June 24, 2003


A friend whose late father was a drinking pal of Mordecai Richler sends news that Quebec's language stasi, the Office Québécois de la Langue Française, has told the Sir Winston Churchill Pub in Montreal to get French:

After a recent spot check by one of its investigators, the government agency placed the Sir Winston Churchill on a list of 31 establishments it says are contravening Bill 101, the law the Parti Québécois created to ensure that the French language remains the first-use language in the province.

"It's their attitude," complained Gerald Paquette, a spokesperson for the provincial agency.

"If you were in Toronto, and everyone answers you first in French and not English, what would you think? We're not zealots; we don't want to exclude English. But French should be first. When you meet a waitress, they should first say, `Bon jour', not 'Good day.' They can go to English after the French, but that is not what they do at The Sir Winston Churchill."

We really need more laws to regulate the order in which words are spoken. These, for example, are clearly in the wrong order: Gerald fuck go yourself.

Richler, who died almost two years ago, beloved by Anglos and loathed by many hard-core Québécois nationalists for his caustic essays, immortalized the bar and its waiters in his book Barney's Version. He often took to his stool at Winnie's to talk to reporters about the PQ's authoritarian streak.

As the son of his old drinking mate writes: “In Bosnia and Kosovo we called this 'ethnic cleansing' and sent in B-52’s.”

Posted by Tim Blair at June 24, 2003 02:53 AM

So why don't they call it the Le Sir Winston Churchill, and then put up a big sign for Vichy water?

Posted by: Mike G at June 24, 2003 at 03:02 AM

I'd love to see the reaction if we tried this in Texas with all the Spanish language signs, restaurants and advertisements.

Sorry, clean it up...you need to be more Americanized.

Posted by: Wallace at June 24, 2003 at 03:25 AM

We shall defend our pub, whatever the cost may be,
We shall fight on the benches, we shall fight on the stools,
We shall fight in the doorways, and in the loo,
We shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender.

Posted by: mojo at June 24, 2003 at 08:16 AM

Why the hell would anyone at home in a pub named after Churchill want to speak the Language of Surrender?

Posted by: Harry at June 24, 2003 at 10:40 AM

Ha ha, if any of you ever actually set foot in Winnie's, you'd be more ashamed that it was named for the great man than that it is now being made to parley français.... Actually, I don't think I've ever been greeted first in French at any establishment in Crescent St. (err, rue Crescent), nor, frankly, heard much French spoken inside them. It's Anglo-land; no doubt an OLF troll. They'd never pinch a place on St-Denis for the same thing (and it happens there too).

Posted by: Evan McElravy at June 24, 2003 at 11:28 AM

I just got back from a weekend in Montréal myself. At the museum at Pointe-à-Callière, there's a good video presentation on the history of the city.

What I learned is that the language Nazis have almost accomplished their goal. A hundred, or even fifty, years ago, the big money in Montréal was all English (or Irish or Scots -- all three sent waves of immigrants), and Montréal was the financial capital of Canada. French-language laws were primarily designed to drive the Anglos out of Montréal. Well, they did. Of course, the Anglos took their money with them, to what was then Canada's second city and is now its first -- Toronto, fueling the massive rivalry between the cities.

It's a fun place to visit, though. In the city of Montréal, the locals generally don't give a rip about which language you speak -- they're close enough to fluent in both languages that it makes no difference to them. The Montréal vote was pretty strongly against secession in the last referendum, IIRC. It's when you get into the Québec countryside (or Québec City, the provincial capital) that language skills become an issue for the traveller.

Posted by: Josh Crockett at June 24, 2003 at 11:37 AM

And Montreal has the hottest strippers in the western hemisphere!

Posted by: James Dudek at June 25, 2003 at 12:15 AM

Winnie's is all drunken Torontonians and skanky Montreal women looking to pick up for a one-nighter. Maybe when Nick auf der Maur was regularly inhabiting one of their bar stools, it was a fine place, but now it's just known for their amateur stripping contest on Mondays (which is always won by professional strippers, anyway). If you're on Crescent, there's so many better options - Brutopia, Hurley's, McKibbin's, Stogies, heck, I'd even go to Cheers before I went to Winnie's. Josh is right, though, no one cares about which language you use; in fact, it's mostly a regional thing - some parts of the city are French, and some are English, but everyone speaks both, so it's not an issue. In 3 years there, I had one person get uppity at me for being unilingual; a token clerk at the McGill metro who told me that I should both see a psychiatrist and learn French.

Posted by: Matthew :) at June 25, 2003 at 12:47 AM

Not to nitpick, Josh, but has there ever been "big Irish money" anywhere?

Posted by: Evan McElravy at June 25, 2003 at 05:51 AM

Wait a second. Isn't this a racist attack on First Nation People (aka American Indians). It is a fact Winston was part Iroquois. So much so, that he would be entitled to open a casino in my country. Therefore, I submit that this pub is in essence... sacred tribal grounds! That's right. The Office Québécois de la Langue Française is nothing but a bunch of white supremicists imposing their culture on not only the Iroquois, but all the Algonquin tribes.

Further more, since this is tribal ground and in accordance with the laws and policies of Canada governing the status and rights of native americans, the Winston Churchill Pub is entitled to an annual subsidy in my opinion. Obviously this place is used for tribal council, where members and guests meet in goodwill to sort out differences, dicuss future plans or events of the day. A sort of loya jurga if you will.

Posted by: Charles at June 25, 2003 at 07:14 PM

Les vagins Canadiens stupides.

Posted by: Craig Ranapia at June 27, 2003 at 08:51 AM