Bye Bye, Canada

Francisco Toro is a Venezuelan journalist, political scientist and blogger. Covering Venezuela as a freelance foreign correspondent from 1999 to 2003, he reported for the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Financial Times. Since 2002, he runs Caracas Chronicles, an English-language blog on all things Venezuelan. He currently writes for the Canadian edition of The Huffington Post.

The latest edition of Radio-Canada's yearly comedy special, Bye Bye 2011, inspired him a post in his New York Times blog:Living in Québec, it's often hard to shake the feeling that Canada is "somewhere else" — a different country with a different culture, a different language and different priorities. Québec has its own television personalities, its own pop icons, its own celebrity chefs — household names in the province all blissfully unknown in the rest of Canada. As a newcomer here, this strikes me as marvelous: while the rest of English-speaking North America marches inexorably toward cultural homogeneity, Québec is keeping alive a vibrant cultural life of its own.Click here to read the whole story and read American reactions to it.


An ironic observation

Results of a new study from Concordia University recently reported by The Gazette show that most Canadians still aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables every day. The study also found that the Québécois significantly eat more fresh produce than other Canadians.

I wasn't overly surprised by this finding. Having shared many business meals with Torontonians and other Canadians over the years, it always was a given for me that our culinary cultures are different. Stretching it to certain foods was never... well... a stretch. And this isn't about Pepsi and Jos Louis.

The report points at Québec's long history of farming to explain this difference. My personal take at it has more to do with background and popular culture.

Compared to other North Americans, the average Québécois has much better access to contemporary Mediterranean culture from France and other French-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Recent immigrants from Lebanon even managed to popularize a local recipe of Shish Taouk in Montréal. Call it the new bagel or smoked meat.

As for popular culture, recent years have seen a proliferation of TV programs about food on Québécois channels. Ciel, mon Pinard!, for example, had more to do with culinary education than simple recipe execution. Other current shows, such as Radio-Canada's L'épicerie [in French only] and Kampaï [in French only], build on the importance of a healthy diet.

Anyway... what startled me a bit when reading The Gazette's story was the way the reporter presented this Québec peculiarity:"Surprisingly, the province that invented poutine actually has a higher consumption of fresh produce than other provinces. [...] maybe it's the only way to negate the effects of cheese curds and gravy."It took me a little while to pinpoint it, but there it was... just a few words that betrayed the writer's objectivity. She wasn't simply reporting the news; she was writing she didn't expect it. And I thought... "well... this isn't a column... why am I reading about the writer's perspective?".

I wrote her about it. She replied that "it was intended as a fun little ironic observation".

It's not that big of a deal really. Still, I'm wondering how an ironic observation contributes to the journalistic integrity of a credible newspaper.


English: the future of French TV

Bazzo.tv is a current affair television show hosted by Marie-France Bazzo on Télé-Québec. The channel reaches a limited number of viewers and ideas to increase ratings are welcomed. Former PQ MNA Camil Bouchard chips in his own 2¢ to make the most out of this interesting show.

Click [CC] once started for English subtitles.

Anyone who gets Camil's humor understands the disconnect sometimes conveyed by Canadian editorials about Québec. Click here to watch other interesting editorials [in French only] on Bazzo.tv.