Sacre bleu: New Habs coach unilingual

The year is ending with a bit of linguistic controversy in Montréal. The nomination of a unilingual coach at the helm of the Canadiens two weeks ago didn't go unnoticed and this grunge is being carried over in the new year. A demonstration [Google translation] is under preparation for January 7th at the Bell Centre.

A recent poll [Google translation] suggests that as much as 80% of the population disagrees with the nomination of a unilingual coach. "What's the fuss?" you wonder... there are only a few French-speaking players in the team and talks in the dressing room are by far predominantly in English. Is this yet another example of Québec's intolerance towards English? Well... the players aren't the only ones the coach has to talk to and... you see... the Québécois like to understand what they're being told.

The relationship between the Habs and their fans is deep and goes a long way back. Founded in 1909, "Le Club de Hockey Canadien" was to be the team of the Francophone community in Montréal, composed of Francophone players. Why use the word "Canadien" then? Simply because that's how the French-speaking population called itself in those days. They were neither French nor British North Americans, like their English-speaking counterparts who had yet to acknowledge their Canadianity. For the undereducated that he was, up until the 60s, the average French Canadian didn't have much of a model to relate to other than hockey players. And what models!... six championship cups in the 50s, four in the 60s, six in the 70s... 24 in total.

Today, the team counts very few French speaking players and its fan base is much more diversified then it originally was. But the team's past success left deep marks in the population's psyche. The Montréal Canadiens continue to take an immense share of media coverage in the province. In 2010, Influence Communication reported that sports were at the top of all priorities in Québec media and that 85% of sports news is about les Canadiens. Other NHL teams and other sports, be they professional or amateur, accounted for less than 10%. Every day, 35% of what was written on the NHL in media around the world came from Québec. The rest of the country, then home of five NHL teams, produced 50% of NHL coverage. The USA, with 24 teams, produced 15%. For comparison, sports news in Québec accounted for 16 times the weight of national news.

Randy Cunneyworth is in the spotlight. The team isn't doing well. The fans want to know why and they want to hear it from the horse's mouth... in the language of the majority.

Writer's note (from the Urban Dictionary): The word "Sacre Bleu" is a stereotypical French curse that is actually never used by real French people. Same as the mustache and the beret - something only non-French people think is typical of the French.


Sovereignty on its death bed in Québec

The Bloc Québécois was nearly obliterated in the last federal elections. Support for the Parti Québécois keeps going down. Support for Québec independence has slipped as low as 33%, below the 40% long held as a floor. "The sovereignty movement is gravely ill and in the most unexpected places" states The Globe and Mail in a report published Saturday.

Building a rainbow coalition bringing together left-wing and right-wing proponents who shared a common interest for sovereignty was a good idea in the 70s. But 35 years of efforts by the Parti Québécois, internal quarrels and two referendums haven't yielded the expected result. While English-language media are celebrating the end of the sovereignty movement, the Québécois are now acknowledging that sovereignty can't be achieved through a structured movement.

Twice, the Québécois have shied away from their historic challenge, favoring Canada. In the mind of the average Canadian, these two missed opportunities took place in 1980 and 1995. I'm referring to the opportunities that took place in 1990 and 2005, in the aftermath of the Meech Lake Accord failure and the AdScam. Support for sovereignty then neared 70% the first time and broke through the 50% barrier the second time. On both occasions, a federalist party was at the helm.

The failed referendums were the result of the Parti Québécois' doing. The real missed opportunities were the result of Ottawa's doing. Had there been a provincial government sympathetic to sovereignty at the time, Québec would now be a country. In short, sovereignty can't be achieved on its own. It can only be achieved as a response to Ottawa's ill-advised initiatives. You think this is pathetic? I agree. The Québécois have expressed their support for Canada twice, in 1980 and 1995. But this support is not unconditional and Ottawa's doing nothing about it.

Now, everything is set for a repeat of the missed opportunities of 1990 and 2005. The average Canadian voter believes that the sovereignty movement is dying, seeing no sense in addressing the constitutional status quo. And a federal government in which the Québécois don't recognize themselves is promoting unpopular initiatives, alienating them further. This feeling can be observed among both French and English-speaking Québécois.

With the recent installment of a probe into corruption and collusion in the construction industry, the only provincial party capable of defending the merits of the federation is potentially facing the fate of its federal counterpart following the Adscam. This could open the way for a new, but nationalist, government [Google translation]. Should Ottawa continue on its way, a third opportunity may arise. Would the party at the helm take advantage of it?


French in the workplace

Many flagship organizations in Montréal have been reported as hiring English-speaking unilingual managers and not leaving enough room for French. Yeah... I know... old news... still, discussions around these reports are missing the point.

Most of these discussions argued that English is the language of business and the way of globalization; there's no doubt about it. Some also suggested that the Québécois shouldn't shy away from learning a second language. A recent poll suggests that the majority agrees, 62% for English-speaking Québécois and 56% for French speakers.

My own personal experience with bilingualism at work is a positive one. Everyone chips in using the language they feel most comfortable with. A French-speaker didn't get some of the English words that were spoken?... someone translates. An English-speaker didn't get some of the French words that were spoken?... somebody else translates. No muss, no fuss, all is fine and everybody learns. However, things don't always work as easily.

I was chatting with an English-speaking colleague recently who didn't understand this concern about not having enough French in the workplace. She observed that the majority of discussions were held in French. She was right. I told her that the issue wasn't being conveyed properly. "It's not about not having enough room for French", I told her. "It's about shutting out French-speaking unilinguals." She looked at me puzzled.

I emphasized that, although I did over 90% of my work in French, I could as easily do 100% of it in English. She agreed. When I asked her if it were possible for me to do 100% of it in French, she wouldn't answer. Had we been talking about a job working with the public or involving international trade, reasonable knowledge of English would be a given. But this is an ordinary administrative job involving other Québécois in Montréal.

Recent poll results published by La Presse [Google translation] conclude that the Québécois are divided regarding the obligation of speaking French in the workplace. The poll is asking the wrong question.

Many argue that a qualified worker mustn't be discriminated if he doesn't speak the language of the majority. So be it... now... does it make it OK to discriminate someone who only speaks the language of the majority?


I'm ashamed to be Canadian

Letter to Mr. Christian Paradis,

Since you're the best known figure of the Conservative government in Québec, please allow me to write you these lines.

I'm ashamed to be Canadian, I'm ashamed to have yours as my government, one that has not taken a single decision to inspire me in saying: "yes, I'm Canadian and proud to be a citizen of this country, a model for the world."

I'm sad to see that our national vision is taking the paths of the past and withdrawal rather than moving forward with openness to the world: the environment, the return of the Queen's image, militarism, C-10, unilingual ministers, unilingual judges, etc.

I'm afraid of your ways that ignore transparency (the silence of Tony Clement and the hidden costs of the G20 summit), democracy (prorogation of Parliament, Dimitri Soudas mocking the bailiff at Parliament...), the choice of Canadians (campaign against the CBC along with a private broadcaster, abandoning our position as a model of secular peace in the world, blind alignment with Israel...), and so on...

I fear your hypocrisy (electoral maneuvers and abandoning the Kyoto Protocol on December 23rd), your bigotry (too many examples to cite), your four-year term...

I fear you like one fears coldness, malice, hypocrisy, dishonesty and stupidity.

I'm ashamed to be Canadian.

Translated from a letter by Denis Michaud, published in Le Devoir [in French], November 30, 2011.


Québec a poor province: a myth

For a decade or so, it's become common knowledge that the Québécois enjoy a standard of living considerably lower than that of our American neighbors, from about 20% less, according to some, to as much as 45% less, according to others. The situation is such that we sometimes read that people in every state, including the historically poor Mississippi and Louisiana, are richer than the Québécois. For those who've visited these states, such a statement is puzzling.

The fact that the world's largest economy generates, per person, more wealth than Québec comes as no surprise. However, witnessing the difficulties of the American middle class, strangled by the exorbitant cost of private medical insurance and tuition and stagnant income, seems in contradiction with the notion that Americans keep, on average, between 20% and 45% more than the Québécois in their pockets.

We also know that our neighbors to the south, and more than anywhere in the Western world, has seen an alarming rise in wealth inequality over the last 30 years. The gap between the super-rich and the average American has returned to its level of the years prior to the depression of the 1930s. Québec hasn't seen such excesses.

Could it be that the super-rich are skewing the figures? Could the vast majority of Québécois be at least as rich as the vast majority of Americans?

It could... setting aside the top 5% of the richest U.S. taxpayers and the top 5% of the richest Québécois, thus comparing 95% of the population, 2007 figures show that the income per capita are $18,932 and $18,998. In short, there is a very thin margin in favor of the average Québécois.

But converting apples and oranges to make a fair comparison between the two is a tedious task. Click here [Google translation] to know more about this interesting analysis.


Québec: The most corrupt province

A year ago, Maclean's cover story claimed Québec to be the most corrupt province. A supporting article to this cover story pointed to the province's nationalist penchant as the reason for it.

In reaction, Jean-François Lisée wrote an articulate piece challenging the magazine's journalistic integrity:"I did try to find in last week's issue the methodology used to grant Quebec its number one spot on the corruption scale. I was curious to know who was number two, and how wide the margin was—as in Maclean's yearly university rankings. Did the writers use the number of corruption convictions of elected officials in each province since 2000? The cash amount proven to have changed hands illegally? Or, since no conviction is to be found in Quebec (yet?), the number of police inquiries in play? I was disappointed. Maclean's has no comparison metrics whatsoever. The whole cover is based on opinion and perception alone. Hopes for a Pulitzer on this one are dim.

I have a great idea for a Maclean's cover. Picture a Bonhomme Carnaval with a halo. No, better yet, a crowd of such Bonhommes as far as the eye can see. The title:
Quebecers: Canada's resilient corruption-busters.

The story would go like this. Eliot Ness-type figures battling corruption are a staple of Quebec culture. It seems to be in the national Quebec genome to rise up against graft and sleaze. Not that they haven't been duped. In the forties, they loved Maurice Duplessis because he denounced and ridiculed the corruption of the preceding Liberal government. But he then became as a great corrupter himself. In the 1950s, they turned to the incorruptible inspector Pax Plante and crusader Jean Drapeau, who cleaned-up Montreal's Mob and brothels with a vengeance. Drapeau became a hero, then an autocratic, visionary, and at times inept—but never corrupt—mayor. In the 1960s, the new white knight was René Lévesque, who championed procurement reform in a Liberal "équipe du tonnerre" that equipped Quebec for the modern world. The decade nearly was scandal-free. In the early 1970s collusion between a mob-related union, the FTQ-Construction, and the Quebec Liberal government saw the rise of new corruption-busters in a commission that was followed more closely than hockey night. Brian Mulroney and Lucien Bouchard's careers take their roots in this largely successful cleansing effort."
This week, under relentless pressure from the population, Premier Jean Charest appointed a commission of inquiry into collusion and fraud into the construction industry. An inquiry that will take place outside the usual legislative framework. An inquiry in which commissioners will not be able to subpoena witnesses and force them to testify or order the search and seizure of evidence. An inquiry in which witnesses will appear voluntarily without receiving immunity, thus exposing evidence that may be used against them in future criminal cases. An inquiry in which commissioners themselves are not protected against future lawsuits.

But the population isn't duped. A poll by Léger Marketing [Google translation] conducted in the days that followed the announcement reveals that 68% of the Québécois are not satisfied with the proposed format. An overwhelming majority of respondents (86%) are dissatisfied that witnesses cannot be subpoenaed.

Note the situation. Popular support to expose corruption through a public inquiry is roughly at 80%, but the staunchest federalist Premier the province ever had behaves as if he doesn't want one. Shouldn't Maclean's write a follow-up story on its conclusions?


The end of federalism in Québec?

Québec has a corruption problem and, despite the population's remarkably constant demands, Jean Charest is stubbornly staying away from anything closely related to a public inquiry. Anyone who's seen the result of the Gomery Commission on the Liberal Party of Canada can easily understand why. The party's importance at the House of Commons has been declining ever since.

Mr. Charest argues that the best approach to solve the province's corruption problem is to let police forces do their investigation. Some members of the Sûreté du Québec leading Opération Marteau, a special task force to address the problem, apparently don't agree with the Premier.

In a letter sent anonymously to Montréal's La Presse [Google translation], members of the special task force are demanding a public inquiry to support their work. Authors of the request put forward that political powers are steering their investigation away from potential leads that involve the government. "Our investigations are focused on specific targets and our investigators must constantly keep their superiors informed. No government official will be investigated without informing these superiors. And they directly report to the government." Authors of the request also dismiss Charest's arguments that an inquiry and an investigation are incompatible, citing examples where both were complementary to one another.

Will the only federalist party remaining in Québec follow the fate of its Canadian counterpart? Since the last federal elections, English language media have largely been focusing on the setbacks of the sovereignty movement. But the way things are going, all that might be left at the next provincial elections are nationalist and sovereigntist parties. The voter might very well be facing a choice between left wing and right wing, but none defending the merits of the federation.


A Québec colony in the USA?

Hmmm... what's this [in French only]?... the city of Burlington, Vermont, just passed a resolution to heighten the presence of French?... interesting...

Turns out one of the municipal councilors thought that it was "an appropriate time to send a message across the border that we're extending the hand of friendship." The majority agreed to it on August 8th and the resolution passed. It simply is an encouragement to local merchants and has no legal bearing... a courteous gesture that acknowledges some of the state's heritage. About a third of its resident are of French Canadian descent, the name "Vermont" is an adaptation of the French words verts monts, i.e. green mountains, and its capital was named after the French city Montpellier as a tribute to France's aid during the American Revolution.

Unfortunately, some people don't agree with this resolution. And they give their beef a somewhat bitter taste. Click here to read about it.


Legislation for a dying culture

I'm a staunch supporter of Québec's Charter of the French Language (a.k.a. Bill 101). Its purpose is to give new stock Québécois the means to integrate with the provincial majority. Without it, a rift would build between the population and its minorities. In most countries, such a legislation is superfluous, but Québec faces an uncommon linguistic challenge. Although not unique, it has very few parallels in the world.

Québec's Charter of the French Language is sometimes singled out as discriminatory by the average citizen. This seems odd to me. It doesn't prevent anyone from speaking or learning any language. And the government offers several programs to citizens willing to improve their command of the French language, skills that can only open new horizons.

I also happen to be a supporter of the Canadian Content legislation. You see... an industry servicing a market of 34M people doesn't stand much of a chance against a competitor almost ten times its size, especially since they both share a common language and similar cultural references. From where I stand, providing Canadians with adequate opportunities to appreciate the cultural production of their own country is commendable.

Does favoring artists on the arbitrary criteria that they were born North of the border seem discriminatory to you? It certainly doesn't to the average citizen. At any rate, anyone pointing it out in the name of international agreements would have a hell of a hill to climb with UNESCO's convention on the protection and promotion of cultural diversity.

I believe Canada's cultural production is a plus to the North American whole. I also believe Québec's cultural difference is an asset to Canada. I sometimes read on blogs and forums that any culture relying on legislation to ensure its survival is a dying one. Of course, such words take aim at the Charter of the French Language.

When I ask their authors for their assessment of the state of Canadian culture and their point of view on the Canadian Content legislation, I invariably get many thumbs down, but no replies.


Saint-Jean hangover

Saint-Jean celebrations in Montréal were kind of damp this year. Even though I live at walking distance from Parc Maisonneuve, I skipped the big event. Despite the weather, The Gazette reports that attendance at the parade and the show was still respectable, 50,000 instead of the usual 200,000.

I opted for the drier floor of a movie theater and saw the film Gerry, the very touching tale of Québécois rocker Gerry Boulet. My wife and I were flabbergasted my Mario St-Amant's [Google translation] performance (he personifies the singer). My thirteen years old son loved it... which tells me this movie will appeal to the mainstream.

Back at home, I watched the end of the Parc Maisonneuve concert on Radio-Canada. Veteran Robert Charlebois was his usual self. Rufus and Martha Wainwright did a medley of their mother's former duo. I can only assume many saw them as the token Anglos of the evening. Still, they were welcome.

I've written about June 24 before, explaining the difference between Saint-Jean and Fête nationale and how patron saints aren't equal in the Canadian psyche. Despite the fact that Saint-Jean-Baptiste is the patron saint of all French Canadians, like Saint-Patrick for the Irish, national media tend to oversee the holiday.

This morning, I wondered about celebrations outside Québec. I found some festivities were carried out in Squamish, British Columbia and in the Battlefords, Saskatchewan. I hope they had nicer weather than we did.


A province of panhandlers: a myth

Some people believe that Québec owes Canadians and a quick look will lead most to agree. With 23% of the Canadian population, the province receives 55% of the country's equalization payments and offers social programs that are unaccessible to other Canadians.

Still, a closer look reveals that transfers (including equalization) from Ottawa only account for 25% of the province's revenues. In comparison, Ontario receives 22% of its revenues from Ottawa. Some people will maintain that a 3% difference is enough to label Québec a parasite. In reality, if Ontario were to get that same percentage (25%), the additional amount would come to $3B. Sounds like a lot?... well... that's what Queen's Park spends in nine days.

Other provinces are more dependent on federal transfers than Québec. Manitoba and Nova Scotia receive 36%; New Brunswick, 37%; Price Edward Island, 43%. Newfoundland and Labrador once received more than 50% of its revenues from Ottawa. Today, it's at 23%, the Canadian average.

The Québécois aren't living at the expense of other provinces. If they have more generous social programs, it's because they pay higher taxes... and because they are more in debt...

Click here [Google translation] for the whole story.


Ô Kébèc!

Well... the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste is at it again. A national anthem for the Québécois? Click below to hear it or click here for a look at the lyrics.

I can't say I find it very uplifting. I personally would've chosen a younger songwriter than Raôul Duguay, someone with a fresher look on our society... and why not?... someone who was born abroad and embraces Québec's culture wholeheartedly like Bernard Adamus [Google translation] or Luck Mervil.

This isn't the first time the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste is involved in promoting a national anthem. It did the same back in 1880. And I can't help but think that English speakers of the time must've reacted with the same disbelief some do today. Yet, 100 years later, the majority of them acknowledged it as their own. They now embrace it. I'm sure you heard of it... Ô Canada!

Read the second verse of the original French poem carefully. It reeks my home province. Writing an anthem for an independent Québec that doesn't sound anything like our country's national anthem would be quite a challenge.


Why are so many young Quebecers still sovereigntists?

English speaking Canadians who believe national media suffice to have a thorough understanding of the political dynamics of our country rarely get the chance to read articulate points of view when it comes to the federalism vs. sovereignty debate. Articles in favor of federalism are usually shallow; there's no need to go very far on the topic when addressing a crowd that already accepts the option. Articles in favor of sovereignty basically don't exist. Authors of articles trying to explain the rationale for sovereignty often lack the background to go beyond the usual economic arguments.

André Pratte is both a staunch federalist and a Québec nationalist. He's also the Editor-in-chief at Montréal's La Presse. Here's an excerpt of an opinion piece he published in The Globe and Mail yesterday:
"For the past 30 years, support for independence has been remarkably stable at 40 per cent. That stability has frustrated separatists, whose constant efforts to convince Quebecers to follow them has fallen on a majority of deaf ears. It also confuses Canadians outside the province, who wonder why on Earth so many Quebecers still believe that separation would be good for Quebec.

Younger separatists [...] are full of confidence in themselves and therefore do not fear separation. They travel all over the world to study, work and visit but have never found a reason to go to Toronto or Vancouver, let alone St. John's or Regina. To them, the rest of Canada is a foreign country, with a different culture and different values. They see the election of a majority Harper government and Quebecers' massive vote for the NDP as the latest demonstration of the unbridgeable canyon between Quebec and English Canada. They believe the federal system is inefficient and that Quebec could better tackle the challenges it faces if it had all the tools of government in its possession.

Younger Quebecers are rarely exposed to passionate, intelligent arguments in favour of federalism and the Canadian experience. Most of what they hear from English Canada transmits, at best, indifference toward Quebec and the French language (witness the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games). Having not lived through two referendums and endless constitutional debates, they don't understand English Canadians' hostility toward changes that would be advantageous to Quebec."
Click here to read the whole story.


Learn French in one word

In The Marriage of Figaro (1784) the French dramatist Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais observed ironically, "The English, in truth, do add here and there some other words when speaking; but it is obvious that 'God-damn' is the foundation of their language" (III v).

French, like any language also has all-purpose words that can be used in many situations. Click below to learn more about the variety of expression a single word can take.

That works fine when in Paris. But swear words are highly dependent upon the culture they build on. French-speakers on this side of the Atlantic don't have the same taboos and, although sex related words will be recognized, using the Word of God in vain will have much more impact. Click below to learn more about the variety of expression a single word can take when walking the streets of Montréal.

Click here for more information on Québec French profanity.


Asymmetrical bilingualism

This is the story of Ms. Tremblay. She's wealthy and likes the good things in life. Ms. Tremblay is fond of Champagne Lacroix, an independent French producer who sells locally almost exclusively, and wants to import some of this fine champagne for a private reception.

Anyone can do this, provided he, or she, goes through the proper governmental agency and is willing to pay the pertaining fees. Ms. Tremblay thus goes to the SAQ to make appropriate arrangements and orders a few cases of the renown bubbly. There's plenty of time for the shipment to arrive and be processed for the reception. All is fine... so she thinks...

Once at the SAQ's processing facilities, there's a legal imbroglio; the labels are in French only and federal laws require them to be bilingual. The independent French producer doesn't have the volume that would justify translating the labels. The only solution is for the SAQ to add another label, with yet additional fees. Ms. Tremblay insists that the bottles are for private consumption, not for resale. Still... the law is clear. Sounds fair?...

A quick look at Ottawa's largest LCBO store shows that the federal law isn't applied equally in Ontario. Wines with an English only label can easily be found on the shelves, including Canadian wines.

Click here [Google translation] to read the whole story.


Canadian vs. European French

As any other language, French comes in all kinds of varieties. Most of the French spoken in North America is inherited from the early Norman settlers of the 17th century. Many of these men and women still spoke the Norman language, one of many Oïl languages that were used in northern France prior to French becoming the country's official language in the late 18th century. Some of the expressions that characterize Canadian French have simply endured centuries while forgotten in the old countries.

As a young adult traveling Europe, I always got a kick out of mixing with the locals. I met an Italian who spoke very good French. We had been chatting for a while when he inquired about my accent. He was new to my particular brand of French. During a conversation with a Parisian and a Swiss, I mentioned that the difference between their respective accents wasn't obvious to my North American ear. They looked a bit startled by my statement. Well... I added... "both your accents are closer to one another than to mine... right?" They had to agree and asked me if I could speak French in a more European way. When I did, they asked why I didn't simply keep on. Well... I said... "that's not the way my speech was trained and maintaining it requires a constant effort that becomes tiring after a while."

Learning a new language is a challenging task. Tackling local expressions on top of it can be a major hurdle to the layman. Many who lack the desire to do so will rationalize their frustrations by concluding that the person with whom they experienced these frustrations simply didn't speak properly.

Parisian argot comes with its own set of expressions that may represent a challenge. Click below [in French only] to compare it with Québécois joual.

Click here for a full-screen view of the animation.


Victoria Day in Québec

Today is a national holiday in Canada. For most of the country, it's Victoria Day; some readers write me it's just another opportunity to get plastered. For the Québécois, it's la Journée nationale des patriotes. It was instated in 2003 by the Péquiste government to underline the importance of the struggle of the patriots of 1837-1838.

The Rebellions of 1837 were a pair of Canadian armed uprisings that occurred in 1837 and 1838 in response to frustrations in political reform. For many Canadians today, the Patriots' doing was an act of heresy, a somber episode associated with today's sovereignty debate in support for the French language. The fact that Québec's response to Victoria Day was instated by the Parti Québécois even furthers this line of thought. There's more than meets the eye.

Most are aware of the fact that the rebellion in Lower Canada was led by Louis-Joseph Papineau. But it also should be noted that it involved other leaders such as Thomas Storrow Brown, Wolfred Nelson and Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan. In Upper Canada, the rebellion was led by William Lyon Mackenzie. A key shared goal was the allowance of responsible government; it was a movement against the British colonial government.

The rebellion of the Patriotes Canadiens of Lower Canada is often seen as the example of what might have happened to the USA if the American Revolutionary War had failed. Today, the Québécois are remembering people who felt Canada would benefit from more autonomy. Other Canadians are commemorating... well... officially... the monarchy of Canada.

Reworked from a previous blog entry "Victoria Day in Québec", originally published May 23rd, 2010.


Comment of the day

Despite his political stance, Gilles Duceppe was considered an honest man by many Canadians outside Québec. Here's a reaction to the sovereigntist leader's resignation that captures the essence of this respect:This is bittersweet news to me as I saw Gilles Duceppe as a very honest, credible man with strong convictions and loyal leadership abilities for the people, province and things he believed in. This was a loss regardless of how much he was disliked or by how many, he was never accused of lying, obscurity or deception as his replies were always given with direct eye contact with no reservations regardless of who he made his replies to. The same cannot be said for all politicians, liked or not and this is the sad, unfortunate part of his political exit from politics.

No, I'm not French Canadian, wasn't born in Quebec, never resided in Quebec and never voted in Quebec, but I recognize a good leader in spite of their political convictions and he deserves recognition for the man he was and still is. I didn't agree with his stance on Quebec separating with Canada or his determined stance on putting Quebec first and Canada second but he stood for the things he believed in and that deserves the honorable respect he deserves.

He made me laugh, gave me some insight into the life and culture that led to his beliefs and political position and the Bloc chose a good leader that many outside of Quebec liked for the man he was and most likely will always be. I will always admire and respect Gilles Duceppe.
Click here to read the comment on the Globe's forum.


Federalism's last chance?

Québec is a different political beast. After having flirted with a right-wing provincial government in 2007, it's now giving massive support to a left-wing party in Ottawa. One thing's for sure... the Québécois want change and it's not Harper. But are they set to get the change they want?

Now, Québec is left with even less possibilities for cabinet representation and an MP delegation at the House of Commons that will defend the province's interest within the context of a united country. Is a reconciliation going to happen or is it just the worst of both world? Isn't the province now simply reduced to contemplate the leverage the Bloc had been giving it all these years?

Canadians have been complaining that the Québécois had been voting themselves out of the federal system. The Québécois are back in.


The last neverendum

How much time does it take for a "united country" to enshrine the distinct character of a quarter of its population in its supreme law to make it feel at home?... ten years?... twenty years?... thirty years?... who knows... How many referendums does it take to call them neverendums?... two and the possibility of a third one.

The Québécois were offered the possibility to create their own country twice, in 1980 and 1995. On both occasion, the answer was "No". Yet, the Parti Québécois is alive and well, working on a third referendum. When will the last referendum take place?... or has it already taken place?

In the aftermath of the narrow results of 1995, Lucien Bouchard referred to the "winning conditions" as a prerequisite for the holding of a third referendum. He never got to explain what these conditions are, but he knew they had to be there. You see... after losing the first referendum with 40% of the votes and losing the second one with 49%, anything below would leave the sovereignty movement with nowhere to go. Regardless of the outcome, a third referendum would be the last one.

But what are these "winning conditions"? Do they involve some secret plot by the sovereigntists? In fact, they simply call for a faux pas in Ottawa while there is a sovereigntist government in Québec... no more... no less...

What kind of faux pas?... think of the Meech Lake Accord failure in 1990. By the end of that year, support for sovereignty neared 70%. Think of the AdScam. By the end of 2005, support for sovereignty broke through the 50% barrier. Had there been a sovereigntist government at the helm of the province to pop the question, you'd have had "winning conditions".

What can the Parti Québécois do? Apart from getting elected and being on the lookout for an opportunity, it can't do much. Don't look up to the sovereigntists to tell you if the last referendum is behind or in front of us. They won't admit it, but they don't know.

Imagine... Québec said "Yes" twice to Canada... Ottawa is the one controlling the agenda... offering nothing to unlock the constitutional status quo... hoping for the issue to go away.


Comment of the day

Here's a little gem I found on the comment page of an interesting analysis published in yesterday's Globe and Mail:
One thing that is deeply misunderstood by people outside Quebec is that Quebec nationalism is not necessarily about independence, and this article is just another example of it.

Many nationalists in Quebec are actually federalists. What it means is that they want that Quebec remains part of Canada, but they want also to be sure that the French-speaking people have some serious protection against anglo-conformity, something that is perceived as a deep-seated reflex in English Canada. Pierre Trudeau followed the same logic by introducing the Official Language Act, and many other policies. And when he wanted to give a veto to Quebec (but also to every province), he was still following this logic. Strangely enough for some, Trudeau was also a Quebec nationalist. He actually fought the independentist version of nationalism.

Harper and the Conservatives, who are much more open to decentralization of powers for the provinces followed a logic of working with the nationalists. So did Mulroney before.

So, what is the NDP doing? The same thing. They try to work with Quebec nationalism, emphasizing the federalist version, but the main difference is that they are benefiting from a fatigue towards the independentist version. Will it open a can of worm, in time maybe, but it is probably better to address the issue directly by working with the nationalists. This is much more constructive, and this is what people in Quebec are seeing in the NDP.

Maintaining something that looks like anglo-conformity from a Quebec perspective, simply by ignoring the issue long enough, is actually opening a bigger can of worm.
Click here to read reactions to this comment.


Ethnic backlash

Anyone not familiar with Jacques Parizeau's infamous statement about the ethnic vote in 1995 is new to Canadian politics: "True, we've been defeated... at the very heart of it, by what? By money... and ethnic votes... essentially."

This morning's Globe and Mail publishes an interesting analysis on how the ethnic vote is being considered in the current election campaign: "In the eyes of the major parties, some of us ethnics count more than others. Although most of us abhor that bigotry, we are still being manipulated to think along those lines."

What do our current leaders have in common with Mr. Parizeau? Well... they're all oblivious to the fact that "ethnics" primarily want to be considered as any other citizen, not like some kind of merchandise.

You gotta love this video...


The Bloc Québécois is useless

With the Conservatives at the helm since 2006, Québec now only contributes eleven members to the governing party in Ottawa. With the prospect of a Conservative majority government, and perhaps even less cabinet representation, the province seems to be heading for even more isolation.

Many people believe the Québécois crafted their own demise by electing Bloc Québécois MPs en masse and voting themselves out of power for so many years. The basis for this rationale is that a government with more Québec representation would serve Québec's interests better. A vote for the Bloc is a vote wasted... so they say.

Recent history somewhat disagrees with this perspective. You see... before the Bloc entered the House of Commons, Québec had a fairly good handle on federal affairs. During the last 50 years, the Canadian Parliament hosted many Québécois Prime Ministers and many cabinet members ensured appropriate Québécois representation in most governments.

Still... the 60s saw the rise of Québec nationalism, culminating to the October Crisis and the institution of martial law. The 70s saw the election of the Parti Québécois and the creation of the Charter of the French Language (a.k.a. Bill 101). A referendum for sovereignty was held in 1980. The "No" side's victory led to the patriation of the Constitution in 1982 without Québec's support.

In 1984, René Lévesque helped Mulroney's Conservatives win the federal elections and took what he called le beau risque. The Meech Lake Accord was drafted in 1987 to reintegrate Québec in the Canadian constitution "in honor and dignity". Unable to meet the final ratification date, the Accord unraveled in 1990. Mulroney tried a second time in 1992 with the Charlottetown Accord. Both Québec and the rest of the country rejected it for opposite reasons.

This constitutional drama took place despite appropriate Québec representation in the federal cabinet and paved the way for the Bloc Québécois, a sovereigntist party that managed to grab official opposition status in its first election in 1993. Since then, the Bloc has held the majority of the province's 75 seats.

Some people associate the Bloc's success with a withdrawal of the Québécois from Ottawa's affairs. Others see in the Bloc's success a reaction to Ottawa's disengagement in addressing the Québécois' concerns. Which one is it?...

Over the years, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe has proven to be a formidable politician. His inability to become prime minister gives him great latitude and contributes to his integrity in representing the population that elected him. Oddly enough, it allows him to do the job he is supposed to do, i.e. defend the interest of those he represents. His stance is obviously very egotistical for Canadians in other provinces, but many still recognize his qualities as a politician.

"We are different," says Duceppe. "Everyone in Québec knows that Québec is quite different from the rest of Canada. Not better, not worse, plain different." With its significant deputation, the Bloc in Ottawa is a constant reminder of this unmistakable reality.

Without the Bloc, chances are the two solitudes would prevail even more. By heightening Québec's different needs on the federal radar, the Bloc contributes to making the Canadian federation work. And any blow to that delicate balance might entail fueling the sovereignty movement.

Ironically, the Bloc's success is depriving the sovereignty movement of important arguments.

Reworked from a previous blog entry "The Bloc Québécois is useless", originally published February 8th, 2009.


And so the rift widens - Take 2

I've always thought that a Harper majority government would contribute to the feeling of exclusion in Québec and would thus fuel the sovereignty movement. In yesterday's Globe and Mail, Jeffrey Simpson put my thoughts into words.


Federalists are clueless

In the words of Senator Jean-Claude Rivest: "The Bloc Québécois exists only because the other three parties are clueless."

Click here [Google translation] to read the whole story.


And so the rift widens

I've always thought that a Harper majority government would contribute to the feeling of exclusion in Québec and would thus fuel the sovereignty movement. In today's Globe and Mail, Rhéal Séguin puts my thoughts into words.


Different views on a coalition

Harper was in Brampton Ontario this weekend. Both Toronto's the Globe and Mail and Montréal's La Presse covered the event.

The Globe and mail points out that a coalition would sow instability in the country. La Presse stresses [Google translation] that Harper wasn't clear on his position on a possible cooperation with the NPD and the Bloc in 2004. According to the reporter, Harper's team had a hard time handling that particular topic during Q & A.

It's no wonder the two solitudes don't understand each other. They read different news.


Duceppe says Harper lying

It's election time again!... and Harper says a coalition isn't a good idea. Time flies. Things change. And back in 2004, the "would be" prime minister thought a coalition against the Liberals was a good idea.
September 9, 2004
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,
C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Governor General
Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1


As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government's program.

We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.

Your attention to this matter is appreciated.


Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, M.P.
Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Jack Layton, M.P.
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Duceppe isn't the only one who says Harper is lying.


A sovereigntist and a gentleman

Pierre Falardeau passed away in September of 2009. Director of Elvis Gratton and many other films, he was a staunch defender of the Québec sovereignty movement.

He also was a very intelligent and generous man who was respected by his neighbors, some of whom had very different political opinions.

Click here [Google translation] to know more about this tribute to a fascinating man.


Mon pays, ce n’est pas Vancouver! - Take 2

In the words of Pample the Moose: "I had to shake my head in amused bewilderment in reading Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong's whining in his memoirs about how the issue of French in the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies was criticized by people like Graham Fraser and James Moore..."

In his recent book, the head of last year's Winter Olympics also complains about how he was treated by La Presse's journalist Réjean Tremblay [Google translation] at a conference press. According to Mr. Furlong, the journalist tried forcing him to speak French. Mr. Tremblay sheds a different light on the anecdote.
"John Furlong spoke exclusively English for about seven minutes presenting the province's Premier. Jean Charest made an interesting 10-minute speech exclusively in French during which Mr. Furlong didn't wear his translation headset. Did he understand what was being said?

French and English are the official languages of Canada. French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Movement. This was Québec Day at the Games. Was Mr. Furlong being contemptuous? I felt compelled to clear it out.

I was the first when the Q & A session began and asked Mr. Furlong what he thought of Mr. Charest's words. I invited him to answer in English if it was easier for him. He had no clue what the Premier talked about and looked like a complete fool. Mr. Charest's grin was unequivocal."
There are two sides to a coin.


I want to pogne

The American hegemony on the pop music scene is indisputable. And many talent hunters from the United States are exploring other regions of the globe in search for new ideas and artists to carry them. Scouting for new talents, Gene Simmons was at the Metropolis last November for the M pour Montréal music event. His presence obviously didn't go unnoticed.

In its report on the event, ChartAttack.com deemed it worthwhile to mention that Mr. Simmons told a room packed with local media (i.e. mostly French) that "any self-respecting band interested in making money has to sing in English. The Scorpions could barely speak two words of English and managed just fine."

Happily unmarried with Canadian model Shannon Tweed since 1985, the Kiss front man knew exactly where he was heading with the local press. Of course, he's right about singing in English being a better route for making money; the list of best selling music artists is packed with English-language singers. But what appears to be close-mindedness to the average North American may simply be curiosity for things other than English.

It's kinda cool to highlight these differences in cultural curiosity. The Who, for example, was a popular band with album sales in the 100 million vicinity. Despite a successful tour in 2006-2007, ticket sales weren't strong enough in Montréal to justify a stop in the city.

On the other hand, Rammstein, a band from Germany singing almost exclusively in German, was a hit in Québec City last summer. When they embarked on their world tour last fall, Montréal was one of only two cities in North America and tickets sold like hotcakes. They will be back this spring (three times in less than a year) and sales are doing fine; Montrealers in search for good tickets this coming May should consider Toronto.

Still, Mr. Simmons missed the mark by using The Scorpions to illustrate his point. Céline Dion is a much better example. She sold twice the albums Mr. Simmons did with his band and, unlike The Scorpions, has a very descent répertoire of songs in her mother tongue.

Perhaps, Rock et Belles Oreilles said it best in 1989 when they released "I want to pogne", a Frenglish phrase for "I want to be famous".

Don't get me wrong. Singing in English is great. And Québec's music scene is jumping on the bandwagon along with others at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Need I say I wish them good luck?

If there's one thing that should stand above all... it's that... well... there's stuff going on outside the English-speaking world.


Anglo-Québécois musicians

The recent success of Montréal band Arcade Fire at the Grammys, BRIT awards and Shockwaves NME Awards has given exposure to a sensitive issue in Québec. How do English-speaking musicians fit in the cultural landscape of the province?

In an unusual move, the Canadian Press called the organizers of the Fête nationale du Québec and asked if they would welcome the recent Grammy winners. The answer to this hypothetical question was short: "Yes, if they sing in French." It inspired several reactions.

In an opinion piece, The Gazette stresses that "Arcade Fire gets warm welcome in Quebec only after Grammy win" and asks the question: "How do English-speaking Quebecers become Québécois overnight?" Much of the text builds on the premise that the Québécois aren't really interested in their Anglo scene. As if it could have been any other way, it stresses that the high priest of Québec popular culture, Guy A. Lepage [Google translation], tweeted "Bravo Arcade Fire!!!!" and promised to try to book the group for his popular television talk show, Tout le monde en parle.

Of course, the Québécois don't know the Anglo scene as well as the Franco one, but they still give plenty of room to English singing artists. Guy A. Lepage hosted Montréal band Simple Plan on his show many times. Patrick Watson hit the number six spot on Canadian charts with his 2009 album Wooden Arms in good part because of the Québécois. It reached number two in Montréal and number three in Québec City. In contrast, the album reached the top twenty in only three other major cities, Vancouver (#17), Toronto (#13) and Ottawa (#19).

As for Arcade Fire... they ignited Longueuil and created a stir in Sherbrooke last summer in preparation for the release of their recent album. These crowds certainly didn't wait for the opinion of others to enjoy the band.

So... can English be part of the Fête nationale? It's interesting to note that it was on the advice of René Lévesque (then at the helm of the Parti Québécois), that June 24 was declared the Fête national du Québec in 1977. The intent was to encompass Québécois of all origins and backgrounds.

Ok... so... can English be part of the Fête nationale or not? Well... actually... the question misses the point. You see... the Fête nationale has a lot more to do with identity than language. And because language is very much a part of our identity, it's kind of hard to tell them apart. Honestly, I think artists like Arcade Fire should be thoroughly embraced as they are, but that doesn't mean I'm all for French-speaking Québécois artists, like Céline Dion, performing in English. There's a difference between welcoming an Anglo artist and cheering to an English song.

What's that difference you wonder? Perhaps an analogy using the Canadian identity would put feelings to what I'm trying to illustrate.

Envision yourself in Ottawa for Canada Day. Kingston's own The Tragically Hip are in the lineup for the celebrations. Now... imagine them getting on stage and opening up the show with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA"... I know... it's not the same... it won't happen... etc. So, what's my point?

My point is that the Fête nationale is about identity. My point is that a French-speaking Québécois singing in English has more to do with the lost of an identity than celebrating it, but that an Anglo artist singing in his mother tongue is a given. My point is that this blurry distinction remains to be made for a majority of people.


Conservative majority

Newspaper headlines don't exclusively tell you about the article they promote. They also give the reader a hint of what the editorial board wants to put forward.

The Globe and Mail published a story about the attitudes of Canadians towards a potential Conservative majority government. La Presse covered it as well. Both articles are based on the same poll.

The Globe's headline emphasizes that "Voters cool to a Harper majority government", while La Presse's angle is more about the fact that "Canadians are wary of a Conservative majority government" [Google translation].


Scrapping Bill 101

Perhaps, you've read about Maxime Bernier's recent stance against Bill 101. The Globe and Mail didn't actually publish the story, but it did cover the stir it created in French-language media. Yeah... yeah... I know... French media are obsessed with these language issues. But you know... English media are obsessed with the French media's obsessions. Don't they make a nice couple?

Anyway... back to Mr. Bernier's blurt. The Conservative MP bases his opinion on a poll published last summer in The Gazette. It shows that 61% of French-speaking Québécois support the right to choose the language of education. No surprise here... the question is about the right to choose something. Who in his right mind would answer "no, I'd rather not have the choice"? Come to think of it, it's kind of odd that so many did give that answer. I can only assume they realized the social implications of this freedom of choice.

At any rate... Mr. Bernier concluded that since a majority of Québécois support the right to choose the language of education, this same majority feel that Bill 101 is no longer needed. Hmmm... a truly edifying intellectual shortcut.

In reality, a recent Angus Reid poll [in French only] concludes that 79% of Québécois feel the 34 years old law is a "necessity" in Québec; this percentage reaches 90% among Francophones. Why such an overwhelming proportion you wonder? No, no, no... the population hasn't been brainwashed by the méchants séparatistes; it's much simpler and much less Machiavellian than that.

Despite the fact that Québec is the only officially French province in the country, it has the most bilingual population (40%). New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province, is second (33%). There are more bilingual Canadians in Québec than in the rest of the country. There you go... isn't that nice?

"But... more and more, Anglos in Québec speak the language of the majority... isn't that the idea?" you say. "Absolutely!" I reply. Bilingualism among English-speaking Québécois has been steadily rising, from 58% in 1991 to 66% in 2001. So, why not consider relaxing the reach of Bill 101?

Well... you have to realize that the provincial law was devised to counterbalance the hegemony of the English language in this continent. Looking at the numbers, this goal is yet to be reached. Bilingualism among Anglos in Québec is still lagging that of Francophones in other provinces by almost 20 percentage points (85% of Francophones living outside the province spoke the language of the majority in 2001). It's rather clear that without Bill 101, the knowledge of French among Québécois whose mother tongue is another language would steadily decline and stir unnecessary social tensions in the long run.

Like the majority of Québécois, I feel that the vibrant culture of my province is an asset to this country and that French is a prerequisite for this vibrant culture to continue evolving. Without Bill 101, Canada would lose this asset.


Incendies at the Oscars

Roger Ebert gives his thumbs up to the Québec film Incendies for the Oscar in the Foreign language film category this year.

The movie is the heartwrenching tale of two young Québécois in search for their lost father and brother in their mother's country of origin. It grossed over $3M in the province last year. The movie is currently out in France where it's experiencing its share of success [Google translation].

The Oscars ceremony takes place on February 27.


Egyptian news in Montréal

Mubarak's departure takes a whole lot of room in current events this morning. In sync with the media of the world, La Presse [Google translation], Le Journal de Montréal [Google translation] and Le Devoir [Google translation] all made it their number one story. With its Arabic headline, La Presse's front page is the most striking. Exciting days ahead...


A cowed legislature?

I learned a new word a few weeks back. And when I read the Globe's editorial, about Québec's move to bar the kirpan from the National Assembly and prevent four men wearing it from entering the building, it took me a while to get it. I couldn't honestly reconcile the headline with the story that was being told. And then it hit me!... the Globe and Mail was being contemptuous; these people obviously knew better. That's also the attitude they had when covering the niqab story almost a year ago.

A few days later, The Gazette printed an editorial on the incident, a text in which the authors state that there is no record of any incident in this country of anyone being injured by a kirpan... hmmm... a little journalistic integrity is in order here. And then what!?... you guessed it!... it's all because of the sovereigntists!... "the only logical explanation" concludes The Gazette.

Today, the National Assembly unanimously voted against the kirpan in the legislative buildings... that's right!... unanimously! Whether an individual should enter parliament with a blade or not may be an issue in other provinces, but it isn't in Québec.

You think this is being racist or xenophobic? I think not. You see, from where I stand, everyone's equal. Wearing a kirpan is a personal choice, not a human right. Of course, freedom of religion is, but is forbidding the kirpan really about depriving someone from her, or his, religion? Have you ever seen someone with a ceremonial blade on an airplane? Is this a pleasant thought?

Simply put, anyone with a blade can't enter Québec's legislature, regardless of her, or his, personal convictions. On the other hand, anyone complying with the rules of the house is welcome. And these rules equally apply to women, Sikhs, Hindus, Anglos, midgets... name them!

Clean and simple... no ambiguities... fair to all...

Oh!... but I don't understand Sikhism you say? You're probably right. But I do understand the deviant minds that might want to use Sikhism to justify wearing a blame when entering premises they wouldn't normally have access to.

You're not sure about the soundness of my stance? Here's a little food for thought. A few years ago, a couple of Québécois whom I had common friends with sincerely converted to Sikhism... they grew their hair all over their bodies and wore the clothes. Now... do you honestly believe they would enter the parliament building in Ottawa as easily with a kirpan as any other Sikh?


Mon pays, ce n'est pas Vancouver!

In the words of Pample the Moose: "I had to shake my head in amused bewilderment in reading Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong's whining in his memoirs about how the issue of French in the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies was criticized by people like Graham Fraser and James Moore..."

Click here to read the whole entry.

Note: I simply couldn't have written it better myself.


Linguistic immersion

Someone had a good idea at Marianopolis College and Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. Next year, both institutions will launch a student exchange program that will have interested students spend their last semester at the other CEGEP in an effort to improve their language skills.

I like it and the initiative hasn't stirred much controversy. OK... no news here... let's move on... except that... while both the Bloc and the Parti Québécois haven't commented on the initiative, some people see politics into it.

In the story published by La Presse [Google translation], Michel April, general manager at Brébeuf, is quoted saying it is a nice opportunity for Québec society to think things over. "Une belle piste de réflexion pour la société québécoise", he says. Of course, some people need this type of initiative to think things over, but Québec society? Gimme a break!... Québec's population is already the most bilingual in Canada. Yep!... even more bilingual than New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in the country.

The Gazette and the CBC also see some politics into it. They both emphasize the apparent contradiction between this initiative and the Parti Québécois' discussions about banning Francophones and Allophones from attending English-language CEGEPs. Both media also conveniently omit that these discussions provide for institutions wanting to launch immersion programs to be able to do so [Google translation]. Which is exactly what both CEGEPs will be doing! Like I wrote above... no news here... but you have to wonder about the journalistic integrity of the authors involved at The Gazette and the CBC.

Someone had a good idea at Marianopolis College and Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, but it's no revolution. Many French-language elementary schools already have these types of immersion programs.


About Canada

With its 33,759,742 people Canada is the 36th largest country in the world by population. It is the 2nd largest country by area with 9,984,670 square kilometers.

A land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Canada faces the political challenges of meeting public demands for quality improvements in health care and education services, as well as responding to the particular concerns of predominantly francophone Quebec. Canada also aims to develop its diverse energy resources while maintaining its commitment to the environment.

The land now occupied by Canada was first inhabited approximately 16,000 years ago by aboriginal peoples. Starting in the late 15th century the British and French explored and settled along the eastern seaboard. The 19th century saw a rapid influx of European immigrants as the westward push that characterized the continent's development continued.

The beginning of the 20th century saw Canada's early involvement in World War I due to British control of its foreign affairs. In 1919 Canada joined the League of Nations independently of Britain taking control of its own foreign policy. Canada declared war on Germany during World War II three days after Britain, with the first Canadian Army units arriving in Britain in late 1939.

Today, Canada is characterized by its socially democratic programs such as universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans. In 2006, The Economist ranked Canada the third most democratic nation in its Democracy Index, ahead of all other countries in North and South America.

Excerpt from IfItWereMyHome.com.