Thursday, May 1, 2008

French Kiss - Off

Montreal mega-star Claude duBois took a nasty stab at Toronto this month after his induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (CSHF) was cut from its primetime broadcast on CBC.

A vitrolic public relations campaign – originally directed against Hogtown itself, but deftly redirected toward our national television network - had staffers from both the Songwriter’s Association and CBC executives scrambling to find some explanation for the complete lack of on-air French content. The CSHF gala, which pegs itself as a truly national and completely bilingual event, is held annually in this city and each year honours both an Anglophone and Francophone contribution.

Quel Horreur!

DuBois' unceremonious omission wasn't the only indication that Canada's national broadcaster isn't overly concerned with pandering to its French viewers. A speech by former Premier Minister Jean Chretien (who introduced inductee Paul Anka) ended up on the cutting room floor, as did performances by Anik Jean, Yelo Molo, Toulouse, Claude duBois himself, and French-speaking host Gregory Charles.

"We believe that music is a bridge between Canadian cultures," says Peter Steinmeitz, chairman of the board for CSHF, "A song can connect us in ways other things cannot. In Quebec, Radio-Canada has indicated it will not broadcast any English content either. In all my Juno years I never had to confront anything like this. It's a source of mystery and frustration."

Oh, Canada!

Meanwhile, the Claude
Célèbre wasn't the only cause for concern at this year's gaff-ridden gala. A good number of silent auctions went un-bid-on (maybe they should have pushed for better prizes than a large tray of cookies), the teleprompter caused more than one speech to be muddled and joke to be revealed prematurely, the ironic lack of First Nations talent in this self-styled national pride ceremony was dismissed as non-existent by Hall of Fame executives, and a group of baffled VIPs froze their famous butts off while waiting for shuttle buses. Oh, and everyone in the audience was forced to shuffle when it was discovered that someone was sitting in David Foster's seat. The post-gala reception saw local celebs - including Mayor Miller and Jian Ghomeshi - diving into pyramids of CBC-stickered chocolates, cheeses, and free-flowing wine.

Published Toronto Life, May 2008