When I first decided to write this piece my primary concern was that I would have to research the subject thoroughly and be absolutely certain that my facts and figures were correct. What I’m going to write is what is already happening, and it is happening on the street – a place where facts and figures rarely enter into it.
I left Montreal, Quebec, in July of 1994. I left primarily because to the English in Montreal, it was very much a city under siege. The French Nationalist movement was threatening to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada – and frankly, it looked very much like they were going to succeed. The English population had been, to tell the truth, reduced to a kind of mumbling mass. They mumbled, and they whispered and they worried, and really didn’t do very much at all. The rest of Canada took the tactic of simply looking the other way…hoping we would all just disappear.
Unemployment rates in Quebec were soaring, the city was slowly going bankrupt and the tension in the streets was almost palpable. The year that I left Montreal, I proceeded to make the move to Los Angeles. I felt liberated, liberated from the abject fascism that was going on in Quebec. The first week that I was in L.A., a friend called me from Montreal to tell me the latest Quebecois horror story.
It was early April – just before Passover. Now, during Passover, it is a rule religious Jews can only eat matza. During the week of Passover, it’s a sin for Jews to eat leavened bread, and therefore only matza is permitted
Now on this particular Passover, the Language Police in Montreal were out in numbers. This troop is more formally called L’Office de la Langue Francais, and these people make up an arm of the Quebec government. Their sole job is to insure that French is the only language of commerce in Quebec, because the English language is illegal. All advertising or correspondence has to be in French.
Now just before Passover of that year, these Language Police had raided all the grocery stores and they took the entire supply of matza off the shelves. Why? Because the labels on the boxes of matza were printed only in English. This, as mentioned, is illegal in Quebec. The packaging was only in English because the supply of matza was manufactured in New York or in Israel. This was of no matter to the Quebec Language Police. As far as they were concerned, it was illegal packaging. Therefore, all the boxes of matza were removed from the shelves. Are you getting an idea here?
The curious thing about this Nationalist movement is that they have somehow portrayed themselves as the underdog, at least to the rest of the world. They act the role of the lumpen proletariat, of the weary masses; however, they are in fact the tormentors.
I called that story in to the Los Angeles Times, and they printed it. To the outside world this was astounding, yet to those left in Quebec it was just another horror story.
Written by Judy Mann