Québec nationalists reaching out

Sovereigntists never took good care of their image outside the French speaking world. Wait... there's one word too many... allow me to rephrase. Sovereigntists never took care of their image outside the French speaking world. I always thought they needed to build bridges (click here for more on the topic) and letting others do what they want with your publicity is definitely not a good way to do it.

Stating that explaining the rationale for separatism to an Anglo crowd is a though sell is a euphemism. Somehow, the current péquiste government seems to give it some credit and named Jean-François Lisée in charge of building bridges with the English-speaking community. Even if some didn't like it, the péquistes have taken several steps in that direction and seem determine to establish a dialog.

The government is introducing changes to Bill 101 today. And Diane De Courcy, the minister in charge of these changes, is taking a shot at explaining them to the English community."The Quebec identity is multi-faceted. It hinges on our singular situation in North America, a world view that stems from our experience as a minority and, at the same time, a feeling of our originality. It comprises the values in which we recognize ourselves and a culture that is simultaneously European and North American. Above all, Quebecers of all origins share a language that is now a rallying point for them.Barely 40 years ago, the vast majority of immigrants sent their children to English-language schools and integrated naturally into the English-speaking community. We have made considerable progress in the integration of immigrants into the French-speaking community and can be proud of it, although much remains to be done to foster their integration into the labour market and increase the proportion of newcomers who settle outside the Montreal area. Today, we can more confidently welcome those who want to build Quebec with us."I know some people won't like her words (click here for the whole letter), but at least, someone's talking.


The Ununited States of Canada

Stephen Harper once said that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada (read about it here). The "united" part of that statement always felt awkward to me... more like wishful thinking than reality. Apparently, I'm not the only one.

A week from today, Canal D [in French only] will present Les états-désunis du Canada [Google translation], a documentary that sheds a light on separatism outside Québec.  A trailer has been creating a buzz on the web for the past two weeks.  Click below to see it.

I heard before that "the Québécois are whiners", but isn't it ironic that the only ones whining in this clip are from Alberta?
"We keep hearing that you can get daycare for $7 a day.  We can't get daycare for $7 an hour!... here in Alberta.  You have cheaper, even free, university tuition.  Our students are paying up to $9,000 a semester I think.  In Québec, they have an advantageous proportion of medical personnel to  population that they care for, compared to us.  How do they do it?  Well... they take our money!"Of course, not all Albertans are alike. I wish those complaining would realize that if they were willing to pay the same amount of taxes we do as a society, they could very easily afford all the programs they envy us.


Chronicles of a Hasidim

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who feels his community is misunderstood by observers. I recently stumbled on this blog held by a group of young Hasidim from Outremont who felt an urge for an honest and sincere dialog with its neighbors.We hope this dialog will increase our respect of one another by dispelling some of the myths, misconceptions that we may have towards each other, and in turn to gain some understanding of our neighbors and how they view our distinct way of life.

We know that there will always be some ill-willed individuals who will make mockery out our attempt to bring about this open dialog, but nevertheless we feel this is our duty as human beings to try to do good and bring about peace in our world.
Click here for more...


Immigration and attitudes

Canada prides itself in being a country of immigrants. In recent years, immigration has become an important part of the Canadian identity. This trait is particularly prevalent in provinces other than Québec.

The Globe and Mail is currently conducting an on-line survey to capture the attitude of Canadians toward immigration in the country. The National newspaper invites its readers to chart their perspective and compare their opinion to others. The survey basically asks two questions:
  1. How do you feel immigration affects Canada?
  2. How often do you interact with immigrants?
At the time of this blog entry, findings suggest that 81% of respondents frequently interact with immigrants and 78% believe that immigration helps Canada. The breakdown per province and territory is as follows:
  • Alberta: 82% frequently interact and 79% believe immigration is a plus.
  • British Columbia: 79% and 77%
  • Manitoba: 74% and 80%
  • New Brunswick: 72% and 80%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 76% and 77%
  • Northwest Territories: 95% and 100%
  • Nova Scotia: 73% and 84%
  • Nunavut: 88% and 63%
  • Ontario: 83% and 76%
  • Prince Edward Island: 72% and 67%
  • Québec: 88% and 86%
  • Saskatchewan: 83% and 77%
  • Yukon: 84% and 84%
I can't help but notice Québec's enviable position in the survey and how it contrasts with what seems to be the opinion of other Canadians in regards to the Québécois' attitude towards immigrants.

English-speaking readers from Québec are the most bilingual in the country. French-speaking readers of the newspaper are obviously all bilingual. The Globe's readership from Québec is thus the most bilingual, compared to other parts of the country.

Given that bilingualism allows a greater variety of cultural productions than readers from other provinces, I submit that it is the main driver of this open-mindedness. What do you think?


Katimavik: 1977-2012?

I'm a Katimavik alumnus. Initially one of the many opportunities I took advantage of to improve my second language, it had a profound impact on my personal life; the young adult that I was in 1984 didn't know much about the world outside the family cocoon. It was also my first close encounter with Canadians who spoke only one of the two official languages... an eye-opening experience.

If you're familiar with the program, you're probably aware that in the 2012 federal budget, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the program will be eliminated. The reason?... the comparatively high per-person cost of the program when compared to other government initiatives targeted at youth.

Here are some facts the organization has been sharing in response to the announcement:
  • The yearly budget for Katimavik to have 1462 youth complete the program in 64 communities helping more than 500 community partners is $15,935,470. This amounts to a total cost per day of $77 per volunteer.
  • The volunteer work performed by the volunteers is valued at $10,749,518.
  • The direct investments by Katimavik groups in each of the 64 communities where the program takes place, is valued at $218,000 per community, for a total of $13,952,000.
  • In 2010-2011, 90% of Katimavik community partners indicated that the Katimavik volunteers' involvement improved their capacity to accomplish their daily tasks.
  • Last year, 91% of volunteers said that they would recommend the program to their friends and 88% said Katimavik was one of the best experiences of their lives.
It certainly was for me...


Playing the identity card

Some 100 years ago, French-speaking inhabitants of this country had very few models to look up to. Poor and undereducated, they followed the path drawn by the Church... raising as many children as possible with very little mean. Life was tough.

In 1909, John Ambrose O'Brien entertainded the idea of creating a hockey team to capture francophone interest as a rival for the Montréal Wanderers. This new team was to essentially recruit French-speaking hockey players only. The name chosen to underline this particular trait was Le Club de Hockey Canadien.

Perhaps, you're unsure why the name "Canadien" would specifically appeal to French-speakers. If this is the case, you're unfamiliar with the origins of the word. You see... in those days, English-speakers in this country still had strong ties with England. They basically were British North Americans. In contrast, French settlers and their descendants had long broken their ties with France, developing their own very specific identity, as les Canadiens.

John Ambrose O'Brien saw a commercially feasible venture in exploiting this feeling of distinctiveness. Time proved him right. The hockey team became one of the most successful professional sports team in the world, giving French Canadians from all over the country the models they never had. And what models!... six championship cups in the 50s, four in the 60s, six in the 70s... 24 in total.

Today, pretty much everyone in the country see themselves as Canadians and the majority probably wonders why Montréal's hockey team bears such a name. What used to be known as the Canadien identity has now morphed into something different, the Québécois identity. Le Club de Hockey Canadien hasn't followed this trend (nor should it), but a newer team with less heritage could very well do so.

Founded in 1993, L'impact is Montréal's soccer team. This year is its first season in the MLS. Upon its entry in the big league, the owner saw it fit to redo its entire image. Like Les Canadiens de Montréal did some 100 years ago with French Canadians, L'Impact chose the path of identity to appeal to the Québécois' strong feeling of distinctiveness. Click below to see for yourself.

Of course, today's Québécois don't need heroes as French Canadians of the past did. But if this video doesn't touch you, in all good faith, what will? Look at the picture below and tell me... what are these gentlemen saying to the Québécois of all origins?... be part of the team...


Let the awakening begin?

Times are good for sovereigntists... sorry for repeating myself. A new survey found that 44.5 percent of Québécois would still support separating from Canada if the Constitution could not be changed enough to satisfy the majority of the province. What's wrong?

Following Parizeau's infamous speech in 1995, the PQ has been relatively quiet on the identity front. Since their arrival at the helm, the Liberals have been taking care of their English-speaking electorate. How shall I put this?... la nature a horreur du vide... nature abhors a vacuum?... not sure... but the government's negligence in regards to the linguistic situation in Montréal for the last couple of decades is fertile ground for the sovereignty movement. How so?

In his recent contribution to L'actualité, about the situation of French in Montréal [Google translation], Jack Jedwab points out that the majority of Québécois feels that French as a language would be better protected in a sovereign Québec than in the current federation. The director of the Association for Canadian Studies also points out that these conclusions don't only apply to French-speaking Québécois; the majority of Anglophones and Allophones feel the same way.

With the persistent signals the media has been sending in regards to linguistics incidents in Montréal, there's no doubt in my mind that the Québécois are concerned. Add a Conservative government who's alienating the province of Ottawa in the mix and you have... two... shall I call these?... winning conditions?

Apparently, all this comes as a surprise to many Canadians. Take a look at some of the reactions the report in The Globe and Mail has been prompting to see for yourself. One commentator asks (referring to the Québécois): "Are these people NUTS?" I reply: "Perhaps... but you haven't been following all this very closely... right?"


Ici, on parle English

As it is often the case when it comes to language perspectives in Montréal, the conclusion of a survey conducted by L'actualité magazine is stirring the pot. You can read it here [Google translation], but it's pretty much the usual stuff for those who mix with both English and French cultures on a regular basis. A lot of huff and puff... one side discovering the limited knowledge of the other for what they take for granted... etc.

One important thing that I'm pleased to put a number on is the proportion of Anglophones who consider themselves Québécois. Findings of the survey suggest that 80 percent of Anglophones identify themselves as such. A number that contrasts with results from other provinces where about two thirds of the residents see themselves as Ontarians, Albertans or others. A number that would have been even more surprising a few decades ago, but is somewhat consistent with testimonials and reactions The Gazette has been publishing once in a while.

One thing that I particularly liked about this survey is the contribution of Josh Freed. The man is, among other things, a well-known columnist, the creator of the word "neverendum", the co-author of The Anglo guide to survival in Québec and, above all, a true dyed-in-the-wool Montrealer... un vrai de vrai Montréalais pure laine... un Anglo-Québécois who loves his province with all its buoyancy and contradictions... I trust you get the picture.

In his recent column, Mr. Freed reflects on the limitations of the cover story published by L'actualité:
We Québec Anglos chose to stay here when hundreds of thousands of others left. We stayed through exhausting sign-law battles and two neverendums we didn't want.

We stayed because we're Québécois - and Montrealers, who love this city with a passion few Canadians have for theirs. We like the French language, French bistros, French wine, French food, French kissing and French's mustard.

We've stayed in Montréal while many Francophones have quit for the suburbs. And as I wrote in L'actualité: We may need a Bill 301 to save French in Montréal by forbidding more Francophones from moving off the island.
Click here to read his full reaction.


Québec voters

Yesterday, Lysiane Gagnon reported in The Globe and Mail that, according to a recent survey by Léger Marketing, the Bloc has the most support in Québec, at 31 percent, four points ahead of the NDP. The Liberals are lagging behind at 22 percent. And the Conservatives are at the bottom with a miserable 14 percent.

Since voters in my province are now back in the old fold of the Bloc Québécois, less than a year after giving 59 seats to the NDP, the columnist points out that "it is an understatement to say Québec voters are volatile".

Volatile?... let's check this out...
  • In 1993, 49% of the voters in Québec gave 56 seats the Bloc.
  • In 1997, 38% gave 44 seats.
  • In 2000, 40% gave 38 seats.
  • In 2004, 49% gave 54 seats.
  • In 2006, 42% gave 51 seats.
  • In 2008, 38% gave 49 seats.
  • In 2011, 23% gave 4 seats.
Hmmm... apart from the fling voters had with Jack last summer, results seem to revolve around the 44% mark (±6%). I don't see much volatility. Am I looking at this the right way? Or perhaps, Mrs Gagnon is referring to the fact that current support has yet to reach normal levels again... nah... that's not it.

Mrs Gagnon is denouncing the Québécois' short honeymoon with the federalist party as if it were some sort of surprise. How could that be? Another survey [in French] by Léger Marketing, found that 3 out of 4 Québécois are against the constitutional status quo. And guess what?... the only alternative on the table is the sovereigntists' proposal.

This looks like the slow, but steady, return to the previous equilibrium.


Halal meat and the federalists

The PQ feels that halal meat should be labeled for consumers to make an informed decision. Sounds reasonable... no issue here... next! The PQ claims the traditional religious ritual used to kill the animals hurts Québec values because it is inhumane... oops!

When I read about it [Google translation] in La presse, I thought: "wow!... this is great material for the federalist press". I was right. It didn't take very long for The Globe and Mail to write an editorial about it... headlining that "Québec's controversy over halal meat is another manifestation of politics of exclusion"... yep!... "another manifestation of politics of exclusion".

According to the editorial, if critics of the practice could show that animals are made to suffer more than those slaughtered by the usual methods, then the objections would have merit. To me, an exhaustive coverage of the controversy, even for an opinion piece, would also have merit.

Three things come to mind. First, the editorial barely touches the PQ's main point, i.e. that halal meat should be properly labeled for consumers to make an informed decision. Second, the editorial makes no mention of Charest supporting appropriate labeling of foods produced under religious rites. Third, it neglects to mention that the CAQ also shares the PQ's point of view. That's it... three simple items that could have been part of the editorial.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not defending the PQ's use of Québec's values to appeal to some while ostracizing others. I may not be convinced that religious rites in food distribution (click here for some real examples) are still as justified today as they were when devised, but I respect them. In contrast to the editorial's conclusion, and like the majority of Québécois, I easily find common ground with recently arrived immigrants, and don't particularly feel tempted by the politics of exclusion.

My point has more to do with the Globe's intent. As it is too often the case, this was too good an opportunity to not hit the nail of intolerance and demonize the sovereigntists again (click here for more)... especially in the favorable light the PQ has been recently looked at.

Still... it strikes me how quick federalists are to jump on such incidents. It's as if intolerance and exclusion were the only handles they had to counter the appeal for a sovereign Québec. I wish federalists spent half the efforts boasting the merit of our great country. Is this too much to ask?


Will Québec save Canada?

A recent article [Google translation] published in La Presse states that the Harper Government acknowledges the strategy the PQ has been using for the upcoming provincial election. In essence, Pauline Marois has been putting forward that the Conservatives' right-wing agenda is proof that their is no room in Canada for the distinct province (let it be noted that 60% of Canadians voted against Harper at the last federal election). How this recognition by the Conservatives will influence their actions remains to be seen. Still, the influence of Québec politics on Ottawa may not be dismissed altogether, despite the collapse of the Bloc.

Yesterday, the Conservatives managed to push their controversial omnibus crime bill through Parliament. The bill puts an onus on any province that favors rehabilitation over imprisonment of young offenders. Today, The Globe and Mail reports that "Québec refuses to implement Harper's crime bill".

What's next? With their interim leaders, both the Liberals and the NDP lack the full thrust of a solid opposition in Ottawa. Is Québec the only stakeholder bold enough to stand against the Harperites?


Canadians and Canadian movies

Last week was an important one for the Canadian movie industry. The 32nd Annual Genie Awards, honoring Canada's greatest, was held Thursday. As expected by many, Québécois movies did rather well.

Among the many recipients, one particularly caught my attention, Starbuck. It's the story of a perpetual adolescent who discovers that, as a sperm donor, he fathered 533 children. It won the Golden Reel Award, presented annually to the Canadian film that has earned the highest domestic box office. It won the same award last night at La soirée des Jutras [in French], the ceremony honoring Québec's greatest.

In the province, Starbuck raked in $3.4M. In the whole country, its box office performance totals a little more than $3.5M. You read this right... the Canadian film that earned the highest domestic box office sold for a little over $100,000 outside Québec! In other words, with a market more than three times the size of my province, the English language industry was not able to produce a movie as commercially successful as Québec did for itself.

What's wrong?... this is certainly not about lack of talent. Why aren't Canadians watching domestic movies? A recent survey [Google translation] found that 83% of the Québécois are favorably biased to Québec films. How do Canadians in other provinces feel about their own production? I mean... Uncle Sam produces some great flicks, but he's not the only one!

With theaters basically the property of American majors, can Canadians really watch movies produced outside the USA? Movies play an important part in a society's cultural fabric... how does this situation contribute to the Canadian psyche in terms of identity?

Some people probably think I don't get it... I wish they would explain.


Times are good for Sovereigntists - Part 2

Léger Marketing published the results of yet another survey concluding that the PQ is in majority territory [in French]. Overall, the CAQ is at 24%, the PLQ at 28% and the PQ at 33%. This lead may not seem important, but one has to keep in mind that support for the PQ among Francophones is at 40% and they basically determine the results in 100 of the province's 125 ridings.

It's still a bit early to qualify the trend as strong, but it adds an interesting variable to the possibility of an election prior to the public hearings of Quebec's commission of inquiry into construction corruption, a.k.a. the Commission Charbonneau.


Times are good for Sovereigntists

Three months ago, The Globe and Mail headlined: "Sovereignty on its death bed in Québec" (click here to read my reaction to it). The underlying premise to such a statement is the conclusion much of the English press has reached by equating support for sovereignty with the demise of the Bloc Québécois. This conclusion doesn't hold.

A CROP survey, conducted in the weeks that followed the Bloc's collapse, showed support for sovereignty at 43% [Google translation]. A more recent Léger Marketing survey (conducted in late January) also puts support for sovereignty at 43% [in French].

Had there been an election in Québec two weeks ago, yet another poll from CROP put the PQ in the driver's seat [Google translation]. Those who doubt the conclusions of a Québécois research firm may want to look at an Ontarian source; Forum Research saw a possible majority [Google translation].

Why?... the PQ hasn't made any drastic change to its offering... the PLQ is still plagued with the same problems... Harper!?... yep!

While most of English Canada has been busy celebrating the demise of the Bloc on the federal scene, the Québécois have been acknowledging what the Bloc contributed to shield them from:
  • Canada's withdrawal from Kyoto
  • Purchasing of F-35 fighters
  • The rise of the Monarchy in Canadian symbols
  • Military patriotism in general
  • Impact of C-30 on privacy
  • Using intelligence derived from torture
  • End of the long-gun registry
  • Fetal rights and their impact on abortion
  • Hints at death penalty under certain conditions
These initiatives have been so unpopular in Québec, and to many Canadians, that Justin Trudeau said he's enormously sad about where Canada is heading, and that if he ever believed Canada was Prime Minister "Stephen Harper's Canada," he would think about sovereignty."I always say that if ever I believed Canada was really Stephen Harper's Canada — that we were heading against abortion, against gay marriage, that we were going backwards 10,000 different ways — maybe I would think about wanting to make Quebec a country."Say whut Justin??... sovereigntists are carrying your father's vision of a progressive Canada?"No, absolutely, if I no longer recognized in Canada my values... But I believe deeply in Canada and I know that Quebec in Canada can put it back on the right path."Ah... Québec is an important contributor to progressive Canadian values. I see what you mean, but I doubt the average Canadian shares this vision.

At any rate... the Estates General on Sovereignty has now kicked into gear. And the PQ is seizing the opportunity by revamping some 148 sovereignty related studies. The plan is simple... if support for sovereignty is at 43%, they only need to convince everyone that the PQ is serious about it to harvest corresponding votes.

Now... what Harper could do to help the PQ further... is... tinker with the equalization program... reduce health transfers... legislate in a way that incurs higher provincial burden... or plain simply... anything that reduces financial benefits to the province.

Many of my sovereigntist friends would say: "Let the Reform perform."


Quebeckers charged in child-porn case

Glancing through The Globe and Mail, this headline caught my attention: "Five Quebeckers charged in international child-porn case". It felt odd. I wondered what information was being conveyed by using the word "Quebeckers". Or was I simply being too sensitive?

I googled the headline to see if other media carried the news. I found out that other publications simply referred to "Quebec men". Which somehow didn't feel as odd.

Then I thought... would The Globe and Mail publish something using the headline "Five Ontarians charged in international child-porn case"? I can't picture it.

What do you think? Is Québec such a different place that Canada's national newspaper dares not calling its inhabitants Canadians?... or is the newspaper pointing at something else?

Writer's note: The report was updated and the headline changed at 7:35PM. My imagination is playing tricks on me.


I don't want to be tolerated

I'm no one in particular, yet I sometimes unwillingly become everyone at once. I'm not a victim, yet that's how I'm being portrayed. I'm not a public danger, yet news report how disturbing I am on a quasi weekly basis. Yes, human nature is suspicious of the unknown and is protective of its own values. And it may foster a certain distance, even insults... but the opposite is also true.

I received, throughout my short life, more kind words than bad ones. I use these kind words to dodge cheap shots and skewed looks. Everyone thinks they know best when it comes to living in a society. Yet, too often, we forget that there is no one truth. Each individual has their own, a truth that is suitable for who they are, their experience, their personality, the education they received. I gather that's what makes our crazy world so exciting.

I always considered myself a Québécoise, but I learned that I needed to prove it. When you don't physically fit the mold, you're labeled: "Warning, fragile package, comes from elsewhere."

Yet, my radio played Marie-Chantal Toupin and Dany Bédar as far back as I remember. I shiver at the words of Richard Desjardins. I was a fan of Véronique Cloutier before I was born. Ever since I began understanding social and political issues, Pierre Falardeau has been one of my biggest role models with his activism. I cried when watching Maurice Richard (the movie). Forget clichés... Les Charbonniers de l'enfer and Les Cowboys fringants are among my favorite bands.

When I return to Lebanon and people emphasize my Canadian citizenship, I think: "Yes, but Québécoise above all!". It's part of my identity and I've long since abandoned the idea of ​​choosing between the two. I quickly realized I could have the best of both worlds.

But where am I heading you wonder?... simple... I don't want to be tolerated... I don't think I need to be. Johann Wolfgang once said: "Tolerance should be a transitory state. It should lead to respect. To tolerate is to offend." Being tolerated is to feel like a burden. The vast majority of people of different ethnicities simply want to blend in, become more or less like any other Québécois. The ones don't have to tolerate the others.

In fact, the only thing I want to have to tolerate in my life, are everyday banalities... young people who talk too loud on the bus... a slow cashier at the supermarket... a teacher who continues to speak 10 minutes after the course is over. Ultimately, I can also tolerate my mother-in-law, but this is a different story.

In short, I don't want to tolerate the religious faith of a person, nor customs and beliefs that seem twisted. No, I don't want to tolerate them, I want to accept them, respect them and, at the end, make a detail out of them.

I want my veil, a fragment of religious and cultural intertwine, to become the biggest detail of myself when interacting with someone. Being asked about it doesn't bother me (it's part of me), but I don't want it to be a hurdle during a job interview. I don't want it to become a reason for customers to switch cash registers at work. I don't want to be told that I'm unhappy without knowing it. Above all, I don't want it to stifle my Québécois identity and let anyone under the impression that one excludes the other.

Being in Québec is to have the incredible chance of living on a piece of land that thrives on freedom. It's also the chance to know countries all over the world while staying at home; Québec breathes diversity. This is a place where life is good, where each individual is himself, with his opinions sometimes too crude, beliefs sometimes too blatant, differences sometimes too sharp. Being in Québec is to claim individual freedom in all its forms. Being in Québec is to reject the word tolerance and adopt the word respect. To be Québécoise is never by chance. In my case, I am first and foremost because I choose to be.

Translated from a letter by Dalila Awada, published in La Presse [in French], February 18, 2012.


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.