Friday, February 22, 2013

Language equality or English supremacy?

Since the election of the Parti Quebecois on September 4th 2012, Anglophones in Quebec seem to be whipping themselves into a frenzy. It may be because of the NDP sweep of Quebec in the 2011 federal elections and certain polls at the time showing that support for sovereignty in Quebec was dropping that Anglos felt that this whole “Québécois” thing was coming to an end. They must have felt that the time was right to start pushing back and getting Quebec back on the path to assimilation. Then comes this minority PQ government trying to impose their new language laws on everyone!?! It was muscle-flexing time. A bunch of Anglos came together on Facebook on a site called “Put Canadian Flag back In Quebec Assembly” (which is kind of ironic because that foreign flag was never actually removed). The owners of this site began seeing themselves as the center of a new Tahrir square movement and they began promising a huge demonstration against these modifications to the language laws on February 17th 2013 .

They were going on about it for months. They kept telling us that thousands had said “maybe”.  In the end, barely two hundred people showed up for this gathering. It was a huge failure but the organizers blamed the weather. It's nothing new, even the Nazis blamed the weather for their failures (Wow, it is easy to make gratuitous comparisons with Nazis). But what were that handful of people really doing out there? In their postmortem, they gave a few reasons like:
  • Bill 14 would give the PQ language minister Diane de Courcy judicial type powers of seizure and the ability to seize personal computers, files, documents and whatever they feel admissible.
I have no idea where they came up with this one. I couldn't find it anywhere. I'm sure it was "implied" somehow...
  • Bill 14 would close a loophole that allows francophone military families a right to send their children to English schools.
The official language of Quebec is French. Public education in Quebec is in French. There are a few exceptions for Anglos and Native people, but why should we make exceptions for grunts? I don't get it.
  • Bill 14 would force high school and CEGEP students to have a “mastery” of the french language in order to graduate. Please note high schools and CEGEPS already have french language immersion and requirements to graduate. What the PQ considers “mastery” is unknown at this moment.
Governments impose standardized tests all the time. Why should we be shocked about this one? Maybe there are a lot of Anglo graduates who still can't function in French. I certainly know a few.
  •  Bill 14 would strip municipalities and their citizens of bilingual status and publications.
Demographics change all the time. When Francophones asked for services in French in English Canada, they were often told that those services incurred costs and that they were only given "where numbers warrant". The fact that Quebec would apply the same standards makes it racist!

We were then given the following stirring words:

They WERE there to express how they love freedom, equality and liberty. They WERE there to tell them they want a Constitution that you may very well take for granted, to apply to them as Quebeckers and Canadians and not just the rest of Canada.

The next time you gauge your pride in your nation by donning a Team Canada jersey, the next time you sew on the flag to your backback before you travel, the next time you hold your head high and think, "I am proud to be a Canadian" you need to ask yourself the following questions: 

Ask yourself how would you feel if your rights were being taken away in the most offensive and apparent ways? And what if your fellow countrymen have remained silent and abandoned you for over 40 years?

These Quebecers and proud Canadians who, despite insurmountable odds, threats and acts of violence against them, and regardless of laws that already exist which classify them as second class citizens came out to stand in solidarity.

Francophones, anglophones, immigrants and people from all cultural backgrounds in finger numbing cold and despite every  justifiable reason to believe an entire country has forgotten them, today they stood arm-in-arm to say they still love their country. And regardless of the odds, they stood together to say, "We are proud to be Canadians!".

After today, I feel a very strong case could be made for them being the greatest Canadians in the nation. So the next time you take a moment to reflect on what Canada means to you, take a moment to think of them. The Quebec protestors that stood there in the cold for hours and remember that on Feb 17th 2013, they showed the rest of Canada that they DO care.

So please do not abandon them,  they have not abandoned you Canada.
I nearly lost my lunch reading that crap. As nauseating as it sounds, these are the terms in which they frame their "struggle". On their site, they have referred to themselves as freedom-fighters and Quebec's language laws are routinely described as the most vile oppression since Nazi Germany. Believe me, I'm only slightly exaggerating. The Facebook page purports to be fighting against language discrimination and is filled with stories about the OQLF's sillier antics,  people refusing to speak English in the metro and basically anything negative about Pauline Marois. Recently there were two videos that were highlighted on their page which sheds some light on what is being portrayed as "language discrimination" in Quebec.

The case of Onehundredjobs:

This video is made by someone who is known on Youtube as Onehundredjobs. Ms Jobs starts by tells us of her upbringing in Ontario, going to French immersion school and moving to Quebec, etc. Then she tells us of her dismay at seeing a reemergence of old battles she felt had been resolved in the 2000s. I have no idea what she believes was resolved during the reign of the Charest cabal. I guess to some, a corrupt government in Quebec City that doesn't give a shit about the future of Quebec equals problem solved. Ms Jobs then moves on to the changes to Quebec's language laws proposed by the PQ which she completely distorts. According to Ms Jobs, Anglophone kids will now be forced to go to French daycare. She characterizes this shocking law as FASCIST!

Meanwhile back in the real world, what the PQ are proposing is extending a watered down version of Bill 101 to publicly subsidized daycares. As usual, Anglophones are exempt. Francophones and immigrants have French subsidized daycares available to them. If that is not acceptable, private daycares are available in English or other languages. Fascism indeed!

Ms Jobs then moves on to denounce fictitious laws that demand that shop clerks address customers in French only. No such laws exist but nonetheless, the hysterical Ms Jobs boldly asserts that she will not be EXTERMINATED! Her act of defiance is to refuse to speak French. Of course, she won't be the first Anglophone in Quebec to refuse to speak French... Not by a long shot!

Ms Jobs responds to challenges to her assertions by deleting them and blocking anyone who disputes her version of reality.

The case of Mohamed H. Amin:

This video is made by Mohamed H. Amin. He is not insane, he is a limited edition. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean but Mr Amin seems to think it is quite clever. This is about his visit to the SAAQ. If what he says is true, someone at the SAAQ refused to speak to his wife and him in English. She told them that they are in Quebec and we speak French here. He reminded her that she is NOT in Quebec but in Canada and Canada has two official languages, English and French. It is his choice and since he pays her salary through his taxes, he can choose to speak to her in English if he wants. But she kept on speaking in French.

Then, she hit the "next" button. This humiliated Mohamed in front of his wife and child (the dramatic music stops when he says this... to make it more dramatic). Moe wanted to complain to the manager but his wife said it was useless because the government encourages this behavior.  Moe then feared that one day his daughter will be brainwashed by the government and tell him that he has to speak French because we are in Quebec! Discrimination has become a culture in Quebec according to Mr Amin.

Mr Amin clearly does not understand how the Canadian system works. The different tiers of government are a mystery to him. He simply can't get his head around how the federal government can have two official languages but a provincial government can have just one. Yet this is the case for 9 out of 10 provinces. The official language of Alberta is English and their version of the SAAQ is under no obligation to offer services in French. If Quebec and the SAAQ are guilty of language discrimination then so are all the other provinces with the exception of New Brunswick. But the accusation of discrimination only seems to apply to Quebec.

It was suggested to Moe that if he were truly concerned about discrimination, perhaps he should make a video about the plight of the Copts (Christians) of Egypt who face a rather violent form of discrimination. Mr Amin answered that there is no discrimination against the Copts in Egypt. He said it was all just Western lies designed to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood. He then added that the Copts were also guilty of violence against Muslims. So basically, it's all lies and, anyways, they do it, too.

Clearly logic and honesty are not among Mr Amin's virtues. And clearly his video has nothing to do with denouncing any discrimination in Quebec. It is about a personal vendetta Mr Amin has against an employee of the SAAQ. Moe has simply expanded this vendetta to include all Francophones in Quebec.

Quebec's language laws

Quebec's language laws are not about exterminating Anglophones in Quebec as some hysterical headless chickens would have you think. They are not about discrimination and they are not about racism. They are about ensuring that French is the common language in Quebec just like English is the common language everywhere else in Canada. More importantly, they are about integrating immigrants.

Canada has been a demographics battle ground for a long time. After the rebellion of 1837, it was decided that Francophones in Canada should be assimilated through massive immigration from the British isles. At that time Francophones were still the majority in Canada. By the 1850s they had become a minority. By 1900, Francophones made up roughly 30% of the population of Canada. Today, Francophones represent only 23% of the population. There is a certain trend here that is kind of hard to miss.

When the supply of British immigrants ran out, Canada began luring people from other parts of Europe offering incentives to populate Western Canada.  This is the same era that saw the banning of French schools throughout English Canada and a surplus of people in Quebec who saw no alternative but to immigrate to the USA. It's not just a trend but a deliberate pattern with a very obvious aim.

Immigration has been used as a weapon against the French-speaking population of Canada for a long time. The counter-attack came in the form of a prodigious birth rate but that is now gone. If the Francophones of North America are to survive they need to integrate immigrants. This is an up-hill battle when you are a minority in someone else's country. Immigrants naturally tend to join the dominant group. Before Bill 101, 90% of immigrants to Quebec ended up as Anglophones.

Quebec's language laws have had some success in integrating immigrants. Now roughly 50% become Francophones. It's still not enough but it is an improvement. However, the language laws are a double edged sword. They seem to have lulled a significant portion of Francophones into a false sense of security. The decline has become slower and more incremental. It becomes easier to pretend that maybe Quebec can exist in Canada. The reality is that Quebec's position in Canada is untenable. Only by becoming a majority in an independent Quebec will there be a real future for the French-speaking people of North America.

Anglophones like those behind the Flag site pretend that there is some kind of equality between English and French in Canada and so protection of one language and not the other is inequality and discrimination. In reality, French and English are not on equal footing in North America. Anglophones are in no way a minority on this continent. Francophones are the 2% minority. Let's get that straight. Calling for institutionalized bilingualism in the province of Quebec is calling for the slow extermination of a culture and I'm sure that these Flagheads know it. Even an idiot can see it:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What’s wrong with the Canadian empire?

Exactly that, it’s an empire. The only reason Quebec is in Canada today is because of a military invasion that occurred over 250 years ago. That is the fundamental fact about Canada: it is the product of war, of conquest, not consensus. And that war is still going on. The war of the Conquest (or the French and Indian war or the Seven Year war, as it is known to some) has never really ended. It continues in the ongoing low-intensity conflict the Canadian empire wages to preserve itself. As the great Clausewitz once wrote, war is about imposing your will on the enemy. This is exactly what the Canadian empire has been doing by (mostly) psychological means (with a few notable exceptions). Psychological war, after all, is still war.
The two main weapons in this war are intimidation for most Quebecers and bribery for a small clique willing to sell out their country for personal gain. The traitors are well-known. Trudeau, Chrétien, Dion, Desmarais, Charest, Couillard and others do their utmost to preserve the empire because it’s profitable for them to do so. The intimidation was most clearly visible in the form of the War Measures Act during the October crisis which had nothing to do with fighting the FLQ and everything to do with terrifying people with the wrong political opinions. The intimidation may not always be overt, but it is always there. Not only did the WMA serve as an example as to what might happen, but more significantly, the de facto impunity of the RCMP officers involved in various crimes and dirty tricks sent an even more insidious message. This impunity for those who commit crimes in the name of imperial unity sends the message that no mere laws will stand in the way. It undermines the very meaning of any “charter of rights”. Indeed, the WMA and the abuses surrounding it weren’t counter-terrorism but rather counter-terror.
However, not all intimidation comes from the state. The Canadian people themselves play an important part by approving, tacitly or otherwise, the repressive measures taken by Ottawa. Indeed, Trudeau never would have invoked the WMA if he didn't think he could get away with it politically. Likewise, the Canadian people strongly support the infamous anti-democracy law, euphemistically called the “clarity bill”. But sometimes, the relationship is inversed. Such as when enraged Anglos burned down the United-Canada parliament building in Montreal in 1849 because it was about to enact legislation compensating inhabitants of Lower-Canada who suffered losses during the revolts of 1837-38, this was not commanded by the government, but since it was carried out by “United Empire Loyalists” no one was punished. One can easily imagine that if Quebecers carried out actions one tenth as bad, the punitive results would have been very different. All this brings us back to the issue of impunity undermining the rule of law.
The dual combination of intimidation and bribery means that the Canadian empire rests on fear and greed. This is hardly surprising as all empires are about the management of fear. By definition, an empire is the domination of one nation by another nation through the use of force. Having no inherent legitimacy, empires maintain themselves by the chronic use of force or by threatening to use force, either explicitly or implicitly. For political reasons, it is profitable for empires to get members of the conquered nation to perform the repression. This is where bribery and greed come in. It’s in the empire’s interest to keep the subject nation divided, and this is precisely the role of the PLQ in Quebec. Naturally, all this bribery leads to corruption. While there is a lot of corruption in Quebec, it’s no accident that all those involved are federalists. The root cause of this corruption is that the PLQ and federalists in general, are more concerned with pleasing Ottawa and its unofficial viceroy (Paul Desmarais Sr.) than serving the interests of Quebec. And of course, they and their dependents expect to be generously rewarded for their services.
In closing, we return to where this article began: Canada is war. The war of the Conquest morphed into a system of domination of the Quebec people and an ongoing campaign of cultural genocide, both outside Quebec and within it. Talk of equality and freedom of choice by Anglos today is pure hypocrisy because they know perfectly well that in the present context it favors them and hastens our assimilation. But this hypocrisy, and the racism that accompanies it, is also a product of Canadian imperialism. Truman once said something to the effect that you can’t keep a people in the gutter without getting into the gutter yourself. He was referring to the plight of African-Americans in the 1950’s, but it also applies to how Canada dominates Quebec. Such domination not only makes Quebecers cynical and resigned, but makes Canadians hypocritical, racist and pretty creepy. The independence of Quebec would not only liberate Quebec, but it would also free Canadians of the mental straitjacket necessary to keep their empire together. On that day, Canadians will wake from their imperial illusions and see Quebec and themselves with clarity and lucidity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dependence vs independence: Newfoundland and Iceland

Over sixty years ago, Iceland and Newfoundland were both colonies, dependent on the motherland.  In 1944, Iceland, a desperately poor place, took its independence from Denmark. Five years later, Newfoundlanders went in the opposite direction and voted to join Canada. 

Iceland and Newfoundland share more than their rugged appearance. They are isolated. They are similar in size. They depend on the fishery as their mainstay and have done so for centuries. The people are as rugged as the land. They drink excessively. They live intensely. They are fiercely independent. Their cultural roots run deep. Iceland has its sagas, Newfoundland its folksongs.

But that's where the similarities end. Although Iceland was much worse off than Newfoundland, since winning their independence Iceland has prospered while Newfoundland hasn't fared as well. Unlike Newfoundland, Iceland has very few resources, save the codfish. Yet, it is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Unlike Newfoundland, Iceland is not losing its young people for lack of work. And Iceland still has a thriving cod fishery, and a bright future.

From The Passionate Eye's blurb for the June 2005 showing of "Hard Rock and Water".

Cod fish and sovereignty

So, why did Iceland prosper and Newfoundland stagnate? History has rarely given us such a perfect test case. Both countries were heavily dependent on the cod industry in the 1940s. Independent Iceland took complete control of its vital industry, managed it well and it is still going strong today. Newfoundland, however, handed over an industry that represented 80% of its GDP to the Canadian government in 1949, since fisheries is federal jurisdiction.

The result has been called “managed annihilation,” “Confederation’s greatest failure,” “a national embarrassment, a national shame.” The demise of the cod fishery off Newfoundland is now legendary as an environmental and economic disaster. Over 19,000 fishers and plant workers laid off indefinitely, another 20,000 jobs directly impacted – the biggest layoff in Canadian history. And yet, for most Canadians the loss of the Northern cod is at most a distant misfortune – something that was probably inevitable and had nothing to do with them.

When Newfoundland and Labrador became a province, Canada was more than happy to take over the fisheries jurisdiction and subject it to federal priorities. The end result was the replacement of the traditional salt-fish trade with deep-sea factory-freezer trawler, and corporations taking over from the merchants of St. John’s and the outports.

Soon both Canadian and foreign vessels were dragging the ocean floor for the largest catches in history. In 1968, a record 810,000 tonnes of northern cod were harvested – more than three times the estimated maximum sustainable catch at the time. These vessels vacuumed up the fish and took over the markets. The smaller, more sustainable community-based fisheries of Newfoundland were increasingly marginalized. It was only a matter of time before the whole thing would collapse.

In 1992, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on Newfoundland's cod fishery. This closure ended almost 500 years of fishing activity in Newfoundland, and it put over 35,000 people out of work. Fish plants closed, boats remained docked, and hundreds of coastal communities that had depended on the fishery for generations watched their economic and cultural mainstay disappear overnight.

Iceland, on the other hand, was far more protective of its cod industry. In the 1970s Iceland nearly went to war when British boats began fishing in its waters. When cod stocks starting depleting on both sides of the Atlantic, Iceland took pre-emptive measures, slashing quotas and protecting its waters from other European boats. That approach has payed off today. Iceland still has a cod fish industry. But despite a nearly 25 year moratorium, Newfoundland's cod industry has yet to recover.

Vital industry vs plunder

The real power brokers in Canada don't live in Newfoundland. Most of them live in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe. To them the economic engine of Canada has always been Southern Ontario and now, to some degree, Alberta. Other regions are mainly for extracting resources and fishing has never made up more than 1% of Canada's GDP. Should we really be surprised that Newfoundland's cod industry was mismanaged? No one will look after your interests better than you will. It's a basic lesson you learn once you're out of childhood.

It's far easier to simply send welfare checks to Newfoundland than it is to spend the time and energy necessary to properly build up and manage its economy for the benefit of the people living there. You know, like what the Icelanders did with their own economy. I think the answer to the question of why Iceland prospered while Newfoundland stagnated is obvious. Newfoundlanders made the colossal mistake of handing over their sovereignty to the Canadian government and in return they got mismanagement and neglect. Then came the welfare checks and the derision in the Canadian media for being beggars and welfare bums; a derision that is usually reserved for Quebecers.

Quebecers should learn the lesson of Newfoundland and Iceland. Independence for Quebec is not just for cultural reasons; it is also for economic reasons. No one will look after our economic interests better than we will. It's that simple. Iceland, a country with very few natural resources, doesn't need handouts from anyone. They are masters of their own destiny and we should be, too.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quebec nationalism and the decline of Montreal

"A free nation writes its own history. A subjugated nation sees its history imposed by others whose primary purpose is to perpetuate the subjugation."

Here's how the story goes: Once upon a time, there was a prosperous city called Montreal that was the economic capital of Canada. But one day, dark forces called "Quebec Nationalism" began causing "instability" and in 1977 they imposed French on everyone through La charte de la langue française AKA Bill 101. The good people of Montreal (Anglo capitalists) fled in horror to the safety of Toronto taking all their money with them. And that is why Toronto is now the economic capital of Canada, not Montreal.

Well, that's how it was told to me a number of times. It always struck me as a strange story. As long as there is money to be made, there will be capitalists there to do business. Even the rise of the overtly racist and genocidal Hitler in Germany did not scare away western capitalists. But somehow the PQ and their Bill 101 managed to terrify all these big corporations. Is French really that scary?

There's no denying that the decline of Montreal and the rise of Toronto do seem to be linked and there were some well publicized "capital flight" stories in the media at the time. One only has to think of the story of those Brink's trucks full of cash leaving for Toronto right before the 1970 Quebec elections. OK, that one was a staged media propaganda stunt but Sun Life's headquarters did pack up and leave for Toronto in 1978, listing Bill 101 as one of the reasons. Did Quebec nationalism really cause this economic shift from Montreal to Toronto? If not, then what is the real cause?

The St. Lawrence Seaway

There is, of course, another event that coincides with this economic shift which is the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Prior to this, all ocean-going vessels had to stop in Montreal to unload goods which were then shipped to the Great Lakes on smaller vessels or by rail. Most Canadian exports passed through Montreal as well. The St. Lawrence river has always been an important trade route and Montreal is situated at the most strategic spot on this route. Any city in a position like that will prosper.

However, this all changed in 1959. Thanks to the St. Lawrence Seaway, ocean-going vessels could simply bypass Montreal and continue to the Great Lakes and Toronto. So, it's not surprising that much of the economic activity related to this international trade also bypassed Montreal and went to Toronto in the following decades. Politics did play a role in this economic shift but it wasn't Quebec nationalism. It was political decisions made by the English Canadian establishment which favoured Toronto over Montreal.

The real question we need to ask ourselves is what independent country would have gone along with such a project without any real compensation? I'm not saying that the St. Lawrence Seaway is necessarily a bad thing for Quebec. The Panama and Suez canals are both money makers for their respective countries but the revenues Quebec gets from the Seaway are nothing compared to what it lost. The reality is that no sovereign country would have agreed to that. The province of Quebec, however, had no choice but to go along with a plan that was detrimental to its economy. Not only did Quebecers have to go along with the plan but they had to partly finance it through their taxes.

Being dominated by another nation has its price. We're never told of this story and of how many billions were sucked out of Quebec and sent to Toronto. No, we're not told about that but we are endlessly told about transfer payments and how Quebec is like Greece or a third-world country and how Quebec needs Canada to support its extravagant socialist life-style!?!

I think it's time for Quebec to start writing its own history and stop letting others invent it for us.