Blog on Quebec's language policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 15 14:40:28 UTC 2007

What's Wong, Wawwen?

Today, the self-styled Prince o' Darkness and lobbyist for multinational
garbage dump owners and undertakers* cheers the Quebec Press Council for a
decision on a complaint from the St. Jean Baptiste Society about Jan
Wong.. Jan Wong is a Globe and Mail columnist. The controversial piece she
wrote after the Dawson College shooting carried her picture and, for all
intents and purposes, was an column/analysis piece. Certainly, that's what
I thought it was when I read it. The point she made is not be the same
conclusion that I would draw from the facts, but it's an arguable position
in light of Quebec's language policy. As such, people have the right to
argue back. And they did. The reaction was so fierce that I suspect
there's a chill over discussion of the inclusiveness of Quebec society.
That's too bad, because Quebec really is one of the very few places in
theWestern world that regulates the language you speak at work, the
language you use on signs in front of your place of business, and forces
you to send your children to school in the local official language. It is
probably the only place in the developed world that aCtively changes place
names to erase the historic fact of the presence of a linguistic minority.
Unlike me, Kinsella, Jean Charest, and Stephen Harper, Wong grew up as a
visible minority person in Montreal. I would not be too quick to discount
what she has to say about the problems faced by young non-white or
non-Francophone Quebecois or to stifle her voice. Usually, newspapers that
publish opinion that riles public sensitivities respond by running
opposing viewpoints, then everyone moves on. Not this time, though. She
hit a nerve that runs through the Nationalist history of Quebec, into the
crypto-fascist period of Duplessis, and farther back to the time of racist
prelate Lionel Groulx.

More recently, we've had Landry's "money and ethnics" slur of 1995. The
ADQ's recent platform smacks of racism and xenophobia and its candidates
were often exposed as bigots. And anyone who wants to see elements of
racism in Quebec's press need simply examine the coverage, and especially
one editorial cartoon, in the Quebec media reaction to Wong's column.
If people wanted to refute her argument, they should have drawn on facts.
And there are some. Montreal is a multicultural and multilingual city,
despite the policies of the Quebec government, which pander to small-town
Quebec, places like Herouxville. And Wong's argument falls down somewhat
when you consider that two of the shootings happened at Anglophone schools
(Dawson College and Concordia). If Gill and Fabrikant were driven nuts by
Quebec's political interference in their right to self-expression, they
presumably would have gone after Francophone insititutions. But, then
again, these guys were nuts. This kind of thing happens, unfortunately,
all over the place.) Still, she was entititled to make her case, and, to
me, it looks like the Quebec Press Council caved to political pressure.
Anyone who thinks Stephen Harper and the House of Commons acted out of
integrity when it censured Wong need only examine the recent case of Shane
Doan to take a measure of the level of reckless irresponsibility and
pandering among federal politicians. Wong's abuse by politicians should be
a badge of honour. Journalists are supposed to piss people off. It's
called Freedom of Speech, and sometimes it really, really bugs people.
Today, Warren Kinsella, whose name is a punchline in Canadian journalism,
equates Wong, one of the country's best journalists, to Jayson Blair, a
reporter (of colour, BTW) fired by the New York Times after being caught
fabricating stories. That's a grotesque libel of Jan Wong, something that
Kinsella's employers at the National Post (who employ Kinsella as "media
columnist") should make note of. He may make the same comparison in the
Post, and it could be quite expensive for CanWest.

As for NNAs' (the National Newspaper Awards), too bad the Post only won
one this year and Kinsella's never been nominated. Sour grapes make the
finest whine.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list