Friday, March 16, 2007

The Language Of Racism

Gee I guess it misses something in the translation. Say it in Quebecois and it isn't racist. It is only racist if you say it in English.

Mr. Boisclair was speaking French to a classroom of university students when he referred to "yeux bridés," which translates as slanted or slanting eyes. He suggested yesterday the term might have a more negative connotation in English than in French.

"I'm doing politics, not linguistics," he said, adding that he believes "Quebeckers are 100 per cent behind me" on the issue. Even Mr. Boisclair's rivals said they think he did not intend any malice.

"He might have used a better choice of words, but I know Mr. Boisclair enough to know his intention was not to be disrespectful," Liberal Leader Jean Charest said.

This is the height of unilinqual absurdity. But while the Quebecois Nation and its Nationalists, those Pure Laine unilinqual French speakers who proudly celebrate their colonial past as the French Imperialists in North America, but bemoan their later status as servants in their own house, try and cover up the fact that both Nations, those of the British and the French Imperialists are inherently racist.

This is the contradiction of Quebec Nationalism, as it is of English Canadian Nationalism. Of any Nationalism, period. This is not merely a matter of linguistics. It is a reflection of Imperialism. Canada being formed by two colonial powers, England and France, whose international battles for continental and global superiority over each other in the 18th and 19th Centuries shaped our country's political landscape.

The Quebecois of the old Pure Laine families despite their later poverty, remain a colonial petit-bourgeois ideological force. They were the founding families, the mercantilist and land owning classes. Today they are the farmers in Quebec, they live in the rural ridings of the townships and they gave their support to the Duplesis regime and later to the Creditistes, the Social Credit Party of Quebec. Just as their rural right wing counterparts in English Canada did with their support for the Social Credit party in Alberta and Federally across Canada.

The later slogan of the Quiet Revolution, Masters in Our Own House, belies this inherent old colonial French thinking. While touted by the left in Quebec as being progressive, it is not. It is a sop to the reactionary thinking of nationalism of pre-confederation, of the days before the battle of the plains of Abraham. The Quebecois of the townships today are the reactionary nationalists, who support the PQ, BQ and the ADQ as well as the Charest Liberals to a lesser degree.

In another article I will deal with the so called social democratic and left wing of nationalist politics in Quebec and why they have been a failure as a socialist movement.

Boisclair's racist comments, his refusal to apologize, bespeaks the reactionary nationalism of the colonialist mentality of the petit-bourgeoisie of Quebec. It was clear in statements made by PQ leader Jacques Parizeau, after the 1995 referendum, where he blamed Anglophone,immigrant and Jewish Quebecers for the loss of the vote.

Boisclair's comments must be seen in this light. That nationalism in Quebec is like ruling class nationalism everywhere, it is based on a distinct linguistic or ethnic national identity. Despite not being Masters In Their Own House, once they became masters they became the oppressors. This can be seen with Bill 101, and the underlying politics of nationalism in Quebec.

There is the Quebecois, the national petit-bourgoise that dates itself back to the colonial period of Canada's history, and then there are Quebecers. The latter being the English and immigrants who are not Pure Laine. They are bilingual, if not multilingual, the Pure Laine Quebecois has one language, one heritage, and is one people; the French Speaking.

This is what underlined Harpers stunning about face last fall when he recognized this fact. His Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon, a Pure Laine Quebecois, though bilingual, said as much. The recognition of the Quebecois, as a nation as a people, was not a recognition of the diversity of Quebec in its modern form, but of the real ruling class in Quebec, the petit-bourgeoisie whose roots are in New France.

In English Canada the counterparts to the Pure Laine Quebecois are the old school nationalists, the reactionaries of the right. Like those who in the 1930's supported the KKK in Alberta; the Orange Lodge of Protestants, and from the ranks of some of those in Freemasonry. They were more concerned with French Catholic influence in 'English' Canada then they were about blacks, jews, or other immigrants (though these too were part of their opposition to immigration of Non-English, that is non-British from the Grand Old Empire, to Canada).

In the 1960's and through out the following decades the defended the old Ensign, with it's union jack, against the New Canadian Flag. They viewed the Liberals as the party of infamy, being the party of Quebec and of immigrants. Theirs was the good old party of the Conservatives, Arthur Meighen's party, not the later Progressive Conservative party of Diefenbaker, that is not an English name is it?

During the 1970's the racist reactionary right embraced the less offensive language of promoting Anglo Saxon Values. They hid their anti-Bilingualism and their anti-immigrant racism, indeed even their antisemitism, behind their supposed support for all things English in Canada. The old Ensign, the term 'Dominion of Canada', the monarchy, the fact Canada was one country under the Queen and had one official language; English, and one religion Christianity.

They attacked bilingualism and bi-culturalism, and Trudeau, as a conspiracy to change Canada into something un-British. When Ukrainian Canadians in the Liberal party pushed for a broader definition of Canada as being multicultural, they opposed that as well. Again for being an attack on Anglo Saxon, British Canada.

Later in the 1980's they added another term to their definition of themselves as an oppressed minority defending the old Empire values; Celtic-Anglo-Saxons. All this was a clever cover for the fact they were the same old racists, anti-immigrants, anti-Semites and anti-Quebec.

What they hold in common, these modern reactionaries of the Pure Laine in Quebec and those supporting the Dominion of Canada,is they base their politics on the old days of Upper and Lower Canada. Key to this is their common wish to be pure, to be unilingual. To be members of the old Imperial Empires, be they British or French.

These movements are inherently reactionary and conservative, in a Burkean fashion.

Modern Canadian Nationalism arose in the 1960's as did its counterpart in Quebec. Both were ostensibly left wing and social democratic. Where the Quebecois saw English colonial power as the enemy, Canadian nationalists saw American Imperialism as the enemy, since the English Imperial power collapsed after WWII, replaced by the new American Century.

And while both the Quebec Nationalists and their Canadian counterparts were predominately progressive and left wing through out the sixties and seventies, the old right wing nationalists were still powerful social forces, especially in the rural West and in the Quebec Townships.

What these reactionaries shared in common was a hatred of all things that were bi-lingual or multi-cultural. By their conservative nature they opposed all forms of modernization, of plurality, they wanted to retain their unique historical unilingual cultures.

There is an undercurrent of unilinqualism being promoted by the Conservative Federal Government in Ottawa today. And it is growing across Canada. English to be spoken in the ROC and French to be spoken in Quebec. A return of the two Solitudes.

The BQ in parliament speak in unilinqual Quebecois, several of Harpers ministers speak unilinqual Quebecois, just as many of his MP's are unilingual English speakers. Several of his cabinet ministers make a point of speaking English only though they are bilingual.

There is a transformation going on in Canada, that the parliamentary recognition of the Quebecois as a people, a nation, underscores, it is the death of bilingualism and bi-culturalism in the Federal State. This can be seen in the changes occurring in the linguistic programs in the Canadian Military, which the BQ and Liberals have pointed out in the house.

Minister O'Connor outlined the Department of Defence's new Official Languages Transformation Model. “During the last decade, the previous Liberal government never addressed the problems inherent to the previous universal approach to official languages within the Department of Defence. The Official Languages Transformation Model brings a new, more focused approach to bilingualism, which better takes into account the unique and distinct operational structure of the Canadian Forces. For example, senior officers will be held up to a much higher standard than in the past,” explained the Minister. “And the Model is in keeping with Canada's New Government's commitment to strongly defending our linguistic duality.”

“The goal of the Model is to ensure that National Defence personnel are led, trained, and supported in their official language of choice, thus better meeting the Department's legal obligations under the Official Languages Act. This will include requiring senior officers to be bilingual, when they are serving in units or functions designated as bilingual,” the Minister added.

The Conservatives are promoting two Canadian languages, not bilingualism and bi-culturalism, since that is a Liberal bugaboo, a much hated left over of the Trudeau era. The Harper Conservatives roots are in the old Social Credit party of Alberta, both provincial and Federal, the Reform party and its links to the reactionary right wing I spoke of earlier.

The are willing to accept two language groups in Canada, as long as they are unilingual. They have always opposed multiculturalism and bilingualism.

This new unilingualism can be seen in this recent incident in Alberta.

Poor English costs Quebecer his Suncor job

A Quebec ironworker is accusing Suncor of discrimination after he was fired for poor English, but a spokesman for the oil giant says poor communication can be dangerous.

The dismissal prompted a second Quebecer to quit Suncor in protest and has incensed the local ironworkers union, which is demanding Suncor do more to accommodate French-speaking tradesmen.

"They aggressively recruit labourers from China, Mexico and Germany, but won't hire us because our English isn't great," journeyman steelworker Marco Pelletier of Cowansville, Que., told the Sun in a French-language interview.

Iron Workers Local 720 will file a human rights
complaint against Suncor for firing a French speaking iron worker for speaking
poor English. Suncor's decision to terminate a qualified worker because of language is
discrimination based on ancestry and place of origin. Such discrimination is
prohibited under Alberta's Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.
Carol Rioux, of Gaspesie, Quebec, was fired for failing English-language
orientation tests. He has been an ironworker for 25 years.

While Suncor claims that it is a safety issue, the reality is that they failed to provide instruction or training in both Canadian official languages. Something that is illegal under federal law.

One can find French and English on every cereal box in Canada, but Suncor claims it cannot provide the same for French speaking Canadians. Instead it fired the worker.This new uniligualism is the Asymmetrical Federalism being promoted by the Conservative government in Ottawa.

This unilingual asymmetrical federalism is racist, as Boisclair has shown, it is not the vision of Canada that the great Quebecois politician and classic liberal Louis- Joseph Papineau envisioned back in 1867, when he predicted a pluralistic Canada and Quebec which embraced new immigrants in particular the Chinese, whom he never called;
"yeux bridés".

Very blind are those who speak of the creation of a new nationality, strong and harmonious, on the northern bank of St Laurent and the Great Lakes, and who are unaware of or denounce the major and providential fact that this nationality is already very well formed, great, and growing unceasingly; that it cannot be confined to its current limits; that it has an irresistible force of expansion; that in the future it will be more and more made up of immigrants coming from all the countries of the world, no longer only from Europe, but soon of Asia, of which the overpopulation is five times more numerous and no longer has any other outfall than America; composed, says I, of all races of men, who, with their thousand religious beliefs, large mix of errors and truth, are pushed all by the Providence towards this common rendez-vous that will melt in unity and fraternity all of the human family.

1867 Speech of Louis-Joseph Papineau at the Institut canadien

For related articles see:

Racist ADQ

Whipping Boy

White Multiculturalism

The New Conservative Racism


Does Bilingualism Matter?

Should Liberal Leader Be Bilingual

PET Would Not Be Amused

Asymmetrical Federalism

Destroying the Federation

Another Fascist Bites the Dust

A History of Canadian Wealth, 1914.

Historical Memory on the Eve of the Election

Social Credit And Western Canadian Radicalism

The Bankruptcy of Liberal Federalism

Rebel Yell

Social Credit

Western Canadian Populism

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janfromthebruce said...

Eugene, it was a convolted argument where I believe you made tenuous relationships to what Mr. boisclair said in french to the firing of a french speaking person in Alberta.
You are on solid ground when you say that the person fired from his job was discriminatory. Full-stop.
There are things that are said in french or english, for example, that really don't have a counterpart in the other language, or translate badly. I believe this is one example.
To use another linguistics example, the innuit have at least 20 names or more for snow, but in english or french, there is only one. Is that racist? No, that is linguistics. Trying to do straight across translation, often loses its meaning or sounds 'not right' so to speak, as language is communicating of thoughts and ideas, and not individual words.

eugene plawiuk said...

Please gimme a break he used racist slang. If he wanted to use the correct term in French he would have said Chinois or asiatique or Japonais. He didn't he used a racist term, which belies the inherent racism amongst the Quebecois nationalists as I pointed out.

Dr.Dawg said...

I think matters are a mite more complex--some ruminations at my place.

I don't think that the identification of a common physical characteristic is necessarily racist, but the debate is multifaceted on that one.

If I said, for example, that "the Han people have an epicanthic fold," would I be racist? There's more to this, at least in my view.

eugene plawiuk said...

Dr. Dawg oh please epicanthic fold, is not what he said he said slant eyed. If he said gook, chink, jap, etc. would it be plainer. What the hell is with you folks defending racism? Is it because he is Quebecois and you are feeling a bit guilty for being Anglais?
The Pure Liane Quebecois are a racist ruling class in their country, just like most ruling classes especially those who identify by linguistic nationalism.

Larry Gambone said...

I think we have to look at it this way. If someone was to go up to a Chinese person on the street and say, "How ya doin' slant-eyes?" do you think for a moment people would not see that as an example of racism? Of course they would, and I don't think Boisclair should be let off the hook, just because he is a PQ politician and thus two or three millimeters more progressive than his two rightist opponents. Nationalism always expels foul vapours and this is one of them.

Dr.Dawg said...

What the hell is with you folks defending racism? Is it because he is Quebecois and you are feeling a bit guilty for being Anglais?

You're losing it, Eugene. Last time I try talking to a jerking knee.

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

You do know, incidently, that only in this half-baked Quebecois sub-par province does the word "Arret" appear on stop signs? (Well, and in national parks too, thanks to that rat bastard Trudeau).

If you go to France, from the streets of gay-when-the-raggies-aren't-watching Paris to the smallest ville, the stop signs all say.. "STOP"... on them.