I read an interesting article this week on a A Clown on Fire, a wordpress blog that I follow, regarding what can only be called a Draconian ‘Charter of Values’ proposed by the provincial government of Quebec. The charter, discussed here, limits religious symbols worn in the public sector. While the charter is being framed as “neutralizing” the public sector to avoid offense or alienation, the charter seems to be doing just that: like Quebec’s ban on religious headwear in soccer, this new “Charter of Values” is raising eyebrows and drawing racist criticisms.
I wrote a poem last year about Quebec’s apparent xenophobia, written in an 18th-Century satirical mode. The poem is NOT meant to be an attack on Quebeckers. While I believe there is always great space for interpretation within artistic spheres, in this case I’m using the authorial powers bestowed upon me (by me) to say that I wrote the poem with a purposeful ignorance and a political critique in mind. It’s critical of the government and the fictional Quebec people in the poem are related to that government synechdochially. In other words, the “Quebecois” of my poem are only a manifestation of my political criticisms. Conversely, the “ignorant” English voice is a satire of the perceived threat the PQ feel English Canada poses to French culture.
I wrote the poem in frustration based on the platform and policies of Pauline Marois‘ government. As a Canadian, I find her tactics frustrating and detrimental to the unity of our country, which is, in effect, exactly what she wants. My personal opinion is that this outlandish charter is a deliberate attempt to draw criticism from English Canada and the Federal Government. If the bill is struck down, Marois will have managed to fabricate a crime against Quebec that she might manipulate for some Animal Farm-esque propaganda.
I must note that the poem was written in an antiquated style more suited to a bygone era. That being said, the subject matter is appropriate for the form and I hope that if nothing else you gain a few laughs, and perhaps find the urge to investigate the Canadian political landscape. To that end, I’ve appended some interesting, provoking, and sometimes controversial articles to the bottom of this one. I encourage you to read them to fully grapple with this issue because it’s important to our country’s landscape–politically and geographically.
“Bienvenue au Quebec!” read signs of Blue and white,
Unsettling my thoughts and jarring my sight—
Or perhaps it’s the road on which we drive:
It rumbles underneath, beautifully wrought
With cracks of lineage, and a culture lost.
Named with our symbols, but the words are strange,
Like Latin – a relic of a faded age.
They Rue Helen and her sister Kitty,
Across this Nation, painted with pity.
These poor and deplorable girls were saints:
Now lechery and intemp’rance taint their names.
There comes a call that begs to learn French,
A language with an exquisite and exclusive stench.
The tones, like music, play in my ears,
Hymns of irrelevant, assimilative fears.
Is that a robin perched there before us?
Nay! Who knew of bird’s sound so glorious?
The beauteous chest sports a blazing flame,
Surely not coloured by an English name.
My new French Friend, I’ll call you Mary Roy:
Your bright, royal chirp so ful-of-aw.
While English weep by your heart-warming voice,
The false Parisians of Kwebec rejoice,
For you are both the Saviour and the Queen
Of a dying race and it’s culture supreme.
Your profound avian babble incites
A furious blaze in my loins to rise;
My tongue longs to break the bonds that bind
And passionately obscure my dull English mind.
Your chirrup, it calls “We’re not Canada!”
And in my head echoes “We are Quebecois!
Are these even trees in which you now rest–
This fluffy green castle of idleness?
For our trees are rough and jagged spires;
Your soft green cushions lure the loafers and misers.
At the seasons turn, Canada’s leaves fall,
Deafened, deciduous tones of red-rusted;
But here autumn brings a bold coloured
Cacophony of gold, amber, and gall–
All contained in some fat-cat’s wallet,
And without mark of your Nation on it.
It bears the mark of the Queen of England,
Under the banner of her dominion’s land.
This cultured nation, free of money’s curse,
Lives on Nation’s pride, though poor in purse.
Everywhere flourishes their queer Blue flag,
Switching a leaf for a flower to gag
And throttle the English, culturally impure,
With the sweet smell of hubris and les fleurs.
The flower, a spearhead, white and bold remains:
A reminder of French-National pains
From years long forgotten on Canada’s plains.
I’m an oil black lamb, spilled on the blue sea,
Muttering gutturals and glum speech;
Deaf to the beauty that the young shepherd speaks,
Leading to slaughter her Parti-sian sheep.
Thus, in the crowd I’m easily lost,
For they saunter with their nares aloft,
Averted by Anglo-arrogant stink,
Or so their hay-fed minds lead them to think.
They look like they’re from Canada;
They live like they’re from Canada;
But they are not from Canada;
They are the Quebecois.
As I move towards the coast I feel less a fool,
And the overwhelming Blue turns paler too.
Across terrestrial bounds, my mind returns;
It seems my time spent there I failed to learn
The engrossing spirit of a French life,
For birds that speak without strength of mind
Fill me with blinding, senseless passion.
Upon English rock amidst seaside sounds,
This Blue culture perpetually confounds–
Strange that it sat within our midst,
Yet we never knew it was different.
- Poutine With a Side of Xenophobia (clownonfire.wordpress.com)
- Pauline Marois, Hitler would be proud (johannacardinal.wordpress.com)
- Quebec Politician Ousted for Challenging Christian-Centric Charter of Values (patheos.com)
- PQ gets backing of civil-servants’ union for religion plan (globalnews.ca)
- Quebec’s war on religion (shianewsagency.wordpress.com)
- Postscript: PQ manufacturing crisis for 8 complaints per year (montreal.ctvnews.ca)