Tag Archives: canada

Oh Canada

July 1st. The first “true” weekend of the summer for most Canadians. Where I’m from, though, July 1st is one of two things: moving day or simply a day off. We’ve had our national celebration a week prior, on June 24th.

Since I moved out West, it always feels weird to me to think of Canada Day as a celebration. Despite the fact that I don’t get my St-Jean-Baptiste anymore, for me, it’s simply a day off. And this year, I feel, there are even fewer reasons to celebrate Canada.

Well, the Canada of today, that is.

Because there’s a Canada that was I taught, and raised in, that believed in strong social services, privacy and income security. A Canada where the poor, albeit poor, could still have a roof on their heads and some food on the table. A Canada where people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own were not forced to get new jobs beneath their skill level and salary expectations. A Canada where old age started at 65, and that’s old enough, thank you very much. A Canada where people’s computer aren’t spied on without a warrant–like their phones wouldn’t be bugged without one either.

There’s a Canada that I was taught, and raised in, that believed in protecting its environment. A Canada where pristine natural environments like northern BC and the Arctic were kept away from industries that would destroy them for profit. A Canada where the livelyhood of thousands of fishermen and women would be safe from oil spills. A Canada where the traditional way of life of its First Nations would be possible. A Canada where our major national treasure, our natural beauty, would remain as beautiful as it has ever been.

There’s a Canada that I was taught, and raised in, that believed in democracy. A Canada where a prime minister couldn’t just do whatever he wanted but had to face debate, checks and balances. A Canada where omnibus bills didn’t mean making sweeping changes to an entire country’s legislation heirloom with a single sleight of hand. A Canada where an abundance of public employees delivered essential services the same way, no matter the party in power. A Canada where the government is the people’s, not the prime minister’s.

Canada - for Bill, Dayan and Linda

Wonderful collage of Canada, coast to coast, by robynejay on Flickr

So, you’ll excuse me if I don’t celebrate Canada this weekend. I will celebrate the courageous MPs who stood for 24 hours voting in the omnibus bill amendments. I will celebrate the many not-for-profits and NGOs, like women’s rights advocacy groups and environmental groups and anti-poverty groups, who have seen their funding unfairly slashed for so-called “partisan activities”. I will celebrate each and every individual who has tried to do something in the last year to inform, convince and move the Canadian people against Harper.

I will mourn the Canada that was, the Canada that I hope we haven’t lost forever. I will mourn a fair, open, transparent, conscientious Canada. I will mourn concern for the less fortunate, strong environmental regulation and, despite its faults, a democratic system that hadn’t betrayed us yet. I will mourn its bilingualism, its multiculturalism, its diversity, its openness to the world, its generosity, its peacekeeping mission.

Le Canada est mort. Vive le Canada!

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Addiction

I must admit it: I have an addiction.

addicted

Rick on Flickr

Is it drugs? Not really. Alcohol? Nah. TV? Maybe. But I want to talk about addiction to school.

I’ve been more or less vocal about it on social media, but now I can make it official: I am leaving my full-time job and going back to school, full time, in September.

It might come as strange for some of you. After all, I left school with a bit of anger about a year ago. But I know myself enough to realize when I don’t belong; and I certainly do not belong in an office.

I belong in a classroom, either as a student or, eventually, as a teacher.

Now, I’m starting back from the bottom: an undergraduate diploma in applied lingustics to teach ESL. Undergraduate. Like 100-level coursework. Easy peasy, right?

Probably. But even then, it will make me happier than sitting here, day in and day out, translating stuff I don’t really care about. I feel no personal involvement in either the company or the work itself. Translation (or at least the type I do) is boring. And I’m not even a trained translator, so I’m still wondering how I got the job in the first place. I’m actually not that good at it.

So, yeah, maybe I’m going back either because I’ve simply been institutionalized and I can’t imagine myself outside of the system… or maybe my unconscious is telling me that I DO have something to bring to the academic world. I just needed to find it. And as I find myself increasingly reflecting on my situation as a bilingual/bicultural individual in Canada (especially in far-off BC, where French is akin to exoticism), I think that linguistics might be the way to go. Literature wouldn’t have let me explore these questions, and I want, WANT, to work with both my languages and make a positive contribution to the state of French in Canada. And without this experience, without this dip in literature and this work as a translator, I couldn’t have figured it out.

Here. Federalist, but no assimilated Anglo. Simply a believer in a better future where English and French Canada have more open and honest communication, where the language barrier is slowly taken down, brick by unilingual brick.

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Québec and Canada: More solitary than ever before

I’m an optimist. I like to think that it’s possible for my home Belle Province to take its rightful in this country, that I also love. But the latest events around the student strike tell me that this might be too much of an idealist approach.

It’s more than a matter of language, of course, but it all begins with it. It begins with Québec’s more socialist leanings compared to the rest of the country. It begins with the fact that we’ve developed a strong local cultural, political and media apparatus that doesn’t really communicate with the rest of the country.

CanCon and strikes

Quebec Walls

Melbow on Flickr

Let me put this in perspective. Yesterday afternoon on CBC Radio, I was listening to the archival show that’s on every

Thursday afternoon. They were discussing CanCon, or the famous Canadian content requirements for Canadian media broadcasters. The instigator of this CRTC bylaw, whose name I can’t recall right now, was arguing that only in Québec did you have local theatre, local television shows and local musicians being played. The rest of Canada presented mostly American content.

There’s always been a sense that Québec is, indeed, different, and that what affects it has no influence on the rest of the country. And that’s why the English Canadian media is not covering (maybe not caring) about the now 11-week long strike against tuition hikes.

In 2004, I was at UQÀM during the 7-week strike against cuts in the loans and bursaries program. Basically, the (same) Charest government wanted to stop giving a certain amount of money in bursaries and turn it into loans instead. Back then, the government backed down and the students got most of their requests.

There are hundreds of thousands of students taking to the streets every week. They are requesting a long promise of the Révolution Tranquille: free post-secondary education. You see, Québec sees education as a social good rather than as a personal investment, as the rest of Canada does.

Mutual ignorance

_MG_2112

Socialist Québec, Socialist Canada on Flickr

In any case, this isn’t about why the English media isn’t covering the strike. It’s about how the English media (except for the CBC and local stations) isn’t talking about Québec at all. It’s about how the two cultures are really different, and not really compatible, despite being geographically close and politically joined.

I get it, this is a big country. Most interesting news are either of regional or national importance. What happens in other provinces is often overlooked by the media, especially when it has to do with Québec. However, see what happened with Alberta’s election: it made national news because what happens in Alberta is seen to affect everyone in Canada. Why is this not the case for Québec?

Québec and the rest of Canada live in mutual ignorance. Québec has its own cultural and media infrastructures that makes it more or less independent at this level. I feel extremely disconnected out here, even though I do make an effort to follow on Québec news and issues. But it’s not as easily accessible as simply watching the news or listening to the radio.

Can we talk?

Ottawa

Marcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr

I don’t know if English Canada will ever care about talking with Québec. Maybe this narrow but deep abyss will never be bridged; maybe the language and political barriers will never be broken. I’m no separatist, but sometimes, I get their point. If the rest of Canada doesn’t believe that Québec has anything of value to give them, can you blame them for wanting to try developing on their own? Québec feels like it owes nothing to English Canada, that it doesn’t have any influence on it and thus can live without it. Or, at worst, it believes that Canada has a negative influence.

From the other side of this, would English Canada be willing to sit down and think about what Québec brings to this country? Are there mutually positive contributions that could be discovered or enabled? Is there anything that can be used to bring the two solitudes just a bit closer? Should we introduce, like in Switzerland, mandatory bilingualism for the entire country?

Québecers don’t really like to get out of the province because they don’t think that Anglo-Canadians want to see them or hear from them. They feel irrelevant, especially culturally, when they get out of the province. I’ve felt this way; I still do sometimes. And sometimes I still hope that I will feel like I somehow belong without totally giving up my culture, but it seems increasingly hard, and I’m forgetting more and more every day.

Push and pull

I’m homesick, and I feel like home is calling me. But I don’t think I can ever see Québec the same way again; closed unto itself, with its own cultural, racial and political issues, unwilling (or unable) to participate in the larger life of this country. I wonder how many Québecers who leave eventually come back, unable to stand losing their language and their culture because there is no community to cultivate it here. Beyond the ability to eat poutine and listen to Céline Dion, is there a place for Québecers in Canada?

When we come back home, to our land and our roots, what are we? Traitors, translators or monsters? Are we ever able to take root again?

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Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: 30 years

Back in elementary and high school, our parents had the choice to send us in either religion or what we called morale, “morality”. The goal of both courses was to teach us ethical behaviour. As you can imagine, one of them was based on the Bible. The other, secular, needed a non-religious document: it was the Chart of Rights and Freedoms (okay,  in my case, the Québec version, but still, they are very similar).

Here are the fundamental rights of all Canadians:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

In a short interview clip on The Current this morning, Justin Trudeau explained that with this charter, his father wanted to find the right balance between individual rights and a harmonious, open and fair society.

The Magna Carta

The Charter is not perfect. I’m not naïve; I know there is still a lot of discrimation in Canada, whether against ethnicities, women, disabled people or the LGBT community. However, the Charter has been used as a constitutional basis to fight against this kind of discrimination for the last 30 years.

I’m not trained in political science or in law and so this is only a personal impression, but as a Canadian I feel I can trust the Charter to protect my rights not only as a Canadian citizen, but also as a French-speaking Canadian and as a woman. Nobody ever wants to go to court to protect their rights, but I have a fundamental belief that if I ever have to, the Charter will be on my side. It has protected gay marriage, women’s right to perform abortions and many other sensitive issues.

Despite the increasing impression that Canada is not the plus meilleur pays du monde anymore, I hope that we will continue to cherish, celebrate and adapt the Charter to promote increased equality and acceptance in this country.

What do you think the Charter has brought to Canadian society in the last 30 years? Do you believe it protects you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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