Cultural bodies in Quebec lack any meaningful minority representation
Cultural bodies in Quebec lack any meaningful minority representation
JULIAN SAMUEL SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE, E-mail: moc.f1508305476iv@le1508305476umasj1508305476j1508305476
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, 17 June 2000
(source de ces articles:http://lists.village.virginia.edu/listservs/spoons/postcolonial-digest.archive/v02.n1802
aussi: «Two articles on Racism in French-Canada»
julian samuel jjsamuel at vif.com
Mon, 7 May 2001
Why are there no visible minorities in key positions at Quebec cultural institutions? Why is Quebec decades behind the rest of Canada on this? Does the mostly all-white local media actively block a public discussion on this issue?
Many Quebecers will contest the charge of racism by mentioning the following famous minorities: Michaelle Jean, Nathalie Chung, Norman Brathwhaite, Gregory Charles, and Dany Laferriere. Racism within Quebec’s cultural institutions? Unadulterated codswallop. However, Michaelle Jean and Nathalie Chung, both RDI newsreaders, are not in key positions; they have little or no influence on the content of the broadcasts. They are stunningly overpaid newsreaders, inoffensive electrons decaying in front of your eyes. Occasionally, Michaelle Jean does programs on Cuba that Jesse Helms would like. Norman Brathwhaite and Gregory Charles are comics who illustrate a hollow pluralism.
International comparison are relevant. Visible-minority journalists on the United Kingdom’s BBC and Channel Four do programs that criticize the British government on issues such as England’s racism. Journalist Darcus Howe, and film-makers John Akomfrah and Tariq Ali are among several who have provided the public with critical and entertaining television. The British South Asian comedy serial, Goodness Gracious Me is vicious anti-racist satire. Nothing like it here, not for a lack of talent, either.
What is the advantage of having minorities in decision-making positions? Isn’t there a risk that things will remain the same? The Canadian track record is not very exciting. However, along with the risk of visible minorities turning out to be dull, there is a slight chance that aspects of a newer more varied political culture could move into the public arena. Europe is ahead of us. The risks out weigh the continued dull, cultural conservatism of our white elites (who protect their jobs tooth and claw). Montreal is a multiracial, multilingual society, yet the following cultural institutions in Montreal remain lily white up at the top. 17 per cent of the tax base is multiracial — not white anglo nor francophone.
– – CBC English radio. Patricia Pleszczynska, head of English Programming for Quebec, says there is one visible minority in a total of seven key positions. All the key positions in local CBC radio programs such the morning program Day Break and the afternoon show Home Run are white.
– – Radio Canada; director of public relations Marie Gendron (French services) said that out of 512 directors and managers 14 are visible minorities (2.73 per cent)
– – Cinémathèque Québécoise, an institution which programmes films, videos, hosts conferences is all white. The programming is done by six white men: Robert Daudelin, Marco de Blois, Dominique Dugas, Alain Gauthier, Pierre Jutras and Pierre Véronneau. This institution has one black technician.
– – Montreal cultural weeklies Hour, Voir, ICI, and Montreal Mirror on average have about 4-6 key editorial positions of which none are visible minorities.
– – Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, a PQ principal arts funder, has five key positions and 50 employees: not a single visible minority in any category.
– – Ex-Centris, a private arts institution devoted to film, video and new media, has six key positions; one is held by a visible minor, says Sylvie De Lorimier, director of public relations.
– – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (the largest museum in Quebec); Stéphane Aquin, a curator at this museum, says that all key positions, including the museums acquisitions committee, are held by whites.
– – Musée d’Art Contemporain. Marcel Brisebois, chief curator, says there are six curators and 13 trustees. He refuses to say whether there are any visible minorities at the institution. I know from (regular) personal contact with this institution that there are no visible minorities in curatorial positions.
– – The National Film Board of Canada. Suzanne Cote, Training and Equity Advisor, says that there are 12 visible minorities employees in key positions: 9.4% of the total number of 127 employees.
– – Societe de Developpement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC). This major provincial film funder does not have any visible minorities in seven key positions, such as directors of sections. And, out of a total of 102 employees there are three visible minorities in technical positions says Nancy Belanger, head of public relations.
– – Telefilm Canada. This organization is a major federal funder for films. Jeanine Basile, Communications et Public Affairs Attaché, says out of seven directors of departments there are no visible minorities. And there are 4 members of visible minority groups on staff which consists of 135 people.
Why has this absence of visible minorities not been discussed in the media? In Quebec, decision-makers in most media outlets are white. Blacks appear on the covers of the alternative weeklies if they can rap or do house, but there is little substantive coverage of the issue of racism in Quebec cultural institutions.
On 8 December, 1998, Radio Canada’s Le Point had Stéphane Bureau interview tame playwright René-Daniel Dubois who spouted childishly about Quebec being fascist. Radio-Canada has not yet let visible minority intellectuals have the same extended interview time – 18 minutes and 30 seconds – Dubois had to discuss Quebec’s reluctance to include les autres in key cultural positions. Are only white intellectuals allowed to criticize Quebec culture?
The inexorable exclusion of minorities from key positions within cultural institutions is due to the tribal desire to pass on the best jobs to incumbent white elites, friends and family members. By the inclusion of critical and talented (not token) minorities, Quebec could produce a challenging and refined internationalized culture. Of course, the status quo point-of-view in films, novels and the plastic arts et cetera would drastically change. This change is exactly what the elites are worried about. If things are played out fairly, they will have to relinquish the easy access they have to funding and jobs. In other countries, critical and talented minorities have produced landmark films such as My Beautiful Launderette (UK; Stephan Fears and Hanif Kureishi, 1986) and Mama, There’s a Man in Your Bed (France; Directed by: Coline Serreau, 1989); and novels like Caryl Philips’s The Nature of Blood (UK, 1997), and Salman Rushdie’s 1988 Satanic Verses. Are our traditional white cultural elites going to produce challenging and innovative works on this level?
Quebec culture would be irreversibly altered if creative visible minorities were allowed have a say in the direction of cultural production. By maintaining the status quo, only white Quebec will benefit; the exclusion of minorities will make for bitterness and stagnation.
Film-maker and writer Julian Samuel, has made a four- hour documentary on Orientalism and has published a novel, De Lahore à Montréal. You may contact him at moc.f1508305476iv@le1508305476umasj1508305476j1508305476
Quebec’s Minorities: Trapped Between Two Solitudes
JULIAN SAMUEL SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE, E-mail: moc.f1508305476iv@le1508305476umasj1508305476j1508305476
The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, 17 June 2000
5 December, 2000 Parti Quebecois, Yves Michaud: “In the interview on CKAC… I said that the Jewish people were not the only people in the world to have suffered. I said that. Is it anti-Semitic to say that? The Armenians suffered. The Arcadians suffered. And, B’nai Brith wanted to rename the Lionel Groulx metro station. I said they were anti-Quebecois and anti-sovereignist extremists. I don’t withdraw those words.”
Every time a Parti Quebecois luminary, inebriated or sober, lets go in front of the media, white federalists rejoice. Last December they acted as though Michaud’s statements were manna and cream cheese falling from heaven. Politicians gleefully pointed fingers and the cultural elites wasted vats of ink. Few in the media asked the ‘NO’ voting minorities themselves what they thought of the issue.
The PQ has consistently accused Quebec’s minorities of thwarting its desire to create a independent nation-state. Minorities continue to reject the PQ project of partitioning of Canada along racial lines. It is evident to us that the PQ project is about race, that is why the issue of race comes up more and more often these days. The PQ surpasses even the Canadian Alliance in verbal race attacks by its enlightened political figures (Parizeau, Laundry, and Bouchard).
In instigating a discussion about the race of “visible” citizens, Michaud and the PQ bring about a tactical awareness of racial differences in the population at large. People are developing an phrenological knowledge of skin tonalities, pigment, facial features, whether or not people have flat noses, whether they speak with non-pure wool or pure wool accents.
This hyper-awareness of racial, linguistic and facial features is a way for the PQ to exaggerate the differences between white francophones and “les autres.” Michaud connects race to voting patterns, as do many American commentators regarding the “black vote”, the “Hispanic vote” and less often mentioned, the “Jewish vote”. Notice that Yves Michaud did not comment on the white French-Canadian ‘NO’ vote in the last referendum. Nor does he mention anything about white the Anglo vote. Why mark out the minority vote? What purpose does it serve?
Partially, here are some reasons why minorities vote no:
White women should have more white babies — Lucien Bouchard
Money and the ethnic vote — Jacques Parizeau
Only Quebecers should vote in the referendum (1995) — Pierre Bourgault
It’s because of people like you that we lost our referendum (to a Canadian-Mexican hotel clerk) — Bernard Landry
Courts would not see the above statements as actionable even though they resemble the thinking of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jurgen Haider. The effect of Michaud’s statements is pernicious. Purely racist statements are actionable and the courts usually punish the author. In most provinces condemned racists get little support from the public.
The PQ will continue to make racial and linguistic distinctions between citizens — and they will do this without getting taken to court. This is the advantage of making unactionable statements. The PQ modernists believe they have distanced themselves from Michaud, in an act filled with sincerity. Minister of Finance Bernard Landry sweats blood; he reluctantly condemns Michaud. Parizeau, like an old elephant, trumpets his unconditional support for Michaud. Bouchard shows mock disgust and quits. Readers should remember his 1995 suggestion to the white women of Quebec.
Why do these verbal attacks persist in 2001? Why are the separatists elites pointing the finger at us? Why haven’t Quebec’s white anglo journalists taken a serious look at the lack of racial equality in Quebec?
Visible minority demands are a thorn in the side of Quebec’s white anglo elites. By placing a few handsome, smiling minorities on TV they think they have confronted and resolved the race issue. Who are they kidding? Michaud, the PQ and Quebec’s white anglos will continue bludgeoning the minorities. What are the provincial Liberals going to do to help us? Certainly they will not establish any mechanism which will help us get us the jobs that some of deserve — key posts in political and cultural institutions. These jobs are reserved for white anglophones and white francophones: wall-to-wall White Affirmative Action. More lip service condemning Michaud and friends is clearly not enough.
Film-maker and writer Julian Samuel, has made a four-hour documentary on Orientalism and has published a novel Passage to Lahore (De Lahore à Montréal). You may contact him at moc.f1508305476iv@le1508305476umasj1508305476j1508305476
“Quebec’s Heart of Darkness”
JULIAN SAMUEL E-mail: moc.f1508305476iv@le1508305476umasj1508305476j1508305476
5 Feb 2002
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 14:18:27 -0800
From: “julian samuel”
Subject: RE: Jen Drouin’s point of view on the issue of Quebec racism
Published in Books in Canada, July 2001 (volume 30, No. 1)
“In the Name of the Father, an essay on Quebec Nationalism,” by Daniel Poliquin, Published by Douglas and McIntyre; Translated by Don Winkler, 2001, $22.95, 222 pages. Initially published as “Le Roman colonial,” Les Editions Boreal, 2000
It is with unpretentious erudition and unbridled courage that Franco-Ontarian Daniel Poliquin looks at this object called Quebec “nationalism” – and picks it apart. For a fuller understanding of Poliquin’s courage this “nationalism” ought be contextualized.
Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the editors-in-chief of our provincial media, ex cathedra, reject in-depth criticism of Quebec “nationalism”. Quebec’s old-stock anglophones and the French-Canadian intellectual classes are wholly responsible for practicing cultural apartheid: there is not a single “visible minority” in a key position within any of Quebec cultural institutions. In Quebec, there is wall-to-wall white, pre-rational modernity. This aggressive/defensive class of technical media intellectuals (both old-stock anglos and white francophones) will not publish any historical, political or cultural criticism. Occasionally, to placate the muses of Liberal Democracy a few critical articles or programmes will make it past these gate-keepers. Fully co-operative “visible minorities” do get jobs.
Jean Bernier, chief-editor of Les Editions Boreal says that since its inception in 1963, they have published the work of one black writer. Currently there is not a single black writer on its editorial board. One black in 38 years. Most Quebec journalists would not voluntarily expose so blatant an abuse of public funding. One of the goals of the PQ is to make craven those who might openly criticize things as they are: The fatherland is infallible.
Quebec society is more censorial than the rest of Canada. Le Devoir, Quebec’ s “right-thinking” “nationalist” (read ethnic nationalist) newspaper does not have a single minority in an editorial position, and it rarely publishes articles that are antithetical to its raison d’etre: the partition of Canada. The Montreal Gazette, backward on the question of Palestine et cetera, frequently published the uglily written separatist tirades of Josée Legault (whom Poliquin ridicules ad infinitum).
In 1995, after loosing his referendum, Jacques Parizeau indirectly encouraged physical violence against “ethnic voters”. That night, at the microphone, I remember watching him frothing at the mouth: They lost the referendum because of money (read Jews) and the ethnic vote. Yves Michaud recently scoffed off the holocaust, while Premier Bernard Laundry intimidates and throttles the anglophone minorities.
It is in this suffocating, censorial atmosphere that Daniel Poliquin has the courage to criticize Quebec’s “nationalists”. He was trashed in the local press. So was Esther Delisle, author of “The Traitor and the Jew: Anti-Semitism and the delirium of extremist right-wing nationalism in French Canada from 1929-39,” (1993) – it is now impossible for her to get a teaching job in Quebec.
Why has it taken so long for Canada to secrete a social critic of Poliquin’s stature? Why all the centuries of silence in our “few acres of snow”?
Through insightful anecdotes Poliquin expresses himself without masturbatory post-modernist flatulence — rather an accomplishment given the susceptibility of French-Canadian intellectuals to be pulled into the vortex of Parisian jargon-ridden incoherence — Baudrillard et al., ad nauseam. His honest prose turns Quebec’s official history on its head in a tragico-comedic way. In my estimation, since 1759, Poliquin is the second or third (if one counts Pierre Vallières) French-Canadian intellectual to so do.
He exposes provincial “nationalists” as “self-colonized” hypocrites. Poliquin connects Jean-Marie Le Pen, the elegant French racist, with the PQ who are not nearly as elegant in the French language but comparable in other ways. By corollary, Parizeau can be seen as George Wallace, the dead white ex-governor of Alabama, segregationist par excellence. The continental French left, he writes,
“…prefers Canada, a space more congenial to its European point of view. It has reason to be wary, especially when it sees Le Pen making common cause with the PQ…Ever since, there has been no doubt: an independent Quebec is for the French left a reactionary aspiration, just as were the origins of New France. Some things never change.” p 154
My first quibble with Poliquin is that there is no such thing as Quebec “nationalism.” The term ‘nationalist’ cannot be used to describe Quebecois separatists. In political nomenclature, parties such as the Partie Québécois, Bloc Québécois are not at all nationalists: they are, properly speaking, revolutionary Provincialists (read ethinc nationalists). The term “nationalist” is far too connected with political victories to be firmly applicable to the people Poliquin inexorably ridicules: Jacques Parizeau, Pierre Bourgault, Monique Simard, Guy Bouthillier, Lucien Bouchard, Philippe Paré, Bernard Landry et cetera. If the Vietnamese General, Vo Nguyen Giap — who devastated French imperialism at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 — is a Nationalist then are Lucien Bouchard and Monique Simard nationalists as well? No. Are they in anyway like the brave Algerian Nationalists who achieved liberation in 1962? Only a true revolutionary Provincialist would put Jawaharlal Nehru, or the eloquent Black Nationalist Malcolm X in the same league as Guy Bouthillier, head of the “right thinking” Societé St-Jean Baptiste de Montréal and the “right-thinking” Lise Bissonnette, ex-editor-in-chief of Le Devoir. In Poliquin’s book these intellectuals are portrayed as “right-thinking”. Why not “right-wingers”? Fear of law suits?
A melliferous chapter entitled, “Already Yesterday,” with grace, humour, and intelligence removes one layer of lies after another. It is because of this chapter that Poliquin was attacked by the technical intellectuals who fear historical truths. Reactionaries from France re-emerge in New France:
“For the most part those who thought and wrote in New France were closer to the Restoration than the Revolution.” (p. 140)
“But the French Revolution, decried by our clergy, shipped us for the most part emigrants like Abbé Calonne, who forgot nothing and learned nothing. Our intellectual elite, though titillated at times by the advanced ideas of the age, was for the most part four-square for the reactionaries, just as it has earlier stood for the apostolic Counter-Revolution.” (p. 140)
The theoretical sections “In The Name of the Father” are “cartoonesque” political science. They are comical and more or less consequential to Poliquin’s central thesis. Of course, Poliquin is no Louis Althusser. Another culture made Althusser. Poliquin shows how “nationalist” French-Canadians still cling to the tactical model offered in Albert Memmi’s “The Colonizer and the Colonized”. Here is a bit on their tragic mal-adaptation:
“With Mimmi’s thesis as a guide, Quebec history was reinterpreted, and the new historical school of the 1950’s that has already, under Groulx’s influence, dropped Providence as a historic force, now transformed Quebec into an occupied territory and the Québécois into a colonized people in need of liberation… …Quebec got modernity and entered the Third World at the same time.” (p. 118)
“The problem is, there was a problem. May be even two. The first is that Quebec was not Memmi’s Tunisa. Miron, the Aquin brothers, and the FLQ all made the mistake of applying a foreign model to the Quebec situation. The second is that their decolonization was accompanied by a recolonization by the same forces that were supposed to be avenues to freedom. And so the same Quebec of these thinkers was a unique arena in which decolonization and recolonization, in parallel, generated a confusion that was fertile, dramatic, and farcical. In that order.” (p. 120)
The following lines must have stung ethnic nationalists such as Pierre Bourgault:
“The Quebecois were neither Arabs nor the Blacks of Frantz Fanon, they were closer to being Pied Noir themselves. Colonizers more than colonized.” (p. 121)
On the successful 1995 referendum Bourgault said, I remind readers: “That the No vote among Jews, Greeks, Italians and other non-francophones was a ‘straight racist’ vote.” “Jews” “Greeks” “Italians”– are they not Canadian citizens first?
On language Poliquin is relentless:
“For instance, Monsieur Bouchard likes to say that he’s s’est peinturé dans le coin – has painted himself into a corner. There are plenty of days when you have to know English very well in order to understand the protector of Quebec French.”(p 75) There is no real or great difference between the French spoken by Lucien Bouchard and that of prime minister Jean Chretien who gets picked on simply because he is not a revolutionary Provincialist.
TV interviews with Quebec film-maker Pierre Falardeau are so cluttered with “tsé (tu sais); low, low; (la la) tu vu tu (tu vu) ” that his “French” becomes a kind of avant-garde music. For continental French TV and for French cinema audiences Quebec films (Falardeau’s in particular) require French subtitles to render them somewhat comprehensible.
Poliquin is aptly critical of Falardeau, projecting him as hick-supreme whose narrow-minded films expose the wooden cogs working in his mind. “Right-thinking” Quebec intellectuals would put Falardeau in the same league of film-makers such as Gillo Pontecorvo, whose 1966 film, “The Battle of Algiers” confronted both French imperialism AND the pitfalls of Algerian nationalism itself. Since birth, Falardeau has known only one side. Poliquin ’s targets don’t require much in the way of analytical paraphernalia to demolish: Falardeau, Jacques Godbout, Lucien Bouchard, Lise Bissonnette, Josée Legault — thunderous challenges?
Despite the intense veracity of his arguments, Poliquin has blind spots. There are only a few. He is a supporter of Bill 101. This makes him a soft Quebec “nationalist”. This wretched legal instrument is continually used by the Quebec government to keep most cultural institutions and Quebec culture at large free of blacks, “immigrants” (Canadian Citizens) and Jews. Bill 101 is White Affirmative Action Gone Wild.
“Visible minorities”: the current provincial government has hired fewer than 3 per cent. “Les autres” constitute 18.5 per cent of the provincial population and a significant part of the tax base. Poliquin has not exposed the fact that the tax contributions of “les autres” are snatched and funneled into the white French-Canadian cultural machinery. Shouldn’t Poliquin’s analysis touch on economic fundamentals? This would be only fair.
He does not go far enough in his critique of Quebec’s ethnic nationalists. Social critics of quality do not fear immolating sacred cows. That’s what the cows are there for. His blatant exclusion of a full discussion on the repercussions of a continually hybridizing Quebec is based on an obsession with French-Canadian history, culture and politics. He is blind to “les autres” in Quebec. French-Canadians – at their critical best – ignore them. Of course, many of these ‘others’ don’t care if they are ignored. They just want a fair crack at key positions and money. Poliquin is pusillanimous on this issue. The unassailable parameters boldly state: Even Soft ethnic nationalists Must Not Attack Bill 101.
Europe and America are continually confronting the idea of evolving, multiracial societies, with mixed success. BBC, Channel Four contain minorities in important positions, not just well-paid fools. If Poliquin is not willing to open up these issues for the French-Canadian mind then who will? They won’t listen to the ‘outsiders’. He, like those who came before him, talk incessantly of their own culture as something detached from a multiracial Canada which is expanding, not narrowing its definition of citizenship. “Visible minorities” are still considered “immigrants” by the PQ and BQ. Surely, there is a fear that The Outsider within will outdo The French-Canadian in some way? Or is it simply a question of keeping the jobs and money in white old-stock anglo and French-Canadian hands? We are invisible for a tactical reason. A subsequent book might breach those unassailable parameters that have limited Poliquin’s current work on Quebec’ s ethnic nationalists.
Film-maker and writer Julian Samuel has made a four-hour documentary on Orientalism and has published a novel, Passage to Lahore, [De Lahore à Montréal]. He is currently working on a documentary on the destruction of libraries.