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Lionel Albert

Patriarchal songs

When reading Tom Kott's article "Quebec's paternalistic married-name prohibition" about the Prime Minister's wife having to legally keep her maiden name in Quebec, I couldn't help but think of songs about marriage, whose basic purpose is what Samuel Johnson called "identification of progeny". For example, next year will mark the hundredth anniversary of the wedding song "[The bells are ringing] For me and my gal," made even more popular when Judy Garland and then Dean Martin sang them in movies. Those words may be out of date now that countless wives follow the dictates of feminism by keeping their father's surname. It's telling their husbands, "I'm not your girl, I'm Daddy's girl." I am sure that the Prime Minister's father-in-law Jean Grégoire is a fine gentleman who had the usual mixed feelings about seeing his daughter be married. He knew he would be losing a portion of the joyfulness that comes especially to the man fortunate enough to have daughters. I often think that the happiest moment of my own life was sitting in an easy chair reading a newspaper when I stopped and listened to my wife and daughters chatting about everyday things. Sooner or later a father accepts that his girls will grow up to become women. A phone call once in a while and Christmas and grandchildren's birthday celebrations have to suffice. He accepts that they can't remain girls for the rest of their lives, so their keeping his surname does nothing for him; indeed is faintly ridiculous. To recap: a woman's maiden name is not "her own" but her father's, over which she never had any choice. Unless she is the victim of forced marriage, a woman freely accepts her husband's name. That's the appeal of another song about marriage that begins I'll be with you… Read More

Trump, channeling Disraeli

We have read and heard much that purports to explain why Donald Trump's run for the Republican presidential nomination will probably fail. But whatever his political fate, it might be interesting to examine why he seems to succeed where mavericks of the past have failed. One part of the Trump persona calls to mind the maxim, usually attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, "Never complain and never explain." For example, when Trump said illegal Mexican immigrants were generally a scurvy lot, the media said he was wrong and that Mexican immigrants in El Paso, Texas have lower criminality than the average, he did not complain that they were comparing legal immigrants to illegals. When challenged about any statement, Trump usually just repeats what he had said. One young woman appearing on one of the cable news channels unconsciously used Disraeli's very words, lamenting that Trump "never explains." A Dec. 3rd interview of Trump by Bill O'Reilly, America's pre-eminent television political commentator, sheds some light on this. O'Reilly's team had tried to find out what support existed for Trump's claim that he had seen TV footage of "thousands and thousands" of Muslim Arabs in Jersey City cheering the sight of the Sept. 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center. The only record they could find was a CBS video clip of a building in Jersey City atop which a group of people were seen holding a party as they cheered the sight, with voice-over noting that eight men had been taken to the police station because of neighbours' complaints. So there might have been some cheering but there was no TV broadcast about "thousands" cheering, said O'Reilly; hence Trump could not have seen such a clip. Trump repeatedly asked, "How do you know that?" and O'Reilly repeated his argument, even at one… Read More

Thomas Mulcair, you’re no Jack Layton and that’s good for Canada

Look, I have nothing against the late leader of the New Democratic Party. Like his father, Bob, who was first a Liberal and then a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, Jack Layton naturally gravitated toward the middle ground; that included the popular view that French Quebec voters are nationalist and will support parties that stand for Quebec first.Until last Spring, I didn’t think much of Tom Mulcair. He was long a member of the all-party Quebec political class and followed its Quebec-first line, even going out of his way to oppose Quebec municipalities passing resolutions affirming their right to remain in Canada should the province vote to secede.Nevertheless, events have combined to turn a major national party away from the accommodating consensus on Quebec that has ruled the public roost since the 1960s.In May 2011 the New Democrats won 58 new seats in Quebec, becoming the Official Opposition. That in itself did not make history, because the media read the result through their own prism. We were told that the NDP had won over Bloc Québécois voters by promoting "nationalism lite" and that francophones were beguiled by Jack Layton's televised charms.The media refused to face the fact that the huge increase for the NDP came from federalist parties and new voters as much as from the Bloc. It was not just "separatism" that the voters rejected but the whole political class with its separatist-vs-federalist wrestling show staged for English Canadian ticket holders. As Jean Charest said when asked about a Quebec politician: "Mario Dumont wants to get close to the anglophone community. If that's the case, he has to answer one very simple question: is he a federalist or a separatist?"The temporary leader of the NDP, Nycole Turmel, appointed by Jack Layton when he fell ill was a recent convert from… Read More

Raining on Quebec’s language parade

This summer, the provincial government will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Bill 101, passed in 1977. Don't be surprised if a little rain falls on their parade.   Raindrop no. 1: Anniversary of what?   Advance reports explain that the Liberal government has made Bill 101 "its own." Ironically, it was Robert Bourassa's Liberal Bill 22 that declared French to be Quebec's official language three years earlier. The Parti Québécois made Bill 22 "its own" when they modified it to become "their" Bill 101.   Raindrop no. 2: What's so official about French?   In their fervour, the péquistes' update of the language law was introduced as Bill 1, signifying a new beginning for the French language in Quebec. It was deliberately written and laid before the legislature in French only.Big mistake; Quebec's official languages - the ones used for its laws, its courts, and its legislature - are the same as Canada's official languages. They were enshrined in Section 133 of the British North America Act (a.k.a. the Constitution Act, 1867) that created both the Dominion of Canada and the Province of Quebec. 133. Either the English or the French Language may be used by any Person in the Debates of the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec; and both those Languages shall be used in the respective Records and Journals of those Houses; and either of those Languages may be used by any Person or in any Pleading or Process in or issuing from any Court of Canada established under this Act, and in or from all or any of the Courts of Quebec. The Acts of the Parliament of Canada and of the Legislature of Quebec shall be printed and published in both those Languages.That stark and clear logic means that anyone tampering with the official bilingualism of Quebec would ipso facto undermine the official bilingualism of Canada -… Read More