The House of Commons raps Jan Wong’s knuckles, and rightly so


MPs in the House of Commons today passed a resolution denouncing Globe & Mail reporter Jan Wong’s September 16 article “Get under the desk”.

Wong linked the actions of Marc Lépine, of École Polytechnique infamy, Concordia University shooter Valery Fabrikant, and Kimveer Gill, the gunman at Dawson College, with Québec’s protective language laws, such as Bills 22 and 101, or – as she put it – the “decades-long linguistic struggle”. She drew a connection between the murderers, and their crimes, with the fact that the three were not “pur laine” (pure wool), a colloquialism meaning full descendants of early, white, French settlers.

Premier Jean Charest, in an open letter to the Globe – reprinted across Québec (including here in the Montréal Gazette) – demanded Wong apologize to all Québecers, adding that the article was a testimony of Wong’s ignorance of Canadian values and demonstrated a profound incomprehension of Québec society. The nationalist Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society has lodged a complaint to the province’s Press Council.

Way to go, Jan! You have sent a pox on the Globe & Mail, its Toronto home (easy enough pickings for les Montréalais), and – by extension – English-speaking Canadians everywhere else.

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4 thoughts on “The House of Commons raps Jan Wong’s knuckles, and rightly so

  1. Hi Kenn, my name is Aaron, and I live in Vancouver. Sorry that my only comment is in regards to the brouhaha surrounding the Jan Wong affair, but I think she has a point to a degree. As in Toronto when violent crimes erupt and people point to the “Jamaicans”, as if most of the perpetrators hadn’t grown up in the city, Quebec society seems to distance itself from violent actions as if it doesn’t come from within. Why did, as Jan mentioned, the police keep referring to Kimveer Gill as a “Canadian”? Yes Kimveer Gill was a Canadian, but let’s be honest, most Quebecers, especially francophones do not in the first instance describe themselves as Canadians,they would naturally say Quebecois, so this is indeed rather curious.
    I don’t claim to know Quebec, but I also find it bizarre that any criticism of the way that province does anything is met with a reaction that strikes me as extreme, and where everything is a potential flare-up in the “unity” debate.
    I enjoyed reading your blog. regards, Aaron.

  2. Hi Kenn, Hi Aaron,
    My name is Stéphane and I live in Montreal (a francophone).
    Why did this column had such an outroar in Québec? In part because Quebec Bashing by unilingual anglophones seems to be fashionable within the mediatic elite of Toronto, partly because the of the uncritical stance of the author. For all I know mixing in the communities is as strong in Montreal, or stronger than in the ROC. The fact that I can write in english is in part a testimony. It is in Montreal, in a unique way, that you have both a francophone and anglophone culture, both with ties, both with integration of immigrants. Most of the rest of Quebec is unilingual francophone, hence an immigrant has to adapt to this culture in much the same way that an immigrant has to speak english in order to survive in most of Canada. I know for a fact that many parts of english Canada are so ignorant of francophone, that they cannot even distinguish french from german (It happened to me). What in think really disturbs some anglophone elites in Canada is that francophones also integrates. I would not be surprised if it was found that mixing within communities in Québec is more prevalent than in the rest of Canada. Honestly, what enrages us in Québec is that people speak of the province without having a clue how things work here. It is saddening to both federalists and sovereignists in Quebec.
    And yes, when someone has been born in Canada, whether in Quebec or outside, the lay press still says Canadian.
    One last comments, federalists in Quebec mention the fact that ludicris editorials and replies like the ones given innthe Globe and Mail often gives wind to the sail of sovereignists. They are perfectly right.
    Cordially

  3. Hello Stéphane:

    I very much appreciate your perspective. Among other things it underlines why I am often not a good ambassador for Toronto nor its media.

    When I was growing up in Québec, in an area which was as close to Ontario and New York State as it was to Montréal, there was still much segregation between French and English-speaking youth. While my English high school diploma was contingent on my being able to communicate in French its standards of “bilingualism” were a farce.

    I often wish I had followed in the steps of my older brother who stayed in Québec (now living in Gilles Duceppe’s Montréal constituency), and speaks excellent French in his home, and elsewhere, with his Québecois spouse. As for me, here in T-O, I watch RDI and TVA 🙂

  4. Hey Stephane/Kenn,

    Yes I can see how fortunate you were to grow up in an environment that let you learn two languages, or more if you wanted to do so, but to say that many parts of English Canada cannot distinguish between German and French, while may be true in your particular instnace, is a gross overgeneralisation, which I thought was what we were trying to avoid i.e. The Wong story. Regards, Aaron.

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