"Phoque" or "fuck" - when it comes to culture, Canadians don’t speak the same language

Language gaps and cultural misunderstandings are an integral part of daily life for Canadians dealing with their fellow countrymen from the other side of the French - British divide. This rather amusing sketch about the issue is also a serious warning about the future of Canadian culture, which according to the clip, faces near-extinction.

Under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian government has cut 45 million euros worth of funding for cultural programmes over the past six months. Around fifteen programmes, considered out-dated or misused, have been axed. The latest blow came on 8 August when it was announced that two major funds would be withdrawn, leaving the cultural scene in Canada looking fragile.

However, investing in culture is a lucrative business. At least that's the message a group of Canadian celebrities are trying to get across. Since singer Michel Rivard, comedian Benoit Brière and humorist Stéphane Rousseau posted this video on YouTube 19 September, its been watched almost a million times.

The film tackles the great linguistic divide in Canada, something that both sides, despite frustrations, find rather funny. The video is a massive online hit, and arrives in time for the 14 October national party elections. Our Canadian Observers react to the sketch.

 

Posted on YouTube on an account called "Culture en péril" (culture in peril), and translated by "Tupperfan".

"Conservative politicians have a means of 'censorship' by being able to decide if work merits funds or not"

Laurent Soumis is a journalist in Montréal.

This clip finally added some colour to a campaign that was boring and uninspiring. It's been watched more than any other Quebecois clip on YouTube. But the three artists have up until now stayed very discreet, preferring not to comment on the video, and we don't know who the production company behind it is.

The clip condemns the cuts by suggesting that the conservative politicians have a means of "censorship" by being able to decide if work merits funds or not. The government responded by saying that the culture budget had in fact increased. But when the numerous press sources looked into it, they found out that on the culture expenses list was also Quebec City's 400th birthday and stuff for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver. So the "culture" budget has many uses!"

"If the Anglo side had made this kind of video, the Quebecois would have called it xenophobic"

Michelle Blanc is a consultant in internet marketing in Montreal, Quebec. She writes the blog Michelle Blanc.

It was obvious that by putting these three artists online the viral effect would be impressive. However, there a few murky areas with this project. When it was first posted online, there was a message saying "don't vote for Harper and his cuts", but it's disappeared now. You can still see the photo of Harper and Minister for Culture Josée Verner in the background.

Next, no one knows who produced and financed the clip. Yet the electoral campaign started two weeks ago. If the artists chose to launch the video now and not a few weeks ago when there were demonstrations over the cuts, then the goal is more than certainly electoral.

This type of video should have to follow the same rules as a campaign spot does. But by being anonymous they're using a legal loophole which is undemocratic. I'm against the cuts, and all for cultural development, but most importantly, I support democracy. And it's rather unsettling that we don't know which party it is supporting.

It's also greatly exaggerated. Not all civil servants are from the English speaking side. I don't think laughing at English speakers is a very clever way to rally the Quebecois cause. Me, I'm bilingual, and I know that if the Anglo side had made this kind of video, the Quebecois would have called it xenophobic.

Finally, if Harper is re-elected, the project puts all artists at risk."

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