I find it amusing to see the comparisons that separatists constantly make between the treatment of Anglophones in Quebec vs Francophones in New Brunswick, Ontario or Manitoba. And I am not arguing that my life as an Anglophone montrealer is misearble. It really isn’t. The reason? Because most Quebec Anglophones, Allophones and Francophones are sensible, kind and good people that live in perfect harmony with one another. But the work of Separatists has, as evidenced by what has transpired in the months since Marois has been at the helm of the province, can cause varying degrees of discomfort for certain members of Quebec society.
So I will turn my attention to what I will refer to as the ‘tacit strategy of the Parti Quebecois’, what they are doing to attain their ‘singular goal’.
At first glance, there actually appears to be a point in what, for example the SSJB says when they cite how some obscure group in New Brunswick is pushing to eliminate Francophones in the province. But they always seem to forget that in Quebec, the crusade against Allophones and Anglophones has become state sanctioned since the the PQ came to power. Aside from Quebec, there is no other province in Canada where there is a state sanctioned crusade against minority groups, not a single province. And while I agree that relations between Anglophones and Francophones have not always been easy in provinces such as New Brunswick and Ontario, state sanctioned regulations that limit the freedoms of Francophones in those provinces just don’t exist. Howard Galganov does not work for, nor is he affiliated with the government of Ontario or Canada.
And just to provide the requisite evidence that what the PQ are trying to do is loaded with division, and targets linguistic and ethnic minorities, review what bill 14 or the new ‘Charter of Quebec values’ is all about. For example, in bill 14, municipalities for which the Anglophone population drops below 50% will be allowed to ‘opt out’ of offerering services in English. Or another example, which is more to the point – businesses that have 25 – 49 employees must make French their everyday language. Do laws like this exist towards Francophones outside of Quebec? Nope.
Does this sound like the PQ is fostering the Anglophone community in Quebec, one of the founding peoples of this province and particularly Montreal ? What possible benefit does this have for the protection of the French language? Have any studies been done that French is disappearing in the province because businesses that have 25 – 49 people with English as the main language are somehow destroying the French language? We seem to forget that we are supposed to relinquish our rights to protect the French language without being supplied with any evidence that it will help protect the French language.
What are business supposed to do if they can’t comply with regulation on employees in the workplace? Exactly – leave the province.
But I forgot, as an Anglophone I am an oppressor and colonizer of the Francophone people, so I deserve it. Sounds pretty radical, but this is what can easily be gleaned from fairly well known separatists – just review what Pierre Falardeau, Pierre Curzi or Bernard Landry have to say about Anglophones. Falardeau is an interesting case because he was a ‘conditional racist’, so David Suzuki was a ‘Japanouille’ because he wasn’t a separatist, but he would of been ‘one of my kind’ if he was a separatist. But more to the point, Falardeau’s bitter, hateful rantings about the English colonizers are legendary. Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Falardeau, but just like Francophones, most Anglophones are looking to lead happy lives, feed their families and have enough money left over to take a vacation now and then. There is really no conspiracy that I know of to control Francophones and ‘colonize’ them. Don’t forget that Pauline Marois, Bernard Landry, Jacques Parizeau and Gilles Duceppe where all at Falardeau’s funeral, praising him. Duceppe lauded him as a “devoted separatists” and “great filmmaker”.
And to the values charter. An idealogical law such as the values charter needs to be looked at with the optic of what it’s aims are in terms of the kind of society that the PQ is trying to engineer. Quite simply, they are a separatist party and there are essentially three groups of people in Quebec that are obstacles to their absolute goal (I will continue with this in a little bit). If you think of it, they are probably the only political party in North America that can get away with as much as they have because everyone has a clear understanding of their goal.
So, since there are no other separatist parties in North America, there is nothing to compare them to. Furthermore, since they are purely ideological, it is pointless to try and ascertain their success based on the standard metrics on which one measures the success of a political mandate for virtually every other government in North America – municipal, state-level or national. For example, do you really think that the economic policies of the PQ are going to be good for the economy? If you study the numbers that they keep throwing up on their Facebook page as proof that they are somehow helping the economy of Quebec, it is easy to see that they are meaningless and completely out of context for proof of of an improved economy. For example, Gini coefficient (a measure of relative economic disparity in state) which has nothing to do with anything the party Quebecois has done is a complex measure that is rather slow to change. It is completely impossible to use Gini coefficient as a an indicator that Quebec has either improved economically under the PQ or that it will somehow be a wonderful, equitable place to live if Quebec separates from Canada.
As far as economic policy is concerned, let’s take the recent announcement that the PQ will attempt to lure businesses to Quebec with cheap hydro rates. While this may seem to be a great policy at first, the fact that doing business in English in Quebec is becoming increasingly difficult, the move is kind of negated by this. A more general statement of this was made by The Conseil de Patronat de Quebec when they stated following the anncouncement: <em>“It would be more worthwhile to concentrate our efforts on creating a competitive business climate that could successfully draw big investment projects instead of having to roll out new state subsidies.” </em> In other words, creating a competitive environment rather than the state sanctioning business initiatives is a better way to go.
On to the three groups of people in Quebec that the PQ considers ‘obstacles’ to their singular goal of separating from Canada, and what the PQ is doing to eradicate or convert them.
The first group is the old arch-enemy of the PQ, the Anglophones. In effect they are the raison d’etre of the sovereignist mission. Quite simply, Anglophones colonized us, they oppressed us, they speak a different language then us, they are culturally different than us, and more broadly, we have no solidarity with them, one of our core properties as a people. Of course, no living Anglophone on the planet earth has ever or has the intention of colonizing a Francophone, but that’s besides the point. Bill 14 was designed to make Anglophones uncomfortable (as mentioned above) and it did a great job of this. Protests in the street and pressure from the Liberals got the bill thrown out thankfully. But there is an even more insidious regulation that the PQ were planning as part of their previous language legislation – the plan to limit Francophones from attending English cegeps. It’s hard to imagine how this could possibly help protect the French language, but I don’t believe it is designed to this. If you think about it, the effect of limiting Francophones from attending English Cegep is a sort of soft ethnic cleansing. Cegep is right around the time when young couples form. Many people meet their future wives and husbands in Cegep and university. Surely the PQ doesn’t want Francophones being ‘infected’ by the cultural of English speaking Canadians or mingling with non-Francophones.
The second group is the ever-vulnerable ethnic minorities. The strategy of the PQ for this group is to send a strong warning signal to them – this is where the Values Charter comes in. The message here is ‘our way or the highway’. The scary thing is that this charter, if it ever passed, could set the precedent for the further limiting of personal freedoms. The history behind this is in part rooted in Quebec history, and in part rooted in the inherent insecurities of Francophones that live in rural, isolated parts of Quebec. The historical dimension to the charter relates to the oppression of the Catholic church on the Quebec people. The church essentially kept Francophones under their boot by discouraging education and encouraging large families and an agrarian way of life. Thus any overt symbol of religion, especially those that appear to oppress women is seen as a reminder of the days of church domination that was especially oppressive towards women. Janette Bertrand is the mouthpiece for the current feminist aspect of the charter of values. Her response to those who question the view that it is the choice of Muslim women to wear the veil is that they are essentially ‘brainwashed’ – there is no way that they are thinking for themselves. I think it is fair to say that Janette Bertrand’s view on whether or not the veil is voluntary is at best projection and at worst pure ignorance. I really don’t see much in her storied career as a media personality to suggest that she understands much about the Muslim faith let alone the more specific topic of the role of the veil in the religion. I am not denying that there misogyny exists in Islam, but her view is clearly an oversimplification. What is even more dangerous for the PQ are the other religions that are targeted by the charter. There is no argument for any kind of social emancipation for prohibiting the skull cap in public service (such as the emancipation from misogyny that Janette claims banning the veil will yield), so making a law that a Jew cannot wear a skull cap has to stand on the very weak pillar of the highly subjective idea of the ‘neutrality of the state’ alone. Furthermore, it runs the very serious risk of striking the sensitive nerve of the kind of Jewish oppression of the 1930’s in Europe.
The third group that the PQ are targeting are soft federalist francophones. The PQ are not trying eliminate this group, but rather, by example attempting to persuade them . The strategy here is to instill within them a sense of national duty, to remind them ‘Je me souvien’ style that they are a threatened and historically oppressed group within North America, their numbers teetering on the precarious. Further to this, there is a drive towards elevating the concept of Quebecois to a distinct consciousness. One can see an almost Hegelian approach in the pursuit of the revival of a Quebecois tribalism by reminding the Quebecois people of what their collective ‘values’ are. While this approach is lauded by the hardliners, it is a sort of tacit selling point for the soft federalists.
The Tacit Strategy of the Parti Quebecois is a major gamble and one could make the case that it is a binary event: either it is going to work, or it will blow up in their faces. At this point, the expected outcome may be leaning slightly to the latter, but we’ll have to wait and see.