling of belonging, commonality, and sense of “yah, I remember that — yes, we are cut from the same mould – , and yes, we get each other in a way nobody from another culture could”.

That’s why pop-culture is an important building block to nationhood in the social sense.  In an English-Canadian context, an example of might be the “Chicken Lady” from Kids in the Hall.  Despite how long the show has been off air, many Anglophone Canadians in their 30’s or 40’s (maybe even 50’s) would instantly understand the context if you mimicked the Chicken Lady.   Even regurgitating that the “Polkaroo” call from Polkadot Door makes for instant recognition — a bonding feeling of “Yah, I get you… we’re definately hatched from the same nest!” (mention Polkaroo to someone in Prince George, Moose Jaw, Windsor, or St. John and you’ll get the same nod and smile).

Guy Lepage has appeared in so many popular programmes, on so many different media platforms, that it could be said he has been a source of many Québec pop-culture references over the past 30 years.   He has become a bonding figure for Québec pop-culture and society in general through the major events in Québec during that period.   That’s a powerful force in all senses of the word.  Whether it’s on purpose of inadvertent, pop-culture holds sway and influence over public opinion on a range of issues.  Being at the helm of numerous programmes also means one has a degree of control over the business and economic end of what the public will see when they turn on their television or radio in the evening.

He rose to stardom as one of the main actors in the regularly aired comedy group Rock et belles oreilles (simply known as RBO).  It ran for nearly 15 years on TV.  For comparison sake, its presentation style was similar to that of Kids in the HallKids in the Hall could be considered risqué for its time, often making fun of issues like sex and homosexuality, at a time when it was daring to touch upon those subjects on TV — let alone make fun of the issues (remember the “anal probes”?).  In a national sense, the programme probably played some role in pushing the envelope of public awareness and acceptability.

With that reference in mind, RBO also used humour during the same era, but to a broader and deeper degree (sexual inuendo,  homosexuality, politics, sovereignty issues, Anglophones, Francophones, public figures of all streams and colours, and various ethical issues).   The majority of the sketches may not have been overly controversial, but by integrating humour into sensitive topics, RBO captivated the province and drew in the masses.

Since the programme disbanded, the actors went their separate ways and continued on various paths of stardom.  But none of them achieved the status of Guy Lepage today.

In the early 2000s, he became more focused on the actual production of TV programmes.   He created the Québec version of the France TV programme Un gars une fille, which ran weekly on Radio-Canada from 1997 to 2003.   Apart from being the producer, Guy was also the main co-actor.   The show became supremely popular, centered on the funny and quirky dynamics between a husband (played by Lepage) and his wife.  The success of the series cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most internationally prize-winning TV series in Canadian history, and has been adapted and copied in 26 other countries, more so than most any other TV programme in the history of television — full stop.   With that, Lepage has a larger-than-life status in Québec and francophone pop-culture (it may now be more apparent why I mentioned two posts earlier that there were Francophones seemingly “shocked and horrified” when Le Journal de Montréal poll revealed the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians had absolutely no idea who Lepage was – despite the international accolades he has attracted towards both Québec, and Canada as a whole).

Since Un gars une fille went off the air in 2003, Lepage was further propelled into the sky when he adapted the France TV interview show Tout le monde en parle to create the still-running Québec version, starting in 2004 (the topic of this blog’s first post).

Apart from these achievements, Lepage has been an actor in several movies, he’s been the host of several major TV events (Québec national award ceremonies, annual galas, live televised celebrations, etc.), a stage-actor, an actor in commercials, and the producer of other artistic endeavours (with the TV comedy Les Chick’n Swell also having been galvanized in Québécois collective memory).

One of the most surprising aspects of his career is his brilliance as in interviewer.  Perhaps it is owing to his boldness stemming from his RBO days of pushing the envelope into uncharted territory, or perhaps it is his overall confidence stemming from his contact with all aspects of society – but it’s undeniable that his talents as a provocative, probing, and quick-witted interviewer are quite unique.   There are elements of Québec society who may not agree with the direction he takes his interviews, which battles he picks and choses – or who he choses to single out in interviews (he does have political and social opinions), but few would deny his talent.  He nonetheless deserves much respect and accolade.

With all of this behind him, it’s a wonder Guy A. Lepage has time to sleep.  And with his energy levels and determination, it will be interesting to see what comes next, what it will lead to, and how it will shape Québec society’s collective views.

References to search online to view or read:

  • Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP)
  • Un gars une fille
  • Rock et belles oreilles (RBO)

Radio-Canada sells past programmes in various formats.  Please do not pirate.