Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oh, Julie, not again

In November 2005, I wrote about what I considered to be anti-anglophone comments by Julie Snyder, host of the popular Star Académie singing competition show. While interviewing Irish singer Chris de Burgh who speaks some French, Snyder said, "Wow. Finalement un anglophone qui sait comment parler francais comme-il-faut."

I argued at the time that implicit in her remarks was the view that most/some/all Quebec anglophones don't speak French, or don't speak it properly. Apart from being demonstably false, it was also a disgusting thing to say, no less disgusting than if Jay Leno were to say to Will Smith: "Wow. A black guy who can speak English properly."

I decided to see what would happen if I complained to the broadcast standards bureau. They sent the complaint to TVA to respond. Then I wrote about their response, which amounted to, "No, baby, that's just jokes."

Flash-forward to January 2012. Gazette columnist Don MacPherson wrote about Snyder's latest faux-pas, which went more-or-less unnoticed by the media.
[...] Congratulating one Ontario-born contestant on the live show for speaking French well, showbiz veteran Snyder added, with mock incredulity: 
"How can that be? Us, we have anglophones in Montreal who don't speak a word of French, and they were raised in Quebec! They were born here!" 
In fact, most English speaking Montrealers now are bilingual. And as long as private citizens who still don't speak French aren't forcing Snyder to speak English, what concern is it of hers? 
When Don Cherry brings up a negative stereotype about Quebecers, he's condemned by commentators in English Canada as well as French Quebec. 
But a disparaging remark about Montreal anglophones by a prominent personality in Quebec society, made on a television show watched by 2.3 million viewers and covered by several journalists, somehow went all but unnoticed. I found only one brief reference to it, in a column in La Presse. 
That Snyder would feel free to make such a remark on province wide television, and that it would then go uncriticized, shows that anglo-bashing is socially acceptable in Quebec. 
It's even more acceptable in the ambient anglophobia since recent stories about a few Montreal financial executives who don't speak French set off a witch hunt for unilingual anglos, even in private life. 
Now anglo-bashing is even prime-time entertainment, suitable for the whole Quebec family.

No doubt MacPherson will be attacked in some circles and Julie Snyder will be defended for saying nothing wrong. I'm proud that the New Quebec was a kind of early-warning system about the kinds of vile things that could emanate from Julie Snyder. Last time, nothing happened.

Maybe this time, because of MacPherson's column, she (and others like her) will take the time to understand the degree to which the English-speaking community has changed and stop repeating that kind of bigotry. Yes, bigotry. There is not another term for this.