Day 210. Oh, Merde !!

I am so frustrated I could scream.  I AM screaming, actually, but you can’t hear me.  So this is as close as I can get to let you know exactly how I feel.  Can you hear me NOW?

Sorry.  Didn’t really want to deafen you for life.  I’ll try to keep it down to a dull roar from here on, in.  No doubt, you’ve got my drift, by now, anyway.  And if you’ve glanced at the drawing, and how could you avoid it, fingeryou now also know what I’d like to say to Pauline Marois, the recently-elected Premier of Quebec; and the leader of the Parti Quebecois.

She, and her merry band of zealots and language police won’t be satisfied until they have driven the final nail into the coffin of La Belle Province.

The latest is, the language cops (L’office quebecois de la langue francaise) are cracking down on small businesses in Montreal.  They are harassing restaurants, forcing them, for example, to remove ‘English’ names like ‘pasta’ from their signs and menus.

Have you ever heard of anything so preposterous?  So absolutely asinine?  So moronic?  So Saturday Night Live worthy?

One chef was told to re-write his own personal shopping list.  He’d written ‘steak’ instead of ‘bifteck’.  Another restaurateur was told to cover up the print on a hot water switch because it said “on/off”.

In their infinite wisdom (yes I am being sarcastic) the OQLF have also decided that ‘cafe’ is no longer an acceptable term to describe establishments selling coffee.  When challenged by the owner of one such ‘cafe’ he was told it had become too ‘anglified’ a word.  So it was no longer French enough.

No, I am not pulling your jambe.

They also want to determine who can go to an English school, or University, and who can’t.  Who MUST go to a French school.

Mais oui, this is what my poor family and friends of mine, who still live there,  are being forced to put up with.  Welcome to nazi Quebec.  Sorry folks.  But it’s not that different.  When self-appointed members of a community call themselves ‘police’ and give themselves the right to discriminate against others, to dictate to others, to exert force on others, to run roughshod over the rights of others, it’s a little too close for comfort, for my liking.

Quebec has essentially been in the toilet since the mid-seventies, when the idea of separatism first reared its ugly head.  That’s when the procession out of there began.  With the exception of the pharmaceutical industry, every head office of banks, insurance companies and multi-national companies re-located their headquarters to Toronto.  And they were followed by hundreds and hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens.

Seriously.  Within twenty-four hours of Rene Levesque’s victory, money was moved to banks in Ontario and even bordering U.S. states like Vermont.  People were lined up outside their banks for blocks and blocks and blocks.  The highways were jammed with cars.

And no one’s gone back.

It was several years later that I left, and when I did, it was because I’d been offered a job, not because I necessarily wanted to.  I loved Montreal.  I have had a glorious career in Toronto and, therefore, don’t really have any regrets.  But I do get angry whenever I think I could never have had this career in Montreal.  I could have prior to separatism, but not since.  So you could say, I was driven out of my home.  My place of birth.  And those who chose to stay, for whatever their reasons, have struggled to maintain whatever few rights they’ve had left.

They’ve struggled to stay in business.  They’ve struggled to make lives for themselves and their families.  And it’s not right.

Don’t go thinking it’s just the English-speaking residents who’ve been hard done by, either.  There are plenty of French people who’ve suffered as well.  And plenty of them are as pissed off and frustrated as I am.  And plenty of them have also moved away.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I have no issue with speaking French.  I learned how to speak French in school.  I still speak it, although not as ‘fluently’ as I used to, because I have no one to speak French to here, in Toronto.

Quebec should be a bilingual province.  Kids should learn how to speak both languages in school.  French people should be able to converse, at home, at school, at work and anywhere else, in the language of their choice.  So should English-speaking folks.

It’s the arrogance, even more than the stupidity, of it all that really bugs me.  The to-hell-with-you attitude.  They have contempt for anglophones.  They think they don’t need the rest of Canada.  Or anyone else, for that matter.  Because they are deluded enough to believe the whole world is waiting to come and do business with them, in French.  A language the whole world doesn’t necessarily speak.  Or want to speak.  Or have to speak.  They think they can get by on their own.

Well you know, maybe it’s time to call their bluff.   Maybe we should all just let them go.  For once and for all.    Au revoir et bonne chance!

28 thoughts on “Day 210. Oh, Merde !!

  1. The day I moved to Canada (November 1, 1996), Quebec was voting to separate. It didn’t pass but my father was worried about my immigration and what it would do to the economy. It was (shockingly) on CNN and even the regular news. And while I have enjoyed visiting Quebec for work and personal reasons, as a non-French speaker, I always felt a bit awkward there. Disliked. Barely tolerated. Being American came in handy since that was less repugnant than being from Ontario. I never felt that way in France or the French-speaking Caribbean islands.

    • They have killed that beautiful province. Businesses keep closing down. There is no future for young people. People are afraid to go there. Montreal was the most fantastic city. They’ve never recovered from the never ending uncertainty since Levesque won the election in the 70’s. Now this! It’s a crying shame. And you are right. Nowhere else in the world are english speaking tourists made to feel so unwelcome as they are there.

  2. What a compelling read. It’s great to hear about this through the voice of an ordinary citizen and not through the filter of the international news media. How separatism has affect real life for many of Quebec’s citizens. What’s appalling to me is the narrow-mindedness of those in power, and the obvious question of why?

    I think your comparison to the Gestapo is not unwarranted. And if you let your mind wander just a bit, it also bears a striking resemblance to themes presented in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

    • Thank you! Trust me, I haven’t even scratched the surface. If I’d talked about how all aspects of life have been, and continues to be, for those who have stayed there my blog post would have been thousands and thousands of words long. It has been miserable, and costly, for far too many, Francophones included. The narrow-mindedness is bad enough. But it’s also ignorance and idealism to the point of blindness. Not willing to see the damage they have done and continue to do. This insane belief they are right and shall reign supreme. And succeed. And then on top of all that, there’s the hatred. The contempt. The belief they are superior. That’s what’s Gestapo-like. And that’s what’s terrifying and maddening at the same time. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to either Montreal, Quebec City or even just traveling through the small towns in Quebec. There is so much natural beauty there. There is so much to see and enjoy. There was so much potential there. There was a sense of history, a joie de vivre, a uniqueness just not found anywhere else in Canada, maybe not even in North America. And it’s all disappearing, because no one can stay in business there. The citizenry, with the exception of these militants, are downtrodden. And, of course, English speaking people are afraid to go there. It is just a mess. A mess that could have been avoided.

  3. Yikes! I guess I can confidently scratch off visiting there. How sad, on so many levels. I’m glad you wrote about this Fransi. Otherwise, I seriously doubt I’d have learned about it.

  4. I’m kinda speechless right now. For someone who consider themselves pretty informed of current affairs I was completely oblivious to the plight in Quebec. This tyrannical rule is something I had relegated in my mind to more third world countries. Even in India if something like this did occur (in fact it often does) I would not be overly surprised but in a city like Quebec this kind of attitude is truly appalling. I will be sure to read up on this but thank you for doing me a favor by telling be what I had missed.

    • You’re welcome. You’re absolutely right. We do tend to associate this kind of behaviour with third world countries. Of course that’s what these idiots are turning the province into.

  5. Oh my…. are they going to make the squirrels in Montreal speak French as well? I’m not sure they’re going to tolerate that one bit. Prepare for a blitzkrieg of acorns, Language Nazis!

    • They will most definitely be speaking francais, mon ami. They better start packing for their long trip to Ontario.

  6. I had no idea. I speak French but don’t think Canadian French has a huge amount in common with French French anymore… I’m pretty sure the French still use café! And pasta is an Italian word that the English have appropriated… And biftek is a word that came from hearing English say beef steak. Shall I go on???!!!

    • No need, you’re preaching to the converted. But then we are not irrational zealots with no common or business sense, brains or respect for the rights of others.

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