Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Anti-Lead Crusader Cited for Trespassing at Montpelier Gun Club | Main | Poll: Vermonters Say Yes to Vermont Yankee, Single-Payer Health Care »

August 09, 2011

La Résolution Francophone Update

Canadaquebec2larger In a move that surprised exactly zero people, the Burlington City Council unanimously voted last night to pass a resolution introduced by councilors Norm Blais and Paul Decelles that will magically make Burlington even more friendly to nos voisins du Nord — les Québécois! Je suis désolé si vous ne comprenez pas ce blog. Mais, you better get used to reading French. And speaking it. And writing bad poetry in it. Because the city council's vote effectively allows Québec to colonize our little city by the lake. (Québecers, this is a joke.) Henceforth, Burlington shall now be called Lil' Québec. (Québecers, this is also a joke.) Which is awesome, if for no other reason than we'll now have access to socialized medicine. Nice.

It seems our résolution, which can be read in its entirety here, caught the attention of the Montréal media. Le vendredi, a journalist from CBC Radio-Canada came to Burlington (sorry, I mean Lil' Québec) to report a story about the "issue." He and I had a chat about the resolution and what Québecers want when they travel to the U.S. We also talked about things that are tongue-in-cheek, such as the previous blog post I wrote on the topic. Then he returned to the motherland and produced not one but two pieces for yesterday's broadcast.

The first is a news shorty framing the "conflict." The second is a whopping nine-minute opus en français on Franco-Canadian-American relations. The French was too fast for me to actually understand (but not for long, once we are fully annexed), so I enlisted the help of my polyglot colleague Margot Harrison to translate the piece. Here's what she came up with:

"The whole piece is kind of tongue-in-cheek. First, they quote a dude who is happy to have French signage at the airport. Then they move to Church Street, where they quote a guy who says he prefers to try out his English in Burlington because that's why he comes here — it's a foreign country. He likes having his accent noticed by salespeople at Stephen & Burns. He says: 'In Canada, I'm OK with [bilingualism]. But here, no.'

[Reporter]: 'Unfortunately for the Montréaler, some [Burlington] businesspeople have already started to learn French with the financial aid of the Chamber of Commerce...' [They "test" the desk person at a hotel or B&B, who does speak French, though she has some trouble differentiating between $1.65 and $165, which amuses them.]

'But not everyone views this policy favorably ... The editorialist of local newspaper Seven Days fears that the city will become a Quebecois colony.' There is a piece of your quote where the translator says something like 'I go to the second degree, but...' Apparently, this is how they say, 'I'm being ironic.' So the tongue-in-cheek was acknowledged, though not by the reporter. 'The opinion of the editorialist does not represent those of the majority of Burlington citizens we met...'

Then [city councilor] Emma Mulvaney-Stanak says we should also provide signage for the various refugee groups, but she doesn't expect we can afford that.

So the whole tone is pretty light, in my view. They are tickled by the idea that Americans even think this is an issue, unlike the Anglophone Canadians who tend to resent bilingualism as an imposition. One informant says he has trouble finding French signage on the west side of Montréal, and here it is in the Burlington airport!"

Shortly after the Radio-Canada piece aired, I got a call from a producer at CJAD, an AM radio station in Montréal asking why I hate Québec. Actually, she asked about my fears of colonization, as well as why I hate Québec. And I had to break it to her that actually, I didn't fear colonization; I welcomed it. Remember, universal health care? Also, there's that whole 'you don't get hassled when you backpack around the world if you're a Canadian,' so that's pretty sweet. Oh, and to my knowledge, the Canadians aren't currently waging any wars. So there's that. 

In all honesty, I'm pleased that we'll all have to learn French for reals now. None of this Mireille et Robert dans les jardin du Luxembourg middle-school French-lesson crap. Which will be good. Maybe then what we write won't get lost in translation. 

"The opinion of the editorialist does not represent those of the majority of Burlington citizens..." - Exactly!

Vive Québec!

As a former Montrealer who has lived all over the island of Montreal from the east to the west, I think it must have been a while since your "informant" has been to the west side of Montreal. First, it is illegal in Quebec to put a sign in english on your business unless you have one in french that is twice as big. Second, the majority of the population of the west side of Montreal are bilingual with a very large percentage of francophones living there now.
Unfortunately for many french children in Quebec they will not have the opportunity in school to become bilingual as their access to english instruction is minimal and starts only in the third grade. Anglophone children largely go to immersion programs from kindergarten on and are exiting the public school system bilingual and in the case of allophone children trilingual.
Good for Burlington for trying to take advantage of the large population to the north and bring in additional tourist dollars for the hardworking business owners and merchants.

7 days: what happened to the rather gentle critique of Lauren's writing posted by "Howard"? One minute it was there, then it disappeared!
Why are you censoring criticism of your journalism?

Two lines of drive-by snark does not a critique make, Frank. Criticism is fine (you may notice that I leave plenty of posts critical of us online). Off-topic whining is not. Also, we can check IP addresses, so don't think hiding behind multiple psuedonyms is effective.

Speaking of off-topic, I don't want to derail this further, so if you have further questions, email me: tyler at sevendaysvt dot com.

tyler, I know about IP addresses - many of us readers live in apartments that share them. the fact that I know Howard has nothing to do with my criticism of your removing his post. agreed, it wasn't brilliant nor poetic, but it was an honest response to a blurt post that probably didn't violate your acceptable use policy. by removing it you've acted imperiously, regardless of your gallant intentions. at least it's transparent and not simply mysterious, so i'll give you credit for that. night night.

Lauren, your writing has made the unfortunate leap from clever to tiresome. It has the ring of someone in love with her own voice; it has become difficult to read your content through the veil of your absorption with your own cleverness.

Your last blog post had a number of comments similar to mine. Hopefully, someone will get through to you before readers start clicking the back button at the mere sign of your by-line.

I don't know what "Howard" said but in response to this blog post and the previous one by Lauren on same subject, its clear that 7 days has lost a step or two in terms of quality assurance aka raising the standards of its writers. Dan Bolles piece about Plattsburgh was just awful writing and there are many other examples as well. C'mon 7 days shape up - we love you.

I thought the writing was amusing. This is the Seven Days blog, not some stuffy traditional news article.

I, for one, welcome our new Quebecois overlords...

Sharon, thanks for the perspective from Montreal.

The "informant" who mentioned English on the West Side was speaking not to Lauren but to the CBC. Since I couldn't figure out how to rewind their player, it's possible I misheard and inaccurately paraphrased him. He may have been complaining of finding English-only speakers such as shopkeepers. I lived on the West Side for a year in the 1990s and certainly never saw English-only signage. Then again, I wasn't looking for it.

My overall impression of the broadcast was that Francophones view French signage and speakers in an American city as a pleasant courtesy or frill, not a necessity. Some like it; others don't; others don't care.

As someone who tries to speak French on occasion, I appreciate that folks in Montreal, bilingual or not (and most I've encountered are), will generally allow you to practice your Francais if you so desire. In Paris, where they've had it up to here with tourists, not so much.

In short, more bilingualism everywhere would be fun. And more poutine and St.-Ambroise.

I was terribly sad to see Lauren Ober's ignorant comments about Quebec colonization of Burlington. It reminds me of the ignorant reaction Arizonan's have towards Mexicans. Having spent much time in Quebec and Vermont, I estimate Lauren to share her sentiment with but a handful of irrelevant people. Quebec and Vermont very much belong together in friendship and commerce. Burlington is collectively embarrassed by Lauren's comments.

Stephen: are you kidding? A sarcastic blog post reminds you of a law that implicitly encourages racial profiling and the marginalization of even legal immigrants? Get some perspective, please. Ober-hating has officially jumped the shark.

To Lauren Ober: please keep doing what you're doing. These self-righteous, smug Vermonters deserve to have their feathers ruffled.

Doesn't tounge in cheek mean it has to be at least a bit funny or satirical? You can't just spew venom or make fun of people (see Lauren's post about Grandma getting some action) and claim that you were being satrical or tounge in cheek.

To Mckinley: Nothing self righteous or smug about thinkging Lauren should worry more about reporting and less about abusing her audience. She still hasn't come out to defend making fun of Personal ads in her own publication. What is satirical about that? And if she can make fun of those people, why can't we make fun of her?

Fasten your seat belts, the roads are gonna get wild!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684