Home » Posts tagged 'Two solitudes'

Tag Archives: Two solitudes

Advertisements

Kevin Parent: One of Québec’s music institutions (#318)

Tonight was the last night of Toronto’s two-week long Franco-Fête (Toronto’s version of Montréal’s Francofolies).

Some interesting statistics regarding this year’s Franco-Fête in Toronto

The numbers have been released to the public today, and they’re quite something…

– More than 100 French-music concerts took place during this year’s Franco-fête in Toronto’s Dundas Square (Canada’s equivalent of Times Square in New York).

– More than 350 artists took part.

– Between 700,000 and 1,000,000 (yes, one million) people attended the French-language concerts in Toronto at one point or another during the two weeks.

– A phenomenal success in helping to break down the Two Solitudes.

Huge numbers !! Huge success !! and almost no hiccups !! (Hey Toronto & event organizers, you did well!  Amazing job!).


Kevin Parent has been one of the top singers in Québec and for Francophones across Canada for the past 20 years (yet has doesn’t look to have aged one bit).

For most people, when they think back to their high school, college or university days, there are always one or two singers who stick out the most vividly in their minds (those groups who incarnate memories which flood back when you hear their music).

For me, I view Kevin Parent in this category from back In the 90’s (along with others like Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and so on).

Kevin Parent became huge — REALLY REALLY HUGE around 1995 (actually a little bit earlier).  But unlike one-hit wonders, Parent’s star appeal never faded.

He is as big in 2015 as he was in 1995.   I would dare say he continues to be so large that he has become a one-man cultural institution for Montréwood’s, Québec’s and Francophone Canada’s music industry.

Kevin 1

Over the years, he has won 7 of the top ADISQ (Félix) awards — the Québec equivalent of the Grammy’s and Juno’s.  Speaking of Juno’s, he has also won one of those as well.

He is one of a handful of life-long Québec music superstars — and tonight I was lucky enough to take in one of his concerts

  • with a front-row spot,
  • shake his hand after, and
  • chat with him for a few moments.

Below is a video collage I filmed with clips from some of his best known hits, as well as a small introduction (am finally getting the hang of this video thing — makes life way more easy).

cc

One of Québec’s and Canada’s key players for tearing down the Two Solitudes:  

I personally consider Kevin Parent to be one of Canada’s BEST BRIDGES between the Two Solitudes. 

He is not Francophone.  He is Anglophone.

Yet, he is one of Québec’s best known French-language singers.  (He rarely sings in English, and all of his hits are in French).

He grew up in a community with a large Anglophone population in the far-Eastern Gaspésie region of Québec (along the New Brunswick border).

Yet, in the hearts and minds of everyone in Québec, it doesn’t matter that he is Anglophone or Francophone.  He is accepted simply one of their own – period.

He is one of the strongest symbols we have for what can be achieved when people seek to break down the Two Solitudes.

I have always been fully aware of this fact.   Music aside, for this fact alone, he is someone who I have admired and respected for over 20 years.  He has done more to bridge the Two Solitudes and to make Anglo-Franco dynamics a “non-issue” than perhaps anyone else in the past 50 years or more.  I truly believe he is not given enough credit on this front (but then again, perhaps it is a good thing that he has never been politicized).

Regardless, I believe it has had an impact.   Cultural soft-power sometimes speaks louder and can be much more powerful than political power.

He is adored by fans in Québec from their early teens into their fifties — a fan base spanning two to three generations.

Some funny photos:

As much as I wanted to see his concert, I also wanted to meet him in person tonight to shake his hand, and to thank him.   I was able to, but the pictures did not turn out very well.

In fact… they were a complete photo fail !   But the FUNNY side of the fail more than makes up for the fact that I couldn’t capture the right moment on film!

Check this out:

Photo 1:   Just as I was about to start chatting with him, some lady started screaming uncontrollably that she loves him and that he is his hero.  It gets both his and my attention.  She was freaking out and I started to laugh (Kevin looked over to see what all the commotion was about).

Photo 2:  She practically shoved me out of the way and completely takes Kevin by surprise.

Photo 3:  I start pissing my pants laughing, and Kevin is like “What the !!!”   Afterwards, once she left, we both shook our heads and laughed about it!

Oh well…  The resulting photo and look on his face perhaps is better than anything which could have been captured had the photo actually gone as planned !!

Kevin 2

Some of Kevin Parent’s top songs:

  • Seigneur
  • Mother of Our Child (French)
  • Les doigts
  • Maudite Jalousi
  • Father On The Go (French)
  • La Critique (this on especially brings back camp-fire memories with friends back in Alberta).

The following parody has gone down in Parody history in Québec (everyone knows this one).  It was a brilliant and hilarious trap which saw Marc Labrèche catch Kevin Parent off guard when he, well, had Kevin meet Kevin.  (I wrote a post about Marc Lebrèche almost a year ago… you can read it by CLICKING HERE).   Hahaha 🙂

Advertisements

Chantal Hébert (#297)

One of the few journalists to have truly bridged Canada’s linguist divide is Chantal Hébert.

Owing to the media platforms in which she currently or has regularly appeared, she is well known to both Anglophones and Francophone.

Although Hébert is known to most Anglophones and Francophones in Canada (if you watch the news, you know her), I am nonetheless writing a post on her for one reason alone:  I strongly recommend you follow her in both languages.

After having followed her for many years, one thing I can tell you is that she regularly provides points of views to Francophones of what is happening and being “felt” in various regions and nuances of English Canada (she highlights to Francophones in Québec that English Canada is very diverse, with many regional ways of life and cultures).   Likewise, she regularly provides the same sort of insight to Anglophones of what is happening in Québec.

It is fascinating to watch and listen to Hébert in both French and English.  Only through following her in both languages do you get a full appreciation of her understanding of national & local issues.  It’s quite intriguing, really.  We don’t hear other people capture an audience’s attention in quite the same way as Hébert is able to.

Her own background of growing up and living between two provinces (Ontario and Québec) gives her this duality which is so rare in Canada’s journalistic spheres.

She:

  • was born in Ottawa (Ontario)
  • did her schooling until Junior High in Gatineau (Québec)
  • did her Junior & Senior high in Ontario (Toronto)
  • did her university (in French) in Toronto, Ontario.
  • started as a journalist at the Ottawa Citizen
  • was a journalist covering Ontario’s parliament at age 20
  • became a journalist for the Toronto Star in Toronto
  • became a journalist for various media outlets in Montréal

And the rest is history.

We have either regularly seen or read her in the past, or in the present on

  • Radio-Canada (Les Coulisses du pouvoir)
  • CBC (The National)
  • L’Actualité
  • The Toronto Star
  • Le Devoir (past)
  • The Ottawa Citizen (past)
  • CBC – various platforms
  • Radio-Canada – radio & various platforms

The Book

With this year being the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Referendum, and with the recent passing of Jacques Parizeau, Chantal Hébert (and Jean Lapierre) interview key players of the referendum.  They sought to find out the backroom story of what was really happening before those players passed away.

The book is named“The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was (in French, Confessions post-référendaires: Les acteurs politiques de 1995 et le scénario d’un oui).

It has become a treasure chest of information the country never knew about, or never thought of what could happen (a trajectory which could have been extremely different from anything which could happen in Scotland’s or Barcelona’s case — a factoid PKP / Snyder would be very reluctant to discuss.  After all, if Canada were to disintegrate, dislodging its entire economy, infrastructure, cultural foundations, legacy, position in the world, the world’s confidence in Canada, Canada’s confidence in itself, and not to mention every last bolt of the federation — Québec and every part of Canada could be thrown into a developing nation status (the Argentina of the North).   There wouldn’t be much left to negotiate with, now would there? (not only for Québec to negotiate with, but for other provinces to negotiate with either).

And once you throw into the equation that there are millions of people within Québec as well as across Canada who have a daily interest (from an emotional point of view) in the well-being of the country, the situation would become even more dire.

I bought the French version of the book days after it came out late last year.  Fascinating reading.  I’m sure it has made many people think very hard about the consequences of any referendum exercise.  We learned there was much more at stake than simply Québec’s future – as the entire country could have disintegrated into various new countries (with certain parts of the country even running the risk of becoming absorbed into a union with the United States).   The book squarely placed all the stakes right under our noses — at a height many did may not have believed could have been possible.

I’ll provide you with several pertinent YouTube videos in French and English (with a brief description above each one).

But before I do, I am going to let you in on a little secret.  I’m not sure if I should mention this or not, but without going into the details, I’m going to tell you something about the type of journalist Hébert is.  I wrote to her a while back about on a certain topic — without any intention of hearing back from her.   But within five minutes, she sent a response with a thank-you note.   In today’s busy world, one in which journalists are torn in all directions, I think that says a lot about her character and integrity.  She genuinely cares about her readers and the welfare of those for whom she writes her stories.

Bravo Chantal!  Keep on telling it like it is!  🙂

———————————————-

FRENCH – An excellent interview with Chantal Hébert with “Carte de visite” on Ontario’s French-language public broadcaster TFO.  She goes into details of her life, offers her insights, and basically gives a biographical synopsis of herself – from the beginning until now.

(Note:  the interviewer, Gisèle Quinville, is one of Ontario’s best known television Francophone television personalities – but she is not very well known in Québec.  If you’re wondering, her accent is what I would consider to be Ontario’s “standardised” French accents).

FRENCH – Hébert explaining to Francophones her and Lapierre’s astonishing discoveries when they investigated what was happening behind the scenes during the run-up to the 1995 referendum. 

(Note:  The program she is appearing on is Tout le monde on parle.  This program is Québec’s and Canada’s #1 or #2 rated television program – regularly vying for the top spot with La Voix on TVA.  Both programs have often been known to amass view audiences of over 2 million per episode – the largest view audiences in Canada).

ENGLISH – Hébert talking to Paul Wells (of Maclean’s) about their discoveries of the 1995 referendum.

ENGLISH – A magazine report on the CBC’s The National using Hébert’s and Lapierre’s research on the ’95 referendum as the report’s foundation.

FRENCH – An appearance on Tout le monde en parle.  In the video, we see how Hébert shocked voters in Qubéec (mostly on the left of the political spectrum) by drawing fascinating parallels between Pauline Marois and Stephen Harper.

This interview made waves in Québec.   Armed with Hébert’s sober insight into politics, and considering the size of the audience, I believe (based on knowing just how big of waves this interview did make in Québec) that this may have been a contributing moment in the last Québec electoral campaign which perhaps contributed to the defeat of the last PQ government.

ENGLISH – An academic view of Hébert’s history with the spotlight on her own education and her accomplishments

ENGLISH – A parody of Hébert on This Hour has 22 Minutes (Parodies which English Canada are quite used to seeing).

FOR COMPARISON SAKE (ENGLISH) — Here’s the real deal…

ENGLISH – Another parody which has gone down as a bit of a classic.

Is there a “personality difference” between Francophones and Anglophones? (#291)

Is there a “personality difference” between Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones?

That is a loaded question if I have ever heard one.

Take note that I am referring to “personality” (psychological) differences, and not “cultural” differences.

Over the years I have often heard Québec Francophones say they sense there are personality differences which distinguish Francophones from Anglophones.  It is an argument that I have heard more from Québec Francophones than I have from Canadian Anglophones.

I suppose I am perhaps not the best person to objectively evaluate such a statement.  I have always had Québec Francophone friends from childhood into adulthood, and a sizable portion of my colleagues, former bosses, and teachers at school and university have been Francophones from Québec.

Thus, any personality lines which do exist are likely more blurred for me than they would be from others.

But I have given the question a bit more thought lately.  A very good Québec francophone friend of mine resides in a small town in Anglophone Ontario (in the Loyalist belt of Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario).  From his experience in Prince Edward Country, he feels the personality differences between Canadian Anglophones and Francophones are to such an extent that he no longer feels comfortable living in small-town Ontario.

He is already starting to plan his move back to Québec.

His feelings of being “dépaysé” (a Canadian French word meaning one feels out of one’s skin owing to living in a new environment from what one is used to) has led me to pose some questions.

He is a good friend who tends to view the world quite objectively (in fact, a large part of his career involves crisis intervention and mediation).  I suppose this is why I’m left asking several questions.

They are questions which leaves me somewhat perplexed because I have lived in six provinces (including Québec), and I have rarely had a feeling that the personality differences between Anglophones and Francophones would be so large that they would warrant “retreating” back to Québec.

In a cultural sense, I admit it makes me somewhat uneasy (on the unity front, more than anything) whenever I hear that Québec Francophones feel they cannot comfortably live in other areas of Canada.

But such feelings of unease are easily mitigated by the knowledge that I know far more Québec Francophones who are happily living across across Anglophone Canada than who are not happy.  I know far more Québec Francophones would  not consider personality differences to be so large that it would be disruptive to their lifestyles.

I searched the internet to see if there are scientific studies which might explain what personality differences could exist between Anglophones and Francophones.  I was only able to find one study from 2008 conducted by Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, Québec).  It was a small study involving 50 Francophones and 50 Anglophones, split 50/50 between men and women.   It evaluated

  • extroversion (how extrovert one is towards others)
  • neuroticism (anxiety or indecision, and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment around others)
  • psychoticism (one’s aptitude to become upset, anxious, or angry)
  • one’s propensity to lie
  • open-minded to new experiences
  • conscientiousness
  • agreeableness
  • conservatism (traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness; more apt to advocate preservation of existing conditions or institutions)
  • altruism (unselfish concern for others, or devotion to the welfare of others)

The study found that Québec Francophones ranked higher degrees of extroversion, and psychoticism (thus they would be more vocal and engaging in public on a range of issues, including emotional issues).

Anglophones ranked higher on Conservatism (thus they would be less likely to “rock the boat”).  I would guess that such personality traits would be more internalized than externalized, and when externalized, they would be manifested through a greater degree of reserve (not as extrovert with a lesser outward display of public emotion).

The study found that Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones did not differ regarding the remaining personality traits.

I found the study to be very interesting because it reflects several observations I have made myself over the course of my life.

  • I can recall at school that when mixed with Anglophone Canadian students, Québec Francophone students would be more apt to speak in class, and and to comment on, ask or argue questions or ideas in class.
  • Anglophone colleagues would be less apt to advocate for change in the workplace or voice their views at work with superiors.
  • Francophone colleagues would be more apt to take vocal socializing and jokes into the workplace, and to likewise take the workplace outside of work (with drinks with colleagues after work, or week-end activities with colleagues).
  • Anglophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle changes are more often manifested through a “live and let live” standpoint;  meaning that they more than welcome societal / lifestyle changes (which they view as healthy for society), but that they believe such changes come about as a matter of natural societal evolution in the course of time.
  • This contrasts with Francophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle change.  With respect to changes they too believe are healthy for society, they often harbour a “make-it-happen” standpoint with respect to societal or personal lifestyles.   This means they believe in more direct intervention (through direct government intervention or direct changes in the established order).

The above are simply a question of approaches, and they are not insurmountable differences.  In fact, these are mixes which can add a nice touch of variety to any equation.

My own observations are my own personal inferences from my own experiences, and of course everyone is different.   Despite the above generalities (and they are just that; generalities), I can think of many individuals who I consider are exceptions to the above (both Anglophones and Francophones).

When I try to relate the above back to my friend’s unique situation in Ontario’s Loyalist regions (Prince Edward County), I tend to think the reasons for my friend’s uncomfortable adjustment tend to be more situation-specific than inherent.

Personally, I tend to think that his own conclusions are misplaced; in the sense that he believes his feeling of being “dépaysé” are related to personality differences between Francophones and Anglophones.  Yet, I tend to believe his feelings have more to do with a conflict between what he is used to from his own upbringing, and what lifestyle is lived by the inhabitants of Prince Edward County.

Prince Edward County has a unique culture, even from the rest of Ontario (I have spend a good deal of time in Prince Edward County over the past few months.  I know people there, and I have also been tracing a branch of my own roots in the region back to the 1700s).
PE Map3

Prince Edward County is a 2 hour drive East of Toronto, a 2 hour drive from Ottawa, and a 4 hour drive West of Montréal.

PE Wn1

Prince Edward County is Ontario’s second largest wine-growing region (after the Niagara Region), dotted with wine-estates, artisan works, fine-food gourmet shops, restored B&Bs in period housing, and hobby farms — a very laid-back lifestyle

PE Bc2

A photo of the beaches I took a few days ago when getting my feet wet at one of the many beaches in Prince Edward County.

Some factoids which I feel do play a direct in how newcomers to the region (both Francophone and Anglophone) may view Prince Edward County:

  • Prince Edward County was settled by Loyalists in the end of the 1700s / beginning of the 1800s.
  • The population is largely comprised of the descendants of those original settlers, and thus it has developed a lifestyle and culture which differs from other regions of Ontario.
  • People are perhaps less apt to leave the region, and there are fewer people who move to the region than other parts of Ontario.  People in Prince Edward County are thus more likely to know each other, to have grown up with each other, and to have many shared common experiences (which people from other parts of Ontario may even have difficulty relating to).
  • It is a wine-growing region, with many beaches, slow-paced outdoor activities, and hobby farms.
  • This leads to a slower pace of life and “let-it-be” lifestyle and attitude.

Yet my friend grew up in face-paced Montréal — a very different city.  He has always been surrounded by highly cosmopolitan environments.  In the past, he was spoiled by also having lived in Québec City with world-class outdoor activities and mountains within a 40 minute dive away (something which Prince Edward County does not have).

Just as important a factor, my friend does not have the best command of English (which prevents him from effectively being able to communicate with the locals in Prince Edward County).

I therefore tend to think that he has encountered a clash of personal-interests, in addition to a very “localized” cultural clash with the residents of Prince Edward County.  Despite his interpretations, I am not sure his unhappiness is related to a personality / cultural clash between Francophone Québec and Anglophone Canada.   Other Anglophones from elsewhere in Canada may also have the same difficulties in adjusting to Prince Edward County (I know several people Anglophone from Toronto who say they too would not be happy living in a rural setting like Prince Edward County).

On the reverse, through my friend, I have met other other Francophones in Prince Edward County who have specifically moved there for the slow-paced lifestyle and relaxed outdoor environment.  They have opened local businesses and have become highly involved in their communities.  Those people love it, and are very comfortable and happy with their decision.

Unfortunately, my friend’s own limited interactions with Anglophone Canada does not allow him to see it this way, and he has come to believe there are irreconcilable differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.

This is not the first time that I have seen people on either side of the linguistic divide (Francophone or Anglophone) confuse specific “local conditions” with a macro-cultural or personality divide (ie: the incorrect assumption that if this village is like this, then all of Canada and all Anglophones must be like this… or if these three people were rude to me or could not relate to what is being discussed, then all Francophones and all of Québec must be like this).

In the case of my friend, he was forceably transferred to Prince Edward County from his work for 3 to 4 years.  It was not by his own choosing.  I firmly believe that had he chosen to go there for its laid-back lifestyle, had he chosen to go there for its gastronomic character or its outdoor activities. his experience would have been completely different.

Likewise, knowing his personality and cultural preferences, I have a feeling he would be equally unhappy if he were transferred to the Beauce or very isolated Abitibi Francophone regions of Québec, simply because they do not fit his lifestyle.   To make the point, I know an Anglophone from Toronto who moved to Abitibi in Québec and loves it like nothing else, and I know three Francophones from Québec who moved to the small rural farming town of Vegreville in Alberta who absolutely love it and will never leave.  In these latter cases, they “chose” to move there for reasons offered by these regions, they founded business or integrated within the communities based on mutual interests, and they fit their lifestyles.

This is why is it so important to NOT confuse a very few minor personality differences on either side of the linguistic line with irreconcilable cultural or personality differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.  

Even more unfortunate, I caught my friend telling other Québecois out of frustration, based on his Prince Edward County experiences, how Anglophone Canadians and Québec Francohpones are two completely different worlds and completely incompatible.  Sad… very very sad.   When I heard this, I took it upon myself to give him a few stern words and to force him to take a good hard look at himself in the mirror.  But hey, I could get away with doing so — we’re actually very very good friends.   I Have been forcing him to try to view his circumstances a bit differently, and I think he is finally beginning to see the problem is with how his personal interests diverge from the immediate region in which he is living, rather than any problem with Anglophone Canada as a whole.

The ironic thing is that if my friend’s English language competencies were greater, and if he were to have lived in other parts, cities or provinces of Anglophone Canada which better match his personal interests, I do not believe he would feel there would be irreconcilable personality differences between Anglophone Canadians and Francophone Québécois.

I suppose it goes to show that

  1. poor French / English language proficiency (on the part of both Anglophones and Francophones), and
  2. a lack of travel / living in other regions / life-experiences from which to form reference points and knowledge…

still remain the two largest challenges to bridging the Two Solitudes.

(And if you’re wondering… I happen to really like Prince Edward County.  If I were hypothetically asked to move there, I don’t believe it would work for me either because my career and current lifestyle would not make a good fit under present circumstances.  But that doesn’t mean I feel it is irreconcilable with other parts of the country.  It simply means that it wouldn’t suit my current situation to move there at this point in my life.  Point made?).

Conditioning: From the 1980 referendum until present (#282)

This posts continues where the last one left of.  I’m the previous posts, I spoke at length about the failure of the Estates General, and the beginning of the political fallout which could possibly have been avoided had the Estates General not been sabotaged in the name of politcal agendas.

The fallout has since affected our collective psyche, and our political expectations and preconceptions.  In other words, it has affected our societal conditioning.  But that conditioning too may vary depending on our vantage point.

For the rest of this post to make sense, the previous posts might be worth a read.   I say this because I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which is not taught in Québec, and which Anglophones rarely learn about.  It places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

The “Second Night of Long Knives” and the fall-out from it:

Québec voted “no” in the 1980 referendum.  Soon after, Trudeau sought to repatriate the constitution and to enshrine language rights within the constitution.   It was Trudeau’s attempt (after prior attempts, including the 1971 Victoria Charter) to bring about further changes in the wake of (1) the failed Estates-General, (2) of the 1970s nationalist movement in Québec, and (3) the failed 1980 referendum.

Trudeau was faced with an arduous task involving a good deal of sour politics and going back-and-forth between the various premiers and the courts.

In 1981, and after much wrangling, most Premiers were still not on board with Trudeau’s version of the repatriated constitution.  They formed a blockade against it in an alliance which included René Levesque (the then Parti Québécois Premier of Québec).  But on the night of November 4th, 1981, a number of premiers agreed to push through and sign the accord as a majority, while René Levesque was sleeping.

History provides us with different views of what happened.  One version says that the Premiers believed their signatures were not final and the constitution would still be open for discussion (that it was a pro forma signature, rather than a prima facie finalized signature).   Yet another version of history says that Levesque was under the understanding that all the premiers believed a signature would be final.

I am not in a position to make a judgement – because I, and all the rest of us, will never know what was truly going on in everyone’s head.

But regardless, in the eyes of all the premiers, they believed Canada’s public was tired of constant constitutional and linguistic-cultural stalemates.  It had been 14 years following what would have been a watershed moment of progress had the Estates-General succeeded in bringing concrete proposals to the constitutional table with a strong, united Francophone population backing it.

Had the Estates-General succeeded, and considering the population and geographic weight it would have brought to the table (from Francophones from B.C. to Québec to Newfoundland), it could very well have been difficult for Anglophone Canada to refuse constitutional proposals stemming from the Estates-General.  What is more, those constitutional proposals would have likely been much wider, more meaningful, and more profound than anything Trudeau was proposing.

Owing to how the Estates-General collapsed, I cannot help but wonder if some of the Premiers who signed the Constitution without Levesque at the table did so with a sentiment of “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.  After all, Québec’s majority delegates at the Estates-General 14 years earlier sabotaged any hope that the Estates General could have led to a constitutional proposition acceptable to all Francophones, and endorsable by all provinces and the Federal government.

Likewise, on November 4, 1981, a majority of Canada’s premiers signed the constitution without René Levesque’s government’s consent.   I suppose it could be considered tit-for-tat.   But again, we will ever know for sure if that is how the premiers viewed it when deciding if it was ethical or not to sign the constitution without René Levesque.

This is why I call the signing of the constitution the Second Night of the Long Knives (and not the First which I reserve for the 1967 failure of the Estates-General).

Regardless, I firmly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.   I am also a strong advocate for the principle of letting bygones be bygones and of having a “reset button” sitting on the desk at all times.

What I find fascinating is that since constitutional repatriation in the early 1980s, the sovereignist movement has touted it as one of the primary reasons for separation from Canada.    The logic is that Québec’s government, under Levesque, never agreed to live in a country with Trudeau’s version of the constitution, and thus Québec should opt out of the country.

As an example, Québec’s Option National party leader, Sol Zanetti continuously and trumps this card to the world…  you can see one of his English-version “broadcasts to the world” here (I, like many others in Quebec and elsewhere around Canada, just shake my head)…

Oh, I think he forgot to mention that someone in Halifax wore a colour he didn’t like… so there’s yet another reason for sovereignty.

Regardless… he’s simply spewing crap (it’s my blog, so I can say that).  His take on things obviously aren’t reflective of reality — and proof is in the polls:  The last time I looked I think the Option Nationale had 0.9% or 1.2% of overall popular support… at any rate, something like that.  Not enough to warrant me wasting my time to look up the exact number.

And one more thing – especially to everyone in Canada who resides outside of Québec, or is Federalist (regardless if you are Anglophone or Francophone):  When he’s talking about “they“, “they” and “they”… He is talking about “you“, “you“, and “you” — which also includes “me” too.   That just shows you the absurdity of what he is preaching.

Are you or your friends, or peers, or family – or even most of your compatriots around you double-crossing, heartless, will cheat-ya kind of bastards?  I’m assuming you’re not.  And, you know what?  Neither am I.

The Two Solitudes exist… but that does not mean everyone is the Wicked Witch of the East, West, North, South, or whatever other place Sol can dream up.  All of our people are actually pretty cool — Francophones and Anglophones alike .

Thus, me thinks that Mr. Zanitti needs to take a chill pill… Especially if he frets over events which might have well happened during the ice age!  I’m mean, really?  Did he actually invoke a battle in the 1700s with cynicism to mark political points?  Seriously?  (Oh, big big sigh — Reset button… push the reset button Mr. Zanetti!).

Some additional remarks regarding conditioning and Mr. Zanetti’s video:  You can see that Mr. Zanetti’s conditioningand the historical context upon which that conditioning is based is very different than mine – and perhaps equally as different from yours.  His conditioning could stem from as diverse a range of factors as those who he has been surrounded by when growing up, the education he received, how he was taught to interpret history, his travels and where he has lived, and all the emotions which arise from these factors.

I am not in any way diminishing the validy of Mr. Zanetti’s emotions.  Everyone has reasons why they harbour their emotions.  But emotions often take the “objectivity” out of a situation.

This video is a prime example of how conditioning can prompt one to take action.  But as you have also seen from the last few posts, there is more than one way to look at an issue (these issues) and how to resolve these issues.

Therefore conditioning can become quite dangerous when it blinds people from existing alternatives and closes ones views to other possibilities, realities, and other people’s experiences.

In a sense, Mr. Zanetti’s video it reminds me of two friends, one Anglophone, one Francophone, who are each living in minority environments.   I used their cases as examples in post #277 as examples of negative conditioning.  In each of their cases, they believed they were being mistreated by the other linguistic group – and thus it tainted their view of other people in those linguistic groups… Whereas in reality I could see that only a few unfortunate, isolated incidents tainted their views of the remaining 98% of all the other good which was going on around them.  Negative conditioning led them to look for the bad along linguistic lines, rather than the good.

Despite Canada having been chugging along and slowing but surely finding its way to improve socio-linguistic inequalities, I find it very interesting how nobody in the sovereignist movement wishes to talk about Québec’s delegates roles in the First Night of the Long Knives in 1969, and how that quite possibly snow-balled into the Second Night of the Long Knives, and events throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The subject is not even taught in Québec school curriculums, and barely touched upon at university – at least not from this angle (rather, it is taught as a matter of triumph and not betrayal… but triumph over who and what?  Other Francophones and Francophiles elsewhere in Canada, like myself?  Strange – truly, very strange).

I truly don’t talk about these subjects very much with people know.  But I can tell you that the few times I have talked about the Estates General, and how it’s needless collapse affected all events which came afterwards (considering an alternative future could have otherwise played itself out), it has left more than a few of my friends in Québec in a bit of a state of surprise.  It sometimes gets an “OMG” moment of realization, but most of the time just surprised silence (especially when I ask the above questions of those who I know who are soft-sovereignists).

As you can see, this is why I strongly advocate for a “reset” on all of these issues.  When everyone chills, people see that the matters at hand are (1) not insurmountable, and (2) are not so bad (actually, I think they’re pretty good).

Moving on…

The Mulroney intiatives, the 1995 referendum, and the period to the present

By way of the Charlottetown and Meech Lake Accords, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sought to seek agreement for a re-written version of the constitution acceptable to all the provinces and the people of Canada.  He could not reach agreement, neither by way of provincial quorum nor by a referendum on the matter.

The failure of Mulroney’s efforts brought Canada to the brink of self-destruction (we have since learned that Saskatchewan’s Premier’s office and core cabinet members were even presented with the idea of joining the United States if Québec were to leave following the 1995 referendum… which perhaps would have had a spin-off effect with new countries created across the continent from the ashes of what once would have been Canada.  With such a large land mass as Canada with so many different regions, it truly was uncharted territory).   The failure of Meech and Charlottetown caused support for sovereignty to skyrocket.  The 1995 referendum results were 50.58% no and 49.42% yes.

Since the second referendum of 1995 (largely brought about by Mulroney’s failed attempt to seek consensus on a constitutional modification), support for sovereignty has declined.   Since 1995, it has rarely left the 33-39% range (give or take a couple of percent).

But those in the sovereignist movement took away three major lessons:

  1. Provoking a constitutional crisis can cause pro-sovereignty sentiments to spike,
  2. People are fearful of their economic future and are reluctant to risk that future, and
  3. Immigrant sentiments are key to any referendum outcomes.

Since 1995,

  1. we have seen the Parti Québécois (PQ) try to poke at things here and there to provoke a constitutional crisis (without success… precisely because successive Federal governments have not been willing to poke back after the lessons learned in the early 1990s),
  2. we have seen the PQ try to persuade Québec’s population that a sovereign Québec would be economically more viable as an independent state (hence why the billionaire businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau was chosen as the PQ’s latest leader), and
  3. we have seen the PQ try funny things on the immigration and integration front (hence why we see schizophrenic and finicky actions such as trying to woo immigrants, spend money on immigrants, blame immigrants, and fence-in immigrant issues with mechanisms such as the Charte des valeurs).

Despite all these efforts on the part of the PQ (and the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and Option Québec), support for sovereignty has rarely left the 32% to 39% spectrum.  There are many factors why this may be the case.  Yes, economic stability for an aging population may be a reason.  Youth who view politics in a more global rather than local sense may be another.

But I also tend to think that another factor is that people have become desensitized to the emotional impact of events of the 1970s, 80, and 90s.  In addition, overall good governance of Canada (relatively speaking when viewed in a global or Western context) as well as massive social changes in Canada since 1995 (not related to Constitutional affairs, but rather to individual sentiments) have played just as much, if not more of a role in a decrease of support for sovereignty.

This is not to say that support for sovereignty in Québec may not once again find its foothold.  I am watching with great interest what will come of the latest chapter involving the PQ’s new leader, Pierre Karl Péladeau.   Is he the ideology’s new magic ticket?  Or will he turn out to be the one carrying the shovel which will bury the issue even deeper into the ground? (perhaps once and for all).

But back to the national front

When all is said and done, the last 20 years have proven that we do not need constant constitutional amendments as a prerequisite for constant societal evolution in Canada.  That’s not to say the matter will be closed indefinitely.  It’s just to say that so far the past 25 years have demonstrsted that reopening the constitution is not of prime importance for the country to continue to evolve in the right direction.

When interpreting the constitution, the courts have shown that they are apt to interpret it in new, modern, and dynamic ways… turning a static document into a living one.    And for the most part, our societal evolution since 1995 (both for Francophone and Anglophone societies) have moved along in the same direction; not in opposite directions.   They are becoming more and more similar as time moves forward.   

In a twist of irony, despite there having been no constitutional amendments since its repatriation, Francophone and Anglophone societies in Canada have become more and more similar in the past 20 years than during any other time in our shared history.  (That may ultimately be the real killer of the sovereignty movement).

I’m of the belief that this has diminished the risks of a constitutional crisis.   That is not to say that some day there may not be another one.  But if the Federal government keeps its nose clean, and if the PQ’s attempts to provoke a constitution crisis can be tactfully brushed off, then things should go well and society should continue to positively evolve (socially, culturally, and socio-linguistically).

That does not mean that Anglophone Canada should cease being proactive.   On the contrary, evidence to date shows that many aspects of Anglophone society continue to be proactive (the subject of numerous past posts).  But people on both sides of the linguistic divide need to remain empathetic to each other, and share in each other’s culture to enrich our overall Canadian experience and nationhood.  After all, we continue to evolve as a country.

It is this type of societal conditioning for which I advocate.

I am not a fan of the type of conditioning from certain aspects of Québec’s ultra-nationalist factions.  There are segments of Québec’s the political, media, and education world which continue to erect walls between Québec and the rest of Canada.  This in turn prevents cross-linguistic empathy and learning.   But these segments are becoming more isolated with time.

Likewise, I am not a fan of the conditioning from certain aspects of Anglophone Canada which are ignorant to many issues pertaining to Francophone Canada, not only in Québec, but also coast to coast.   We often see such ignorance on issues in certain aspects of Anglophone Canada’s own political class, media and education systems.  Again, I believe that these segments too will become more isolated with time.

That, in a nutshell, sums up Canada’s recent history with respect to the Two Solitudes.  And it lays the foundation for aspects of Canada’s modern socio-linguistic conditioning with respect to why the Two Solitudes have been maintained during the past 45 years (at least from my point of view).

The next post will put into context the last few posts, and open the way for us to look at little things which reinfoce conditioning of the Two Solitudes; on a more localized, daily basis.

It makes for an interesting discussion.   See you soon!


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

Conditioning: What happened after the Estates General? (#281)

In the last post, I discussed the circumstances surrounding the failure and collapse of the Estates-General of French Canada.  Despite its failure, there were still many people across Canada (both Anglophones and Francophones) who believed that progress could be made in the absence of the weight and momentum which would have come from the Estates-General — despite the betrayal and non-participation of Québec’s delegates.

A quick reminder that I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

Trudeau’s first attempt at a solution:

The Bi-Bi Commission made four major recommendations to the Federal government (in addition to other recommendations which touched upon various levels of jurisdiction).  There were nuances to each of the recommendations, but notwithstanding the nuances, the four major recommendations were:

  • The creation of bilingual districts in certain areas of Canada,
  • The creation of Francophone education rights in areas of Canada where there were needed,
  • That French and English become official languages of Canada,
  • That Ottawa be declared bilingual.

Prior to the collapse of the Estates-General, there were perceived signs of a softening by several provinces towards increasing Francophone and bilingual services.  However, in the wake of the collapse of the Estates-General and the pressure it would have brought to the table, Anglophone provincial governments were no longer so inclined to act of their own (in a sense, they too were “flipped the same bird” that Francophones outside Québec were “flipped” – so hey, what do you expect).

In the early 1970’s, the task was mostly left to the Federal government to take action alone, but their jurisdiction only reached so far (compared to the Federal government, the provinces held jurisdiction over many more matters which touched the daily lives of its citizens and Francophones across Canada).

The new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, did what he could within his power, but he could only deal with what was within the Federal government’s jurisdiction.   He introduced greater bilingualism within the Federal government, and sought to protect Francophone rights across Canada at a Federal level.

However, with Trudeau having seen what happened with the collapse of the Estates-General, I would not be surprised if he felt as betrayed and as bitter as everyone else across Canada who expected a successful outcome of the Estates-General.   As Prime Minister, Trudeau was now facing difficult choices.

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was initially advocating for a bi-cultural country… one in which new immigrants would integrate into Canada’s two linguistic cultures (in some people’s minds, had the Estates-General succeeded, pressure from the outcome of the Bi-Bi Commission could have led to spin-off changes as dramatic as immigrants in places like Saskatchewan having to take English and French lessons, and even being compelled to pass French and English exams to obtain permanent residency or citizenship).

Eventually, it was possible that new segments of Anglophones also would have had to have adjusted to a new bilingual and bi-cultural reality (over a break-in period of a couple of decades or course).  One area being discussed was perhaps having to achieve a certain level of French prior to gaining a university diploma, or to be granted certain professional licenses.  Anglophone companies may have been required to have a core number of bilingual employees in order to secure federal incorporation status (Federal incorporation is necessary for any incorporated business which wishes to operate beyond their home province).   All of this would have made Canada a very different country than it is today.   To a major extent, it would have involved provincial governments in a whole new way.

Some of the above views may have been overly optimistic.  But had the Estates-General succeeded, there could have been a concerted, long-term movement in this direction all across Canada.

However, considering that Québec drew a line in the sand out of self-interest, I personally believe it led Pierre Trudeau to become fearful that accentuating that line, possibly by adopting an official policy of bi-culturalism, could increase the possibility for future betrayals – perhaps the kind which could tear the country apart in one fell swoop.

Thus, Trudeau did introduce a culturalism policy… but it was not bi-culturalism.   It was multiculturalism.   One of the people involved in the Bi-Bi Commission, Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj (of Ukrainian Cultural descent) advocated for multiculturalism.  But I’m inclined to think that perhaps in Trudeau’s mind, multiculturalism served as much a tool to ensure that no single linguistic or cultural group could ever “highjack” the country again, as it did as a nation-building tool for accommodations in a country becoming increasingly diverse.

And the 1970’s roared on:

In the meantime, nationalism in Québec soared during the 1970s.   It was actually quite ironic.   On one hand, war-cries were heard coming from Québec that sovereignty was necessary because Canada was not changing.  But on the other hand, much of what could have changed in Canada was killed by Québec’s own delegates during the Estates-General.  What could have been the most likely engine for change across Canada over the coming 3 to 4 decades was blasted to smithereens by the actions of Québec’s delegates.

As a side note:  Having grown up to a great extent in French in Alberta, I can attest to the fact that to this very day, there are Francophones outside of Québec and across Canada who remain bitter over what they perceive as having been betrayed and stabbed in the back by Québec’s delegates in 1967.   Thus it should come as no surprise that the reasons invoked to support the sovereignty movement in Québec are viewed as pure hypocrisy on the part of many Francophones outside Québec.

The 1970’s nationalist movement in Québec served to build arbitrary mental walls around Québec’s borders.   It created a “them and us” attitude at a time when grassroot movements outside Québec were trying to break beyond that notion.

This wall building exercise would have a conditioning effect on Québec’s people which continues to be felt today.

Trudeau’s job became more and more difficult.  I do not know if he made right or wrong decisions.  I do have thoughts regarding some of his decisions, but I have a difficult time concluding if my opinions are correct or not in light of the situations of the day (Should have Trudeau he chosen a different direction?  Did he go too far with some of his decisions?  Did he not go far enough on the socio-linguist front?  I truly do not know…).

But I am pretty sure Trudeau was between a rock and a hard place.  Either way, any decision he made would have left someone upset or disappointed (sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other).

Despite any errors he made, and despite if I or any others do or do not agree with his actions and decisions, he likely was acting in good faith considering the disappointing and “hand-tying” actions which came out of the Estates-General.   Had the Estates-General advocated as one strong voice for change from sea-to-sea, Trudeau’s job could have been much easier.  With the federal government in his pocket and the support of the Estates-General, it would have given him the ammunition and moral justification needed to go to all of the provinces to say “Fix this! Because I stand behind our people, coast-to-coast”.  But that opportunity was taken away from him in 1967, and from all others across Canada who wanted to fix Canada’s linguistic inequalities in the 1970s.

Instead, Trudeau was left fighting a referendum in 1980, during which ultra-nationalists were asking Québécois to leave Canada because Canada was not changing (do you too see the irony?).

The story does not stop here.  Numerous other events occurred after the 1980 referendum which provide background to today’s societal conditioning.


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