Conflicting interests at L'Actualité -

Conflicting interests at L’Actualité



Good news, English Quebecers: you have never been more attuned to Quebec’s French fact. According to Statistics Canada, which published a study on as much in 2006, nearly 70 per cent of you are fluently bilingual—up nearly three percentage points from 2001. For you young’uns, the news is even sweeter: nearly 90 per cent of you can speak la langue de Lévesque by the time you reach the age of 21. So pat yourself on the back, ladies and germs.You navigated the often fraught linguistic waters of this province and become, essentially, part of the majority.

Of course, L’Actualité isn’t nearly as sunny about your lot in its most recent issue. Written in large part by Jean-François Lisée, the poll and analysis package paints a rather harsh picture of younger Anglophones. “The future of French? Three quarters of young anglos don’t give a damn!” Lisée writes in his teaser blog post.

Our biggest finding is this: young Anglo Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 34, the next generation that is for the most part already active in society, are markedly frostier towards the French fact than older Anglophones. To the question regarding the right to work in French in larger companies, 74 per cent of young Anglos don’t give a damn about one of the most central aspects of Bill 101, never mind the simple respect of the Francophone majority.

Shucks. And it only gets worse, as the magazine helpfully points out in the survey presentation…

Young Anglophones brag on Facebook and Twitter of living very well in English only in Quebec and have zero interest in French. How did we arrive there?

…and in the hard numbers behind its CROP survey:

Three out of four young Anglophones [18-34] find it normal that Francophones should be forced to work in English. What a gift to offer Quebec’s French language charter, which turns 35 this year. We would cry.

And so on. I’ll leave it to someone more numerically inclined to take on the survey itself, which pollster and demographer Jack Jedwab did in Saturday’s Gazette. Nor is it worth debating whether L’Actualité’s editorial package is an illustration or a targeting of Quebec’s English population. The difference between illustrating and targeting is largely in the eye of the beholder, it seems. I’d only say that if your writer promotes the thing by saying that English people “don’t give a damn about the future of French,” and that its prefaced by a line like “Young Anglophones brag on Facebook and Twitter of living very well in English only in Quebec and have zero interest in French”—when your own survey says 82 per cent of Anglos say not having meaningful contact with the French language is actually undesirable—and the whole thing is literally illustrated by a worried-looking frog pondering a computer screen (see above) filled with English words, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your illustrative skills.

My main is what L’Actualité (which, like Maclean’s, is owned by Rogers Publishing) failed to acknowledge in its presentation of the findings.

That Jean-François Lisée is sovereignist in his convictions doesn’t bother me one iota. There are many sovereignist columnists in this corner of the world, just as there are ardent federalists. And there are many in between who have made a living out of hedging their bets on the subject, so the fact that Lisée is so upfront with his convictions is refreshing.

What L’Actualité failed to note in its cover story is that the person who conceived and wrote the survey questions, as well as the bulk of the editorial content, remains actively involved in Quebec politics as an advisor to the Parti Québécois. As La Presse’s Paul Journet noted in January, Lisée served as  emissary to PQ leader Pauline Marois in the PQ’s “electoral alliance” discussions with Québec Solidaire. More recently, Marois appointed Lisée to a 12-person committee devoted to, in the words of a TVA News clipping, “rendering the sovereignist option more seductive.” This last appointment cost Lisée his gig on Radio-Canada. “Jean-François Lisée involvement in a political activity is such that we have chosen to put an end to his participation on the weekly panel on Téléjournal [Rad-Can’s The National equivalent],” Rad-Can flack Marc Pichette told Le Devoir in February. “Remember that none of the [other] participants are directly engaged in politics.”

I’m not suggesting that Lisée’s work in L’Actualité is somehow tinted by his continued involvement with the Parti Québécois. Nor would I suggest that it would be in his interest to, for example, present a less-than-rosy picture of language relations to foment language strife. But L’Actualité has a duty to make clear the ongoing political involvement of its writers—particularly when the dossier involved, language and language relations, is a constant preoccupation (and notably reliable war-horse) of the political party in question. How preoccupied? One example: the PQ’s language critic, Yves-François Blanchet, refuses to answer questions in English. Coincidentally or not, the PQ has already expressed alarm at the results of L’Actualité’s survey, and plans to “rewrite Bill 101, to restore its sprit and reinforce how it is applied.” Great timing, n’est pas?

I’m sure Mr. Lisée can remove his political advisor cap and don his columnist cap without any worrisome overlap. But it must be made abundantly clear to readers that these two hats exists.

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Conflicting interests at L’Actualité

  1. “Three out of four young Anglophones [18-34] find it normal that Francophones should be forced to work in French. ”

    Wouldn’t Francophones prefer to work in French? Why should they need to be forced?

    • They might prefer to have a choice. `

      • The thing is that we often don’t have a choice especialy in company register under federal Charter like bank.

    • Whoops. That should read ‘English.’ Apologies, and thanks for the catch.

    • “…forced to work in ENGLISH”, folks.

  2. I find it incredibly funny that you, of all people, should find yourself offended by the issue in question. It might make you think twice next time you write about Canada’s “most corrupt province”. 

    Also, while I agree that the magazine could be more clear on the fact that Lisée works for the PQ (I’ve been reading him for years and he’s always been very opened about that fact), the fact remains that some (not the Régis Labaume ones) of these results are indeed somewhat troubling for francophones. 

    • This “survey” asked a number of YES/NO questions that were completely taken out of context. As a perfectly bilingual, francophone-at-work, anglophone-at-home, in the age demographic described, I find this “study” incredibly offensive. Lisée is a master spin doctor. To state that Anglophones brag on social networking sites that they get by by being unilingual at work is a FARCE. The questions set up to be provocative. Please read this before saying that the results are troubling for francophones.

      • Oh I read that a while ago. Actually, I’m happy that they did that because it actually fuels the discussion. I’m actually in the camp that says we should talk more. If flaws can be pointed out, the better. I might have been to quick to judge some of the answers. We’ll see. 

        My main problem comes from the knee-jerk reaction and the attacks made at l’Actualité. Was the poll flawed, yes it was. Was it worst than something you’d find Maclean’s, hum no. My point was that that the Quebec corruption issue was just as bad. All my life, I’ve heard from the anglo-side that francos were always overreacting and too defensive. Well, it’s nice to see that in some way, you now know how it feels to be a francophone in a country were Quebec bashing, if not outright franco bashing is also accepted. So yeah, I know exactly how you feel.Finally, l’actualité made more effort to generate an open discussion than any other media I’ve seen. For example, they invited Josh Freed to blog for a while.

  3. “Our biggest finding is this: young Anglo Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 34, the next generation that is for the most part already active in society, are markedly frostier towards the French fact than older Anglophones.”

    Why would this surprise anyone? The Quebecois felt their language rights were being oppressed, so they became militant about preserving their language, passing Bill 101 and setting up language police. Now the English minority feels oppressed, and young people are notoriously more fervent in their ideologies that those who have more experience with the world. (Not only that, but many older anglophones who felt oppressed have already left.)

    The response is completely predictable and in many ways mirrors the feelings the Quebecois had only a few decades ago. Well, duh!

  4. Tiens, tiens, Martin Patriquin… La Presse reports today on the case of unilingual anglos named by this federal government as immigration commissionners in Montreal.  They don’t read or speak French, and one of the two accepted as valid a document translated from Spanish into French while admitting that he didn’t understand what was written:

    Some of you here may call the separatists arrogant but they don’t have the monopoly on arrogance. Conservative federalists are arrogant! and dumb….

    • I may agree that the French language is threatened, but I consider it unacceptable to label as “not integrated” those non-francophones who think otherwise. The authors of the CROP survey have formulated several survey questions in a way that sets up Quebec anglophones as hostile to both francophones and the French language. If anglophones do not acknowledge either directly or indirectly that the use of their language in Montreal represents a dire threat to francophones, they appear to fail the survey’s integration test and thus do not appear to be good Quebecers.

      Read more:

  5. paefait