This interesting article was written by
Nikolaus Maack (former owner of this website)
|Names are not changed to protect the innocent – no one is innocent.
Monday September 9th, 2001
When my brother Fred and I arrived at the “Anglophone Rights Group Meeting” they immediately put us to work.
“We’ve been waiting for some young blood,” said the Asian woman in charge of the evening’s proceedings. They needed someone to move the heavy table at the front of the small hall. There would have been trouble if we hadn’t shown up; the average age of the attendees was 65 or 70. They wouldn’t have been able to move the table without us.
As I joked with Fred, we were the only people present not wearing diapers. That’s only a slight exaggeration. When the place filled up with approximately forty people, there were four men in their thirties or forties — the rest of the crowd looked like they’d escaped from a senior’s home. With the exception of the one Asian woman, everyone present was white. Wonderbread white. Painfully white.
After moving the table, there was another task. Someone had a box in the trunk of a car they needed brought in. Would one of us young fellows help? I volunteered. “Just follow Miriam,” they said. Miriam was a tiny white-haired woman in her eighties. She led me out of The Ottawa Citizen conference room, through the lobby, and outside into the parking lot.
“Everything is so polluted,” Miriam said. “Everything is going wrong. Did you know they can control the weather now?”
I surreptitiously turned on the mini-tape recorder in my pocket, knowing it probably wouldn’t catch her words, but thinking I had to try.
“Control the weather?” I said. “I didn’t know that.”
“It’s true!” Miriam exclaimed. And she nattered on about weather controlling technology that was up north somewhere. She then jumped from topic to topic, each one stranger than the last. I had to bite my lip in order not to laugh out loud.
Miriam led me to a car. She tried to unlock the trunk, but the key didn’t work. She handed me her keys. “You try.” It still didn’t work. Then Miriam looked closely at the vehicle. It was the wrong car. The car we wanted was two spaces over.
When we got the right trunk open, there was the box. It was full of books by Yolanda East Cossette, entitled “The Weak Link: Quebec: What the french fact is costing Canada”. (Never trust a title with two colons in it.) They were cheap paperbacks, obviously self-published. The pages were gray newsprint, poor quality. I would later find out the author wanted $20 for a copy. By the end of the evening, I’d steal one.
As we walked back to the hall, Miriam told me about vitamins. “Most of them don’t work,” she said. “I’d been giving my grandson vitamins all his life and they never made a difference. Those Flintstone ones and everything. But then I found,” and she mentioned some brand name. “I should have taken a before and after photo. My grandson used to be skinny. You could count his ribs. Now…” she trailed off, nodding her head. Was that a glint of lust in her eye?
I didn’t have the heart to explain to her what steroids are.
We went back inside.
I put the books on the table, and headed to the rear of the room, where Fred and I were sitting. We’d been told to sit at the back because the elderly folks are hard of hearing, and need to sit up front. I would find out later that this made my tape recorder almost entirely useless.
The meeting, despite being annouced as “The Anglophone Rights” group meeting, was made up of several groups. Their names were written on a flip chart at the front of the room:
“Canadians Against Bilingualism Injustice”
“Canadians for Language Fairness”
“Human Rights Institute of Canada”
Impressive sounding names for a group of frightened, angry seniors.
The meeting was supposed to start at 6:45 PM. It started late because the gentleman who’d brought the sound system had forgotten to bring the speakers. He had to drive home again to go get them. The conference room was so small you really didn’t need a sound system, unless you were almost entirely deaf, like many people in the audience evidently were. Later in the evening, when voices were booming so loud I could feel my teeth rattling, some people yelled out, “Louder!”
Various pamphlets and fliers were handed out before the meeting got underway. R.A. Dean handed out a 5 page document entitled, “Anglophones No Longer Represented in the Parliament of Canada: Taxation without Representation Equals Political Apathy”. Dean looked like an angry retired plumber. He had a pinched face that held back a truckload of pain behind his throbbing temples. His beer belly hung out over his belt. He somehow managed to scowl and smile at exactly the same time as he swaggered around the room.
In his document, Dean quotes himself as once saying: “Perhaps unwittingly, many people fail to realize that implicit in the meaning of official bilingualism are the concepts of: creating two societies, a have society and a have-not society; ethnic or linguistic cleansing; and apartheid.”
A single sheet of paper was handed to me by “Nicholas J. Patterson” — his name was on the top of his flier. For some reason it also read “Price $5.00”, but he gave me my copy for free. When Patterson saw my ill-concealed tape recorder and notebook, he asked me, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Nik, and this is my brother Fred,” I replied.
“What’s your last name?” he asked pointedly.
“Maack,” I said. “Nikolaus Maack.”
“And who do you represent?” Patterson wanted to know.
I blinked at him, wondering what he meant, then realized he thought I was a reporter. “No one,” I said. “I represent me. Just myself.”
This made Patterson ease up a little. He joked about how representing yourself and only yourself is a good thing and I played along. Then he wandered away, pulling his elastic waistband shorts up to his armpits. What was that all about, I wondered? I found out when I looked at the flier he’d handed me — and heard him read it out, word for word, ten minutes later.
Nicholas J. Patterson believes the media is entirely controlled by people in favor of bilingualism. Or, as his flier puts it:
“There are several, further, more recent adverse developments, over the last year or two, which bode badly for our country. These include the recent, remarkable concentration of almost our entire national media, in the hands of various governments and political party activists, along with the meltdown of the political right wing opposition. These two factors, together, eliminate any effective opposition, critique, or curb on the continued mismanagement of our governance.”
Patterson claims, for example, that “CTV is owned by BCE (Bell), which in turn, is partially controlled by the separatist government of Quebec, through its giant pension fund, Caisse de Depot, via its huge holding of 18 million common shares ($700 million) of BCE stock.” Using reasoning like this, he demonstrates that all of the Canadian media outlets are biased, including all the major newspapers and TV stations. They all have ties to the French separatists.
Patterson’s “reading” inspired one fat man with a goatee to yell out, “Shame!” He yelled this out several times throughout the evening . When not yelling shame, or “Shameful!” he clucked his tongue and shook his head in awe at the horrors of bilingualism. There was always an exaggerated expression of gleeful disdain on his face. He seemed to be really enjoying himself.
When Patterson’s lecture was over, the Asian woman host thanked him for his “investigative journalism”. The words made Patterson blush like a schoolgirl.
Another man stood up and talked about his struggle with bilingualism prejudice. He was a rough and rugged looking man, sincere and serious. He seemed almost apologetic for his complaint, but knew we’d understand.
Open your phone book, he said, and you’ll find two maps of time zones, one in French, one in English. All of the provinces are given with English names on one map and French names on the other. British Columbia is translated to “Colombie Britannique”, for example. But on both maps you’ll see Quebec written in the “French” style — that is, with an accent on the first “e”. Shouldn’t it be spelled without the accent for the English version?
This man made his concerns known to Bell Canada. They told him they’d look into it. They called the French language police. According to them, Quebec is spelled with an accent in English and in French.
“Why is Bell consulting the French language police on how to spell words in English?” the man asked with a weary chuckle.
At this point, Nicholas Patterson stood up and explained that this was happening because Bell is controlled by the separatist government. Patterson droned on about this for some time, occasionally pulling his shorts up to his armpits for emphasis. After he spoke for a while, people stopped listening, turning away. Patterson saw this, but couldn’t stop talking. He droned on until his face was bright red, contrasting beautifully with the lock of white hair drooping over his forehead. Eventually he ran out of steam and sat down.
There was a presentation about various government committees the Anglophone Rights people had infiltrated, or were trying to infiltrate, or simply to influence. They talked about the budgets of various government groups, and speculated on how much money they’re spending to include French services. The numbers seemed minuscule to me — but it was enough for the man with the goatee to yell out, “Shameful!” and cluck his tongue.
When someone’s name was mentioned, a voice would cry out: “Is he a Francophone?” and there would be the dramatic reply: “Yes, he is.” The audience would shudder and moan with delight.
Throughout the evening, people fondly mentioned Lowell Green. “Lowell mentioned this on his show. Lowell mentioned that. Lowell, Lowell, Lowell.” When the main speaker of the night, Yolanda East Cossette, came on to talk about her book, people told her she should go on the Lowell Green show, as if this were the greatest compliment they could bestow on someone.
Cossette was somewhat of a disappointment. She was a large, grand-motherly woman with a thick French-Canadian accent. She made some jokes, and was a far better speaker than anyone else, but she talked in circles.
“Language is a thing,” she said, over and over again. “Language is a thing. If you lose your language, do you lose your ideas? No. Do you lose your culture? No. So why do you have to protect it? If it’s any good, you don’t need to protect it. Language is a thing.”
Cossette’s main argument seemed to be that Quebec is different, and is trying to stay different, and that this is divisive and bad. She seemed to be arguing that everyone should strive to be the same. She claimed Quebecois are isolationist, out of date, old fashioned, and cling to foolish religious beliefs. She used to be one of them, but when she saw the “real world” — the English-speaking world — she gave up on Quebec immediately.
“I am proud to speak French,” she said, but went on to say that English is the language that’s “winning”. She seemed baffled that anyone would want to side with the loser. If something is losing, you get rid of it. Greek and Latin used to be the languages everyone spoke. But they weren’t good enough, so people started speaking other languages. That was Cossette’s theory, anyhow. So why cling to Latin, Greek, or French?
Cossette claims that her book is so outrageous to Quebecois that she’s been receiving death threats. People have thrown bricks through her windows. There was some vaguely mentioned event involving a shotgun. Cossette discussed these occurrences with pride. Presumably it all happened a while back — her book was published in 1989. It’s my guess that they were literary critics, offended not by her ideas, but her inability to express them. Her book is awful and her arguments are simplistic. For example, on page 64, she writes:
“The French language is a purist language, a very intolerant language, which does not accept any influx of words or expressions to suit the needs of a rapidly changing world. The French language is not an adaptable language. Just looking at the longer French side in a translation from English, will enable one to realize that, despite its length, the French side is much more imprecise.”
Much like her lecture, there seems to be no organization to her book. Chapters blur into chapters, words into words. The result is a large ball of semi-amusing mud, which she throws at Quebec, and misses.
When Cossette was done lecturing, there was a question and answer period. Several people stood up, one after the other, and pompously thanked her and wished there were more French-Canadians like her who understood reality the way she so clearly did. Cossette meekly thanked them for their praise.
One man asked her if she thought Mulroney was a Francophone. The question was a popular one; the crowd murmured merrily with approval. Cossette replied that, yes, she thought he was. The audience nearly cheered.
The meeting ended with the Asian woman — I never did catch her name — telling us Cossette’s books were on sale for twenty dollars. Cossette told us these were the last of the 5,000 copies she’d had printed. It took her from 1989 until 2001 to get rid of them all?
I walked to the front of the room, along with many others, and picked up a copy of Cossette’s book. People were holding copies, asking who they were supposed to pay. Some seemed to be confused as to whether the book was free or not. There was no confusion in my mind. With the book in hand, I walked quickly from the hall.
“Put this in your backpack,” I whispered to my brother, thrusting the book at him. He quickly did so. We rushed away from the hall into the night. I assume we got away with it — there was no crowd of insane seniors chasing after us like zombies in a horror film.
After I left the meeting, a taint had crept into my perceptions. I looked at every senior citizen and wondered if intolerance was clogging their brains. Were they looking for French folk under their beds at night? Were they gathering on Monday nights to discuss the evils of people who are different? Every old person I saw looked like some kind of monster.
I eventually managed to shake my paranoia, thank goodness. I was back in the “real world”, where not all seniors are insane. Now they were all gentle, good-natured grandparents full of home-spun wisdom and kindess. What a relief.