14

“I think they’re quite proud of being Anglo Québécois and not just another Anglo from Minnesota.”


 

Recently, one half of Deux Maudits Anglais spoke with Angry French Guy (real name unknown) who writes a spiffy little Quebec issues blog from somewhere west of Atwater Avenue in Montreal. As the quotation above his blog suggests (bless you, Chuck D) he is about as angry as we are goddamned – that is to say, very. He recently recounted a lovely yarn that smelled of 1970s-era language politics: a Montreal car dealer who refuses to translate his website into French. Nice guy that he is, Angry wrote him a note in his impeccable English. Much hilarity, and a complaint to l’Office québécois de la langue française, ensued.

Angry French Guy, welcome to Two Goddamned Englishmen. The other Goddammned Englishman, who is actually French (it’s a long story) is either getting married, or is drunk, or both, so it’ll just be you and me. What’s your story?

The usual: a Kenyan father, a childhood in Hawaïi and Jakarta, an Indonesian Muslim stepfather…

Actually, more like an anglicized Francophone father and a Francophone mother, both from NDG. I went to school in the future (École Secondaire Saint-Luc, the most etnically diverse school in Québec, christened “The Québec of Tomorrow” by the media) and spent my summers in the past (The Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club in the West Island. They had a picture of the Queen.)

But enough about me. Who are you and how did you end up working for the dark side of Canada?

Funny you should ask. I’m half German, half Lennoxvillian, and only left Quebec long enough to love Sackville, New Brunswick and hate Toronto.

You recently recounted your run in with a Montreal area car dealership whose website was only in English. You mentioned that you lodged a complaint with l’Office québécois de la langue française. The OQLF has a wretched reputation outside (and, in some circles, within) Quebec. Given your experience, how important would you say it is to have such an organization in this day and age?

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it’s the worst possible way of protecting the rights of French speaking consumers in Quebec, with the exception of all the others. As one commenter on my blog pointed out, there was a time when such a dispute would’ve been settled with a fist in the face. I wrote an email to the car salesman telling him that his English-only website made me feel, as a Francophone, that my business was not wanted, and he replied with an insulting letter calling me an ignorant pigheaded fool. Thanks to the OQLF my anger was channeled into the all-consuming black hole of government bureaucracy and never came out. How is that a bad thing?

But tell me, you say the OQLF has a bad name outside Quebec but, as far as I know people outside (and even inside) Québec don’t have the slightest idea what the OQLF is, does or how it works. Unlike me, Ted Rogers pays you to check your facts. What do you think?

Oh, come now. You really think that most people outside of Quebec don’t have an inkling about the OQLF? It enforces la chartre de la langue française, among other things, which I seem to recall made a few headlines at some point (hint: the chartre helped trigger one of the larger demographic shifts in recent Canadian history.) Hell, Ted Rogers probably knows a bit about the OQLF (I’d ask, but he doesn’t return my calls.) That isn’t to say the ROC knows everything the OQLF does, but wholly ignorant of it? I disagree completely.

But we’re getting off topic. What is your impression of Anglophone Quebecers today, as opposed to the bad old days of yore? In other words, do you find that people like your used car dealer are the exception, or the rule?

Remember how easy it was for a little Bishop street pub to organize a St.Patrick’s Day PR campaign mascarading as a civil rights movement just by evoquing the OQLF last spring? It didn’t matter how many papers The Gazette’s Don Macpherson, The Toronto Star’s Mark Abley or my man Fagstein wrote to warn that, just maybe, there was demagoguery in the air, the whole world lapped it up: Language Police Remove English Signs from Montreal Irish Pub. How many people know that the signs are still up and that they were legal all along? This would not have been a story in the first place if people knew what bill 101 actually does.

About the Anglo Québécois… I don’t know much about the Anglos of yore, although I’ve heard they were all very wealthy and might have been involved with eating babies.

Today the Anglo-Québécois are cool. They make it a point of switching back and forth between French and English, tsé? Making sure everybody knows they’re in the know, part of the in-group. I think they’re quite proud of being Anglo Québécois and not just another Anglo from Minnesota. The problem is Francos and Anglos live in almost completely segregated societies until they’re 18 and move to the Plateau. The whole idea of separate schools, universities and hospitals is just bizarre. It confuses the hell out of immigrants and discourages bilingualism by making it so easy for people to just stay in their own comfort zones. I know it’s not the children of bill 101 who are not able to serve me in French downtown.

What are people saying about French Canadians at the Fairview Pointe-Claire these days? Do we still carry the stigma of Hérouxville?

I haven’t a clue, but your inference, that Pointe Claire is some sort of change-resistant Anglo stronghold, is telling – and wrong. Yes, Pointe Claire is the fabled home to much of Quebec’s Anglo gentry, and I’m sure lawn bowling is as popular as ever. But here’s the thing: according to the most recent Statistics Canada census, 22 percent of Pointe Claire’s population is Francophone, and nearly 70 percent of the population is bilingual.

Separate universities you say? Nearly 20 percent of the students at McGill and Concordia are French Quebecers. Even Bernard Landry was impressed. When I interviewed him last year he said he was thrilled with the strides McGill has made over the last 15 or so years in integrating French into its programmes, as well as its efforts to recruit French Quebecers into its ranks. (Two of the school’s five VPs are French. This would have been practically unthinkable 30 years ago.) And speaking of Landry: the erstwhile sovereigntist premier himself teaches at Concordia’s John Molson (!) School of Business – entirely in French.

On a personal note, I went to a very swishy English private boys school that, back in the day, was more British than the Queen. Today, students entering that very school in kindergarten spend 70 percent of their time in French until grade two, and 50 percent until grade six, and have daily French instruction for the rest of their years (provided they can afford it, of course.)

My point is this: old stereotypes are awfully boring, and often wrong. Trading in them is futile. But anyway. Why so angry, Angry French Guy?

Please don’t assume I an ignorant about English Montreal because I’m French. My dad was the president of McGill’s Cercle Français back in the day, I am quite familiar with the West Island and I have never lived east of Atwater. My family’s been going back and forth across linguistic lines for generations.

You proved my point. If English kids spend 70 percent of their class time in French and since the majority of Francophones wish their kids were taught better English, it’s quite obvious they should just be going to the same school!  French Quebec made its bed on this issue 30 years ago: one single primarily French school system for all, regardless of language spoken at home, religion or origin. Who’s the second system for, exactly?

That’s why I’m angry, man! Because there are still people in Quebec willing to justify segregation. Because we live in a society where flag-waving nationalism in red is considered morally superior to flag waving nationalism in blue. Because a country that considers Pierre Elliot Trudeau a champion of human rights is insane. I’m angry because of Jacques Parizeau and Victor-Levy Beaulieu. I’m angry because of Westmount. I’m angry because of The Suburban. I’m angry because 18% of Haïtians and 28% of Arabs in Montreal are unemployed and people are only interested in arguing about who’s more racist, the French or the English. I’m angry because Francos are moving out of Montreal, bilingual Anglos are moving out of Québec and every day Sainte-Catherine Street looks a little bit more like Younge Street in Toronto. That and CDs. I hate CDs. You buy one, listen to it once and it’s scratched and skips! Argh!

Always nice chatting with you, Angry French Guy. It is a privilege to discuss one’s differences with another by way of a keyboard. To paraphrase someone more quotable than I, such disputes were once settled with a fist in the face.

P.S. What’s a CD?

It was fun. Mazel Tov to the other Anglais and if Ted Rogers ever returns you calls, tell him he owes me money.


 

“I think they’re quite proud of being Anglo Québécois and not just another Anglo from Minnesota.”

  1. Great interview? Or greatest interview?

    Wassim

  2. Martin:

    Where can an Ontario anglo like me (never fortunate enough to learn French) read more of this sort of dialogue? Fascinating.

  3. I would like to hear this long story: how did half of Two Goddamned Englishmen end up being French?

  4. J’en veux plus aussi…

  5. As an Anglophone from Minnesota living in Quebec I can say I am neither proud or embarrassed from living in Quebec. I am struggling to learn French, as any anglo would, but I hold no resentment or anger towards the French. It’s their province. Their rules. I embrace it and enjoy living here very much.

    I will say the one thing I have difficulty with is the constant childish whining and complaining I hear from both anglos and francos about most everything. If Americans don’t like something something they don’t constantly expect Uncle Sam to fix it. Here, it seems a birthright to expect Mother Quebec or Father Canada (or Bob the Beaver or whoever your national symbol is) to change your friggin diapers.

    The picture that comes to mind, when thinking of Quebecors is a 30 year old guy living in the basement of his parents house working at a video store who complains about his mothers food and his fathers snoring.

    Both sides need to get over themselves and start friggin growing up. Stop complaining and start producing. And if you don’t like something work to change it. Otrherwise take a healthy dose of shut the hell up.

  6. I am pleased you stood up for Pointe-Claire. Your comments are good, to dispel the myths that there is some sort of Anglo stronghold anywhere in the West Island.

  7. The car dealer wrote a comment on the blog, quite touchingly.

    AFG is a maniac, I hope you don’t drive traffic to his bigoted site.

  8. The “not just another Anglo from Minnesota” comment is quite telling. How would AFG react if someone referred to the Quebecois in such an utterly condecending way such as “You are a good guy AFG, you aren’t just anothother Francophone.” It implies the others of that group are somehow beneath you and that you have some sort of right to judge which Anglos are the good kind and which are the bad. I’m an Anglo who left Quebec when I was 2 as part of the aforementioned demographic shift. I still consider myself a Quebecer. Had it not been for the biggoted policies of certain elements in Quebec I would still be happily living there, fluently bilingual and doing my best to contribute to Quebec society (and there are literally thousands of others in the ROC who can say the same).

    • Too bad your parents didn’t give two shits about you being bilingual.

  9. As long as Quebec Anglos keep slavishly voting Liberal federally, who cares what happens to them.

  10. Huge Jazz, seems you know a thing or two about whining.

  11. Si vous avez à coeur la langue de Molière, pouvez-vous faire circuler dans votre milieu!
    Merci à l'avance!

    CENTRE-VILLE DE MONTREAL

    ====================================

    Une anglicisation fulgurante en photos et vidéos
    Déjà un millier d'infractions possibles à la loi 101!
    Et ce ne sont ni des rumeurs, ni des ouï-dire, ni des peurs mal-fondées, ni des épouvantails à moineaux, ce ne sont que des faits réels.

    Allez constater sur ce site:
    http://www.imperatif-francais.org/bienvenu/articl

  12. thats great gilles I hope Montreal gets more english despite all the undemocratic laws sepratists and parasites keep passing

    • Why are you such a hater?

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