On June 16 and 17, our corner of Prince Edward Island is host to a hit Québec television series called La petite séduction, which features different small villages doing everything they can to "seduce" a Québec celebrity. Ours is Marina Orsini, who has starred in some of the biggest hits on Québec television, like Lance et compte (He shoots, he scores) and Les Filles de Caleb. Those shows had ratings averaging millions of viewers, in a province with only seven million people. Not that any of this means anything to most English-language people in Canada - hence, the subject of this blog entry.
I grew up with Pierre Trudeau's vision of a bilingual Canada, ad mare usque ad mare. This included an acknowledgment of biculturalism, i.e., the specificity of the francophone culture; though little did Trudeau anticipate how far this concept would go.
Culture includes a lot of things, and in Québec, many of those are indeed distinct from their anglophone counterparts. The civil code is one, since Québec laws governing private relationships are inspired by a number of examples, such as the Napoleonic Code, while the rest of Québec law is the same as elsewhere in Canada, based on common law. The differences spawned by the Québec Civil Code are far reaching, affecting everything from land issues to separation agreements and inheritance.
Culture is also the arts, and many Québec performers are better-known in France than they are just a few hours' drive away in Toronto. A perfect example is Luc Plamondon, lyricist for the monster hit musical Notre-Dame de Paris, which grossed the highest box office results of all time, anywhere in the world, in any language, in a single run. When the musical was taken to Las Vegas, it bombed. Many theorized this was because the company used the same lead singers and made them sing in English, while the production would have attracted more people and money using established English-speaking stars.
Other examples of this "dialogue of the deaf" abound. Other Québec television hits, aside from the ones starring Marina Orsini, routinely draw millions of viewers. This is a result which would make the English CBC deliriously happy. Instead, English-Canadian viewers watch American shows, or Canadian shows that could easily be American. Québec viewers also watch American programming and little in the way of English-language Canadian production. I suspect few, if any, Québécois would even know what Corner Gas is, or what it's about.
In music, things are slightly different. English-Canadian artists play on Québec radio as much as they do in the rest of Canada. That's just it: they play in the rest of Canada, unlike English-Canadian films, which do not enjoy the same protection as that granted under the provisions of the CRTC. Unfortunately, the situation is not reciprocal. I've never met an Anglo-Canadian who knows who in the world is Bruno Pelletier, one of the stars of Notre-Dame de Paris; and the list goes on. Since music is without borders, and you don't have to understand what the singer is saying to enjoy the music, I believe this can and should change. The CRTC regulations are in place and grandfathered under existing trade agreements: please, let's use them to make the two solitudes a little less isolated from each other.
photos of Marina Orsini: