Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's Happening to Canada??

God knows I love Canada. It's the place I call home, it's where my family lives, it's a beautiful country with amazing people. But recently news from Canada have been more and more and more disturbing.

In an article titled "Can a busy female politician give reliable evidence? A judge says no," Globe and Mail reports: "Lisa MacLeod's evidence in trial of Ottawa mayor was dismissed because she was commuting to Toronto, ‘leaving her husband and child in Ottawa'. MacLeod is a young female politician who commutes to her job at Queen's Park from Ottawa and leaves her husband, Joe, and four-year-old daughter, Victoria, at home. Mr. Justice Douglas Cunningham of Ontario Superior Court said this is a big distraction for the 34-year-old woman and as a result he felt he could not accept her evidence as corroboration of the Crown's key witness in the recent high-profile, influence-peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien."

It's unbelievably disturbing that in Canada a woman's evidence at trial isn't given any weight because she dares to be a working mother. This is beyond disgusting. Shame on you, Justice Cunningham! You give a bad name to all Canadians.

Now I have a question: is the growing frequency of such outrageous events a result of the noxious influence of Canada's Conservative party? Does the conservative ideology trickle down from the Prime-Minister's seat to infect all strata of our society?

18 comments:

Veronica said...

No- Canadians aren't actually that liberal. Otherwise the NDP would be in power. The liberals aren't even really liberal or they wouldn't have supported the violation of the public sectors women's right to equal pay and a man who supports torture wouldn't lead it.

Meags said...

And that's why I voted NDP!

Clarissa said...

"The liberals aren't even really liberal"

-Absolutely! And that's so sad for a great country like Canada.

"And that's why I voted NDP!"

-I'm starting to think it's the only reasonable choice for Canada. All other parties have been a huge disappointment.

Veronica said...

I used to think for a while half jokingly that the two parties should merge or that the 2 leaders should get married...

Anonymous said...

And they would give birth to many little dishonest and unintelligent politians. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Or we may vote for the Bloc Québécois (or we would vote for the Bloc if we could, like Margaret Atwood). The Bloc is as progressive as the NDP, if more so.

Ol.

Clarissa said...

For many immigrants, voting for the Bloc is impossible for the obvious reasons, so there aren't that many choices left.

Anonymous said...

Obvious reasons which are? Fear of political instability? Come on...

It is easy to target immigrants, as if they would automatically never vote for the Bloc. Many Québécois, francophones and anglophones, would never vote for the Bloc, even if they can recognize their political beliefs in the Bloc's agenda.

But I am digressing from the topic of your blog. It's just that Canadian politics is so schizopohrenical sometimes...

Ol.

Clarissa said...

Violations of their human rights in the realm of linguistic expression. Which is one of the most important aspects of human rights.

I agree that the rest of Canada treats French as something alien. Somebody from Carleton U wrote yesterday claiming that he's taking foreign languages at Carleton. Turns out his "foreign" language is French. :-)

But this is no reason to marginalize allophones in Quebec.

It's ok to digress from the topic. :-) But I agree that weird things are happening in Canadian politics. Everybody expects more from Canada. If these things happened in the US, nobody would be that surprised. But in Canada it's shocking to see this.

Anonymous said...

I don't follow you. Maybe it's the heat! You mean, not voting for the Bloc for the fear that an independent Quebec would violate the immigrant's right in the realm of linguistic expression? Why would that be so? And wouldn't that imply that learning French (not English) is the problem?

I don't think Quebec (nor Canada for that matter) marginalize allophones. Aren't you supposed to make an effort to learn the language of a country where you immigrate? The immigrant who for whichever reasons decides to remain an allophone is the one who marginalizes him/her in Quebec (or in Canada for that matter). This is a lost for everyone.

As for the conservative nature of Canadians, I don't think we are a model of proressiveness anymore. And that will not change with Harper or Ignatieff.
And the US should not be our standard of comparison. It's too easy to look more progressive than the US.

Ol.

Clarissa said...

"an independent Quebec would violate the immigrant's right in the realm of linguistic expression"

-Quebec already does this. A lot. So there is a natural fear that independence would make it worse.

"And wouldn't that imply that learning French (not English) is the problem?"

-I don't imply it. I say it out loud. :-)

"The immigrant who for whichever reasons decides to remain an allophone is the one who marginalizes him/her in Quebec (or in Canada for that matter). "

-Immigrants by default find themselves in more difficult economic conditions than natives. Of course, it makes more sense for them to learn English in order to be more competitive anywhere in North America.

Quebec welcomes people from French-speaking (Muslim) countries who will never be able to or want to adapt. This language-based selectivity hurts nobody more than it does Quebec. Still, linguistic policies trump ANY other consideration. And that simply isn't very smart.

"As for the conservative nature of Canadians, I don't think we are a model of proressiveness anymore. And that will not change with Harper or Ignatieff.
And the US should not be our standard of comparison. It's too easy to look more progressive than the US."

-I agree 100%.

Sorry about the heat! Imagine what expects me in Southern Illinois in 3 days.

Anonymous said...

I had this linguistic/immigrant discussion over and over again with so many people so many times. You know that I will never get tired of talking about linguistic issues in Canada! Beware! I might bombard you with replies!

For the record, I must say that, while not rejecting sovereignty, I do not define myself as an hardcore independentist. I never voted for Lucien Bouchard, and I alternate between the Bloc and the NDP.

Having to learn French is more a violation of your right than having to learn English? If this argument is based on an emotional reaction I could try to understand. Otherwise, I am still confused.

I agree that, usually, immigrants are in more difficult situation than natives. For this reason, it should be easier for immigrants to learn French, the official language of Quebec, and not to patronize them, being content with them learning "easier" of "more useful" English. Immigrants should be paid to learn French, if they want so. It's unfair that immigrants have to learn French all by themselves while they are struggling to adapt to their new lives. Reasonable, enlightened, immigrants will soon realize that they live in a parallel universe if they can't express themselves in French in Quebec. I expect great things from immigrants, as I expect great things from francophones and anglophones in Quebec. Among these great things I expect the effort to learn French.

Regarding North Africa, I am sort of puzzled about your comment. Once again. Cultural adaptation is not a matter that can be solved in months or even years. It roughly took me four years to adapt myself to the life in the US, much more than it took me to learn basic English, I can assure you!

You boil down your argument on favoring English to an economical reasons. Why choosing Quebec then? If the world of $$$ opportunities speaks English, then why not choosing Mississauga instead of Montreal? With your economic argument, you evacuate Quebec's history and culture. Coming from a foreign languages and literatures scholar, your comment surprises me.

Regarding economy, you also fail to recognize that bilingualism is an economic strength, so learning French is not a burden. It is a great richness that Quebec offers, a richness that could be applied to any city in the world

And to go back to Harper. It would be interesting to know what his government did for promoting French in Canada...

Ol.

Anonymous said...

So I found this funny article in the Globe and Mail, and I had to share it with you. Here is what it says about the Bloc and the profoundly conservative nature of Quebecois:

"It is a remarkable comeback for a party not long ago left for dead in Quebec. But the Liberal revival is not as surprising as it sounds. Many Quebeckers would jump at any excuse not to vote for the Bloc. The party is seen as too mushy and metrosexual by many average Quebeckers. Countless nationalists, and even sovereigntists, are uncomfortable voting for it since it does not represent their views on most issues."

Here is the link:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/the-liberal-revival-in-quebec/article1248649/

Ol.

Clarissa said...

If the Bloc is truly metrosexual, that one thing is almost enough to make me want to vote for them.:-)

Thank you for these long, intelligent comments, my friend. I always wanted to have a smart, well-informed discussion that would open my horizons on this subject. Your dissent is more than welcome here. So DO bombard me. I'm very open to changing my opinion on this subject.

"Having to learn French is more a violation of your right than having to learn English? "

-Having no choice on WHAT to learn is definitely a violation. For an immigrant, it definitely makes more sense to learn English. Having an opportunity to do so denied to you is a violation of your rights.

Make your culture so attractive to people that they wouldn't want to learn anything else, there's a challenge. Make us love French, want it, desire it. This goal is tough and painful to achieve. So what, you want to force us?? Language is like love, you'll never learn it if you don't love it. You know that my sister and I learned to dislike French in Quebec because people laughed at our accent. Today, it's unbelievable to me that I read Maupassant in the original at age 20. It all ended after I moved to Quebec. Whose fault is it that I was made to feel less welcome than some guy who makes a woman wear a stupid burqa?

"Reasonable, enlightened, immigrants will soon realize that they live in a parallel universe if they can't express themselves in French in Quebec. "

-My dear friend, my entire faily and I are still waiting for that line of reasoning to kick in. :-)

"Regarding North Africa, I am sort of puzzled about your comment. Once again. Cultural adaptation is not a matter that can be solved in months or even years. It roughly took me four years to adapt myself to the life in the US, much more than it took me to learn basic English, I can assure you! "

-that's exactly my point! So why does Quebec government make it so much easier to immigrate for French-speaking Muslims than for English-speaking everybody else?

"You boil down your argument on favoring English to an economical reasons. Why choosing Quebec then? If the world of $$$ opportunities speaks English, then why not choosing Mississauga instead of Montreal? "

-So you agree that as a non-Muslim non-French-speaking person I'm less welcome in Quebec? regardless of any other consideration? The fact that I can adapt to the democratic, progressive, enlightened, secular, feminist values of Quebec stands for nothing?

"Regarding economy, you also fail to recognize that bilingualism is an economic strength, so learning French is not a burden."

-For an allophone, we are talking about tri- or four-lingualism. Or even more.

Anonymous said...

What I meant is that French, at least in Montréal, is not a given. French and English do not have the same status. French has a weak status in North America. Nineteenth-century French-Canadian elite already expressed their concern about such vulnerability. They were wondering if Lower-Canada (Quebec) would become some kind of Louisiana some day. You can't ignore that long tradition. Québécois are afraid of disappearing as
French-speaking people. The fear is always there, and some believe that independence is the cure. This mental setting, while historically explainable I can assure you, does not do any good. It provokes entrenchment.

If some decide to learn English or to live in English in their public lives (the language spoken at home is not my business),they tend to strengthen a linguistic/cultural gap that exists in Québec, especially in Montréal. You tend to reinforce this fear of disappearing, of being "invaded". This is more intricate than a fear of immigration, a fear that occurs everywhere. Immigrants and anglophones must learn French. It is a challenge but a necessary one. French (or English) should not be a linguistic "other". It's not my business if someone claims his/her right not to learn French or English, but it's a kind of intellectual stubbornness.

The necessity of learning French may not be obvious for an immigrant. As a high school teacher in a densely allophone environment, I often had to foster in some of my young Romanian, Russian or Chinese students the desire to strive in French. These students were smart enough to understand. Unfortunately, many Francophones barely know French, and they know even less Canadian or Québécois history. The task of every francophone is also to make French relevant. When you barely know why you speak French, qhen you barely know Canadian history, it's hard.

I hear you when you say that some Québécois lack patience with people learning French. They either celebrate Québécois or they speak in English. Here is a recent anecdote. A Chinese couple bought a dep. on my street corner. At first they barely spoke French, but they really tried. I once saw an old lady at the counter screaming at the poor Chinese lady for not understanding the following:
"M'à-prende-un-paquè-d'Cravené."
The old lady was all upset, "damn immigrants who do not even speak OUR language!" I was so outraged that I told the old person that the Chinese woman is making an effort, that she always speaks to me in French, and that she should speak more clearly if she wants to be understood. Even I was wondering what she meant!

That being said, I often find myself in a similar position with the English language. In the US, for instance, the means of exclusion are more intricate that linguistic. I was often said that I have no right to complain about US policies, because I am not American.

I am also concerned about the poor standards of English as a second-langage in Québec's high schools. In some places, you also have to explain why English is relevant. But that's another story...

Ol.

Clarissa said...

"Québécois are afraid of disappearing as
French-speaking people. The fear is always there, and some believe that independence is the cure. This mental setting, while historically explainable I can assure you, does not do any good. It provokes entrenchment."

-Absolutely. Often, the independence-seekers take their discourse too far and start throwing around words like "race" and "racial superiority." Not all independentists are like that, of course. But I heard very anti-semitic speeches from some of them, chiefly because most Montreal Jews are seen as English-speakers.

"many Francophones barely know French, and they know even less Canadian or Québécois history. The task of every francophone is also to make French relevant. When you barely know why you speak French, qhen you barely know Canadian history, it's hard."

-That is exactly what I'm proposing! If we make French and Quebecois culture and history relevant and attractive to everybody, then it would never disappear. You can't force people to love something but you can make it so attractive that they won't be able to help themselves. :-) There are many wonderful things in Quebec today that come out of its peculiar culture and history. This is what we all should educate ourselves about.

"M'à-prende-un-paquè-d'Cravené.""

-:-) :-) :-) As for me, I still can't master the right pronunciation for my Nemesis, the word "bleuet". :-)

"In the US, for instance, the means of exclusion are more intricate that linguistic. I was often said that I have no right to complain about US policies, because I am not American. "

-Oh, it happened to me so many times! But I refuse to be silenced by these means.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest a blog?

http://chroniclesofapurelaine.blogspot.com/

Honestly, if there is one blog that could reach out to anglophones, and rectifies misconceptions about Quebec, it's this one. Its creator patiently replies to the weirdest comments about the québécois society I've seen.

And everything is written is beautiful English prose.

Ol.

Clarissa said...

It is a cool blog. I added it to my blogroll. Thank you for this great suggestion, my friend.