Francophone Reporters Disrespect Prime Minister

For news junkies, it has become a televised “must-see”: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicks off most days at 8:15 Pacific time with a Covid-19 briefing, right in front of his home, broadcast live across the country on CBC Newsworld.

Just after 9 a.m., federal health officials and various Cabinet ministers on Parliament Hill follow up with their own televised technical Covid related briefings; then throughout the day, by an assortment of provincial Premiers, ministers and health officers … right up to the 3 p.m. daily BC briefings/announcements by Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry … and sometimes Premier John Horgan.

And ALL of these events include my favorite feature: extended opportunities by reporters, in person or on the phone to ask questions … eliciting responses, if not always real answers.

Having watched now for weeks, there is one very peculiar … but telling … aspect of the Prime Minister’s press conferences that I’ve noticed, but other media types have not, or are too complicit or intimidated to report.

When it comes to posing questions, the Anglophone reporters, almost without exception, initially address Trudeau as “Prime Minister” … showing respect for him, and more importantly, for the office he holds.

However, almost NONE of the Francophone reporters call Trudeau “Premier Ministre”: opting for “Monsieur Trudeau” instead. Almost NONE of them EVER address him by his title! Day after day, it has been “Monsieur Trudeau”.

During my own 38-year reporting career, in print and on BCTV … including stints at Vancouver City Hall, the Legislature in Victoria and eight years on Parliament Hill … when given an opportunity to pose a question during press briefings or in interviews, I ALWAYS addressed Prime Ministers, Premiers and Mayors by their titles.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from asking tough questions, hopefully some zingers, or even being quite aggressive in my follow-ups, when I felt they were evading questions or even lying.

But reporters should always be respectful, polite and recognize the POSITION these elected leaders hold … even if they don’t personally like, agree with or, frankly, respect them as individuals.

So I have wondered why the Francophone media … senior reporters that they must be, covering Parliament Hill … when asking questions, DON’T address the Prime Minister as “Premier Ministre”?

Do they disdain Trudeau as an individual … and let their personal prejudice subvert their professionalism ? Are they separatists? Just rude? Arrogant? Poorly raised? Then I thought, maybe it’s a cultural thing … after all, Quebec n’est pas un province comme les autres?

Mais Non!

Because at 10 a.m. Pacific time, when Premier Francois Legault holds his daily televised briefing sessions in Quebec, the Francophone reporters regularly address HIM as “Premier Ministre”!

So why is Canada’s Prime Minister not addressed by his title by French-speaking media; but Quebec’s Premier is???

There clearly is a double standard in effect by the Francophone media … in their treatment of the two leaders … seems to moi!

And what makes it all the more curious is that, under Trudeau’s governance, the Francophone media are very well treated at his and his ministers’ press conferences: recognized to ask about HALF of the questions in the allotted time, even though Francophones represent less than 24 per cent of Canada’s population.

You would think they would/should be grateful.

Mais non!

It would make for an interesting story if any of our “national” media … English or Francais … had the temerity and the journalistic integrity to go back over their tapes, see how correct I am, and then turn the spotlight around and focus a few questions on their own about their disrespectful behaviour!

I’m sure the Prime Minister … le Premier Ministre … and many other Canadians would find that story most interesting.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: To get First Alerts of all new postings on this BC-based Blog, follow @harveyoberfeld on Twitter. No spam … just First Alerts to new topics raised for discussion.)

This entry was posted in British Columbia, Media, National. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Francophone Reporters Disrespect Prime Minister

  1. 13 says:

    Seems to me the next time a French reporter addressed The Prime Minister he could simply give the person a list of acceptable addresses that he would respond to. If they dont acquiesce then dont take their questions. Sunny ways mon ami.

    (Response: I don’t think he can do that: the way it would be played in the media … he would look arrogant. Their employers should say/do something … unless maybe they too disrespect our federal leaders. h.o)

  2. Jason Angulo says:

    I’ve learned that the French see themselves as perrenial martyrs in Canada and are never happy with what they have and will play that card at every turn, and this is an extension of it. As you pointed out they get way more of their fair share in so many aspects of Canada’s systems and governance and it’s never enough. They demanded bilingual signs outside of Quebec but they demand French only in their province, even threatening retailers who talk bilingual demanding they only speak French. They’re the only province allowed to have a political party on the national stage that’s sole existence is to serve one province. Canada brings in emergency supplies of PPE from wherever they can get them and Quebec suggests their culture is being disrespected by Ottawa because the packaging doesn’t have French on it – even calling it a blatant constitutional violation. Quebec MP Alain Therrien called it a “trojan horse”, demanded Trueau apologize to Quebec, and accused him of trampling on Quebecer’s rights.

    (Response: I agree with much of what you say: Quebec has very effectively pushed for and garnered a greater share of federal powers and spending and influence in Cabinet/Ottawa than their population numbers warrant. But that’s just part of the political reality … and EVERY federal party caters to that. However, reporters … regardless of their personal political biases … should ALWAYS address a Prime Minister or Premier by title in their initial question … and it’s particularly troubling and frankly unprofessional when they address one that way, but not the other. h.o)

  3. 13 says:

    Harvey it is just the result of the PC crap that Justin spews constantly. I cant see Chretien or Harper putting up with disrespect from reporters. Trudeau has created this problem he should have the you know whats to fix it . The fact that he doesnt have them is his problem.

  4. Steve Cooley says:

    A long time ago, the first time someone addressed me as Mr. Cooley I looked around to see if my father was in the room. Today if someone calls me Mr. Cooley when it appears to be an out of place salutation, I still make a show of looking for my father. I suggest that our Prime Minister could could look around and comment that he cannot see this father.

    (Response: I suspect, from my experience in Ottawa, Trudeau the younger would easily know the difference: Francophone reporters would disrespect the elder Trudeau even more .. dropping even the word “Monsieur”. LOL. h.o)

  5. e.a.f. says:

    In my opinion the answer maybe two fold. First , to remain in the good graces of the Quebec government. Two, they do not address the P.M. as P.M. because they don’t recognize Canada as “their country” and want to send the message loud and clear for their political masters in Quebec and message the voters of Quebec.

    What I find so “silly” and “two faced”, is they are willing to take all the money the federal government is handing out, but refuse to recognize our P.M. as our P.M. If Quebec journalists and politicians don’t want to recognize the P.M. as the P.M. then don’t take the money.

    Do you recall what they referred to Harper as when he was P.M.? I don’t but it would be interesting if they are making a distinction between the two. If they referred to Harper as P.M. and Trudeau as Monseiur instead of P.M. then its really, really personal. IF its personal, then they see him as an impediment to ” a divorce” and they want to reduce him in the eyes of the Quebec public. As he matures/grows older, they’re maybe seeing shades of his father in him. that won’t bode well for any “impending divorce action” because that is what Legault wants. He wants to be considered P.M. of Quebec.

    13, I really, really have to disagree with you about this being PC “crap”. Titles in politics simply are, its not about being. p.c. The Govnor General is the GG regardless of whether its a he or a she or who knows. Same with P.M. We have had Kim Campbell as P.M. and she was known as the P.M. Same when we have had female Premiers. We may have had a lot of names for Christy Clark, but she was Premier Clark same with Premier Notley, Premier Wynn, etc.

    (Response: Harper of course barely had ANY press conferences … let alone daily ones! So there were almost no opportunities for someone sitting at home to see how he was referred to in terms of title etc. And the ones he had were often stage managed … only very few called on and many of those were carefully selected, very tame local ethnic media asking gentle puffball questions (I wrote about that when he was in power: and, it was especially bad when he was on the campaign trail.) h.o)

  6. D. M. Johnston says:

    It’s Canada and how the higher purpose persons have so perverted established etiquette to support their own political and or social view of things.

    One grows extremely tired of our Franco kin and their juvenile actions. In fact I have grown tired of many things in Canada that has made us blander and un Canadian. Our history is so perverted to make us 2nd class and i am also growing extremely tired of government pandering to the First Nations, religious zealots (of all religions) and those who have twisted history to the point that it has become a joke.

    Sadly, we let this go on until it has been established as the only way to go.

    But this is Canada and one has become accustomed to abide by other’s social mores, whether polite or vulgar.

    We have become comfortably numb.

    (Response: I have alerted a number of media outlets to this story ..and, as far as I can tell, not one of them has pursued it. I have no doubt that, if the situation were reversed and English-speaking reporters called Premier Francois Legault by his name and not Premiere Minister but addressed Trudeau by his title, the French-speaking media …and the public …would have been all over it … and outraged! And they would have been right to question it. Too bad I’m not still in Ottawa: I would have done it; been condemned for it; but then everyone would follow the story, report it and the PM would get the respect his title deserves. h.o)

  7. nonconfidencevote says:

    During the second Gulf war George Bush Jr was in the White House press room and reporters were hammering him with questions.
    “Mr President” this and “Mr President” that ……when suddenly a reporter asked ,” So you stand by your previous comment?”
    Bush turned to the reporter and said ,”Are YOU talkin’ to ME?” and the temperature in the room dropped 30 degrees with his stare.
    The reporter didn’t miss a beat and said “Mr President, do you stand by your previous comment|’
    Bush relaxed and answered the question.

    As for the Quebec media……pffft, nothing surprises me about the educated elite in that “Have Not” Province that greedily accepts equalization payments to the tune of billions per year from the rest of Canada while they mock and denigrate our nation.
    I last visited Quebec City about 10 years ago and toured their ‘National Assembly” ( Provincial Legislature in the rest of Canada) and a few days later enjoyed their “National Holiday” ( St John the Baptiste Day) in the old part of the City ( I noticed that the small, life sized, statue of English General Wolfe’s( the victor of the Battle ofthe Plains of Abraham) was in a tiny out of the way park next to a shabby parking lot and was covered in graffiti that said “Englishit” among other things .
    A huge triple life sized statute of Marquis de Montcalm ( the loser in the battle) was prominently displayed in a magnificent park over looking the St Lawrence river….
    I went to the Old British citadel built looming above the city on the Plains of Abraham (perhaps to remind the French who did actually win the battle?) A french tour guide led our group of (mostly Americans) through the fort and gave a ridiculous, inaccurate ,abbreviated summation of the French defeat 200+ years ago and then said “arethereanyquestions”?
    An elderly lady put up her hand and asked, “Why did they give up after only 15 minutes?” To which I burst out laughing.
    The guide answered, “The British had repeating rifles. They could shoot faster than the french.”
    Wrong audience to bullshite about guns, ” No”, answered an American ex military man, ” They had muskets, repeating rifles weren’t invented for another 150 years…..”
    I laughed even harder.
    The guide stormed off and I spent another 30 minutes explaining the history and significance of the area ( My Brother -in -Law got his Masters Degree in Canadian History in 1978 and his thesis was on ….The Battle of the Plains of Abraham” which he defended in his second language ……French…. in Quebec. An excellent read which I enjoyed immensely.),
    I spoke about the battle , its implications, and the British fort that was built over 100 years later.
    But I digress.
    I have a great many friends in Quebec and visit every few years and…….. I can barely speak french. Never had an issue.
    I find most blue collar french in Quebec are delightful and the salt of the earth.
    The educated “professional” elite that dream and scheme for Seperation and a new “nation”……are , almost to a tee, arrogant, hubristic, pompous asses.

    (Response: As I said, I don’t know what the reason is for the francophone media dissing the Prime Minister by failing to address him by his title, while being so polite to the Premier of Quebec. I just noticed it one day … seemed so unusual to me … and then I started to actually listen for it … and was appalled. Especially when I also noticed that Francophone media were being recognized to ask questions in much greater numbers than their potential audience would warrant. And why should we care about that? The question period is limited in time…. and I’m sure there are issues of importance from media in all 10 provinces and three territories. When Quebec Francophone media are recognized to take up half the time allotted; then of course all the other media are short-changed in getting their fair share of time to pose questions to the Prime Minister. With preferential treatment like that, they could at least address him by his title … Premier Ministre, like the French media do to the Quebec Premier. h.o)

  8. Gilbert says:

    I think the reason they don’t address him by his title is because a) they dislike his father and b) they don’t regard him as their leader. In other words, they place Quebec above Canada. I’ll bet that these reporters will say that they’re from Quebec before they’ll say that they’re from Canada. It’s disrespectful.

    (Response: I doubt most of them are old enough to have even known his father. I believe it’s just arrogance, coupled with a bias of separatist/Quebec nationalist leanings. Whatever …it sure is unprofessional. And BTW today (Monday), not a single Anglophone reporter called him “Mr Trudeau”, preferring “Mr. Prime Minister” but only one Francophone reporter (Raymond Filion of TVA) called him “Premier Ministre”. It would be a really good story …if any of the “national” media (English or French) had the spine to ask the tough questions it raises.) h.o)

  9. 13 says:

    Harvey, in the first line of your response to noncon you said you dont know the reason….
    I think Noncon made it pretty clear that it is the elites in Quebec that take handouts from all of Canada but despise Canada at the same time. I suppose the lack of respect from journalists comes from the elitist attitudes of the French media. Im having a very difficult time myself arguing that Trudeau deserves the title because I dont believe he does, nevertheless if I met him face to mush I would show respect for his office.

    (Response: Yes, when anyone gets to meet/talk to a leader of any level of government, it is the office you are addressing … not the individual. And the Francophone reporters are not stupid: they must have achieved certain qualifications to have been sent to represent their media … which makes their disrespect so unacceptable. Unless, of course, their employers want that. h.o)

  10. hawgwash says:

    Arrogance yes, but the arrogance comes from the same old passive aggressive, intimidation which says; ”if you want respect you will need to buy it.”

    They know from history, there will be rewards, not consequences, for such behavior.

  11. nonconfidencevote says:

    “….Francophone reporters are not stupid: they must have achieved certain qualifications to have been sent to represent their media … which makes their disrespect so unacceptable. Unless, of course, their employers want that. h.o.)”

    And therein lies the answer.
    The reporters and their owners are pandering to the separatist crowd.
    Harvey, do you know any English media that would be willing to raise this issue in print or on tv?
    You know, to pander to the anglo Canadian crowd?
    Possibly a Brockville Newspaper?

    (Response: I have posted it on Twitter. And anyone can send a link to other national media. Maybe I’ll send it to the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen … but I’m not sure they would stir up the nest. h.o)

  12. nonconfidencevote says:

    I also recall a tv interview done by the one and only Harvey Oberfeld when you were in a media scrum on Parliament Hill and you were hammering Lucien Bouchard with a question that he didnt like and his snotty reply was, “Ask me that in French and I’ll answer!” and you immediately switched to fluent french and asked the exact same question……. He …..was…..not…..happy …..with you that day.
    It was News Gold!

    (Response: Yes, that was fun. And not a lot of people knew that, after our encounter, Bouchard wrote a letter of complaint to the Parliamentary Press Gallery that I had disturbed the normal decorum of these media availability sessions. The Gallery didn’t do anything (that I can recall) … but anyone who saw the attempt at questioning also saw that, although persistent, I was always polite to Bouchard … in both official languages. h.o)

  13. nonconfidencevote says:

    ” Yes, that was fun. And not a lot of people knew that, after our encounter, Bouchard wrote a letter of complaint to the Parliamentary Press Gallery that I had disturbed the normal decorum of these media availability sessions. The Gallery didn’t do anything (that I can recall) … but anyone who saw the attempt at questioning also saw that, although persistent, I was always polite to Bouchard … in both official languages. h.o)”


    You should send him an autographed Joyeux Noel card this year!

  14. Richard Skelly says:

    Begs the question: How did the Quebecois press members address Stephen Harper when he was Prime Minister? And before him Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien.

    Unless, of course, there’s been a huge changing of the guard among French-speaking members of the Press Gallery to a ruder contingent.

    Not likely though. Don’t most of those Ottawa press folk stick around forever? Unless they’re motivated—as you were back in the day, Harvey—to get a life beyond the Rideau.

    (Response: Harper, Martin and Chretien did not hold daily news briefings/availability in the pre-Covid era … but when I covered them on the coast or in Ottawa, I do not recall them getting the same rude treatment .. and I think if it had happened consistently, I would have noticed …and would have enjoyed doing the story and asking the “offenders” why? And then, after BCTV exposed it, the rest of the media would have gone after it or used my piece! Sadly they’re too intimidated … or even complicit … today. h.o).

  15. G. Barry Stewart says:

    I don’t give Rebel Media much of my time — but I DO find this video disturbing. The polite and credentialed Rebel Media reporter was strong-armed off the grounds, before getting to the PM’s daily presser.

    We know he was going to ask some hardball questions… but he PROBABLY would have at least addressed the prime minister by his title.

    I suspect the PM doesn’t even know of this incident; it was taken care of by his “handlers.” No wonder the daily presser has been a softball event for the past few months.

    Trump doesn’t like the tough questions… but at least the U.S. news media has not been barred from asking them.

    I’m not sure what the process is in Victoria.

Comments are closed.