MONTREAL – A prominent Quebec publisher is calling on governments to force the Montreal Canadiens to spin more French-language tunes for the Bell Centre crowd.
Michel Brule said he was shocked the team’s DJ played only one French song during Game 7 of the Habs’ first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
“We are not in Raleigh, (North) Carolina, we are not in Philadelphia, we are in Montreal and we are in Quebec,” said Brule, publisher of Les Editions des Intouchables.
“Anglophones think the only language on the planet is English.”
He said the Canadiens have “no respect” for francophones in Montreal, one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world.
On Sunday, Brule stood on a Montreal street corner, in a mostly francophone neighbourhood, and circulated a petition demanding the Quebec and Canadian governments set a quota for how much French music is played in the arena.
Brule said 200 passersby signed his petition in two hours.
“People really supported it, that’s how I collected so many signatures in such a short time,” said Brule, who published Normand Lester’s controversial series Le Livre noir du Canada anglais (The Black Book of English Canada), a group of three essays accusing English Canada of violating human rights and excluding anyone who isn’t white, Anglo-Saxon or Protestant since the conquest of the French on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
The petition, meanwhile, calls on politicians to create content rules similar to CRTC regulations and demands French-language songs make up at least 65 per cent of the tunes that echo through the Bell Centre.
Brule, who ran a short-lived Montreal bar that boasted it would only play music that wasn’t English, said North America’s Anglo presence already has an enormous influence on Quebec culture.
“Anglophones are the most ethnocentric people in the history of humanity,” he said in an interview.
“Anglophones only listen to anglophone music and only read books written by anglophone authors. I know because I’m a publisher myself.”
The NHL club, meanwhile, maintains it is sensitive to the reality of Quebec.
The Canadiens’ playlist features significant French-language content from Quebec artists, team spokesman Donald Beauchamp said.
“We’re in Montreal, in the province of Quebec, and that’s part of our fabric, it’s part of the culture to have this type of music,” he said.
“We’re always very sensitive to this reality.”
He said there are only about 15 occasions during a game where music is played and, in most cases, the excerpts are less than 10 seconds.
“It’s not a concert, it’s a hockey game,” said Beauchamp, who noted a lot of the songs do not have any lyrics.
He also said the Habs recently surveyed their fans.
“Ninety per cent of them said that they were very satisfied with the musical choices at the games,” he said.
The club does not keep track of the music played during games, he added.
“We don’t have to,” said Beauchamp, who refused to comment on Brule’s petition.
Quebec’s culture minister, meanwhile, said she encourages more air time for francophone music in public spaces, but has no plans to force the Habs to overhaul their hockey night lineup.
“I think it’s important to show to the people that we are in a province where the official language is French,” Christine St-Pierre said Wednesday.
“I don’t want to say that we have to banish English at the Bell Centre, but when we want to show to the people that we are in a French society and that French is the official language, I think it’s important.”