Canada's former largest city has great people and great culture, just don't get stuck speaking english

Montreal, skylineMontreal, Quebec is know throughout the world for it’s video game companies, it’s successful hockey team, smoked meat and a thriving porn industry. But is Montreal a true international city? No. Montreal will never be a true international city because of xenophobia and language wars.

Racism in Montreal has never been a huge problem, at least when it comes to the color of someone’s skin or religion (although certain religions are frowned upon in the province.) No, the hate you hear about in Montreal derives from the language we speak. French vs. English.

The language problems in the province are centuries in the making. Since the French separatist movement elected it’s first Premier (governor) in the 1970’s, English people have been on the run. It’s not unheard these days in Quebec for an English speaking individual to run into the same prejudices that a black man would encounter in Mississippi.

Putting politics aside, I would like to focus on a few separate language issues that have to change for Montreal to be considered a true international city.

The Language Police. Quebec isn’t the only area that has French as an official language – France does too. The difference between the two is how they treat other languages. I’ve heard the arguments: “If we don’t keep our language, then how can we keep our identity?” and “We can’t thrive like France because we are a small community surrounded by Anglophones!”

French people I know look at Quebecois as some sort of backwoods hillbilly version of their French language. France also, even though a bit xenophobic itself, does have a lot more patience when it comes to dealing with those not of the their tongue. Is the identity of Quebecers so fragile that they will lose it if English is given equal weight? What sort of identity needs that much protection?

montreal language protestHow many places in the world require a language police? Quebec needs cops to enforce laws that require businesses to have French names, French signs and they even need to conduct their business in French. You can actually get a fine for paging someone over the PA system using only English.

Anything that is in English must be translated into French. That’s fair enough, but anything in French does not have to be translated or made available in English.

These laws were seen in its full futility by Xavier Menard who started a business and named it with an acronym created by French words, but, unfortunately for him, the acronym sounded too Anglophone “Wellarc”, so he had legal action brought against him by the language police.

The laws strangulating English school boards. One way to be an international city would be to allow the students to choose the language they want for an education – English or French.

The older law was this: If you had one parent who was a Canadian citizen and educated in an English school, you could enroll your kids into an English school. You could also enroll your kids after spending time in a private English school.

Then that changed to Bill 104: that stopped children of francophones and immigrants from using the English system. This was eventually ruled Unconstitutional, but the damage was done.

In has led to an immediate loss of 400 English students a year and a decrease from 27,000 in the year 2000 to 19,800 this year in the English school’s enrollment. Estimates state the actual drop will be over 10,000 students or 30%.

The game is simple; if you make it harder for the schools to enroll people by decimating their student body pool, then you will force the schools to close. Sure, people will lose their jobs, but hey, those people are Anglophones. Who cares, right? Why even have them in the community? Sure, they dedicated their lives to the pretty selfless profession of teaching and helping the youth of Canada, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to put food on their table.

They are trying to keep the English horde down by destroying the school system. If people don’t learn English and all the jobs for Anglophones are removed, then why would they stick around? This all makes it easier for the French separatists to achieve their goal.

montreal, metro booth, language sign
Sign in the metro booth: “In Quebec, we do things in French”

Transportation and hospital services. If you ever travel on the Metro with me you will know two things: Almost nobody wants to sit next to me. Seriously, I’ve seen people stand for 12 stops while I was sitting near an empty seat. Maybe it’s my smile? Whenever the Metro doesn’t run smoothly (e.g. daily) I will look like a stunned duck trying to figure out just what the PA announcer is saying over the speakers. Usually, I can pick out the words enough to know which metro line is being affected.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was running slow, stopped, a terrorist threat or Jenna Jameson having a sex party. Why can’t I tell those things as a traveler? Well, because everything is in French only and is piped through a speaker that would make most McDonald’s drive-throughs seem like cutting edge audio technology.

This awkwardness extends to the booth people. Some are nice, but others can be extremely rude if you don’t speak French. English people in the city are running into these problematic persons more frequently in the last couple years. Imagine be talked down to like that if you’re just a tourist.

I am thankful the STM is just the equivalent of a mall cop with a better outfit. I would hate to have a guy with a gun yell at me in French. I have to say that I have witnessed the yelling at an Anglo in French by STM guards, but it has not happened to me yet.

The lack of communication on public transit can be pretty scary for a traveler, but not being able to communicate to your doctor or hospital staff is damn right frightening. It takes a matter of life and death to a whole new level.

Let me tell you a quick story. As some of you might know, I had to take last week off from writing for Quiet Mike. As most of you don’t know, however, it was because I was being seen by a Cardiologist. I have been in and out of the hospitals and clinics for a few months due to this.

Usually, my treatments are great. The nurse starts in French and switches to English with ease. That’s great, but for medical care “usually” doesn’t cut it. I had the experience of trying to hunt down my Cardiologist at the hospital last week. The front staff insisted on speaking only French to me even though every reply I gave was either in English or my broken French, pleading for them to switch to English.

One became upset with me because I wasn’t giving her something. I again asked for English instructions. Eventually, I just gave her my wallet and hoped what she needed was in it, but she tossed it back at me. Did I mention I needed to see my heart doctor?

The appointment went worse from there to the point where my name and a room number was being called a few times. I walked around like a chicken with my head cut off because I couldn’t make out the full number. I saw a woman go into the waiting room and look around, but when I asked her if I was the patient she was searching for she ignored me. Eventually a woman on the phone took pity on me and showed me where to go. Guess what? I was that patient the hospital worker was looking for. Apparently she didn’t feel comfortable speaking in English so she ignored me.

My father is an immigrant, I’ve taught English as a second language, I’ve spent time overseas, but my life was on the line here. I was paying full attention, but near tears because the French only policies have corrupted what this city has become and this time it was affecting my life in a very serious way. Again. I was in for my heart.

Listen, I am from an area in the US where there was a push for “English Only”. I thought that movement against the Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico was asinine in the US. I think the movement against the Anglophones in Montreal is also asinine. Language superiority of any kind is pointless and it goes against a true international community. Las Vegas handled it by embracing all of the cultures and it became a better city for it.

Montreal was a city of possibilities whose future was stolen by intolerant people trying to break up the country. If Montreal chooses to be an international city, it will first have to stand up to the provincial Government and its hate mongering politicians trying to put a Ziploc bag over its English citizens. The only thing that comes out of putting a Ziploc bag over something as living and vibrant as Montreal is a slow suffocation and death.

13 COMMENTS

  1. “It’s not unheard these days in Quebec for an English speaking individual to run into the same prejudices that a black man would encounter in Mississippi.” I wish your opinions would be based on facts but you apparently can’t achieve that. Much like learning one or two basic french sentences that would get you the respect of the French-speaking majority (87%) of the people living here. You apparently can’t achieve that. We don’t ask much. Yet, you don’t deliver much.

  2. There are language tensions, but the city is not rife with hate, as you described. If that is the primary reason for Montreal not being an international city, then I would have to say that it is.

  3. I sent the following letter registered mail Dec 21/2013. There are at least 7 of these letters confirmed to have been sent and we are awaiting a reply (as of Jan 26/2014).

    To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    Office of the Prime Minister
    80 Wellington St.
    Ottawa, On
    K1A 0A2

    Re: Government Representation of Majority Interests and Public Meeting on Language Apartheid

    Dear Mr. Harper,

    This letter seeks to address the promotion and propagation of the minority French / Acadian culture to a status above the majority status. Please help us stop Language Apartheid.

    1. We wish to address Institutional Bilingualism and the discrimination being caused by it. This intentional segregation of communities here in NB and the R.O.C. caused by Official Language Apartheid (OLA), through the guise of the purer bilingualism, has got to stop.

    2. We also wish to draw attention to the ploy of Quebec threats of Separation and how it is using national or federal unity to invade the rest of Canada with Social Reform Policies.

    3. We Must address Section 16.1 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that serve to preserve and promote equality between the two linguistic communities, specifically the loss of ‘distinct educational institutions’ in English schools in NB.

    4. WE have to repeal the Official Languages Act, which actually stands for Official Language Apartheid, and look at this treasonous effort by Quebec to enforce French Supremacy on the R.O.C. This means including the Sign Laws (Bill Z22 taken from Bill 22 and now Bill 101) that violate the Freedom of Expression.

    5. WE MUST make our Federal Government accountable and stop enabling Quebec to use our own Tax dollars, that we bleed for, against us!! This includes removing Crown Corporations and those Corporations (Heritage, Immigration, etc.) of a Federal Nature or those subsidized by federal tax monies, from the Province of Quebec. All federal interests should be retracted from Quebec instantly.

    6. We insist that a federal panel, in conjunction with provincial sub-panels, be implemented to review the disproportionate Federal Transfer Payments (58% approx.) to Quebec.

    7. We wish to reassess the over representation in Parliament by Quebec and the influence of their Reform Policies and invasive laws outside of Quebec.

    8. We wish to confront Quebec and its double standards for interprovincial trade relations. The proposed Bill 88 of Ontario serves as a good starting point for equality being a two-way street.

    9. WE demand a public referendum on Institutional Bilingualism and the Official Languages Act that allows Official Language Apartheid through government racism or institutional bilingualism.

    10. We DEMAND (because we’ve been ignored and misrepresented when we requested) an audience with the Premiers and you, our leader of the Federal Government, to address the violations of human rights and freedoms and the discriminations / violations of our equal rights and status as the majority tax paying portion of Canadian Society!

    We hope you can see the urgency of this matter; we wish to avoid the escalating public confrontations and divisiveness of linguistic communities. We wish to promote and preserve Canadian Rights and Canadian Values. We seek inclusivity and democratic recourse. We expect these are convivial to a harmonious and prosperous Canada as well as a truer representation of Canada as Peacekeepers in the International Community.

    We must not allow inaction and misinformation to pave the way of supremacist ideologies. WE MUST ACT DEMOCRATICALLY and we need you to LEAD US. We don’t want cowards we want champions and we will stand behind THAT leader.

    Thank you for your valuable time. Please advise in writing as to your intentions so that we may better look to making an informed decision in the upcoming elections.

    Respectfully yours,

    Signed:

    Originated by: Barry Irvine
    irvineb@hotmail.com

  4. I myself have been through Quebec a number of times; english is my first language. I live in New Brunswick, and where I live is a very much bilingual city. That being said, never here have I had someone look at me in shame for trying to speak french, even though its broken at best. In Quebec, I got looks of sympathy, to outright laughter. I don’t think its ‘about avoiding the wrong places’, I think it depends on the cultural attitudes you where brought up with.

  5. These anti-English language french – metis (they are not French) people are no different then the Nazis, the KKK…all hateful bigots and racists…and not just in Quebec, they are all over the country.

    We know how bad it is in Quebec, with racist, language laws like bills 22, 178, 101…the name changes of towns, street names, bodies of water, buildings…all the revisionist history…but the same thing in going on outside Quebec.

    They can spin it any way they want. They see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe. The truth, the facts never enter into the equation.

    These people are the most racist, bigoted, corrupt, xenophobic people in all of North America. If the world only knew what was going on in Canada, what the “French” (metis) were really up to…along with the racist anti-English language laws in Quebec a la bills 22, 178, 101…they have bragged about taking all of Canada and everything seems to be going as planned…”first Quebec, then the rest of the country…one step at a time…” PET, “how to take over a country through bilingualism…” SD

    If you only knew how bad things really were…the video clips below expose some of the scams…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW33xkVB-oI

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhPcV0gtFR0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abOWJkf-Vh8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iGZE6zxoKQ

    Enjoy the latest videos exposing this bilingual scam…and if care please pass it on.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZz61S3sTA8

    These bigots are all over the country folks…you think its bad in Quebec (bills 22, 178, 101…) …mmm, enjoy the latest video below (click it back to the start when it opens) and spread the word…people really have no idea what these bigots are really up to…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmQsPnhRA-c&feature=youtu.be&t=5m53s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaTUjSLqlBk&hd=1

    This is not an isolated issue, it goes on all over Quebec and even outside Quebec when dealing with the french…its much worse then government or the mainstream media let on.

    The simple facts are as more francophone’s get hired for all government positions less and less English speakers are working for their own governments across the country. Don’t believe me; Go check the stats for yourself. Francophone’s are over-represented in all levels of government including hospitals, law, policing…etc. No fairness, no representation by population. They call it bilingualism, yet the term is never defined on purpose and believe me it doesn’t mean fluency in 2 languages in Canada, at least to the French it doesn’t. No political party will speak for the English speaking majority in this province and country. Practical bilingualism, where numbers warrant… is never defined on purpose. In Ontario, NB it now means segregation. The French (they are actually metis, a mixed race, not french) are demanding French only facilities all over the province, not bilingual, French only. $ Bilingualism is really nothing more then a hiring quota for francophone’s and that is a fact…just ask yourself, why are francophone’s over-represented in all government jobs and how come more and more positions are being designated bilingual all the time? And just as important, how come they are NOT fluently bilingual? Some can barely speak English!

    Go learn our proud, real BNA and UEL history. These were the builders of our country since 1763, not this phony, revisionist lie, spin, nonsense, this bilingual, multicultural,2 founding nations, linguistic duality lie, spin, propaganda that we’ve been living with since Trudeau and Kebec (original spelling) forced this upon the nation. We’ve been part of the British Empire since 1763 and officially and English speaking country for over 200 years, again just the facts…We were never a bilingual country. This is one big expensive lie/fraud that’s been going on for over 5 decades now. Yes 5 decades of changing our history, changing the names of towns, bodies of water…, street names… all over the country, not just Kebec any more. They are revising, falsifying our real BNA, UEL history. Wake up people!

    These people are the most racist, bigoted, corrupt, xenophobic people in all of North America. If the world only knew what was going on in Canada, what the “French” (metis) were really up to…along with the racist anti-English language laws in Quebec a la bills 22, 178, 101…they have bragged about taking all of Canada and everything seems to be going as planned…”first Quebec, then the rest of the country…one step at a time…” PET, “how to take over a country through bilingualism…” SD

    So while Quebec bans the English language (bill 22, bill 178, bill 101…), wipes out its real BNA, UEL history, while ethnic language cleansing is going on in Quebec, the rest of the country is forced to fund whatever the French (metis) demand. This is going on in every province. Go check.

    See what really going on here?

  6. Correction France is a country and Quebec is one of ten provinces in Canada which has two official languages. Also the new draconian laws that are being passed are against all religions except catholocism and hateful bigots are marching in the streets to support it (well it is too cold in January but they’ll be back in the Spring.) Everyone I know has tentative plans to get the hell out even though we were born here.

  7. I work in a hospital and I will always try and address people in their own language. Out of respect.
    But tell me I HAVE to speak one language and they’ll have to arrest me…

  8. In 1978 my daughter and some friends were graduating from High School and they decided to take a trip to Canada…..They drove up to Montreal and loved the city and the people….they drove on to Quebec and within a couple of hours my daughter called me crying she said the people were so mean because they didn’t speak French and they were leaving and coming home….I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same

    • Montreal is a bilingual city and quebec city now is too its just if your going to the wrong places outside of montreal or wrong places in montreal you will meet your dumb ignorant brainwashed separatist

    • 1978? Really? 19….7….8….? If you had written 1987, I might have believed you, but 1978, stop you are making me laugh. I’ll bet you and your daughter couldn’t find Quebec on a map.

      Your story is like the person who drives to Quebec from Ontario. While in Quebec, he has his tires slashed, is yelled at for speaking English, is given wrong directions because they asked in English and all this happened in the first 5 minutes they were in Quebec.

      Go away troll

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