MONTREAL, QC. — As you may have heard, there was a protest of sorts on Saturday. The self-described aggrieved group brought signs and noisemakers, and set up shop for a few hours to make their voices heard. Media arrived, photos and video were recorded, stories were published.
The protest concerned a few dozen residents of the Church and Wellesley area in Toronto who are upset about a development plan that will put a 23-storey condo tower into the green space that is privately-owned by the adjacent apartment building.
Barbara Alderman, a resident, is not a big picture sort of person — she is not really interested in the more than 200 families who will have homes as a result of the project nor the economic development aspect of the street level retail space. Barbara simply knows that she won’t be able to make her applesauce after knocking crab apples off the eight trees in the green space with a broomstick. She also is concerned that her dog Higgins will miss the grassy patch where he — well, you know.
It was only a few dozen more people who met outside the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night just prior to the game between the Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. About 100 French language activists used a popular event to attract attention to their own pet project: disputing the hiring of a uni-lingual Anglophone coach for the hockey team. Or at least that was their claim.
The laundry list of wants by the Mouvement Quebec Francais (MQF) included a French-speaking coach, a roster with a “minimum of at least seven or eight francophone players”, more French music and a ban on English announcements in the arena.
In other words these extremists are after a language-based hiring policy for the club, Charles Aznavour’s “Hier Encore” played as the Habs goal song, and would like the Bell Centre rink staff to permanently park the Zamboni and affix a plow blade to the front of a Peugot iOn. It’s not a known with certainty but safe to say that the group wouldn’t want Barbara’s Ontario-made applesauce served at the arena concessions either.
“I’m not a big Canadiens fan, but they are a symbol for Quebec. The Canadiens are Quebec’s team. We’re talking about our values. It is political, but I think politics are everywhere … so this is very much a political gesture that we’re making.” — protester Josée Racine
So what is really going on here?
Basically we have two groups who are opposed to change. They long for a time that no longer exists or is even sustainable. The rest of us have turned the page long ago.
In both cases we have a tiny proportion of people who exploited the power of the mainstream media, and their desire to promote controversy, to amplify a local cause well beyond the scope of it’s support. Barbara got her demand for protecting crab apples and a pet relief area into the pages of the newspaper with the largest circulation in Canada. Without any Occupy movements to hype, the CBC was quite willing to fill time on The National with footage of Josée and her political activist friends.
One news reporter made her debut performance in the Canadiens locker-room by pursuing a political angle with players who had just achieved a hard-fought win over the Lightning. Carey Price tried to skirt the inappropriate question politely by saying that he likes flags. When pressed for a response about the protest, Price’s statement was direct saying, “I’m sorry that I’m not a francophone. I’m just here to try to do my job.”
So does that mean the protests were a rousing success? Hardly. Most reasonable-minded Torontonians will shake their heads at the pettiness of Barbara’s outrage citing some real issues in the city that deserve more attention. At most, if the folks at Mott’s are reading, perhaps Ms. Alderman will receive a few jars of Homestyle applesauce in the mail.
The group outside the Bell Centre handed out Quebec flags citing one of their goals to have the Canadiens greeted by a sea of blue when they took to the ice. It was a dismal failure as only a handful of the flags were seen among the 21,276 in the arena — some were children who were only too happy to wave whatever was placed in their mitt.
The loons at MQF also publicly displayed that they are sitting on a very weak hand. With the spotlights summoned and shining on them, support for the rally was pathetic. More people stand outside the parking garage in Brossard waiting for autographs from Canadiens players after practise.
The extremists espouse a very narrow, intolerant view of the world. Clearly they don’t have the best interests of the team in mind, and most are not even hockey fans. They are simply a loud, angry group of xenophobes who piggybacked on the Canadiens’ popularity to spread their hate.
Compliments of the spineless general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, they got an undeserved apology five days ago and even provoked some in the mainstream to cast doubts upon a good man who is an NHL-caliber coach. Now it’s time for the MQF to run along — I think that there are more Thomas the Train accessories that need to be banned from the province.
Fans have taken a look at the protesters in the stark light of the video camera, and concluded, we’re not like you. They say, ‘we support our Habs passionately and we know fans outside of Quebec who feel the same way we do.’ These fans resent being tarred with the same brush as a bunch of militants who want to hijack the Canadiens for their own gain.
The rest of us will get on with supporting and reporting on a hockey team. Our view of the world is bigger, more inclusive. We like that on Guy Lafleur night, in Vancouver, Canadiens prospect Brendan Gallagher from Delta, B.C., scored three goals and added four assists.
We’re sure that Guy likes it too. Lafleur made his views known on Saturday in Vancouver.
“It doesn’t matter if you speak German, Russian, or whatever. The bottom line is: Win the games and then make the playoffs and try to win the Stanley Cup.” – Guy Lafleur
Like any professional sports franchise it’s mission is simple, to win. Trying to take on more than that — acting as a saviour for language, a vessel for the preservation of culture and being embraced as a pseudo-religion, only derails the Canadiens from the mission that attracted so many fans in the first place.
We’ll tackle that topic in part two of this piece.
About the Author (Author Profile)Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.
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- Dispelling the Myths of the Habs Language Debate | All Habs | January 9, 2012