“Pur laine” all over again

October 25, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Politics | 5 Comments

If you have not been living in Quebec for the past thirty years, but in particular the 90’s, you might be wondering what the big deal is with all this talk about Pauline Marois–the current PQ chef–talking about citizenship requirements and voting restrictions for new immigrants and possibly the older established anglophone communities as well. You might also be wondering why there should be any fuss over the Gerard Bouchard/ Charles Taylor commission on multiculturalism and integration in Quebec society. The reason why there is concern among minority communities in Quebec is simple–these and other behaviours by both the PQ party and the current Liberal government harken back to the 1990’s–particularly the hot year of 1995–when Quebec nationalism was at its highest and the pequistes nearly succeeded in removing Quebec from the Canadian federation and creating an independent state through a combination of stolen votes and an obscenely misleading referendum question. After a narrow loss for the Yes side with a 50.4% opting to stay in Canada, then premier Jacques Parizeau launched into his infamous tirade blaming the loss because of “money and the ethnic vote.” His speech drew thunderous applause, and that, combined with then vice-premier Bernard Landry drunkly heckling two Hispanic hotel maids the night of the loss for voting “No”, confirmed what many had already strongly suspected–a great many pur laine Quebeckers are profoundly xenophobic, having an intense dislike and deep mistrust of anglophones and allophones. Pur laine, literally translated as “pure wool,” is a term certain Quebeckers have used in the past describing their heritage as “pure-blooded Quebecois“–white, Catholic at birth, with French as a mother tounge dating back to the first French settlers and fur-traders of Lower-Canada. It’s an idealised term that is often seen as a racist pejorative to all those who do not meet this definition.

Twelve years later, Quebeckers of all stripes were supposed to have moved on from that bitterness that seeped over well past a decade ago. In fact, after the tragic and very rare Dawson College shootings from last year, controversial Globe & Mail columnist Jan Wong caused a mild uproar by suggesting that because the gunman was of Indian origin, at its core the incident was a reaction to the ways many Quebeckers still see themselves, as pur laine. Even I scoffed at her apparent misjudgment at the time. But after a host of recent incidents, I realise that on a fundamental level she was right. The attitudes of old-stock, “traditional” Quebecois have not fundamentally changed at all–they just regressed somewhat. The evidence comes from these recent incidents:

Near the beginning of the year, the Quebec town of Hérouxville unveiled their mocking caricature of Islam (and to a lesser extent Sikhism) vis-a-vis their charter which, among other things, prohibits the “stoning or burning [of women] alive in public places, burning them with acid, excising them, infibulating them or treating them as slaves.” I think you get the idea of the spirit this document was written in. The great majority of the town’s residents defended the charter with characteristically uneducated responses to the Bouchard/Taylor commission, some of which can be viewed at the hyperlink.

The leader of Quebec’s PQ party Pauline Marois unleashed the new party charter that would mandate all immigrants to the province–or even Canadians moving to Quebec from another province–to pass a test to ensure that they would be conversant in French and would have to declare an oath to the province itself, in order to submit grievances to the National Assembly, run for a school board, or even to vote. Nothing is likely to come of it, but it’s chilling that there is such sentiment in the province regardless, and it’s not the first time politicians have expressed such beliefs by any stretch of the imagination. Such rhetoric was common during and after the 1995 referendum, with one PQ minister even going as far to state that in another referendum anglophones and allophones should only get 0.5 of a vote (He was summarily dismissed by then-PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard who took over after Parizeau’s resignation following his bitter diatribe. He’s also the older brother of the commission’s Gerard Bouchard).

The findings of the Bouchard/Taylor commission won’t be released until early next year but they have already revealed a deep undercurrent of xenophobia in many parts of Quebec society, a xenophobia that refuses to die. If it’s been true in the U.S. then it is also true here–it’s like the 1990’s all over again!

Xenophobia’s humble roots


We love our parrots of the world

October 21, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Parrots | 4 Comments
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Hey, the address for this blog is “blue quaker”, right? Well in actuality a quaker is a type of small Brazilian parrot, also known as a monk parakeet. What can I say, I’m a big quaker fan, and a big parrot fan in general. In fact, when I need to lighten up, I go over to youtube and watch all the funny parrot videos I can find. I think watching funny videos of cute parrots can be beneficial to everyone. So, at no cost to you, the reader, I am providing you with a portal of a whole variety of my favourite parrot vids, conveniently organized by species. You can thank me after you have viewed at least some of them.

Indian Ringnecks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYgC1bN02M — personal favourite.


Solomon Island Electus















Quaker Parakeets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV_VlrWOkgY — This and related vids at http://www.brooklynparrots.com/ have to be seen to be believed.


African Greys




And finally a link to a very special, well-written tribute to the world’s most famous parrot, Alex, who challenged old notions of avian intelligence. http://palemaleirregulars.blogspot.com/2007/09/alex-has-died.html

I apologise for the scripting errors–sometimes even wordpress has me stumped. Man, do I hate all these spaces though.

We love our news of the world

October 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

No, no commentary today–just a portion of the news stories that caught my attention today–and yes I hate doing this–I know it’s a “lazy” way to blog. I just need to keep track of my biorhythms–which means blogging when my mind is racing with energy and ideas. It was this morning, but even though it was a Saturday I procrastinated by going to the gym. Anyway, I’ll shut up with the excuses; if you see anything that interests you feel free to click on the link.

With all that said, I might as well belatedly add my disgust over the Burmese (Myanmarese?) junta’s actions against completely peaceful protests. The problem, of course, is that the junta is addicted to power and the privileges and wealth that power brings. That in itself is enough reason for many brutal regimes to try and retain their rule. But it also helps if you see the protesters as almost sub-human, or third-rate, who live only to serve you, kind of like Kim jong-il’s North Korea.

Take Putin’s Russia, for example. He is clearly turning Russia into an increasingly totalitarian regime, but if he were to face protests of a truly massive scale by Russian standards would he order the army to shoot and kill unarmed protesters? It’s an open question, because Vladimir Putin is brutal yet also intelligent. All tyrants desire power, but there are different types of tyrants and Putin probably doesn’t view the populace as inferior specimens. In my view then, if you see your “enemy” as less than human it is far easier to be ruthless and even genocidal. Think about Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jews and Roma as an example.

With this in mind I’d like for the Burmese junta to, through force or other means, snap out of their arrogance and delusions. This especially goes for the de-facto leader of Myanmar, General Than Shwe. Remember that notoriously excessive video of his daughter’s wedding that was leaked out (and leaked out by whom?)?

My love & hate relationship with BBC News

October 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment
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As a keen observer of the news I have gradually become very picky over what I receive as news sources. For example, the only newspaper I used to like would be the Globe & Mail. The only online news sources I would trust would be reuters and the AP. And as for television news sources, forget it. I would find a problem with each and every one of them.

My main problem with journalism would be what I perceive to be a lack of objectivity. But recently I have queried myself: “Does good journalism have to be objective? Does it not depend on the context?” Perhaps, for example, newspapers should not be judged solely on objective news reports. We all know about the editorials but maybe its also acceptable to acknowledge the inherent biases that occur in a said paper’s regular columns and news spots as well, if it is taken in the appropriate context. I’m beginning to think that that can be a succinct possibility.

But then of course there is the television news. I by and large cannot stand it. Fox news is intolerable and CNN doesn’t fare much better. I find it too dumb, shallow and right-wing. So at one point I thought BBC World news offered a decent alternative. One advantage of BBC World is that, true to its name, you get to find out about issues throughout the world; while the half-hours of course repeat themselves, that half-hour is filled with variety. And yet, I noticed that BBC has its own problems. For one thing, whereas CNN is a little too right wing, BBC is definitely too left wing. You can hear it in the nature of the reports and the language that is used. A famous example is their inconsistent usage of the words militants or terrorists–and I know that in the past whenever Israel would suffer an attack from a suicide-bombing, it would be described as a ‘militant bombing’ but whenever they have described their own problems with terrorism–like with the London train bombings of July ’05 (’06?)–said problems are usually referred to as ‘acts of terrorism’ committed by ‘terrorist cells’. I also have found much of their reporting to be elitist, whereby the content of the story is reflected by the reporter’s, anchor(wo)man’s and programmer’s views on what is wrong and what is right for society.

And yet, and yet…who cares? As long as I am aware of the inherent biases, does it really matter so long if I learn new facts about the world? A lot of the reporting at least seems to be of good quality, even with its biases. that’s more than I can say for any of the CNN variations, and I’m not even going to bother with the Fox comparison anymore. So I don’t know, does anyone else have any clarifications and/or corrections and/or ideas and/or opinions about what the best way should be to obtain news? I’m still a little stumped on this one.

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