Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair Refuses to Apologize for “Slanted Eyes” Asian Comments. Racism still acceptable in Quebec? 12

2nd Update: Gilles Gagnon an ADQ candidate in Abitibi-East, Quebec is backtracking from his comments  on his business’s website about American and European Jews waging war too maintain their economic status.

Update: Jse-Che Lam a former member of the Star’s Community Editorial Board clues in the clueless

The Boisclair controversy did not crack Page 1 of the Star but earned front-page status in Chinese language dailies nationwide… If Boisclair had been a GTA-based politician, these words would have swiftly ended his political career.

One could explain to André Boisclair why “les yeux brides” is both divisive and inappropriate. However, I’m afraid that unless he could experience the world through my eyes, he would never truly understand.

Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair, who liked to snort cocaine while he was a cabinet minister see his wikipedia entry said to students in a speech on Wednesday that when he was in Harvard

I was surprised to see that on campus, about a third of the undergraduate students had slanted eyes,” he said.

“They’re not going to work in sweatshops. They’re people who will later work as engineers, managers, and will create wealth. They’re people who will innovate in their countries. There is ferocious competition in the world today.

Apparently it’s not the first time he used the word and he cluelessly refuses to apologize.

Yesterday, faced with repeated questions from reporters, Mr. Boisclair said he stood by his remarks and didn’t understand why a fuss was being made, since he has used the “slanted eyes” phrase repeatedly in stump speeches in the past.

“There’s no way I will apologize,” he told reporters during a campaign stop in Quebec City. He said he used the expression because “these people are a source of amazement for me. I’ve been to Japan; they are my friends, my colleagues. No way I will apologize.

So he also doesn’t know the difference between Japanese and Chinese people. The Parti Québécois is the same party who’s leader complained they lost the election by “money and the ethnic vote”

It’s not just Boisclair who’s clueless

Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, a Montreal civil-rights group called the PQ office to talk to them about the inapporpriateness of Boisclairs comments and got this response

…he said the party’s director of communications for the election campaign, Shirley Bishop, aggressively told him over the phone that she saw nothing wrong with the comment and blamed “people like you” for making racism an issue.

He’s not the only one. The Toronto-based Chinese Canadian National Council called on Boisclair to clarify his comment.

“It is rather disappointing to hear Mr. Boisclair, and an aspiring premier at that, refer to students of Asian heritage in this manner,” council president Colleen Hua said.

“Indeed, it is ironic that today marks the start of Action Week Against Racism in Quebec.

“So we are taking action in asking Mr. Boisclair to correct his statement immediately.”

Apparently the 2 other Quebec provincial leaders don’t see the word as a problem

I think I know Mr. Boisclair well enough to tell you that I don’t believe Mr. Boisclair used that term in a pejorative way … . Believe me, I find plenty of fault politically with Mr. Boisclair, and I’m not shy of saying it, but I wouldn’t fault him for using that expression,” Charest said.

Dumont, who hadn’t heard Boisclair’s remarks, responded by joking: “I have those eyes. I’m told all the time I have slanted eyes.

Dumont suggested that Boisclair was just trying to convey an image.

“Frankly, from knowing Mr. Boisclair I don’t think it was done in a way that was mean or against anyone … . I tend to believe he is a man of generosity.

Not used in a pejorative way? How clueless can you get? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that you shouldn’t use words to describe people of a particular race that they find offensive, but apparently if you lead a political party in Quebec during a provincial election you don’t have to understand this.

Why is this behavior acceptable in Quebec? I know not all the Quebecois think like this. I’ve lived in Quebec for a few years when I was young and went back during university on a French immersion course and had a great time there and enjoyed the people. My last name is not english it’s French.

When I was coming back to Alberta in the early 80s I remember seeing seeing statues of black lawn jockeys in house in Quebec. I thought I was in the deep south in the 50’s.

Boisclair should apologize immeadiately. Should you feel like expressing your opinion, here’s the his party’s website their phone numbers 514 526-0020 or the toll free one: 1-800-363-9531

Or if you feel like it you could also send a letter to the montreal media ie the Montreal gazette.

Wikipedia has a list of Montreal media outlets

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12 thoughts on “Parti Québécois Leader André Boisclair Refuses to Apologize for “Slanted Eyes” Asian Comments. Racism still acceptable in Quebec?

  • JL Trudel

    What do you ask from Boisclair is stupid and show how much Anglo-canadian are disconnected with french language.The derogatory term is the one used by The Gazette newspaper. The Yeux bridés is used as a descriptive way, the slanted eyes is descriptive but also derogatory in a sense then you mean hypocrisy.

    But the life is so hard, how conforting to think then most of the francophones are racist, and all the separatist are racist.

  • Pete Quily

    disconnected? here’s what 3 different french speaker had to say about it

    “It’s a perjorative racial term. André Boisclair is simply con et fou. It’s not an expression that is that common. I’ve heard it maybe twice ever.”

    “les yeux bridés” is racist and commonly used here in France.”

    “Les bridés” (without “yeux”) is also a racist term and more heard in France, I think. (mind you, I don’t use it!)”

    I didn’t say that all francophones are racist or that all the separatist are racist. I’m saying that it doesn’t look like too many people called him on the racist description, including the 2 other party leaders. 2 Asian Cdn organizations called the words racist they don’t think it’s “descriptive”

  • JL Trudel

    Mais de quoi parlez-vous. Si tu ne l’entend pas souvent cette expression, c’est peut-être que tu ne discutes pas avec des francophones.
    La question qui demeure, a mon avis, est le pertinence de faire une histoire de tout ca, et ce a partir d’une mauvaise traduction.
    Et c’est pour ca que je dis que le terrain est piégé pour tout souverainiste. La presse anglophone n’est pas ignare. Elle est à 100% dévouée à détruire la crédibilité des souverainistes.

    If you want to know about Quebec, come here and see what’s going on.
    Dont’t make your mind with opinions well choosen to serve your point of view. If you want I can quote many other people who are not separatist with arguments backing Boisclair’s words .
    The problem with Canada is, canadian, anglophone and francophone, are understanding this country in translation. They don’t know each other. But they have heard something…
    I think disconnected was a good word.

  • JL Trudel

    It’s easy to find comments to support arguments.
    The point is gleaning information from first or second hand. Everything of your comments are coming from rumor, impression or gossip.
    But, you, did you talk with francophones, with quebecers. Did you talk with asian who speak french as a first language.
    Do you think it’s possible to have another understanding of an event.

    Please. Continue like that, have a good colonial attitude toward Quebec and you will contribute to the winning conditions for the next referendum.
    The «Two solitudes» expression is still good, but the word disconnected is also «pas pire».

    Do you know what province have the highest rate of hated crime in Canada? It would be so nice if it could be Quebec. So conforting.

  • Pete Quily

    “If you want to know about Quebec, come here and see what’s going on.”

    I have. read the post again.

    “I’ve lived in Quebec for a few years when I was young and went back during university on a French immersion course and had a great time there and enjoyed the people”

  • Jan Karlsbjerg

    Did you see the skit about Quebec racism from the “This hour has 22 minutes”? Very funny.

    A (pretend, of course) PQ sports organizer was justifying why girls with head scarfs, black kids, etc. etc. couldn’t participate in sports. It was all out of safety concerns.

    The head scarf might unravel in the middle of a game and trip up somebody, the black kids could be quite invisible (unless they ran with their open palms in front of them), and it was out of the question to have any Jewish kids participate in soccer; because if they tried to hit the ball with their heads but missed it, their horns might hit some other kid in the face or chest.

  • N. Teasdale

    Why the need for false beliefs towards French Quebecers?

    I’m sorry, but there isn’t any way that “yeux bridés” has the same negative connotation in French (as spoken in Quebec), as the term “slanted eyes”. It is also not valid to prove your point by using the opinion of French people from France. As you must be aware, a language can be spoken very differently and bear different meanings in different parts of the world. So, once and for all, in Quebec, “yeux bridés” is strictly descriptive in nature and not a racist term.

    It is widely known that English newspapers such as The Gazette, The National Post and The Globe and Mail, regularly fuel the artificial war between English and French-speaking Canadians. They are still living in the Trudeau era and really like to add the insult to the injury. I say artificial war, because in our daily lives, out of the newspapers, such war does not exist anymore. For instance, I’m married to an anglophone, our friends come from both cultures, but the only times when we don’t agree is after reading a column by a columnist such as Don MacPherson from The Gazette. There are fake journalists, people who like to flirt real close with faulty logic, twisting of facts, lack of ethics and demagogy. People who forget about their responsibility as journalists to actually inform, not fuel the fire of misconceptions between both cultures.

    Let it be known once and for all that André Boisclair is not racist. He is very well known for his intolerance with racism and any prejudicial attitude toward minorities. Let is also be known that I’m a neutral French Quebecer, very indifferent with that whole unity/separation issue. I’m not married to Canada nor Quebec, but to my language and culture, with a very open mind towards all other cultures in this world. My judgement is hence not separatist nor federalist-biased.

    If you keep believing that “yeux bridés” is a racist expression despite having been told repeatedly that it is not when used in the context of Quebec French language, it just highlights how blinded you are by your negative feelings towards French Quebecers and their separatist majority. It also shows your fear towards their future attempts for another – potentially winning – referendum. In face of such strong feelings, objectivity has no place, unless the person takes the necessary distance, and that’s how facts end up being twisted to form enduring fallacies. This is a defense mechanism called projection, where one is not comfortable with their negative feelings and will not only disown them but project them onto the object of their negative feelings. It is thus easier – and probably emotionally necessary (and understandable I suppose) for some people – those who are Canadians to the core – to think that French Quebecers are racists, however untrue it is, then to own their anger towards the separatists’ long-term desire to separate from Canada. However, such people shouldn’t be journalists, as they are a nuisance to the Canadian unity which is so dear to your hearts.

    Moreover, one could argue that their determination to make French Quebecers appear like a racist population, despite being told of the real facts, is a form of racism itself, since it is a prejudice that leaves a wrong impression of francophones to Canadians who know Quebecers only through their columns/articles.

    It is worth nothing that, as a French Quebecer reading English newspapers, I am very often let to feel guilty for being a francophone, like I bear all the sins of this world, like I should apologize for it. I am sorry, but I won’t I definitely feel lots of anger and bitterness coming from anglo-journalists, but I just won’t deal with it for them. I suppose it is normal to feel anger when your spouse tried to leave you a couple of times, but was too ambivalent to really do it. But shouldn’t there come a time when one would just have enough dignity to accept their spouse’s will, decide if they really want them to stay, and simply move on, at peace with their decision? Somehow, the above-mentioned journalists fuel the big “Rest of Canada” ambivalence: You do not want us to leave, but you keep pushing us away and will eternally make us pay for your unhealed wounds. A classic case of passive-aggressive behaviour, which becomes abusive at some point. This makes me wonder if Federalists from the rest of Canada are attached to the concept of Canada as a territory, or to the unity of all Canadians, however culturally different they are nationwide.

    I’m repeating myself, but such attitude is enough to keep the separation fibre alive in the heart of French Quebecers. Don’t you see how obvious the trap is for both sides of the fence? The attempt of some columnists is simply to misinform and manipulate, but we should prove more intelligent and put an end to this never ending story. We should also require that our newspapers remain objective and stay far away from such demagogy.

    Moreover, in the end, whatever happens with Canada and Quebec, it is a very small problem compared to so many things that happen worldwide. We should always keep that in perspective when becoming so emotional about Canadian unity vs. Quebec separation.

  • Pete Quily

    You proclaiming that something is true doesn’t make it so. Even if you try to add on a heaping dose of guilt and faux wounded pride and ad hominem attacks

    “If you keep believing that “yeux bridés” is a racist expression despite having been told repeatedly that it is not when used in the context of Quebec French language, it just highlights how blinded you are by your negative feelings towards French Quebecers and their separatist majority.”

    No, I lived in Quebec as mentioned before and I liked the people there, when I last went on a french immersion course several years ago I had a fantastic time and was treated very well. My last name is a french one.

    It just means I will believe when Asians living in Quebec say they feel a phrase is racist more than a white person living their claiming it isn’t.

    Same why I’d be more likely believe blacks in the deep south saying a term is racist than whites there who loudly protest it isn’t.

  • N. Teasdale

    What you just wrote doesn’t make any sense.

    When I talk in my mother language, I know what the meaning of the words I’m using is. Undeniably, I’m the one who knows the most, because nobody can be more aware of my intentions than I.

    Usually, people speaking the same language will understand each other, apart from the occasional misunderstanding when words have several meanings… or in the case of incorrect translations, like this whole situation with “yeux brides/slanted eyes”.

    As a Quebec francophone possessing an idiomatic knowledge of the Quebec French language, if I used the expression “yeux bridés”, it wouldn’t, couldn’t, convey a racist meaning, because it doesn’t have one in that particular language, whatever way you try to twist it. It just doesn’t. It never did. Clearly one has to be a French Quebecer to possess that certainty, and you should have the humility to accept that. Just like I wouldn’t argue with you about the meaning of English idioms, or with a scientist about vocabulary pertaining to his field of expertise. It goes the same for every language, I’m sure.

    For instance, it’s only last March that I learnt that “slanted eyes” was a racist expression in the English language. I discovered that fact while reading how outraged Anglophones were by Mr. Boisclair’s words, after they were translated in their language. I was very surprised because I could pretty well have used the same expression in English, as a literal translation of “yeux bridés”, without knowing I was offending people. It is the same mistake Mr. Boisclair made, after all, and no francophone was protected from doing the same thing. Upon reading those articles, it never occurred to me to argue with the journalists about the meaning of the expression in their own language. They know better than me. But I sure know better than them what it means in French. Why is it so complicated to accept for you? Do you really think that all Franco-Quebecers who keep repeating that “yeux brides” is not a racist expression are liars? Why would we lie about this? If I knew it was a racist expression, I wouldn’t deny it. Believe me, I would have been the first to condemn Mr. Boisclair for using it. There isn’t any advantage for me to protect the guy. I’m all for the Green Party to tell you the truth… Saving the earth goes well before constitutional problems in my view (although Mr. Harper’s view on the environmental issue is devastating and gives separatists munitions that Quebec would do much better without Canada on that issue). So, very objectively, when I tell you that the expression is not racist, it’s because it’s not. Point final. Politics have nothing to do with this reality.

    If the French speaking Asian community in Montreal perceived the expression as being racist, which it did not, as reported in all newspapers over here (including the federalist La Presse), it wouldn’t prove in any way that Mr. Boisclair was being racist, i.e, that he used the expression in a racist way, with the intent of being racist, especially considering, must I say it again, that the expression really doesn’t bear that meaning in the language he speaks everyday, that he’s spoken all his life, like millions of other people who would also gladly tell you that, no, “yeux bridés” is not a racist expression in French Quebec. It is purely descriptive. It is like saying that one of the blacks from the Deep South that you refer to has “dark skin” or that you have brown hair.

    Again, your refusal to accept that as a fact, which it undoubtedly is, just further proves my earlier point that you’re happier sticking to your false beliefs than adjusting to reality. If you really like Francophones like you say you do, why then not believe them when they correct you on the meaning of a French expression? Your last name is French, just like mine is English (and I’m happily married to an Anglo-Quebecer who agrees that “yeux bridés” is not a racist expression in French Quebec), but that doesn’t seem to give you any ability to assess facts objectively when it comes to linguistic issues in Quebec French. You are passing judgement on an expression, which is in a language that has complexities that are beyond your current knowledge. True wisdom comes from listening, not from telling.

  • Pete Quily

    You really don’t get it do you?

    Just to clue you in, here’s one response from the Chinese Canadian National Council, they have chapters across Canada including one in Quebec. These paragraphs are all their words

    “We were extremely disappointed to learn that Mr. Boisclair did not avail himself of the opportunity yesterday to correct himself and simply withdraw the remarks,” Colleen Hua, CCNC National President said today. “Mr. Boisclair’s failure to recognize his harmful comments and his refusal to make amends calls into question his suitability to be the next Premier of Quebec.”

    “How can he defend the interests of all Quebecers when he fails to recognize the harmful nature of his words.”

    In response to questions about whether the term is derogatory, CCNC cited two dictionary references:


    Noun: slant-eye slant I

    1. (slang) a disparaging term for an Asian person (especially for North Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War)
    – gook [N. Amer]

    Derived forms: slant-eyes

    Type of: Oriental [archaic], oriental person

    slant-eye Slang: Disparaging and Offensive. an Oriental person, esp. a Chinese or Japanese.

    “Mr. Boisclair has alienated some of his supporters including members of his party’s campaign with his lack of sensitivity,” Victor Wong, CCNC Executive Director said today. “Is it acceptable to refer to school children as students with slanting eyes?

    “If they are a source of amazement to Mr. Boisclair, then why not be more respectful and just refer to us as Asian Canadians or Asian Quebecers?”

    While the French expression « yeux bridés » may have a nuance, it is clear that many Asian Canadians are offended. CCNC urges Mr. Boisclair to seize this opportunity during this Action Week Against Racism in Quebec to correct himself, that is, to withdraw his harmful comments, and to do so immediately.”

    CCNC is a community leader for Chinese Canadians in promoting a more just, respectful, and inclusive society. CCNC is a national non-profit organization with 27 chapters across Canada with a mandate to promote the equality rights and full participation of our community members in all aspects of Canadian society.

  • Tommy Finger

    Boisclair IS racist because he believes in his world, the upper echelons of Quebec society SHOULD be controlled and dominated by white pur-laine francophones.

    I will let others battle over whether or not the use of “yeux bridees” is racist or not. What is racist is his fear of the pronounced presence of Asians in institutions of higher-learning. This is something that ‘may’ ultimately hinder his vision of what an independant Quebec should look like. A society where “les autres” are mobile and well educated while his brethren are stuck in low paying manual service jobs (or unemployed) is not acceptable.

    In Quebec, language is just an excuse. It’s all about jobs and money and power. Jean-Francois Lisee demonstrated this with his comment that they value immigrants that live in French (which would most likely be a French person) more than just those who can speak French.

    Anglophones who have stayed in Quebec and became bilingual are now finding out that they continue to be second class citizens despite their language skills.