27 mars 2012

Tous les autres en parlent - Everyone Else is Talking About It

I've had this thought of a recurring blog article I called Tous les autres en parlent... My thought is this: the weekly talkshow Tout le monde en parle (abbreviated TLMEP) is a window into the broader Quebec culture that Anglos could benefit from. But we lack sometimes the background, and in some cases the language skills, to grasp everything. Tous les autres en parlent would be primer for those who need it. I'll list the guests, their background, what they've come to talk about, and why it is important in the context of Quebec culture today.

I didn't think of this until half-way into watching last week's episode, and I can't seem to find an online version, so please forgive some omissions this week. I'll try this for a few weeks, and judging by the feedback, I get perhaps I'll continue (and in a more timely manner). So please comment below!

Also note, there will be some editorializing, though I shall try to keep it to a minimum.

Guest: Pierre Nadeau

Former journalist and war correspondant for Radio-Canada.
[Author's notes: Sorry, I didn't have time to collect notes about this conversation. It's a shame, because M. Nadeau was a truly interesting person.]

Guest: Dominic Champagne


M. Champagne is pleading for a Quebec Spring (un printemps québécois). The phrase alludes to popular movements such as the recent Arab Spring in Northern Africa and the Middle East, or the Prague Spring that shortly thawed then-communist Czechoslovakia in the height of the Cold War. This Quebec Spring is of an environmental nature, but also puts forward questions around resource management, such as the claiming process and government royalties. M. Champagne fears that we are giving our resources away to multinationals and that we are not respecting local inhabitants in the process—neither in terms of environmental responsibility nor of remittances.

M. Champagne invites everyone to come down to Place des Festivals on Earth Day to take part in the movement.

[Author's note: I detect a slight nationalist tinge to this movement. M. Champagne talked about his sovereignist sympathies during the report, about attending Lévesque's funeral and how he is one of the world's popular liberators, even if his project still hasn't seen fruition. That said, the movement he's suppporting here does not mention nationalism or indepdendence.]

Why this matters: The Quebec government's intentions to open the exploitation of shale gas (gaz de schiste) created a popular stir in 2010 and 2011. This coincides with many reports in the Northeastern United States of health and environmental concerns around the extraction process, called "fracking".

Moreover, last year the government launched a new strategy for the exploitation of our natural resources to the North, the so-called Plan Nord, which remains controversial and has many detractors.

More info:

Rima Elkouri

Columnist for La Presse

Following an article she wrote recently on Halal meats sold in Quebec, and an ensuing flood of xenophobic responses, Mme. Elkouri has felt it necessary to announce she would be returning to her native land... the Montreal neighbourhood of Cartierville!

Despite assumptions to the contrary, Mme. Elkouri is a born Québécoise, and while of Arab origin, she is not in fact Muslim. She has received xenophobic remarks before since starting at the newspaper, but she felt that addressing them would only give them an undeserved platform and therefore chose to ignore them up until now.

Why this matters: Quebec, like other places with a strong national identity, such as France and England, is struggling to strike a balance between local tradition and the allowances needed by new cultural minorities. The conversation around Halal meats can be seen in the broader conversation on "reasonable accommodations" (accomodements raisonnables) for cultural minorities, a turn of phrase that is on the lips of ever Quebecer since 2007.

The fact that most immigrants first make landfall in Montreal compounds the issue. Quebec is huge, and people in outlying areas (les régions) do not have exposure to other cultures, leaving room for broad misconceptions that lead to initiatives such as that of Hérouxville. On the flip side, whenever demographics cause allophones (people speaking neither English nor French) to gain ground in Quebec's metropolis, this generally leads to a rallying cry among nationalists that French is losing ground in the battle for supremacy in the city.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that a Quebec slaughterhouse decided to change its practices to follow Halal customs (i.e. the ritual slaughter of Islamic law, similar in many ways to Kosher rules in Judaism). This has led to constructive conversations around animal rights and cruelty, product labelling in supermarkets, and the place of religious practices in a secular society... unfortunately, on that last point, it has also led to a lot of hyperbole, examples of xenophobia and cultural ignorance, and sabre rattling at the political level.

More Info:

Raymond Bachand

Quebec minister of Finance

This week, the Quebec government presented its budget to the National Assembly. It is the third in what it sees as a four-year plan. Unfortunately for M. le ministre, his government's mandate is running out, and it seems unlikely given current polls that his Liberal party would win an election held anytime soon.

With student protests around tuition hikes, and the presence of M. Champagne talking about natural resources, the minister came prepared. He countered M. Champagne's arguments that resource royalties and claims were poorly managed by acknowledging there have been problems, but that in the past three years (including with this budget) his government has worked to resolve them.

M. Champagne says that he and other people had to make noise to get these issues paid attention to and get resolved, thus giving reason to the students who have taken to the street.

On the matter of tuition, he stuck to his guns, saying that he was for a "fair" distribution of the costs of education, but that not all of the weight could be borne by taxpayers and that the students who would be the primary beneficiaries of a university education should do their fair share as well.

Most guests stay a while during the taping of the rest of the episode... either the minister's calendar was too busy to let him stay and enjoy the wine, or he felt it better advised to duck out between commercials.

Why this matters:
  • Student tuition is a hot button issue at the moment; whether one agrees with the students' views or their tactics, actions such as blocking the Champlain bridge (most crossed bridge in Canada) does get people talking.
  • From this writer's perspective, though, there still isn't enough public support to force the government's hand.

Stépahnie Bédard

Singer, semi-finalist on local show Star Académie and now a participant on The Voice: La plus belle voix in France

The rising star talked to us about her experiences so far after two rounds of The Voice, including being picked by another Québécois-cum-French resident, the pop singer Garou. A lot of time was spent talking about the French propensity for adopting English words (Mme. Bédard gave an anecdote where she struggled to find what in Quebec would be le bon français for a "prompter" and finally comes up with «télésouffleur»... only to be corrected: «Ah, vous voulez dire un 'prompter' Mme. Bédard then answered Guy A.'s questionnaire in song.

Why this matters:
  • Popular French television does not get airplay in Quebec, except what is broadcasted on the international channel TV5, which doesn't get that many viewers. I don't know that Mme. Bédard's ascension overseas had made waves in Quebec before her appearance on TLMEP.
  • It's also timely, since the American version of this Dutch show began last year, getting some local attention, and TVA announced just recently that they would produce a Quebec version to be aired in 2013.
  • If there are only two things that fascinate Quebecers about the French, it's their nonchalance toward adopting anglicisms in accepted speech, and home boys who hit the big time in France.
  • (On the point above about anglicisms... any Frenchman will tell you there are just as many in Quebec, if not the same ones. The primary distinction is that a Québécois, presented with his use of English, will admit it's not correct and struggle to find the right term; whereas the French do not feel the same compulsion.)

Sébastien Touttant

Snowboading champion

Not a lot to say here other than this this kid is pretty awesome. A champion boarder since age 13, he is well poised to strike gold when slopestyle snowboarding is introduced to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
I say "kid" because, despite being 21, he speaks and sounds like a teenager. This may have to do with the fact that he left school at Secondary III to follow his passion full-time. Seb Toots, as he is known, says he would consider returning to school, after following his sports career to its term and making the most money he can from the venture... if he feels he needs to go back to school.

Why this matters: Not quite sure that it does, other than it's always fun to see a local boy do well.

Normand Lester

Reporter for 98.5 FM all-news station in Montreal

This gentleman seems to have an opinion on everything criminal. He's just published a new book, Contre-poing (a play on words... Counter-fist (as in punch?) instead of Counterpoint). He brings up some very valid questions as to why no one has been arrested when it comes to the construction collusion scandal, nor anyone  of consequence in the federal Liberal sponsorship scandal, ten years after the RCMP created a task force to investigate it. The local Mohawk gangs make up some of the most important criminal elements in the country, and their legal status makes them nigh-untouchable.

The conversation then deviates to how incompetent the CIA is, how Barack Obama is the weakest president since the turn of the 20th century and yet how for Americans there is no better choice in their upcoming election.

Yours truly has difficulty taking this gentleman seriously.

Why this matters:

  • The construction and sponsorship scandals are legitimate concerns, at at the time each story broke out, were the focus of ire on the part of the Quebec populace. Remember that the sponsorship scandal gravely wounded the federal Liberal party... a wound from which they have yet to recover. Over time people's anger fade, which is why it's important to have journalists continue to hold people to account and not wait, as M. Lester suggests may happen, wait for the guilty parties to die off.

UPDATE (29 March 2012)

In anticipation for this Sunday's episode, I've prepared a primer of who's who and what to expect.

8 commentaires:

  1. Would love to talk to you about this blog for OpenFile Montreal. Sarah(at)openfile(dot)ca

  2. I think this is a fantastic idea for a blog. It's actually something I've hoped for, a run-down of TLMEP, giving anglophones Quebecers the necessary context to understand a show that, as you say, is a regular window into the culture of our province. Every anglo Montrealer I know is fiercely proud of their hometown, and proud to be a product of this rich, multilingual society; but, as anglos, their taste in books, television, music and film, and the way in which they receive their news, obviously skews towards English sources. Which often means American sources. Leaving us out of the loop when it comes to our homegrown Quebecois culture. All that to say, a blog like this is a great idea -- not because it literally translates the show (most anglo Quebecers would be able to watch TLMEP and still understand what's being said) but because it gives context (which anglos would not necessarily grasp) to the conversations and ideas raised by a show that focusses on local issues and local culture. A show that everybody is, you know, talking about.

  3. This is an awesome idea. I would definitely read it on the regular. My french comprehension is good enough that I can watch tout le monde en parle and get most of it, but I just don't have the time to sit through an entire episode (I don't watch english current affairs television at all). A summary like this for anglophones would be a huge aid in helping us participate in the big conversations going on every week. Great idea!

  4. Thanks everyone, for the feedback so far.
    @Sarah: would definitely be interested, but I would ask that you give me couple of weeks to try it out, make sure I can do it before committing to anything.

  5. Bravo! Very good idea this blog! Your first resumé of TLMEP is well done and correct. As a French Quebecois I hope that more and more anglos will learn about culture and your blog is certainly a way to do that.

  6. Hi. Kate from Montreal City Weblog here. Can't find your RSS feed - would be handy to have that. The link at the bottom only gives a feed for comments. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kate,

      For some reason this out-of-the-box template only gives the site RSS on the home page. Try this:

      Your fan,