Honoring Mordecai Richler is an apology to hatred and racism

Why Québec needs independanceSo that shameless Uncle Tom, Denis Coderre, named a francophone library after that racist bigot, Mordecai Richler! And I thought the run-down Gazebo was too good for him…

Ray Conlogue, the author of this article, is probably the only English Canadian journalist who even noticed, let alone was bothered by, the slander and racism of Mordecai Richler towards Quebecers. Of course, Richler’s racism was an acceptable form of racism in Canada and Cologue was often criticized for not jumping on the bandwagon.

After independence, we should rename that library La Bibliothèque Ray Conlogue.

~~+~~

Facing up to both sides of Mordecai

During Quebec’s 1837 uprising, a spy told the British army that Louis-Joseph Papineau’s rebels intended to kill all Jews and confiscate their property.

The British dismissed the charge out of hand, since the rebels were allies of Quebec’s Jewish community and had won the vote for them long before it was accorded elsewhere in the British empire. A few years ago, Jewish historian David Rome looked into the affair and concluded it was a « figment of fantasy. »

None of this prevented Mordecai Richler from resurrecting the slur and presenting it as fact in his 1992 polemic Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! It joined a long list of Richlerian attacks on the supposed anti-Semitism of French Quebeckers. Without apparent compunction, he dismissed their religion (in Saturday Night magazine) as « a spiritual sewer, » and described their best-loved leader, René Lévesque, to the British Broadcasting Corporation in these terms:

« If he had decided to hang me, he’d have been complaining about the humiliation of having to use a gallows even as he tightened the cord around my neck. Afterwards, as my body swung in the wind, he’d have blamed me for making him assassinate me, a sweet, modest and oppressed francophone like himself. »

His most infamous accusation — demonstrably false — was that the Parti Québécois’s theme song was inspired by the melody of a Nazi anthem.

Richler’s polemical writing is littered with this kind of thing. Many French Quebeckers, not unreasonably, decided long ago that he was a bigot.

With his death earlier this month, the Canadian media were presented with an awkward challenge that every country has to face sooner or later. When mourning a great artist, how does one deal with his dark side?

By and large, eulogies and reminiscences written in English overlooked the matter. Where mentioned, it was pooh-poohed as part of Richler’s well-known tendency to exaggerate for effect, a lovable curmudgeon shooting from the hip against the French, the English, or his own Jewish community.

Things were, as you might imagine, more complex in Quebec. Writer Jean-François Lisée pointed out that, during the 15 years after separatists won Quebec’s 1976 elections, Richler dominated discussion of Quebec in the U.S. media.

He wrote an astonishing seven out of eight major articles in magazines such as The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. In all of them, he defamed Quebec with considerable venom.

Given this damage, and the inability of francophones to defend themselves in the English-language media, you might expect his death to have caused a good deal of bitter commentary in the French press this month.

Certainly, there was some of that. La Presse noted that a number of prominent francophones refused to comment on Richler’s death. Separatist Raymond Villeneuve said he had « dragged the people of Quebec through the mud. » The newspaper Le Devoir opined in an editorial that Richler had written « wounding and insulting, even defamatory » words about Quebec nationalism, « enormities which he never took back. »

But a surprising amount of commentary was sympathetic. Columnist Nathalie Petrowski, who has little use for English Canada at the best of times, spoke of his « sweetness and timidity » on the occasions they met. « In spite of all the insanities Mordecai wrote, I’ve never been able to hate him, » she wrote.

She argued that as a Depression-era child, he had to deal with the true anti-Semitism of Adrian Arcand’s short-lived fascist movement.

« The wounded and excluded child, » she speculates, became « the resentful and bitter adult » whose tirades concealed a « wounded love for Quebec. »

Michel Vastel of the newspaper Le Soleil said Richler had been friendly to him, and recalled the author’s childhood « in a 1930s-era Quebec that was pretty anti-Semitic. »

Even La Presse’s Gérald Leblanc, who has long chronicled the mistakes and stereotypes about Quebec that appear in the English-language media, argued that Richler’s anger came from an understandable « nostalgia at seeing the ancient places of the Jewish anglophone community pass into the hands of francophones. » If Richler sought « vengeance on those who had modified the landscape of his childhood, » this was only human on his part.

Several commentators regretted the late translation of Richler’s novels into French, and the relatively few Québécois who have read them.

At the same time, La Presse printed an excerpt from Barney’s Version that showed why: A heart-attack victim phones a French-language hospital and listens to a message stating that, « you must dial 17 to receive information in the accursed English language, » while the ambulance attendants play strip poker.

Francophones rarely appear in Richler’s fiction, and when they do, they are usually go-go dancers grinding their crotches on a dirty stage, or imbecilic junkyard workers. English-speaking reviewers of his novels have rarely, if ever, expressed indignation about this. Only George Woodcock, a transplanted Englishman, noticed that the sole sympathetic French character in Richler’s fiction (Duddy Kravitz’s girlfriend Yvette), is « unconvincing. There is a strange kind of indifference in her portrayal. »

Richler was also unconvincing in his non-fictional observation of the French, several Quebec commentators noted last week. Said Yves Boisvert in La Presse, « The French in his vision were reduced to a sort of joyful ‘tribe.’ He praised our ‘vitality’ while describing us drinking on the terraces of the rue St-Denis. To be more clichéd than that, you’d have to have us living in a maple-sugar cabin. »

Some commentators have implied that the French have been bad sports in their reaction to Richler’s death. You may judge for yourself from the above examples. What strikes me is that the French are attempting to incorporate Richler into their community, much as Quebec’s Jews have done. But the task is harder for them: While Richler knew the Jewish community intimately (and in the words of Canadian Jewish Congress director Max Bernard, portrayed it well), he never knew, and refused to know, the French.

When Jews Fleeing Holocaust and Nazis Shared Same Canadian Prison Camps

When Jews Fleeing Holocaust and Nazis Shared Same Canadian Prison Camps

Refugees and German Prisoners Were Housed Together

By JTA

Published April 01, 2013.

When Austrian and German Jews escaped Nazism by fleeing to Britain during the 1930s, the last thing they expected was to find themselves prisoners in Canada, interred in camps with some of the same Nazis they had tried to escape back home.

Raw Deal: Worried about immigration, Canadian authorities did not want Jewish refugees from the Nazis to be free. So they housed them in camps, some of which held German prisoners.
ERIC KOCH/LIBRARY AND ARCHIVE CANADA Raw Deal: Worried about immigration, Canadian authorities did not want Jewish refugees from the Nazis to be free. So they housed them in camps, some of which held German prisoners.

But that’s what happened to some 7,000 European Jews and “Category A” prisoners – the most dangerous prisoners of war – who arrived on Canadian shores in 1940. Fearing a German invasion, Britain had asked its colonies to take some German prisoners and enemy spies. But the boats included many refugees, including religious Jews and university students.

Though Britain alerted Canada to the mistake, it would take three years for all the refugees to be freed.

“It was a period where everybody was closing their doors,” said Paula Draper, a historian who worked on an exhibit about the refugees currently on display at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. “But Canada closed its doors more tightly than almost anybody else.”

While greatly overshadowed at the time by the enormity of the Holocaust, the refugee episode illustrates two characteristics of Canadian government policy that are difficult to imagine today: rampant anti-Semitism and restrictive immigration. The country is one of Israel’s staunchest allies and has a relatively liberal immigration policy. In 2001, more than 18 percent of Canada’s population was immigrant; in 2010, Canada admitted more legal immigrants than it had in 50 years.

This wasn’t the case during World War II, when Frederick Charles Blair directed Canada’s immigration branch. Blair believed an international Jewish conspiracy was trying to skirt Canadian immigration policies by sneaking the refugees into the country. Moreover, anti-Semitic attitudes among Canada’s Protestant elite had hardened in the run-up to World War II, according to University of British Columbia historian Richard Menkis.

The Protestants believed ethnic minorities lacked Canadian values, a view similar to that of Quebecois nationalists, who believed the province should remain both French and Catholic. Jews faced quotas in universities, were blocked from various professional fields and barred from certain neighborhoods.

“There were certain observers who thought that places like Toronto and the establishment there was as anti-Semitic as anything in North America,” Menkis said.

After tiring of Canadian intransigence on the refugee issue, the British sent a high-ranking diplomat, Alexander Paterson, to assure the Canadians that the Jewish refugees posed no security threat. Paterson ended up spending more than eight months in the country and cleared many of the prisoners individually.

By 1943, the last of the refugees had been released. Many went on to make important contributions to Canadian society, including two Nobel Prize winners. But as late as 1948, even after the horrors of the Holocaust had been revealed, a public opinion poll had Jews ranking near the top of a list of groups that Canadians least wanted in their country.

“This is how blind Canada was, blinded by racism, to the potential of all the people they might have been able to rescue from the Holocaust,” Draper said.

Draper, who has taught in the Canadian Studies program at the University of Toronto’s University College, began researching the internment of Jewish refugees in the 1970s. At the time, the Jewish community was reluctant to complain about this history given the fate of the Jews of Europe. Even among the survivors themselves, who lamented their lost years of freedom, many were thankful just to have escaped the destiny of their European brethren.

“To be overly critical of a government’s policy at the time, about this specific group, in light of the Holocaust,” was hard to justify, Draper said.

But if criticizing the Canadian government in the aftermath of the Holocaust was somewhat taboo, today the internment camps have been largely forgotten. Moreover, given how far Canada has come, it can be easy to overlook the anti-Semitism that led to them.

Beginning in the 1960s, much began to change in Canada. Hoping to placate French Canadians who felt shut out of society at large, the government launched a dialogue on biculturalism.

“A number of groups – with the Ukrainians in the lead – said, ‘Well, biculturalism isn’t enough,’ ” Menkis said. “That opened a whole discussion at the federal level about multiculturalism.”

The Jewish refugees were held in eight camps across Canada, at least two of which also housed Nazi prisoners. Because they were not prisoners of war, the Jewish refugees fell outside of the protections of the Geneva Conventions. As a result, they were sometimes treated worse than the Germans. In some camps, the Nazis had access to Christian clergy and enjoyed Christmas trees and decorations, while the Jews struggled to find menorahs or candles, and rabbis were hard to come by.

Jewish prisoners organized classes, taught each other English and Torah, published newspapers and made art, pieces of which are on display at the Vancouver center’s exhibit. The exhibit also features video testimony from survivors and artifacts from the camps ranging from homemade board games to personal diaries to luggage brought from Britain.

Over time, the treatment of Jews in the camps improved; eventually they were reclassified from enemy prisoners to refugees. Upon their release, many returned to Britain to support the war effort.

“They were the first witnesses to the horrors of Nazism,” Draper said. “They’re the ones who knew more than anyone else what was happening to the people who didn’t get out.”

Some anglos argue that Bill 101 is invalid because of Napoleons Bonaparte.

Napoléon

The New Province of Montreal/La Nouvelle Province de Montréal argues that our rights and our resistance to assimilation could only be justified by the many crimes against humanity and the ethnic cleansing committed by the English and anglos against those who were in Canada before them.  He pretends that this justification is invalid because of crimes committed elsewhere and at other times by the French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte.

This is not standing because The New Province of Montreal/La Nouvelle Province de Montréal argumentation is based on an invalid form of argumentation commonly called the Straw Man Fallacy.

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of « reasoning » has the following pattern:

– Person A has position X
– Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X)
– Person B attacks position Y
– Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of « reasoning » is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

(source: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html)

The evidence is that Napoleon has absolutely nothing to do with the local context.  He was not even born when all ties between Canada and France were cut by the English invaders.

The position that The New Province  « simply ignores » with his fallacy are the fundamental French language rights in Quebec as listed in chapters I and  II of the Charter of the French language :

CHAPTER I
THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF QUÉBEC

1. French is the official language of Québec.

CHAPTER II
FUNDAMENTAL LANGUAGE RIGHTS

2. Every person has a right to have the civil administration, the health services and social services, the public utility enterprises, the professional orders, the associations of employees and all enterprises doing business in Québec communicate with him in French.

3. In deliberative assembly, every person has a right to speak in French.

4. Workers have a right to carry on their activities in French.

5. Consumers of goods and services have a right to be informed and served in French.

6. Every person eligible for instruction in Québec has a right to receive that instruction in French.

 

The Poor victims

 

 

 

 

En français

The New Province of Montreal

The New Province of Montreal/La Nouvelle Province de Montréal

Freedom of expression means that u cannot legislate French only of English half the size or bilingual. Private companies should be allowed to have anything they want on their signs and language.

 

Someone

So you say that YOUR Suprem Court is wrong, then.  it fully supports all of Québec’s laws including Bill 101

 

The New Province of Montreal/La Nouvelle Province de Montréal

Of course the supreme court made a wrong decision but look at the decision carefully the interpretation was also wrong. Courts in South Africa were wrong and so were southern courts in the USA in the segregation era.

As politicians were wrong in Manitoba for the French and in Ontario in the late 1800’s early 1900 in Canada

Our decisions our laws must mimic human rights declaration . As free people we must stand up and correct them in a legal fashion

 

Someone

 

Interesting.   The Suprem Court of Anglo keneda would be racist against anglos.

You are such poor victims.

Three centuries of ethnic cleansing against whoever was in Canada before anglos and you still have to suffer the presence of some real Canadiens who refuse to disappear and won’t submit completely to anglo rules.

Deportation of the Acadiens, massacres and murders of the Métis, starvation, infection and perpetual confinement of the Natives in concentration camps, kidnapping of several generations of Native youths who were beaten up and abused until they would speak English, over a century of anti-Canadien apartheid banning the founding language of this country in all provinces and territory outside of Québec in order to eradicate the French speaking majority populations, harsh economic segregation making the real Canadiens white ne78ers in their home land and forcing two-thirds of them into permanent exile for survival, permanent hatred propaganda and incitations to violence, denial of rights and democracy, systematically imposed federation, partition, constitution, courts,  governments and taxations,  state terrorism …  the list goes on and on and on …

And what do you do today : More denigration,  more lies, more hatred propaganda , plees for illegal partition, etc.  The old recipe as worked so well for centuries so you just keep the same today.

Bring that to UN and Amnesty International, like Galaganov has already, and they will laugh in your face…