Fear and loathing in Montreal

I can’t figure out if it’s hilarious or depressing that this story has made the rounds as quickly as it has.

First, a recap: The Théâtre Ste-Catherine is, despite appearances, an Anglo theatre in Montreal. Like most other local venues, TSC has an email list which it uses to spam inform subscribers about upcoming events. Last week, a local theatre troupe, Les Sages Fous, wrote to TSC asking to be removed from said mailing list if TSC was going to send its missives in English only. Eric Amber, the owner of TSC, sent back the following reply, which has quickly made its way around the interwebs since it was posted on Louis Préfontaine’s blog:

The shows listed were in english and therefore so is the message. You obviously can’t read in english because you are an uneducated bigot.

estce que vous comprenez l’expression anglophone [Do you understand the English expression]: Go F–k Yourself?

Amber told the JdeM‘s Mathieu Turbide he was simply replying to angry emails from Francophones who’d called him a “dirty Anglo Jew,” though he declined to show the emails to Turbide, claiming he didn’t want to “throw gas on the fire.” (To borrow Lagacé’s words, “Comment on traduit chickenshit?”) But then he went ahead and did just that—throw gas on the fire, that is—by announcing he would shutter TSC altogether:

Due to the overwhelming racism and bigotry in French society toward minorities and non-french cultures, Theatre Ste-Catherine will be closing in protest. Effective immediately TSC will no longer be accepting bookings and will closed permanently Dec. 21, 2009.

Of course, now Amber’s getting threats from the usual bunch of militant Franco knuckle-draggers who are just as eager to take blind swats at those mean, imperialist Anglos as Amber was at those backwater Franco zealots. Pot meet kettle, and all that jazz…

I can’t for the life of me understand how Amber, an Albertan who’s been living in Montreal for close to a decade—oddly enough, I remember him attending a few parties at my old apartment when he first moved to the city—never clued in that he was living and working in a predominantly French environment.

And while the whole episode may very well be stupid and pointless, I can’t help but worry it will add to a lore that’s already embraced by way too many people—that the blinkered natives have a nasty habit of running well-meaning Anglos out of Quebec. The truth, in this case at least, is that nobody except Amber appeared to care in what language he wanted to run his theatre.

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