In a move that surprised exactly zero people, the Burlington City Council unanimously voted last night to pass a resolution introduced by councilors Norm Blais and Paul Decelles that will magically make Burlington even more friendly to nos voisins du Nord — les Québécois! Je suis désolé si vous ne comprenez pas ce blog. Mais, you better get used to reading French. And speaking it. And writing bad poetry in it. Because the city council's vote effectively allows Québec to colonize our little city by the lake. (Québecers, this is a joke.) Henceforth, Burlington shall now be called Lil' Québec. (Québecers, this is also a joke.) Which is awesome, if for no other reason than we'll now have access to socialized medicine. Nice.
It seems our résolution, which can be read in its entirety here, caught the attention of the Montréal media. Le vendredi, a journalist from CBC Radio-Canada came to Burlington (sorry, I mean Lil' Québec) to report a story about the "issue." He and I had a chat about the resolution and what Québecers want when they travel to the U.S. We also talked about things that are tongue-in-cheek, such as the previous blog post I wrote on the topic. Then he returned to the motherland and produced not one but two pieces for yesterday's broadcast.
The first is a news shorty framing the "conflict." The second is a whopping nine-minute opus en français on Franco-Canadian-American relations. The French was too fast for me to actually understand (but not for long, once we are fully annexed), so I enlisted the help of my polyglot colleague Margot Harrison to translate the piece. Here's what she came up with:
"The whole piece is kind of tongue-in-cheek. First, they quote a dude who is happy to have French signage at the airport. Then they move to Church Street, where they quote a guy who says he prefers to try out his English in Burlington because that's why he comes here — it's a foreign country. He likes having his accent noticed by salespeople at Stephen & Burns. He says: 'In Canada, I'm OK with [bilingualism]. But here, no.'
[Reporter]: 'Unfortunately for the Montréaler, some [Burlington] businesspeople have already started to learn French with the financial aid of the Chamber of Commerce...' [They "test" the desk person at a hotel or B&B, who does speak French, though she has some trouble differentiating between $1.65 and $165, which amuses them.]
'But not everyone views this policy favorably ... The editorialist of local newspaper Seven Days fears that the city will become a Quebecois colony.' There is a piece of your quote where the translator says something like 'I go to the second degree, but...' Apparently, this is how they say, 'I'm being ironic.' So the tongue-in-cheek was acknowledged, though not by the reporter. 'The opinion of the editorialist does not represent those of the majority of Burlington citizens we met...'
Then [city councilor] Emma Mulvaney-Stanak says we should also provide signage for the various refugee groups, but she doesn't expect we can afford that.
So the whole tone is pretty light, in my view. They are tickled by the idea that Americans even think this is an issue, unlike the Anglophone Canadians who tend to resent bilingualism as an imposition. One informant says he has trouble finding French signage on the west side of Montréal, and here it is in the Burlington airport!"
Shortly after the Radio-Canada piece aired, I got a call from a producer at CJAD, an AM radio station in Montréal asking why I hate Québec. Actually, she asked about my fears of colonization, as well as why I hate Québec. And I had to break it to her that actually, I didn't fear colonization; I welcomed it. Remember, universal health care? Also, there's that whole 'you don't get hassled when you backpack around the world if you're a Canadian,' so that's pretty sweet. Oh, and to my knowledge, the Canadians aren't currently waging any wars. So there's that.
In all honesty, I'm pleased that we'll all have to learn French for reals now. None of this Mireille et Robert dans les jardin du Luxembourg middle-school French-lesson crap. Which will be good. Maybe then what we write won't get lost in translation.