A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘brussels

[DM] Some links: immigration, cities, small towns, French Canada, Eurasia, China, Brexit, music

Another links post is up over at Demography Matters!

  • Skepticism about immigration in many traditional receiving countries appeared. Frances Woolley at the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative took issue with the argument of Andray Domise after an EKOS poll, that Canadians would not know much about the nature of migration flows. The Conversation observed how the rise of Vox in Spain means that country’s language on immigration is set to change towards greater skepticism. Elsewhere, the SCMP called on South Korea, facing pronounced population aging and workforce shrinkages, to become more open to immigrants and minorities.
  • Cities facing challenges were a recurring theme. This Irish Examiner article, part of a series, considers how the Republic of Ireland’s second city of Cork can best break free from the dominance of Dublin to develop its own potential. Also on Ireland, the NYR Daily looked at how Brexit and a hardened border will hit the Northern Ireland city of Derry, with its Catholic majority and its location neighbouring the Republic. CityLab reported on black migration patterns in different American cities, noting gains in the South, is fascinating. As for the threat of Donald Trump to send undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities in the United States has widely noted., at least one observer noted that sending undocumented immigrants to cities where they could connect with fellow diasporids and build secure lives might actually be a good solution.
  • Declining rural settlements featured, too. The Guardian reported from the Castilian town of Sayatón, a disappearing town that has become a symbol of depopulating rural Spain. Global News, similarly, noted that the loss by the small Nova Scotia community of Blacks Harbour of its only grocery store presaged perhaps a future of decline. VICE, meanwhile, reported on the very relevant story about how resettled refugees helped revive the Italian town of Sutera, on the island of Sicily. (The Guardian, to its credit, mentioned how immigration played a role in keeping up numbers in Sayatón, though the second generation did not stay.)
  • The position of Francophone minorities in Canada, meanwhile, also popped up at me.
  • This TVO article about the forces facing the École secondaire Confédération in the southern Ontario city of Welland is a fascinating study of minority dynamics. A brief article touches on efforts in the Franco-Manitoban community of Winnipeg to provide temporary shelter for new Francophone immigrants. CBC reported, meanwhile, that Francophones in New Brunswick continue to face pressure, with their numbers despite overall population growth and with Francophones being much more likely to be bilingual than Anglophones. This last fact is a particularly notable issue inasmuch as New Brunswick’s Francophones constitute the second-largest Francophone community outside of Québec, and have traditionally been more resistant to language shift and assimilation than the more numerous Franco-Ontarians.
  • The Eurasia-focused links blog Window on Eurasia pointed to some issues. It considered if the new Russian policy of handing out passports to residents of the Donbas republics is related to a policy of trying to bolster the population of Russia, whether fictively or actually. (I’m skeptical there will be much change, myself: There has already been quite a lot of emigration from the Donbas republics to various destinations, and I suspect that more would see the sort of wholesale migration of entire families, even communities, that would add to Russian numbers but not necessarily alter population pyramids.) Migration within Russia was also touched upon, whether on in an attempt to explain the sharp drop in the ethnic Russian population of Tuva in the 1990s or in the argument of one Muslim community leader in the northern boomtown of Norilsk that a quarter of that city’s population is of Muslim background.
  • Eurasian concerns also featured. The Russian Demographics Blog observed, correctly, that one reason why Ukrainians are more prone to emigration to Europe and points beyond than Russians is that Ukraine has long been included, in whole or in part, in various European states. As well, Marginal Revolution linked to a paper that examines the positions of Jews in the economies of eastern Europe as a “rural service minority”, and observed the substantial demographic shifts occurring in Kazakhstan since independence, with Kazakh majorities appearing throughout the country.
  • JSTOR Daily considered if, between the drop in fertility that developing China was likely to undergo anyway and the continuing resentments of the Chinese, the one-child policy was worth it. I’m inclined to say no, based not least on the evidence of the rapid fall in East Asian fertility outside of China.
  • What will Britons living in the EU-27 do, faced with Brexit? Bloomberg noted the challenge of British immigrant workers in Luxembourg faced with Brexit, as Politico Europe did their counterparts living in Brussels.
  • Finally, at the Inter Press Service, A.D. Mackenzie wrote about an interesting exhibit at the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris on the contributions made by immigrants to popular music in Britain and France from the 1960s to the 1980s.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Montréal, New York City, Brussels, Baghdad, Hiroshima

  • The National Observer notes that Montréal authorities have warned against people going to flooded areas to take selfies.
  • CityLab notes the plans of Columbia University in Manhattan to become a new much denser neighbourhood, and the concerns of non-university neighbours.
  • Feargus O’Sullivan notes at CityLab how congested Brussels is gradually becoming car-free.
  • Ozy llooks at the underground nightclubs and music halls of the young people of Baghdad.
  • Sean Marshall, reporting from his recent trip to Japan, explores post-war the streetcar system of Hiroshima with photos of his own.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Kingston, Moncton, Detroit, Brussels, Tokyo

  • The reopening of the main library in Kingston is the subject of this article over at Global News.
  • Moncton will host a CFL game in August, part of the league’s efforts to build up a football-watching audience in the Maritimes generally. Global News reports.
  • CityLab reports on the historic Hamtranck stadium in Detroit, a key element of black history.
  • Politico Europe reports on the many British immigrants in Brussels, facing an uncertain fate come Brexit.
  • Beth Elderkin writes at io9 about all of the cool nerd culture attractions she saw on a recent visit to Tokyo.

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Duisburg, Macau, San Francisco, Brussels, Rive-Sud of Montréal

  • Guardian Cities notes how the German hub of Duisburg is taking on an outsized role as a linchpin in China’s overseas trade.
  • The SCMP reports on the terrible level of poverty, and income inequality generally, in a Macau that is one of the richest cities in the world.
  • This VICE report examining how people of normal, never mind modest, incomes can afford to live in the San Francisco area is eye-opening.
  • Guardian Cities reports on the new street names being given to routes in the Belgian capital of Brussels.
  • This Cyberpresse report on the transit ambitions of the municipalities of the Rive-Sud, the South Shore of Montréal, reminds me of discussions about GTA transit.

[LINK] Two notes from the transatlantic Romance-Germanic language frontier

  • Suzanne Daley’s “The Language Divide, Writ Small, in Belgian Town”, in the New York Times, visits the bedroom community of Wemmel to see how language conflict is complicating life there horribly. A Brussels suburb, Wemmel exists in the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde district that combines the autonomous and legally French/Dutch bilingual but functionally Francophone Brussels and legally Flemish but increasingly Francophone suburbs, such that many Flemish fear that Flanders will be colonized by Francophones. Absurd language conflict follows.
  • Most of the families living in this well-to-do community on the outskirts of Brussels are French-speaking. But the law for this region of Belgium says that all official town business must be conducted in Flemish.

    That means that police reports must be written in Flemish. Voting materials must be issued in Flemish. Seventy-five percent of the books and DVDs purchased for the library must be, yes, in Flemish.

    When the mayor of Wemmel, Christian Andries, presides over a town council meeting he is not allowed to utter a single French word, even to translate, or the business at hand may be annulled.

    [. . .]

    [A] dispute over voting rights for French speakers in Wemmel and a cluster of similar villages [. . .] brought down Belgium’s last government. Unable to resolve the issue after more than three years of trying, Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel (for the third time) and the king finally accepted his resignation in April. .

    In the wake of last month’s elections, talks have begun in hopes of forging a coalition that can lead Belgium. But even the optimists do not expect a new government for months to come.

    After the country’s 2007 election it took the Belgians about nine months to form a government. Some analysts say that the main parties are even more split this time, and some wonder whether they may even be witnessing the beginning of the end of Belgium.

    “It is hard to know where this will go,” said Lieven De Winter, a professor of politics at the Université Catholique de Louvain, though like many others he believes breaking up the country would be so complicated as to be impossible, largely because neither side would give up Brussels, the capital.

    [. . .]

    Mr. Andries’s problems pale compared to three other mayors in this Flemish region, called the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, or BHV. They were elected more than four years ago but have never been officially installed. The issue? They sent voting information, written in French, to the French voters in their communities. In one of the towns, Linkebeek, some 80 percent of the 4,700 inhabitants are French-speaking.

  • Things are fortunately much less acute in Moncton, where–as the National Post‘s Kathryn Blaze Carlson reports–proposals to require commercial signage in the bilingual commercial centre of Moncton to be in English and in French are meeting with some vocal opposition. Fortunately, everyone involved seems to be more sane.
  • Moncton — an officially bilingual city in the country’s only officially bilingual province, where two-thirds of the citizens consider themselves anglophones — has long struggled with its linguistic identity. But now, an “all-out war” is brewing in southeastern New Brunswick, as Moncton’s city council considers a bylaw requiring all new commercial signs to be bilingual.

    “The tension is major,” said Barry Renouf, an English-speaking business owner and member of a local group called “Canadians Against Forced Bilingualism.” “It’s an all-out war here — a language war. If this passes, there’s more than one person who will move out of Moncton.”

    While friction between the French and English communities has lingered in the past, most famously under anti-bilingualism mayor Leonard Jones four decades ago, the prospect of the bylaw has ignited a heated and very public debate.

    A group called ‘‘Say NO to Sign Language Law in Moncton’’ has already sprouted on Facebook. And earlier this week, protesters gathered outside Moncton’s city hall, where councillors have ramped up discussions over the emotionally charged bylaw.

    “We are doing consultations in the community and then we will determine the proper course for Moncton,” said Mayor George LeBlanc. “I’d like to see more bilingual signage. The question is whether a bylaw is the proper course to do that.”

    The neighbouring city of Dieppe — where three-quarters of the population is francophone — broke legal ground in May, when it became the first municipality in the province to legislate in the area of bilingual signage. Now, the same interest group that pressed for action in Dieppe, the Front commun pour l’affichage bilingue au Nouveau-Brunswick, is pushing Moncton to draft its own bylaw.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    July 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    [REVIEW] Andrew Sancton, The Limits of Boundaries

    Talk about creating a Province of Toronto has surged then and again, usually prompted by complaints that the Ontario provincial government is neglecting Torontonian interests, in infrastructure and government service investment, say, in favour of thsoe of a wider province. Others have proposed that Montréal be separated from Québec in the event of Québec secession. Talk of the city-region, a region centered upon a city characterized by a sort of economic and demographic unity, as the defining entity of the 21st century has been current for a while. Kenichi Ohmae’s The End of the Nation State imagines the deconstruction of nation-states into much smaller subnational units, each having their own policies in order to maximize growth. Jane Jacobs, famed Toronto urbanist, went so far as to suggest that each unit could have its own currency, the better to exploit its particular niche.

    Andrew Sancton‘s The Limits of Boundaries: Why city-regions cannot be self-governing shoots these ideas down simply be pointing out that the boundaries of these regions are far too narrow. He examines other city-regions and finds them lacking: the failure of the 1996 referendum on uniting Berlin with the Land of Brandenburg that surrounds it has forced the two Länder to establish unwieldy common planning boards, while the huge fuss over language rights for Francophones in the Flemish districts around Brussels and the question of these territories’ ultimate fate has risked shattering the Belgian state. Sancton approves of the Community of Madrid, but notes that the Community’s frontiers were specifically designed to include Madrid and its hinterland during the post-Franco democratic transition. Sancton also raises the very important point that the frontiers of city-regions move outwards as technology advances and transport becomes easier. At one point, Hamilton was an entity separate from Toronto; soon, London may be included. Ironically, enfranchising city-regions as levels of government would stifle the dynamism that makes them so productive. The traditional levels of government, he concludes, are large enough and stable enough to accomodate cities’ needs through their economies of scale, perhaps with a bit of tinkering necessary but nothing that can’t be maanged..

    (And yes, I know that The Limits of Boundaries is a book of obvious relevance to–say–talk of the partition of California into several units. Guess why I picked it?)

    Written by Randy McDonald

    July 15, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    [BRIEF NOTE] On ethnic succession

    One of the many many things that I liked about moving from Prince Edward Island was that I’d have the chance to witness for myself the ethnic succession theory, “a theory in sociology stating that ethnic and racial groups will be the targets of neighborhood segregation only until they achieve economic parity. This group will then move on and be replaced by a new ethnic group in a similar situation. This pattern will continue, creating a succession of groups moving through the neighborhood over time.”

    This happens everywhere. A while ago, while visiting Brussels, Noel observed that an immigrant neighbourhood home to many Turks and Romanians was at one point a Jewish neighbourhood, pre-Holocaust Belgian Jews themselves constituting an immigrant minority. Another example of this sort of phenomenon is London’s Brick Hill district in the East End, which from the late 17th century has seen successive waves of immigrants–Huguenots, Jews, Bengalis–choose to settle in this area and start to integrate. I’m sure that my readers can think of other examples closer to home.

    Toronto’s certainly not exempt from this pattern In the early 20th century, Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood used to be a destination for Jewish migrants and a major Jewish community. By the Second World War, the increasing cultural and economic capital available to Toronto’s Jewish led to migration north along the Bathurst Street corridor. Kensington Market, in the meantime, charged substantially.

    The various waves of residents in the neighbourhood, from a range of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, have also left their traces on the neighbourhood. The presence of two synagogues, the Kiever (1926) and the Anshei Mink (1930), are reminders of the area’s early Jewish population. The bright and colourful building colours, however, have been attributed to the influence of the Portuguese community that arrived later in the early 1960s.

    [. . . ]

    During the first decade of the 20th century, Toronto became home to more than 15,000 displaced Jews from South and Central Europe. Between 1905 and 1910, many Jewish families moved out “the Ward” (an overcrowded immigrant reception area between Yonge and University) and settled in Kensington. Families purchased small row houses from the previous working-class British and Irish immigrant residents. Many opened small businesses in the area and the market was established.

    Since Jews were restricted from many services and lacked social benefits, the Jewish community established their own societies, hospitals and other services through the synagogues in the area. The Jewish presence in Kensington Market declined in the 1950s and early 1960s when they moved up and out to other areas of the city.

    Following the Second World War, between 1945 and the early 1960s, Canada became home to more than 2.7 million immigrants; of which one quarter settled in Toronto. Poles, Ukrainians, Italians and Hungarians moved into the Kensington Market area. The largest and most important ethnic group to establish itself here were the Portuguese.

    Immigrants were attracted to the neighbourhood because of the availability of affordable housing for rent or sale, the proximity of the area to public transportation and work opportunities, and the presence of an ‘old world’ market.

    In 1962, Canada amended its Immigration Act to allow a more egalitarian process based on economic and educational factors. As a result, many new groups of immigrants from poorer countries moved into Kensington and opened shops: Afro-Caribbeans (mostly Jamaican), Chinese and East Indian. Kensington Market became a true microcosm of Canada’s ethnic mosaic.

    Another example of this is the steady expansion of the Portuguese Canadian community, of relatively recent origins but still highly visible, a population that has benefited from ethnic succession. As Nicholas De Maria Harney observed in his 1998 Eh Paesan!, much of the old Italian-Canadian community’s territories have been infiltrated by Portuguese migrants. “One Italian-Canadian speaker noted with a grin that, ‘thhe Portuguese had pushed the Italians out of Dundas, then College, and now they had made it to Lawrence and Dufferin[;] pretty soon it will be Woodbridge,” (77-78). Woodbridge being a suburban community just outside of Toronto with a large Italian-Canadian community. Little Portugal remains a highly viable ethnic neighbourhood in Toronto, one that seems likely to persist in light of Portuguese-Canadians’ generally high level of endogamy and spatial separation.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    June 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    [BRIEF NOTE] La question belge, une fois de plus

    One of Spiegel Online’s more recent news roundup sfrom German newspapers was “‘Belgium Is the World’s Most Successful Failed State'”.

    The Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel late on Monday night, saying he could not force through a consensus between the Flemish and French-speaking coalition partners.

    Leterme offered his resignation (more…) to King Albert II, who has so far not formally accepted it. The king is now holding consultations with lawmakers expected to last several days.

    In his statement, Leterme, head of the Flemish-speaking Christian Democrats, said the “federal consensus model has reached its limits” — raising the specter of Belgium breaking up for good. The prime minister had a self-imposed July 15 deadline to come up with an agreement on constitutional reform.

    The Financial Times, The Guardian, and Agence France-Presse all have more coverage, basically boiling down to the suggestion that Leterme was frustrated by his inability to forge a workable governing coalition, and, certainly, the ongoing disputes over Brussels and its frontiers doesn’t help.

    A question to people in Belgium and in surrounding regions: Are there any other themes that I’m missing to all this?

    Written by Randy McDonald

    July 16, 2008 at 11:14 am

    [LINK] “A ‘Francophone Corridor’ to Link Brussels and Wallonia”

    Strange Maps has a small map from Belgium’s Le Soir purporting to show one part of a solution under discussion to resolve the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde language crisis (increasingly francophone uburbs of Brussels encroaching on territory under Flemish jurisdiction). In order to create a Francophone corridor to link Brussels with Wallonia, this map suggests that a narrow stretch of the forêt de Soignes would be transferred from Flemish jurisidiction to Walloon jurisdiction, possibly along with the contested community of Sint-Genesius-Rode/Rhode Saint-Genèse. By creating a direct territorial link, the thinking seems to be, a Wallonia-Brussels federal unit that would have jursidiction over cultural and terrtorial matters like Flanders’ could come into being.


    Written by Randy McDonald

    June 24, 2008 at 9:44 am

    [BRIEF NOTE] There’s rattachisme, then there’s less likely outcomes for Belgium

    Paul Wells, writer for Canadian newsmagazine MacLean’s, was the first person I read who pointed out that Luxembourg has been asked to solve Francophone Belgians’ existential crises should Flanders leave.

    The other day a reporter asked the prime minister of Luxembourg whether he’d like to take over most of Belgium if that country should fall apart. Jean-Claude Juncker sounded surprised. He should, because his tiny grand duchy is less than one-sixth the combined size of Belgium’s Wallonie and Brussels regions. Taking them over would be like the goldfish swallowing the cat.

    The reaction of Luxembourg’s prime minister was reported in greater detail by Belgium’s Le Vif.

    Le Premier ministre luxembourgeois, Jean-Claude Juncker, estime samedi, dans une interview au Soir, que la crise politique risque de faire subir une perte de crédibilité à la Belgique.

    “La crédibilité européenne de la Belgique risque d’être mise à néant si on n’arrive pas à faire en sorte que ce pays se ressaisisse”, dit Jean-Claude Juncker. Interrogé sur le scénario qui évoquait un rapprochement des Communautés française et germanophone avec le Luxembourg, M. Juncker le trouve étrange. “Le Grand-Duché n’a pas vocation à dépanner une Belgique qui se cherche. Je crois que la réponse à la question belge réside en Belgique”, dit M. Juncker. “Sans vouloir interférer dans ce genre de débat belgo-belge, j’ai beaucoup de sympathie pour la réaction de la communauté wallonne et francophone face aux exigences flamandes. Mais il faudra que la Belgique se ressaisisse. Qu’elle donne vers l’extérieur l’image d’un pays le plus uni possible”, dit M. Juncker.

    Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said Saturday, in an interview with the Soir, that the political crisis threatens Belgium’s credibility.

    “The European credibility of Belgium is at risk of being completely eliminated if no one bothers to put this country back together,” said Jean-Claude Juncker. Asked about scenarios about uniting the French and Germanophone communities with Luxembourg, Mr. Juncker found them strange. “The Grand Duchy does not have vocation to repair Belgium which seeks itself. I believe that the answer to the Belgian question resides in Belgium,” said Mr. Juncker.

    I’d mentioned earlier, in my series of brief reports on Belgium’s recent crisis, about how the idea of a Franco-Dutch partition of a failed Belgium on language lines was quite popular in those two countries even though there was very little sign that that sort of a partition was popular among Belgians. Recently, more fantastical scenarios still have begun to appear. The suggestion that Luxembourg might take on Francophone Belgium is one. Another came from The Brussels Journal, a far-right English/Dutch weblog associated with Flemish nationalists, which recently suggested that after Flanders leaves Wallonia might fall apart. Not only, the weblog argued, was Belgium’s Luxembourg province likely to merge with Luxembourg, reversing the 1839 partition of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg between a Francophone west that became Belgian and a Germanic rump in the east that remained placed under Dutch suzerainty until 1890, but the “conservative and Catholic” province of Namur is “likely” to join the Grand Duchy, leaving only the provinces of Hainaut and Liège (and, as the blogger forget, Brabant Wallon) inside Wallonia. Like Greater Luxembourg, this second schema has also started to seep into the mainstream media, never mind that there seems to be little interest in the idea of Luxembourg reunification and I’ve never heard of Namurois separatism.

    All these scenarios for the future, eccentric as they might be, seem to reflect the scenario-makers’ common interest in predicting the futre that they would like to see. Yes, France and the Netherlands will be enriched by their new common border; yes, without Flanders Wallonia will fall apart; yes, Luxembourg will be happy to handle everything for Wallonia and Brussels. The problem with this wish-fulfillment school of futurology is that, as a rule, it doesn’t seem to work very well in the face of reality. Some might find that a pity, but that would be a mistake.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    September 13, 2007 at 6:50 pm