Why I Love Social Media: Translating the printemps érable.

Posted on May 28, 2012

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I will admit it. The Quebec student protests never really resonated with me.

Despite my liberal democratic ideals, despite my support for a fully accessible public education system, and despite my conviction that public protest is an essential component of a healthy democracy, I didn’t instinctively find any common cause or sense of purpose with the events in Montreal.

Even when the Charest government passed the ridiculous Loi 78, I responded with a detached sense of incredulity — like it was a bad move in a chess match I was following online.

I will also admit, I even started to buy into the notion that these protests are somehow distinctively Québécois and French. We are living, after all, in the land of the “Two Solitudes”, where those wacky French Québécois get up to all kind of antics that can only mystify English Canadians.

Fortunately, a Francophone and recent arrival from Montreal, who I met through social media, flipped me a link to “Translating the printemps érable”.

The premise of the blog is simple.

The bloggers think the English mainstream media is doing a poor job of covering the student protests and the now much broader response to Loi 78. They are trying to help English Canadians get a better understanding of the events on the ground by translating — to the best of their ability — some of the French press that, they feel, is providing a more nuanced portrayal of the events.

For Canadians, I think the significance of this blog really can’t be overstated because its essential premise explodes the notion that the “Two Solitudes” is a basic fact of Canadian identify.

Fundamentally, the authors of the blog recognize and accept:

  1. English Canadians are not intrinsically disinterested in the events unfolding in Montreal and Quebec and are not too alien to care or understand, but are, in fact, simply being misinformed by mainstream English media;
  2. It is worthwhile for what is happening in Quebec to help English Canadians better understand what’s, in fact, happening there.

In other words, the blog is living proof that there is no essential and intrinsic disinterest between French and English Canada. The reception the blog has received on Twitter also supports this view.

Furthermore, whether they intend it or not, the existence of the blog also implies a very plausible explanation for the fact of the “Two Solitudes.” The supposed disinterest between French and English Canada is, in all likelihood, something manufactured by our national media and political elites.

In retrospect and thanks to Translating the printemps érable, it’s now painfully obvious why the events in Montreal did not resonate with me. I was experiencing them through the lens of the national English media, which is hell bent on convincing me these events aren’t significant and are somehow intrinsically foreign and alien to me, as an English Canadian. I like to think I’m a fairly savvy consumer of media but, clearly, I was sucked into this manufactured narrative, without even fully realizing it.

So, if you value democracy — in any sense of the word — you should give a few minutes of your time to Translating the printemps érable. What matters most, whether you agree or disagree with this or that point of politics, is that you recognize and accept that the events unfolding in Montreal and Quebec are significant for all of us in Canada, whatever language we speak.

If you recognize and accept this key idea, please follow @TranslateErable and tell as many of your friends as you can that, unlike the national media, there’s a blog dedicated to helping them better understand the events unfolding in Montreal and Quebec.