2 March 2010

The rumors of our extinction have been greatly exaggerated

This is a public announcement to everyone who have seen the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver: Canada is still inhabited by French speakers.

Despite all the criticism the Vancouver Organizing Committee received after the opening ceremonies, little changed in the closing one.  Yes, the VANOC’s CEO made an effort to speak in French but that’s about the only change you could see.  That and the fact that Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium added a live translator on French TV so that the less “fortunate” can understand the ceremonies in their own country.

Would have it been too much to ask for one of the monologues to have been in French? After all, I am sure there are Francophones outside Québec ready to do such a creed for Canada.  They probably just didn’t try to find one but I personally believe finding one could also have been a hard job, considering that doing such a creed, even if it’s a caricature, could mean professional suicide for a Québec comedian in Québec’s French market (where such creeds on any side isn’t popular these days).

In short, we still exist.  What you have witnessed is a sad image for a country with 2 official languages.  It is reminiscent of old English-French frictions which we all would like to believe were long gone.  As it has been pointed out on this blog (a post worth reading) and in the professional press (in French!), denying French Canadians such visibility has done more for the sovereignty movement of Québec than the current leaders of the movement themselves. And that’s quite a job, considering the health of the movement at the moment (the leading party not being the ruling government for 7 years now).

This is also reminiscent of West-East frictions.  The (mostly English) West feels bilingualism is being wrongly imposed on them. They feel too much power is given to the central provinces (where 60 % of the population lives).  They probably also feel (rightfully) they are paying for our social wealth services considering the thriving west economy of tar sands and, I have to admit, their just efficient administrations.  Those frictions may never disappear, after all British Colombia was almost part of the United States of America if it were not of the Canadian rails built in 1870s.  My point of view on the subject is that parts of Canada and United States are being unnecessarily separated on political reasons.  Vancouver’s economy is probably more active with Seattle’s than the rest of Canada.  The same applies with the province of Québec and state of New York.  Politically enforcing an horizontal relationship where the natural flow of business is vertical.  This argument has been mentioned in the latest High Speed Trains plans of Québec–Windsor and Montréal–New York.  I am going to stop here but this could lead to interesting debates on history and politics. :)

In conclusion, just don’t forget we still exist.  We have a thriving musical culture (among other) as you can see here, here, here and here (my personal favourite local artists these years).  Its absence from the Olympics is an anecdotal abnormality.