Monday, March 19, 2007

Yeux fermés

In case you weren't paying attention (or you exclusively read the French media), PQ leader André Boisclair mentioned how surprised he was to see so many students with "les yeux bridés" (slanting eyes) during his time at Harvard. In the English media, everyone was crying fowl but besides a minor peep on the French side, there was hardly a mention of it. Only in Quebec can someone admit to using cocaine while in office, then make a racist remark, refuse to apologize and still be running as the leader of a major party.

Worse still is that this opened Boisclair up to easy political dismemberment. As a gay man, Boisclair should be more sensitive to using potentially offensive words. Yet, his opponents didn't attack him. In fact, they almost excused him. It seems to me Quebec is truly an intolerant place. The majority of my friends are not "Quebecois", in the way the locals would characterize themselves; in fact, most of my friends are those very people Boisclair described as slanted eyed.

The worse part, however, is not the use of that term. Sticks and stones and all that jazz. No, the worst part is what he's implying by the comment. He says he was surprised to see so many Asians at Harvard. Essentially, he's saying, "wow, can you believe these Asians are out getting educated and not making me food/drying my clothes/doing my nails?". His narrow view of what Asians are capable of doing is the truly offensive part of his comment.

Now, I would never have voted PQ ever anyway but this just solidifies it. Along with Parizeau's post-referendum comments, it's becoming clear the PQ is an us-and-them gang where non-French Quebecers are not welcome. Frankly, do I even want to be accepted by these people?


Rez said...

Hit the nail right on the head with the implication that Asians shouldn't be in Harvard, something that everyone missed. No doubt Quebec is becoming more and more intolerant. The only kind of tolerance most seem to be interested is when it involves issues regarding people who look like the majority.

Rez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mat said...

I'm not a big fan of the PQ or Boisclair. And I do have to say that his comment was stupid. But you have to admit that the English media (and the rest of the Canadian media) cries fowl for every single faux pas the PQ makes.

I live in Ontario and I read the Ottawa Sun most days and you wouldn't believe some of the opinion articles they publish about Quebec and its seperatist movement (and they are right on the border...I wouldn't even want to imagine out west). Every now and then, I still hear some less than endearing comments about "Frenchies" when I walk around my workplace.

Quebec may be less tolerant than before but one must admit that the political landscape has changed in the last few years. I think that intolerance has increased as a whole in a lot of countries worldwide, not just in Quebec.

Anonymous said...

Very true, but that's a bit off topic. I am not debating what you said but rather focusing on what Boisclair said.

Speaking of newspapers, I've taken to reading La Presse online lately and I like it, not like that rag Le Devoir.

chicounet said...

Let me play the devil's advocate here for a minute:

I just think that this whole thing has been blown out of proportion... Sure, Boisclair's statement could have been misinterpreted and yes it is bad to say that thing in english... but from what I've heard, he said it in french not english. And in french, apparently, its not a bad thing to say (never having heard the expression.. I wouldn't know).

I also don't agree with your interpretation of his comment. I've noticed that people tend to see the bad side of things more easily than the good side. For example, you claim that :

Essentially, he's saying, "wow, can you believe these Asians are out getting educated and not making me food/drying my clothes/doing my nails?".

There's another way to see this though. One could say that he was pleasantly surprised to see as many immigrants having been able to integrate themselves in the local culture and attain a high level of success in this society.

I know this is a big problem to new immigrants, most of them have a lot of trouble getting up and running right after their move to this land. For example, many of my aunts and uncles have a lot of difficulty communicating in french in everday life to this day (we've been here at least 30 years). And I know for a fact that my own parents worked "stereotypical" latino jobs when they first got here (yes my mom was a maid and my dad worked in a factory). But they've worked hard, kept at it, and now have made quite a life for themselves.

Now, I'm not saying Boisclair didn't do anything wrong here. Clearly, were I in the same situation as him, I would have said:

"Well, I apologize to anyone I might have offended but it wasn't what I meant nor my intention."

and not said:

"NO NO NO, I won't apologize ever ever ever."

That to me would've been the sensible thing to do in this situation. I simply expect more of one who would be our leader.

Masta said...

I think Chicounet is right. He's a politician and he should have been more careful, but more and more you realize, as Mat said, the world is becoming more intolerant as a whole. What he says in public is nothing compared to what people say in private and even more trivial compared to how people think and even further how the government is working against so called minorities. I say if you're an ignorant bigot, let it out for the world to see. And there's a lot worse out there than Boisclair. He's just stupid enough to let it hang.